Within hours of the debt ceiling debacle, serious people agreed that economic stimulation was far more important, at least in the short term, than phony efforts to balance the budget. The hue and cry among central bankers and thoughtful economists is: Governments must act! By that they mean, stimulate stagnant economies by providing unemployment compensation, investing in public works, and providing temporary tax relief for workers (not gazillionheirs).

But, predictably, the President’s army of opponents and their conservative commentariat harangue the President for being “anti-business” and for increasing regulations on business. He is doing neither. To lay the current economic disaster at the feet of Wall Street and the fast-buck speculators of the Bush years is not “anti-business.” It is truth telling. And to re-impose financial regulations that prevent housing and other investment manipulations is prudent governance. When someone burns your house down, you try to prevent them from doing it again.

The giant banks and corporations are rolling in money. Were they to start investing and hiring we’d be pulling out of this ditch pretty quickly. But they keep giving excuses for not doing so. Uncertainty. Well, hell, life is uncertain. I thought capitalism was about taking risks. Where are the real capitalists today? Hiding? Waiting for the US Government to guarantee every investment? For a time it was uncertainty about the debt ceiling. That got taken care of (in a way children should not watch). But still no investment. What are they waiting for? We have one of the lowest effective corporate tax rates in the Western world.

For a simple-minded Colorado cowboy there is a temptation to wonder whether Big Money and Big Business are not playing poker with America’s well-being and our future. Could that poker game be about “deal me the hand I want, then I’ll play”? Is there a collective decision to sit on the financial sidelines for another year in the hopes of another neo-con, anti-government, anti-regulation, devil-take-the-hindmost, let-her-rip administration? Does anyone think for a minute that Big Money doesn’t put its own financial interests ahead of the national interest? That’s sure what my lightly-educated, working class father thought.

If so, the voters of this country, and particularly the functional fifteen percent (or more) of the unemployed, and the parents raising their kids in the back seats of cars, and a lot of the rest of us are going to have to stand up in 2012. And it would help a lot if President Obama started sounding like Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Unless private interests that control America’s wealth begin to put this country first and do what should be done to create jobs, they should not be surprised to see a nation that has been tilting right begin to do what it has done under similar circumstances and demand action by our Government. Americans are not going to let this poker game go on much longer. And we shouldn’t.

10 Responses to “Who Is Standing On the Airhose?”

  1. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    It is obvious to me, if it is to no one else, that Obama/Biden/Geithner have been handling this financial crisis in a prudent and responsible manner. They are up against a congress that apparently understands little of what they are dealing with and a Republican leadership hell-bent on ensuring that Obama is a one-term president, at any and all costs.

    Add to this a toxic and dysfunctional media/blogosphere/punditocracy that persistently demonstrates its collective incompetence and ineptitude in presenting the facts in context and, consequently, an electorate that is dangerously ill-informed and misguided in their faux populist anger.

    Despite this unfriendly deck being stacked against them, Obama/Biden/Geithner are quite capable of calling out the nonsense and setting the record straight and fighting for a responsible pro-growth strategy for tax and fiscal policy. What remains a mystery to me is why they don’t put more of an effort into it.

  2. Who Is Standing On the Airhose? « Machimon Says:

    […] Gary Hart blog,  Aug 28, 2011, Comments (1) […]

  3. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    In addition to the low corporate tax rate that you mention, the tax rate for those individuals in the highest tax bracket is the lowest that it has ever been since the inception of the personal income tax. At a maximum of 35% it is only ½ of the prior lowest tax rate (70%) for this group in history. The wealthy still made money when they were paying even the 94% rate, which was the highest rate ever imposed/allowed. The thing about the current rate for this group is that they are now gaining obscene wealth at the expense of the American working people and are busy destroying this group’s jobs by automation and shipping jobs overseas. When will it occur to these elitists that they are also destroying their own economic base in America by killing off their primary consumers ability to purchase their products?

    Wealth tends to be redistributed, when it becomes controlled by as ever decreasing number of the persons within a system. The French Monarchy learned this in 1789 and the Russian Czar in 1917. This is also a primary impetus behind much of “the Arab Spring” movement that has brought down the Egyptian and Libyan governments, and is threatening the Syrian government. This should also be considered as a contributing factor in the demise of the Soviet Union in 1989. A highly educated population with only low paying jobs, or no jobs at all, does not lead to a stable government, no matter what form it might be. A little revolution ever so often is good to keep the economic and political scales balanced. It is up to all of us to decide what form of revolution we use to balance these scales again. Inform the public with the truth and they will do the right thing. Propagate disinformation, misinformation, and untruth and it will destroy us. It is not about what we believe or feel that is important, which is what the Republican Party consistently attacks or defends. It is about truth, right, and justice. Knowledge is power, use it wisely.

