Saturday, June 20, 2015

Why Do Conservative Politicians Pretend To Be Business Leaders?

Paul Krugman picks on Jeb Bush (who wants to called Jeb) to make a good point.  Jeb is trying to sell himself to the electorate by claiming that he was responsible for Florida's economic growth.  If he is elected president he claims that he will grow the economy at a 4% rate.  Krugman looks at the record and it shows that Bush had little to do with Florida's growth rate; it was entirely the result of the Florida housing bubble.  Secondly, his claim that he will grow the economy at a 4% rate is a pipe dream; one can't find a single economist who believes that this can be done.  On the other hand, part of the electorate, which believes in miracles, will rally around his boast.  That brings us to the real reasons for Bush's false claims about his economic prowess.  Voodoo economics is a well honored tradition in conservative politics for good reasons.

The more general reason is that conservative parties distinguish themselves from liberal parties by claiming that they will be better economic stewards of the economy.  They associate themselves with the business class, and they successfully portray liberal parties as poor stewards of the economy. They overtax those who are successful, and they over regulate the economy so that they can spend excessively on social welfare programs.  The Tory Party in Britain and the Republican Party in the US follow the same marketing strategy.  Its hard to imagine a conservative party that does not follow this strategy.  It works some of the time, and they get a chance to reduce tax rates for the rich when they get in office.  Its very difficult to undo the damage when liberal parties win elections.  Cutting taxes is much easier than raising taxes.  The deregulation story is often easy to sell because the public admires entrepreneurs who are free spirits who overcome obstacles to build a business.  Conservative parties are good at generalizing that story to those who run large businesses that were built up by their predecessors.  They often provide the major obstacles for entrepreneurs who attempt to destabilize their markets.  Moreover, they often use government regulations to raise the hurdles for new business entry.  Government regulation of the economy is a double edged sword.  The important issue is not regulation per se, but who benefits from a particular regulation.  Its easier to sell the deregulation story to the public than it is to educate the public about the complexity of the regulation story.

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