That’s Mandela Barnes’ new TV ad— the kind of economic populism every Democratic candidate should be leaning into. Incumbent Ron Johnson, a multimillionaire Republican and extremist kook, is running about by about two and a half points. Barnes needs to double down on an economic agenda like he’s doing in this ad if he’s going to have any chance to catch up. He could mention, for example, that he supports raising the minimum wage and that Johnson not only voted against raising it, but that he’s spoken out about abolishing it altogether.
It amazes me that though the American public overwhelmingly backs the Democratic economic agenda, the GOP message machine has persuaded them that Republican policies would be better for the economy and better for their families— total hogwash. This morning, writing for the NY Times, Jim Tanksersley and Emily Cochrane reported that economists who have studied the Republican agenda and the party’s economic proposals say they will not bring down inflation, which is generally the number one issue on peoples’ minds as they are filling out their early voting ballots.
“Republican candidates,” they wrote, “have centered their economic agenda on promises to help Americans cope with everyday price increases and to increase growth. They have pledged to reduce government spending and to make permanent parts of the 2017 Republican tax cuts that are set to expire over the next three years— including incentives for corporate investment and tax reductions for individuals. They have vowed to repeal the the corporate tax increases that Biden signed into law in August and to gut funding for the Internal Revenue Service, which was given more money to help the United States go after high-earning and corporate tax cheats.” How do voters feel about corporate taxes? Take a look at these two polls, this one about taxing corporations:
And this one about the cause of inflation:
Tankersley and Cochrane noted that “While Republicans insist they will be better stewards of the economy, few economists on either end of the ideological spectrum expect the party’s proposals to meaningfully reduce inflation in the short term. Instead, many say some of what Republicans are proposing— including tax cuts for high earners and businesses— could actually make price pressures worse by pumping more money into the economy. ‘It is unlikely that any of the policies proposed by Republicans would meaningfully reduce inflation in 2023, when rapidly rising prices will still be a major problem for the economy and for consumers,’ said Michael Strain, an economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Biden has tried to push back against the Republicans and cast the election not as a referendum on his economic policies, but as a choice between Democratic policies to reduce costs on health care and electricity and Republican efforts to repeal those policies. He has accused Republicans of stoking further price increases with tax cuts that could add to the federal budget deficit, and of risking financial calamity by refusing to raise the debt limit… The challenge for Biden is that voters do not seem to be demanding details from Republicans and are instead putting their trust in them to turn around an economy that voters believe is headed in the wrong direction. Polls suggest Americans trust Republicans by a wide margin to handle inflation and other economic issues.”
In a nationwide deluge of campaign ads and in public remarks, Republicans have pinned much of their inflation-fighting agenda on halting a stimulus spending spree that began under Trump and continued under Biden, in an effort to help people and businesses survive the pandemic recession. Those efforts have largely ended, and Biden has shown no desire to pass further stimulus legislation at a time of rapid price growth.
Representative Jason Smith of Missouri, the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, said in a statement that “the first step in combating inflation is to stop the historically reckless spending spree occurring under one-party Democrat rule in Washington, and that will only happen with a Republican majority in Congress.”
“Republicans,” he added, “will fight to bring down the cost of living and impose fiscal restraint in Washington, and that begins by ensuring Democrats are not able to impose round after round of new inflationary spending.”
Smith is a confirmed bachelor— closet case (and Aaron Schock travel companion)— real estate agent and owner of a criminal puppy mill in rural, politically backward (R+28, the worst in the state) southeast Missouri. His macro-economic expertise is about equal to any of the puppies in his mill.
“Their plan to repeal the I.R.A. and double down on the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy will worsen inflation,” said Jared Bernstein, a member of Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers. “On top of that, they’re also explicit that they’re coming for Social Security and Medicare, making this a terribly destructive agenda that starts by fighting the Fed and moves on to devastating vulnerable seniors.”
…A budget proposal unveiled this year by the Republican Study Committee, a conservative policy group within the House Republican conference, included plans to permanently extend the Trump tax cuts and to impose work requirements on federal benefits programs, in hopes of reducing federal spending on the programs and increasing the number of workers in the economy.
…As they eye the majority, top Republicans have suggested that they will consider an economically risky strategy to potentially force Biden to agree to spending cuts, including for safety-net programs. Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, who is the minority leader and is seen as the clear pick to be speaker should Republicans win control of the House, suggested to Punchbowl News this month that he would be open to withholding Republican votes to raise the federal borrowing limit unless Biden and Democrats agreed to policy changes that curb spending.
How to use that leverage has divided Republicans. Some, like Representative Nancy Mace of South Carolina, who fended off a Trump-backed primary challenger, are supportive of that option.
But other Republicans— particularly candidates laboring to present a more centrist platform in swing districts held by Democrats— have shied away from openly supporting cuts to safety-net programs.
Around dawn this morning, the Washington Post reported that Biden “has begun warning voters of the threat of government shutdowns, entitlement cuts, debt defaults and general chaos if Republicans take control of Congress… seizing on the fear of disorder in an attempt to turn their liabilities on the economy into a political weapon. ‘Hear this closely: The Republicans have made it clear that if they win control of the Congress, they will shut down the government, refuse to pay our bills, and it’ll be the first time in our history America will default— unless I yield and cut Social Security and Medicare,’ Biden said Monday in a speech to the Democratic National Committee. ‘There’s nothing, nothing, that will create more chaos, more inflation and more damage to the American economy than this.’ Less than two weeks before the elections, Biden has settled on a closing message that goes beyond touting his accomplishments and defending his record on the economy, as he has done for months. Instead, he is painting an increasingly dystopian picture of life under divided government should ‘ultra-MAGA’ or ‘mega-MAGA’ Republicans come into power, attempting to seize on Republicans’ own promises to use congressional votes on budgets and debt to force Biden into major spending cuts.”
I hope congressional candidates spend the rest of the campaign talking about this, especially the Republican plans to blackmail the country into cutting Social Security— in the face of a largely passive public that wants to see it expanded— and Medicare and making peoples’ lives worse to benefit their campaign contributors.