The midterm elections are just a few days away and the overwhelming plot thread is that the electorate is angry -- most notably, about the state of the American economy. Well, we should be angry -- we should be furious, in fact -- but voting for Republicans to express that anger would seem to be an antithetical response to the situation. I believe that, just two years ago, we swept Democrats into office mostly because of the GOP's mishandling of the economy. It appears that Americans are ready to cast their lot with Republicans again. How soon we forget!
Several points to keep in mind:
1. TARP -- the bank bailout -- was a Bush Administration program. Yes, it was passed by the Democratic Congress, but only after Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson actually got down on one knee to beg House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her support, telling the Democratic leadership that the entire economy would collapse if the bill wasn't passed.
2. Despite GOP rhetoric, every analysis I've seen of Obama's stimulus bill indicates that it did save a significant amount of jobs and helped the economy begin its recovery. Now, we all agree that this recovery is moving too slowly and that an unemployment rate of 9.6 percent is unacceptable. However, many economists at the time said that the stimulus needed to be larger than the $787 billion, but considering the political mood, that was the best that Obama could get from Congress.
3. More than one-third of the stimulus ($288 billion) took the form of tax cuts. Again, the misinformation that Republicans are running on is that taxes have been increased under Obama.
4. While a recent poll showed that a small majority of Americans were not in favor of the health care reform bill that Obama and the Democrats passed this year, the survey noted that when asked about the major provisions individually people overwhelmingly supported the reforms! As usual, the right has done a better job framing the issues to their advantage -- with little concern for the truth.
5. Though it isn't as tough as many would have liked, the Democratic Congress did pass a bill that toughened regulation on Wall Street and created the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, which will in theory advocate and regulate with the citizenry's interests paramount.
Make no mistake: The recession that the US is still pulling itself out from is the result of Republican policies -- tax cuts for the wealthy, a financial sector operating like the Wild West, regulatory agencies controlled by Bush-appointed former lobbyists, expensive and poorly planned military forays, and, more broadly, an abiding belief in unfettered capitalism as the answer to every question.
Democratics have their weaknesses, and I am never at a loss to point them out, but it was Republicans who put us in the hole. Do we really want to hand them shovels again?