In our long, long drive back to Kentucky from visiting family in Texas last week, my wife and I were listening to a political news report on NPR. (Like I said, it was a long drive…) The news report focused on Texas Governor Rick Perry and his “electability” in 2012. My wife has listened to me explain to others, on several occasions, that Obama’s reelection chances in 2012 are largely, but not entirely, tied to how the economy fares over the next year or so. She perceptibly asked me what the political incentive is for any Republican, including those in Congress, to do anything that might benefit the economy. If a wrecked economy is the best thing to help the GOP win in 2012, why should the GOP not do everything possible to send us over the cliff?
I did some research and found that this question was already tackled by some more prominent political scientists than myself. Their answers can be found in these posts:
To briefly summarize, possible explanations include:
- Republicans might not be familiar with, or believe, political science research on the economic determinants of voting.
- Republicans also need to keep their base happy, and the GOP base includes many business groups. American businesses surely do not want the economy to tank.
In a happier world, we might also include a third option: that an incentive not to wreck the economy is because of the harm it would do to America’s families. But that’s assuming that politicians are not rational, self-interested, re-election seekers. And that’s a much broader debate that we’ll save for another day.