Mr. Kristof takes a look at “Romney’s Economic Model” and says if you want to see how Romney-endorsed austerity measures would work out here, just look at Europe. And weep. Ms. Collins is in Waterbury, Connecticut. In “Connecticut Smack-Down” she says a mere $77 million later, Linda McMahon is still trying to get elected to the United States Senate. Here’s Mr. Kristof:
Mitt Romney’s best argument on the campaign trail has been simple: Under President Obama, the American economy has remained excruciatingly weak, far underperforming the White House’s own projections.
That’s a fair criticism.
But Obama’s best response could be this: If you want to see how Romney’s economic policies would work out, take a look at Europe. And weep.
In the last few years, Germany and Britain, in particular, have implemented precisely the policies that Romney favors, and they have been richly praised by Republicans here as a result. Yet these days those economies seem, to use a German technical term, kaput.
Is Europe a fair comparison? Well, Republicans seem to think so, because they came up with it. In the last few years, they’ve repeatedly cited Republican-style austerity in places like Germany and Britain as a model for America.
Let’s dial back the time machine and listen up:
“Europe is already setting an example for the U.S.,” Representative Kenny Marchant, a Texas Republican, said in 2010. (You know things are bad when a Texas Republican is calling for Americans to study at the feet of those socialist Europeans.)
The same year, Karl Rove praised European austerity as a model for America and approvingly quoted the leader of the European Central Bank as saying: “The idea that austerity measures could trigger stagnation is incorrect.”
Representative Steve King of Iowa, another Republican, praised Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany for preaching austerity and said: “It ought to hit home to our president of the United States. It ought to hit all of us here in this country.”
“The president should learn a lesson from the ‘German Miracle,’ ” Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina, a Republican, urged on the House floor in July 2011.
Also in 2011, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, denounced Obama’s economic management and said: “We need a budget with a bold vision — like those unveiled in Britain and New Jersey.”
O.K. Let’s see how that’s working out.
New Jersey isn’t overseas, but since Sessions and many other Republicans have hailed it as a shining model of austerity, let’s start there. New Jersey ranked 47th in economic growth last year. When Gov. Chris Christie took office in 2010 and began to impose austerity measures, New Jersey ranked 35th in its unemployment rate; now it ranks 48th.
Senator Sessions, do we really aspire for the same in America as a whole?
Something similar has happened internationally. The International Monetary Fund this month downgraded its estimates for global economic growth, with only one major bright spot in the West. That would be the United States, expected to grow a bit more than 2 percent this year and next.
In contrast, Europe’s economy is expected to shrink this year and have negligible growth next year. The I.M.F. projects that Germany will grow less than 1 percent this year and next, while Britain’s economy is contracting this year.
Karl Rove, that sounds a lot like stagnation to me.
All this is exactly what economic textbooks predicted. Since Keynes, it’s been understood that, in a downturn, governments should go into deficit to stimulate demand; that’s how we got out of the Great Depression. And recent European data and I.M.F. analyses underscore that austerity in the middle of a downturn not only doesn’t help but leads to even higher ratios of debt to economic output.
So, yes, Republicans have a legitimate point about the long-term need to curb deficits and entitlement growth. But, no, it isn’t reasonable for Republicans to advocate austerity in the middle of a downturn. On that, they’re empirically wrong.
If there were still doubt about this, we’ve had a lovely natural experiment in the last few years, as the Republicans in previous years were happy to point out. All industrialized countries experienced similar slowdowns, and the United States under Obama chose a massive stimulus while Germany and Britain chose Republican-endorsed austerity.
Neither approach worked brilliantly. Obama’s initial economic stimulus created at least 1.4 million jobs, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. But that wasn’t enough, and it was partly negated by austerity in state and local governments.
Still, America’s economy is now the fastest growing among major countries in the West, and Britain’s is shrinking. Which would you prefer?
I’m not suggesting Obama distribute bumper stickers saying: “It Could Be Worse.” He might want to stick with: “Osama’s Dead and G.M. Is Alive.”
Yes, there are differences between Europe and America. But Republicans were right to call attention to this empirical experiment.
The results are in. And, as Representative King suggested, the lessons “ought to hit all of us here in this country.”
