Gee, Opie! Economic Terror Fairy Tales!
It's an odd political world in the United States today. Rather than brag lustily about the slight improvement in the economy over the early part of this year - at least until higher gas prices flattened consumer wallets - Republicans would rather the voting public focus on one of their failures - the war of terror.
[The following is an abridgement of The Economy's Fear Factor, By Marc Hogan, AUGUST 29, 2006]
Will Republicans' focus on the threat of terrorism heighten voter pessimism about the economy ahead of the November elections?
Could an electoral strategy focused on stoking voters' terrorism fears backfire by increasing their economic pessimism? Indeed, the specter of a terrorist attack looms large in the minds of economists, a new survey shows, highlighting a possible contradiction in the GOP strategy. "Everybody is worried that the next terrorist attack is going to cause problems—both for oil prices and for consumer confidence—that could create a recap of the kind of recession we saw back in 2001," says David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's.
It's been evident for months that terrorism and the war in Iraq would be central to Republicans' bid to hold Congress through November's midterm elections. Top Republicans have kept the threat of terrorism front and center in recent weeks. The GOP may be willing to take a short-term hit on economic issues to draw attention to terrorism, where Republicans have traditionally outpolled their Democratic rivals.
"The Republicans have put all their political eggs in the war-on-terror basket," says Peter Rundlet, vice-president for national security at the liberal Center for American Progress.
And it's beginning to look like Little Red Raiding Hood dropped it.
The pundits - the public faces of the White House - can't understand why the public isn't seeing the wonderful economic boom the Republican terror war 'protection' has afforded them:
As for the economy, American voters have offered dismal forecasts in public opinion polls for months, while Republicans are burnishing their antiterrorism bona fides. The new survey results raise an interesting question:
The latest view from economists comes as conservative columnists such as George Will and Fred Barnes have been wondering why voters give President George W. Bush so little credit on the economy. In the most recent Wall Street Journal–NBC poll, only 14% of respondents say they believe the economy will get better in the next 12 months, down from 16% in June and 17% in April.
Center-left pundits have raised similar questions. The economic news is "absolutely good," ABC News political commentator Cokie Roberts said Dec. 4, 2005, on This Week, but "voters don't seem to be feeling it." On July 12, Hardball host Chris Matthews asked: "If it's that great out there, why isn't [Bush] getting credit for it?"
You know that BusinessWeek doesn't have both feet in reality if they think Cokie Roberts is 'center-left', but I digress.
Dumping the pundits and their White House leash tuggers and going back to the economists, they see the reasons why the American public isn't euphoric over the GOP's economy:
When asked to name longer-term threats to the economy, economists named a number of other daunting challenges. One-fifth of respondents point to the federal deficit as their biggest long-term concern, according to the NABE poll, while another fifth cite an inadequate educational system. Separately, only 38% of respondents believe that any combination of policies can eliminate U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
While the Democrats aren't blameless over these issues, each represents a successful Republican campaign to alter the status quo:
* Cutting taxes while increasing government crony spending
* Cutting taxes while allowing the public school system to rot
* Ensuring that the energy czars didn't lose their dominance to alternative energy sources
When all is totalled up, the American people are on the side of the economists and not the White House:
Like economists, ordinary Americans probably see terrorism as only one of a rogue's gallery of threats to the economy, with inflation and a softening housing market also causing some agita. Some liberal pundits charge that Americans are unhappy because double-digit corporate profits and solid economic growth have yet to trickle down to typical workers.
"It's hard to convince people that the economy is booming when they themselves have yet to see any benefits from the supposed boom," wrote New York Times columnist Paul Krugman on Dec. 5, 2005.
But never fear! The major architect of the Reagan Greed Revolution has the solution for the GOP, worried that they aren't yet getting the credit they deserve:
[T]he White House isn't doing enough to highlight economic issues right now, according to Grover Norquist, president of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform. "They're wrapped up in foreign policy, but just because you're interested in something doesn't mean most voters are," Norquist says. "What matters for voters is: What are you going to do for them next? Don't expect a lot of thank-you cards for an O.K. economy."
So expect a lot of 'news' stories out of the Captive Corporate Media about how well things are going, especially now that gas is beginning to sink below $3/gal. here in SoCal. But will that be enough? I doubt it, and maybe even the GOP isn't sure:
[T]he complex feelings the [terror] issue evokes leave no clear indication as to how voters will respond in November —perhaps making the GOP a little nervous as to whether its trump card will ensure victory.
Like the Little Boy Who Cried Wolf, maybe the White House cried 'Osama is coming!' once too often.
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