Republicans do not want a good economy in 2012

It’s getting past the point of speculation: Republicans clearly want the economy to stay in the dumps through 2012 because they know that’s the only way they have any shot of defeating Barack Obama’s re-election.

The economy clearly needs a shot in the arm. May’s disappointing employment numbers and a number of other shaky economic indicators should be sounding alarm bells about the potential for the economy to slip back into recession. The debate in DC should be about how best to boost the economy in the short-term while dealing with the nation’s long-term structural debt issues. That, of course, is not the debate we’re having. President Obama is trying, though. He floated a stimulus idea that even Republicans ought to like: No additional spending, just tax cuts. Republicans love tax cuts, right? Well, not, apparently, when those tax cuts are proposed by a Democratic president and might help improve the economy before the November 2012 election.

“Well they’ve tried this once, and it hasn’t seemed to be working,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas. Hmmm. What else have we tried that doesn’t seem to be working? Oh, yeah, massive tax cuts for the wealthy. That hasn’t stopped Republicans from advocating more of the same.

“We don’t need short-term gestures, we need long-term strategies,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. Actually, we need both. Is that too hard for members of Congress to understand? We have two very serious problems; one immediate and one long-term. The immediate problem is a soft economy. That economy is actually the main cause of the current high deficit. Revenues fell off a cliff. Bringing those revenues back up by stimulating the economy is the best short-term remedy for the deficit. Long-term, the main problem is health-care costs that are rising far faster than inflation at a time when more Americans than ever will be coming into Medicare.

Short-term, we should be doing everything possible to stimulate the economy, including borrowing and spending lots of money. Money is as cheap as it’s ever been right now, and – Republican insistence on playing games with the full faith and credit of the United States aside – no one is hesitating to lend to us. We also have trillions of dollars of pressing infrastructure needs.

Long-term, we should be working on ways to bring down health care costs. That’s the only thing – aside from leaving seniors to their own devices – that will have any significant impact on the long-term deficit.

We should be talking about the best ways to do these two things. Instead, Republicans only want to focus on the deficit, and the only way they want to deal with that is through spending cuts. More and more, serious thinkers are beginning to question the GOP’s motives. Good.

Because, frankly, it’s becoming pretty clear that Republicans are more interested in defeating Obama in 2012 than in revitalizing the economy. Maybe Republicans aren’t consciously trying to dampen the economy in the run-up to the election. Maybe they are just disastrously wrong about policy.

In either case, they cannot be trusted with power.

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