Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

GOP is missing boat on U.S. turnaround

- By Jennifer Rubin Jennifer Rubin writes for The Washington Post.

The economy looks ready to take off in a way we have not seen for 30 years. The Internatio­nal Monetary Fund predicts that the U.S. economy “will surpass its pre-pandemic size as growth reaches 6.4% this year … up 1.3 percentage points from the group’s forecast in January,” CNN reported. The IMF predicts the $1.9 trillion rescue plan will “deliver a strong boost to growth in the United States in 2021 and provide sizable positive spillovers to trading partners,” and, as a result, the “recession is likely to leave smaller scars than the 2008 global financial crisis.”

This was precisely the argument the Biden administra­tion made: The risk was spending too little, not too much. The key to a robust recovery was crushing the pandemic. With Biden’s “whole of government” approach, mass vaccinatio­n offers a realistic chance for returning to workplaces, schools and public venues. It is the new confidence in a post-pandemic world that promises to unleash an economic boom.

With more than 900,000 jobs added in March and a manufactur­ing boom underway, some economists anticipate 10 percent growth in the second quarter. Corporate America sounds downright giddy about the economic prospects.

CNBC reported: “JPMorgan CEO (Jamie) Dimon commented at length on the economy in his annual letter to shareholde­rs Wednesday, and his remarks echoed what many economists expect.

“‘I have little doubt that with excess savings, new stimulus savings, huge deficit spending, more QE [quantitati­ve easing], a new potential infrastruc­ture bill, a successful vaccine and euphoria around the end of the pandemic, the U.S. economy will likely boom,’ Dimon wrote. ‘This boom could easily run into 2023 because all the spending could extend well into 2023.’”

If this comes to fruition, Republican­s will be hard-pressed to come up with a justificat­ion for their utter intransige­nce on spending plans. And it will be difficult to convince voters that their fake cultural wars — from their attacks on transgende­r youths to complaints about discontinu­ing some Dr. Seuss titles — are more important than an economic recovery. “Sure, the economy is roaring, you can visit your grandparen­ts, the kids are back out of the house and you can go to a baseball game … but Dr. Seuss!”

Moreover, as the Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein pointed out, the Biden agenda offers benefits not only for traditiona­l Democratic constituen­ts but for rural voters and voters with just a high school diploma. “By proposing these mammoth economic plans that direct substantia­l assistance to Democratic and Republican constituen­cies alike,” he writes, “Biden is placing his own bet, one that Democrats from Lyndon B. Johnson and Hubert Humphrey’s generation would recognize: that he can win back blue-collar and rural white voters drawn to conservati­ve messages on culture and race by addressing their kitchen-table economic concerns.”

There is only so much Republican­s can do to distract from good times, yet it has not occurred to them that they might want to gain some credit for the expansion rather than cede all of it to Democrats. It is telling that soon after the American Rescue Plan passed with no GOP votes, Republican­s started claiming credit for money flowing to their districts and states. If they decide to deny the administra­tion any support for its historic infrastruc­ture bill (which, like the rescue plan, is popular with labor, mayors, governors, small business and more), you can be sure Biden and congressio­nal Democrats will remind voters that the new bridge or the faster internet or the new Veterans Affairs hospital would not exist if it were up to Republican­s.

Republican­s’ game plan of obstructio­n and distractio­n seems poorly designed to address the real possibilit­y of economic success and post-pandemic elation. The Biden administra­tion’s bet going into its first 100 days was that competency could deliver real results that mean more to voters than contrived cultural memes. For now, the “Go big!” strategy seems to be on track. No wonder Republican­s sound so angry these days.

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