I remember at college taking Introduction to Economics. It was one of the best courses I ever took. For one thing, I had a great professor. But also, I knew nothing about macroeconomics. So I learned a whole lot.
What I most remember about the course, however, was the idea of fiscal and monetary stimulus. I remember thinking, “That’s great! At least we will never have to live through another Great Depression.” This was sometime in the middle of the 1980s. There is an important lesson here: never extrapolate how Democrats will work with a Republican President to times when there is a Democratic President.
Paul Krugman’s column today is, Knowledge Isn’t Power. As it’s starting point, it takes a recent University of Chicago survey of economists which found that when asked if the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)—”the stimulus”—helped the economy, 36 said yes and only one (our old ideologue Alberto Alesina) said it didn’t. So unlike what one hears in the press, there isn’t any disagreement about the nature of our economic trouble. The problem is that the politicians just refuse to do what the economists know is correct.
Krugman even says what I had thought all those years ago, sitting in class:
Of course, the crux of the matter is more partisan than this. If we had inaugurated President McCain in 2009, there would have been lots and lots of stimulus: not just the under-sized and poorly structured ARRA. Sure, there would have been some Democrats complaining about the budget deficit, but bills would have passed and we would now have a far better economy.
So we know what to do to help the economy. And the politicians are willing to do what needs to be done. But the Republicans won’t do it if a Democratic President will get credit for it. And that means that the Republican Party has sunk so low that its only interests are those of the party. They have no interest in doing what is best for all Americans. This isn’t supposed to be able to happen. Normally, such a party would parish or reform. But in a world where corporations “speak” with money and discriminate with their “religious beliefs,” it is no wonder. The Republican Party is a symptom, not a cause, of our broken democratic system.