This appears to be the second in what is destined to be a series of self-righteous gripe sessions. I have noticed recently that my bouts of moral indignation are almost *always* immediately preceded by a hefty dose of news. Last time I read alternet.org or foxnews, I had to go spend some *serious* quality time getting it all out of my system.
“The reason default is no better idea today than when Newt Gingrich tried it in 1995, is it … would give the president an opportunity to blame Republicans for a bad economy… If we go into default, [Obama] will say Republicans are making the economy worse… and all of the sudden, we have co-ownership of the economy. That is a very bad position going into the election.” (italics mine)
Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader
I actually think highly of a number of McConnell’s moderate stances, and I don’t mean to single him out. But I mean, c’mon. I know this is pointed out consistently, but it is one of those metrics that seems to evaporates on contact with the human brain. I have little faith that endless repetition will make much difference, but the numbers deserve to be repeated. Consider wikipedia’s breakdown of national debt by presidential term, going right back to the beginning of the New Deal (those socialists!). If you evaluate it by party, your brain will probably pick up intuitively on the fact that the national debt has actually increased substantially less under democratic presidents than it has under republican ones. In fact, crunching the numbers will indicate that the debt has actually decreased under democratic leadership in aggregate, and increased under republican guidance. So, if you bought the whole equation linking democrats with big government and pork barrel spending, you need to go listen to this youtube clip, like, stat. Sorry.
Now, for those among you — party faithful to the hilt, card carriers, perhaps — who now feel vindicated in your faith in the democratic party: please listen to this youtube clip here. That’s right. Take it like the liberal, bleeding heart humanists you are. Again, the numbers speak clearly: democrats has overwhelmingly been in charge of both congress and the senate over the last 65 years. AHA!
These numbers indicate two things: first (and less importantly), neither party represents the qualities the other thinks that it does. Comparatively, democrats are NOT big spenders and mainstream republicans are NOT business-focused, belt-tightening spendthrifts. In many ways, they are the Pepsi and Coke of politics: everyone (except this guy) can tell you what their preference is, but they are only trivially different in nutritional content (oh, I’m sorry — Pepsi does have less sodium). What they have in common radically outweighs the difference between them but still makes people swear, fume, and argue. Personally, I prefer Belgian beer — I suppose that makes me an independent.
The second thing I would draw from these numbers — and you should too, by gum — is that we all have co-ownership of the economy. McConnell was obviously speaking “politically” — as if that’s any excuse — when he warned against creating the appearance of Republican ownership of economic problems. In a more pragmatic sense, though, both parties own this debt. Any focus on finger pointing, one-upmanship, or political posturing is simply a waste of time. Remember the old patriotic axiom from elementary school history that “divided we fall, united we stand”? It is probably just as reliable as most axioms (which is to say, not at all) but does underscore the point that division, political or otherwise, is good for conquest but bad for survival. We should not have to decide between increasing taxes and reducing spending; we should do both — just like the vast majority of qualified economists have been saying for years.
I don’t imagine qualified economists are very popular in Washington.
The temptation to take a side, externalize all failure and error to the other side, and stand back with a sense of damaged righteousness — must be a very ancient human instinct. How can we possibly face the unexplored complexities of the modern world if we cannot put aside such a childish sensibility?