Thursday, September 8, 2011

Economic Treason

Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal
Americans exhibit abiding skepticism regarding the exercise of government power. President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs and defeat of global fascism brought an era of relative goodwill toward government. A can-do view of government emerged from successful programs like Eisenhower’s national highway system and Kennedy's man on the moon. But, for many Americans, the notion of government as competent benefactor has plummeted to earth. Healthy skepticism has devolved into dysfunctional cynicism, outrage, and intransigence. What caused the turnabout?

Presidents Nixon and Bush are alpha and omega in destroying public confidence in the presidency and government. Nixon's criminality and paranoia-inspired, divisive political strategies, particularly his cynical "Southern Strategy," began a corrosive process culminating in Bush's polarizing politics, unwarranted stubbornness, disrespect for law and constitution, and breathtaking incompetence.

President Reagan is the meat in this sandwich of presidential misfeasance. His trickle-down, supply-side economics and "government is the problem, not the solution" mantra, proved a poisonous combination. Under-regulation and unsustainable tax cuts led to economic turmoil, exploding deficits, and exsanguination of the middle class, while public distrust of government ensured lack of appetite for an effective response. History has delivered its dispassionate verdict on both Reaganomics and government too small for the job. Fail.

Flawed conservative economic theories brought financial ruin. Public cynicism and the Republican and Tea Party's intransigent politics of “NO” in Congress endanger effective action. We must revive Roosevelt era pragmatism. Congress must discard ideological extremism and selfish considerations of political advantage in favor of taking immediate, practical steps. While Americans remain in financial harm’s way, obstructionist politics is tantamount to economic treason.

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