Sunday, November 27, 2011

More Economic Terrorism from the GOP

Terrorism is a charged word with no “official” definition. The most straight-forward and simplest is at Dictionary.com: terrorism is the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.

Congressional Republicans are at it once again. In the midst of the debt-ceiling debacle they used the threat of defaulting on U.S. bonds in order to enact sharp cuts in domestic programs that don’t fit their ideological agenda. Now that the so-called “Super Committee” has failed to come up with a bipartisan plan to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years, they’re back to the same old tricks.

President Obama wants to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, which are due to expire at the end of 2011. Republicans are already indicating that they will oppose these measures, just as they have opposed everything in Obama’s jobs bill (excluding two relatively minor provisions on hiring veterans, which passed recently).

Let me be clear. If Republican opposition were based on principle, consistently applied over the years, one could conclude that Republicans simply disagree with Democrats on the issues. But (like the individual mandate in the healthcare bill) the policies Obama and the Democrats are proposing right now are things Republicans have recently championed. Unemployment benefits have always enjoyed bipartisan support. Infrastructure spending has never been a partisan issue. And the payroll tax cut is something Republicans have long proposed. So why is the GOP saying no?

The only possible explanation is their willingness to do anything, including sabotaging the economy, in order to decrease Obama’s chances of reelection. There is no other plausible rationale.

The American economy right now continues to be weak, the EU seems on the verge of a meltdown, and growth is slowing in Asia. Every independent analysis indicates that Obama’s proposals would help ordinary Americans make ends meet and provide a modest hedge against the downside risks faced by the U.S. With interest rates near zero, there has literally never been a more opportune time for America to issue more short-term debt.

Some argue that concern over the deficit has led Republicans to change their minds over economic policies they supported only a few years (or months) ago. But simple arithmetic demonstrates that this claim is false. The GOP is calling for an extension of all the Bush tax cuts, and is resisting even modest cuts to the defense budget; these positions alone would add much more to the deficit than Obama’s proposals. Even Paul Ryan’s budget, hailed by many for its “fiscal seriousness,” would add more than $6 trillion to the deficit just in the next decade (yes, you read that right).

And don’t forget, Republicans want to repeal Obamacare even though it shaves hundreds of billions from the deficit in the first decade, and more than a trillion in each subsequent decade. There is simply no credible evidence that Republicans really care about the deficit—except as an excuse to dismantle social safety nets, and to keep redistributing wealth to the already wealthy

In the meantime, tens of millions of Americans continue to be burdened by crushing debt, unemployment and under-employment, and the prospect of more on the way. No doubt some of these individuals made bad decisions, and a case could be made that they deserve their fate; but most are simply victims of the most vicious economic downturn in three-quarters of a century.

None of this seems to matter in the slightest to the Republicans. They intend to bring Obama down and to continue catering to the rich, no matter how much ordinary Americans suffer.

If this isn’t economic terrorism, I don’t know what is.

Jason Scorse

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