Rush: If done right, a gigantic infrastructure stimulus could be popular and an economic boon

Via the Blaze. If you’re surprised by this, you need to go back to what he said in September about Ivanka Trump’s maternity leave plan.

In looking at Trump’s plan for child care and maternity leave and elderly care, conservatives can lament that it’s not the Ted Cruz plan. “Oh, my God! If this was Cruz, we’d have 10% flat tax and be done and there wouldn’t be any of this mess.” You can look at it that way as, “Oh, what if,” or you can look at the Trump plan and describe what it does and compare it to Hillary’s, assuming she presents one after recovering from what may be the mildest case of pneumonia in history.

That, it seems to me, is what the comparison needs to be. Other than an intellectual exercise, you can’t say, “Oh, what could have been! Oh, how bad! Oh, I told you!” I know there’s a whole bunch of I told you so’s out there, but I think politically… You wait. I think just for people that are not ideological — which is a hell of a lot of people in this country. I think they’re gonna respond so positively to this, and it’s gonna disappoint a lot of people. “Oh, my God, do people not even understand the whole concept of Big Government destroying the country?” They don’t, folks. They don’t look at it the way you and I do in that regard.

We’ve spent 35 years having the “big government versus small government” fight. Big government won. You can be mad about it, you can disagree with it, but it is what it is. What’s the use in railing against it hour after hour on the radio every day — at least when it’s coming from your own side?

I wrote at the time he said that, “If you want to know what most, not all, of conservative talk radio might sound like during a Trump presidency, this is a fine example.” Now here’s Rush today on Trump’s infrastructure plan. We’re all Keynesians now:

There hasn’t been any upgrading [under Obama’s 2009 stimulus]. There hasn’t been any modernizing whatsoever, ’cause that’s not where Obama put the money. Now, if Trump actually follows through on this trillion dollars to modernize airports, you’re gonna have conservative arguments against it claiming this is not how it works. This is still federal spending, it’s still budget busting, it’s still massively expanding the government.

However, there will be tangible results that will result in improved and modernized airports which will make them more economically booming, which they will be able to attract more traffic, more landings and takeoffs, which include fees, more cargo being moved back and forth through them. It’s gonna be an interesting philosophical argument, the idea of conservatism and smaller government, less government…

FDR doing all this stuff gave the Democrat Party a 50-year guaranteed majority. Well, that was his dream. It didn’t actually work out to 50 years, but he made the Democrat Party a majority party. Remember, Trump’s not a conservative. So small government, less government, that’s not how he sees things. And I’ve tried to tell people this from the beginning of the campaign.

There are only so many ways that Republican leaders can sell a gigantic federal spending measure to a base that makes a pretense of caring about debt and deficits. One argument you hear here, which you’ll hear often, is that stimulus is popular. Whatever the cost, it’s a political winner. That’s true. Obama’s stimulus was popular too. But you didn’t see that noted much in right-wing media circa 2009. Another point you’ll hear from the GOP, a note of which is heard here in Rush’s aside about airports, is that Obama’s stimulus was “wasteful” but Trump’s stimulus will be smart and efficient and might even pay for itself in all of the economic benefits it provides. That’s Keynes’s multiplier, a classic liberal argument for infrastructure spending. You’ll find Lawrence Summers, Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary and an economic advisor to Obama, making it here. Paul Krugman wrote an op-ed three months ago calling on the U.S. to borrow more, while interest rates are low, to fund infrastructure projects because “Spending more now would mean a bigger economy later, which would mean more tax revenue. This additional revenue would probably be larger than any rise in future interest payments.” You gotta spend (taxpayer) money to make (taxpayer) money.

And if all else fails and it looks as though Trump’s proposal will put us even further in the red without producing much of an electoral boost, it’ll be sold as a job creator, however temporarily. Just as the Carrier deal was good policy because it saved some jobs, whatever precedent it might have set or reinforced for the president to lean on businesses, any infrastructure bill can be sold as good policy because it puts some people to work. We don’t even need “witness-able demonstrative improvements” in public works, as Rush mentions at one point here. If American workers are being gainfully employed by the federal government, that’s extra money that’s being spent on goods and services, which means more business growth, which means a broader tax base, which means those jobs are basically paying for themselves. By that multiplier logic, the federal government could theoretically solve America’s economic problems by expanding remorselessly, creating jobs for any American who needs one, and then sitting back while Keynesianism works its magic to produce growth and revenue. This is basic, basic liberal economic theory, the sort of thing Obama’s been preaching at the GOP for eight years while Paul Ryan lectured him on entitlement reform and the coming fiscal crisis. Rush and the rest of conservative media haven’t reached that argument yet, but give it time.

And yes, I know, he’s offering this as analysis, not something he necessarily endorses. He’s telling you what Trump might think or how Trump might argue, which is nice but less interesting to a listener of the Rush Limbaugh Show, one would assume, than what Rush might think or argue. If the arguments behind a blockbuster infrastructure bill are blinkered left-wing hogwash, you’d expect Rush to emphasize that at some point with all of the disdain it warrants. But I think this is what we’re in for from various right-wing media over the next four years: Less advocacy for conservatism and more quasi-neutral “analysis” of Trump’s gambits in order to stay on the audience’s good side. Rush can’t come out strongly for a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill or it’ll shred his conservative cred but he can’t come out strongly against it or else chunks of his audience will run for the reassuring embrace of Sean Hannity. “Analysis” squares the circle.

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