David Frum

08.13.12

Stimulus for Conservatives

The blogger Mike Konczal has assembled a list of fiscal stimulus ideas incorporating conservative values. The list gains piquancy because it appears on the blog of the left-leaning Roosevelt Institute.

I can, quickly, come up with a set of conservative stimulus ideas on how to get the economy going again, but the wide range of these programs are missing from Romney's economics report. They aren't going to hire market monetarists to run the Federal Reserve. Mitt Romney just publicly said the Federal Reserve shouldn't go ahead with another round of quantitive easing [1]. There isn't the argument that the government should just not collect taxes for a year or two with borrowing costs so low, which will also make it that much harder to raise taxes to Clinton-era rates afterwards. There's nothing in the paper about housing, even though one of Romney's advisors is well known for his mass refinancing program to help boost demand. And there's no conditional lending to states to prevent layoffs on the condition that they dismantle public sector unions, or privatize certain government services, or whatever.

Yet, as Konczal points out, none of these ideas appear in the Romney platform. Even odder, none have gained much backing from any of the conservative think tanks whose job supposedly is to generate creative policy alternatives.

Instead, conservatives have locked themselves into a dead consensus in favor of the program developed by Bob Bartley and his friends on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal almost 40 years ago: tax cuts, financial deregulation, and tight money. In an economic slump utterly different from anything experienced or foreseen by that editorial board, shouldn't almost $200 million a year of investment in conservative think tanks buy something new?