Thursday, June 7, 2012

Short: Romney is the Keynesian candidate?

Ezra Klein has an interesting piece on why Romney would have higher government spending than Obama. That's counterintuitive, right? But his argument goes like this:
  • Romney's smarter than to pass austerity measures that will immediately drop GDP by 5%. Romney quote: “That is by definition throwing us into recession or depression. So I’m not going to do that, of course.”
  •  But if Obama is reelected, the GOP will force a showdown with all its jitters, and maybe this time there will be a shutdown, and government spending will plummet.
Klein fully acknowledging the hostage aspects of this argument: "In a sense, Republicans are holding a gun to the economy’s head and saying, “vote for us or the recovery gets it.'" He also says that the implied threat may sway some voters, but will raise the hackles of others. 

I believed this at first, but then I started to wonder--how many voters will view the GOP as hostage-takers and then decide to vote for them? A few, perhaps. Also those who feel like they're hostages anyway, so they might as well skip the drama of divided government. I don't think it adds up to that many votes, and maybe no net votes at all.

Then I started to question the premise. Are the Republicans really going to pull the trigger after not winning the presidency? That would be the biggest tantrum, bigger than any other imaginable tantrum short of activating a real secession movement (as opposed to the hollow bluster in 2009). I don't think the majority of GOP congress critters are that self-destructive. There might be some brinksmanship like last time, and the time before that... yawn. But before the end of the countdown, they'll have a deal.

So don't vote for a party because you think they might take hostages otherwise. And don't vote against a party because Ezra Klein says they might be hostage-takers. Think it through, take your best guess, and vote for who you think will run the government best. May the best party win, or may the best mix win.

(Sorry, no graphic. I can't think of a tasteful way of illustrating a story about hostage-taking.)

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