INTRODUCTION: STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
President Obama is not going to be able to do the things he needs to do on the economy and any number of other things as long as we have a Republican Congress refusing to cooperate on anything that might make him look successful. Let's start with this 2011 quote from Mike Tomasky:
In an earlier time, in normal times, when legislators used to behave the way legislators are supposed to behave, the minority’s leaders would have brought the price tag down, made the majority and the White House agree to something they wanted—peeling back one of those EPA regulations the Republicans hate—and we’d have had a deal. The minority would never have confronted the very premise. It was a priority of the president, which used to matter, at least sometimes, and more persuasively than that, the minority would have actually paid a bit of attention to those polls showing the American people backed this.
Poof—all that is long gone. The Republican Party’s posture to the American people is this. Your opinion on issues like teachers and taxes doesn’t matter a whit to us. True, if you happened to agree with us, we’d use that to our advantage, but since you don’t, we really don’t care. What does matter though, as far as you people are concerned, is what you do next Election Day. If you put a Republican in the White House, we’ll grow up a little. If you give us the Senate, too, we’ll actually get to work (although God forbid on what). But if you keep that man in the White House, we will block everything he and you want. Everything. And nothing will happen in this town for those next four years. The Republicans can’t say any of this, of course, but they don’t have to. People get it. It just sort of seeps out of them, like oil from a polluted stream.
I have trouble keeping lunch down when I read these jeremiads about how sad and mysterious it is that our institutions of government are failing. It’s not a mystery. One side wants them to fail. And there’s very little the other side can do about it, besides point it out, which the president has started doing—and now he’s the one being divisive! They’ve turned the world inside out.
PART I: EVIDENCE THAT THERE IS INTENTIONAL OBSTRUCTIONISM
First, there have been a lot of people who think that Republicans are intentionally damaging the economy. Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, and Jim McDermott are among high profile politicians who have said this. Even the Associated Press has discussed this. Andrew Sullivan has discussed it. ThinkProgress has discussed it. Some local writers have discussed it. Besides the AP article linked above, it has been a Yahoo News article at least 2 other times: link, link. Video of that last segment is here:
Another discussion by Michael Eric Dyson is here:
In addition to all these discussions, several books also take up the theme. One, SABOTAGE: How the Republican Party Crippled America's Economic Recovery, by Daniel Altman, is specifically dedicated to this theme. A recent diary at dKos mentioned Robert Draper's book Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives. The diary, and the book, discuss a January 2009 meeting in which a plan was hatched to obstruct everything President Obama tried to do. Here is a list of attendees of that meeting:
The Guest List:
Frank Luntz - GOP Minister of Propaganda
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA)
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA),
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX),
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX),
Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI)
Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA),
Sen. Jim DeMint (SC-R),
Sen. Jon Kyl (AZ-R),
Sen. Tom Coburn (OK-R),
Sen. John Ensign (NV-R) and
Sen. Bob Corker (TN-R).
Non-lawmakers present Newt Gingrich
Al Sharpton discussed the meeting with Newt Gingrich here:
There is another book, Michael Grunwald's The New New Deal that contains confirmation that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell enacted this plan in the Senate. Greg Sargent quotes from page 207:
Biden says that during the transition, he was warned not to expect any cooperation on many votes. “I spoke to seven different Republican Senators, who said, `Joe, I’m not going to be able to help you on anything,’ he recalls. His informants said McConnell had demanded unified resistance. “The way it was characterized to me was: `For the next two years, we can’t let you succeed in anything. That’s our ticket to coming back,’” Biden says.
The vice president says he hasn’t even told Obama who his sources were, but Bob Bennett of Utah and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania both confirmed they had conversations with Biden along these lines.
Meanwhile, former Senator George Voinovich also goes on record telling Grunwald that Republican marching orders were to oppose everything the Obama administration proposed.
