Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 6, 2009

A PRE-RECESSION MINDSET.... About a month ago, the New York Times' Frank Rich, commenting on the Republican Party's approach to the economy, said, "The nightmare is that we have so irrelevant, clownish and childish an opposition party at a moment when America is in an all-hands-on-deck emergency that's as trying as war."

As "trying as war" strikes me as the key point that seems to go overlooked. The ongoing crisis is, by most measures, the economic equivalent of a 9/11-style terrorist attack. "Everything changed" in September 2001? Everything should change now.

Hilzoy flagged this Bloomberg piece last night, which helps prove just how little has actually changed.

President Barack Obama's economic advisers are increasingly concerned about the U.S. Senate's delay in confirming the nominations of Austan Goolsbee and Cecilia Rouse to the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Without Senate confirmation, the two economists are barred from advising the president as the administration tackles the worst financial crisis in 70 years and tries to advance the spending plan Obama submitted to Congress last week.

"It's frustrating," said Christina Romer, who heads the three-member CEA. "These are hard economic times and we desperately want to get them through the Senate and definitely on the job."

"They are both superb economists," she said. "I can't imagine what the holdup is."

The holdup, alas, is not a mystery. Goolsbee and Rouse were poised to be confirmed by the Senate on Jan. 20. Senate Republicans delayed the committee process, and have pushed off confirmation. Apparently, the GOP believes anonymous holds and delaying tactics are warranted because, as they see it, some of Bush's nominees for the White House Council of Economic Advisers were mistreated by Senate Democrats.

Everyone agrees that Goolsbee and Rouse are qualified and ready to get to work, but Republicans are looking for some cheap payback.

Democrats were (falsely) accused in recent years of having a "pre-9/11 mindset." It's time the political world comes to terms with the fact that Republicans are guilty of a "pre-recession mindset."

Imagine if, in late 2001, George W. Bush were putting together a team of national security advisors, and Senate Democrats put anonymous holds on his well-qualified choices because of something that may or may not have happened during Clinton's presidency. Most political observers would consider this crazy, and they'd be right. And yet, here we are.

It's not just Goolsbee and Rouse, either. Annette Nazareth, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's top choice to be his deputy Treasury Secretary, withdrew from consideration yesterday, as did Geithner's pick for undersecretary of international affairs, in part because Republican lawmakers were poised to make political hay over Nazareth's background at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

What are we left with? Republicans are pushing the same tax cuts they wanted before the recession. They're making the same arguments about spending they offered before the recession. They're engaged in the same petty games they enjoyed before the recession. In the midst of "an all-hands-on-deck emergency that's as trying as war," and in "the throes of a catastrophic economic crisis," the failed minority party, ignoring the election results, public opinion, and everything we know about economics, have the same approach to the economy that they had at this point a year ago. And the year before that. And the year before that.

In fairness, the administration is not without fault. Too many Treasury Department offices are empty, in large part because of the administration's vetting process. For that matter, administration officials, as Paul Krugman explained this morning, "don't want to face up to the dire state of major financial institutions because it's very hard to rescue an essentially insolvent bank without, at least temporarily, taking it over. And temporary nationalization is still, apparently, considered unthinkable."

But at least the president and his team recognize the crisis for what it is. Perhaps, one of these days, Republicans will shake their "pre-recession mindset" and improve the government's ability to respond to the economic 9/11.

Steve Benen 11:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (17)

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Comments

Got Backbone?

That slogan should be posted all over Harry Reid's office.

Somehow I can't imagine Senator Lyndon Johnson putting up with this horseshit for a second.

Posted by: Cool on March 6, 2009 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

And it should be remembered that their post-9/11 foreign policy was almost identical to their pre-9/11 foreign policy; having only changed the sales pitch.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on March 6, 2009 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

What are we left with? Republicans are pushing the same tax cuts they wanted before the recession. They're making the same arguments about spending they offered before the recession. They're engaged in the same petty games they enjoyed before the recession.

As I've said before, the Republicans are using Faith-based economics. There is not much they can do when their economic policies are revealed rather than arrived at by gathering and analyzing data.

And Republicans will continue to believe until the country is reduced to subsistence farming and herding goats. When your policies have been handed down to you from On High, you don't question them. And if those policies fail, then it's because you didn't believe hard enough. Thus, Phil Gramm's statement that America is a "nation of whiners".

The Lord sent a Prophet unto the people. And a man came from the land of the wood of the holly and his name was Saint Ronald.

And Saint Ronald said unto them, “Blessed are they who cut the taxes of millionaires, for they shall be beloved of God above all other men.

