But the fact that they have flip-flopped time and again on policies they supported when Republican presidents were in office and the economy needed help leads to the strong suspicion that blocking Obama's policy initiatives is a political strategy. The strategy is justified by a story about Keynesian economics being harmful that they clearly do not believe in their heart of hearts (witness, for example, Romney worrying about the consequences of the fiscal cliff, or their knee-jerk appeal to Keynesian principles when defense cuts are proposed). They have also concocted a story where a confidence fairy can make austerity work to support their ideological pursuit of smaller government. But this is quite a departure from the stimulative polices that Republicans presidents have pursued in recent years giving it every appearance of a belief of convenience rather than of true conviction.I see his point, but here's my counter. I strongly believe the Congressional Republican leadership are being pushed to their positions by a rather strong, very vocal, and pretty well organized constituency. If they compromise on a stimulus bill or practically any bill with the Obama administration, they would (and have) faced well-funded primary challenges and many times have lost.
This is also my view of what happened with Scott Walker in Wisconsin. His state government austerity measures were directed largely at state union workers and he received a lot of sympathy for his actions by Wisconsin voters across the political aisle. He acted with boldness because he had the political power and support from his voters to do so. That's why, ultimately, the recall effort failed and its also why Obama stayed clear.
I do believe that the Republican leadership is acting, here, from a position of weakness. The simple fact is their basic ideology was designed and applicable for a 1980's world: an economy with stagflation; extremely high tax rates for the highest tax bracket; where the basic facts of globalization have not yet happened; and where the Soviet Union was our primary threat.
Bush Jr.'s, compassionate conservatism agenda was an attempt to modernize, but it was ineffectually administered and was ultimately a failure on many grounds, and the party had no plan B. Having lost the presidency and the Congress in 2008, they lucked out that they lost political power just as the global economy collapsed, as a result most of the resulting anger and blame for our economic demise has been inflicted on Obama and the Democrats - those who happened to be in power during a long, dismal recovery.
The Republicans have been forced into a very narrow box by a rather uninformed constituency. I don't blame the average Republican voter. Most people aren't obsessed with politics in their free time and have busy, difficult lives to lead. It's why we have a Republic and not a pure Democracy, so our leaders can be informed by their voting constituency, but not be totally controlled by them.
The problem with this Republican party we're seeing today is not that they want to destroy the economy, they are being forced into nihilism: unable to compromise, unwilling to play nicely. They have lost their ability to lead and are now being led, by their voters. When the economy improves, this will change.