“If he was for it, we had to be against it,” Voinovich tells Grunwald. And at another point, characterizing a strategy session Republicans and McConnell had held in early January of 2009, Voinovich said: “He wanted everyone to hold the fort. All he cared about was making sure Obama could never have a clean victory.”
As just one very notable example of a congressional Republican who attended the January 2009 meeting and who has changed behavior in order to obstruct, the difference between Paul Ryan before President Obama took office and after the January 2009 meeting is unmistakable. The plan was simple in scope, just block everything the President tried to do. But how does one do that? Well, one could give a speech about the "discredited economic playbook of borrow and spend Keynesian policies." And one could also say that "workers, taxpayers and families have been guinea pigs in this Neo-Keynesian experiment long enough. The results are in, Washington's economic experiment has failed." And that is what Paul Ryan said in July 2010:
At first blush, the above just sounds like typical Paul Ryan rhetoric. How could that really be part of a plot to sabotage the economy. After all, Ryan is just saying what he really believes, right? Well, take a look at this video that Chris Hayes found recently from 2002. Hayes begins by referencing the above video and then plays a clip from 2002 where Ryan is defending Keynsian economics. Here is some of what Ryan says:
What we're trying to accomplish today with the passage of this third stimulus package is to create jobs and to help the unemployed... What we're trying to accomplish is to pass the kinds of legislation, that when they've passed in the past have grown the economy and gotten people back to work. We want to make it easier for employers to keep people employed. We want to make it easier for employers to invest in their businesses, to invest in their employees and to hire people back to work. And on top of it, for people who have lost their jobs we want to help them with their unemployment insurance and with health insurance...What we want to accomplish here is a recognition of the fact that in recessions, unemployment lags on even well after a recovery has taken place.
The things we’re trying to pass in this bill are the time-tested, proven, bipartisan solutions to get businesses to stop laying off people, to hire people back, and to help those people who have lost their jobs. . . .
We’ve got to get the engine of economic growth growing again because we now know, because of recession, we don’t have the revenues that we wanted to, we don’t have the revenues we need, to fix Medicare, to fix Social Security, to fix these issues. We’ve got to get Americans back to work. Then the surpluses come back, then the jobs come back. That is the constructive answer we’re trying to accomplish here on, yes, a bipartisan basis.
Now watch the video for yourself:
So, do you still think that Paul Ryan is opposed to Keynsian economics? The defense he gave sounds very much like what President Obama was saying about how to stimulate the economy.
But there is much more to the Ryan obstructionism. Here is a snippet from a 7 page New Yorker piece by Ryan Lizza, wherein he also refers to Draper's book and details how Ryan, among others, has scuttled compromises and pressured Speaker Boehner not to compromise either:
[H]is increasing power, and his credibility as the leading authority on conservative fiscal policy, soon made his imprimatur essential for any Republican trying to reach a compromise with Democrats. Ryan helped scuttle three deals on the budget. He had served on the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission but refused to endorse its final proposal, in December, 2010. When deficit negotiations moved from the failed commission to Congress, Ryan stuck with the extreme faction of the G.O.P. caucus, which withheld support from any of the leading bipartisan plans. In the summer of 2011, when a group of Democratic and Republican senators, known as the Gang of Six, produced their own agreement, Ryan’s detailed criticism helped sink it. And, also that summer, during high-level talks between the White House and Republican leaders, Cantor and Ryan reportedly pressured Boehner to reject a potential deal with President Obama.
Ryan's votes against the Obama stimulus package are particularly hypocritical. After voting against it, he sought funds for his district. He also voted for a $715 billion Republican package that was almost as big as the $787 billion Obama package. And that is all in addition to talking about the wastefulness and uselessness of the Obama stimulus, as quoted above. (link
) A snippet from the first link:
Based on the available evidence, it is clear that Ryan has opposed the stimulus bill not because he believed that the bill was a failure since he noted in one of his letters that the funds that he was seeking would help “stimulate the local economy by creating new jobs;” nor did he believe that the stimulus was unnecessary since he supported a similar alternative. His opposition has more to do with political posturing than principle. Furthermore, Ryan made a strong case for stimulus to boost the economy during a mild recession under Bush. Ryan, therefore, understands the importance of stimulative measures to spur economy growth.
