These last few months, much of the country has watched in horror as the Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people. Their intransigent demands for deep spending cuts, coupled with their almost gleeful willingness to destroy one of America’s most invaluable assets, its full faith and credit, were incredibly irresponsible. But they didn’t care. Their goal, they believed, was worth blowing up the country for, if that’s what it took.
Like ideologues everywhere, they scorned compromise. When John Boehner, the House speaker, tried to cut a deal with President Obama that included some modest revenue increases, they humiliated him. After this latest agreement was finally struck on Sunday night — amounting to a near-complete capitulation by Obama — Tea Party members went on Fox News to complain that it only called for $2.4 trillion in cuts, instead of $4 trillion. It was head-spinning.
All day Monday, the blogosphere and the talk shows mused about which party would come out ahead politically. Honestly, who cares? What ought to matter is not how these spending cuts will affect our politicians, but how they’ll affect the country. And I’m not even talking about the terrible toll $2.4 trillion in cuts will take on the poor and the middle class. I am talking about their effect on America’s still-ailing economy.
America’s real crisis is not a debt crisis. It’s an unemployment crisis. Yet this agreement not only doesn’t address unemployment, it’s guaranteed to make it worse. (Incredibly, the Democrats even abandoned their demand for extended unemployment benefits as part of the deal.) As Mohamed El-Erian, the chief executive of the bond investment firm Pimco, told me, fiscal policy includes both a numerator and a denominator. “The numerator is debt,” he said. “But the denominator is growth.” He added, “What we have done is accelerate forward, in a self-inflicted manner, the numerator. And, in the process, we have undermined the denominator.” Economic growth could have gone a long way toward shrinking the deficit, while helping put people to work. The spending cuts will shrink growth and raise the likelihood of pushing the country back into recession.
Last night we heard that Obama WAS willing to play the 14th Amendment card if no deal was reached. How true that is, I don't know, because apparently this came from Joe Biden rather than out of the mouth of a president whom I have become convinced has wanted draconian cuts of benefits to the elderly and the poor all along, the better to ingratiate himself with the Wall Street masters who will offer him a nice chunk of change and a cushy job when he leaves office. Because after all, what must seem more appealing right now, an eight-figure Wall Street job or enduring another four years of this? Because at this point, there's nothing to do but paraphrase Walter Mondale and the 1984 Democratic Convention again (for the second time this week): The Republicans will screw you over and so will the Democrats. The Democrats won't tell you. The Republicans will. At least with the Republicans we know what we're getting, while Nancy Pelosi makes pretty speeches and then votes "Yes" on cutting Medicare.
Yesterday I received the most disgusting piece of political mail that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has ever sent. It has Al Franken's name on it, which I guess is designed to target the "professional left" for whom the party has such contempt, and it exhorts me to "stop the radical right." Contained in the letter are the following postcards:
Who the hell do they think they're kidding?