Thursday, June 05, 2014

The Republican Case Against Republican Economics

Thomas B. Edsall, NYT
JUNE 3, 2014

After the 2012 presidential election, key Republicans began to criticize their party’s opposition to immigration reform and gay rights. But now party reformers are questioning something much more central: free-market orthodoxy.

In an article in the May 26 edition of The Week — “What conservatives don’t understand about the modern U.S. economy” — James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute has issued an economic challenge to the right from the right.

Pethokoukis’s piece is an assault on the economic manifesto that was put out on May 16 by a conservative group that included three icons of the right: Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, senators from Texas and Utah, respectively, and Ed Meese, who served as attorney general under Ronald Reagan.

“This tired GOP sequel stumbles in its macroeconomic analysis,” Pethokoukis writes, noting that the manifesto contains “no suggestion the economy faces longer-term problems that predate Obamanomics.” Pethokoukis argues that the manifesto’s anti-tax rhetoric fails to grasp that “coping with America’s rising elderly population will require a higher national tax burden in coming decades even with a reformed entitlement system.” The conservative call for a balanced budget ignores the fact that “there is no evidence that markets fear a U.S. debt crisis.”

Pethokoukis is one of a number of conservative analysts who over the past three years have undergone something of an intellectual conversion. Michael Gerson, a speechwriter for President George W. Bush and now a Washington Post columnist, and Peter J. Wehner, also a Bush speechwriter and now a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, published “A Conservative Vision of Government” in the winter 2014 edition of the journal National Affairs. Their essay is an attack on the idea cherished by many Tea Party activists that all (or nearly all) government action and intervention is bad.

(More here.)

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