Bobby Jindal Is Confused About Tom Friedman and Economics

Mellonism lives
Jindal1.jpg

Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal thinks Republicans need to "stop being the stupid party", and he knows just how to do it: by changing nothing. Now, that isn't exactly how Jindal put it in his recent Politico op-ed, but close enough. Here's his blueprint for Republican revival, insofar as repeating economic nonsense qualifies:

At some point, the American public is going to revolt against the nanny state and the leftward march of this president. I don't know when the tipping point will come, but I believe it will come soon.

Why?

Because the left wants: The government to explode; to pay everyone; to hire everyone; they believe that money grows on trees; the earth is flat; the industrial age, factory-style government is a cool new thing; debts don't have to be repaid; people of faith are ignorant and uneducated; unborn babies don't matter; pornography is fine; traditional marriage is discriminatory; 32 oz. sodas are evil; red meat should be rationed; rich people are evil unless they are from Hollywood or are liberal Democrats; the Israelis are unreasonable; trans-fat must be stopped; kids trapped in failing schools should be patient; wild weather is a new thing; moral standards are passé; government run health care is high quality; the IRS should violate our constitutional rights; reporters should be spied on; Benghazi was handled well; the Second Amendment is outdated; and the First one has some problems too.

There are so many straw-men here that just reading it is probably a fire hazard. It's the same old Mellonism -- tighter money and tighter budgets are always the answer, no matter the question -- repackaged with some base-pleasing jabs. Now, to be fair, Jindal is right that money doesn't literally grow on trees, but he seems unaware that the Federal Reserve can conjure up dollars with the stroke of a keyboard. And, as conservative reformers like James Pethokoukis point out, the Fed should be creating more, not less, money with inflation still well below target and unemployment well above.

Jindal is no more economically literate when it comes to the budget. He thinks it's laughable that liberals say the government never has to pay back its debt ... but it's true! We don't. We haven't. The government isn't a household. It can roll over its debt forever -- and grow out of it. Here's a true story: we still haven't paid back the money we borrowed to fight World War II. But, as you can see below, we still brought our debt-to-GDP ratio down from a high of 122 percent in 1946 to a low of 32 percent in 1974, despite only running seven surpluses over that period, because the total size of the economy grew faster than the debt did.

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But maybe the most puzzling part of Jindal's op-ed is his casual reference to Democrats as flat-earthers. Now, in all likelikhood he meant it rhetorically -- he had to, right? -- but maybe, just maybe, he thinks Tom Friedman's 2005 bestseller The World Is Flat is supposed to be taken literally? (And that liberals like Tom Friedman?). Well, in case he does, here's a spoiler: it's not. As any cabbie from here to Shanghai could tell you, it's supposed to be a metaphor for how hyper-connected and hyper-competitive and hyper-everything else the global economy has become.

The thing about no longer being the stupid party is you actually have to do it. That means grappling with the world as it is; not as it was in 1980. It means grappling with your opponents as they are; not as Fox News imagines them. And it particularly means grappling with how to reapply conservative principles to these new realities; not how to reframe the same-old policies as something new.

But hey, we can safely conclude that there's a bipartisan consensus on round-eartherism. At least views no longer differ on the shape of the planet.

Presented by

Matthew O'Brien

Matthew O'Brien is a former senior associate editor at The Atlantic.

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