The GOP might as well stand for "gathering of prevaricators." From the Romney campaign to John Boehner's boozy media appearances, Republican mantras reiterate memes that may be popular and focus-group tested, but bear little resemblance to the truth. Or as The American Prospect's Jamelle Bouie put it "The former Massachusetts governor has no use for honesty in his campaign."
- Big government Romney likes to claim that Obama has brought "big government" "back with a vengeance." In fact, as Bouie notes, "government spending has fallen sharply after a decade increase under Bush," to the point that government job losses have inflated the unemployment rate.
- High taxes Over years of sloganeering crafted by language specialists like Frank Luntz, and conservative think tanks, many Americans have come to believe that they're struggling under a heavy tax burden. Ironically, as the New York Times' David Leonhardt wrote recently, this perception probably derives from the weak growth in wages, due in no small part to corporatist anti-labor policies promoted by Republican administrations. In fact, "taxes in the United States are quite low today, compared with past years or those in other countries. Most important, American taxes are not sufficient to pay for the programs that many people want, like Medicare, Social Security, road construction and education subsidies." Leonhardt cites a 2011 Times/CBS News survey, in which respondents said (1) they preferred to reduce the deficit by cutting spending rather than raising taxes, yet (2) they'd rather increase taxes than cut Medicare or Social Security. The long term deficit, which has become a rallying point for Republican obstructionism in opposing stimulus measures that might actually improve the economy, is caused in large measure, by tax revenues insufficient to support programs the public demands.
- Regulations A "regulatory system that knows no bounds," Boehner recently labeled administration and Democratic Party policies. Bruce Bartlett, who served in the Reagan and Bush administrations wrote last year in The Fiscal Times
A standard Republican talking point on the economy is that government regulation is a key factor holding back job growth. Data supporting this argument is never presented because to Republicans, it is axiomatic that government regulation is per se bad. Whether it is holding back job creation is essentially irrelevant. All that matters is that high unemployment provides an opportunity to tie deregulation to jobs and thus move forward the GOP political agenda to dismantle Dodd-Frank and declaw the Consumer Protection Bureau. But what is the truth?
Noting that a Small Business Administration study often used to justify this claim was found by the Congressional Research to be methodologically flawed, particularly in its estimates of regulatory costs, Bartlett reports that "When McClatchy newspapers interviewed a number of small business owners to see what regulations are holding them back, it couldn’t find any." Bartlett agrees with Harvard economist Martin Feldstein, that lack of demand, and the corresponding reduced production are the chief causes of high unemployment, rather than any fundamental problem with the US labor market.
Republicans and businessmen are always opposed to government regulation and so it is convenient opportunism for them to use the current concern about jobs to argue that it is a major stumbling block to employment growth. But that doesn’t make it true.
Romney’s candidacy is premised on the bet that the American people will forget just how awful an economic mess Obama inherited after eight years of Bush policies. Krugman concluded that Romney is “hoping that you don’t remember how badly those policies worked.” It’s worse than that; Romney is hoping you don’t remember those policies at all.