No Policy, No Policy

I don’t share Kevin Drum’s worry that just because left-of-center elites can’t cohere around a policy agenda for jobs that Barack Obama won’t be able to take credit for a recovery if one happens:

And what’s the liberal story about what the economy needs? Don’t all raise your hands at once. More stimulus? That’s a good answer, but every Democrat in an actual position of power is either afraid to say so or doesn’t believe it. Hell, most of them weren’t even willing to take credit for the positive effects of the 2009 stimulus. A payroll tax holiday? Also not a bad answer, but no one is pushing it. Policies to weaken the dollar? That’ll be a cold day in hell. Massive infrastructure investment? A direct government jobs program? Work subsidies? Maybe, kind of, and we’re not sure.

In other words, liberals don’t have a story at all. A few of them do — call them the Krugmanites for short — but it’s a small and uninfluential band. In the halls of power and the corridors of the media, liberals have nothing but a collective clamor of pet ideas and peevish finger pointing. So even if the economy does improve, there won’t be any way for them to persuade the public that their policies were responsible. For starters, they themselves probably won’t really believe it.

I think this is totally wrong. Bill Clinton had no trouble whatsoever getting credit from the American people for the strong economic performance of the late-1990s and continues to be credited by them for it to this day even though it’s now clear that some of that performance was a mirage induced by irrational exuberance about Internet start-ups. The fact of the matter is that the American people are really good at over-attributing things to the President of the United States.


Also note that media narratives are absolutely insane. Back when Republicans were unpopular because of the poor economy in late 2008, Barack Obama’s calm demeanor amidst economic crisis was said to be key to his popularity. Then when Democrats became unpopular because of the poor economy in late 2009, Barack Obama’s calm demeanor amidst economic crisis was said to be the key to his unpopularity. But if the economy improves, then conventional wisdom about every single aspect of Obama’s personality and policy agenda will pivot around that fact. With the economy in the dumps, the health care bill is liberal overreach. If the economy improves, the health care bill will be said to demonstrate the genius of pushing a moderate proposal with no public option. Just you wait.

Incidentally, to fix the economy we should do this.