Winning Progressive shares comments on austerity, how marriage equality has not harmed traditional marriage, the false choice of social investment vs. earned benefit programs, and the need for caution in Syria. (More)

austerity failure

In response to the New York Times editorial Europe’s Bitter Medicine, Winning Progressive explained why austerity budgeting is doomed to failure during times of economic recession:

The failure in Europe of austerity politics was entirely predictable by anyone with knowledge of economics or economic history.

Recessions are essentially economic vicious cycles. As people lose their jobs, or see their hours and salaries cut, they spend less money. As a result, businesses cut back on hiring, lay off workers, and stop investing in expanded operations because they have no confidence that the demand will be there. This, in turn, leads to higher unemployment and the cycle escalates.

The same vicious cycle occurs with regards to government revenue and spending during a recession. Business and individuals pay less in taxes due to lower profits and income. People who lose their jobs are forced to rely more on government safety net programs. As a result of lower revenues and increased need for spending, deficits increase. And political and media elites react by calling for spending cuts which, in turn, cause more unemployment.

The only way out of these vicious cycles is through a huge influx of government spending. Individuals cannot pull us out of a recession because they don’t have money to spend. Businesses won’t spend the money they have because they don’t have demand to respond to. Only government can provide the money needed to break this cycle. The experience in Europe shows how important government doing so is.

In response to Paul Krugman’s column The Urge to Purge, which focused on how conservatives today are following the example set by President Hoover’s Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon of seeing economic suffering as key to a stronger long term economy, Winning Progressive explained that:

What is especially galling about the Mellonites is that it is only a certain set of people – i.e. everyone but the billionaires and big corporations – who they think need to suffer.

We hear much today about how we “cannot” enact policies to reduce unemployment, how we “must” pare back or eliminate Medicare and Social Security, how we “need” to lay off teachers and firefighters, and how the social safety net “has to be” slashed, all purportedly in order to reduce deficits. Yet when the economy was collapsing in 2008, these same folks were quick to say that we needed to bail out the banksters who created the economic crisis to begin with. And deficits are never an issue when conservatives seek to end the estate tax, reduce or eliminate the capital gains tax, lower tax rates on corporations or the wealthy, increase spending for military contractors, or defend corporate loopholes and subsidies.

The sadly ironic thing is that the Mellonites have things exactly backwards. After 30 years of a heyday for a small wealthy elite fueled by conservative economics, we would all be better off if we enacted policies that would help relieve the suffering of the middle class, working class, and poor, while asking the wealthy to contribute a bit more and re-establishing sensible regulations on Wall Street. That would help our economy far more than the sadistic fantasies of the Mellonites.

Winning Progressive challenged Ross Douthat’s argument, in his column Marriage Looks Different Now, that the push for marriage equality has helped to cause the general decline in traditional marriage:

Your thesis, Mr. Douthat, would only be plausible if the trends in marriage that you describe had only started or sped up since the late 1990s. But they didn’t. In fact, many of those trends have been growing since the 1960s or 1970s. For example, the State of Our Marriages report that you link to shows that: the marriage rate per 1,000 unmarried women has declined steadily since its peak in 1970; the divorce rate skyrocketed between the 1960s and the 1980s; the number of cohabiting unmarried opposite sex couples has increased steadily since the 1970s; the percent of children living in single parent households increased steadily between 1960 and 2000, but then has declined slightly since; the percent of births to unmarried women has increased steadily since 1960. Many of these trends plateaued in the 1990s, and then have increased since 2000. But such increase is simply a return to a longer term trend that started well before marriage equality was even an issue. And, it is notable that the marriage equality discussion started in the early 1990s, not 1997 (for example, DOMA was passed in 1996), a decade in which many of these trends plateaued. In reality, there has been a redefining of marriage that has been taking place for decades now. Marriage equality is a good result of that redefinition, not a cause of it.

In response to David Brooks’ column Bold on Both Ends, Winning Progressive rejected Mr. Brooks’ argument that we should cut earned benefit programs in order to free up resources for investments in education and other social needs:

Nice try, Mr. Brooks, but progressives aren’t going to fall for this ridiculous suggestion that we should trade eviscerating earned benefit programs for the increased social investments that we need.

First, Republicans will never agree to such a deal. Certainly, the GOP wants to eliminate Medicare and privatize Social Security. But there is no evidence that they would devote any of those resources towards the social spending that they have scapegoated, vilified, and attacked for decades. Instead, they would divert those funds towards further tax giveaways to the wealthy, increased military spending, and corporate subsidies, which are their priorities.

Second, we do not need to choose between earned benefit programs and social investments, as we have more than enough resources to do both. At a time when corporate America is sitting on trillions, the top 1% has accumulated levels of wealth unseen since the 1920s, and taxes on the wealthy and big corporations are their lowest in decades, it is ridiculous to claim we lack resources. Somewhat higher taxes, combined with bending the health care cost curve, reducing military spending, and curbing corporate subsidies, would enable us to both preserve earned benefit programs and make necessary social investments that have gone neglected for far too long.

In response to Tom Friedman’s column Caution, Curves Ahead, Winning Progressive noted how Mr. Friedman’s urging of caution in Syria contrasts with his cheerleading for the Iraq War back in 2003:

I guess this column represents progress. It is nice to see Mr. Friedman urging caution regarding US military involvement in Syria, as it is a pleasant change from the cheerleading that Mr. Friedman did for Bush/Cheney’s misadventure in Iraq. Mr. Friedman spent years echoing the lies and fearmongering about WMDs in Iraq, offering the “suck on this, Iraq” theory for war, and contending that displacing Hussein would enable us to work with moderates in Iraq to build a modern democracy there. I’m glad to see he isn’t doing the same here.

Unfortunately, other neocons are. For example, the Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers (R-MI), has been spreading unsupported claims that Syria has been using chemical weapons on its people. President Obama rightly declared the use of chemical weapons a bright line that we cannot allow Assad to cross. But there is no evidence that Assad has done so. Instead, Rep. Rogers and others seem to be spreading the same unsupported claims about chemical weapons in Syria that the neocons did about WMDs in Iraq.

There is no doubt that Assad is a brutal dictator who, ideally would be removed from office. But the lesson of Iraq is that we have to be careful how that goal is achieved and what our role in achieving such goal is, rather than rushing into war. If Mr. Friedman can learn that lesson, perhaps the rest of our media can.