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July 23, 2012 3:32 PM Vote Republican Or the Economy Gets It

By Ed Kilgore

Greg Sargent has a fine post today about how Scott Brown has picked up on the Romney campaign’s effort to spin a mendacious take on the “you didn’t build that” quote, making it a double lie by tying it back to Elizabeth Warren (whose actual words were being paraphrased by what the president actually said). Indeed, Greg puts his finger on the broader message that both Republicans are trying to send:

The whole ”didn’t build that” dust-up is important, because the larger falsehood on display here — that Obama demeans success — is absolutely central to the Republican case against Obama. The Republican argument — Romney’s argument — is partly that Obama’s active ill will towards business owners and entrepreneurs is helping stall the recovery, so you should replace him with a president who wants people to succeed.

What makes this “vote Republican or the economy gets it” tactic devilishly effective is that its major premise—Obama hates “job creators”—doesn’t have to be true to wreak political damage so long as its minor premise—if “job creators” think Obama hates them they’ll stop creating jobs—is credible. And so it all turns into what amounts to blackmail: people like Mitt Romney are not “confident” in Obama’s stewardship of the economy, and if they don’t get ther way in November, they’ll tank the economy. This is also the threat behind all the “fiscal cliff” talk: we’re being told the financial markets will panic if there’s any chance the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy will lapse or that Pentagon spending will be cut at the end of the year. Somehow or another, the prospect of a Republican victory that will lead to very deep federal spending cuts, reductions in consumer buying power, and the elimination of many thousands of public sector jobs isn’t said to be a problem.

Now this is a very, very old game, certainly as old as the threats issued by business leaders at the behest of Mark Hanna in 1896 that votes for William Jennings Bryan would lose employees their jobs, or the eternal threats of non-unionized companies that they’d rather close their doors than submit to the indignity of collective bargaining. In reality, companies stay in business and investors keep investing not because they have the elected officials they’d prefer, but because they are making money. With profits being at near-record levels (even with the apparent recent softening), I don’t think we are really in any danger of capitalists “going Galt” because their executives’ marginal tax rates went back up to where they were when they were also doing very well in the late 1990s, or because their vast moral worth is being underappreciated by Barack Obama or Elizabeth Warren.

Still, the more aggressively ideological business leaders won’t lose a dime by issuing threats, so they and their political allies will keep doing so, reinforcing the GOP’s many efforts to convince persuadable voters that somehow or other, their jobs or their nest eggs depend on a Republican victory in November.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • T2 on July 23, 2012 3:35 PM:

    very typical Republican Reverse Speak. Whatever they blame the Dems with, is actually what the Repugs are doing.
    THEY are threatening to screw the economy, again, if they don't get their way. So they say "Obama is threatening the economy if you give him his way". And of course, the "lying" part of it worries them not at all. Its all politics.

  • Doug on July 23, 2012 3:45 PM:

    I don't know if this is such a smart move on the part of Romney, Brown or any other Republican campaigning for (re)election.
    The GOP has used this exact same tactic in Congress often and, unfortunately, with some favorable (for them) results. They've managed this because noone outside Capitol Hill and a few blogs was watching. The MSM certainly has never pointed out the GOP's obstruction and hostae-taking, with the result that many (most?) voters have no idea the GOP is acting more and more like a crime "family". A spotlight on their previous hostage-takings, even one being directed by Democrats, will NOT be a vote-getter.
    Of course, since the GOP's only other option is campaigning on the Ryan Budget, perhaps they feel they have no choice...

  • Ron Byers on July 23, 2012 3:51 PM:

    Do you know what you would call a business person who makes the business decison not to hire employees because he doesn't like President Obama. Out of business.

    Business people make hiring decisions on the basis of projected need. If they think a new employee is needed to meet demand they will hire. If they don't think a new employee is needed they won't hire. Politics doesn't have a damn thing to do with it.

  • c u n d gulag on July 23, 2012 3:52 PM:

    "...reinforcing the GOP’s many efforts to convince persuadable voters that somehow or other, their jobs or their nest eggs depend on a Republican victory in November."

    Well, it's true, they do.

    A vote FOR Republicans WILL affect many jobs, and most, if not all, nest eggs - NEGATIVELY!!!

    This is a proven fact.

  • Josef K on July 23, 2012 4:08 PM:

    I don’t think we are really in any danger of capitalists “going Galt” because their executives’ marginal tax rates went back up to where they were when they were also doing very well in the late 1990s

    I kinda doubt it would matter even if they did so. The populace are more adaptable and educated than in Rand's day, and so less prone to paralysis in the event of genuine crisis (never mind a made-up one).

