Friday, July 8, 2011

Institutionalized Insanity

Being mostly retired, my mental health depends a little too much on the machinations of the market. That's the selfish part. The rest, the sense of impending doom for our country, comes not just from there.

So the jobs numbers still are crap. Which is the perfect lens through which to view the political world. Republicans, no doubt, rejoice. Of that, I think there's no question: the less good the economy, the better their chances -- as they see it -- to win in 2012. That much is fact. The part that's speculation is the extent to which they've deliberately blocked Democrats' efforts, intentionally sabotaging the economy for political gain; about that, I can't be as categorical. But the fact that they still think the be-all and end-all (hmm.... end-all???) of economic policy is tax cuts suggests it's deliberate.

I recognize, and have written much about, the connection between Republicans and belief in the obviously false. Still, I have to think that among their leaders there must be some that can read. Or remember a decade or so back. For the last time we had spectacular growth and a balanced budget was after Clinton raised taxes. And the end result of Bush's cuts was massive jobs losses. Those are facts, too. Since it's never happened that tax cuts have led to budget balance or sustained growth, those guys are either fools or destructive self-aggrandizing cynics. To put it politely.

At least two Nobel-Prize-winning economists said from the very beginning that the "stimulus" was too small, too front-loaded, and too weighted with tax cuts. And ever since it's been in place, despite the fact that the Bushian trend of staggering job losses has been turned around, Republicans have done everything they could to block any more of it.

People use the term "job creation" like a magician uses a handkerchief. It's a multi-purpose deception. But the fact is that there's only one way that governments predictably create jobs: by spending money on projects. It was true when FDR did it, it's true when BHO has done it -- to the extent that he has, within the confines placed upon him by a Congress filled with idiots and deceivers. Cutting taxes on businesses -- already low -- is the wheel before the cart before the horse before the road. Businesses don't hire until there's demand for their products. Demand doesn't happen until people are working. If people are building roads, designing them, ordering materials; when they're inventing better batteries, if they're repairing bridges and spending wages, demand develops and businesses add employees to the economy. It's not complicated.

Clearly, it's too late now to get it right. The Republican deception machine has, as usual, been successful in its sleight of hand, convincing the public they're seeing something they're not. To the extent that he let himself be pushed around, President Obama deserves blame. But his were the right ideas. He just held back too much. He left too much rabbit in the hat.

And now, once again, it appears we're about to see the disastrous effects of tax cuts and spending cuts. But as opposed to when W strode into office with his self-declared mandate after losing the popular vote, and we were riding the wave of economic boom, this time we're barely back up on our knees from the knock-out blows he subsequently delivered.

Republicans have taken the opportunity to say the latest jobs report means no new taxes. What do you suppose they'd have said had the report been great? Without doubt: this proves we don't need new taxes. (Funny how they took credit when jobs were looking better.)

We're the classic definition of insane. We keep choosing the thing that's never worked, and we expect different results. In the truly insane, it's sort of excusable, understandable. In the case of American politics, it's just a deeply, deeply depressing spectacle of selfish stupidity and egregious gullibility.

Have a nice weekend.

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