Sunday, October 31, 2010
Afraid or Not Here it Comes
That's why I was surprised at Paul Krugman for finishing off his latest editorial with the dire warning. "Be afraid. Be very afraid." He predicts, based on recent comments by Republican leader Mitch McConnell, that the next years will bring even worse impasse and economic misery as the Republicans aim to wrest control of the White House with a damn the torpedoes policy on any legislative progress dealing with our fundamental problems. It could be that this is the calculation Republicans will make. After all, they must ask themselves, which of the two parties seems to benefit the most from a hinterland of disaffected, ignorant and angry Americans, prone to manipulation and fear-mongering?
But I don't think they will, and that is because of the most important rule of American politics: the economy, stupid, to paraphrase James Carville. If we continue to tank or even stagnate in terms of middle class incomes and expectations, the GOP will have to share at least a portion of the blame in the following electoral cycle. They would be slitting their own throats to continue to play the obstructionist game for the next two years with a majority in any of the two legislative chambers.
There are ideological impasses that recent history teaches us will be impossible for the Republicans in power to overcome, such as what to do with our energy policy. But even here the beauty of our system, with its many layered checks and balances, comes to light. In the absence of any federal action, states are already banding together into regional alliances, some of them cutting across national boundaries, such as the Northeast's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, to pledge measures to cut carbon emissions and increase the impact of energy efficiency and renewables. The infrastructure investments set up by the stimulus bill will continue to play out over the next two years, even with their relatively limited impact, providing the seeds of new manufacturing and business growth, enough to get us off our backsides and working again. And, sure, Republicans and Democrats will clash on how to improve the educational system and basic infrastructure, but nobody will argue for a hands off approach here, except the most rabidly libertarian Tea Party types.
Krugman is a Nobel laureate, and knows more than anybody of the inner workings of the American economy, but I think he is resorting to unnecessary fear-mongering. After all, most Americans are just trying to do the right thing, and if it seems that their priority is voting Republican in order to put a dent in our deficit because they've chosen to be amnesiac about the recent past, well the next time around they might follow another byzantine path to make a different choice that favors the left and its agenda. That's the crazy way we set things up and it's worked this long. There is a natural corrective mechanism. It's called the vote. No reason to fear, in my humble opinion.