Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 16, 2010

CORKER PUSHES THE CASE FOR DOING NOTHING.... As the economic recovery, such as it is, continues to look increasingly fragile, and economic anxiety grows, there are many who hope policymakers will be spurred into action. Republicans don't quite see it that way.

The GOP line continues to annoy. As the congressional minority sees it, the problem with the economy isn't the jobs crisis or businesses who don't have enough customers, but rather, "economic uncertainty." It's the Obama administration, the argument goes, that has made employers pull back, though a combination of passing health care reform, new safeguards for Wall Street, new consumer-protection regulations, etc.

The problem with the pitch is that it's unsupported by reality. As Ezra Klein noted the other day, "[T]hough I keep hearing about how policy uncertainty is holding us back, I still haven't heard, or been able to generate, any compelling data to support that argument."

But the argument won't go away. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), riffing off the uncertainty argument, said yesterday that the economy will improve if policymakers do nothing.

"The best thing we can do is calm down," he told ABC's "This Week," adding, "I sat down with a business this week -- I'll give you an example -- and they're looking at the healthcare bill, and they're trying to decide, should they keep people under 30 hours? Smaller businesses are saying, should we stay under 25?"

Corker went on to argue that if we just leave the Bush/Cheney tax rates in place for millionaires and billionaires, we'll all be better off. Given that the Bush/Cheney tax rates never generated the kind of prosperity and job growth that Republicans promised, it's hardly a compelling case.

But Corker's point about health care undermining employment is especially odd. The Affordable Care Act passed in March, and in April, we saw the highest private-sector job growth in several years. The month after health care reform passed Congress, the Dow Jones went up 500 points. I'm not saying there's a cause-and-effect connection here, but if the new health care law generated counter-productive "uncertainty," these improvements probably wouldn't have occurred.

Corker would have us believe that everything will get better if policymakers just sit on their hands. I have no idea why anyone would take this seriously.

Steve Benen 9:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (21)

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too much sauna time with Boehner...

Posted by: andyvillager on August 16, 2010 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Needs to stick a Corker in it..

Posted by: Trollop on August 16, 2010 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

I truly believe businesses are sitting on their hands until after the mid-terms.

Posted by: pol on August 16, 2010 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Uncertainty IS a problem for employers. I would argue the uncertainty is not due to the Health Care bill or the Wall Street debacle, but the fragility of the recovery and the prospect of a continued deepening recession. Employers don't want to add new employees and go through the expense of training them, when they think in the back of there mind that there is a good chance they will have to lay them off and pay unemployment benefits because the economy is getting worse rather than better.

The problem is that the advice of Krugman and others was not taken to actually use an effective stimulus to start up the economy. That is the source of the uncertainty.

Posted by: candideinnc on August 16, 2010 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Corker's been talking to the plant managers at Saturn again and convincing himself they're still relevant.

Posted by: boatboy_srq on August 16, 2010 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

-it's the CUSTOMERS (or lack thereof), stupid!

Posted by: DAY on August 16, 2010 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

THIS is why we need to get rid of net neutrality. I say something and then some damn idiot in pajamas goes on the net and looks up facts. This is un american and it has to stop. Real journalists wouldn't bother.

Posted by: dweb on August 16, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Is this not the context in which Keynes said "In the long run we're all dead"?

Posted by: scott_m on August 16, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Senator Corker understands the problem, but fails to properly elucidate it!

The problem is NOT the people are not buying enough. The problem is that the people who create jobs do not have enough money. Therefore, the remedy to our economic situation is to reduce taxation of the wealthy (job creators). The perfect tax rate for the wealthy would be zero!

Remember the mottos of my rich wing of the republican party:
- More is never enough!
- I've got mine, fuck you!

