Saturday, October 27, 2012

***Romney. Bush economics. Teaparty.

Why do Democrats point back to the Bush administration so often? Because the Republicans seem to have forgotten everything that they should have learned about that economic history. Or, for whatever excuse, they misrepresent that history, either by ignorance or for raw dishonesty.

Personally, I think that everyone should vote against most Republicans based on the threat of a Teaparty victory. I see their “desired programs” as “dire consequences.” The Teaparty has already taken over the Republican party so completely that their convention hardly mentioned “Teaparty” even though that was the ideology fixed in the Platform. After the sweep of 2010, Republican states worked on the TP agenda, starting with state laws that are anti-abortion, anti-union, and anti-public school. Oh, let us not forget, wide-spread efforts for “voter suppression” for 2012. It is at the national level that they act against the social contract of the last 200 years. 

Extending now to the national level, the Teaparty agenda intends …
- a continuation of GOP imprudent refusal to face up to climate change;
- the repeal of our relatively new-found rights like clean air, clean water, safe food, safe jobs, control of epidemics ... by abolishing or de-funding government regulatory agencies (with the excuse of fixing the deficit);
- further degrading of school standards – schools have long been under assault by Creationists and homophobes – under the guise of “school choice” and home schooling (this works in part by dis-empowering teachers' unions);
- more reversal of the gains since 1960 for women's autonomy (including access to birth control and abortion);
- a return to “get treated in the Emergency Room when your cancer turns critical” as the US standard of compassionate medical care;
- appointment of Supreme Court Justices whose “strict construction” will eliminate Roe v. Wade as the bare beginning to rolling back regulation and 200 years of rights (laying a legal rationale to the deficit-reduction excuses mentioned above).

That's what I come up with in a couple of days of musing. I find it unlikely that President Romney could veto bills that a Congress sends him that implement these attacks on the social contract of the last 200 years. Norquist (anti-tax, anarchist) says, “Just give us someone with fingers that can hold a pen to sign the bills.” The Teaparty is reason enough to abandon him.

Ignoring all that, polls say that some people want to trust Romney with the economy. And not just because “Obama's is doing poorly” but because they believe something positive.

To choose Romney because “he is better on the economy” is, I think, less a consequence of logic than misplaced trust in false authority. For most of their argument, they use hand-waving and misrepresentation of the present and recent past. Paul Ryan (also, Ron Paul) cite economic theory from the 1930s in place of modern economists, theory, data, and experience; but their policy details hardly vary from “supply side.”

Supply side theory has lost its intellectual credibility so thoroughly that the term is no longer mentioned by Republicans – Its theory has shrunk to a slogan that Clinton disproved in 1994, "You don't want to tax the job creators." Yep. Contrary to their most fervid predictions of catastrophe, Clinton's taxes gave us growth and the promise of budget surpluses... surpluses that W. wasted, first by intention and then by incompetence. W. promised, explicitly, that his tax cuts would raise workers' wages, and that did not happen either – The Keynesian stimulus from huge deficits bred slow growth, gains in the stock market, increases for executives' wages, but no gains for workers. Then came the deregulation-crash that ended his term and many millions of jobs. 
Check the fact-checkers, but be sure to read their details:

"The fact checker" column by Glenn Kessler in the Wash. Post of Sunday, Oct. 7, gives both Clinton and Obama “3 Pinocchios” (out of 4), and asks that they “retire this talking point,” that "trickle down policies" led to the economic crisis. He concludes,
We nearly made this Four Pinocchios but ultimately decided that citing deregulation in conjunction with tax cuts kept this category out of the “whopper” category. Still, in his effort to portray Romney as an echo of Bush, the president really stretches the limits here.

Okay, here are details offered by Kessler. He does accept that Romney seemingly will create a huge deficit, and that there is no evidence that he can offset the tax cut for the rich with a repeal of deductions for the rich. That surely echoes Bush.

On the other side, he says that Romney does not echo Bush because some of the deregulation happened under Clinton, including the “repeal of Glass-Steagall law that separated commercial and investment banks.” Thus, those were not simply (or solely) policies of Bush. – That seems largely irrelevant to me, except that it suggests a counter-narrative that is even more potent. Namely: Okay, Democrats proved that they were willing to try deregulation. They are not knee-jerk “anti-business.” Especially since the crash, Democrats look at evidence of cause-and-effect and want to reverse course because of the consistent testimony, … but Republicans won't change. It is surely true that Bush and Republicans embraced that de-regulation before, and that they still do. Thus, those are Bush/ Republican policies that are being echoed. They own them by adoption, if not by birth.

Another point: Kessler thinks it is important that “tax cuts” alone did not cause the crisis... but I think nobody has ever claimed that. The citations he began with each mentioned deregulation. However, the tax-cut created deficits are not irrelevant. Kessler quotes these words and then goes on as if he never read them –
Obama campaign deputy press secretary said that “the tax cuts contributed to the crisis in multiple ways, including by driving up the deficit, ....”

If Bush had continued Clinton's taxes (and Clinton's surplus), there could have been serious thought for a larger stimulus plan, without the long term deficit looming so dire. Claiming huge, magical gains from tax cuts is entirely an echo of Bush (and Reagan!), as is the claim that the middle class would be the people who would see the benefits.

-The Bush cuts are still in effect – if they work, why aren't they working? Among tax proposals that economists expect will create jobs, income tax cuts for the rich rate near the bottom.

- Hand-waving: It is a substantial misrepresentation when Romney does not credit the stimulus with saving 3 million jobs. It is a substantial misrepresentation when he ignores the fact that projections, “predictions” by the Obama economists made before he took office, were skewed to the favorable side because the crash was worse than everyone imagined … the December numbers on jobs were worse than reported, and weren't fixed until June. On rare occasions, Romney has admitted that the recovery was about as good as expected, so this is phony hand-waving rather than simple stupidity or ignorance. (Which fault is a more serious?).

Romney has plenty of concrete promises of rosy outcomes. The policies remain the Teaparty promises: no new taxes (more cuts); deregulate Wall Street; deregulate polluters; fire government employees; abort the incipient regulation of health insurance.

This boom is supposed to appear because of a joy-of-austerity, joy of the promise of dirtier air, joy of lost medical care. And despite the sucker-punch of a million lost government jobs in regulating, teaching, etc.

If the Teaparty is not enough reason to reject Romney, his incoherent imitation and exaggeration of Bush's economics ought to be.

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