Here we go again. Robert Reich is making good points again, but also misfiring. This is a problem with blame assignment. Before I even look at Reich’s argument, let me clear one thing up from the start. How can the federal government create jobs? It can put more money in people’s pockets so that they’ll spend it on stuff and increase demand. It can give out contracts for people to do work. It can create tax incentives for companies to buy equipment or hire more workers this year rather than next. That’s about it. And what do all those things have in common?
They cost money. They lower revenues. They increase our debt and deficit, at least in the short term.
You know what else they have in common? The Republicans are opposed to doing any of them. Okay, they’ll consider cutting taxes, but only for people who don’t need tax cuts and who wouldn’t spend the money. They would not allow an extension of the payroll tax holiday in the debt ceiling bill, for example. And they opposed extending unemployment benefits, which is the single most efficient way we know of to stimulate the economy because all of that money gets spent almost immediately.
So, the problem we have is that even though we know how to use the federal government to stimulate the economy, we are not allowed to use any of those tools. Period.
That’s the problem. It’s not a problem that the president created. It’s a problem created by a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. It’s a problem exacerbated by the 60-vote rule in the Senate. The problem is that the Republicans are crazy, ruthlessly partisan, and too powerful in our system right now for anyone to overcome their effective veto power.
So, Reich’s correct that nothing can be done to improve the economy, but he’s wrong to attack the president over it, because you can replace the president with Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Joe Biden, John Kerry, Al Gore, or Bernie Sanders and it isn’t going to make a lick of difference. The problem is the Republicans. And, no, it isn’t because the public is deluded into thinking the Republicans are right about anything. The problem is that they were deluded about that last November. The public didn’t appreciate the Ryan Plan. And they didn’t appreciate the hostage situation over the debt ceiling. But we’re stuck with these assholes. The solution is to get rid of the assholes. That doesn’t get easier when smart liberals like Robert Reich spend equal time undermining faith in the president and taking it to the real culprits.
The debt ceiling compromise didn’t hamstring the president’s ability to tackle joblessness. The Republicans hamstrung his ability to do that. The president is weak because our constitutional system makes him weak if the opposition party is united and crazy and bent on destroying his career. So, how is it in our interest to play up and even exaggerate his weakness? Why tell people that things would be different if only he banged the table or made a speech or called people names? It wouldn’t be different. He’s dealing with a party that put out the Ryan Plan as if it wouldn’t be instant poison and political suicide. They have no sense of self-preservation. If they did, they would have cut Bush loose or reined him in long before 2006 rolled around.
I’ll tell you what the president doesn’t need. He doesn’t need liberals nipping at his heels over shit he can’t control. Go ahead. Make the case for Keynesian economics. Lord knows, someone needs to talk some sense around here. But stop asking the president to do things he can’t do and blaming him for not spending all his time asking for things that will be simply and flatly denied.
It’s not only tiresome, it’s destructive.