Morning in America, Part 2

| Tue Aug. 23, 2011 1:12 PM EDT

Jon Chait points out that Bill Kristol has progressed from predicting Republican victory in 2012 to simply assuming that Obama is toast:

In 2013, we’ll need action on the order of 1933 or 1981. Hoover, Carter, and Obama will go down in the history books as failed one-term presidents. Will Obama’s Republican successor be remembered as acting on the scale of FDR and Reagan?

Actually, that's the least of Kristol's piece. You really should read the whole thing: it's a masterpiece of purple prose and florid historic hyperbole. On the other hand, there's a nontrivial chance that Kristol is right about this. Here's my nightmare scenario:

  1. Republicans run the country for eight years and produce a historic financial collapse that, per Rogoff and Reinhart, will take four or five years to fix even if we attack it vigorously.
  2. Obama is elected president in 2008.
  3. Republicans do everything in their power to prevent any kind of vigorous action,1 thus ensuring that recovery takes more like five or six years.
  4. Because of this, the economy sucks in 2012 and a Republican candidate wins.
  5. Right on schedule, the economy starts to recover around 2014 or so. By 2015 it's morning in America!

This is, sadly, not too far-fetched. And if it happens, Republicans will indeed get the credit. After all, Ronald Reagan widely gets the credit for the original morning in America, even though our recovery in 1983 was due much less to lower taxes than it was to falling oil prices, conventional Keynesian stimulus, and Paul Volcker's decision to ease up on the high interest rates that kicked off the 1981 recession in the first place.

But that's too complicated. In popular myth, (1) Reagan is elected, (2) he lowers taxes, and (3) the economy recovers. What more do you need to know?

1Yes, yes, Obama and his economic team should have done more too. But keep your eyes on the prize, people. Obama's timidity is but a single gnat compared to the locust swarm of Republican obstructionism over the past three years.

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