Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Results are What Matters

Here are posts by Jonathan Chait and Paul Krugman sayung much the same thing.

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran for President in 1932, it was as a Tea Party candidate. Roosevelt denounced Hoover as a big spender and promised to make drastic cuts in federal spending and balance the budget. Whether he actually meant it and later changed his mind, or whether he was lying from the start, FDR obviously thought attacking big government spending was a winning argument. And he was right; he won by a landslide.* He then promptly went back on all his promises and became a bigger spender than Hoover ever thought of. And the funny thing was, the American people forgave him.

Granted, his big spending ways weren't popular. In 1935, fully 70% of those surveyed thought it was time to balance the budget and start reducing the national debt. Yet in 1936 55% of the public thought the Administration's policies were helping recovery, as opposed to 45% who thought they were harming. And at the time of the 1936 election, 65% of the public favored balancing the budget, as opposed to a mere 28% who diaagreed. None of this, however, kept Roosevelt from winning by an even bigger landslide in 1936 than he did in 1932. In 1937, Roosevelt gave the people what they wanted and balanced the budget. The economy promptly slumped, as did his popularity.

The moral here is obvious. Nothing succeeds like success. Voters want results and don't care so much how they are achieved. Big spending and big deficits are something that people oppose in an abstract and theoretical way. A bad economy is something that affects people concretely in their real lives. Given the choice between the two, people will vote the real economy any time.



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