  4. Neil McCarthy Says:

    Agree with your views. Here is the speech I thought Obama should give. Now. See — http://neils3ds.blogspot.com/ or http://www.huffingtonpost.com/neil-mccarthy/what-barack-should-say_b_931293.html

  5. Michael Says:

    Businesses won’t invest or hire new workers until there is an increase in aggregate demand. Period. That’s just basic macro 101. An economy working its way through a deleveraging shock, as this one is, needs the government to step in and create demand, just as FDR did, though a massive investment in public works. Instead of running away from the stimulus, Obama should fess up and acknowledge the fact that, although it saved or created 3 million jobs, it just wasn’t big enough to get us out of the hole Republican economic policy dug for us. He needs to push hard for more. Bigger this time and make clear we need to add to the deficit in the short run, not only to rebuild this dilapidated country of ours, but to put people to work and grow our way out of debt. The idea shouldn’t be so hard for a skilled communicator with a bully pulpit to get people to rally around.

  6. Gary Hart Says:

    Michael and I don’t disagree but perhaps are making the same point from different directions. I may not have taken economics 101, but I do understand aggregate demand. But our means of production are in private hands and the workers hired by companies and corporations are also consumers. The harsh political realities are that this Congress (House) will not pass another major stimulous bill. Period. Full stop. It’s leadership has declared their central purpose is not to create jobs but to defeat Barack Obama. We do agree, however, that he should take on that fight and be FDR and Truman rolled into one. Force the American people to choose sides.

  7. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    “Force the American people to choose sides.”

    I like that! That is precisely what is required and Obama/Biden/Geithner et al. need to put the effort into making that choice crystal clear.

    Then, we might see that the electorate will conclude that divided government in this day and age is the equivalent of dysfunctional government and proceed to elect a healthy Democratic majority to the House and a filibuster-proof Democratic majority to the Senate, without which it’s going to be another very long four years.

  8. Michael Says:

    Senator, of course you are right about the political realities, and I am in full agreement with most of what you have written in your post. I take exception only with the premise that businesses were waiting for the debt ceiling to be raised; or are waiting for guarantees before taking risks (though they would love them); or a government that will give them more deregulation (though they’ll certainly do everything in their power to insure the election of people who will give them all that). What they are waiting for is the consumer, and when consumers no longer have the purchasing power to keep the economy running at full capacity, there is no way businesses will hire workers again, no matter how many tax breaks or other handouts government gives them. I still remember the photo on the cover of the NY Times the day you declared your candidacy for president in 1984, standing before a public works project built by the WPA as an example of the kind of thing government can do, and at a time when government was being slammed as the cause of all our problems. I just wish President Obama would exhibit that same kind of political courage.

  9. Paul G Says:

    In this increasingly murdochian plutocracy even our alleged liberal leaders capitalize on our media-induced centrism as they lead us again and again, like sheep, to agree on the menu with the foxes and the wolves.

    A year ago, Sept. ’10, at a small business meeting, a questioner urged a close friend of the president to propose a tax on $2 trillion cash hoarded by US corporations unless they promptly invested the money in job producing ventures or otherwise loaned it to small businesses at their low discount purchase rates. The response was, “Thank you; next question?” Six long months later the president went to Wall Street and asked, “please” don’t hoard all that money.

    “Our” media focused briefly but mainly on whether wolves and foxes were upset by what they viewed as the president’s impertinance to even dare to ask.

    A few months ago, at the same close friend’s home, another questioner asked how the president can credibly reconcile his liberal eloquence with his conservative compromises? The famous friend responded not to the principle inherent in the question but to the necessary style: “Oh, he’ll be great on the campaign trail.”

    Enough already! We can and must do better. We the People need a new shepherd; one whose success is measured by proven accomplishment in our national interest; not by the coin or fear of the murdochian realm; a leader with style, yes, but more importantly for our current and future generations – a leader whose principles will never allow us to be on the wolves or fox’s menu.

  10. Paul G. Says:

    “Risk? Uncertainty? Well, hell, life is uncertain!” – Gary Hart

    This pre-Labor Day video brings to mind the contrast between fear-induced deficit cutters and courageous service investment ideas in action. The latter help disabled soldiers fly heavenly over rocky mountains in wheelchairs; the former see only the valleys of hell their greedy ideas of inaction help grow:

    http://video.nytimes.com/video/2011/09/03/us/100000001015874/wheels-up.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=thab1

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