Last Tuesday, Mike Dorf argued (here) against the claim put forward by Paul Krugman (here) and many others that the Republicans deliberately undermined Obama’s efforts to salvage the economy in order to help their own reelection chances. Dorf contends that some Republicans might fall into this category, but most of them actually believed (albeit wrongly) that their actions were in the public interest. Dorf argues that it is entirely conceivable that Republicans think that Keynesian stimuli are not part of a long term solution and that Hayek has a better perspective on what is best for the economy overall. Dorf’s best argument is that many in Europe believe that austerity programs are the best way to react to economic distress and they are not motivated by anti-Obama politics, nor is there much evidence to believe they are not sincere in embracing their wrong-headed views.
In support of Dorf’s view, it is a lot easier to believe that putting money in the hands of the wealthy as opposed to the poor or middle class creates more jobs or that hiring more police, firefighters, and teachers is not in the public interest if your political future demands that you act as if these beliefs are true. The salient political fact is this: if the Republicans had not exercised power in the Congress, well over a million more Americans would be employed today.
Why haven’t the Democrats made more of this? Krugman says it would sound like whining. I believe that one of the weaknesses of the very strong Democratic convention was that it did not emphasize enough the importance of bringing as much Democratic strength to the Congress as possible.