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You'd be excused for thinking leaders in both parties have lost their zeal for deficit reduction, given the tax deal they passed into law last week. If so, you're applying too much rational thinking to it. In so doing, you may be missing the main point of deficit-mania: to provide conservatives with cover while they set about dismantling programs that benefit working class and poor people, including Social Security and Medicare.
While reading over a few documents about ideas for transforming our economy, I came across a history lesson from the New Deal era in an article by Fred Block. It seemed quite relevant for this mid-term election season.
[Note: we are pleased to re-post the following blog from Steve Max, written October 10, 2010.]
Overlooked in the recent rise of the Tea Party and the Republican right is the way these groups have learned how to grow and thrive on the failures of capitalism. The Democrats, conversely, remain tied to its successes. With capitalism performing particularly poorly at present, it is no wonder that the right is gaining momentum while the Democrats and their Labor and progressive allies are often on the defensive.
On a recent broadcast of the McLaughlin Group, Eleanor Clift and Pat Buchanan debated whether the Democrats should let Bush’s tax cuts for the richest 2 percent expire. When Buchanan argued that targeting the rich constituted “class warfare,” Clift retorted: “Class warfare is when we burn down your houses, Pat. This is not class warfare.”
It seems fitting that the summer of 2010 is ending with yet another heatwave. This summer's intense heat, felt around the country, seems to have flared tempers, soured civil discourse and brought on political paralysis. How else does one explain the meanness of the season? There may be other, more rational explanations, having to do with gross political opportunism from the minority party and a lack of courage and imagination from the ruling party. But it is much more satisfying to blame the weather.
The drumbeat started sometime last week. The Press declared it would be the next big legislative battle. A number of conservative pundits were deployed to sound the alarm: unless Congress acts this Fall, Bush's tax cuts will expire by the end of the year --- amounting to "the biggest tax increase in decades." They called it the ticking tax bomb.
Here's another example of the twisted logic of market fundamentalism: At today's congressional hearings on the BP oil spill, Representative Joe Barton (R, Texas) issued an apology to BP CEO Tony Hayward. Barton is ashamed that the White House has asked BP to set aside $20 billion to help oil spill victims, calling the request a 'shake-down.' You have to see the video to fully appreciate Barton's sense of shame.
These past two years, we’ve been hit by one catastrophe after another: the spectacular explosion of the housing bubble, the Wall Street meltdown, high unemployment rates, and now, the worst environmental catastrophe that we’ve ever seen on our shores.
In the months leading up to the Senate vote on financial reforms, grassroots mobilizations on the part of community, labor and faith-based groups injected much-needed energy into the debate. Now, while we wait for lawmakers in the House and Senate to reconcile their versions of reform, let's assess, and also celebrate, the role these mobilizations played in getting reforms this far along, against powerful lobbying on the part of Wall Street and tepid leadership in Congress.
The drumbeat for deficit reduction is growing louder. I can hear the deficit hawks in the background chanting “Austerity!” They would have us believe that the greatest threat to global economic security is runaway deficits. Given that we are still in a recession, that unemployment rates show no sign of coming down any time soon, and that financial institutions still are not channeling investments into the real economy, it seems fair to ask whether this obsession with deficits makes sense right now.
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