One of Newt Gingrich’s rivals just before the South Carolina primary criticized him for his claim of having created millions of jobs, saying “Congressmen taking responsibility or taking credit for helping create jobs is like Al Gore taking credit for the Internet.” This charge of self-aggrandizement didn’t stick to Gingrich (many of whose stands have engaged this columnist’s personal enthusiasm and support). Instead Gingrich stunned the pundits by a double-digit spread victory, close to a 30 point swing from January 9.
There are many reasons for Gingrich’s “swing for the fences.” Not least of which is that his rival was wrong and people know it. Government indeed creates or destroys the economic climate. Sound money (for which the gold standard is, well, the gold standard), low tax rates, reduced government spending, free trade, gentle, sensible regulation, and minimal to modest government welfare programs create a climate in which entrepreneurs and businesses grow … and hire.
We’ve been ten years without sound policies of job creation. Some clearly have forgotten the compelling successes of Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton — who established growth policies. Contrast the failures of presidents Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter. Reagan’s signature achievements, of course, were stabilizing the dollar and cutting marginal tax rates. These factors created a climate so favorable to enterprise that Americans created 17 million jobs.
Clinton signed a Gingrich-led cut in the capital gains rate, reformed welfare, and produced the North American Free Trade Agreement. Ross Perot predicted that NAFTA would produce the loud sucking of jobs out of America; instead Clinton, building on Reagan’s success, produced a climate in which the private sector created 23 million net jobs.
The record is unambiguous; Gingrich was a player in making all of this happen. No wonder the Club for Growth says “As a historical figure, it is undeniable that Newt Gingrich has played leading roles in some of the most important battles on behalf of economic growth and limited government in the last quarter century.”
Gingrich’s rival, by denigrating the role of policy makers in creating a climate in which job creation can thrive, posits a linear translation of his skill set — running a commercial, or even world-scale nonprofit, enterprise — to running the federal government. This raises the specter of Herbert Hoover (while praying it ain’t so).