I trust the New York Times' David Leonhardt knows what he's talking about when it comes to economics and economic policy. But I feel I have something to contribute to the question he posed Tuesday. Why are Republican presidents so bad for the economy? In addition to considering the Gross Domestic Product and other empirical factors, we ought to consider a moral one, to wit: the reason the United States fails to thrive under GOP presidents is because they so often seek out more and better ways to lie to us.
These lies are intentional. They are ubiquitous. They are huge. And the bigger they are, the more pain they cause, over years and over decades. If the lies are not directly related to the economy, they are certainly related indirectly, as most of them are conceived and motivated by the desire for riches, with the net effect being the crowding out of the many from the center of American democracy for the benefit of the few.
Fortunately, truth now has more in its favor than good people doing what they think is right. It has partisanship on its side.
A very, very short list: Tax decreases pay for themselves. Tax increases hurt job-creators. Regulations hurt business. The minimum wage hurts workers. Redistribution is theft. Welfare is addiction. Abortion is murder. Feminism is reverse sexism. Equality is reverse racism. Iraq had WMDs. Obama wasn't an American. Voter fraud is rampant. All/Blue Lives Matter. Political correctness. Cancel culture. Trump won.
There are more, but let's not forget the most obvious and deadly lie in recent years, to our bodies and our republic—that the covid pandemic is nothing much to worry about, indeed worrying about it means you're on the other side of a president trying to root out a conspiracy against "the people" by Democrats in league with a global (Jewish) cabal of satanists who fornicate with children before eating them, a conspiracy so evil the Democrats in the Congress deserve nothing less than capture and assassination.
Donald Trump was the most conspicuous of all the liars, it goes without saying, but Republican presidents going back to my childhood lied with such frequency, felicity and nuance the inevitable result was four years of hourly nonstop fire-hose lying. The outcome of that has been half a million deaths by the covid by the end of this month, and a national economy that hasn't been this bad since 1946. Leonhardt and others are correct, of course, in looking at interest rates, the unemployment rate, GDP and other empirical factors in order to answer the question of why Republicans fail so badly. But let's not forget that lying causes pain and that suffering often comes in economic form.
The bigger the lie, the bigger the pain inflicted on everyone until the lie and the pain are so nearly total that the distinction between believing and not believing the lie is a distinction without a moral difference. The Post reported Tuesday that Ginni Thomas, wife of US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, apologized to her husband's former clerks for her role in supporting the January 6 protest-turned-insurrection. What's astounding isn't that Ginni Thomas admitted obliquely to having some responsibility for the republic's near-death. What's astounding is she seems to continue to believe the lie—Trump won—even after that near-death experience.
Clarence Thomas' former clerks constitute a "blue-ribbon membership," according to the Post, with major influence inside and outside the courts. Yet some of its members appear to believe what Ginni Thomas believes. "Many of my friends and I had been praying our knees off that January 6 would see light and truth being shed on what we believe in our hearts was likely a stolen election," wrote Wendy Stone Long, and that eventually "President Trump would be determined to be the legitimate winner.
What does it mean when a society's cream of the crop continues to believe lies so big they nearly bring down a republic? It means the rest of us, who have nothing like the influence these people have, must spend valuable time and energy sorting through the lies, organizing ourselves and convincing as many people as possible, but especially those at the very top, that lies they espouse or spread or both are causing pain not just to the common people, but to the nation as a whole, including them. In the process, this drains the economy of resources that could be used for something more productive.
Perhaps a more important question: what does it mean when the lies are exposed as lies but the cream continues to espouse them or spread them or both? Well, something's gonna break. Luckily, that's coming in the form of distrust of the Republicans such that even the Times, which envisions itself above political interest, seems to be going through the motions as it worries about "unity," knowing full well Joe Biden and the Democrats are going to use their majorities to enact laws and policies for the good of the country, for the good of those who supported Donald Trump, even when, or especially when, the Republicans refuse to participate.
And fortunately, the break is happening as a result of the truth having more in its favor than good people doing what they think is right. The truth now has political interest in its side, partisan interest, such that the interests of the American republic and the interests of the Democratic Party are moving symbiotically in the same direction. Indeed, that's probably been the case for some years now, but with the Republican Party taking leave of the truth and its senses, that's more apparent than ever.