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Hullabaloo


Friday, February 09, 2018

 

Into whose pockets?

by Tom Sullivan

Chris Hayes delivered a masterful essay last night on All In on the bad faith (or lack of any) behind Republicans' supposed philosophy on the economy.

I've argued for years that our differences are not over the size of government spending but over into whose pockets that spending goes. That the GOP was hammering out a budget deal as Hayes delivered his essay made it all the more powerful. It was worth transcribing for posterity:

Allow me to whisk you back in time to the year 2009. You may remember it. It was the worst financial crisis in 70 years, unemployment careening towards 11 percent, up to 800,000 jobs a month being lost, and a consensus among economists we desperately need to inject stimulus into the economy.

The White House proposed a package which totalled $787 billion dollars in tax cuts and federal spending. By the time President Obama signed it into law a month after his inauguration, the Republicans who had just spent the duration of the Bush years exploding the deficits through Bush tax cuts, war spending, and Medicare Part D, suddenly [snaps fingers], on a dime, got deficit religion. That stimulus bill that President Obama was pushing got a grand total of three Republican votes in the Senate and zero, not one, zero in the House.

Then two years later, Republicans threatened en masse to really, quite literally, destroy the American economy and the global economy by threatening to refuse to raise the debt ceiling, sending the U.S. into default. They held the global economy and the American economy hostage in exchange for the Budget Control Act, an unbelievably severe austerity measure that effectively resulted in $1.2 trillion dollars in cuts over the next 10 years.

The effect of that was to slow down the recovery and to prolong the misery of millions of Americans needlessly.

Now, back then Republicans went on and on and on about the debts and the deficits and our children and our grandchildren. They would get weepy at the very thought of all the debt the grandchildren would have.

We would be here for a month straight if we played all the tape, but this was the general idea of the refrain:
Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio): A budget which spends too much, taxes too much, and borrows too much from our kids and our grandkids.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin): Now, you're going to hear three words or three phrases: spends too much, borrows too much, taxes too much.
Their hostage-taking resulted in the first-ever downgrade of the U.S. credit rating. And that was still when the economy was very much in recovery mode.

Fast forward six years. The economy is approaching something that looks like full employment, thankfully. Republicans are now in power. And guess what? They are doing their own recovery act. I know that sounds crazy, but they really are.

It's, of course, one that mostly benefits large corporations, wealthy people, and defense contractors. But it's a stimulus nonetheless.

And get this. The Trump stimulus will cost more than the Recovery Act Republicans fought against so forcefully when Barack Obama was President.

I'm not making this up.

Their recovery act, comprised of the tax cut package they already passed and the two-year budget deal they hammered out that they're trying to pass now, has given hundreds of billions of dollars to the wealthy and corporations, and will explode the deficit. And will likely total more in cumulative tax cuts and spending and borrowing than Obama's stimulus package, even though the Obama stimulus package came at the worst moment in America since the Great Depression, and this one arrives at a moment of near full employment.

So, after eight years of sob stories about the debt and the deficit and our children and our grandchildren, and the Tea Party and the tricorner hats and the rallies, and how we lost our way during George W. Bush, and we need to stop spending and all that, it was all, all of it, nonsense. A lie from start to finish. All in bad faith — a gaggle of Freedom Caucus members and Rand Paul sort of notwithstanding.

I say "sort of" because they all just voted to increase the deficit by over a trillion dollars in tax cuts. But, the most important thing to understand after all of this, the most important thing to understand about American politics, is that it's not a debate over the size of government, but a debate about who controls it and whom it works for.

Which is why we now have the Donald Trump recovery act in which the Republican Party inject $800 billion dollars of stimulus over two years into an already full economy, because this time around they control the purse strings and they can directed that money where they want it to go.
File that away. Thanksgiving will be here again before you know it.

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