"History? We don't know. We'll all be dead."
Krugman reports that the austerians are declaring victory:
There’s a scene in one of the Three Stooges movies — if any readers know which one, please let me know — in which we see Curly banging his head repeatedly against a wall. Moe asks why he’s doing that, and Curly says, “Because it feels so good when I stop.”
Big joke, right? Except that this is now the reigning theory of fiscal policy.
As Antonio Fatas points out, austerians are now claiming vindication because some of the countries that imposed austerity are — after years of economic contraction — finally starting to show a bit of growth. This is, as he says, happening because sooner or later economies do tend to grow, unless bad policy not only continues but gets steadily worse; with austerity still severe but arguably not getting much more severe, some growth isn’t a big surprise. And these countries are still far below where they would have been with less austerity.
But hey, it feels good, at least relatively, when the countries stop banging their heads against the wall. Austerity rules!
Right. The hell with all those lost years, opportunity costs and human suffering. In the long run, everything will work out. (I wrote a lot about this during the Bush administration.)
This is always how the conservatives explain their failures. Here's Dick Cheney:
I had the experience, for example, of working for Jerry Ford, and I've never forgotten the travails he went through after he had been president for 30 days when he issued the pardon of former president Nixon. And there was consternation coast to coast...I know how much grief he took for that decision, and it may well have cost him the presidency in '76.
Thirty years later, nearly everybody would say it is exactly the right thing to do, that if he'd paid attention at the time to the polls he never would have done that. But he demonstrated, I think, great courage and great foresight, and the country was better off for what Jerry Ford did that day. And 30 years later, everybody recognized it.
And I have the same strong conviction the issues we're dealing with today -- the global war on terror, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq -- that all of the tough calls the president has had to make, that 30 years from now it will be clear that he made the right decisions, and that the effort we mounted was the right one, and that if we had listened to the polls, we would have gotten it wrong.
And Bush himself:
On the last page of Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack (2004), Bush, asked how history would judge the war in Iraq, verbally shrugs: “History. We don’t know. We’ll all be dead.” And on the first page of Robert Draper’s Dead Certain (2007), Bush cautions, “You can’t possibly figure out the history of the Bush presidency—until I’m dead,” then inserts a piece of cheese into his mouth. This exit clause isn’t something he invokes only to reporters. In Bill Sammon’s The Evangelical President (2007), an aide confirms to the susceptible author that Bush doesn’t brood about the petty setbacks that bedevil less serene souls: “His attitude is a very healthy one. He says, ‘Look, history will get it right and we’ll both be dead. Who cares?’ ” If only the estimated 1.5 million Iraqis displaced by the war and driven into Syrian exile could adopt such a healthy outlook, maybe they too would learn how not to sweat the small stuff.
I was shocked by this at the time but I've since realized that the conservative project in general really, truly doesn't give a damn about human suffering. They live in an abstract universe in which their dedication to their rigid ideology simply trumps all moral concerns about real human beings in the here and now. They just don't give a damn.