“It’s Unbelievable”

July 27th, 2011 at 10:34 pm

A busy day today, talking with progressives from various walks of life, from state-level policy advocates to D’s on the Hill.  Folks seem pretty shell-shocked, and I kept hearing the same phrase regarding the current state of affairs: “it’s unbelievable!”

–How could it be that we’re a less than a week out from a totally self-inflicted wound to our already frail economy?

–Why are policy makers spending every waking minute on deficit reduction when jobs are the most immediate problem facing the economy?

–How did a relatively small group of far right activists totally highjack the national debate?

According to Greg Sargent (citing E.J. Dionne), more people are beginning to buy the most insidious arguments about immediate fiscal austerity—large spending cuts that kick in right away—leading to growth, even in the light of the current slowdown, which is itself driven in part by the fading of fiscal support.

As I noted last night, the UK is a living example of the damage done by premature contraculation, but you don’t have to look abroad to see the problem.  The figure shows how much diminished gov’t spending has shaved off of GDP growth in the past six months.  No wonder employment is in a stall, driven by job losses in the public sector.

Source: BEA

But those are facts.  And facts are not winning.  Facts, in fact, are getting crushed.  One almost feels embarrassed to raise them in this climate, as if you’re impolitely butting your pointy head into the dream world of the Washington policy debate.

How did it come to this and how do we get out of it?  I’ll try offering some answers in coming days.  For now, it’s just unbelievable.


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17 comments in reply to "“It’s Unbelievable”"

  1. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    It’s mind boggling to watch from a distance.
    But it remains to be seen whether the money interests who funded the Tea Party candidates wake up to their own culpability in this mess. In a very real sense, they brought this on us all with their campaign donations – most of which, no doubt, they used as tax write-offs.

  2. azlib says:

    As soon as the President bought the austerity argument, Keynesian policies were doomed. Basically, expansionary fiscal policy was off the table and the deficit “crisis” was bound to happen. When government spending becomes a dirty word because of all that debt and when the Federal budget is seen as just another household budget, then the jobs deficit dropped from the radar screen.

  3. Russ Abbott says:

    It’s pretty clear why we are here. The Democrats let the Republicans (Boehner in this case) get away with saying things like “The White House is simply not serious about ending the spending binge that is destroying jobs and endangering our children’s future.”

    Boehner builds into whatever he says the conclusion he wants his listeners to reach. Obama is on a spending binge.Obama is destroying jobs. Obama is endangering our children’s future. Boehner doesn’t argue that if we do X these things will happen. He simply asserts that Obama is already doing those things and he is going to force him to stop. And the Democrats let him get away with it.

    This is one of the oldest tricks in the book: Have you stopped beating your wife. But the Democrats don’t seem to know how to deal with it. Someone should point out what Boehner and his colleagues are doing. Tell the American people that they are being lied to, that when someone talks like that they should not be believed. Why doesn’t any Democrat do that? And do it every time a Republican opens his mouth with this sort of demagoguery.

    It’s because Democrats don’t seem capable of explaining what the Republicans are doing that they continue to do it, which is why we are where we are.

  4. general c. san desist says:

    …blame is squarely placed on the news editors. They legitimize the Treason Extortion Anarchist Party, I know sounds like a 007 nemesis, through exposure.

    Case in point, I’ve seen this character, Rep. Joe Walsh, on the Matthews Show & BBC World, being interviewed lately. Did either show host provide the audience with a hint of how this guy got elected…look it up. Lost every election in two way races by embarrassing margins. He would’ve lost the 2010 election if not for the Green Party candidate, which took 6000 votes from the Demo…whom lost by a few hundred votes to this nitwit.

    I think background fill is important…it gives a voice to credibility. Should the interviewers have stated that this guy barely won his seat, not having achieved a majority of the votes & thus what right does he have to speak for his constituents…yes.

    To qualify the opinion goes to the source of the problem…managing news editors, period. Colonel Jack Ripper thought it was in the water…I think it is the kool-aid.

    Remember, Twain said the difference between a cat & a lie was that cats have only nine lives.

  5. Geoffrey Freedman says:

    One reason we got here is the lack of leadership from the White House. The president led from behind with the stimulus plan, the health care plan signed into law, and the budget deal that extended the Bush tax cuts. He compromises (or capitulates as far as I am concerned) far to easily. He leaves too much to others, ineffectively use of the bully pulpit, and fails to consistantly make hard decisions.

    This President is probably the smartest man in the office since President Carter, if you get my drift. He seems to be a divided man philosophically, not acting consistently in a conservative framework or a progressive framework. He seems to be driven by splitting the difference rather than making a stand based on beliefs and philosophy.

    We need to end the unfunded wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in this environment. Obama doesn’t even get that.

  6. Michael says:

    The answer begins with O
    and ends with a

    Also, we have the worst media in the history of the written word.

  7. foosion says:

    >>How did it come to this and how do we get out of it?>>

    The Republicans argued for austerity in an effort to defeat Obama by hurting the economy and as part of their long-term campaign to shift income and wealth from the middle class and poor to the best off.

    Obama made a political decision to endorse austerity, seemingly against the advice of his economic advisors. This eliminated any counterweight to the Republican arguments. The combination of political incompetence with economic incompetence by Obama and the Dems resulted in Republican control of the House (the economy, “balanced” reporting by the media and corporate campaign cash obviously contributed). Note that the Republicans ran on increasing jobs and saving Medicare.

    How do we get out of it? Obama pivots to jobs and somehow convinces the Republicans to approve an increase in govt spending or President Romney announces a massive infrastructure program financing by tax cuts.

