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Thomas de Zengotita Headshot

The Republican Calculus on Obama's Economic Plan

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This "finding our voice" stuff is all well and good for a few true believers among fiscal conservatives, but the political calculus motivating most of the Republican party is--yet again--deeply cynical.

When even Joe Biden is admitting that the chances of failure for the stimulus packet are at 30% you can bet that reflects real trepidation in the Obama administration.

The fact is that all these economic experts are making it up as they go along and no one has a diagnosis, let alone a prescription, that is more than guesswork guided by ideological inclination. The rest of us follow some but not others because of those ideological inclinations. That's all most of us can possibly do on an issue as vast and arcane as the economic meltdown. Take me, for example. I'm inclined to believe Paul Krugman when it comes to matters economic. I tell myself that he predicted the crisis would occur - which he did - and he won a Nobel Prize and so that means he knows what all those numbers and acronyms mean (I certainly don't) and so, I hope, he also knows what we should do.

But the simple truth is that I agree with him about some things I do understand, like Bush in Iraq. My leftie tendencies coincide with his and so I follow him on economics. But all expert economists are right sometimes and, hell, Milton Friedman won a Nobel prize. The truth is that I (with a PHD and 2 hours a day reading the news) don't really have my own rational understanding of this economy thing.

So what the Republicans are banking on is this: when elections roll around in 2010, people won't really understand whatever situation we find ourselves in then, just as we don't now. If the economy is bad enough for them to claim that Obama has failed (and the chances are it will be), they will point with pride to their own prescient and principled opposition. If things are better, or if things are really good, their voting record will have evolved in the intervening years. No one will remember the stand they took this last week. Plus there's sure to be many ways to change the subject by then. So they have nothing to lose by opposing Obama on the economy. Or so it seems to them right now.

All this puts Republicans in the position of wanting America to fail. I am, of course, counting on Bill O'Reilly and his pals to press that question with their Republican guests the way they did with Democrats in relation to Iraq.