Between the spring 2011 budget fight, the debt ceiling debacle, and the so-called “fiscal cliff,” the United States has cut almost $1.5 trillion in spending over the next decade, plus saving roughly $200 billion more in lower interest payments.
In fact, at the Wall Street Journal breakfast featured in the video, reporter Lori Montgomery brought up all these previous cuts point blank with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). Ryan’s rejoinder encapsulated the entire bizarre kabuki dance: “That was last session. We’re going forward now.” Montgomery and the other reporters literally busted out laughing in response. (Ryan’s logic doesn’t even work on its on terms. The new tax revenues in the fiscal cliff deal were part of the last congressional session as well, but he wants to count those.)
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the budget ledger, the country will raise only $630 billion in new tax revenue over the next decade. That’s the context in which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) insists “the tax issue is finished,” even as both he and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) claim to be seeking a “balanced” agreement. As a result, everything from Medicare, to the military, food safety, air traffic control, nutritional support for women and infants, disaster relief, law enforcement, and health research looks likely to get the axe.
Imagine, for a moment, how difficult it would have been to land a man on the moon if half of the U.S. Congress had believed that the sun revolved around the earth. Or consider how the War in the Pacific might have progressed if half of Congress had still thought the world was flat. Or whether polio would have been eradicated if half of Congress insisted that the best cure was bleeding using leeches. Unfortunately, this was the situation the United States in January 2009, when Barack Obama assumed the presidency. The nation was trying to climb out of the deepest economic hole since the Great Depression, but the Republican Party had about as scientific an approach to the economy as medieval alchemists did to the periodic table.
Sometimes, mistaken ideas can be harmless or even humorous. But in a crisis, they can be downright dangerous. By the time Obama took office, Lehman Brothers had failed, and the Treasury was already trying to prop up banks and other financial institutions to prevent a complete collapse of the economy. In addition, the nation had undergone a tremendous fiscal transformation. Back in 2000, the United States had expected to rack up more than $4 trillion in budgetary surpluses over the coming eight years, but the Bush administration enacted tax cuts that brought the tax burden for upper-income Americans down to the lowest levels since the 1940s. These cuts, combined with two expensive wars and a short recession, sent the nation into deep deficits. The new president faced an enormous task to revive the economy — one that he could not complete without Congress’s help. Together, they would have to protect Americans from a prolonged economic slump while attempting to chart a course toward a more fiscally responsible future.
Not everyone in Congress was in a mood to cooperate. Stung by their electoral defeats and facing Democratic domination of both houses, the Republicans did everything they could to slow the new president’s agenda, from filibusters and procedural votes to delayed appointments and partisan bickering. Clearly, the election campaigns of 2010 and 2012 had already begun, and Republicans were determined to stop the new president from keeping his promises.
Does anyone actually believe the GOP cares about creating jobs at all?
Senate Democrats generally don’t expect much in the way of support for their proposals, especially when it comes to the economy, but they though their new small-business tax cut bill at least had a shot.
The proposal is straightforward enough: small business owners would get a new tax incentive to hire new workers and/or increase payroll wages, on top of a break businesses claim on capital investments. An independent firm that specializes in economic modeling concluded that the Democratic proposal could create nearly 1 million jobs.
Today, a majority of the Senate supported the measure, but the modern Senate no longer operates by majority rule. Democrats couldn’t break a Republican filibuster so the bill is dead.
Senate Republicans made good on their threat to filibuster a Democratic small-business tax cut bill today, ensuring the bill fell seven votes short of what it needed to move forward.
The Senate voted 53-44 to limit debate on the bill and move to final passage, but 60 votes were needed to overcome the filibuster. […]
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) argued Republicans would typically support the small-business bill save for their desire to deny the president a political victory ahead of the November elections. “There is no reason for them to oppose this bill other than to hurt President Obama,” Reid said today.
Republicans said they felt the need to kill the legislation because Reid denied them the chance to water it down with a series of amendments.
And since procedural concerns are obviously more important than lowering unemployment, the GOP argument doesn’t seem to surprise anyone.
A partial list…
1. Filibustering the American Jobs Act. Last October, Senate Republicans killed a jobs bill proposed by President Obama that would have pumped $447 billion into the economy. Multiple economic analysts predicted the bill would add around two million jobs and hailed it as defense against a double-dip recession. The Congressional Budget Office also scored it as a net deficit reducer over ten years, and the American public supported the bill.
2. Stonewalling monetary stimulus. The Federal Reserve can do enormous good for a depressed economy through more aggressive monetary stimulus, and by tolerating a temporarily higher level of inflation. But with everything from Ron Paul’s anti-inflationary crusade to Rick Perry threatening to lynch Chairman Ben Bernanke, Republicans have browbeaten the Fed into not going down this path. Most damagingly, the GOP repeatedly held up President Obama’s nominations to the Federal Reserve Board during the critical months of the recession, leaving the board without the institutional clout it needed to help the economy.
3. Threatening a debt default. Even though the country didn’t actually hit its debt ceiling last summer, the Republican threat to default on the United States’ outstanding obligations was sufficient to spook financial markets and do real damage to the economy.
4. Cutting discretionary spending in the debt ceiling deal. The deal the GOP extracted as the price for avoiding default imposed around $900 billion in cuts over ten years. It included $30.5 billion in discretionary cuts in 2012 alone, costing the country 0.3 percent in economic growth and 323,000 jobs, according to estimates from the Economic Policy Institute. Starting in 2013, the deal will trigger another $1.2 trillion in cuts over ten years.
5. Cutting discretionary spending in the budget deal. While not as cataclysmic as the debt ceiling brinksmanship, Republicans also threatened a shutdown of the government in early 2011 if cuts were not made to that year’s budget. The deal they struck with the White House cut $38 billion from food stamps, health, education, law enforcement, and low-income programs among others, while sparing defense almost entirely.
So why exactly isn’t the press talking about this?
The reality of the jobs report isn’t so much that we’re backsliding into another recession (we’re not), but that 1) we were almost entirely unprepared as a people for the depth of the “Great Recession,” 2) there are way too many people leaning on the panic button over the deficit and debt instead of robust spending on job creation, and 3) the corrosive nature of our news media (traditional and digital) and our party politics in this era has allowed the Republicans to sabotage the economy with impunity.