One of the more tiresome things in American politics is the Republicans’ insistence that they are for balanced budgets and lower government spending. They have a record, and their record is that they are only interested in balanced budgets when a Democrat is in the White House. That worked out okay when Bill Clinton was president because the country was flush with cash. We not only balanced the budget but we started paying down our debt. I think we’d all like to be in that situation again some day, but we currently have 10% unemployment. Every time a state government practices the enforced austerity of balancing their budget, they lay off more government employees. Even if you’d prefer to see fewer government jobs, right now your priority should be on keeping people employed. When people lose their jobs, they fall behind on their mortgage payments, they don’t pay their bills, they cut back on buying consumer goods, and then everyone suffers and the fallout ripples through the economy.
Here’s what you should ask for in a politician. You want someone whose ideology doesn’t compel them into one-size-fits-all solutions. Sometimes, taxes should be cut to help a sluggish economy. Sometimes they should be raised so that we can pay down our debt and make smart investments. Tax policy is a tool. If your party always insists that they should be cut, no matter the situation, they’re taking a valuable tool and making it so it only works half the time. We all know it is perennially popular to promise to cut taxes. But just because it’s easy to promise doesn’t mean it’s the right policy all the time.
People need work. And the government is capable of providing them with employment. They can spend on contractors or they can hire people directly, but if they don’t hire a lot of people, then we’re stuck with very high unemployment. So, it’s time to put away childish things and stop asking for simple solutions. The Republicans have no credibility on government spending. And, per usual, they are asking the government to spend less at the very time that it makes the most sense for them to spend more.