Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ignoring Smart Moves on the Economy

I certainly understand The Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen feeling a bit of despair over Congress’ current obsession with the national debt, rather than focusing on economic growth and job creation. He begins today by asking, “does anyone still give a damn about the economy? Anyone at all?”
The recovery is fragile and weak--and apparently getting weaker. The European debt crisis is once again growing more serious. The U.S. unemployment rate is 9%. Under sane circumstances, one would expect American policymakers to respond to developments like these with a renewed focus on improving the economy, giving it a much-needed boost.

But thanks to the 2010 midterms, a dysfunctional political system, and a stunted discourse, the current circumstances are anything but sane.

Republicans have responded to the weak economy by declaring, “Austerity for everyone!” The GOP is convinced we’ll all be better off after they’ve taken money
out of the economy, made unemployment worse, and pursued a monetary policy that makes it harder for the world to buy American products. Democrats would like to respond to the weak economy with an ambitious economic agenda, but they don’t bother because they know it wouldn’t pass.

The best--the
very best--we can hope for is a president who’ll stop Republicans from making matters much worse, and maybe a reluctant Federal Reserve that might choose to play a more constructive role. But really, that’s it. The White House can’t act without Congress, and Congress doesn’t want to act at all. We’re left to simply hope the economy continues to improve on its own.

And it’s not improving on its own.

In the meantime, countries like England are shrinking their economies to focus on the debt, which in turn, is making the debt worse.

The American media, meanwhile, is focused almost exclusively on the deficit, thanks to a “Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop” that has drowned out any talk of what really matters.

It doesn’t have to be this way, and we know what we should do. The country needs the wisdom and courage to do the right thing, but as of today, with the recovery faltering, the right thing isn’t even on the negotiating table.
Benen’s whole piece can be found here.

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