In a recent column in the New York Times, economist Paul Krugman writes, “It’s amazing how this whole crisis has been fiscalized; deficits, which are overwhelmingly the result of the crisis, have been retroactively deemed its cause. And at the same time, influential people around the world have seized on the idea of expansionary austerity, becoming ever more adamant about it as the alleged historical evidence has collapsed.”
He continues: “And where there is skewed vision, the economy perishes.”
In other words, we are being sold a bill of goods by the Republican Party propaganda/attack machine (and some Democrats too) that will bring nothing good to the American people.
I fully agree.
If we track the growth curve of government deficits we will find that they lag, not lead the crisis. They are, as Krugman says, a result, not the cause of the economic malaise. They are a dependent, not an independent, variable.
This is not rocket science. It’s elementary economics. Even many conservative economists acknowledge that the causal sequence in this crisis was as follows: Declining economic activity led to rising deficits as revenues going to government – taxes and otherwise – fell, and claims for government payments – stabilizing mechanisms like unemployment insurance and food stamps – rose (and of course when you add to the brew tax cuts for the wealthy, then the lid goes off).
Faced with this reality, sensible lawmakers in our nation’s capital would have passed legislation to stimulate spending – public works jobs, aid to state and city governments, etc. – understanding that temporary deficits are a necessary price to be paid to get the economy going again.
Moreover, if anybody is going to sacrifice, it wouldn’t be working people who are already pressed from all sides. Sacrifice would come from people and institutions that can afford it, namely the very wealthy and the transnational corporations who have exploited the Great Recession to their advantage.
Republicans in Congress and their counterparts in statehouses (some Democratic governors too) are not sensible people however. Out of touch, reckless, blinded by ideology, in bed with the corporations and military, yes. Sensible – no way!
Their singular crusade to radically slash spending for people’s needs, especially when combined with spikes in oil, food and other primary commodity prices, is akin to throwing gasoline on a smoldering fire. The economy could well take another dip downward – a double dip – further pinching working people and other sections of the population and aggravating the fiscal/deficit mess.
So you might ask: if this is true why do right-wing extremists pursue this course of action? It’s simple. Fixing the economy isn’t at the top of their “to do” list. In fact, in their cynical political calculus, a poorly performing economy gives them a leg up in next year’s elections.
What is at the top for them is restructuring the government in the interests of transnational capital, while at the same time eliminating, or at least greatly curtailing, union rights, social entitlements (Social Security, health care, aid to the poor and unemployed, etc.), civil and voting rights, women’s right to choose, and other basic human rights Americans have won through struggle.
In the view of right-wing Republicans, government has no obligations to the governed nor do the governed have any citizenship rights worth respecting. Corporate property rights trump people’s rights. And the state isn’t anything more than a mechanism to transfer the earned income of working people to the very richest Americans and corporations and to guarantee the reproduction and profitability of capitalism.
Our vision goes in the opposite direction: Government attends to the common welfare. People come before profits. And people have inalienable rights (political, economic and social).
Since the election of Ronald Reagan three decades ago, these conflicting visions have been at the core of an unrelenting struggle between right-wing extremism on the one hand and the working class and people’s movements on the other.
At the moment, Wisconsin, joined by other states, is the ground zero of this irreconcilable conflict. Nothing is more important than to extend solidarity to these heroic workers, joined by students, religious and civil rights leaders, football players, farmers, and more, whose fight is our fight.