The Economy has hit a Republican Wall

Did you hear Republican Senator Pat Toomey’s recent weekly Republican radio address. He announced that “the economy has hit a wall.” Exactly. It hit a Republican wall. Everything our government has done to bring us out of recession for the last eighty years he and his fellow Republicans have said “no” to.

  • Unemployment compensation. No extensions.
  • Spending on infrastructure. Not a penny.
  • Regulation of corporate shenanigans. No.
  • Regulation of bankers’ shenanigans. No; nothing to clean up the financial system.

Instead the Republicans want to spend your hard earned money, if you’re lucky enough to have a job, on tax breaks for people who don’t need it. Toomey, echoing the Republican PR phrasebook, called taxes on the portion of income that exceeds a million dollars “job killing taxes.” Watch out – I think he’s trying to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge. Taxes would kill jobs if the taxpayers would actually spend the money in ways that would employ people. In fact they are quite well aware that isn’t true, can’t be true.

I had the opportunity to ask a member of former President Bush’s top leadership, how do the newspapers say it, a high Administration source. I asked him if they had data indicating what the Bush tax cuts were actually being used for? It was a private, off the record conversation and I appreciated his candor. He lowered his voice and told me “McMansions.” Wealthy beneficiaries of the Bush tax cuts built themselves bigger houses. Thanks. They contributed to the housing boom – and bust. They did not contribute to the economy. My source added something which should be obvious – there has been plenty of money available to invest.  Those who have the money have never needed more so they could invest. They have it. They’re not using it. The money is not being productively used in this country and the reason has nothing whatever to do with taxes – they need a market. And when the economy is tanking, there isn’t much of a market – until we hit bottom. Tax cuts for those at the top – a rip-off.

Actually the value of taxes depends on what you do with them. Tax the middle class to support the lavish living of those who pay a smaller proportion of their income and the economy will stay in the tank. But put idle funds to work, building the infrastructure, supporting the major R&D that our government has been very good at, preparing America for the major challenges that lie ahead, and the whole country wins.

So thank you to the Occupy movement. They’re asking the right questions and pointing in the right direction. We need to use the ballot box to push out of office the Republicans who insist on leaving the economy in the doldrums while they line the pockets of their friends, Republicans who think it is more important that the country do poorly while Obama is in office than that we take care of the needs of our people. Shame on them. Let’s occupy their public space and build a movement that pushes them out of the news into the dustbin of history.

—    This commentary was broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, Nov. 29, 2011.

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