Saturday, January 9, 2010

Shooting the messenger in 2010

It's widely acknowledged that the Recession That Was Almost a Second Great Depression started in December of 2007. That was fully one year before George W. Bush left office. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, commonly referred to as the "bailout" of the U.S. financial system, was proposed by Henry Paulson, Treasury Secretary under President Bush. President Bush signed it into law within hours of its bipartisan enactment by Congress in October of 2008.

The Great Recession in which we are currently mired was a byproduct of the economic policies of the Clinton and Bush administrations. [Note: At least, during the Clinton years, jobs were created by the millions. During Bush II's two terms, 90% fewer jobs were created than under Clinton. Not only were there few new jobs under eight years of a Republican administration, but real median income was 0.6 percent lower in 2007 than it was at the end of the Clinton era.]

Within a month of taking office, President Obama signed into law a $787 billion economic stimulus bill intended primarily to put Americans back to work. Since then, he has signed a bill to rescue General Motors and Chrysler from bankruptcy and get car and truck assembly lines cranked up again. This administration's policies have headed-off what was likely a second Great Depression and stemmed even worse unemployment among state workers, including teachers.

I know that folks who are about to lose their homes to foreclosure, who are without a job and unable to find one, who can't get a loan to start a small business, or whose unemployment benefits are about to run out, have little patience for a recovery that is still in its early stages. What I can't understand is why they would want to punish the party in power in favor of a party that has never in its modern history done them any favors.

Most pundits are predicting a possible Republican blowout come November's elections. This, despite the fact a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that the Tea Party is favored by more Americans than either the Democratic or Republican Parties, by 41 to 35 to 28% favorable, respectively. Almost surreal, isn't it? Of course, the Tea Party, which doesn't even have a leader that 99% of Americans could name (although Sarah Palin is apparently trying to plant its brand squarely on her forehead), is more closely associated with the Republican Party than the Dems. Since it's unlikely that the Tea Party will be able to have more than a few candidates' names on ballots by November, we must assume that its loyalists will pull the Republican lever on November 2nd. Assuming that all of them--conservatives and independents--do that, we might expect the current out party to receive almost 70% of the vote.

Not at all likely. But 60% of the vote might well be within reach, which would almost surely put Republicans near or at a majority in the U.S. House and guarantee them the ability to stop any piece of liberal legislation in its tracks in the Senate. The result would be two years of stalemate in Washington. Is stalemate what the voters really want? Economically speaking, stalemate is what we effectively got during the Bush II years in office. No new jobs, no income growth, no progress on climate change or health care (oh, yes, I forgot the donut hole), more speculation on Wall Street, more governmental incompetence, and more--yes, more--debt.

I know that the electorate is dumbed-down, distracted, delusional, and in denial, but, surely, they can't be this stupid!

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