G.O.P. on Defensive as Analysts Question Party’s Fiscal Policy
By JACKIE CALMES
Published: August 12, 2011
WASHINGTON — The boasts of Congressional Republicans about their cost-cutting victories are ringing hollow to some well-known economists, financial analysts and corporate leaders, including some Republicans, who are expressing increasing alarm over Washington’s new austerity.
Their critiques have grown sharper since last week, when President Obama signed his deficit reduction deal with Republicans and, a few days later, when Standard & Poor’s subsequently downgraded the credit rating of the United States.
But even before that, macroeconomists and private sector forecasters were warning that the direction in which the new House Republican majority had pushed the White House and Congress this year — for immediate spending cuts, no further stimulus measures and no tax increases, ever — was the wrong one for addressing the nation’s two main ills, a weak economy now and projections of unsustainably high federal debt in coming years.
Instead, these critics say, Washington should be focusing on stimulating the economy in the near term to induce people to spend money and create jobs, while simultaneously settling on a long-term plan for spending reductions and tax increases to take effect only after the economy recovers.
These critics include onetime standard-bearers of Republican economic philosophy like Martin Feldstein, an adviser to President Ronald Reagan, and Henry M. Paulson Jr., Treasury secretary to President George W. Bush, underscoring the deepening divide between party establishment figures and the Tea Party-inspired Republicans in Congress and running for the White House.
“I think the U.S. has every chance of having a good year next year, but the politicians are doing their damnedest to prevent it from happening — the Republicans are — and the Democrats to my eternal bafflement have not stood their ground,” Ian C. Shepherdson, chief United States economist for High Frequency Economics, a research firm, said in an interview.
As for the longer term, Ethan Harris, co-head of global economics research at Bank of America, wrote this week that “Given the scale of the debt problem, a credible plan requires both revenue enhancement measures and entitlement reform. Washington’s recent debt deal did not include either.”