I guess you'd have to replicate my journey to understand what I mean. I'll save you the trouble: The fight is between Keynesian (or post-war Keynesian) fiscal stimulus to be followed by debt reduction when we get out of recession and toward full employment and austerity now because everybody knows we won't be wise enough to pay down our debt later. There's a related argument between two positions, one, that we're better off with a stronger economy that is debt-laden because of fiscal stimulus, and, two, we'll be better off undergoing austerity now regardless of the resulting weakened economies because at least we've reduced our debt, setting the stage for eventual growth.
I'll thrown in that there's a strong case to be made that austerity during a weakened economy reduces GDP and thus tax revenues, which then actually increases public debt and is therefore counterproductive. This is currently being borne out in the UK and the Eurozone countries. But I digress.
I don't have to send you to countless political articles in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Economist for you to understand the current political climate. It's an election year after four years of fiery white hatred of a black president and a growing disposition among the elite classes that Barack Obama is, as Paul Krugman would say, "looking at me funny." In any event, the climate is toxic.
But to my point: What's going on is not opaque, it's clear as day. We know the agendas of the parties in the argument. We know why they take these views. The economists equivocate and the politicians obfuscate, but if we glean the wheat from the chaff and keep the kernel, we can see it clearly. Here it is:
- We're in a recession, but whether or not we are -- see the Bush years, e.g. 2001-2007 -- the conservative/libertarian agenda is and has been to constrict government in order to dismantle the welfare state, variously known as the New Deal, the Great Society, the safety net, the entitlements.
- Allies of the conservatives -- the rich and the very rich -- applaud and support the cutting of taxes, especially on the rich, and reward these conservatives working on their behalf with lots of cash, for elections, for cronies, for what-not. This effectively works against any agenda that increases or sustains the current safety net.
- Liberals -- much less supported by the wealthy elite -- have only demographic trends in their favor, but that has yet to translate into sustained political power. The conservative elite understand this and know that the current crisis may be their last chance to get their way, which is, of course, the dismantling of the welfare state. It must be done now -- even if these welfare systems are actually not yet in crisis.
- Thus conservative politicians, the economists who underwrite their positions, and the wealthy elites that want to transfer as much wealth as possible from the middle and lower classes to themselves, are all working together to foist a preposterous economic theory -- expansionary austerity -- on a confused public for the explicit purpose of making the ignorant and ungrateful lesser classes take their medicine now.
- The purpose of forcing austerity on such a vulnerable world economy -- by which I really mean the U.S. and the Eurozone -- is to squelch moral hazard, to get people to live within their means, even if what that really amounts to is the theft of money and opportunity from the lower classes and the passing of that money up the food chain to the wealthy elite who own an increasing share of total wealth.
- The "living within our means" meme is effective with white, Christian, working-class Americans -- largely men -- because, as the true losers in this squeeze between the wealthy elites and the growing power of minorities, i.e. blacks, Asians, Latinos, and women, this cohort is easily manipulated by conservative/libertarians and their call to "get the government out of our lives."
- The result is the American middle class, and, by extension, the Eurozone's equivalent, is having austerity forced down its throat while the rich reap the rewards.
- The elite are not "letting a good crisis go to waste." They are dismantling the welfare state -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance, etc. -- and transferring its costs to the wealthy in the form of lower taxes. Because of these lower taxes, the government -- on local, state, and federal levels -- can no longer afford these programs and have no choice but to reduce them, in many cases, radically.
I wish it were not true, but it is. The agenda of the Republicans is not hidden, not accidental. It is not mysterious, and one thing is certain: It is very much to the detriment of America. I hope against hope that in this race, between conservative clout and the slow, inevitable demographic swing toward egalitarianism, enough of our communal society can remain intact to rebuild from the ashes of the devastation our current politics is leading us toward. I do really hope so.
As an observation, is it at all surprising that the Republican candidate for president, Mitt Romney, and the political and economic policies he espouses, so perfectly epitomize the wealthy elite of which I speak, and their political and economic goals, as well? It is not, I think.