I’d like to add a slight twist to the speculation among my confreres about what will happen to the GOP in the event that Mitt Romney is defeated. What if, as seems likely, Obama wins and the next four years turn out to be nearly as grindingly difficult, economically speaking, as the last four?
Consider. Unemployment may remain high until as late as 2017. Such job growth as we have seen over the last four years has mostly been in the low-wage service sector. The deleveraging process of U.S. households may drag on through the next decade, depressing the growth engine of consumer spending. As Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has said, the economy as a whole can’t recover until the housing market does — which, despite signs of modest improvement, could take several more years.
There are a couple bright signs. The obvious one is the North American energy boom. Another is the increasing potential of export-led growth. According to the Boston Consulting Group (h/t Taegan Goddard), cheaper manufacturing costs in the U.S. could lead to up to five million new jobs by 2020.
But it seems to me that we’re in for more slog than sunshine.
So, from the perspective of the GOP, maybe it will be a net positive not to be burdened with ownership of the economy over the next four years.
I’m aware of the obvious rejoinders. Obamacare will continue to be phased in. Taxes will go up in some fashion. Demographics will continue to trend unfavorably against the current Republican coalition. Obama would get to appoint one, possibly two, Supreme Court justices — and given that the two justices most likely to retire are liberals, a President Romney would have the chance to pad the court’s narrow conservative majority. Etc.
If you’re of the mind that our very freedom and way of life hang in the balance in this election, there is no bright side to Obama’s reelection.
But if like me you recognize the limits of the executive branch to determine the trajectory of the economy, you might agree: potential Republican presidential candidates like, say, Paul Ryan could have an attractive case to make in 2016: I tried to warn you that things wouldn’t get any better under this guy. Now will you trust us?