Politicians Trying to Weaken the US Economy: Conspiracy Theory or Current Reality?

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Although I have written a lot about the polarization of the United States political system here, I tend to shy away from partisan politics on this blog. But there was an interesting article in the Guardian newspaper this week analyzing claims by some Democrats that Republicans are intentionally trying to sabotage an economic recovery in the United States in order to win the White House in November.

Regardless of your political affiliation, I think this article is worth reading, if only to better understand the debate and rhetoric. One of the sections of the article that I found compelling is below:

“When teachers are laid off, for example (and nearly 200,000 have lost their jobs), it means larger class sizes, other teachers being overworked and after-school classes being cancelled. So, ironically, a policy that is intended to save “our children and grandchildren” from “crushing debt” is leaving them worse-prepared for the actual economic and social challenges they will face in the future.”

It seems like a bit of an exaggeration, or at least a generalization, to say Republicans are intentionally trying to weaken the economy. But policies currently espoused by the Republican party, which include finding savings through deep cuts to social programs and refusing to discuss options for increased revenues, do seem to create further challenges for our country’s economy.

I am no economist, but I trust the large number of economists who have repeatedly said that, in an economic recession, the federal government must take leadership and increase its spending to help the country recover. As someone who has worked on public policy on the state level for many years, I have seen the spending restrictions on the state level, such as balanced budget amendments, which make doing this impossible on the state level.

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Again, I have a hard time believing that Republicans are intentionally trying to weaken the economic recovery. But it is more important now, than ever in my lifetime, for the two parties to work together to help the country move forward from the economic devastation that has led so many families to lose their homes and their livelihoods.

What do you think? If the two political parties cannot come together to find a way to solve the current financial crisis the United States, when will they ever be able to come together? What type of visionary leadership do you think is required to help get the US economy back on its feet? Do you see the answer to these problems coming from the corporate or the government sector? Or do you think it will need to be a partnership? Do you think that extreme factions of the political parties are making this situation worse? What can we, as voters, do to help bridge the gap between the parties? Are these problems as prevalent on the local and state level or do you think this is more of a federal problem?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading.

26 Comments

Filed under Campaign Finance, Income inequality, Politcs, Poverty, Role of Government

26 responses to “Politicians Trying to Weaken the US Economy: Conspiracy Theory or Current Reality?

  1. I once ran a green business network for the City of Chicago which received sponsorship on the city, state and federal level as well as business investment. This program created both environmental and millions of dollars of economic results in a short time. It’s still alive, but been modified into a program funded by private business. I fear that it will not be as successful going forward.

    From my point of view, we need many more public private partnership across the country which rely on government spending on all levels as well as private investment. However, It’s not easy to envision these kind of programs in today’s climate with half the country believing that the government shouldn’t pay for anything.

    It doesn’t seem possible that the private sector alone will get us out of our current problems given that many of the globalization challenges workers face in America are a result of business and market driven changes. In essence, the real income declines in the middle class across the U.S. are caused by structural business changes. It’s difficult to see how change that is beneficial will come from either the U.S. government or big business.

    It seems to me that the only hope is with socially responsible small businesses and grassroots organizations urging people to buy more products from local businesses, which is happening to some degree. I hope that things will get better for people of all economic strata in America, but I don’t see how social progress can be made when so many people are stuck in recalcitrant mindsets.

    I can’t say that I see inspired leadership on either side of the political spectrum right now. Hope that changes! 🙂

  2. It may be time for all of us to start taking conspiracy theorists seriously. Remember: just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you!

    • I hear you. I do think there is some validity to the concerns, but I can’t help but feel that the real problem is the fringe elements of the Republican party. It has been sad to see some strong moderate Republicans lose in primaries against fringe members of their party.

      • Keep in mind that there’s a lunatic fringe at both ends of the political spectrum!

      • I agree with you that saying all Republicans are intentionally sabotaging the recovery for the sake of political gain is a bit of a generalization. I think you’re exactly right in your comment above that it’s the fringe elements in the Republican party – the Tea Party. By the way, the ‘Tea’ in Tea Party stands for ‘taxed enough already’.

