Ted Kennedy’s Supply-side Moment

Kevin Drum finds a few past examples for this possibility:

Is John McCain really likely to use these attacks in TV ads during the general election? I couldn’t think of any examples of this from past elections, so I asked the hive mind if they could think of any … are there any examples of general election candidates using primary criticisms as part of their own campaign? The short answer is yes, but apparently not very recently and not very often.

He found a few with the last two from the 1980 campaign. We’ll return to George H. W. Bush’s voodoo economics but first let’s listen to this video of Ted Kennedy that was used by a group called Democrats for Reagan. A little historical context. The 1980 campaign was run with the backdrop of the 1980 recession, which was brought on by the high interest rate policies of the Volcker FED. These policies were designed to bring down inflation. Not every Democrat agreed with this policy. James Tobin was particularly bothered by the use of a recession to reduce inflation. We all watched the Republicans grasp the mantle of full employment promising to restore aggregate demand through a tax cut.

I had thought Senator Kennedy’s condemnation of high interest rates was along the same lines. But listen again – he is also complaining about high inflation. In defense of the Volcker FED – had we pursued policies to substantially increase aggregate demand, inflation might have stayed high. Which bring us back to voodoo economics. As Kevin notes:

George Bush’s “voodoo economics” line against Reagan was used by Carter and others. It didn’t show up in an ad, as far as I can tell, but during Carter’s October 29 debate with Reagan he said, “Governor Reagan recently mentioned the Reagan-Kemp-Roth proposal, which his own running mate, George Bush, described as ‘voodoo economics’ and said that it would result in a 30 percent inflation rate.”

I had always thought the Reaganites were promising too much when they claimed that we could restore full employment and low inflation at the same time. James Tobin often ridiculed this claim. Now we did see inflation come down quite quickly but that’s due to the 1982 recession and the only gradual return to full employment over the two terms that Reagan served as President. This speech is probably not one of Ted Kennedy’s finer moments – to say the least.