Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Kerry's Plan: Here's a great TNR editorial on Kerry's decision to run against Bush on the economy, and his thus-far shortsighted execution of that plan:
During the primaries, Kerry focused on job creation. More recently, he needled the administration over rising gas prices. Then, this week, his campaign unveiled an attempt to unify these complaints: a so-called misery index--which combined jobs and gas prices with factors like the rise in college tuition, health care costs, and personal bankruptcies, along with the stagnation in personal incomes--to indict Bush for the country's worst economic stretch in three decades.

. . . as the jobs report showed, focusing on short-term indicators makes you look pretty silly whenever one of them improves, even if only temporarily. Moreover, many of the negative outcomes Kerry decries aren't really Bush's fault. Job growth, for example, has been slow mostly because unprecedented productivity growth (generally a good thing) has made it unnecessary to hire new employees even as the economy expands.

But the biggest problem is that, by concentrating on a grab bag of disparate indicators assembled only because they're all negative, Kerry is missing an opportunity to focus attention, broadly but clearly, on the ongoing pattern of fiscal recklessness and economic injustice that has consistently characterized the administration's policies.

Of course, I disagree with a lot of the editorial's assertions (e.g., the tax cuts were a sop to the rich, the Medicare reform was a sop to big pharm), but the theme is certainly correct. Bush is vulnerable, even as the economy improves. About all you can say Bush stands for, economically, is lower taxes. Now, I'm not opposed to that (though I think it could be done a hell of a lot more effectively) but it's not a whole lot to run on.

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