Saturday, July 16, 2011

We Had to Destroy the Economy in Order to Save It

According to Ezra Klein, the thinking behind the Obama administration's push for the biggest possible budget cutting deal they can get includes this:

The deficit stands in the way of any potential spending increases. And
if you finish the deficit conversation in a way that convinces the American people you’ve made sacrifices and forced government to live within its means, you have, at least in theory, more credibility when proposing new initiatives that would expand the size of government again.
President Obama confirmed the first point in his 7/15/11 news conference, saying:
...if you are a progressive, you should be concerned about debt and deficit just as much as if you're a conservative. And the reason is because if the only thing we're talking about over the next year, two years, five years, is debt and deficits, then it's very hard to start talking about how do we make investments in community colleges so that our kids are trained, how do we actually rebuild $2 trillion worth of crumbling infrastructure.
The implication is that there's a causal connection between the empirical situation and the narrative around it. Eliminate the deficit and GOP bloviating about it will supposedly subside. Greg Sargent is unsure about this; Jonathan Bernstein thinks Obama's position is reasonable but risky; but Joan Walsh sees Obama's assumption that elimination of the deficit will end the GOP assault on his presidency as misguided.

Walsh bases her argument on the record of GOP behavior during the Clinton administration. I don't think we have to look that far back--just consider what's happened over the past two years.

  • According to the CBO, the GOP is responsible directly for about 70% of the deficit. This includes the Bush tax cuts, two wars fought without raising taxes to pay for them, and the Medicare Part D unfunded mandate. Obama is responsible for extending the Bush tax cuts and the two wars, 20% of the deficit. Obama's much maligned stimulus package, which the GOP has treated as fiscal suicide, accounts for about 7% of the deficit. All other Obama programs combined add up to 3% of the deficit. Yet the GOP has spent the past two years running around with their hair on fire, accusing Obama of irresponsible spending. Please tell me what relationship exists between GOP claims about the impact of Obama policies on the economy and the reality?
  • Obama's health care reform package was, according to the GOP, a "socialist" scheme that would be risky, unaffordable, and would interject the government between patients and their doctors. There were also claims that the plan included "death panels." They neglected to mention that it was based heavily on a GOP plan put forth during the Clinton administration and on the system Mitt Romney set up in Massachusetts. Again, what was the relationship between GOP rhetoric and reality?
  • Since 1980, the GOP has consistently expressed the view that cutting taxes spurs economic growth. Yet George W. Bush implemented enormous tax cuts and had the worst record for job creation and GDP growth since Herbert Hoover--and that was before the financial crisis and resulting economic collapse, both of which occurred during his term in office (yes, the GOP even lied about the timing of the economic collapse). Conversely, Bill Clinton implemented modest tax increases and presided over an enormous economic expansion. So much for the supposed stimulative effects of tax cuts and the alleged "job-killing" effects of tax increases. Did that stop the GOP from repeating robotically that tax cuts boost the economy while tax increases depress it?
  • The GOP has become increasingly driven by the notion that by cutting taxes, they can shrink the government to a size small enough to "drown in a bathtub," as tax cutting fanatic Grover Norquist famously put it. Yet the only administration to shrink the size of government in the past 40 years was Bill Clinton's. So it seems there's no relationship between the level of taxation and the size of the government. Yet the GOP persists in pursuing this goal.
  • Despite unanimous agreement among climate scientists that climate change is real and is in fact happening more rapidly than predicted, the GOP persists in claiming that climate change is a "hoax," as GOP Sen. James Inhofe puts it. Again, what is the relationship between rhetoric and reality?
  • Repeatedly since 1980, the GOP has responded to criticism that their policies favor the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and the poor with claims that such criticism amounts to "class warfare." Meanwhile, as a result of those policies, the income of the richest 0.1% of Americans increased 60% while that of the bottom 40% fell by 10%. What is the relationship between GOP statements and the reality?

Given the above examples (there are many more), what possible reason can there be for believing that giving the GOP what they want will have the slightest effect on their well-established record of lying about everything?

No comments: