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Don't Listen to the Nattering Nabobs of Economic Negativism

In 1970 Vice President Spiro Agnew delivered a speech—actually penned by his brilliant speechwriter and future New York Times columnist William Safire—to the California Republican state convention. He expressed his views about members of the media and their congenital negativism—especially when reporting on right-leaning policies and elected officials. 

“In the United States today, we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism. They have formed their own 4-H Club—the ‘hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.’” 

If Safire were writing that speech today, he might replace “hypochondriacs of history” with something like “hypocrites and humbugs.”* 

Because whenever President Trump, Republicans and conservatives claim that tax reform, done correctly, could return the U.S. to 4 percent annual economic growth, the nabobs begin rolling their eyes and nattering that 3 percent annual GDP is the new normal—though President Obama never even hit that mark. 

Over the past eight years the left, egged on by their friends in the media, has shot every arrow in the Keynesian and socialist quivers: higher taxes, rampant government spending, massive government debt, creation of costly new entitlement programs (e.g., Obamacare), relaxing previous welfare restrictions, exploding the money supply under the Federal Reserve Bank, and a vastly expanded regulatory infrastructure (e.g., Dodd-Frank financial legislation and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau).  

And yet those efforts didn’t produce one year of 3 percent GDP.  

But that doesn’t mean it can’t hit 4 percent; just that it can’t as long as the government is on a tax and spend and regulate binge, which it has been—and especially since 2009. 

It was only 30 years ago, during the Reagan administration, when 4 percent GDP, or close to it, was common—but only after Reagan’s first tax reform passed. 

It was also common in the last four years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, when the Republican-led Congress helped check his more liberal inclinations.


The good news is this year’s second quarter came in at 3.1 percent GDP and the third quarter was 3.3 percent. That’s less than a percentage point away from 4 percent, and tax reform hasn’t passed yet. 

We probably won’t convince the nattering nabobs of negativism, because they think big government is a prerequisite to a strong economy. They have it exactly backwards.  

Winston Churchill famously explained. “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing—after they’ve tried everything else.” 

Well, we’ve tried pretty much every solution the left has to jumpstart the economy. It’s time to do the right thing and pass tax reform.

*As in Ebenezer Scrooge.