The good news is that, last week, we managed to temporarily end the totally optional crisis created by House Republicans. The government is re-opened and the threat of a debt-ceiling default is passed.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could address the actual crisis we’re up against?
The latest job report—delayed because of the shutdown—is discouragingly weak. Unemployment is still over 7%, and the 148,000 jobs we added aren’t anywhere near sufficient to get us where we need to be. The effects of repeated manufactured crises—debt-ceiling uncertainty, the shutdown, and most significantly the sequestration cuts imposed in 2011—are dragging down an economy that has hardly had a chance to recover from a recession that started years ago.
And yet the talk in Washington, as we approach another budget debate, is once again about debt and deficits. As Ryan Cooper writes, we’re stuck having the wrong conversation.
Republicans in the House, like Paul Ryan, have made no secret of the fact that they intend to use every opportunity they can to cut programs like Social Security and Medicare. Unfortunately, the idea that we urgently need to cut these programs is epidemic in Washington—it has fans in both parties and much of the political press takes it for granted as a basic truth. (AFL-CIO Policy Director Damon Silvers neatly dismembers this idea here.)
Deficit reduction doesn’t cause economic growth; it is a result of economic growth. Cutting programs like Social Security and Medicare that help keep people out of poverty is a drag on our economy—as are the stupid, short-sighted sequestration cuts, which are like a slow-acting, long-term version of the government shutdown.
You’re going to hear a lot about the urgent need for more cuts. Don’t buy it. We need to be focused on what’s going to get us more and better jobs.