But you wouldn’t know anything about such progress if you followed the constant diatribes emanating from the mouths of the extreme right on cable TV.
These “commentators” and “market voices” continue to do nothing but obscure the real issues that should be driving the economic debate.
The extremist voice of the Republican Party has not been confined to a small corner of the GOP. It has metastasized to spread throughout the party and afflict its thinking across the board. It has turned potentially moderate leaders like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell into ideological stooges, cowed by the bullying tactics of the misguided few.
With the establishment’s blessing
With elections looming, the Republican “establishment” is desperately trying to pivot toward the center and appear rational in the eyes of a potentially angry electorate. But the “establishment” is as guilty as the extremists for allowing the extremists to take over in the first place.
Against that backdrop, an interesting series of events have recently taken place in the U.S. TV media.
Anchors and commentators long noted for their neutrality are not willing to accept ideologically based extremism anymore. Instead, they are — at long last — calling out prominent proponents of extreme political positions for past mistakes and errors in judgment.
Case in point: Rick Santelli, the rabid CNBC commentator. Credited with sparking the advent of the Tea Party movement with a televised rant in 2009, he was recently taken on by his CNBC co-anchor, Steve Liesman. Even more surprising, Liesman received full-fledged support from the other five panel participants.
In short, Santelli was accused of being wrong about everything over the past six years. He was wrong in predicting:
- ■ imminent runaway inflation,
- ■ the collapse of the U.S. dollar,
- ■ the U.S. Treasury’s inability to sell bonds and
- ■ the collapse of the US stock market caused by Fed tapering.
Santelli hasn’t been right about anything since 2008. By making his erroneous prognostications, he has done his audience and his country a great disservice, his co-anchor asserted.
It’s about time someone called Santelli and his cohort of Tea Party “Chicken Littles” dangerously off-base.
The cost of obstructionism
The fact is, this movement has caused harm to the U.S. economy on a grand scale. It has delayed recovery and intensified the stalemate in the nation’s capital. This has had a very real human toll, as right-wing economic intransigence has taken the recovery off the rails time and again over the past six years.
One example of this occurred in April of 2011, when the U.S. economy added a very impressive 322,000 new jobs. The right-wingers chose, however, to refuse to raise the debt ceiling in early August of that year. By then, job growth had plummeted by two-thirds — and any hope of a jobs recovery had been choked off.
As if this weren’t enough, Republicans pulled similar stunts in 2013, one of which resulted in the shutdown of the U.S. federal government. As happened in 2011, job growth plummeted to a mere 94,000 in December of that year.
These extreme right wing economic positions find their roots in an irrational hatred of President Obama and his economic policies.
The facts, please
Meanwhile, a clear-eyed review of those policies yields some interesting statistics:
- ■ Since the recession’s trough in June of 2009, the U.S. economy has added over nine million new jobs – the fastest rate of job creation since the peak boom years of the Clinton Administration.
- ■ Since its post-crisis lows of early March, 2009 the U.S. stock market, as measured by the S&P 500, has risen 191% — the longest sustained bull market in over two decades.
- ■ Since their lows of late 2009, U.S. residential real estate values, as measured by the S&P Case Schiller Index, have rebounded in value nearly 25%.
- ■ Since their most dire levels in mid-2009, first mortgage defaults, as measured by the S&P Experian First Mortgage Default Index, are down by 84% in the United States.
- ■ Since the end of the recession in 2009, the annual U.S. inflation rate has been less than 3% in 45 out of 54 months and has never exceeded 4%. The low inflation rates lead the Fed to conclude that the lack of inflation is a bigger threat to U.S. economic health than inflation itself.
- ■ Since the end of the recession in 2009, U.S. real GDP has grown 9%, putting annual growth at a respectable 2.25% per annum.
- ■ Since the imposition of the “job-killing” Obamacare mandate, the U.S. economy has added – yes added – over 1.7 million jobs.
Undertake a quick thought experiment: What would Republican operatives say about these numbers, based in cold, hard facts – if they had occurred under a Republican president? They would have ceaselessly declared that President an outright genius.
Will any of this matter?
American voters are notorious for their short memories. But in the upcoming mid-term elections, to be held on November 4, a short memory could very well result in economic disaster.
Every American should take some time out to ponder what would have happened to the United States (and how they would have fared themselves) had the government been allowed to get the Republican prescribed “cure” – with banks failing, the automotive industry collapsing and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac going under.
America would be a third world country had the right-wing extremists had their way. And if they manage to gain control of both houses of the U.S. Congress, as is a distinct possibility come November, that is where they just may take the country in the future.