The new Republican credo: “No, we can’t”

The stimulus plan won't work, declares a discredited and marginalized GOP. But whether they like it or not, action is on the agenda.

Topics: U.S. Economy, Globalization, How the World Works, Wall Street,

“Amid Cascading Layoffs, Plunging Confidence, Analysts Worry If Mix of Tax Cuts and Spending Will Be Enough,” reads a headline on Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal. The article makes for instructive reading when compared with the analysis of the stimulus bill released by House Republicans the same day. The Journal quotes a handful of economists and analysts who aren’t sure that the plan will deliver enough of a jolt to the economy. Goldman Sachs, for example, argues that $1.2 trillion in stimulus is necessary to offset private sector contractions over the next year. The Senate version of the stimulus bill has a price tag creeping up to $900 billion, but that still falls short.

Meanwhile, the House Republicans declare flatly that the bill “will not work and it should be defeated.” But not because the plan isn’t ambitious enough, but rather because, fundamentally, government spending is bad, bad, bad. Their only prescription for current economic woes is “relief for struggling taxpayers, homeowners, and small businesses.” By which is meant tax cuts.

Sure, everybody likes a tax cut, an enduring reason explaining why Republicans always campaign on a tax relief platform, and, for that matter, why Obama made a middle-class tax cut a centerpiece of his own campaign. But there’s a very easy-to-comprehend explanation for why tax cuts may not be the right medicine for an economy as sick as ours.

On Wednesday, Boeing joined the slew of blue chip corporations announcing significant workforce reductions this week — a decline in jet sales will force the company to lay off 10,000 workers.

Now suppose you are one of those Boeing workers who just got laid off. Suppose you are carrying a not insignificant amount of debt on your credit card and you’re having trouble making your mortgage. And then the government cuts your taxes. What are you going to do with the extra cash? Go on a shopping spree? Or engage in some combination of paying off your bills, cutting down your debt and socking away whatever is left in a savings account?

As we learned from the tax rebate last spring, most Americans aren’t going to spend any new cash windfall at the mall — and that was in an economic climate much less severe than right now. Americans are running scared, and every new economic headline just reinforces their fears. Consumer confidence is at an all-time low. It’s time to hunker down and hope that you’re still standing when the storm blows itself out. Of course, by doing what makes sense for us individually, we only exacerbate our collective economic problems.

You Might Also Like

There’s only one player in this economy with the resources and capability to kick-start the economy, and that’s the federal government. Thus the argument in favor of massive government spending. We don’t know for sure whether it will work, and we certainly don’t know for sure if every single program included in the various versions of the stimulus bills working their way through the House and Senate is the best, most productive use of taxpayer money.

But we can guess that flooding the educational system with dollars will mean more teachers are hired, and fewer are fired. We can guess that boosting the federal share of Medicaid funding will ease fiscal burdens on the states, which in turns means that they won’t be forced to lay off government workers or cut their own infrastructural spending. We can guess that opening up the funding spigot on a whole array of already existing programs will ripple outward through the economy, providing the critical spark igniting a crippled economic engine back to life.

Again, these are guesses. But when faced with a crisis as bad as the current one, doing nothing and hoping for the best is unlikely to find favor with the general public, especially a general public that has just thrown out the reigning political party and has made it pretty clear that it is ready for “change.”

Restricting government help merely to tax cuts is just another way of doing nothing. It is an abdication of government responsibility, an admission of failure. It is also, in many instances, a clear triumph of ideology over pragmatism. The House Republicans don’t want expansion of broadband because they oppose provisions for “open access”; they don’t want to support funding for state education programs, because the funding is restricted to public education; they don’t want to support a big boost for renewable energy, because it doesn’t include handouts to the coal and nuclear industries.

The Grinch had nothing on these jokers. After running the country into the ground during a period in which their ideological predispositions reigned supreme, now all they can do is say no. When instead, they should be telling us how sorry they are, and shutting up.

Andrew Leonard
Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>