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Tilting at Windmills

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October 30, 2010

HOW BAD WOULD IT BE?.... We'll know soon enough what the midterm elections have in store for us, but it's interesting to see how political observers prepare for the likely outcome. Given the expected rancor and gridlock, it's not unreasonable to wonder just how bad things might get in 2011 and 2012.

For some, there's no reason to be too worried. Over the last couple of decades, we've seen the White House change party hands more than once, and the same goes for fleeting congressional majorities. We've been pushed to the brink, and some constitutional crises have popped up, but we've generally weathered some unpleasant storms. For much of the '90s, we even enjoyed peace and prosperity.

For others, the avoidable future poses a more a serious danger. Paul Krugman, expecting a GOP majority, noted yesterday that "this is going to be terrible." Worse, the Nobel laureate predicted that "future historians will probably look back at the 2010 election as a catastrophe for America, one that condemned the nation to years of political chaos and economic weakness."

When Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, the U.S. economy had strong fundamentals. Household debt was much lower than it is today. Business investment was surging, in large part thanks to the new opportunities created by information technology -- opportunities that were much broader than the follies of the dot-com bubble.

In this favorable environment, economic management was mainly a matter of putting the brakes on the boom, so as to keep the economy from overheating and head off potential inflation. And this was a job the Federal Reserve could do on its own by raising interest rates, without any help from Congress.

Today's situation is completely different. The economy, weighed down by the debt that households ran up during the Bush-era bubble, is in dire straits; deflation, not inflation, is the clear and present danger. And it's not at all clear that the Fed has the tools to head off this danger. Right now we very much need active policies on the part of the federal government to get us out of our economic trap.

But we won't get those policies if Republicans control the House. In fact, if they get their way, we'll get the worst of both worlds: They'll refuse to do anything to boost the economy now, claiming to be worried about the deficit, while simultaneously increasing long-run deficits with irresponsible tax cuts -- cuts they have already announced won't have to be offset with spending cuts.

So if the elections go as expected next week, here's my advice: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

I'd feel slightly less horrified if Krugman didn't have such a good track record.

What's more, his dire warning doesn't even touch on the likelihood of a government shutdown, the possibility of default if the GOP blocks a debt extension, the partisan witch-hunts, and the mind-numbing fight to keep the progress we've already made.

Of course, there's still a little more time before the bulk of voters head to the polls, and who knows, maybe the "Rally for Sanity" will give a boost to voices of reason.

More on that later.

Steve Benen 12:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (50)

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I love Krugman, but he is a worry wort. Always errs on the side of pessimism. But he's always in the ballpark.

Posted by: David Mercanus on October 30, 2010 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

It being almost Halloween, let me give you the real nightmare scenario. Congress is going to have to raise the federal debt level ceiling in order to keep the government going after the end of the year. Republicans have already said they're going to shut down the government and that's how they'll do it. The line will be: Obama wants even more debt! What they won't be saying is that not increasing the legal debt limit could result the perception that the U.S. is willing to DEFAULT on its debts (something the Tea Partiers have actually advocated). Financial markets will panic and all hell may break loose. Of course, the Republicans will blackmail Obama by offering to trade permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts for raising the debt ceiling. And they'll keep doing it for everything they want. This is what the whole "the deficit tanked the economy" lie has been about -- setting up the squeeze on Obama and Democrats to fulfill the wingnuts' entire wish list.

Posted by: dalloway on October 30, 2010 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

I think we are only a few years away from the collapse of Western civilization. Google "Dmitri Orlov" and do some reading.

Posted by: Sam Simple on October 30, 2010 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard." -H.L Mencken

Posted by: mellowjohn on October 30, 2010 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

There are some people who don't need to worry about the coming election: Wall Street insiders, for example. For the rest of us, well, shopping carts and cat food seem like a growth industry.

Posted by: RepubAnon on October 30, 2010 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

The polling I have seen isnt from likely voters but just opinion polls.

It may be that all this talk of a november tsunami will keep alot of right leaning folks at home in the belief they have already won.

Will the Stewart rally change things much? I think it could be its pretty late in the voting season which dulls the effect.

Posted by: Kill Bill on October 30, 2010 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

dalloway may be on to something. But I bet the dynamic is going to be pretty messy and ugly, even within the Republican party. The debt limit - tax cut bargain is a likely scenario - but that cannot start until the new session, right?

Does the debt limit need to be raised before then?

