Can Rubionomics Succeed? Boris Johnson Will Soon Find Out
By Joseph C. Sternburg
December 19, 2019
Wall Street Journal
Parallels between British and American politics abound after last week’s U.K. election. Prime Minister Boris Johnson won by copying Donald Trump’s brand of conservative, nationalist populism, we’re told. The Labour Party’s historic defeat is a warning to Democrats pursuing similarly implausible left-wing fantasies.
All true, but the U.S. politician who should be paying closest attention to what happens in Britain now is Sen. Marco Rubio.
The link between Johnsonism and Rubionomics is easy to miss because the similarities between Mr. Johnson and Mr. Trump are so strong.
Once Mr. Johnson has executed Brexit, he’ll need to give those voters some other reason to support the Tories. His economic theory is that by aping the left-wing policies those voters have always supported but implementing them more competently, his party can bring those voters permanently into the fold.
Similarly, Mr. Rubio, seeing how Mr. Trump has activated new segments of the electorate for Republicans, is trying to devise some policy platform to retain those voters once Mr. Trump is no longer on the ballot. The solution is to copy much of the language and some of the policy views of the left so as to avoid alienating those new voters.
The most telling manifestation of this, from both Mr. Johnson and Mr. Rubio, is their approach to productivity and investment. One of their insights is entirely traditional-conservative: Only by boosting productivity can an economy deliver employment and wage growth.
The Rubionomics version is the senator’s fixation on the evils of Wall Street, whether it’s alleged investor short-termism or supposedly rampant share buybacks sapping productive business investment. He couples this with staunch support for tax handouts such as expanded child credits, which take on a Keynesian tinge for their focus on boosting short-term consumption over productive investment.
So far this program has been an electoral winner for Mr. Johnson … Mr. Rubio has the benefit of watching that experiment play out across the pond before he tries to launch his own version.
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