Maybe Deficits Matter After All | Bruce ledewitz

What lesson should Democrats take from their bombing on November 2? As observers have noted, the ruling party’s losses often occur in elections outside of the year. But the 2021 results have been disproportionate by historic measures.

Bruce Ledewitz (Capital-Star file)

In part, the 2021 results simply reflected the right political choices of Republicans. Glenn Youngkin won Virginia’s race for governor by making sneaky appeals at the Trump base while keeping Donald Trump at bay.

In Pennsylvania, Republican Judge Kevin Brobson won a Supreme Court seat avoiding Trump’s big lie. When asked if Joe Biden and other winners in 2020 were elected by fraud, Bobson replied, “I have not seen any evidence of fraud that would have had a significant impact on the outcome of this election.”

If the 2021 results demonstrate to Republicans that shedding Trump’s legacy is the path to victory in 2022, it will be difficult for Democrats to overcome. This is bad news for Democrats, but good news for the country.

In terms of changes Democrats could make to increase their chances of success next year, observers were quick to urge Democrats to ditch the woke-ism, which has been blamed for their losses.

It is true that in the later stages of the race for governor, Youngkin opposed critical race theory, even promising that “on day one I will ban critical race theory in our schools.” He also published a belated attack announcement on his opponent, former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, for vetoing a bill that would have allowed parents to deny their children the ability to read books with content. sexually explicit, a reference to a dispute over reading Toni. Morrison’s novel, Beloved.

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But this claim about what happened is misleading. Virginia’s parents were already angry with school closings and mask warrants. If parents had been happy with the schools, references to obscure Marxist theory and Pulitzer Prize-winning books would not have affected the election. I heard Youngkin attack school closures and mask mandates last May on Bloomberg Radio, shortly after winning the GOP primary. He wasn’t talking about CRT then.

It’s actually good news for Democrats that voters want pandemic restrictions removed. When the country reopens, this will happen. Plus, pandemic frustration creates a new line of attack for 2022. Given the partisan division over vaccines, Democratic Party candidates can honestly say, “If my GOP opponent just told his supporters to get the shot.” , we could all do without masks. ”

The other pandemic issue that hurt Democrats in 2021 was inflation. Prices are increasing at an annual rate of more than 5%, a level of inflation not seen since 1990. And this increase has accelerated.

Worse for Democrats, the price increases at the pump are particularly noticeable with each refueling. Energy prices are up 30% from a year ago.

Inflation is clearly on the minds of voters. Consumer confidence has fallen to its lowest level in 10 years, in large part due to inflation.

As with pandemic restrictions, inflation could subside in time to help Democrats in 2022. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has repeatedly said the price increases will prove to be “transient,” although that he recently admitted that the price increase had been “more lasting than expected”.

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The particular problem for Democrats is that the policies they tout – big spending bills without the tax increases needed to pay them – make it easy to blame Democrats for inflation.

For years, liberal economists like Paul Krugman have insisted that we learn to love debt. Krugman has not changed his mind, arguing recently that current inflation should not change the Democratic Party’s plans to borrow to cover major expenses.

But if inflation is too much money for too little property, increasing the national debt by borrowing more is going to be a political problem for Democrats by 2022.

This political problem did not need to happen. Originally, President Biden said his Build Back Better plan would be largely funded by increased taxes on the rich and stronger enforcement against tax evaders. However, over time, Democrats moved away from tax increases and simply emphasized the need for additional spending.

Both political parties have been irresponsible about the national debt. The Republicans-backed tax cut in 2017 contributed to an estimated $ 1 trillion deficit in a time of national prosperity. This tax cut would not have been passed without the claim that tax cuts pay for themselves.

Now under the banner of modern monetary theory, Democrats similarly argue that larger deficits caused by additional spending won’t matter.

Both claims are false, but it was not obvious to voters when predictions of rising inflation failed to materialize in recent years. Now, under the pressure of rising prices, voters are waking up.

In addition, not only borrowing leads to higher prices, but also higher interest rates. The Fed is already forecasting interest rate hikes in 2022. Higher interest rates will significantly increase the current national debt service charge.

The problem isn’t that Democrats want to spend money on urgent national needs. It is because like Republicans, Democrats have lost the habit of paying our expenses. Everything indicates that the kind of tax measures Biden was talking about would be popular. All that is missing is the will of the Democratic Party to adopt them.

Democrats have two practical choices. They can put their spending plans aside, in which case Republicans will attack them in 2022 as having done nothing while they were in power. To prevent such attacks, McAuliffe reportedly called on Democrats in Washington to pass the smallest bipartisan infrastructure bill that was finally passed only after his defeat in Virginia.

Or, alternatively, Democrats can pass the necessary tax increases to pay for the additional spending they are proposing. They will always be attacked, but voters will know that tax hikes fall mainly on the rich.

What the 2021 election results show, however, is that Democrats will lose, and lose big, if they don’t do any of these things and instead vote for more spending funded by more borrowing as the inflation is raging.

Opinion contributor Bruce Ledewitz teaches constitutional law at Duquesne University Law School in Pittsburgh. Her work appears every two weeks on the Capital-Star comments page. Listen to his podcast, “Bends Toward Justice” here. His latest book, “The Universe is On Our Side: Restoring Faith in American Public Life,” is now available. His views do not represent the position of Duquesne University Law School.

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