“Keep true to your Faith and the Lord shall smile upon thee and thy land shall prosper. For with the power of tax cuts the faithful can hold back the flood waters, cause the fields and orchards to be bountiful and cure the common cold.

“And as tax cuts are the bedrock of a nation, so is de-regulation the foundation. Trust not to government, for it is the instrument of Satan. Place thy trust instead in market capitalism, for unhindered capitalism can never do evil”

And Saint Ronald pointed to a drawn curtain, commanding, “Pay thou no attention to that which is behind the curtain.”

For behind the curtain was all manner of evil things. There was the Savings and Loan Crisis, and the Enron Energy Manipulation, and Deficits Doubled and Redoubled, and Poisoned Food from China, and American Soldiers Electrocuted in Showers Built by KBR/Haliburton, and Sub-Prime Mortgage Scandal and the Credit Meltdown.

And Saint Ronald said, “For those who live their Faith, the evils behind the curtain shall be invisible and it shall be as if they never existed at all.”

And then Saint Ronald sat down with his followers, including George H. W. Bush who betrayed him.

And Saint Ronald picked up a tax and cut it, saying unto his followers, “Take and cut this tax, for millionaires are the body of our party. Do this in remembrance of me.”

And when they had all cut the tax, Saint Ronald took a regulation and overturned it saying, “Take and overturn this regulation, for corporations are the blood of our party. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Posted by: SteveT on March 6, 2009 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder why none of the major news outlets (other than Bloomberg which has a limited audience) hasn't reported on the Senate intentionally delaying confirmation of Obama's economic advisers?

Posted by: dk on March 6, 2009 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

"...some of Bush's nominees for the White House Council of Economic Advisers were mistreated by Senate Democrats"

Apparently, they deserved it.

Posted by: Markozilla on March 6, 2009 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

Country First!

Posted by: qwerty on March 6, 2009 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Shouldn't that read "the throes of a catastrophic economic crisis CREATED BY REPUBLICANS?"

As the nation faces utter ruin, much of it of their making, Republicans are doing all they can to obstruct solutions because Obama's failure might lead to them regaining power. If that ain't treason, what is?

Posted by: dalloway on March 6, 2009 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

On no, not teleprompters!

Could your criticism be any more pathetic?

Posted by: dk on March 6, 2009 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

If he does, he is deliberately attempting to sovietize the United States.

Do people like mhr realize that there's an entire generation of people who were infants when the Berlin Wall fell, so they have no idea why they're supposed to be terrified at the idea of the US being "sovietized"?

It's like running around talking about how you used to wear onions on your belt.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on March 6, 2009 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Simply put, the solution to Rushpublican obstructionism is to contemplate a scenario whereby the Senate would enter an emergency recess, thereby allowing PRESIDENT OBAMA to exercise his Constitutional authority by filling every single vacancy that requires Senate confirmation (including every vacancy on the vast collection of federal benches) with a one-year recess appointment.

Posted by: Steve W. on March 6, 2009 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Why are advisors to advisors to advisors requiring senate confirmation? Change the titles and stick 'em in there. This is ridiculous.

Posted by: jhill on March 6, 2009 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

My first thought was with jhill - change the titles (say, 'interns') and stick 'em in there.

Another option is to declare Mitch McConnell an 'enemy combatant' and throw him in jail until he relents.

Posted by: Ohioan on March 6, 2009 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

guess it's time for obama to do another national address and put this whole thing out on the table like he did the last time. go directly to the american public and expose these asses for what they are. i think the american public is really getting sick of these stupid games.

Posted by: just bill on March 6, 2009 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

Two questions for people here:

1.) Is there analysis out there showing spending programs such as extending unemployment benefits, infrastructure projects, etc. create more economic stimulus than tax rate cuts? I haven't seen any, and I would like to understand why it's better.

2.) Is there a fisking (detailed deconstruction) of the Republican alternative stimulus plan? Everybody knew it wouldn't pass, but it would have been useful to demonstrate how it is more of the same.

Posted by: amorphous on March 6, 2009 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

P.S. Do we know who has the hold on? Talking Points had readers call Senator's offices asking if their senator has the hold on. Be useful to have it all over cable.

Posted by: amorphous on March 6, 2009 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK
SteveT: "And Saint Ronald picked up a tax and cut it..."

I just pressure washed my monitor!

Posted by: JTK on March 6, 2009 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

It' time to stop the practice of allowing "secret holds".

If any Senator wants to put a hold on a nomination make him/her grow a set and put their name on it rather than hiding behind the cloak of anonymity.

Posted by: WBN on March 6, 2009 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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