At his ill-fated press conference, President Joe Biden threw out a challenge to his Republican critics. Biden asked, “What are Republicans for? What are they for? Name me one thing they’re for.”
This invitation turned out to be a huge missed opportunity. Asked what his agenda would be if Republicans regained control of Congress, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell replied that it was “a very good question. And I’ll let you know when we take it back.”
Is that the best response the GOP can muster?
What about being for no inflation, no food shortages, no more lockdowns, safe neighborhoods, secure borders, energy independence, and a foreign policy that doesn’t confuse our allies and embolden our enemies?
Here is what you need to know about how our two major political parties talk to the public. Democrats almost always stay on message. It may be a weak message. But whatever their predicament, they can be counted on to convey the strongest message they have. That’s why it doesn’t much matter which Democrat gets interviewed by the media. By and large, they will all say the same thing.
Republicans are different. By and large, they have no consistent message. Interview a dozen of them, and you are likely to get a dozen different points of view.
Promises to undo the harm done by bad policies under the Biden administration should be at the top of a Republican agenda. Even so, those goals are still promises. An even stronger message for the GOP should be to brag about what the Trump administration actually achieved: lower taxes and less regulation—and how these policies led to more jobs, higher incomes, and more take-home pay.
Take regulation. Although politicians rarely talk about it, economists from across the political spectrum have known for a long time that the economy is over-regulated. When fewer rules hamper the private sector, the benefits to workers and consumers are far greater than the costs. For example, economists at the left-of-center Brookings Institution estimate that deregulation (started under Democratic President Jimmy Carter) reduced airline fares, trucking costs, and railroad transportation costs by about $35 billion per year (in 1995 dollars).
Under President Donald Trump, that process continued, largely through presidential executive orders. Because of the Trump administration’s deregulation in such fields as telecommunications, health insurance, prescription drugs, etc., the Council for Economic Advisors has estimated that the gain to consumers from Trump deregulation is about $4,000 per household per year. (See Casey Mulligan, You’re Hired, p. 120.) Moreover, deregulation is progressive, creating greater benefits for low-income households than for those with higher incomes.
Tax cuts should be another Republican bragging point. A study by the Atlanta Federal Reserve found that the average household could expect a long-term gain of $25,000 (in today’s dollars) from the Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, enacted in 2017. Further, a very sophisticated long-term analysis by Boston University Professor Laurence Kotlikoff and his colleagues found that the income tax system today is just as progressive as it was before tax reform.
Republican tax cuts and deregulation affected the entire economy.
During the four quarters of 2019, real gross domestic product grew 0.7% faster than had been projected by the Congressional Budget Office. The United States added 2.1 million new jobs. The civilian unemployment rate fell to 3.5%, its lowest level since 1969. Higher pay rose to 1.4% above the CBO’s forecast, implying an additional $1,800 in compensation per household (see the Economic Report of the President for 2019).
Since all this happened before COVID hit, these economic gains were not distorted by the effects of the pandemic.
Biden wants to reverse these policies with higher taxes and more regulation. But one reason why he gets away with taunting the Republicans for lacking an agenda is because Republicans do such a poor job of touting their record.
This article was also published in Washington Examiner