Josh Barro, thinking man’s conservative pundit, watches the GOP debate and concludes that America’s “best hope—and not an entirely implausible one—is that presumptive-nominee Romney has a secret plan for the economy. If he doesn’t, we may be in for years’ more stagnation.”
This strikes me as a pretty thin reed on which to hang our hopes. The main reason to be skeptical is simply that modern-day presidencies are very much creatures of larger political parties and political forces. Even if Romney does, personally, have some kind of secret plans the various cross-pressures of party government make it likely that standard-issue GOP thinking as represented by the agenda of the House GOP caucus will be the main thrust of his agenda. That means permanent regressive tax cuts, short-term discretionary spending cuts, substantial relaxation of environmental regulation, and possibly a shoot-the-moon effort to repeal Medicare. Whatever the merits of this may be, none of it is really even calculated to tackle the short-term problems of housing debt, mass unemployment, and excess capacity. Romney himself is not someone who strikes me as unusually averse to twisting with the wind or going along to get along. What’s more, it’s important to recall that the standard-issue GOP economic policy brain trust already had a crack at this recession throughout 2008 and they didn’t come up with anything great. Since that time, the vast majority of energy in the conservative movement has been directed toward explaining why various progressive initiatives undertaken in 2009 went backwards in time and caused the economy to collapse rather than toward trying to understand why conservative nostrums were unequal to the task back when the recession actually began.