Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 27, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

WAIT FOR 2008?....A few days ago, in the spirit of mentioning the unmentionable, John Quiggin asked, "Are there any circumstances under which we should hope for, promote, or even passively assist, the re-election of George W. Bush as against either of the remaining Democrat contenders?"

The case....rests primarily on arguments about fiscal policy. Bush's policies have set the United States on a path to national bankruptcy, a fact that is likely to become apparent some time between now and 2008. Assuming that actual or effective bankruptcy (repudiation of debt or deliberate resort to inflation) is unthinkable, this is going to entail some painful decisions for the next President and Congress, almost certainly involving both increases in taxation and cuts in expenditure. On the expenditure side, this will mean a lot more than the obvious targets of corporate welfare and [fraud, duplication, and waste]. Either significant cuts in the big entitlement programs (Social Security and Medicare) or deep cuts in everything else the government does will be needed, even with substantial increases in taxes.

In other words, Bush has dug such a big hole that trying to get out of it, especially in the face of a Republican congress, is going to be a disaster for whoever tries it. Better to let Bush himself keep shoveling until his policies become so obviously catastrophic that the Republican party is sidelined for decades.

His post immediately brought to mind this passage from Conrad Black's FDR biography. This is right after Roosevelt (running for vice president) has lost the 1920 election:

Since the opposition were going to win with a program he was convinced would be proved mistaken, they might as well have a clear mandate to implement that program. "The whole responsibility will be theirs," he wrote. This was a prescient perception and not just the usual glib Roosevelt ex post facto rationalization. His greatest concern was that the Republicans would prove so reactionary that they would transform Democratic moderates and liberals into radicals and extremists.

Kinda reminds you of Paul Krugman, doesn't it?

Still, it's an interesting thought and one that I have to admit I've had myself down in the dark recesses of my mind. If a Democrat wins in 2004, will he be blamed for the almost inevitable economic collapse later this decade? Is there any way to convince Americans that our current economic policy is unsustainable aside from an almost nuclear demonstration of how bad it is?

I don't know. I guess it depends on my mood. But like John, I have to confess that sometimes "I look forward to a Democratic victory with trepidation rather than the unalloyed enthusiasm I ought to feel."

Kevin Drum 3:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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