Explaining GOP Anti-Keynesianism

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JONATHAN CHAIT SEPTEMBER 2, 2010

Explaining GOP Anti-Keynesianism

Good column by David Wessel on the Republican economic plan, or lack thereof:

Polls suggest Republicans have a good chance of taking the House of Representatives this fall and a slim shot at the Senate. So what would a GOP congressional majority do to revive the U.S. economy?

Republican rhetoric offers little help. To the quiet discomfort of a few GOP politicians and several who advise Republicans on economics, this year's campaign, so far, has little of the substance that accompanied the 1994 Republican renaissance with then-House leader Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America."

The only sure thing is that if President Barack Obama is for it, Republicans are against it.

Wessell goes on to record the total lack of any econom ic program from the house GOP. The intellectual basis for this position is supplied by paul Ryan, who says, "We are not Keynesians. We don't believe in demand-side stimulus. We're going to stop the spending spree." This is worth highlighting. Ryan is expressing a genuine strand of right-wing thought, albeit one held by a small minority of even right-wing economists, that has come to the fore during the current recession. It holds that efforts to stimulate demand durign a liquidity crisis are totally futile.

It's a fairly fringe view, and one that has had little purchase in the GOP before 2009, and had essentially no support during the 2001 recession. But it's also worth noting that this view totally comports with the party's political interests. The largest factor in the party's political success in 2010 and 2012, by far, is the economy. republicans have no incentive to support policies that would stimulate growth. Now, they probably don't want to walk around thinking that their role is to deepen the recession. That's where the newly vogue anti-Keynesian policies come in. It provides a handy intellectual framework to justify self-serving behavior.

Again, I don't think this is a conscious decision to cynically embrace a doctrine for pure political expediency. My usual read of these things is that people allow themselves to genuinely believe whatever idea that dovetails with their self-interest.

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posted in: jonathan chait, america, barack obama, david wessel, newt gingrich, house of representatives, republican party, senate

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