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The Economic Consequences of America’s Elections

STANFORD – November’s mid-term elections were a sharp rebuke to the vast expansion of government spending, deficits, and debt in the United States. Elected in the midst of the financial crisis in the fall of 2008, President Barack Obama and the Democratic leadership of Congress seemed surprised when the public rejected their stimulus, health-care reform, and energy policies by large margins.

Of course, some of the huge increase in expenditure and debt has been the result of the recession, and of the defense and other spending legacies of President George W. Bush. But, instead of finding security and salvation from recession in a new era of dependence on government, most voters were repelled by such policies’ apparent failure to do much to improve the economy. 

Thus, the election results should not be viewed primarily as an endorsement of the Republicans, but as a rebuke to the Democrats’ agenda, which voters believed was out of touch with their concerns, interests, and values.

The Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, netting more than 60 seats – the most in over 70 years – and six Senate seats. They gained in every part of the country, but especially in the industrial heartland from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin. They also won many governorships and took over many state legislatures; both will play a vital role in redrawing Congressional and legislative districts in the reapportionment next year following the 2010 census.