"The Mantle of Fiscal Responsibility"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 31 2011 12:31 PM

"The Mantle of Fiscal Responsibility"

Jay Newton-Small's great reporting about the Bataan Debt March* includes a line that makes absolutely no sense.

Overall, there is a sense of disappointment among Democrats on Capitol Hill. They feel Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had Republicans on the ropes before President Obama caved to McConnell demands. The historic deal could help Obama win reelection by denying Republicans sole ownership of the mantle of fiscal responsibility, but there may be substantial costs. Cuts to entitlement benefits will neuter the Democrats’ argument that Republican proposals like Paul Ryan’s budget represent a partisan plot to end the popular programs
Advertisement

I bolded the crazy part. Who are these voters who will reward Obama because he's got some of a "mantle of fiscal responsibility?" Seriously, I want to meet one of them and engage in some psychoanalysis. There is really no evidence, as Dick Cheney could tell you, that voters care about "fiscal responsibility" unless the economy's strong. Will spending cuts boost the economy? Actually, no. According to the Commerce Department, the austerity cuts of 2011 so far knocked 1.2 points off the GDP, and according to other analyses, the spending cuts everyone's now hoping we get in a debt deal will cut GDP some more. The Republican House pronounced itself the "cut and grow" majority. We're getting the "cut." We're not getting the "grow."

The re-election of Barack Obama depends, as it has always depended, on economic growth and lower unemployment by November 2012. Things that will help him win re-election are things that get him there. I'm old enough to remember when Obama signed the tax cut extensions into law at the end of 2010. Voters haven't rewarded him for that, because they love compromise so much. They're punishing him because they want to get jobs.

*too soon?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.