[Marxism] Why a "strong economy" is not helping the Republicans

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Apr 21 08:52:33 MDT 2006

from the April 21, 2006 edition - 

Why a strong economy is no GOP asset
Republicans have struggled to get credit for low unemployment and steady 

By Linda Feldmann | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

WASHINGTON - Of all the problems Republicans face heading into the fall 
political season, one of the most exasperating is the economy.

In many ways, they say, these are the best of times: Unemployment is at 4.7 
percent, lower than the averages of the 1970s, '80s, and '90s. The economy 
is showing strong, consistent growth, without significant inflation. And 
the stock market is roaring along.

Yet many Americans just aren't impressed. A majority tell pollsters they 
trust the Demo- crats more than the GOP to handle the economy. When asked 
in an open-ended question which is the most important problem facing the 
country today, respondents to a recent CBS News poll named "economy/jobs" 
second after the Iraq war - and ahead of immigration, terrorism, and 

"First, there's general concern about globalization and its effect on 
American manufacturing jobs," says GOP pollster Whit Ayres. "We see low 
unemployment, but the headlines are dominated by the thousands being laid 
off by General Motors and Ford."

Underlying that, he adds, is concern about healthcare and being able to 
afford and keep health insurance if something happens to one's job. The 
latest run-up in gasoline prices also doesn't help the Republican-led 
government in Washington, even if there's little it can do in the short 
term about that.

Independent pollster John Zogby sees the public's skepticism over the 
economy as part of a larger picture of overall concern over the direction 
of the nation and a president struggling to recapture Americans' 
confidence. "It's not just the economy," he says. "If we were at peace or 
the war was going well or there was confidence in other areas, then the 
economic news could be bolstered and people could begin to feel better."

In order to understand the full picture on public concerns about the 
economy, he says, a raft of "secondary indicators" must be factored in: 
health benefits, pensions, gasoline prices, as well as 401(k)s and stock 

Even though stocks are strong again, memories of a market dive in the 
not-too-distant past remain fresh. Mr. Zogby sees a 9/11 effect in people's 
thinking, not just about the stock market but about other factors close to 
home, such as safety and security - a concern that something terrible could 
happen again.

Iraq is also dragging down overall confidence, says Daniel Mitchell, an 
economist at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in 
Washington. And he blames Republican politicians for "being so fiscally 
irresponsible" on the spending side of the budget. "Even if the tax cuts 
have helped, between the bridge to nowhere and now the railroad to nowhere 
people are probably figuring it's only a matter of time before the bills 
come due and this all falls apart," he says.

For months, the Republicans have held a losing hand on the array of issues 
facing the nation, and even on their strongest issue, terrorism, often the 
best they can do is muster a tie with the Democrats in polls. But on the 
economy, at least, the White House is hopeful that better use of the bully 
pulpit can boost public confidence.

"The advantage the White House has on this issue, which they don't on other 
issues, is the reality really is good," says Mr. Ayres. "The truth may not 
set them free, but it might improve public perception. So someone with an 
ability to articulate the good economic news in a compelling and memorable 
way day after day after day could have an effect on public perception."

In a roundtable discussion with a group of mostly small-business people 
Monday in Sterling, Va., President Bush acknowledged that "Americans need 
to keep hearing" his message on the economy. On that day, Tax Day, he 
stressed his push in Congress to make tax cuts permanent, and asked some at 
the table to reveal how much they had already saved from tax cuts.

Sitting nearby was Treasury Secretary John Snow, who reinforced the 
message. What remained unstated was the open secret that the White House is 
shopping around for a new Treasury secretary, someone who can bring a new 
voice to the economy-is-strong message - probably someone from the world of 
economics or finance.

Meanwhile, debate rages among Democrats over how best to take advantage of 
public disillusionment with Republican government, including the economy. 
Are bumper stickers saying "Had Enough?" enough, or does the party really 
need a multipart plan to persuade voters to toss out their incumbent 
Republican members of Congress? Various Democrats - from Sen. Hillary 
Rodman Clinton of New York to Clinton-era Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin - 
are launching strategies to spark debate.

In a recent speech in Chicago, Senator Clinton focused on the middle class, 
arguing that "tax cuts are not the cure-all for everything that ails the 
American economy." Secretary Rubin, in his newly launched initiative called 
the Hamilton Project, has centered concerns on growing income inequality in 
the US.

At a Monitor breakfast on Wednesday, Democratic National Committee chair 
Howard Dean said "the problem with the president's, with the Republicans' 
economy is that it's good for their base - 20 percent of the public - but 
it's not so good for 80 percent of the public."



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