Is President Obama a drag on economic growth, like my fellow insider Ed suggests? I could argue that the real drag on economic growth is the gamesmanship and intransigence of a Republican minority that continues to block compromise that feeds investment uncertainty, which is the real enemy of private sector investment.
But I won't make that argument because it's a dead end. I do think that Republicans have no purchase on any claim to economic growth. Their fealty to tax cuts and lip service to spending cuts is a tired and discredited economic program. But the problem of America's economic growth is much deeper than one political party even though both sides share some blame.
I was thinking the other day about the absence of leaders today in both parties who can speak intelligently about economic growth. In the 1980s and 1990s, there were numerous members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, who were able to cross ideological boundaries to put forth new ideas to stimulate our economy: Gary Hart, Tim Wirth, John Heinz, Al Gore, William Cohen, among others. They were open to new ideas, like free trade agreements, investments in infrastructure and education. And they understood that America's competitiveness was going to have to be nurtured in new and innovative ways.
Today's conversation about our economic future is ideological and stale. Where are the new ideas? In 1984, in one of the greatest feats of political theatre, Gary Hart, who was challenging frontrunner Walter Mondale for the Democratic presidential nomination on a platform of new ideas, picked up an axe at a New Hampshire campaign event and flung it thirty yards where it struck the target dead center. Everything seemed possible for a moment, a can-do candidate for a resurgent United States. We've lost that bravado; our imaginations for how we can strengthen our competitiveness seem as flat as our GDP.