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on August 16, 2010 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Love that the "business men" he's talking to are trying to figure out how NOT to fully employ people. If you want a motivated work force, that will turn out profit for you, take care of them. You don't try and cut their hours, so you can hire another temporary person so you can keep from paying for their healthcare... This shows that the true healthcare reform was a single payer, mandatory coverage, plan. Then small "business" won't be able to push their costs on to society by under employing their staff.

Posted by: c. on August 16, 2010 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

I wish they'd just be honest enough to say that we need to, as a society, constantly coddle and reassure the wealthy because they're our only real benefactors, and displeasing them hurts our prospects in direct proportion to their hurt feelings. They're very delicate, sensitive types, after all, and require adequate tribute.

Then again, I also think that throwing a couple of kids into a volcano once or twice a year to appease a violent and capricious god might be a small price to pay for stability, too.

Posted by: latts on August 16, 2010 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

To any politician who wants to sit on their hands and let things sort themselves out, I would say OK sit on your hands at home, you need to join the ranks of the unemployed. Why should we pay for services we do not get.

Posted by: js on August 16, 2010 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Well, I suggest Ezra and Steve look to the clean energy industry for investments stymied by policy uncertainty. However, it's the "do nothing" strategy which is holding back investment.

No, in this case we have a lot of investment held back due to no carbon cap, no price on carbon, no federal renewable electricity standard.

We've seen this for years in the on-again off-again Production Tax Credit, which has held up wind power development. We need strong and consistent policies going forward several years for clean energy development.

Posted by: Andy Olsen on August 16, 2010 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Look at that. I surf over to DailyKos over my morning cup and there is the evidence to back up the point I just made!


Alternative energy investment prospects have shriveled in the United States after the U.S. Senate was unable to break a deadlock over tackling global warming, a Deutsche Bank official said.

"You just throw your hands up and say ... we're going to take our money elsewhere," said Kevin Parker in an interview with Reuters.

Parker, who is global head of the Frankfurt-based bank's Deutsche Asset Management Division, oversees nearly $700 billion in funds that devote $6 billion to $7 billion to climate change products.

Posted by: Andy Olsen on August 16, 2010 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

So, businesses (and their Republican servants in government) are finally admitting that they systematically and deliberately exploit workers by keeping them just below the hours required to qualify for benefits. Are we all clear on that now? Why do low wage workers allow the Republicans to con them into thinking that unions are the enemy?

Posted by: Tired Liberal on August 16, 2010 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

So Corker and his friends have been working hard for months to delay, distort and confuse Obama'a policy initiatives and force legislation to be complex and convoluted, and NOW they want to blame uncertainty for the problems in the economy?

If uncertainty is the problem, Corker et al. are the cause.

Posted by: biggerbox on August 16, 2010 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

Second biggerbox.

Health care reform is now the law of the land. Corker wants to maximize uncertainty by keeping up a drumbeat urging for the law, or an unspecified and therefore maximally uncertain subset of its provisions, to be repealed.

If he wanted certainty, he could try respecting the outcome of democracy, and signing on clearly to help make the new normal work. Like the rest of his party, he prefers chaos. Along with the lousiest possible economy he can help engineer. Until November.

Posted by: nicteis on August 16, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Senator Corker’s comment is less odd when you place it in another context. Corker is a former mayor of Chattanooga, which is the corporate headquarters of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. As Mayor, Corker always worked to keep the state’s largest health insurance company healthy, happy and strong.

Posted by: Bluebird on August 16, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Corker is a moderate and needs to be sent back for re-grooving. He has gone from "NO" to doing nothing. Waffling in the ranks won't be tolerated.

That and what js @ 10:17 said.

Posted by: Kevin (not the famous one) on August 16, 2010 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

I imagine this is exactly what he hears as he's ruffling around in the pocket of big business. Why should they want anything to change? They are making huge profits with 10% unemployment. Cheap. Disposable. Labor.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on August 16, 2010 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

"Prosperity is just around the corner."-Herbert Hoover

Posted by: fry1laurie on August 16, 2010 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK



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