Last week, noting that the Republican Party abandoned its previous support for bailouts and fiscal stimulus precisely when they lost power, I argued that Republicans probably weren't engaged in conscious economic sabotage. Rather, they simply allowed themselves to change their mind in a way that dovetailed with their political self-interest:
People are extraordinarily deft at making their principles -- not just their stated principles, but their actual principles -- comport with their interests. The old Upton Sinclair quote -- "It is difficult to make a man understand something when his salary depends upon him not understanding it" -- has a lot of wisdom to it.
I don't think many Republicans are actually trying to stop legislation that might help the economy recover because they know that a slow economy is their best route to regaining power. I think that when they're in power, consequences like an economic slowdown or a collapsing industry seem very dire, and policies to prevent this are going to sound compelling. When you're out of power, arguments against such policies are going to sound more compelling.
Jonathan Zasloff thinks they are engaging in sabotage -- and that's okay!
If you’re a right-wing Republican nutcase — which is to say, you are a Republican — then you think that Democratic policies are very, very bad for the country. If that is so, then what you fear is that the economy will improve, salvaging Democratic hopes for this November’s midterms. And that will lead to more Democratic policies than otherwise, which – in your view — will be very, very bad for the country.
So of course you want to “sabotage” any economic recovery over the next few months, because you believe that any temporary improvement will pale in comparison to the medium- and long-term damage that Democratic policies will cause. That’s a hard calculus, but it’s a pretty straightforward one, and perfectly reasonable if you accept Republican assumptions.
In 2006, I was frightened that the economy would somehow improve and save Republican control of Congress. Fortunately it didn’t, and Democrats took over, to the lasting benefit of the nation. I don’t think that I, or any Democrat, should apologize for that attitude. And neither should Republicans now.
It's not a terrible argument. Of course, it requires imposing a great deal of economic hardship on the public in order to bring about more distant and uncertain relief in the future. Moreover, it's yet another reason why a political system that gives the minority party veto power over the majority's agenda is deeply flawed.