Occasioned by Peter Lawler’s trenchant thoughts,
1. Obama took office during a combination deep recession and banking crisis. You would expect corporate profits to recover absent a 1930s-style deflationary cycle + collapse of the banking system. Ben Bernanke might have gotten some things wrong (and people differ on what), but he still doesn’t get enough hugs. Obama is going to get the credit and that is fine. That’s how these things go.
2. Given Obama’s long-term spending plans, tax increases on high earners (and the middle-class too) aren’t over. Most high earners will naturally tend to lean toward the Republican party on economic issues though high earners are a complicated subgroup, and certain members will find it in their interest to support the Democrats while others will prioritize social liberalism.
3. The key for the Republicans is to not seem to be merely an interest group for high earners. When it comes to high earners, Republicans have a lot of space to offer policies geared to people in the two middle income quartiles while still offering most high earners a better deal than the Democrats. Take family friendly tax reform. It cuts taxes on investment income and decreases taxes sharply on most working families. It increases (relative to the Bush tax rates) marginal income tax rates on some groups of high earners. It offers a better policy deal to more Americans than anything McCain and Romney proposed in the last two presidential elections. It isn’t the first-choice tax plan of Steve Forbes or the WSJ, but it is a better deal than they are going to get from Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi. A conservative politics that seeks to sharply cut taxes on high earners and raise taxes on the lower middle-class is social democracy’s best friend.
4. Republicans need to focus on positive policy proposals that are aimed at people around the middle of the income distribution. That means repeal Obamacare has to include focusing on plans to maintain access to health care for those with preexisting conditions and how Republican-oriented health care reforms can increase take home pay. The ratio of criticism of Obamacare to explaining alternative policies should be about one to one.
5. I know our political prospects look bad. Obama’s job approval is over fifty percent. The economy is growing. The Democratic coalition is demographically ascendant. But the wheel turns. People will be ready to listen to the center-right again. And we shouldn’t worry that it will be too late. We should worry that it will be too soon, that the center-right will not have completed the work of crafting a language, media strategy, and political program that speaks to a broad majority of contemporary Americans. We don’t have time to waste.