If Republicans don’t embrace a genuine growth agenda, they are unlikely to see their gains in the 2010 mid-terms translate into lasting political advantage.
After all, while Obama’s overreach and his failure to focus adequately on growth cost Democrats dearly, don’t expect smart Democrats to sit still.
Former Congressman and current DLC Chair Harold Ford has an interesting piece in Fortune magazine outlining a growth agenda for Democrats. A Democratic Party chastened by defeat and newly energized around economic growth is a GOP nightmare.
So what should the GOP do? They could start by absorbing some of the lessons in Joel Kotkin’s recent essay at American.com, “Toward a Continental Growth Strategy.” Joel’s a Democrat, but Republicans have more to learn from him than they do from most GOP thinkers and strategists.
Too often discussions of growth are overly abstract or narrow. They tend to focus on a few policy prescriptions such as tax cuts or trade or education. These are important. But the discussion about growth is strangely detached from the particular and unique characteristics of the United States. Any serious growth strategy should acknowledge and leverage America’s attributes and advantages.
Kotkin points out just a few of the natural advantages the U.S. has, including a still growing population (giving the U.S. an edge over Europe and even China), the world’s most fecund agricultural area, the world’s second largest oil reserves and massive, untapped natural gas supplies. Joel doesn’t mention these but the nation’s vital institutions matter, too, including its commitment to the rule of law, it’s openness to new ideas, its respect for and protection of intellectual property and more.
Too often when GOPers talk about growth they fail to acknowledge these and the nation’s other endowments and capacities. They end up discussing policy in a vacuum and offer no vision linked to the nation as it is and as it might become. A real growth agenda has to be tied to the nation’s specific attributes and genuine comparative advantages. This will make for effective policy. As crucially, it will make for winning politics.
Adopting tax cuts and fiscal sanity are great and necessary things. But they are insufficient. It’s time for the GOP to think deeper and harder about how America’s economy will dominate and thrive this century.