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General News    H2'ed 1/10/13

History shows that Republican/Tea Party Solutions Do Not Work

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[Note this was originally published on Jan 9, 2013, in the local
Valencia County News-Bulletin Newspaper in reply to an earlier letter.
The context of the earlier letter should be obvious from my reply.]

I'm writing this in response to the Letter to the Editor by Dennis Schlessinger in the Dec 1, 2012 News-Bulletin.  His conclusion that stimulus programs prolong a depression and austerity programs shorten depressions is not supported by history.

He states (paraphrasing) that the 1920 Depression was short because of Harding's austerity program, and the 1929 Depression was unnecessarily long because of FDR's "massive government programs (stimulus money)". He apparently believes that if FDR had implemented an austerity program, the Great Depression would have been over much sooner.

And for our economy, all we need to do is to follow the Republican plan of deep cuts to government programs, and tax cuts for the rich, enabling them to enjoy an additional digit in their bank accounts.

However, a broader understanding of history does not support his claim. Austerity and tax cuts for the rich do not improve the overall economy. The non-partisan Congressional Research Service recently issued a report concluding that supply-side economics (in other words, the claim that cutting taxes on the rich will benefit the middle class) actually hurts the middle class.

The 1920 Depression lasted 18 months, but only 4 months of it was during Harding's administration, hardly enough time for anything Harding did to significantly affect anything. And what is more, the 1920 Depression is commonly attributed to changing from a war economy to a peace economy, a difficult but not unexpected transition in any society.

The European economies provide ample evidence that austerity does not work. The first austerity measure was implemented about 18 months ago. Why do the European economies continue to worsen with no end in sight after implementation of several austerity measures, if Mr Schlessinger were correct?

The Great Depression had been going on for almost four years before FDR became President. Hoover did the sorts of things that Mr Schlessinger advocates and the economy continued to worsen. If Mr Schlessenger were correct, why was the Depression consistently getting worse for almost four years - before FDR came into office? There are good reasons to believe that American capitalism was on the verge of collapse as a result of the Depression and Hoover's policies. For a large part of Hoover's term, his top priority was to balance the budget. Sound familiar?

Mr Schlessinger ignores the fact that the turnaround occurred after - and as a result of - FDR's stimulus policies. And contrary to Mr Schlessenger's claim, the economy did begin getting back on its feet before FDR's policies were scaled back.  In fact, in 1937, Congress did reduce FDR's stimulus, and as a result, the economy faltered a bit. That should demonstrate that FDR's policies were effective.

If we want to look at a response that worked, we should study how Iceland recovered from the economic crash. Iceland changed the government, jailed some corrupt bankers, nationalized the banks, and provided an economic stimulus to the people. And after some pain, they're doing much better than Europe.  Wouldn't it make more sense to study a success case to see what might apply to our country instead of instituting policies that history has shown do not work?

But more importantly, I think the issue deserving focus is the disconnect between Congress and their constituents, and that's something about which the entire spectrum of grass roots organizations can agree, from the Tea Party to Occupy. Politicians do the bidding of their biggest campaign contributors, and it's primarily corporations and the rich who provide the really big donations. Follow the money.

We need to implement a system where 'we the people' pay them so they will answer to us. And we must overrule the Supreme Court's erroneous decision that corporations are people and money is protected free speech. Overruling the Supreme Court requires a Constitutional Amendment. Let's all pull together and force this common issue by pressuring Congress as well as our local politicians.

Please visit the www.occupyloslunas.info web page and watch the Lawrence Lessig videos (on the right side). He makes clear the problems that money causes in everything from science to politics, and that's something on which we should all be able to agree.

So let's put aside our disagreements and work together at changing our "legalized bribery" method of campaign finance. If we don't fix this problem, nothing else is going to get fixed.

Our small Occupy Los Lunas group meets every Sunday at 10am at River Park. We would welcome anybody (including Mr Schlessenger) to drop by and talk about what we all have in common so we can work together on the issues on which we agree.

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I was a computer engineer for ~25 years, now I've changed careers and am flying. Currently I'm flying freight on Caravans. I was at SkyWest flying a CRJ as a First Officer. And previous to that I was flying as a First Officer in a Lear Jet air (more...)

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