Paul Krugman recently explained in his New York Times column titled “The Mistake of 2010” how the conservatives’ obsession with invisible bond vigilantes, fearmongering about non-existent inflation, and overwrought sky-is-falling rhetoric about deficits are serving to distract us from the real problems facing our country – joblessness and poor economic growth. Professor Krugman described how the conservatives’ focus is wrongheaded and threatens to repeat in 2011 the mistake of 1937, when President Roosevelt temporarily sidetracked the recovery from the Great Depression by instituting austerity measures designed to curb inflation, rather than continuing to use government spending to create jobs.
My only quibble with Professor Krugman’s column is that the conservatives’ efforts to focus on issues other than jobs is not a mistake on their part – it is a deliberate attempt to achieve both political and ideological goals at the expense of jobs and the American economy.
On the political side, the conservatives focus on imaginary bond vigilantes and overblown “concern” about the deficits they created is working to limit the political popularity of President Obama. In 2008, Republicans faced a new popular president, large Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, and an economic crisis that Republicans had created. They could have worked with the new Democratic majority to pull our economy out of the ditch, but the Republicans realized that would just benefit the Obama administration politically. So, Republicans in Congress decided to fight economic recovery efforts every step of the way by engaging in historically unprecedented Senate obstructionism of every job creating proposal the Democrats made.
The Republicans’ theory was that doing so would keep unemployment high and economic growth low long enough to hurt the Democrats’ re-election chances in 2010, and they were right. And now Republicans are hoping the same approach will keep unemployment high and economic growth low enough to hurt President Obama’s re-election chances in 2012. Mitch McConnell has stated numerous times that defeating President Obama in 2012 is the Republicans’ number one priority, and their effort to make sure that jobs are not created is a deliberate part of that strategy.
The Republicans’ anti-jobs strategy also serves their ideological purposes. The Bush Recession (along with irresponsible spending under the Bush administration) led to a significant increase in the deficit due to a decline in revenue and an increase in need. Rather than try to increase revenue through promoting economic growth, cutting military spending and corporate subsidies, and asking the wealthy to pay their fair share again, the Republicans have decided to seize on the deficits that they created to try to achieve their ideological goals of destroying Medicare, Social Security, the social safety net, and investments in education and infrastructure. Today’s Republican Party does not believe in government helping the middle class, working class, or poor, and want to use their deficits to justify to put such beliefs in practice.
By preventing our country from focusing on creating jobs and economic growth, Republicans have also furthered their ideological goals by making people feel that government cannot work for them. An adequate stimulus and other government efforts could have brought us economic recovery in 2009 and 2010, but that would have helped people realize, just as they did with the New Deal, that government can and does help improve the lives of every day people. Such result would run counter to Republicans’ ideological interests, so they made sure that result did not occur.
Now, the Democrats are not blameless in this. They managed to get enough stimulus and other policies through to prevent a complete economic collapse, but they could have been and still should be fighting harder on the jobs front. Rather than engaging in debate over Republican scaremongering over imaginary bond vigilantes and inflation, Democrats should be fighting for progressive policies like a WPA style work program, a new stimulus package, infrastructure investments, aid to state and local governments, and cramdown legislation to help stop the foreclosure crisis. But let’s keep in mind that none of those policies will pass so long as we continue to allow anti-job Republicans to have enough power in Congress to prevent the economic recovery our country needs but that Republicans do not want.
If you agree, please write a letter to the editor asking Republicans why they are obsessed with bond vigilantes and long-term deficits that their policies created, rather than with confronting the critical unemployment problem facing our nation today.