  8. Fred Brack says:

    How did it come to this? Follow along:

    A belief is acceptance that something is true or real despite the absence of objective evidence. All people routinely “believe” things to one extent or another. All religions, for example, are belief systems. For another example, “common sense” usually is not a distillation of objective evidence but instead is a mere belief, e.g. “national budgets being no different than family budgets, if families have to cut spending in a recession it’s common sense that so do governments.”

    Beliefs are powerful, as religion demonstrates. They are appealing because they dispel doubt, and humans crave certainty. Beliefs circulate easily because they can be absorbed with minimal effort. Reasoning, on the other hand, is comparatively hard. It requires brain energy (effort) and time – time to seek out evidence and weigh it, time to think.

    To test the above, consider recent history: death panels, birtherism, Obama-is-a-secret Muslim, etc. — all beliefs that circulated easily within a relatively distinct group. Think of that group as, loosely, the Tea Party.

    Here it’s necessary to introduce a hypothesis: The Tea Party – again loosely construed – consists of people who demonstrably (weasel word alert!) tend to be susceptible to beliefs, as opposed to reason, logic, and evidence.

    Let’s resume.

    While hardly solely responsible for the 2010 election results, formally and informally affiliated Tea Partyers were significant factors. The result is that Tea Party types constitute a substantial bloc of new Republican House members. Being new, the members of this bloc have little experience with politics as the Art of Compromise. And they have no appetite for compromise. Why? Because they firmly hold beliefs they won’t compromise.

    Here are key beliefs widely shared by these House members and similarly minded colleagues: government spending is “out of control;” “(big) government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem;” taxes are a form of theft.”

    So, how did this (impasse) come about? Because many of these House members “believe” defaulting on the national debt is a simple solution to the problems (above) they “believe” are destroying the nation.

    Understand: They WANT the America to default on its debt.

    Takeaway lesson: Elections have consequences.

  9. fausto412 says:

    i agree. i’ve asked people if they’ve been following this even casually. they haven’t. only hardcore political junkies have and good information is hard to come by.

  10. Joseph Patrick Bulko MBA says:

    Well, it’s not really “unbelievable.” It’s just that the Tea Party Republicans in Congress are using the debt ceiling non-issue to try to stage an economic coup d’etat, with the goal of rolling back the federal government’s size and influence to a level not seen since about 1890. I’m surprised that these folks don’t just all move to Texas and secede from the United States. Many of us would be happy to let them go. By the way, isn’t it an act of treason to try to stage a coup d’etat against the U.S government? Shouldn’t these folks be arrested and imprisoned? Also, shouldn’t we interpret their implicit hatred of the federal government as hatred of the United States? Indeed, why does the Tea Party hate America??

  11. jonathan says:

    I keep telling ya: believers believe facts must conform to belief. Repeat that over and over. That’s the first lesson.

    Second lesson: believers believe lack of purity explains why the facts don’t fit their beliefs. Classic, terribly sad example is fundamentalist Christians reading the Norwegian murderer’s verbiage and casting aside page after page of Christian appeals and statements of belief in God to find the couple of mentions of Darwin. Those few mentions contaminate the body. When contraction contracts, it will be blamed on government because the system is not pure and contraction will cause expansion if we are pure.

    Third lesson: believers believe lying is not only necessary but that it actually changes the facts so they fit beliefs. You must know that Reagan’s tax cuts saw a massive increase in federal tax receipts. The point is not merely to persuade through lying but to create a world of believers. Thus, that horrible Paul Ryan uses Orwellian language in which “crony capitalism” is redefined to mean regulation in the public interest. These lies allows believers to redo history so it fits their belief system. And then Winston Smith welcomes the bullet.

    Fourth lesson: believers cannot be persuaded. They cannot be persuaded by facts. They have to be beaten. They give you no alternative.

  12. PeonInChief says:

    It started when the President-elect decided to appoint people like Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers, and so on to do economic policy. The Democrats gave up 3/4 of the argument before leaving the gate.

  13. Ric Steinberger says:

    It’s totally believable. Why? Because the Tea Party members of Congress and their supporters are a faith-based movement. Their “facts” need not be backed by evidence, theory, prior historical trends, or expert analysis. When they are told by their leaders that the US federal debt is the critical problem, and that attacking the debt through massive spending cuts and middle class austerity will bring back jobs and restore prosperity, they absolutely believe it.

    The fact that this is totally bogus, highly destructive economics is of no concern to the tea party because they don’t believe anything that hasn’t been told to them by Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Michelle or Sarah, or various astroturf organizations. Besides that, they have by and large, embraced a religious philosophy that believes suffering is good, is god’s vengeance for wickedness, and is a way of punishing their opponents, all of whom are evil.

    Trying to engage in a logical, rational, fact-based discussion with tea party people is almost always a complete waste of time. They despise us and don’t believe a word of what we say. For them, compromise is surrender, and to be avoided at all costs.

  14. Mike K. says:

    Wouldn’t you be better off making this case INSIDE the White House?

  15. TIm says:

    As a citizen of the UK, I’d be intrigued to find out what this “contraculation” that we’re suffering from is.

  16. Daleks says:

    Who needs facts and consistency when you have Fox News? Just let Fox make up whatever nonsense they want, ignore the people who call them out on it, and let the Koch Brothers pay to spread the lies elsewhere. Take the blue pill and ignore reality.

  17. Misaki says:


    Music for Friday! (nsfw)

    And kittens