Mar 04 2013

Stuck in the Wrong Conversation

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Even though I’m an “only child,” I had a large extended family that we visited quite often, especially my maternal great grandmother and her two maiden sisters. They would gather in the dining room every afternoon for tea and exchange the “news of the day.” Since they were all profoundly hard of hearing, the disconnected conversations were quite amusing and memorable, as you can imagine, even for a five year old.

The conversation about sequester and the manufactured debt/deficit crisis reminded me of the three elderly ladies sitting around that table, talking to each other but not hearing a word the others are saying. The president, congressional leaders and the press are all talking but not hearing what they need to hear and ignoring what the American people want, jobs.

In the middle of the implementation of austere sequestration cuts, we’ve had the inane distraction of the Washington Post‘s columnist Bob Woodward’s “poutrage” which is just another example, as the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent in the Plum Line puts it, of being stuck in the wrong conversation:

The Woodward flap is superficially an argument about the meaning of Gene Sperling’s email, but as Jonathan Cohn details this morning, this is just a distraction from the broader, far more consequential argument over who is to blame for the creation of sequestration. The answer, of course, is that both sides are to blame for creating it – though one side is far more to blame for the failure to avert it – thanks to the deficit mania that gripped Washington in 2011, at precisely the time we should have been focused on unemployment and economic growth.

Meanwhile, the fact that sequestration is set to hit is a concrete reminder that we’re still stuck with the consequences of that misguided 2011 mindset. Indeed, the continuing argument over how to avert sequestration – whether to replace it with a mix of spending cuts and new revenues, or with just spending cuts – is itself a sign of the continuing power of elite consensus deficit-obsession. After all, the battle is still being fought on deficit/austerity turf, at a time of near-zero growth and mass unemployment, rather than over what government should be doing to boost the economy and alleviate widespread economic suffering. As Atrios has put it, we’re not debating whether to implement more austerity; we’re debating over how much austerity to implement.

Nobel Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman told Ed Shultz, host of MSNBC’s “Ed Show, “that sequestration was “designed to be stupid” and “this is exactly what the doctor did not order”.

While the spending cuts were conceived as a fix for the federal deficit, Krugman said, this was not the time to implement that kind of measure. Instead, he said, the government should be taking advantage of low interest rates and a high number of unemployed construction workers to invest in infrastructure and education.

“What kind of spending would it take to keep us on the track that we’re on right now?” Schultz asked, noting a continued pattern of private sector job growth despite Republican resistance to a new jobs bill since the stimulus package of 2009.

“If we would just stop cutting, the growth would probably keep going,” Krugman answered. “If spending had grown as fast in this recovery as it has in past recoveries, we’d be spending something like $200 billion a year – state, local and federal – more, maybe $300 billion a year more. Maybe $300 billion a year more. We’d have about a million and a half more public sector workers than we do right now, because we’ve been laying them off at [an] unprecedented pace. So, I think $300 billion a year of additional spending would be appropriate and would mean, if we did it, that we would be pretty close to full employment at this point.”

Talking Points Memo‘s Brian Beutler says that the president has done “excellent job” of “of flipping the politics of taxation to make the GOP’s once bulletproof position a vulnerability,” but the president is still not saying what the public needs to hear about jobs and the social safety net.

1 comment

  1. TMC

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