Tue 18 Oct, 2011 03:27 pm
Katrina vanden Heuvel
Nero’s fiddling while Rome burned may be nothing compared to the folly of Washington and Wall Street’s inaction while the world economy teeters on the verge of global depression. No wonder the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators have spread across the world. By raising a din, they might wake folks up.
Last week, yet another filibuster by Republican senators blocked even a debate on President Obama’s jobs bill, which is already modest in the extreme. More than half of the bill would simply avoid making things worse — extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance, and trying to limit layoffs of teachers and police officers next year. Without the extensions, the cuts in government spending and hikes in taxes would reduce an estimated 2 percent of GDP from growth next year — at a time when the economy is already near a standstill.
A good portion of the bill would provide tax breaks for businesses. And a far-too-small part would provide money for building schools, roads, sewers and other infrastructure projects that will put some people to work.
Feeling some heat, Republican senators released their version of a jobs act, which offers up sacrifices to the business gods. It would repeal financial and health-care reform, suspend regulations across the board, and advance a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. And Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) promises, with some Kentucky magic, that it would produce 5 million jobs.
Worse, the bipartisan gang of 12 legislators in Congress’s “supercommittee” continues to meet in closed sessions to decide how to cut another $1.2 trillion from deficits over 10 years. If the members fail to agree, deep cuts in defense and domestic spending begin in fiscal year 2013.
Newt Gingrich got this right for once: “It’s like saying we’re going to shoot you in the head or cut off your leg, which do you prefer?” And with the committee tasked to report before Thanksgiving, we are virtually guaranteed to spend the winter arguing about how to mutilate the economy, not about how to get it going.
Europe is already feeling the effects of premature austerity. Britain’s conservative coalition seems intent on driving the country into recession. Germany’s economy is stagnant and slowing. Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy are on a forced march to decline.
No wonder people are in the streets. We need bold and sustained action to restart this economy, with all of the G-20, the world’s major economies, cooperating
We need massive reform, an we are not going to get it until we have a little revolution by the looks of it....