So the Republican electoral strategy is, in effect, a gigantic con game: it depends on convincing voters that the bad economy is the result of big-spending policies that President Obama hasnâ€™t followed (in large part because the G.O.P. wouldnâ€™t let him), and that our woes can be cured by pursuing more of the same policies that have already failed.
For some reason, however, neither the press nor Mr. Obamaâ€™s political team has done a very good job of exposing the con.
People have been told over and over again that President Obama has gone on some unprecedented spending spree, and that this is why the economy remains sluggish. And in large parts of the country that’s all they hear. I’d make Rachel Maddow’s show, and Krugman’s column for that matter, available in every American household if I could. Of course, you can lead a fool to Krugman’s column, but you can’t make him read it.
What do I mean by saying that this is already a Republican economy? Look first at total government spending â€” federal, state and local. Adjusted for population growth and inflation, such spending has recently been falling at a rate not seen since the demobilization that followed the Korean War.
How is that possible? Isnâ€™t Mr. Obama a big spender? Actually, no; there was a brief burst of spending in late 2009 and early 2010 as the stimulus kicked in, but that boost is long behind us. Since then it has been all downhill. Cash-strapped state and local governments have laid off teachers, firefighters and police officers; meanwhile, unemployment benefits have been trailing off even though unemployment remains extremely high.
Krugman links to this chart with data from FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data).
Gee, I wonder why the recovery is slowing down now? [/sarcasm]
The problem, of course, is that propaganda is winning out over reality. It’s like someone I quoted recently who believed that Obama had cut back her Medicare benefits, but when asked to name which benefits she had lost could not name any. And that’s because her benefits had not been cut. And then you’ve got the middle-income teabaggers who are certain Obama raised their taxes, when in fact their taxes were cut.
That same obstructionist House majority effectively blackmailed the president into continuing all the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, so that federal taxes as a share of G.D.P. are near historic lows â€” much lower, in particular, than at any point during Ronald Reaganâ€™s presidency.
But facts that contradict Republican mythology must be brutally suppressed, so few Americans ever will hear this.
Elsewhere — E.J. Dionne has a “why can’t we all just get along” column, suggesting that if we can all agree on some common goals maybe we can find common ground. I think this proposition is naive, on several levels. For example, he writes, “We want all Americans to share prosperity and to reverse the trend toward widening inequality.” Um, from what I’ve seen, today’s self-described “conservatives” are just fine with income inequality.
But late in the column Dionne says a true thing —
Forgive me for noting that conservatives seem to believe that the rich will work harder if we give them more, and the poor will work harder if we give them less.
Yeah, pretty much. The theory is that “job creators” respond only to carrots and the poor only to sticks.