kevin mccarthy
(Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade with its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, many Democratic strategists were hoping that the abortion issue would be their salvation in the 2022 midterms. But Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont believes that while reproductive rights are certainly important, Democrats have not spent enough time talking about the economy and inflation.

Countless Republican candidates, meanwhile, have made inflation one of their main issues, claiming that President Joe Biden is to blame for inflation in the United States — and liberal economist Paul Krugman, in his New York Times column, has vigorously defended Biden’s economic record, citing the the COVID-19 pandemic as a major cause of inflation and noting that unemployment rates have been historically low under Biden.

Some recent polls find that voters trust Republicans more than Democrats on the economy. But Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf, in an article published by on November 7 — the day before the 2022 midterms elections — stresses that voters are misguided to think that Republicans will lower inflation if they retake the U.S. House of Representatives and/or the U.S. Senate.

“As Americans cast their ballots in the midterm election, voters are divided over not just which candidates they support, but what issues matter to them,” Dorf explains. “Democrats express concern about reproductive rights and the threat that Trumpists pose to the very future of democracy. Republicans say they worry about crime, immigration, and the economy — especially inflation. Although much could be said about each of these issues, today’s column focuses on the last one. Do voters have good reason to believe, as so many of them do, that Republicans will do a better job than Democrats handling inflation and the broader economy?”

Dorf goes on to answer his own question. And his answer is a definite “no.”

“To be sure, Democratic politicians did not cause the current economic situation,” Dorf observes. “Global forces — especially supply-chain disruptions caused by the pandemic and high energy prices caused by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine — have fueled high inflation around the globe, not just in the United States. And the Federal Reserve, which might be criticized for overshooting on interest rate hikes, by design acts independently of elected politicians. Thus, the key economic factors that have the electorate feeling gloomy may have little to do with policies of the Biden Administration and its Democratic allies in Congress. But voters tend to reward politicians in good times and punish them in bad ones, regardless of whether they caused either.”

Dorf is highly critical of Republican economic proposals, offering some reasons why they’re flawed.

“Although few Republicans emphasize the point on the stump, at least some of them hope to ‘reform’ entitlement programs — i.e., to cut spending on Medicare and Social Security,” Dorf argues. “That ought to be a remarkably unpopular agenda, especially with core Republican constituencies, which skew older than average…. Even if Republicans capture both houses of Congress, surely President Biden would veto any bill that cut Social Security or Medicare.”

Dorf continues, “The Republicans have a plan. They hope to hold the entire global economy hostage unless Congress enacts and the president signs their agenda into law. Just as they attempted when Barack Obama was president, so too now, they will threaten to refuse to raise the debt ceiling — which, to be clear, provides borrowing authority to pay for spending that Congress has already authorized — unless President Biden agrees to their future spending cuts. Because President Biden would not likely capitulate to such economic terrorism, the result could well be a first-ever U.S. default on its obligations…. Republicans’ irresponsibility with respect to the debt ceiling poses a greater risk to the economy than any of the other differences between Republicans and Democrats. Thus, voters should not choose Republicans over Democrats out of concern about the economy.”