For context, the President is making these offers in an economy which lost more than $10 trillion dollars to the predations of Wall Street.
And as he does so, the Crazy Train is now arriving on Track "R." Republicans, who continue to chant the Reagan mantra that "government is the problem," are still pursuing its wholesale elimination. In that context the President's counter-proposal reads like a request for a more orderly dismantling of the State than the one the Visigoths envision.
Nobody's discussing the vital role that government has played in creating a better future -- after the Great Depression, during the postwar years -- and can play again. The President did it, and very effectively, in the State of the Union. But that was a speech. This is governance.
And as this stupid game goes on -- how much do we cut, and where? -- Washington's past flings with austerity madness are already carving chunks out of our economy. The GDP, which grew 3.2 percent in the third quarter of 2012, shrank by 0.1 in the fourth quarter as their cuts began to take effect.
The official unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent last month. (That's nearly double the 4 percent rate that was once considered an appropriate national goal.) The economy added 157,000 jobs, will is roughly half the number needed to address the unemployment crisis in any meaningful fashion. UE6 -- the best measure of real employment -- stood at 14.4 percent. (That figure was 7.9 percent at the end of 2006, the year before the crisis erupted.)
Consumer confidence is plunging -- and why wouldn't it? Nobody's offering to help the average consumer. And if consumers don't feel confident enough to spend, the jobs economy (as opposed to the financial/speculative economy) will continue to wither.
Meanwhile, the wealthy have taken all the spoils of the post-crisis recovery, and then some, leaving middle class and impoverished Americans with less of our national income than they had before. That translates into tens of millions of disrupted lives -- lives that aren't even being discussed in the "sequester" debate.
One of the meanings of the word "sequester," according to Merriam-Webster, is "to requisition and confiscate." Another is "to remove or set apart," which is a surprisingly accurate description of Washington's relationship to the rest of the nation as it indulges in this meaningless -- and, by implication, confiscatory -- exercise.
As Paul Krugman keeps saying, "This isn't rocket science. We know how to do this." There is a clear formula for short-term government investment that can create jobs, stimulate growth, increase prosperity, and create new opportunities to advance economically. And since we know how to do this, that leads to only one conclusion as we watch the debate in Washington:
They don't want to.
It's a game -- a stupid and destructive game whose cheerleaders are vapid and flippant thugs like Alan Simpson or pampered and self-satisfied hedge-funders like Erskine Bowles. The President could demand an end to the game. He could say that the sequester must be shelved permanently -- right now -- and then make the case for investment to heal our economy.
Instead he's playing this stupid game with the rest of them. If he won't put an end to this shallow and destructive game, this foolish substitute for a real economic debate, then the public will have to demand it.
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