And, when the hard hard hard ignorant right wing of the party pushes for truly stupid and damaging ideas, what do Lugar, Collins, Snowe, and a few others that still might have a bit of a clue of the dangers we run in the perception of default issue?

Does the debt limit stuff have to originate in the house?

I know most of the people in this corner figure Obama and Dems would cave.

But what if, IF, Obama simple said sometime in mid Nov - I am NOT going to do a quid pro quo between debt ceiling AND ANYTHING ELSE. Period. would it stick?

Posted by: bigtuna on October 30, 2010 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

What they won't be saying is that not increasing the legal debt limit could result the perception that the U.S. is willing to DEFAULT on its debt. -dalloway-

Wouldnt be the first time. =]

When Nixon closed the gold window the US did default on quite a bit of debt. Today we are a debtor nation and in a weird way more debt, since the dollar is the global reserve currency, it can be sold to other countries as treasury notes, bonds, bills. The warfare welfare state can continue. As a sovereign nation the US can print all the money it wants. Federal debt then becomes a political canard. The GOP showed from 94 to 06 that they were perfectly fine with creating debt.


Posted by: Kill Bill on October 30, 2010 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Forgot to add the tangent link:

Time for a New Theory of Money
By understanding that money is simply credit, we unleash it as a powerful tool for our communities

by Ellen Brown

Posted by: Kill Bill on October 30, 2010 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Fox News is Cancer

The only way I see things getting better is if the Left makes Fox News is Cancer it's entire message. Total plus Total focus. I am talking about peeling and sticking this message on cars, in supermarket aisles, over traffic signs, on buildings...

And everywhere with passion.

It is all about tipping points...
And this country right now is tipping towards Fox News, Limbaugh radio, and the Internet Republican botnet. At what point does the soft middle throw in its lot with this propaganda? Never underestimate the tendency of hominids to take the path of least resistance. And watch out when they do. We are talking about Nazis on networked steroids...

So there has to be a grass roots effort to countermand their increasing command of the body politic. They are the enemy. They must be cast as the enemy everywhere and every when:

Fox News is Cancer
Fox News is Cancer
Fox News is Cancer

Pass it on.
Stick it up...

Posted by: koreyel on October 30, 2010 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

If the Republicans had shown any sign of rationality in the 16 years since 1994 this could be shrugged off as a phase that will pass.

But the downward spiral of their logic, rhetoric, and the clear deterioration of their collective IQ (see Mike Pence) combines with their ideological irrationality to clearly indicate dysfunctionality of the first order for the next 2-6 years.

They are simply nihilists.

Posted by: LosGatosCA on October 30, 2010 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

We can cut down on the hysterics. The U.S. isn't going to collapse overnight even with a pile of teabag shit staining the core of the country. This isn't 1920's Germany.

No. The U.S. is going to have a long, fitful, bumpy, restless slide into the shitter. Historians will remark that systemic gridlock between the peoples party (democrats) and the corporate party (republicans) disallowed any type of national planning for the future. Planning critical to overcoming problems of debt, energy, climate, food, disease, etc. that only an entity as large and as strong as a centralized government could cope with.

Posted by: Alrighty Then on October 30, 2010 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Should there be a GOP takeover of Congress, you can forget legislation for the next two years. They'll be too busy looking for that birth certificate.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on October 30, 2010 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

It's time to let the crazies take over, break what little remains of the tattered remnants of democratic process and the Republic.

The entire system needs to be broken completely before it can be rebuilt. Our elections, electoral process, government, rules, laws and very existence is hopelessly corrupt.

Elections are mere exercises in legitimizing the rampant theft and corruption, leaving voters the unpalatable choice between the horrible and the miserable.

Let it break. Then we can rebuild the Republic, shed the traitors in our mist and finally fill Washington with the 535 Mr. Smiths we so desperately need.

A couple of tea partiers in the Senate should finally drive home to Americans how farcical their government, and the USA has become.

Posted by: getaclue on October 30, 2010 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

I don't see the upside to handing the apparatus of the state over to a bunch of people who think that the only appropriate use of state power is providing their getaway car with a police escort.

And starting wars.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on October 30, 2010 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, the Republicans present a real threat to our country, as they will drive the deficits even higher, further undermine the middle class, and cut social services, all while enriching their wealthy elite friends even further.

However, we don't have to just wait and see what happens on Tuesday. Instead, we can affect the outcome by spending the next 72 hours helping the Democrats get out our vote.


