McConnell, Romney, and the Confidence Fairy

Mitch McConnellWe have a another good jobs report out today. We add 252,000 new jobs, the headline unemployment rate is down to 5.6%, and the job gains from the November and December reports were revised upward significantly. People who read this blog should know who ought to get credit for this: no one. As long as you don’t constantly harm an economy, it will eventually heal. This recovery has taken a long time, and we can say who is primary to blame for that: the Republicans in Congress. But the Republicans, of course, do not see it like that.

This last week, Mitch McConnell said that he had noticed a powerful correlation, “After so many years of sluggish growth, we’re finally starting to see some economic data that can provide a glimmer of hope; the uptick appears to coincide with the biggest political change of the Obama administration’s long tenure in Washington: the expectation of a new Republican Congress. So this is precisely the right time to advance a positive, pro-growth agenda.” Just to be clear, what he means by “pro-growth agenda” is cutting taxes on the rich, allowing corporations to rape the earth, and cutting support for the poor.

McConnell’s remarks have been widely mocked. DNC Communications Director Mo Elleithee said, “Hahahahahahahahahahaha. That Mitch McConnell is one funny guy.” Of course, McConnell isn’t being funny. It is just that conservatives — even many of their so called serious economists — believe in the Confidence Fairy. This is the idea that people aren’t spending because they lack “confidence” and if they just know that the government is doing the “right thing” (translation: what conservatives want the government to do), “confidence” will be restored and the economy will start booming. This is closely tied to the “job creator” myth where the owners of companies don’t hire because they need workers to fulfill demands for their products; instead, the owners hire out of a sense of beneficence or noblesse oblige or the fact that the Republicans control Congress.

You may think that I’m overstating this and that McConnell is just saying such nonsense as a rhetorical flourish. But you would be wrong. You doubtless remember the famous “47 percent” video with Mitt Romney. I never thought that much about what everyone else got so excited about. It simply demonstrated what we already knew about Romney. The truly jaw dropping moment in the video is after one of the millionaire attendees asks how Romney will improve the economy. Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider caught Romney’s response, “My own view is if we win on November 6 there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We’ll see capital come back and well see — without actually doing anything, we’ll actually get a boost to the economy.”

I’m not sure how the causation works here. Is it that the Republicans have no real ideas on how to improve the economy because they believe that the only thing that is holding back the economy is a lack of “confidence” and things like Obama calling bankers “fat cats”? I think it is more likely the opposite. Republicans are committed to economic policies that help the already rich and not the economy. As a result, they’ve had to look for a justification for doing nothing. Just look at Romney’s campaign. His whole economic plan was to give massive tax cuts to the rich. This was, interestingly, justified with Keynesian theory, which conservatives dismiss any time anyone talks about government stimulus that doesn’t involve tax cuts or military spending.

So McConnell’s recent statement is funny. But he and the rest of the Republican Party are dead serious about this. And there are lots of voters who believe this nonsense. Economic policy doesn’t need to make sense. As we saw during the 1980 election (and every one since then), economic policy just has to sound plausible for voters for them to accept it. But laughing at such claims is probably for the best. We don’t want to end up with more “both sides now” reporting: “Republicans say that the simple fact that they are in power will improve the economy and Democrats say the economy doesn’t work that way. Who can say? I’m just a reporter!”

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

3 thoughts on “McConnell, Romney, and the Confidence Fairy

  1. Facts won’t stop Mitch nor will ridicule. He’s proven that he has thick skin and refuses to care what those who oppose him think. Since there are no consequences for his actions and his statements, he and his party will continue to repeat lies even after they’ve been debunked. If anyone thinks otherwise, they haven’t been paying attention.

    • Clearly so. The effort has to be to change the media narrative. But I have a lot of respect for McConnell. I wish more Democrats were as savvy as he is. I can definitely see him running a city his whole life in decades past.

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