As I said before, Tim Pawlenty’s economic policy speech was clear enough to tell you what direction he wants to take the country. It’s a direction Ross Douthat accurately describes as a return to Bushism and something of a retreat from Paul Ryan’s austerity conservatism:
The speech has some of the Ryan budget’s political vulnerabilities, in a sense, without the Ryan’s budget’s guts: Whereas Ryan actually took the entitlement bull by the horns, Pawlenty seems to use his supply-side growth projections as a substitute for Medicare reform instead of adding them on as gravy. Reading it, you would think that the Bush economy was a huge, roaring success, since Pawlenty has little to say about the pocketbook issues that helped elect Barack Obama in the first place (wage stagnation, health care costs, etc.). And reading the excited reception that the speech is getting from movement organs, it’s clear that a great many conservatives have learned next to nothing from the trends that turned them out of office just a few short years ago.
That’s right on. And the problem here is that the Bush diagnosis is less plausible than ever. Bush ran during a period of budget surpluses that he claimed ought to be returned to taxpayers. And the right has a hardy perennial story about tax cuts increasing labor supply that doesn’t make a ton of sense in an economy where the unemployment rate is already 9.1 percent.