I don't buy Annie Lowrey's hypothesis that the depravity of American politics may be the result of the economic downturn, with the implication that everything in Washington would be hunky-dory and fully functional if we could just get back on the path to prosperity:
Consider how different our politics might be today if the economy had not collapsed in 2008 and not been mired in sluggish growth ever since. A ballpark estimate suggests that if the economy were to grow one percentage point more than expected in each year over the next 10, the deficit would shrink by more than $3 trillion. That would be more than enough to set the ratio of our debt to our annual economic output on a comforting downward trajectory. Moreover, it would happen without making cuts to a single program, like Medicare or food stamps, or without raising a single dollar of additional tax revenue.But Republicans were hell-bent on destroying Social Security back in 2005, long before the downturn started. Prior to that, when the economy was looking pretty good during Bill Clinton's second term, the GOP's 2000 presidential candidate insisted that taxes were way too high. The right always wants us in a war over taxes and social programs. It doesn't wait for severe downturns to start these wars.
"I do think that part of what we're seeing -- the nasty tone of our politics, the anti-immigrant sentiment -- has a lot to do with the fact that the average American family has now seen no increase in its real income for 15 years," said [Benjamin] Friedman, [a] Harvard economist.But there's been a nasty tone to our politics for much longer than fifteen years. How far back do you want to go? The first Clinton term? The campaign against Mike Dukakis? You think it's just the past fifteen years? The Monica Lewinsky scandal, incidentally, began fifteen years ago this week, if you count it from the first appearance of Lewinsky's name on the Drudge Report. I don't think that happened because we all knew middle-class wages were about to flatline. It happened because Republicans have been in a state of total war with Democrats and liberalism since at least the beginning of the Clinton presidency.
I blame Murdoch and Limbaugh. I blame Reagan -- yeah, he may have negotiated with Tip over drinks, but the public face of his presidency was all attack, all backlash. I blame the corpocrats who gave us the Powell memo, and the anti-liberal infrastructure the right went on to build. Our politics is nasty and divisive because one side wants it that way.