Let's do that so that we wake up on Wednesday morning with our Democratic majorities intact, rather than kicking ourselves for not doing more.

Posted by: Winning Progressive on October 30, 2010 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK
What's more, his dire warning doesn't even touch on the likelihood of a government shutdown, the possibility of default if the GOP blocks a debt extension, the partisan witch-hunts, and the mind-numbing fight to keep the progress we've already made.

Also, the impeachment.

Posted by: navamske on October 30, 2010 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Krugman is right, the Broderist dorks are wrong ... and for some insight into who's pulling the strings and how the "grass-roots" teaparty got rolled and co-opted, see www.ritholtz.com/blog/2010/10/karl-denninger-tea-party-founder-tea-party-is-a-joke/ with rather self-explanatory URL.

Posted by: neil b on October 30, 2010 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

Getaclue, "breaking" things will deliver it all utterly into the hands of the crazies, the plutocrats etc. - it will *not* be a change to rebuild a humane society from scratch as e.g. new left/econauts etc. hoped in the 70s, etc.


Posted by: neil b. on October 30, 2010 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

"Nach Boehner, uns!"

Now get out there and not-vote. Those contradictions don't heighten themselves, people!

Posted by: Real Progressives on October 30, 2010 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Wednesday morning a whole lotta folks are gonna wake up in bed with Coyote Ugly.

Posted by: DAY on October 30, 2010 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Anybody know what this could be about?


Posted by: Howey on October 30, 2010 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

We can cut down on the hysterics. The U.S. isn't going to collapse overnight even with a pile of teabag shit staining the core of the country. This isn't 1920's Germany.

No, this is different. The nation is so brainwashed by right-wing propaganda that they gave Democrats 2 years to fix what 40 years of conservatism wrecked.

The right has completely delegitimized the very notion of Democratic leadership, and declared unAmerican anyone who supports Democratic ideals.

They've neutered the media -- that is, the media that they don't own -- to the point that their candidates can refuse to talk with the press, and people STILL elect them. They've obscured their election fraud with accusations of non-existent voter fraud, and they managed to take out a major voter registration group with a FAKED video.

They're rewriting history, reinterpreting the Constitution, ignoring reason and the institutions that taught people how to think for themselves. They've declared war on the poor and middle class while letting corporations and the rich run amok.

When they lose elections, they simply refuse to participate in the Democratic process, obstructing nearly everything and hoping that the President fails.

No, this isn't Germany in the 1920s, but it isn't the America of the last half-century either. And the right has seen to it that those days will never come back.

Posted by: beep52 on October 30, 2010 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Looking at this from afar, could the answer be not better, saner Republicans, but simply better, truly progressive Democrats?

Posted by: Squeaky McCrinkle on October 30, 2010 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

One comment I have heard about Obama is 'he came in with a promise to be bipartisan, and he is divisive' Where have these people been?
I used to hear all the time 'Obama has wasted too much time trying to work with the republicans, he should just have pushed through his agenda'
How can they have it both ways?

Posted by: js on October 30, 2010 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK


- they also declared war [unconstitutioanlly] on the Iraqi people, and killed thousands; destroyed our currency; our standing in the eyes of the world, and deligtemized our standing in terms of the rule of law, torture, and seeking justice.

To name a few more ...

Oh Canada ....

Posted by: bigtuna on October 30, 2010 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

H.L.Mencken also said: "Democracy is the pathetic idea that there is collective wisdom in individual intelligence."

Were he alive today the lack of any wisdom whatsoever on the Rethug side would give him endless fodder for iis tart tongue. The dumbed down electorate, which to Mencken existed in his time as it definitely does in ours, will most likely prove his cynical definition of democracy on Tuesday.

The Dimocrats have earned what will happen to them on Tuesday. The country, however, doesn't deserve it. The only thing that will be proved if the Rethugs get some control, er, excuse me, they've been in control for the past two years, I mean more control, is that you can sell any message to morons if you have organization and money.

Posted by: rrk1 on October 30, 2010 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

I need to correct myself: Mencken's comment should read:

"Democracy is the pathetic idea that there is collective wisdom in individual ignorance."

Sorry about that.

Posted by: rrk1 on October 30, 2010 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Obama will play off the clowns. A voice of sanity that will win the day over time.

Posted by: hornblower on October 30, 2010 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

"The country, however, doesn't deserve it."

