The most memorable early executive act on the part of the newly elected President Barack Obama, for whom I voted in 2008, was to embrace his predecessor’s economic stimulus package, push it up to $800 billion and give it to all the many speculators and fat cats who had caused the collapse in the first place.
As far as I was concerned, this was an act of class betrayal of an enormous magnitude. The White House and the loyal media bombarded us with the notion that if we dared permit sick, corrupt financial institutions to meet their natural demise it would mean the end of civilization. They were—so we were told—just too big to fail. Millions of Americans could go underwater with their properties – that we weren’t afraid of, but if AG stock holders were left at the end of the day with what amounted to so much useless paper – that would have been catastrophic.
What Obama should have done back then, which would have surely brought us over the hump in a couple of years—instead of schlepping a delusional recovery for the better part of a decade—was to hand out trillions of dollars to local municipalities, so they would in turn give them to their citizens for make-work. Dig ditches, mow lawns, fix bridges, write poetry, I don’t care. It wasn’t about the end product – it was about getting money into people’s hands so the economy would be resurrected not on Wall Street, but in the thousands of towns and hamlets across America. Because when you give a poor man a paycheck, he goes right away and pays for food, clothing, rent. It’s the best distribution system known to man. If it took ten trillion dollars – what the heck, print ten trillion dollars and send them out to fix the country.
You would be worried about inflation, you’re saying? Well, since the dollar has been taken off the gold standard in 1971, inflation is caused by one, singular factor: what it costs banks to buy money from the Fed, the U.S. central bank. If they pay half a percent or so in interest—as they’ve been doing for decades now—then there’s no inflation. The only other possibility for an inflation is if there’s a shortage of goods, and then too many dollars are chasing too few goods and the prices soar. Look around you – we’re in a merchandizing glut, despite all the economic catastrophes and the poverty line and the single mothers – there are still way too many iPhones out there for each American.
But you don’t have to agree with me on any of the above to understand the following: If, back then, in early 2009, when President Obama was pushing his stimulus package in all the wrong directions, a group of 80 Democrats had stood up on their hind legs and said, Hell, No, We Won’t Go, I and all my Democratic friends would have rushed to the streets to cheer them on.
That’s the part I find hard to accept – why is it that when 80 right-wing parliamentarians are standing on their hind legs and telling their leadership and their president to go to hell, they won’t sign on to what they consider to be a wrong budget policy – why are they being attacked as messianic crazies, just this side of the loony bin?
Former Labor Secretary in the Clinton Administration Robert Reich, whom I happen to like very much, had this to say to Spiegel about the Tea Party Congress members: “Some of them really have contempt for the entire process of government. They’re followers of people who say that we ought to shrink government down to the size that it can drown in a bathtub. They hate government viscerally. They’re not in Washington to govern; they’re in Washington to tear it down.”
I’m not telling you anything you haven’t seen and read over the past month or so, and as the looming date of the “default” grows nearer, those character assassinations will only get nastier. And the polls are showing that America is buying it, and seems to be blaming the Republican party for our economic mess. And since our politicians live and die by the polls, it’s quite possible they’ll find a way out of this crisis, maybe for 6 weeks, maybe for 2 months, who knows.