In a previous diary, I discussed the evidence that Republicans are intentionally obstructing President Obama for political purposes. In this diary, I want to focus on the specific charge that Republicans, and not President Obama, are responsible for our current economy. That point, which is of utmost importance, is mostly missing in discussions among supposed professional journalists in our country. I also believe that making this case is crucial to understand the impact of allowing Republicans to retain control of Congress. Unless we replace the current congress with a Democratic one, there is little hope that a second Obama term would differ significantly from the first.
Part I: Reasons to blame obstructionist Republicans for this economy
There is plenty of evidence to show that the intial stimulus, passed in February 2009 against Republican opposition, created millions of jobs. (link, link) Despite this success, Democrats lost control of the House in 2010. Because spending bills have to originate in the House, since gaining control in 2010 Republicans have been able to control what is offered and even considered with respect to Government Spending. Despite their promise to focus on job creation, Republicans in Congress have done a lot that has nothing to do with job creation and very little that does, as carefully shown here.
Because Obstructionist Republicans now control congress and all spending, as Paul Krugman has pointed out, the US economy is essentially a Republican economy, with low spending and relative austerity:
Never mind the Democrat in the White House; for all practical purposes, this is already the economic policy of Republican dreams.
What do I mean by saying that this is already a Republican economy? Look first at total government spending — federal, state and local. Adjusted for population growth and inflation, such spending has recently been falling at a rate not seen since the demobilization that followed the Korean War.
In President Obama’s case, much though not all of the responsibility for the policy wrong turn lies with a completely obstructionist Republican majority in the House.
Michael Cohen in the Guardian lays out a laundry list of specifics, asking whether Republicans deliberately crashed the US economy:
Republicans have opposed a lion's share of stimulus measures that once they supported, such as a payroll tax break, which they grudgingly embraced earlier this year. Even unemployment insurance, a relatively uncontroversial tool for helping those in an economic downturn, has been consistently held up by Republicans or used as a bargaining chip for more tax cuts. Ten years ago, prominent conservatives were loudly making the case for fiscal stimulus to get the economy going; today, they treat such ideas like they're the plague.An American Prospect article adds more details (link):
Traditionally, during economic recessions, Republicans have been supportive of loose monetary policy. Not this time. Rather, Republicans have upbraided Ben Bernanke, head of the Federal Reserve, for even considering policies that focus on growing the economy and creating jobs.
And then, there is the fact that since the original stimulus bill passed in February of 2009, Republicans have made practically no effort to draft comprehensive job creation legislation. Instead, they continue to pursue austerity policies, which reams of historical data suggest harms economic recovery and does little to create jobs. In fact, since taking control of the House of Representatives in 2011, Republicans have proposed hardly a single major jobs bill that didn't revolve, in some way, around their one-stop solution for all the nation's economic problems: more tax cuts.
Under a Republican president, the United States endured eight years of disastrous economic stewardship—arguably the worst of the post-war era—that nearly led to a second Great Depression. In response, voters elected a Democratic president and gave him huge majorities in both chambers of Congress. Rather than work with the new president, Republicans ran to the right and promised to defeat this president by any means necessary. They abused institutional rules to block nominees, and imposed a de-facto super-majority requirement on all legislation. Republicans rejected stimulus, the automobile rescue, a climate bill built from their ideas, a health care bill built from their ideas, and a reform bill designed to keep the Great Recession from happening again.Think Progress has this list of things Republicans in Congress have done to hurt the economy:
Once in command of the House, Republicans pushed hugely draconian budgets, risked a government shutdown, and nearly caused a second economic collapse by threatening to default on the nation’s debt. This reckless behavior depressed the economy, prolonged the recovery, and destroyed trust in the nation’s political institutions. The Speaker of the House has even promised to do this again, if Democrats don’t bow to his demands for greater spending cuts.
1. Filibustering the American Jobs Act.DailyKos diarist Blue Mark makes a strong case that without GOP austerity and with the American Jobs Act, which Republicans obstructed, unemployment would be below 6%:
2. Stonewalling monetary stimulus.
3. Threatening a debt default.
4. Cutting discretionary spending in the debt ceiling deal.
5. Cutting discretionary spending in the budget deal.
But we can look at just two big examples and get a minimal measure of the human cost to American citizens of a deliberate policy to destroy the economy in order to bring down the president; 1) austerity, and 2) obstruction of the 2011 American Jobs Act. Taking just those into account, the unemployment rate would be under 6% were it not for deliberate GOP wrecking.Just for good measure, here is a snippet from a letter to the editor (link) that makes the case about as succinctly as possible:
We know how to end a recession, but it requires investment to get the economy rolling again, and the only source of such an investment is the federal government. It worked in the late 1930s and it most certainly will work now. The revitalized economy will provide the required government revenue to eliminate the deficit and lower the debt in the long term.
The reason this has not already been accomplished is the tea party influence in Congress.
Part II: The Obstructionism will continue if Republicans maintain control of the House
In The New Yorker last week, Ryan Lizza tried to envision what a second term for Obama would look like, and cited an incredible statement from David Plouffe: A divided Congress next term will not result in partisan impasse, the White House Senior Adviser suggested, but in mutual urgency for compromise. As a panel on MSNBC's Up w/ Chris Hayes panel was quick to point out yesterday, this is almost comically wishful thinking.
I will not pretend to know what David Plouffe was thinking when he suggested that a second term with Republicans in charge would not result in further obstructionism. Perhaps that statement was made with some sort of political calculation. The panel discussion below also holds out that possibility. But, as both Brookes and the panel noted, any suggestion of such is laughable. (Transcript here.)
Part III: The Media isn't covering this issue very well
As Krugman has noted, the he-said she-said false equivalence that passes for modern journalism is partly to blame:
So why don’t voters know any of this?Some political writers even admit to this false equivalence, but make excuses for it. (link, video here)
Part of the answer is that far too much economic reporting is still of the he-said, she-said variety, with dueling quotes from hired guns on either side.
Gov. Granholm asked Williams, “Do the Capitol Hill journalists whisper about this obstructionism on the part of Republicans?”There are of also of course on the right both those who openly praise obstruction as a way of protecting the economy (link) and those who openly deny it is even impacting the economy (link, link).
“There’s not so much a whisper,” Williams replied. “It’s pretty plain....
“You said something really interesting there,” Gov. Granholm responded, “which is one of the reasons that the number of that poll might be so low–the 49%–is that the media feels like its got to be even-handed and on this channel, I think we would call that false equivalency. The media knows very well what the obstruction is.”
“And there are many who would agree with you that it is false equivalency,” Williams allowed, “but nonetheless, one reason why that still sticks and still maintains a presence in most newsrooms is not only because of integrity of individual journalism, but also because the conservative Republican message machine is very, very good at vilifying people who they believe have crossed the line into advocacy, who have done a number on what they believe is their fair and objective way of looking at things and looking at the White House agenda.”
Perhaps if reporters were as afraid of being called out by Democrats as they seem to be of Republicans it might help?
Republicans have given us a bad economy and will continue to do so unless Democrats regain control of congress. The media is reluctant to report this. So we need to repeat it often and loudly.