Monday, September 21, 2015

Why the Republican candidates won't talk about the economy ... and why they should

Catherine Rampell's column in the Daily Star has the reasons.

To the great disappointment of econo-nerds everywhere, the economy was almost entirely ignored during Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate. Over the course of three hours, the moderators and debaters found time for but a few minutes of discussion on the economy, most of that on the minimum wage.

There was almost nothing on jobs; nothing on inflation; one throwaway mention of trade; and nothing on the Federal Reserve’s impending interest-rate decision.

There’s actually a good reason why Republican candidates might want to avoid talking about the economy, both in televised debates and on the campaign trail more broadly. That’s because it’s hard to run against the economy these days, at least given the numbers.

Despite nearly seven years of stewardship by a supposedly crypto-socialist president, the U.S. economy is looking — dare I say it? — pretty good.

All the GOP predictions of doom and gloom failed. We know that Republicans don't like to talk about their failures.

However, there are persistent problems with the economy that cry for public debate.

There are of course some major weaknesses obscured by the rosy headline numbers I rattled off earlier. The share of prime-working-age people who are in the labor force is at its lowest level since the mid-1980s. This arguably makes the unemployment rate, which only factors in those actively in the labor force, look artificially low. Median household incomes have flat-lined and are lower today than they were in 1997, after adjusting for inflation.

The policies needed to fix these thornier problems are mostly the domain of fiscal policymakers. Which is precisely why we desperately need the current crop of presidential candidates to talk more about the economy and provide some specifics about what they might do to improve it — even if that conversation requires some uncomfortable admissions about how much they’ve underestimated Obama’s (and the Fed’s) policies all along.

Unfortunately, the last part of that closing comment is exactly why the Cleveland Clowns will not talk about the economy. And even if they did, it would Jebberish. To paraphrase an old saying: "If a Republican could speak, we could not understand him."

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