Sunday, September 19, 2010

Truth and Hope vs. Lies and Fear

If you listen to politicians and pundits, we are in a slow recovery from an economic catastrophe or we are witnessing the end of our free market economy.  Should we be hopeful or frightened? If we look at facts and dispel untruths the future looks brighter due to President Obama’s policies.

Democrats, led by President Obama have made earnest efforts to solve the nation’s problems, truthfully laying them out and hoping the other side would work with them. Republicans led by Boehner, McConnell and increasingly spurred by extremist voices such as Palin, Beck, and Limbaugh have been scaring Americans with lies and innuendo. They suggest our president is a Muslim (why, he might even be black!), is not a citizen, that health care reform would pull the plug on Grandma and take away their health insurance, that financial reform would lead to more bailouts, and that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA—the ‘stimulus’) has not helped the economy. They stir up fears of immigrants, conflate terrorism with Islam, and stir up anger verging on revolutionary fever against government.

Unfortunately, we are a very impatient people, and apparently for many it is not enough that a depression has been averted, our banking and investment system has been brought back from the brink of total collapse, our auto industry revived, and our economy has been growing, albeit slowly, for over a year.

What are Republicans saying? First they try to scare everybody into believing we’re heading back into recession. Second they say deficits will bury us so we need to cut spending immediately. They say the stimulus didn’t work and the proof is that President Obama “promised” unemployment would not go over 8%. Finally, they want those who earn over $200,000/year to continue to enjoy the lowest tax rates since the 1950’s. 
President Obama never promised the road out of this recession would be easy or quick nor that unemployment would stay below 8% if ARRA was passed. His economic advisors published that prediction in January, 2009, before he took office. Unemployment surpassed that before the bill was passed in February on its way to top 10% before ARRA began having some effect.  Ask all the road workers, bridge builders, auto workers, unemployed receiving extended benefits, and teachers, policemen, firefighters and other state workers whose jobs were saved if stimulus spending works. Go to and look at how it’s being spent:

  •  unemployment benefits
  • health care for unemployed
  • aid for seniors
  • rebuilding infrastructure
  • energy efficiency and weatherization
  • $1,000/family in tax cuts and many tax credits 

The Recovery may not have provided instant prosperity in the midst of world-wide economic turmoil, but it has been working, and is today.

What do the Republicans propose to create jobs? Give those who earn over $200,000 tax cuts, stop spending, and let corporations operate free of regulation. That’s the recipe that got us here, the recipe for the lackluster G.W. Bush years during which the few jobs that were created were low paying jobs, and the path to housing bubbles, toxic assets, and the credit crisis. The Bush tax cuts and two unfunded wars is what turned the Clinton surplus into trillions in debt dropped in the lap of President Obama.

Republicans still cling to the discredited belief that reducing taxes on corporations and the wealthy will create jobs. S&P 500 companies are holding more cash than ever, but are not using it to create jobs. They won’t add to their employment rolls until there is more demand for their products. The Bush tax cuts that put a trillion dollars in the pockets of the rich were in place for eight years of anemic job growth. Why would continuing them create jobs now?

Deficit fears at least have some basis in truth though Republicans weren’t worried about almost five trillion dollars in deficits during the eight years of the Bush presidency. The national debt isn’t keeping the economy from growing faster and it isn’t keeping jobs from being created. It will become an inflationary problem down the road if we don’t get it under control, which is why Obama wants to use the money from discontinuing tax cuts for the rich to pay down the deficit.

Maybe we will have to get used to a slower growing economy, though Warren Buffet thinks we’re poised for a big growth cycle, hopefully one based on productivity. Growth during bubbles creates false wealth for which we later pay a price in bankruptcies, bank failures, and lost savings. Americans must save more and live on their income rather than count on ever expanding housing values or an overheated stock market to give them unlimited credit. 

President Obama has not made wild promises; he laid out his agenda truthfully from the beginning and has faithfully been keeping promises, including winding down the war in Iraq and concentrating on the true masterminds of 9/11 in Afghanistan. We’ve been in a deep economic hole that we are climbing out of. The stimulus package created or saved millions of jobs—not enough to get us completely out of the hole, but enough to begin to grow our economy.  Too many Americans don’t want to hear the truth: that the answers aren’t simple and solutions aren’t quick.

Those congressmen who rub their hands in glee over the slow recovery should be ashamed. That they obstruct legislation they would ordinarily support to create jobs and help small business so their party can benefit from a weakened economy borders on unpatriotic. Lacking a responsible Republican party willing to engage in honest debate, Obama needs a stronger majority of Democrats. 

We are told that the upcoming elections belong to the Republicans because anger and enthusiasm are on their side. It is time to get enthusiastic in defense of our country by proudly supporting Democrats who have taken bold and difficult stands on reforming Wall Street and the health care system, and supporting Obama’s efforts to get the economy back on track. It is time for truth and hope to once more triumph over lies and fear.

(first published by the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Sunday, September 19, 2010: )

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