Noting Ryan's support of a 2001 stimulus package, Jonathon Chait wrote:
I don't see how you can explain progressing from that position to opposing Keynesian stimulus during a severe liquidity trap, the worst economic crisis since the depression, except as a function of pure partisanship.
Ryan Lizza had a separate observation about Ryan's hypocrisy:
When I pointed out to Ryan that government spending programs were at the heart of his home town’s recovery, he didn’t disagree. But he insisted that he has been misunderstood. “Obama is trying to paint us as a caricature,” he said. “As if we’re some bizarre individualists who are hardcore libertarians. It’s a false dichotomy and intellectually lazy.” He added, “Of course we believe in government. We think government should do what it does really well, but that it has limits, and obviously within those limits are things like infrastructure, interstate highways, and airports.” But independent assessments make clear that Ryan’s budget plan, in order to achieve its goals, would drastically reduce the parts of the budget that fund exactly the kinds of projects and research now helping Janesville.
PART II: EVIDENCE THAT WHEN UNOBSTRUCTED, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTS HAVE BETTER ECONOMIES
Democratic Presidents have better economies than Republicans. The reason Democrats have better economies is actually quite simple. Increased consumer demand is what creates jobs and leads to improvement in the economy. (link) Under Democrats, the middle class and the poor do better. And they spend the money that drives the economy. Larry Bartels, number 9 in the list below, has made a career of studying the gap between the haves and the have nots and points to the extra income of the poor and middle class as the main reason Democrats have better economies in an article here.
Here is President Clinton making this point about the middle class:
Republicans tend to give tax cuts and incentives to people who already have a lot of money and therefore don't spend as much of the extra income. Corporations and rich people are notorious hoarders when it comes to extra money.
Below are links to 26 different discussions with details and graphs, three of which are books, and one video. All of these discussions show that Democratic Presidents have better economies. The first person I ever saw quantify the data is Michael Kinsley, whose link is first in the list. I recommend starting there. I also recommend anything Rachel Maddow does, as in the number 11 video. You might prefer the three books at 2b, 6b or 9c. Take your pick:
1)Kinsley link; 2)Deitrick, Goldfarb link,2b) Bulls Bears and the Ballot Box: How the Performance of OUR Presidents Has Impacted YOUR Wallet; 3) Richard Carroll link, 3b) The President as Economist: Scoring Economic Performance from Harry Truman to Barack Obama; 4) Christopher Carroll link from the Japan Times; 5) JPMorgan; 6) Kevin Drum; 7) Larry Greenberg; 8) Ezra Klein; 9) Larry Bartels, 9b) pdf of Partisan Politics and the U.S. Income Distribution, 9c) Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age; 10) h/t Curry Democrats.
11) Rachel Maddow:
The stock market is also better under Democrats(12). More on that here(13), here (14) and here (15). In addition to all this you can read what (16) Jon Perr, (17) Floyd Norris and (18) Alan Blinder have to say about how Democrats have better economies than Republicans. And if all that is not enough, you can find more (19) here, (20) here, (21) here, (22) here and (23)here.
Let's start with this from Michael Cohen:
Whether you believe the Republicans are engaging in purposely destructive fiscal behavior or are simply fiscally incompetent, it almost doesn't matter. It most certainly is bad economic policy and that should be part of any national debate not only on who is to blame for the current economic mess, but also what steps should be taken to get out from underneath it.
But don't hold your breath on that happening. Presidents get blamed for a bad economy; and certainly, Republicans are unlikely to take responsibility for the country's economic woes. The obligation will be on Obama to make the case that it is the Republicans, not he, who is to blame – a difficult, but not impossible task.
President Obama needs a Democratic Congress in order to do what has to be done. But he has to make his case that Republicans are the problem.
11:00 AM PT: Thanks for the rescue!