Results Matters Most in Politics

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I don’t know if it’s accurate, but I found this Jackie Calmes story in the NYT to be bone-chilling and I doubt she just fabricated it:

Not since the first years of the Clinton administration has a White House had to debate whether to give precedence to stimulating the economy or reducing budget deficits. Now, as the recovery shows signs of faltering, that debate is playing out within the Obama administration, with a twist compared to the 1990s: the economic and political teams have switched sides.

While President Bill Clinton’s political advisers favored more spending and tax cuts coming out of the recession of the early 1990s and his economic team pushed to start reducing deficits, in President Obama’s circle the opposite is true. Political advisers are channeling the widespread public anger at deficits while the economic team argues that the government should further spur the economy to avert another recession.

The President should almost never side with his political team in a dispute of this nature. The reason is that the single most important factor determining a president’s political fortunes is the fate of the economy. Tradeoffs can exist in the form of things that are short-term economic pain for long-term economic pain. But there’s no real tradeoff between “unpopular but growth-boosting measures that ultimately make you more popular” and “popular but growth-strangling measures that ultimately make you less popular.” When it comes to macroeconomic management, it’s results that matter most.