The Great Recession, which began in December 2007 and supposedly “ended” two years later in December 2009, quickly morphed into what I call the Great Jobs Depression. The Bush administration bailed out the rogue banksters with no strings attached and supposedly staved off a complete economic meltdown. The Obama administration saved thousands of jobs by preventing the collapse of the American auto industry. It also implemented an unpopular stimulus bill, which was deplorably underfunded and only marginally successful. But where are the absolutely essential jobs creation programs? And why has there been no public outcry demanding them?
From 2001 into 2011, we have continued the always-catastrophic policy of making the rich richer and the poor poorer by initiating and foolishly continuing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. No matter what you call it – trickle-down economics, Hooverism, supply-side economics, Reaganomics, Bushonomics – it has never worked, and it’s inconceivable that it ever will.
When Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy ran against Richard Nixon in 1960, he called the Republican platform “the power of positive thinking.” Seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 1980 – unsuccessfully – George H. W. Bush accurately described Ronald Reagan’s economic platform as “voodoo.” When he eventually became President, he did it on a platform of continuing voodooism. “Read my lips: No new taxes.” When he raised taxes, his party abandoned him.
Today the Fox-Republican TEA Party is still spouting the same nonsense: “the wealthy are the job creators” and if you keep the Bush tax cuts or cut their taxes even more, some of that money will slowly trickle down to the people in form of jobs. For eleven consecutive years, we have once again seen the abject failure and absurdity of that policy.
In December 2009, I wrote that the Obama administration needed to apply three tried and proven methods to promote job creation: (1) re-create a modernized Civilian Conservation Corps that worked so well during the Great Depression; (2) re-create the Works Progress Administration to modernize our highways, bridges, railways, waterways, and energy infrastructure; and (3) resurrect Richard Nixon’s revenue sharing program to prevent states from laying off or freezing the salaries of public servants, which only makes a bad situation worse, and to implement any long-delayed state-wide projects.
They were needed because the plutocracy (the few who are very wealthy) had not created the jobs that Bush had promised, but history has taught us that they wouldn’t do it anyway. Also, Bush’s irresponsible, deficit-creating tax cuts for the super rich were due to expire at the end of 2010. It was possible that something positive could finally be done. Sadly, the tax cuts were extended, and we are still waiting for those desperately needed jobs programs! So what happened?
Grover Norquist effectively ascended to become the de facto President of the United States. Economically, he is much more powerful than Barack Obama who is only the President de jure. President Norquist has worked relentlessly for a quarter of a century to return the nation to the 19th century Gilded Age when the robber barons paid no income taxes at all. Virtually every Republican in Congress has signed an oath to him promising to never raise taxes – no matter what the reason.
Recently, during a Republican debate among presidential hopefuls inIowa, the eight candidates were asked if they would support a deficit-reduction bill that was 10 parts spending cuts and 1 part taxation. All opposed it. Does Norquist own these knights of the plutocracy or what? They all owe fealty to him and his fellow robber barons. Regardless of the crisis or need, Norquist and his Fox-Republican-TEA Party are determined that those who control 90 percent of the wealth in the United States will play no additional role in helping the nation.
In a half-hearted defense of President Obama, it should be pointed out that back in early 2009 when thousands of workers were daily losing their jobs, there were few rallies demanding that he or the government do something about it. Most rallies were just the opposite. The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, put their political arm – Americans for Prosperity – to work organizing rallies of people who defended the extremely rich and opposed the government doing anything about the economic disaster. They believed the wealthy were TEA, “Taxed Enough Already” – hence, the formation of TEA Parties.
The people who really need help have been frustrated but mostly silent. One of the reasons for this has been their confidence in the safety-net programs of FDR’s New Deal of the 1930s and LBJ’s Great Society of the 1960s. Social Security, unemployment insurance, the minimum wage, food stamps, Medicare, and Medicaid have all been so successful that panic has not yet set in.
Although it was government deregulation of the banking industry that helped lead to the Great Recession, it was primarily the Bush tax cuts, the unfunded Iraqi and Afghan wars, and the unfunded Medicare drug plan boondoggle that ran up the debt. This made the deficit-spending that was needed to recover from the recession impossible to get through Congress, especially with Republicans continuing to be the Party of Hell No. Now, because of the Elections of 2010, with so many TEA Party representatives in Congress and a Republican majority in the House, recovery may well be beyond reach before things get really bad.
President Obama caved in to Republican demands for spending cuts in the midst of high unemployment. He seems to forget that the personally popular Reagan has been the only President reelected with 9 to 10 percent unemployment. If the Fox-Republican-TEA Party gets its way with cutting funds for regulatory and service agencies, workers’ and consumers’ livelihood, health, and safety will be jeopardized. Also, thousands more public servants will be unemployed, and the downward spiral of the economy will be exacerbated.
To run up the national debt so that it’s impossible to serve the people’s needs has been the Republican goal since the election of Reagan. Norquist calls it “starving the (government) beast.” This, in turn, will allow Big Business to do as it pleases without regulations.
People who serve the public are not their only targets. The primary marks on their hit list are the safety-net programs, which they’ve always opposed. You may think things are bad now, but if Norquist & Company succeeds, hunger and anger may at long last awaken the quietly dying middle class. We may eventually get those job programs, but they will come much too late for far too many.
by David Offutt
A version of this essay was published September 19, 2011, in the El Dorado News-Times as a Guest Column.