If Conservatives Were Right About the Economy
Further to yesterday’s post about the respective economic acumen of the Wall Street Journal editorial page vs. Prof. Paul Krugman:
My conservative friends argue that the policies of Barack Obama are responsible for the horrifying length and depth of the economic crisis.
Question: Which policies?
Obama’s only tax increases – those contained in the Affordable Care Act – do not go into effect until 2014. Personal income tax rates and corporate tax rates are no higher today than they have been for the past decade. The payroll tax has actually been cut by 2 points. Total federal tax collections have dropped by 4 points of GDP since 2007, from 18+% to 14+%, the lowest rate since the Truman administration.
If so minded, you could describe Barack Obama as the biggest tax cutter in American history.
We have not seen a major surge in federal regulation, at least by the usual rough metrics: the page count of the Federal Register has risen by less than 5% since George W. Bush’s last year in office. Trade remains as free as it was a decade ago.
While the Affordable Care Act itself will eventually have major economic consequences, most of its provisions remain only impending.
Energy prices have surged, but that’s hardly a response to administration policies. Conservatives complain about restrictions on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, but on a planet that produces 63 million barrels of oil per day, a few thousand more or less from the Gulf will not much budge the price of oil. Rising oil prices are a story about Chinese and Indian consumption and Middle Eastern political instability, not about US drilling or lack thereof.
The Dodd-Frank bill does somewhat curtail the activities of some banks and investment firms. But is it seriously argued that this could be the cause?
Conservatives complain about excess government spending. Fine. But isn’t the evil of excess government spending supposed to be inflation rather than recession? And where’s the inflation?
There’s a strong case for condemning Barack Obama for the things he might have done, but did not do. He might have cut payroll taxes more and faster. He might have pushed for more expansionary Federal Reserve governors. He might have designed a better stimulus. All true. But the things he did do? Texas Gov. Rick Perry today urges us to believe that the economy is gripped by the worst slump since the Great Depression because Obama spoke disrespectfully of the owners of private jets. To which I can only say: Really? That’s the indictment? Really?