When George Canning’s tenure as British prime minister ended after just 119 days in the early 19th century, he had a good excuse: Canning died while in office. Liz Truss will break Canning’s record with ease — and earn an ignominious place in history in the process.
The outgoing prime minister, just 45 days into her tenure, announced her resignation today, and will leave office after Conservatives choose her successor. The news marks a new chapter in an extraordinarily tumultuous period in British politics.
But as Truss prepares to exit the stage in embarrassing fashion, let’s not lose sight of the agenda that doomed her government. NBC News reported this morning:
Truss, 47, promised a radical shift in Britain’s economic fortunes, turning it into a low-tax, high-growth country that would unleash its post-Brexit potential. In practice, “Trussonomics” was an utter failure and would become her political epitaph.
The outgoing prime minister, after taking office six weeks ago, unveiled what she saw as a brilliant idea: As Britain struggled with high inflation, Truss unveiled an economic plan built around tax breaks for the wealthy, which would’ve made inflation vastly worse.
The proposal was not well received: The disastrous vision sent the value of the pound plunging, borrowing costs soared, and the central Bank of England scrambled to put together an emergency intervention plan to prevent further catastrophe. The International Monetary Fund found it necessary to reprimand the prime minister for pushing such a ridiculous and counterproductive economic agenda.
Faced with few choices, Truss abandoned the plan, but by that point, it was too late, and the chaos her government had created ultimately proved unsustainable.
Closer to home, however, the response from the right in the United States was ... problematic.
A few weeks ago, Media Matters reported, “Right-wing media figures are toasting United Kingdom prime minister Liz Truss’ massive tax cuts geared toward the wealthy as a potential model for the U.S. if Republicans return to power.”
The report added, “‘I love what Liz Truss is doing in England,’ perpetually wrong right-wing economics commentator Stephen Moore said during a Monday appearance on Fox Business. ‘I think it is exactly the right agenda of cutting taxes.’ The former Trump adviser added that Truss is doing ‘exactly what the United States should be doing,’ and predicted that ‘the cavalry is coming’ if the GOP dominates in the November midterm elections.”
In other words, conservative media figures saw Tories try to deal with high inflation with a plan that would make inflation worse, and their immediate response was to effectively declare, without a hint of sarcasm, “Great idea.”
It was against this backdrop that The Washington Post reported this week:
Republicans plan to push to extend key parts of President Donald Trump’s tax cuts if they take control of Congress in this fall’s elections, aiming to force President Biden to codify trillions of dollars worth of lower taxes touted by his predecessor.... Many economists say the GOP’s plans to expand the tax cuts flies against their promises to fight inflation and reduce the federal deficit, which have emerged as central themes of their 2022 midterm campaign rhetoric. Tax cuts boost inflation just like new spending, because they increase economic demand and throw it out of balance with supply.
Or as Catherine Rampell explained in her latest column, “Cutting taxes further is also likely to make inflation worse, for the same reason that Republicans argue that increased government spending can also make inflation worse: Giving people more cash to spend when there’s limited stuff to buy drives prices up.”
In other words, GOP officials — who expect to do well in the midterm elections because of widespread concerns about inflation — just watched the British prime minister fail spectacularly. These same Republicans nevertheless believe the smart move would be to pursue an agenda that looks quite similar to Truss’ disastrous plan.
It led Jennifer Rubin to conclude in a recent column, “So if you like what Brexit and Truss have done for the British economy, vote Republican. If you prefer prosperity, then don’t.”
Update: About a month ago, Fox Business' Larry Kudlow, formerly the top voice on economic policy in the Trump White House, told viewers, "The new British prime minister, Liz Truss, has laid out a terrific supply-side economic growth plan, which looks a lot like the basic thrust of Kevin McCarthy’s Commitment to America plan."
Kudlow added that he believed, as recently as Sept. 23, that Truss' agenda was "exactly right."