E. J. Dionne’s column this morning presents an interesting framing for the midterm elections. Is the United States to retain its #1 position? And how is that to be done? Here’s how he positions the two primary political parties:
For Republicans, American power is rooted largely in military might and showing a tough and resolute face to the world. They would rely on tax cuts as the one and only spur to economic growth.
Obama, Biden and the Democrats, on the other hand, believe that American power depends ultimately on the American economy, and that government has an essential role to play in fostering the next generation of growth.
Note that there are weasel words in both formulations: largely and ultimately. I won’t carry any water for Republicans other than to note that largely is something that can be measured and, consequently, proven or disproven while ultimately can’t.
It may well be true that the Congressional Democrats believe that American power depends ultimately on the American economy. How could you arrive at that conclusion? The greater part of the increased spending that’s actually been approved rather than merely pontificated about has been spending on behalf of companies: auto companies, banks, and the construction companies that build roads, bridges, and other infrastructure projects. If that’s how the American economy is defined, I will unquestioningly accept the proposition that the Democrat leadership believes what Mr. Dionne says they do.
However, I think a fairer proposition, more proximate and certainly more proportional to the amount of energy that has been expended in Congress, is that Congressional Democrats believe that American power depends on the American people and to that end they want to give them healthcare and more education.
Note, too, that both Mr. Dionne’s framing of the position of Republicans and my framing of that of Congressional Democrats depend on consumption rather than production. Which is where I part company from them both. As long as we emphasize consumption over production and speculation over economic fundamentals we’ll dig deeper into the same hole that we’re putting a new wing on right now.