Thursday, October 30, 2003

I posted a brief excerpt from this Newsweek column by Robert Samuelson a couple of weeks ago, but today seems like a better day for it, given the fact that Republicans are declaring that today's GDP report completely and vindicates Bushonomics and perfectly positions Bush for '04:

...To win in 1972, Nixon revved the economy. All presidents would like to do this, because all know they’ll be judged—rightly or wrongly—on the economy’s performance. Few succeed, because the economy is so big and unruly. Nixon beat the odds. Facing stubborn inflation, he embraced wage-price controls in August 1971. With inflation suppressed, easy money and a big deficit stimulated demand. Unemployment fell from 6.1 percent in August to 5.5 percent by the next fall. In November, Nixon trounced George McGovern, who won a meager 37.5 percent of the vote.

Could Bush—in different times and using different tools—repeat Nixon’s feat? ...

...Fully 60 percent ($210 billion) [of the 2003 Bush tax cut] is crammed into the 15 months before the election. This was no accident. Some tax cuts (the higher child credit, the bigger 10 percent bracket, marriage-penalty relief) expire after the election. In 2003 and 2004, the child credit is $1,000; from 2005 to 2008, it’s $700....

...History’s final verdict of Bush will depend less on election returns than on whether his policies ultimately succeed. We can’t know that yet. But Nixon does offer a cautionary lesson, because wage-price controls proved calamitous. Once they ended, inflation exploded (8.7 percent in 1973 and 12.3 percent in 1974) and a harsh recession followed. “The tragedy was that they didn’t have to do anything,” says Matusow. “The economy was on schedule to deliver by 1972. They panicked.” Such a judgment is surely one Nixon parallel that Bush doesn’t covet.

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