Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Harry Reid says what a lot of people believe. Is he right?

Reid: GOP rooting for economy to fail

Republicans hope unemployment rates jump higher to give them a better shot at retaking Congress, Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday....

"They think the worse the economy is come November, the better they're going to do election-wise," Reid said....

In a moderately painful garden-variety recession, any politician who was a member of the out party might hope for failure, because failure could be good for the out party and the suffering of ordinary citizens would probably seem mild and temporary. But to root for economic failure in this climate? Would Republicans be so depraved? When there's the possibility of slipping into a full-on depression?

Well, yes. I think in these circumstances they're echoing the attitudes of the fat cats they champion: even if the worst happens, we won't suffer. Fat cats believe that because it seems to be true for them -- no downtown ever seems steep enough to cause them real hardship. Republicans seem to have picked up that attitude from economic elites.

Also, Republicans seem to have that attitude about their own political fortunes -- and with good reason. Democrats were in the wilderness for more than a decade after the Carter presidency, while Republicans bounced back a mere two years after Clinton's election, and seemed to bounce back within months of Obama's inauguration. In hindsight, it now seems as if Republicans have controlled Washington for thirty solid years, with a few brief interruptions. No matter what they do -- Watergate, Iran/contra, letting 9/11 happen, letting bin Laden get away, getting into an interminable war over nonexistent WMDs and then screwing that war up -- they always seem to bounce back before you know it. So maybe they're comparing their own fortunes to the economy's and assuming that no failure is ever a cataclysm.

Which gets us to the question of why so many of them right now are making Lafferist comments -- Jon Kyl and Carly Fiorina and Mitch McConnell, for instance, all insisting that tax cuts don't increase budget deficits (or actually reduce them), while spending is really, really bad.

I think they're just indifferent, because the suffering isn't real to them. Sure, blocking all tax increases might lead to economic calamity, as people lose even meager incomes and important programs are cut -- but Republicans won't suffer, so it just doesn't matter. Selling tax cuts as sacred dogma, and blaming all economic trouble on spendthrift Democrats, always works for Republicans, so why not just keep doing it? What's the worst that can happen -- to Republicans?

If nothing bad ever happens to you no matter how terrible things get for others, and if you expect that pattern to hold forever, you simply won't care about those who are truly suffering. That's how Wall Streeters feel about the rest of us -- and that's how Republicans feel. They may as well keep advancing their theories, because they're not going to lose their jobs. To them, it's not a severe downturn if they're unaffected.

(And as for Democrats, they do recall that they're the party of caring for the ordinary citizen, though they also fear the wrath of fat-cat donors and Fox News demagoguery. So they try to split the difference, and please no one -- they spend too much for the right, and accomplish too little for everyone else.)

Finally, let's not forget the obvious reason we're hearing so many Republican denials of the budgetary harm done by tax cuts: they know a deficit commission is working, and they know curtailing tax cuts on the wealthy will be on the agenda as one possible remedy -- and will be greeted favorably by the public. They're Republicans, so they're not waiting to be gobsmacked -- they're prebutting it. They know what Democrats never know: how early you have to start and how hard you have to work if you want to reverse, or at least nullify, public opinion on a key issue.

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