February 1, 2016
Have you ever experienced this–someone made a a series of blunders–then cleverly accused others of being responsible for the mess, and succeeded in keeping his job and getting promoted? If you’ve spent 10 years or more in any sizable organization, private or otherwise, you may have witnessed something like that. Maddening, isn’t it?
That’s just what has happened to us in the US. The Republican party messed things up, and they may be headed toward succeeding in getting promoted.
Here is how it all happened: The George W. Bush administration took us into Iraq and Afghanistan, spending $6 Trillion, wars that have never yet ended, and have now spiraled into a new crisis with a terrorist group called the Islamic State in Syria. Then domestically, this Republican administration led us into a housing bubble which sparked a global financial crisis, costing 8.8 Million jobs and $19 Trillion in lost household wealth in the US alone. This is what President Barack Obama inherited when he took office in 2008.
In our President’s final year, we have finally recovered all the lost ground. We are producing an average of 220,000 jobs per month. Unemployment is 5%. The economy is growing steadily.
But, regardless of the current administration doing an outstanding job dealing with the mess the previous administration left, the US is not in good shape. Inequality and all that falls under that umbrella is the problem: A high level of poverty, wages stagnant or declining, jobs hard to find, except at the minimum wages, all the while the income and wealth of the 1% skyrocketing.
And why hasn’t the current administration been able to fix that too? In a brief oversimplification, the answer is globalization, technology, and the steady promulgation of conservative economics favoring capital and big money. These policies are called “neoliberalism” in economics. Key elements are free trade, privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, and reduced government spending. The emphasis is on strengthening the private sector and weakening the government sector.
In fairness, Democrats must also take a lesser part of the blame for the economics across the long period since Reagan in 1980, when neoliberal (Conservative) economics began to gain control of US economic policy. Bill Clinton also fell prey to Conservative economic pressures during his term. He backed off his promise to limit CEO pay.President Obama supported the Trans Pacific Partnership, a massive trade deal, without sufficient protections for American workers who might lose jobs as a result.
How have the Republicans made their case to the electorate that the current problems are the fault of Democrats, and across the 35 years since 1980, that we should continue to steadily advance neoliberal economics? First, without even acknowledging the mess the Democratic President inherited, they make these claims, (with my corrections to their falsehoods):
- The recovery just wasn’t “good enough” under Obama. More Conservative policies would have made it better. But those conservative policies got us into the mess, and Conservatives in Congress made sure there was no fiscal stimulus, just more austerity. Conservatives are also the proponents of free trade and globalization, which has led to the loss of US manufacturing jobs, but Conservatives accept no responsibly on the part of government to provide for the job losses those policies caused.
- Regardless of the House and the Senate being controlled by Republicans (in Obama’s 2nd term), any shortage of progress was the fault of Democrats. But there were no meaningful proposals sponsored by Conservative Congressmen. Obama has vetoed far fewer proposals than did his Republican predecessor.
- Much of the economic problem is the fault of Obamacare. But, there has been no alternative proposed by Republicans. None whatsoever. Still a mystery what they would provide if Obamacare is repealed.
- We need to continue to reduce government. Government is an obstacle to personal freedom. Tying continued tax reduction to reducing government has proven widely popular. But the reality is that without government there cannot be freedom. The question is what do we want government to do, not whether we need government.
- Much of the remainder of the problem was the fault of immigration policies. But no alternative immigration proposal has been brought forward by Republicans, and studies continue to show our immigrants are net contributors to our economy.
- As to the wars, the problem wasn’t that Republicans took us in there, but rather that Obama didn’t put more troops on the ground and keep them there. Chest beating is appealing to some. We have not achieved desired results in any wars since WWII. Why not try negotiating and global collaboration, for a change?
- And, as to Foreign relations, the US failed to act tough with Iran, China, No. Korea, Russia, and Mexico. Weak politicians often turn to nationalism as a way to galvanize people. Two of the nations in 6 above have been great economic partners to us (China and Mexico) and Iran and Russia could be–if we stop berating them. We no longer need to be the unipolar leader of the world–it’s a shared opportunity now.
- Then, Republicans spin their message to include Christian values, objection to gay marriage and objection to abortion. And they land on the 2nd Amendment and claim that Democrats are going to take away our guns. Evangelical values and gun rights have little to do with the economic malaise, nor are they rightfully singularly Republican values–but they do appeal to a large swath of Americans.
The underlying and greater fault by far lies with Republicans and Conservative economic policies, along with their stubborn refusal to provide remedy for the human damage caused (such as economic support and re-training for jobs lost). These policies, taken with globalization and technology have led to dilemma we currently find ourselves in.
Logic suggests as Americans we would recognize that these policies need to be changed. This is not likely to happen without voters seeing through the Republican rhetoric and voting in a different set of policies.