The American right seems perpetually in a state of denial -- about climate change, about social change, about the U.S. ability to control world events -- and nowhere is this habit of mind more evident than in Republicans' response to the improving economy. Consider: The country added 3.3 million jobs in the first full year of implementation of health care reform, that purported job-killer; unemployment has plunged to 5.5 percent from 10 percent during the darkest days of the downturn; and the top job-creating state right now is deep-blue California, upending the Rick Perry narrative holding that only low-tax, low-regulation red states are supposed to prosper.
The Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman presents us with this economic picture in his New York Times column today, asking why the right can't seem to "handle the good news." He identifies three principal reasons.
First, Krugman posits, conservatives are beset by Obama Derangement Syndrome, a phenomenon that hardly requires further elucidation. Naturally, the right is not inclined to credit a president they've called everything from an illegal alien to a Stalinist dictator with an improving economy.
Then there's the conservatives' fantasy that they "possess the secret key to prosperity," as Krugman puts it. This is evident in the ludicrous claims of politicians like Rand Paul that St. Ronald of Tampico (that's Ronald Wilson Reagan for the heathens among you) was the last chief executive to preside over good economic times, even though Bill Clinton's administration oversaw the creation of more jobs (23 million) than Reagan's (try 16 million). What's behind this false narrative?
That’s because liberals don’t need to claim that their policies will produce spectacular growth. All they need to claim is feasibility: that we can do things like, say, guaranteeing health insurance to everyone without killing the economy. Conservatives, on the other hand, want to block such things and, instead, to cut taxes on the rich and slash aid to the less fortunate. So they must claim both that liberal policies are job killers and that being nice to the rich is a magic elixir.
Finally, Krugman notes that the president's conservative critics have long claimed that his supposed anti-business bent -- evidenced by Obama's gentle criticisms of Wall Street bonuses and the like -- damages the confidence of the vaunted job creators who are essential to rebooting the economy. Is this a legitimate theory of how the economy works? The numbers speak for themselves.
So, Krugman concludes, it's not worth holding our breaths for a concession from our conservative friends, but the stubborn reality is that "events have proved their most cherished beliefs wrong."