EZRA, YOU'RE NOT HELPING
I understand what Ezra Klein is getting at in his latest bit of clever-seeming contrarianism, "The Keynesian Case for Romney," but I'm not buying it.
Ezra's point is that, if President Obama is reelected, Republicans will continue to use blackmail and gridlock, so they'll continue to destroy the economy:
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that if Congress gridlocks this year -- if it simply gets nothing done -- the economy will take a $607 billion hit in 2013 as the Bush tax cuts expire, the payroll tax cut expires and assorted spending cuts kick in. Falling off that "fiscal cliff," they predict, will throw us back into recession.
But it's worse even than that: Speaker John Boehner has said he wants another debt-ceiling showdown. We're not expected to hit the debt ceiling until February or March....
Ahh, but if Mitt Romney wins, and gets himself a GOP Congress, suddenly the Republicans will stop caring about deficits and just turn into the tax-cut-mad deficit spenders they've always been, according to Ezra:
...there's no way that they'll permit the Bush tax cuts to expire or the debt ceiling to lapse....
Now, Republicans could still push the economy into recession if they pass an immediate austerity budget that slashed spending in 2013....
But Romney, though he often buys into that sort of nonsense while criticizing Obama, knows better. Time magazine asked him about cutting spending in 2013. "If you take a trillion dollars for instance, out of the first year of the federal budget, that would shrink GDP over 5 percent," Romney said. "That is by definition throwing us into recession or depression. So I'm not going to do that, of course." You couldn't have gotten a clearer definition of Keynesian budgeting from Obama.
See, this is where Ezra loses me. Look, he could be right. But it seems highly unlikely to me that the rich guys who are trying to buy the presidency for Romney are doing it so that he can be just another Republican deficit-spender who preserves the basic outlines of the social safety net. They want the social safety net destroyed. They want unions destroyed. They want the government's regulatory apparatus gutted. They know a demographic time bomb is going to hit in a few years -- they want the twentieth century repealed now, while it's still possible, before Democratic-leaning groups begin to dominate the electorate.
If Romney thinks he's going to hold off on budget cuts at the beginning of his presidency, he's going to be dragged to the right by Republicans in Congress, who will happily compel Romney to do the bidding of his paymasters (who are also their paymasters).
I think we're likely to get shock-doctrine economics -- yes, tax cuts, but also (as Romney has promised) the Paul Ryan budget and Cut, Cap and Balance, which, by making balanced budgets mandatory and imposing a ceiling on government spending as a percentage of GDP, will literally make Keynesian deficit spending in a recession illegal. I think they'll try to gut Social Security and Medicare for those under 55. I think we may get a national right-to-work law.
You want to roll the dice on a Romney presidency because you think he won't be any worse than Bush or Reagan? Look around at the GOP and its backers right now, then tell me that we can afford to risk that bet. I don't think so.