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To fix America, Republicans need to take a walk on the supply side

Dec 14, 2021


Here’s a basic truth about politics: Voters don’t expect or want “structural change” or “transformation” from either the left or the right.

Voters want the economy to grow, and society to be stable, so they can work out their destinies in peace.

President Biden seemed to understand this—for about six months. Since July, however, he’s been unable to guarantee stability, whether we are talking about the pandemic, foreign policy, consumer prices, personal safety, or the border.

The result is falling approval numbers for Biden and rising expectations that Republicans will capture either one or both chambers of Congress next year.

But the GOP hasn’t really done anything to deserve a majority. Yes, Republicans have resisted the Democrats. But they haven’t put forward anything more than stinging criticisms.

They need to think harder, starting now, about what to offer voters.

There’s a way for conservatives to answer public concern over the pandemic, crime, and the economy. That way is the supply side.

Just as an earlier generation of conservatives addressed stagflation through increasing the supply of capital, the present generation ought to increase the supply of resources that individuals and families can bring to bear on the present crisis.

Operation Warp Speed, for example, was a triumph of supply-side thinking. Its vaccines are remarkably successful at preventing hospitalization and death.

Contrast the success of Operation Warp Speed with the bureaucratic obstacles that have blocked access to speedy testing and given public health authorities excuses not to lift masking and social-distancing rules.

The next step, then, is to boost supplies of at-home rapid tests. That means knocking down regulatory barriers.

Crime is another problem with a supply-side solution. The United States just experienced a record spike in the murder rate. Hiring more police, paying them better, and reducing nine-one-one response times is the closest thing to a sure bet in public policy. Republicans should be writing a crime bill that does exactly that.

The economy faces different challenges than it did in the late 1970s. But supply-side thinking remains a useful guide. The basic problem today is that prices are rising faster than wages.

What to do? Expand supply-chain capacity. Spend money to reduce blockages of goods in transit, hire more longshoremen and truck drivers at better wages, and deploy the national guard to unload cargo.

Defend and expand oil and gas exploration to put downward pressure on energy prices. And promote land-use and development.

At the same time, maintain work requirements that encourage entry into the labor market. Focus on vaccinations in industries such as meatpacking, where reduced manpower has contributed to the rise in hamburger prices.

Most people associate supply-side with tax reform. And yet, lowering barriers to investment and saving is just one way to increase the supply of resources and improve economic and social life.

In some cases, you might spend more now to boost long-term capacity. In other cases, you might spend less on benefits and regulations that discourage work, and thus limit the supply of labor.

The underlying idea is that more is better—more investment, saving, vaccines, tests, police, dockworkers, truck drivers, fuel, food, and educational options, for starters.

The next supply side agenda requires conservatives to abandon cultural despair and reflexive opposition to governance. It requires them to adopt a self-confident attitude and a willingness to address the entire electorate. Not just a slice of it.

Yes, I know. That might be too much to ask.

But it really shouldn’t be. The stakes are too high for conservatives not to live up to the demands of the moment—by taking another walk on the supply side.

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