Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Budget and Economic Messaging 101

The key for Democrats fighting the radical Paul Ryan budget is to be clear about what the budget means. The budget on its own terms are immensely unpopular. Of course, the key is message discipline and focus. I think Ezra Klein hones in on the simple problem for Republicans in the first line:
a) Non-defense discretionary: Brings spending back to pre-2008 levels and freezes it there for five years.
Americans don't want to go back to pre-2008 government. Of course, that phrase is a little obscure, and hard to connect with Americans' concrete realities.
Americans don't want to go back to Bush era government. Independent fiscal hawks are still unhappy with the Bush-era spending as they were with the current administration's attempts to fix the holes. Even self-identifying conservatives still don't like the Bush brand. Yet, it's exactly the plan that Republicans have promised.

Americans still remember that the Bush administrations' policies ended in the financial catastrophe which started the recession on mainstreet. Americans understand that Bush-era spending levels did not reflect their values. Americans soundly rejected Bush-era politics and spending in the 2008 election.

But surely Americans blame the Obama administration for the current mess and fiscal profligacy. Offense on Bush-era government won't be as strong as defense of the entire Obama approach to dealing with the recession which has consisted of reasonable compromise and has resulted in job growth. There's a word for messagers who prefer defense to offense: Democrats. And it's one of the reasons that Democrats lose elections.

There is a fair comparison to be made: a voter can choose between the Obama's policies, which turned the recession into a recovery or Bush-era policies that created the recession. Those are the options that Republicans are offering, and it's time to be clear and honest about that choice with the American public.

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