Just how stupid does Mitt Romney think we are? If you’ve been following his campaign from the beginning, that’s a question you have probably asked many times.
That’s how the Nobel Economic Laureate begins this column this morning, immediately reminding us that Romney appeared at a drywall factory (owned by a Republican, btw) which was closed during the Bush administration yet blaming Obama for the closure, attempting to make it a symbol. As Krugman notes, “It was a symbol, all right – but not in the way he intended,” especially as the press quickly picked up on when the factory closed. And although the Romney campaign attempted to cover itself by saying the factory was still closed because Obama’s policies had failed to get the economy going again, Krugman counters saying, “Actually, that factory would probably still be closed even if the economy had done better – drywall is mainly used in new houses, and while the economy may be coming back, the Bush-era housing bubble isn’t.”
There is more – deliciously so.
We all know that the Bush administration at its end was a disaster for jobs, but Krugman reminds us that it did not start out so well (although in fairness I supposed one could mention the economic impact of the attacks on 9/11/01). Over the comparable period of the 3+ years of a first term, Obama’s record on jobs is much superior:
This is especially true if you focus on private-sector jobs. Overall employment in the Obama years has been held back by mass layoffs of schoolteachers and other state and local government employees. But private-sector employment has recovered almost all the ground lost in the administration’s early months. That compares favorably with the Bush era: as of March 2004, private employment was still 2.4 million below its level when Mr. Bush took office.
As for schoolteachers? Most of the job losses in education have been in Republican-controlled states:
70 percent of public job losses have been either in Texas or in states where Republicans recently took control.
Here I might note, as Krugman has done many times in the past, that an insistence upon austerity will strangle any recovery before it can get fully going. We would be far better off borrowing money and refinancing current debt to put people back to work, especially considering how low current interest rates are, as anyone refinancing a mortgage certainly knows (I am looking at 3.75% fixed for 30 years – my rate when I bought the house when Reagan was President in 2004 was 14%. My last rate under GWBush was 6%).
Krugman is critical of the Obama administration’s economic policy, noting that it did less than it could have done, even in 2009, especially in the area of housing, and
Mr. Obama was an active participant in Washington’s destructive “pivot” away from jobs to a focus on deficit reduction.
And too often it takes a few months of good news “an excuse to rest on its laurels rather than hammering home the need for more action.” He considers that a valid critique of the administration’s economic policy.
But that’s not the critique Mr. Romney is making. Instead, he’s basically attacking Mr. Obama for not acting as if George Bush had been given a third term. Are the American people – and perhaps more to the point, the news media – forgetful enough for that attack to work? I guess we’ll find out.
Ah, the news media – will they inform the American people of the dishonesty of Romney’s line of attack? Will they inform the American people of the economic reality? Or will they be swayed by talking heads who are desperate to see a close and competitive race and will spin every piece of “news” as evidence that we will have one, thereby possibly creating a self-fulfilling prophecy?
No matter what the insecurity the American people MAY feel about the economic recovery, if they understand what Romney is saying and – more to the point – the disastrous impact of what he is proposing, this election will not be close.
Perhaps the only way we can guarantee that amnesia does not dominate would be were the past President to openly endorse Romney, or Romney is foolish enough to put Jeb Bush on the ticket (although putting Rob Portman or Mitch Daniels, both of whom headed OMB, might be almost as good).
I enjoyed Krugman’s column.
I wanted to make sure more saw it.