There’s a flip side to Democratic leaders not making a full-court press on the economy because they failed to appreciate the connection between economic results and electoral outcomes: it’s the disturbing percentage of the party rank-and-file that resisted stimulus either because they were just plain ignorant of basic Keynesian macroeconomics, or worse, because they’re carrying water for those who were dead-set against fiscal stimulus for reasons of ideology or personal interest (deficit hawks, rich Randian whackjob businessmen, inflation-paranoid creditors, etc.). That’s why you had idiots like Mary Landrieu patting themselves on the back during the ARRA negotiations for getting the stimulus down to a “reasonable” number and so forth, and why Larry Summers realized which way the political wind was blowing and quickly tossed out Christina Romer’s idea of asking for a $1.2 trillion stimulus. The result of this reasonable, serious, moderate thinking: next week’s electoral disaster.

Ideally I’d like to see an economic litmus test for Democratic candidates – if you so much as waver on whether you believe government spending can spur job creation and solve recessions, you should be treated the same way by the party as a candidate who believes in a flat earth. That’s probably an unrealistic wish, so as a plan B I think there needs to be some serious stepping up from the academic and center-left think tank communities on this. From day one of their Congressional campaigns, candidates need to have basic saltwater Keynesian macroeconomics relentlessly drilled into them by advisors. This is one of those subjects that suffers in the lobbying/information system Congress has today. Like with carbon emissions, lots of well-funded interests have an axe to grind against effective Keynesian fiscal policies, but no one interest group has a special reason to lobby hard for them because their benefits aren’t highly concentrated among a few people. This is a system that needs to change.

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