And now here’s Ms. Collins:
“I got into the race after looking at the faces of my six little grandchildren,” said Linda McMahon.
She is the Republican candidate for the United States Senate in Connecticut, and, over the last three years, she has spent more than $77 million attempting to get elected. When the little grandchildren are grown into the heirs to the McMahon family fortune, do you think they’ll regard that as a good choice?
Linda McMahon is famous for two things: spending piles and piles of money on Senate campaigns, and being a mogul in the world of professional wrestling. She and her husband, Vince, built the empire of sleeper holds and body slams that is known as World Wrestling Entertainment.
“She has shown through her entire career that she doesn’t care if it’s a Republican idea, a Democratic idea or an independent idea,” said Gov. Chris Christie, the celebrity guest at a series of rallies this week. Actually, there wasn’t much political branding in the W.W.E. During Linda’s tenure, it tended to be more about people getting hit on the head with folding chairs and women in their underwear wrestling in mud or pudding.
One unassailable achievement of the Linda McMahon political career has been its effect on the W.W.E., which has gone PG. Now it’s all about being the best you can be. Chair-bashing is banned, and the wrestlers are crusading against breast cancer. Videos of the old days — the simulated necrophilia, Vince ordering a woman to get down on her knees and bark like a dog — have been scrubbed off the Web.
Her Waterbury rally, in the city’s decrepit downtown, was a rather rare public speaking event. The site was an abandoned department store that’s the current resting place for the Waterbury Hall of Fame.
While waiting around for McMahon and Christie, people had leisure to examine the newest Hall of Fame inductees, which include Derek Anthony Poundstone, a local gym owner and strongman. (“While having a body like a rhinoceros is important, the key to Poundstone’s success is the strength of his mind.”)
A plaque for former Gov. John Rowland proudly notes that Rowland likes to say “I’m from Waterbury, Connecticut, the Center of the Universe.” It does not mention that Rowland finished his last term in federal prison. But that seems fair enough. Home is where they have to take you in, and where they do not mess up your Hall of Fame plaque with political corruption convictions.
But about McMahon: You have to give her credit for determination. She ran for Senate in 2010, losing by 12 points after spending $50 million. This time, her opponent is Representative Chris Murphy, and her tab is $27 million and counting. Most of the people at the rally seemed to have met McMahon before. Some had her over for coffee. A gray-haired biker from the Rat Pack Motorcycle Club reported that she came by for an interview.
When the rally finally began, the crowd roared appreciatively when Christie called Murphy “a butler for Nancy Pelosi.” The candidate herself was less colorful.
“I have a plan. He doesn’t,” she said of her opponent.
McMahon’s answer to virtually every question is her six-point plan for job creation, which calls for middle-class tax cuts and less regulation. She has carped on her six points so much that Connecticut may be the only state that’s ever had a serious public conversation about whether you actually want your freshman senator to have a six-point plan.
It’s pretty much all she’s got. Pressed for a position on entitlements by The Hartford Courant’s editorial board, McMahon responded: “Here’s what I’m going to say on this issue today. In terms of reforming and revising Social Security and Medicare, I really will not talk about specifics until we’re in a bipartisan way in Congress.”
McMahon went hard and negative early, with ads that harped on Murphy’s sloppy financial history: he was sued for nonpayment of rent in 2003 and faced a foreclosure in 2007 for missing mortgage payments.
The congressman said he had failed to pay attention to financial details at a time when he was busy with his political career. This should serve as an excellent lesson to young Americans: If you intend to spend your life running for public office, try to write the mortgage checks. It will save you a lot of time and trouble in the future.
The ads seemed to work, until Murphy went on the attack himself. McMahon may have a plan, but she did not seem to do everything possible in the way of planning. If you are an incredibly rich candidate who wants to brag about how you once pulled yourself back from bankruptcy, try to make sure that you repaid your old creditors.
Also, if you are going to attack your opponent for failure to pay his rent, make sure you weren’t delinquent on your property taxes. Also, if you have any family boats christened Sexy Bitch, try to think of another name.
Recent surveys show McMahon slipping. And voters, by huge margins, have told pollsters that they really hate this race.