Sunday, January 13, 2008

Are these guys for real?

I don't want to sound outlandish and I'm not trying to bait anyone, but c'mon. I learn from a news report that the various candidates for the Republican nomination for President in the US are all touting an economic programme that is ... well, amazing in its ideological rigidity and shocking in its blindness. One candidate -- McCain I believe -- said that there was need to ensure that tax cuts of the Bush Jr era were not rolled back. Others talked about the need to balance the books by cutting government spending.

Tax cuts and spending cuts: is this all we will ever hear from neo-cons by way of economic policy? Reading what these candidates had to say I felt I had been transported back in time to the 1970s and early 1980s because they are saying the same things the Reagan said. Reading over their economic ideas, one would have no idea that the historical context was completely different. For instance: what is going to be cut to balance the books? There is no semblance of welfare state left to cut, Reagan, Bush Sr and Bush Jr did away with that. Pork barrel spending? How much will that amount to? (Remember, too, that the Republicans have been in charge of both Congress and the Presidency for most of Bush Jr's admin until about a year ago. That pork is Republican pork and do these candidates for the Republican leadership believe their supporters in Congress will easily do away with it?) The military? That might be an option but how, then, does the US fight in Iraq, something that all Republican candidates save one are committed to.

Let's be clear about this: the US economy is in bad shape. It is, without doubt, the biggest economy and that is the only thing that allows it to keep going. There is a serious debt and deficit problem, there is a balance of trade issue, there are serious weaknesses in the credit system (sub-prime, for example). The US desperately needs to re-invest in its social infrastructure to maintain competitiveness. The public educational and health systems -- key facets of a healthy population and competitive workforce -- are in desperate need of reinvestment. In terms of physical infrastructure: the disaster caused by Katrina is still not repaired.

These economic ideas are old idea. They did not work at the time and they won't work now. (Don't believe me, go back and look up the SNL crisis and compare it to the sub-prime crisis.) George Bush Jr has been trying to get Reagan era economics to work his entire administration. The result has been incompetent administration (such as FEMA, and financial sector regulation) that is driven by ideology instead of results and a mounting government debt that threatens to destroy the American economy. The US desperately needs new economic ideas if it is to save itself. This bunch, however, with their recycled Reaganomics will only continue the downward spiral. There is ideology an then there is stupid ideological blindness. Intelligent people realize when a theory is not working in practice. I do hope some Republican leadership contender has the courage to make this obvious point instead of mouthing platitudes.
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