Political Animal

Blog

December 05, 2012 4:09 PM Austerity Forever!

By Ed Kilgore

Greg Sargent offers an important reminder today of a certain item that is being heavily ignored in MSM coverage of the fiscal talks:

The $1.6 trillion in tax hikes in the White House’s fiscal cliff proposal is the main focus of the political argument right now, but the plan also contained an array of economic stimulus measures, such as $50 billion in infrastructure spending to create jobs. And Republicans are balking not just at the tax hikes on the rich, but at the call for more stimulus spending, too, claiming that more spending to create jobs will widen the deficit.
So perhaps it’s time for a reminder: This election wasn’t just about taxes and the deficit. It was also about whether government should invest more in job creation. And the electorate’s verdict was: Yes, it should.

But this is not just a matter of making sure the conversation includes stimulus proposals from the White House. It’s also essential to the Big Picture. Before, during and after the Great Recession, the GOP’s fiscal agenda has been focused on austerity. Yes, they’ve promoted tax cuts and have railed against Pentagon cuts, but not for any reason having to do with the short-term fate of the economy; they are for lower taxes and higher defense spending in all seasons. Beyond that, the GOP’s jobs agenda always has been and presumably always will be based on the magical argument that lower domestic spending will “free up” resources which the private sector will quickly turn into Boom Times (which would be more compelling if said private sector wasn’t already sitting on vast resources in the form of unrecycled profits), and the even more magical argument that the dynamism of the economy is being inhibited by excessive regulation and by po’ folks who’ve decided to live on “welfare” instead of helping the job-creators out by working for minimum wages. With the exception of Ramesh Ponnuru, moreover, virtually every Republican thinker and policy-maker in site also believes in tight money.

Since Republicans are promoting the eternal Republican formula for their idea of economic growth, is there any particular reason to think (a) it’s particularly appropriate for economic conditions like today’s, or (b) that they’re open to other job-producing ideas? No. When it comes to public-sector economic activism, it’s austerity today, austerity tomorrow, austerity forever!

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • Steve LaBonne on December 05, 2012 4:32 PM:

    Of course, if austerity were really what they wanted, they'd be very happy to go over he fiscal curb. What they really want, first, last, and always, is to lower taxes on the rich.

  • sjw on December 05, 2012 4:39 PM:

    "Austerity" is the Republicans' emphemism for stomping on the middle class, the working class, and the poor. Funny how pretty much the same concept and the same arguments were used by the nobility on the eve of the French Revolution.

  • Jim Pharo on December 05, 2012 4:57 PM:

    Don't forget that "austerity" is just a step on the way to "drowning in the bathtub," a/k/a anarchy, which is their real goal. They simply do not believe in the idea of government as legitimate.

  • c u n d gulag on December 05, 2012 5:06 PM:

    Conservatives will not be happy until the last non-Conservative senior citizen is dead, the last gay person is dead of some STD, the last cripple is thrown from his wheelchair into oncoming traffic, the last poor person has died of starvation, and the last poor child has his private parts crushed under their iron boots, right before he/she dies of malnutrition.

    After that, it's Heaven on Earth!

    They are all psycopaths and sociopaths. EVERY single last one of them!

  • Celui on December 05, 2012 5:14 PM:

    Ed's most salient point: ...the GOP’s jobs agenda always has been and presumably always will be based on the magical argument that lower domestic spending will “free up” resources which the private sector will quickly turn into Boom Times (which would be more compelling if said private sector wasn’t already sitting on vast resources in the form of unrecycled profits), and the even more magical argument that the dynamism of the economy is being inhibited by excessive regulation and by po’ folks who’ve decided to live on “welfare” instead of helping the job-creators out by working for minimum wages.

    Now, why would these 'job creators' want less for themselves? This is the clearest example of moral bankruptcy in this era: More for Me, less for thee.

    Don't cave, Mr. President!

  • Doug on December 05, 2012 5:28 PM:

    "...always will be based on the magical argument that lower domestic spending will 'free up' resources which the private sector will quickly turn into Boom Times..." Ed Kilgore

    Yeah, about that "freeing up" of private resources? The last time that actually occurred it required the Federal government to enact marginal tax rates over 50%+!
    Sort of a Federally-mandated "Use it or lose it", and we know how today's GOP feels about mandates...

  • exlibra on December 05, 2012 7:51 PM:

    Those "Boom Times"... You see,they're talking about a different "boom". As in: "lower the boom on the lower middle class and the poor". Once you understand that, everything else follows.

  • Speed on December 06, 2012 9:41 AM:

    Defense spending is the only jobs stimulus the GOP favors, mostly because it benefits the white collar/upper middle class.