Yes, in fact, the country DOES deserve it. It's the American people who will put these people in power, and the American people need to understand the consequence of their vote. We put George W Bush in the White House TWICE. The second time with full knowledge of his character and the disaster that was his administration. That wasn't past history, and we're poised on the brink of repeating it already...only worse.

There is no excuse in the world to justify the election of Sharon Angle. She has been a national story for months. If she wins her race it's only because we, the American people, aren't just stupid...we're souless.

Posted by: SaintZak on October 30, 2010 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

You cant change leadership during a timr of war.

[[just thought I'd drag out that old orwellian sheep bleat]]

Posted by: Kill Bill on October 30, 2010 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

"Democracy is the pathetic idea that there is collective wisdom in individual ignorance."

Except we dont have a democracy when nearly every elected representative bleachers for special interests.

There is no wisdom in profitism.

Posted by: Kill Bill on October 30, 2010 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

Without unemployment insurance continuing until the employment outlook improves our fragile economy will tank and America will not be able to pull out as the abyss will be deeper because of Republic far right greed for $$$$ and power.

Posted by: ML Johnston on October 30, 2010 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

I'm so depressed. Health Care alone was such a botched up, inside deal wherein Obama cut a deal with the lobbyists to nix the Public Option.

Then he goes on to say he will not sign a bill that doesn't keep em honest and give us choices.

What are those choices again? My premium with Anthem just went up.

Carry on.

I like the sound-byte about FOX and Cancer. More like that.

Posted by: Yes, Fox is a Malignant Cancer on October 30, 2010 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

My one hope is that the election will result in a bunch of incumbent Republicans losing too- so at least the more rational of our media stars (what... like 2 of them left now?) will be able to spin this as an anti-incumbent election instead of a the tea-bagger takeover that the billionaires and their paid for media lackeys will proclaim it at as.

Posted by: spiny on October 30, 2010 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Fox is a Malignant Cancer, My premium has gone up nearly every year. There is a pre existing condition and we couldn't and haven't been able to change for years. If this is your first raise consider yourself lucky.

Posted by: maggie on October 30, 2010 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

Just how angry and bigoted are Nevadans to vote for Angle?

I mean, my god. Angle is such a brazenly mean, phony, vacant person.

Not even brave enough to answer basic questions, hiding behind the ol' standby: "Evil elite press is out to get me." M.O.

And they buy it!

Palin and O'Donnell are wolves in sheep's clothing, while Angle is the first candidate
highly likely to win who is truly a wolf in wolf's clothing.

And that may very well be what Nevadan's somehow
connect with.

I mean it's really really a sad state of affairs for someone like her to be so far ahead. And to not have more mainstream Republicans come out against her is the worst crime of all, IMO.

Posted by: What the heck happened in Nevada? on October 30, 2010 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

Angle is still polling within the margin of error, so let's hope enough will be restored to sanity.

See the Maddow blog wherein she came across at least one soul who sees through the madness and is voting for Reid. (Her own bigoted ads may be working against her in the final push).

Posted by: It ain't over till all the votes are counted on October 30, 2010 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

If the Republicans only gain the House then it will be terrible but we'll muddle through. If they gain both the House and Senate then all bets are off.

My guess is we'll see something like 1994 but worse. The Republicans will try some crazy stuff, people will complain and then the House will switch back to the Democrats. As Krugman points out, we don't have the resources to fall back on to solve the problems they'll create.

Large numbers of people have been sucked in by the propaganda. They don't like "Obamacare" but if you poll them on the individual features they like those. They don't know that they got a tax cut. They have their heads so full of buzzwords and such they can hardly think.

Posted by: John on October 30, 2010 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

If the republicans do well enough to be able to create total gridlock (let's say, get the house but not the senate), I'd be willing to bet (on the basis of the last year's worth of rhetoric) that they could create havoc, make things far worse, and still successfully blame it all on Obama and the democrats for not fixing things, and translate that into a bigger win in 2012.

Posted by: N.Wells on October 30, 2010 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK

I'd like to add to what beep52 and John posted.

Keith showed the numbers from a Bloomberg poll:

1. 61% of the public thinks the economy is SHRINKING and only 33% know it is in fact growing.

2. 60% think the TARP money will never be recovered and only 33% think it will; it is expected that a PROFIT of 16 billion will be made.

3. 19% know federal income taxes have gone down while 52% think they have gone UP.

How could people be so misinformed? It looks like a combination of (at least) three factors: very poor messaging by the administration; dismayingly bad reporting by the media; the Right having figured out that screaming, ranting, raving and frothing at the mouth serve very well as distractors for the media looking for ratings.

