That is the sad history of the new normal. Which brings us to Ryan’s comments — and consideration of the present and the future.
Ryan is correct that the new normal is a result of “misguided policies,” although we have different definitions of misguided. (For me, this is less about the role of government, outsourcing and tax dis-incentives per se, and more about an economy that must find a way to safely “deleverage.” We must overcome the many years during which policymakers lost sight of sustainable drivers of growth and jobs and instead ended up relying on excessive leverage, over-indebtedness and an absurd sense of credit entitlement.)
Yet Ryan may be too hasty in dismissing the extent to which the new normal is becoming embedded in our economy and, with each passing week, transitioning from a short-term exception into an even more painful multiyear reality.
The longer Congress continues to dither, the greater the likelihood of cascading structural impediments to growth and job creation. This can be seen in how much harder it is for those who are struggling to maintain even routine activities, while those who are substantially better off have become way too cautious, preferring to self-insure by holding large balances of cash rather than hiring and reinvesting in plants and equipment.
With Congress having failed to act on the new normal for more than three years, the next administration faces the critical task of restoring U.S. economic vibrancy and unleashing this nation’s traditional dynamism and entrepreneurialism. This can be done only if comprehensive economic policy adjustments are accompanied by progress on the political and social fronts — particularly in catalyzing the bipartisanship and popular harmony needed to overcome deeply embedded structural constraints.
If we delay further, I fear that Ryan may prove correct on another point, to both his and my dismay. As he remarked Saturday, “Sadly, for the first time in our history, we are on a path which will undo [the] legacy . . . that every generation of Americans leaves their children better off.”