Sunday, November 21, 2010


Steve Benen has a long post up on the question of whether Republicans are deliberately sabotaging the economy in order to regain power. It won't surprise you that I agree with him -- though I'm not sure their minds are just on sabotage, as I'll explain below:

Consider a thought experiment. Imagine you actively disliked the United States, and wanted to deliberately undermine its economy. What kind of positions would you take to do the most damage?

You might start with rejecting the advice of economists and oppose any kind of stimulus investments. You'd also want to cut spending and take money out of the economy, while blocking funds to states and municipalities, forcing them to lay off more workers. You'd no doubt want to cut off stimulative unemployment benefits, and identify the single most effective jobs program of the last two years (the TANF Emergency Fund) so you could kill it.

You might then take steps to stop the Federal Reserve from trying to lower the unemployment rate. You'd also no doubt want to create massive economic uncertainty by vowing to gut the national health care system, promising to re-write the rules overseeing the financial industry, vowing re-write business regulations in general, considering a government shutdown, and even weighing the possibly of sending the United States into default.

You might want to cover your tracks a bit, and say you have an economic plan that would help -- a tax policy that's already been tried -- but you'd do so knowing that such a plan has already proven not to work.

Does any of this sound familiar? ...

I think Republicans do recognize that at least some of what they're opposing would help the economy get back on track, and certainly would give desperate people money and hope in the short term, and they don't want any of that to happen. (I'll add the caveat that I think Republicans sincerely believe some of these programs don't work at all, but even Republicans grasp, for instance, that unemployed people are better off financially with unemployment benefits than without.)

But I'm not sure I agree with what Steve says about Republicans' claims regarding their own policies. They don't believe their plan "has already proven not to work."

To talk about this, we have to leave the realms of politics and economics, and enter the realm of religion. Republicans have a religious faith in the power of "freedom" (which means whatever they choose it to mean) and tax cuts to solve every problem. They cherry-pick evidence and ignore whatever doesn't fit -- thus, they argue that Bush economic policies worked spectacularly, and assume that you'll pay no attention to the minor detail that at the end of the Bush ride there was a spectacular job-killing, budget-busting crash caused by the bursting of the Bush bubble, which wiped out the very gains they're bragging about.

As a result, Republicans don't think it's really a bad thing if the economy is hoorible for two more years. They don't feel they need to allow solutions other than their own to be tried, even if they think they might work, because the pain of the next two years will be nothing -- the magic Rand/Reagan fairy dust they'll apply in 2013 will simply make all the pain go away.

No, they don't believe it will be a tough slog, made even tougher for themselves because the economic trough is even deeper. Their policies are magic. They're divine. They're cure-alls.

So, in their own minds, they're not doing any real damage at all.


Related to this: Right-wingers think the lesson of the first Thanksgiving is that capitalism works and socialism is a failure. Go read.

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