We are getting very close to losing the Republic to far Right radical ideologues whose goal seems to be to destroy government and institute some kind of corporate state under the guise of the Constitution.

Posted by: Seould on October 30, 2010 at 9:50 PM | PERMALINK

I am afraid the rethugs will hatch a new challenge/attack/investigation every other day (Remember the Clinton years?),thus sapping the Admin's energy and initiative, -- and at the same time the Rs will somehow manage to implement their policy ideas bc the Dems will not get their courage up and act together to stop them. I am afraid we will all (except the uber-rich) slide downhill fast and before long no one will be able to stop it. At some point the non-voters and uninformed will look up and say, "#&%*, what happened?" And the Rs will say it's morning in America and/or blame it on the Ds.

Posted by: pea on October 30, 2010 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think you have to worry too much, because if the Republicans win enough power that they can actually dictate - instead of just drive - the agenda, Democrats will cooperate with them. Republicans can shit in their pockets all year, call them names and tell blatant and scurrilous lies about them....but all they have to do is utter the magic phrase "It's for the good of the country", and Dems will let bygones be bygones. Only one party believes that "be the bigger man" crap, and that's the Democrats. That's why the Republicans - despite being the party of ignorance, fear and graft - roll them every time.

Posted by: Mark on October 31, 2010 at 12:09 AM | PERMALINK

Why hasn't something like this been all over the media for a couple months? Pass it on to everyone!


Posted by: Michael7843853 on October 31, 2010 at 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know enough history to say that this isn't hyperbolic, but I found int interesting (and scary enough for Halloween):


Posted by: jhm on October 31, 2010 at 6:46 AM | PERMALINK

My rule for Republicans is: make the worst possible assessment of what they will do, then cut it in half. Assume there is no limit to their recklessness and irresponsibility.

Posted by: bob h on October 31, 2010 at 7:06 AM | PERMALINK

"Google 'Dmitri Orlov' and do some reading."
Posted by: Sam Simple on October 30, 2010 at 12:13 PM

And a Rooski hockey player has what wisdom to impart to us about the coming collapse?

Posted by: smartalek on October 31, 2010 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

I hope Issa launches Whitewater II, another $50 million jihad against Obama, the birth certificate, the works. The Democrats and the media have disastrously failed to demonstrate just how crazy the Republicans have come, so presumably we will have to wait for the Republicans themselves to drop trou and show what they're really made of.

Posted by: Henry Plantagenet on November 1, 2010 at 12:10 AM | PERMALINK

The Republican's Southern Strategy has worked.

Soon, all fifty states will look like Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia looked like in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Whites-only-country-club power structure at all levels of government, with the wealthiest calling all the shots, economically and politically, to their benefit. Rigged elections? You got'em. High illiteracy rates? No problem. High teen pregnancy rates? Sure. Widening gap between the haves (mainly wealthy whites) and the have nots (everyone else)? Hey, why are you complaining?

This is what Republicans, and the Tea Party types, have in mind for America. The Republican's Southern Strategy expanded to encompass all fifty states, making America look like a two-bit Third World country instead of the America I grew up in. And don't act shocked. This has been in the works for decades, following Barry Goldwater's loss to Landslide Lyndon Johnson.

This is what the Tea Party's insane campaign mantra "Take back America" really means. "Take back" America to the good ol' Southern Jim Crow days. "Take back" America to the good ol' Robber Baron era of the late 1800s. "Take back" America to the good ol' infallibility of the Pope and divine right of kings days of the Old World. "Take back" America to the good ol' days of religious, racial and economic tyranny.

Folks, we are at war, a war with one side funded by the forces of darkness, by secretive right-wing organizations and individuals, who want to "Take back" America all for themselves, screw everyone else, who are totalitarians with a take-no-prisoners mentality, who are using every dirty trick in the book to seize power and seize even more wealth for themselves and their crony sycophantic followers.

I'm voting straight Democratic Party ticket. Although the forces of darkness have made inroads into the Democratic Party, the Democrats come nowhere near the corruption and deceit of the Republican Party, with its damnable and satanic Southern Strategy.

Posted by: The Oracle on November 1, 2010 at 1:43 AM | PERMALINK

I’m having a tiny problem I cannot make my reader pick up your rss feed, I’m using google reader by the way.

Posted by: SEO on November 3, 2010 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK



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