I've been watching the 2012 Republican National Convention, trying to get a sense of what the conservative diagnosis is for our weak economy and what they'd do in response. Is it the bizarro stimulus of raising interest rates, balancing the budget, and forcing foreclosures? Is there a secret housing plan? Or will it be a program of Reactionary Keynesianism, with an expanded military, massive tax cuts for the rich, and a SuperDuperCommittee to recommend tax expenditures that will go nowhere?
I take these arguments seriously -- I actually really enjoy making maps to help explore them. One argument worth bringing up is the idea that they are just proposing to do the policies they want all the time anyway -- the policies they wanted in 2008, or 2006, or 2004 -- but are pretending there's a reason it would be extra important given our current recession.
So on August 30th, 2012, with unemployment at 8.3 percent and with a serious long-term unemployment problem, Mitt Romney gives the RNC acceptance speech. He outlines a plan to create 12 million jobs in the next four years. As Jared Bernstein pointed out, that's what Moody's says will be created anyway. But forget that. How will Mitt Romney do this? He has a five point plan (numbers in [brackets] here and in the rest of the post are added by me):
And unlike the president, I have a plan to create 12 million new jobs. It has 5 steps.
 First, by 2020, North America will be energy independent by taking full advantage of our oil and coal and gas and nuclear and renewables.
 Second, we will give our fellow citizens the skills they need for the jobs of today and the careers of tomorrow. When it comes to the school your child will attend, every parent should have a choice, and every child should have a chance.
 Third, we will make trade work for America by forging new trade agreements. And when nations cheat in trade, there will be unmistakable consequences.
 Fourth, to assure every entrepreneur and every job creator that their investments in America will not vanish as have those in Greece, we will cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget.
 And fifth, we will champion SMALL businesses, America’s engine of job growth. That means reducing taxes on business, not raising them. It means simplifying and modernizing the regulations that hurt small business the most. And it means that we must rein in the skyrocketing cost of healthcare by repealing and replacing Obamacare.
So his plan focuses on domestic energy production, school choice, trade agreements, cutting spending, and reducing taxes and regulations. This must be a set of priorities reflecting our terrifying moment of mass unemployment, right?
Let's flash back to September 4th, 2008, at the RNC where John McCain is giving his speech accepting the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Unemployment is 6.1 percent, though the Great Moderation is coming to an end; within a year it'll be close to 10 percent. Two weeks later, as Lehman Brothers was collapsing, McCain would say "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." What were his recommendations for the economy in that nomination speech?
I know some of you have been left behind in the changing economy, and it often sees that your government hasn't even noticed... That's going to change on my watch...
 I will open new markets to our goods and services. My opponent will close them...
 I will cut government spending. He will increase it...
 We all know that keeping taxes low helps small businesses grow and create new jobs...
 Reducing government spending and getting rid of failed programs will let you keep more of your own money to save, spend, and invest as you see fit...
 Education -- education is the civil rights issue of this century. Equal access to public education has been gained, but what is the value of access to a failing school? We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice...
 We'll attack -- we'll attack the problem on every front. We'll produce more energy at home.. Senator Obama thinks we can achieve energy independence without more drilling and without more nuclear power. But Americans know better than that.
It's the same exact agenda. Specifically, the Romney agenda for job creation in 2012 is stuff that John McCain wanted to do anyway in 2008.
Let's go back further. On September 2nd, 2004, George W. Bush is at the RNC, giving his speech accepting the nomination to run for a second term as President of the United States. Unemployment is 5.4 percent. A major housing bubble is kicking into high gear, and the country is debating the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq and the future of the War on Terror. A few months later, people will be talking about a permanent Republican majority. What are some priorities for a second George W. Bush term in creating jobs?
To create more jobs in America, America must be the best place in the world to do business.
 To create jobs, my plan will encourage investment and expansion by restraining federal spending, reducing regulation and making the tax relief permanent.
 To create jobs, we will make our country less dependent on foreign sources of energy.
 To create jobs, we will expand trade and level the playing field to sell American goods and services across the globe.
 And we must protect small-business owners and workers from the explosion of frivolous lawsuits that threaten jobs across our country. Another drag on our economy is the current tax code, which is a complicated mess...
 To be fair, there are some things my opponent is for. He's proposed more than $2 trillion in new federal spending so far, and that's a lot, even for a senator from Massachusetts.
It's the same agenda, mentioned back to back almost in the same order. Bush mentioned No Child Left Behind several times, though I'm not sure if that matches up with the school choice of  in Romney's economic plan for school choice, so I excluded . It's always time for cutting spending, more oil drilling, free trade, and lower taxes and regulation to fix the economy.
Let's do one last one. January 31st, 2006, George W. Bush is giving his State of the Union address. Unemployment is 4.7 percent. With the economy healthy and growing (in Bush's mind), now is the time to build on the strengths and address the weaknesses of the economy. What does he suggest?
Our economy is healthy and vigorous, and growing faster than other major industrialized nations...
 Because America needs more than a temporary expansion, we need more than temporary tax relief. I urge the Congress to act responsibly and make the tax cuts permanent.
 Keeping America competitive requires us to be good stewards of tax dollars. Every year of my presidency, we've reduced the growth of nonsecurity discretionary spending. And last year you passed bills that cut this spending.
 Keeping America competitive requires us to open more markets for all that Americans make and grow... With open markets and a level playing field, no one can out- produce or out-compete the American worker...
 Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025.
Again, President Bush mentions No Child Left Behind, but I'm not sure whether it overlaps with .
But the same exact playbook is there in 2006, as it was in 2004 and 2008, and as it is in 2012. Domestic oil production, school choice, trade agreements, cut spending and reduce taxes and regulations -- it's been the conservative answer to times of deep economic stress, times of economic recovery, times of economic worries, and times of economic panic. Which is another way of saying that the Republicans have no plan for how to actually deal with this specific crisis we face.