    That's a side-issue however. This is a very, very toxic meme Romney and company are pushing, but one I feel is getting tangled up with the air of plutocratic privilege Romney himself seems to be operating under. Its actually suffusing his entire message, which is so devoid of content at this point I can't help but wonder who exactly is going to vote for him in November.

    This is going to be a distressing few months.

  • Anonymous on July 23, 2012 4:27 PM:

    This morning was an extraordinarily rare occasion when I turned the TV on, and I tuned in to MSNBC to see what was going on. Surprise, surprise, I was informed that in January 2013 the country would have reached "a financial cliff" over which we will plunge "unless Democrats do something."

    I promptly turned off the TV, because it doesn't belong to me and I didn't want to risk that I would smash my coffee cup into the screen.

    It's truly mindblowing how quickly the ravings of a party full of charlatans and lunatics automatically becomes conventional wisdom all across the "liberal media."

    I am soon going to give up all news of any sort because I'm just not sure how much more I can handle before I start banging my head repeatedly on the floor. The highly profitable Caterpillar Corp. which just recently gave all its executives big raises is cutting the wages of its work force because they were perhaps paid higher than market in the past and, well, gosh, they have to keep costs down for the future.

    People wonder why I smoke.

  • davidp on July 23, 2012 4:31 PM:

    In rhetorical terms the GOP have a powerful case to make (which is not the same as saying it is true, which it isn't). On internal policy, they say that Obama resents success and is hence demoralizing business. On foreign policy they say that Obama doesn't believe America is exceptional and actually goes round apologizing for it, hence conniving at American decline. Both parts of the argument speak to central aspects of many voters' core patriotic feelings, or even their sense of identity.

  • Anonymous on July 23, 2012 4:48 PM:

    This morning was an extraordinarily rare occasion when I turned the TV on, and I tuned in to MSNBC to see what was going on. Surprise, surprise, I was informed that in January 2013 the country would have reached "a financial cliff" over which we will plunge "unless Democrats do something."

    Why are Democrats always expected to do something? What about Republicans? I am tired of being part of the responsible party. I want to throw a temper tantrum and have the Republicans clean up the mess.

  • Epicurus on July 23, 2012 5:21 PM:

    What really ticks me off about this whole fiasco is that the President could have made a small addition to his comments, and avoided (almost) all of the subsequent kerfuffle (though I am quite sure the GOP smear machine would simply gin up more false equivalencies, ahem.) Had he chosen to add to his statement this qualifier "by yourself," he would be completely correct. Sadly, a small grammatical error of omission has been twisted into a vicious attack on the "job creators." I am so sick of the GOP propaganda machine, but it runs very, very well.

  • marty on July 23, 2012 6:07 PM:

    "Now this is a very, very old game,..."

    Thus showing that these bastards have always been liars, crooks, and utterly despicable in all their campaigns....

    Could we possibly be so stupid as a country to fall for this horseshit and elect Romney???????

  • zekkeLy on July 23, 2012 6:55 PM:

    "..What really ticks me off about this whole fiasco is that the President could have made a small addition to his comments, and avoided (almost) all of the subsequent kerfuffle "

    I understand what you mean, but, once again, the victim is blamed for the crime against him. PBO said nothing wrong. There was no 'gaffe'. Republicans chose to LIE about what he said. Period.

    It is the MSM who 'supports' the dishonesty, by not reporting it as false, and not calling the perpetrators LIARS.

  • PTate in MN on July 23, 2012 7:06 PM:

    "...Both parts of the argument speak to central aspects of many voters' core patriotic feelings, or even their sense of identity."

    davidp makes a spot-on observation above. Excellent post, Kilgore.

    This particular dog whistle also allows Republicans to activate the "All black people are lazy. All black people hate white people" stereotype without having to say it aloud. This one is easy to decode. "Success" signifies "white" (possibly "white men") since, obviously, whites are the only people in America who are hard-working and productive, aka job creators. Thus, Barack Obama, "black man", hates "success." By inference, Obama will destroy the economy because he will take your wealth and give it to people who didn't work as hard as you.

    Republicans are so hate-filled. Like anonymous above, who turned off the TV, there's only so much of this pus that one can stand before feeling contaminated.

  • mmm-mmm-mmm on July 23, 2012 9:08 PM:

    Obama should promise to confiscate the means of production so these plutocrats can't threaten job growth. Also, can't these people be arrested for disrespecting POTUS? That's what my teacher told me.

  • Antonius on July 24, 2012 5:40 AM:

    If you're so wealthy that you don't have to care if the general economy tanks, your taxes are too low.