        There is evidence that the Tea Party has asked businesses not to hire in order to politically damage President Obama (see link below), so I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that the Tea Partiers in Congress have intentionally obstructed any attempt at stimulus that doesn’t also include massive tax cuts. I can’t remember where I read this, but I’ve read that even Boehner was frustrated with the Tea Party during the debt ceiling negotiations because they pull the entire Republican Party to the right. And then you have moderate Republicans like Olymia Snowe who get labeled as “RINOs” because they try to reach across the aisle and won’t seek additional terms because they’re so frustrated with the extremism.

        http://www.opposingviews.com/i/politics/2012-election/tea-party-nation-business-owners-do-not-hire-single-person

        And yeah, there are very few economists (Keynsian or Classical or otherwise) who think that the Fed can handle the current stagnation alone. Yields on Federal bonds are currently so low that, after accounting for inflation, investors actually *pay* the goverment to hold onto their money because Treasuries are seen as such a safe place to park money. Now is exactly the right time for the US government to borrow money to invest in infrastructure and stimulus. Incidentally, the resulting GDP growth will make the debt smaller in the future, in proportion to the overall size of the economy.

        Sorry for the really long comment.

  3. Mitch McConnell said explicitly several years ago that his primary goal was to prevent the re-election of Barack Obama. Whatever you may thin of his politics, McConnell is clever, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he succeeds. I even wouldn’t be surprised if he and other Republicans are willing to see short-term harm to the economy in order to advance political goals. But I think relatively few (if any) Republicans see their recommended policies as harmful to the economy and the country in the long-term. I think humans have a nearly limitless capacity to rationalize and self-deceive in order to feel good about pursuing our selfish interests. Democrats and Republicans are no different, but in this case the Republicans doing it could really cause some long-term damage…

  4. Great post. I think politicians worry more about keeping their jobs than doing their jobs. It is not ironic that GOP leaders in Congress who have not done much to help (actually they have not done much at all), are critical of the President not doing enough. The President is far from perfect, but at least he is trying. I agree with Hugh’s lunatic fringe comment, though, as we have strong opinions at both ends, but it is not a normal distribution – from where I sit, there are more conservative crazies elected – thanks Tea Party – than uber-liberals.

    • Yes, I think the Tea Party has really impacted this. And the impact of money in elections can’t be forgotten. Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful comment, as usual!

  5. I know most state legislatures are out of touch when it comes to the educational process. Somehow teachers are the first to be axed when the budget needs balancing, so your point is well-taken: trying to saving money now will cost society more in the future.

  6. Often in times like these a government is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t. So many variables it’s hard for us mere mortals to understand the consequences of the various actions.

    • Thanks for your comment I tried to reply to this through my phone, but it looks like it didn’t go through. I completely agree. But I guess that is what makes it critical for us to try and pay attention and do our best to understand so that we can make informed decisions at the voting booth. Thanks again for your comment!

  7. I want to comment on Karen Wan’s comment above which is terrific. We lose sight of the history of public-private partnerships. Many of innovative ideas came from these and this is a key tenet of the book, “That Used to be Us” by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum on how we can come back as a country. We need venture capital, government money and other investors playing various roles in the development/ production paradigm. I do not know the source of this next comment, but it is ironic that the US GDP has grown more under Democratic than Republican leadership for this reason. The GOP would refute this, but the data I saw indicated this was true. I wish I knew the source.

  8. This is all very troubling, as it also affect things here in Canada. I have a feeling that our Prime Minister is in cahoots with whoever believes that cutting social funding and ignoring environmental concerns is a good thing for our country. The fact that he has been trying to muzzle the media about these issues is doubly troubling. However, other than complaining about it, I have no idea how to solve the problems. 😦

    • Oh no! I was hoping our neighbors to the north had this all worked out! How discouraging to hear that you are facing similar issues! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

  9. I love this kind of interaction. Canada has always tended to be a better steward of the environment than the US, so the PM’s lack of focus on this is indeed troubling. Yet, the green economy will create more jobs, if done right. Warren Buffett is loading up on solar investment and I heard he was a pretty good investor.

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