Republicans are telling Americans a Big Lie, and
Obama and the Democrats are letting them. The Big Lie is our economic
problems are due to a government that's too large, and therefore the
solution is to shrink it.
The truth is our economic problems stem from the biggest
concentration of income and wealth at the top since 1928, combined with
stagnant incomes for most of the rest of us. The result: Americans no
longer have the purchasing power to keep the economy going at full
capacity. Since the debt bubble burst, most Americans have had to reduce
their spending; they need to repay their debts, can't borrow as before,
and must save for retirement.
The short-term solution is for government to counteract this
shortfall by spending more, not less. The long-term solution is to
spread the benefits of economic growth more widely (for example, through
a more progressive income tax, a larger EITC, an exemption on the first
$20K of income from payroll taxes and application of payroll taxes to
incomes over $250K, stronger unions, and more and better investments in
education and infrastructure.)
But instead of telling the truth, Obama has legitimized the Big Lie
by freezing non-defense discretionary spending, freezing federal pay,
touting his deficit commission co-chairs' recommended $3 of spending
cuts for every dollar of tax increase, and agreeing to extending the
Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.
Will Obama stand up to the Big Lie? Will he use his State of the
Union address to rebut it and tell the truth? Maybe, but so far there's
In his weekly address yesterday,
the President restated his "commitment" for 2011 "to do everything I
can to make sure our economy is growing, creating jobs, and
strengthening our middle class." He added that it's important "to look
ahead -- not just to this year, but to the next 10 years, and the next 20
years -- to find ways to stimulate the economy through innovation. And
that it is critical that the U.S. discover ways to "out-compete other
countries around the world."
Become more innovative? Out-compete? Who or what is he talking about?
Big American corporations are innovating like mad all over the world,
with research and development centers in China and India. And their
profits are soaring. They're sitting on almost $1 trillion of cash. But
they won't create jobs in America because there's not enough demand here
to justify them.
In the Republican address in
response, U.S. Senator-elect Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) restated the Big
Lie. "The American people sent us to Congress with clear instructions:
make government smaller, not bigger," she said. Deficit reduction "isn't
a Republican problem or a Democrat problem -- it's an American problem
that will require tough decision-making from both parties." And the way
to shrink the deficit is to cut government. The extension of the 2001
and 2003 tax cuts over the next two years, she said, was an "important
first step" to jump-start the economy.
Starting Wednesday, when the 112th Congress convenes with a
Republican majority in the House, we'll be hearing far more of the Big
George Orwell once explained that when a public is stressed and
confused, a Big Lie told repeatedly can become the accepted truth.
Adolph Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that "the size of the lie is a
definite factor in causing it to be believed" and that members of the
public are "more easily prey to a big lie than a small one, for they
themselves often tell little lies but would be ashamed to tell big
Only the President has the bully pulpit. But will he use it to tell the Big Truth?