Political Animal


August 31, 2012 4:35 PM Driving Them Into the Arms of the Confidence Fairy

By Ed Kilgore

WaPo’s Greg Sargent listened in to an Obama media conference call today, and although I doubt the president’s folk are going to let us in on any secrets, it certainly does make sense they are already calling attention to the single biggest vulnerability the Republicans left unaddressed during their convention: exactly what do they plan to do to create jobs or provide any short-term relief to the economy?

Dems think Romney erred badly at his convention by focusing too hard on softening his image (which appeared to be a success) without drawing a clearer picture of his plans for the economy. They think that’s created an opening to draw a much more specific road map of their own.
“We try and look at this through the eyes of people who are still considering their choices,” Axelrod said. “They tuned in hoping to hear some practical solutions to the challenges we face.” Instead, Axelrod said, they heard “buzz words for the base.”
“Much of the convention was very much about the base of the Republican Party talking to itself,” Axelrod said. He mocked Romney’s message as “trust me — if you elect me, the economy will boom.”

Well, if you had an agenda that included tighter monetary policy, big cuts in public-sector employment, and even bigger cuts in all sorts of government benefits that add to the purchasing power of the low-income people most likely to spend, what would you say? It’s not so much a matter of Romney asking Americans to trust him that he has some sort of Nixonian “secret plan” to revive the economy; it’s that he’s asking him to accept the ancient conservative ideological totem that businesses will launch a burst of investment and hiring if they can overcome the deep psychological handicap of knowing they have to deal with an administration that does not sufficiently honor their success, trust them to take care of the country’s health, safety, workplace and environmental needs, or understand their insatiable need for lower labor costs and higher profits.

It all really comes down to the “confidence fairy:” the idea that the business of America is business, and America will do better if business has a friend—actually, a lot of friends—in power. There is zero empirical evidence for this proposition, which also comes dangerously close to telling working Americans that they can choose between decent wages and benefits (not to mention collective bargaining rights and a social safety net) and being offered the privilege of employment in the first place.

The magic of the “confidence fairy” will not survive a lot of scrutiny or many probing questions. So Democrats would be wise to offer both.

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.


  • RepublicanPointOfView on August 31, 2012 4:59 PM:

    Mitt Romney & Paul Ryan understand what the real problems are with the U.S. economy!

    They are that:
    - the wealthy do not have enough wealth
    - there is too large and an unsustainable middle class
    - the poor do not pay enough taxes

    Mitt & Paul have plans that will address these critical problems with our economy and I dare you to prove otherwise!

    Progressives do not seem to understand the economy. For you people, I will explain. Our patron saint, Ronald Reagan, was correct in his believe in supply side trickle-down economics. Especially with Little George, the problems with its implementation have been that the tax rates of the 'job creators' have not been cut anywhere near enough. Mitt & Paul will reduce the top tax rate (although not enough) which will help. They will eliminate taxes on capital gains. Everyone knows that only labor should be subject to taxation. They will eliminate the death tax so that wealth is not diluted when inherited.

    As much as I would have preferred a Romney/Gekko ticket, Romney/Ryan will do! They understand our (the funding wing of the republican party) mottos of 1) More is never enough and 2) I've got mine, f*ck you.

  • c u n d gulag on August 31, 2012 5:04 PM:

    Mitt is like some Central American King, back when the Spanish invaded back in the late 15th to early 16th Centuries, telling his people they must have faith, sacrifice whatever they have to make things better, give more to the rich to protect them, and double-down on the last King's policies.
    You know, the one BEFORE the invasion - the one who never prepared for it, let the defenses down that the killers in, and didn't know how to deal with it when they did invade.

    And the solution?

  • T2 on August 31, 2012 5:11 PM:

    again, it's not what they said, it's what they didn't say. There were no GOP /Romney policy specifics because either they don't exist, or the ones that do are polling horribly in the real world of the public. They can't lay their "policies" out because they are a mish-mash of the same junk that Bush fed us which careened the nation into Recession and two unpaid for Wars, plus a huge deficit. In short - they got nothin'.

    The Dems, on the other hand, will be able to trot out one successful policy after another, and emphasize that had they had even a little cooperation from Conservatives, the situation would be even better. What did Romney say about Afghanistan -ZIP. about Healthcare-ZIP, about Immigration-ZIP, about SocSec-ZIP, about Medicare-ZIP, income inequality-ZIP......and on and on. Obama can address all of those.

  • jjm on August 31, 2012 5:13 PM:

    Mitt may have softened his image, but I see nothing that in that image that doesn't compare somewhat unfavorably with Obama's. Obama, too, is a wonderful family man who has provided his wife and children with a decent, if not excessively wealthy life; he too, has cared for his community. The main difference is Obama doesn't tout his piety, as does Romney.

    That line about how wonderful Romney feels getting up on a Sunday to see that everyone in the neighborhood is doing the same thing -- obviously, going to Church and a Christian church at that, no Jews here -- is so supremely narrow and centered on so small a 'community' that one can only gape in wonder.

    (P. S. what do you do when Captcha doesn't show anything but the tips of the letters?)

  • bdop4 on August 31, 2012 5:59 PM:

    Fastest way to shut a conservative up is demand an explanation as to exactly how tax cuts and deregulation will create jobs in a recession where there is no demand. I have yet to see a conservative even attempt to respond because they have no effing clue.

  • Liars, Liars on August 31, 2012 8:33 PM:

    Democrats should talk more of the value of the Affordable Care Act.
    The benefits and strengths.


    P.S.--here is the cool, calm, clear reality of the Bush Recession:


  • exlibra on August 31, 2012 9:06 PM:

    (P. S. what do you do when Captcha doesn't show anything but the tips of the letters?) --jjm, @5:13PM

    Type in whatever I fancy -- "nonsense", "nothing", "bullshit", "effyoutoo". The only time you see tips of the letters (or upside down words, or Cyrillic/Arabic/Hebrew alphabet, etc) is in the word that doesn't really matter at all

  • Matt McIrvin on September 01, 2012 8:24 AM:

    I've always thought that the emphasis on the super-rich as "job creators" is really a way of saying that they're capable of being job destroyers: do exactly what we say and nobody gets hurt.

  • Ted Frier on September 01, 2012 2:05 PM:

    I've always thought that the "confidence fairy" undermines one of the chief rationalizations for an unregulated, self-policing free market, namely that it operates automatically according to natural laws like gravity and that its results -- in term's results in terms of who is rich and who is poor -- are objective and impartial and beyond the arbitrary and capricious whim of Man. But if the whole show depends on whether rich people feel loved or not then we know our economy is not being controlled by Adam Smith's invisible hands but very human ones, and often ones stuck in your pocket and mine, which suggests that we might want to rethink this whole laissez faire thing by letting business just do its own thing.