Phil Gramm thinks that the economy is wonderful and those that feel otherwise are mistaken. This is does not make Gramm uniquely callous. It just makes him a conservative.
For several years, conservatives have been mightily trying to insist the economy tastes great, so shut up and eat it.
At the end of 2004, the National Review's economic editor Larry Kudlow proclaimed, "The U.S. economy is hitting on all cylinders as 2004 passes into 2005 ... Most in the mainstream media steadfastly refuse to give the economy a break." He railed that "amidst all this economic good news," a "declinist rant" was being perpetrated by "big-media."
It's always amazing to listen to conventional demand-side economic pundits and mainstream reporters who try as hard as they can to minimize the excellent performance of the American economy ever since lower marginal tax-rate incentives were put into place almost two-and-a-half years ago. ... Of course, you can't please the worrywarts.
In December 2005, Fox News' Fred Barnes also pointed a finger at "the media" for marring the pretty picture:
...gas prices have fallen, I think new home sales, maybe it was old home sales, anyway, one of them set a record last month. And, and this 4 percent growth has been going on month after month after month after month. It's really an extraordinary economy. And yet, when you look at the polls you're so fond of, they show that the American people think they're fine, but that the rest of the people in the country are doing poorly economically. Why is that? ... Because, obviously people know how they're doing, but they have to rely on the media to tell them how the rest of the economy is outside their neighborhood. And the media has been entirely negative.
A year later, just before the 2006 congressional elections, Barnes lamented in the Weekly Standard: "The economy, strong as it is, hasn't produced a feeling of prosperity."
In June 2007, Washington Post columnist George Will concluded that Democrats had a "Prosperity Problem," based on Will's world of cherry-picked stats:
In the 102 quarters since Ronald Reagan's tax cuts went into effect more than 25 years ago, there have been 96 quarters of growth. Since the Bush tax cuts and the current expansion began, the economy's growth has averaged 3 percent per quarter, and more than 8 million jobs have been created. The deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product is below the post-World War II average. Democrats, economic hypochondriacs all, see economic sickness.
And in January of this year, the National Review's David Gitlitz could only explain the looming recession on something other than economic reality:
If the U.S. is capable of talking itself into an economic downturn, we may be on the cusp of the first recession in history caused by a bad mood ... it's not difficult to understand why the economic mood of the country is so bad. It's nearly impossible to avoid the media's constant deluge of economic negativism...
This is conservatism. The dismissal of economic burdens from others making less money than you. The belief that an ideal economy can thrive with a small boat of winners and a giant sinking ship of losers. The insistence that your economic dissatisfaction is illegitimate, and can only be explained by a brainwashing from the media or politicians.
Gramm's only unique remark was expanding the blame beyond "big media" and "the Democrats" to ... everybody. Calling America "a nation of whiners" only made glaring the fundamental elitism of conservatism.
But make no mistake. Gramm is conservatism.
It is precisely his attitude that has shaped conservative economic policies throughout the Bush Era. Massive tax giveaways to those earning more than $250,000. No investment to make education, clean energy and health insurance affordable to all citizens and businesses. No effective oversight of irresponsible corporations plundering the middle-class.
With the Bush Era ending, the choice is ours whether we want to continue being condescended to by conservatism in the coming years, or decide it is time for a progressive vision that puts our government and economy back in our own hands.
Cross-posted at the Campaign for America's Future blog.