In 2009 and 2010, the single most common Republican talking point on economic policy included the word "uncertainty." I did a search of House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) site for the phrase "economic uncertainty" and found over 500 results, which shows, at a minimum, real message discipline.
The argument was never especially compelling from a substantive perspective. For Boehner and his party, President Obama was causing excessive "uncertainty" -- through regulations, through the threat of tax increases, etc. -- that held the recovery back. Investors were reluctant to invest, businesses were reluctant to hire, traders were reluctant to trade, all because the White House was creating conditions that made it hard for the private sector to plan ahead.
It was a dumb talking point borne of necessity -- Republicans struggled to think of a way to blame Obama for a crisis that began long before the president took office -- but the GOP stuck to it.
That is, Republican used to stick to it. Mysteriously, early in 2011, the "economic uncertainty" pitch slowly faded away without explanation. I have a hunch we know why: Republicans decided to govern through a series of self-imposed crises that have created more deliberate economic uncertainty than any conditions seen in the United States in recent memory.
E.J. Dionne Jr. had a great column on the larger pattern today.
Ever since they took control of the House of Representatives in 2011, Republicans have made journeys to the fiscal brink as commonplace as summertime visits to the beach or the ballpark. The country has been put through a series of destructive showdowns over budget issues we once resolved through the normal give-and-take of negotiations. [...]The nation is exhausted with fake crises that voters thought they ended with their verdict in the last election. Those responsible for the Washington horror show should be held accountable. And only one party is using shutdowns, cliffs and debt ceilings as routine political weapons.
Quite right. Looking back over the last two years -- in fact, it's closer to 22 months -- Republicans have made three shutdown threats, forced two debt-ceiling standoffs, pushed the country towards a fiscal cliff, refused to compromise on a sequester, and have lined up even more related fiscal fights in the months ahead.
So, here's the question for GOP leaders: where did your concern about "economic uncertainty" go? Here's the follow-up: do you think a never-ending series of hostage standoffs inspire investors, reassure "job creators," and improve consumer confidence?
Or is it more likely Republicans are doing the very thing they said they opposed in 2010?