Political Asylum — August 31, 2012, 10:26 am

Spend, Baby, Spend

Now that the Republican Convention has ended, can we move on to the one bedrock but unspoken truth underlying all the accepted distortions of closed factories and $716 billion cuts and all the standing O’s on behalf of tax and spending cuts? We will be getting a stimulus program next year, no matter who wins. Last night, Mitt Romney gave us a sense of how that will work.

First, all four candidates have articulated arguments in favor of stimulus spending, including both Romney and Ryan.

In 2009, Mitt was unambiguous about his preference for a Keynesian plan:

“I think there is need for economic stimulus,” he said.

And in the 2008 campaign, Mitt offered a specific spending plan, not unlike Obama’s original, with which he hoped “to provide a stimulus to our economy on a short-term basis as well as ignite long-term growth in the American economy.”

And of course Paul Ryan, as Chris Hayes has shown, loved the idea of stimulus spending when George Bush was president:

Obama and Biden are also running on the claim that the limited and early stimulus spending they enacted slowed the half-million jobs lost per month in the final days of the Bush Administration to the admittedly feeble 50,000–100,000 monthly gain we have now. But here’s the reality that all of them know: A consumer economy can only be kickstarted when consumers find that there is more money in their pockets. The fastest way to accomplish that is to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs with taxpayer money. Waiting for the private sector to organically produce those jobs has produced the last two to three years of economic doldrums. “You have to spend a little to grow a little,” said Paul Ryan on January 8, 2002. Putting money in the hands of consumers by flushing taxpayer dollars into the system and keeping the unemployed hopeful until jobs appear are the “time-tested, proven, bipartisan solutions,” as Ryan once explained on the House floor.

This is no mystery to this, at least in the conversation that happens beneath the campaign rhetoric of “cut spending and cut taxes.” Liberal economists have spent three and a half years making the case that we should do this in a big way, and some conservatives, perhaps unhappily, admit that it will happen.

“It’s not a matter of whether a President Romney and a Republican Congress would pass a stimulus,” wrote Scott Galupo in American Conservative magazine a few days ago, “It’s a matter of what they’re going to call it.”

Listening to Romney’s speech last night, it seemed clear he will center his stimulus spending foremost around energy policy. (How he will make the case rhetorically is unclear. Perhaps deploy the Truman and Eisenhower tactic of arguing that national security requires us to set aside ideas of austerity.) A Romney energy policy will translate the Republican euphemism “Drill, baby, drill” into its underlying economic meaning: “Spend, baby, spend.” He will move immediately to underwrite the Keystone Pipeline, loosen up drilling applications by handing that responsibility to the states, and open federal lands and offshore locations to an oil-exploration Renaissance.

“Three million jobs come back to this country by taking advantage of something we have right underneath our feet,” Romney said a few days ago, in announcing the details of his stimulus—uh, energy—plan. “That’s oil, and gas, and coal. We’re going to make it happen. We’re going to create those jobs.” Never mind that a recent Congressional Budget Office report stated that opening American land to drilling would produce a meager $7 billion over ten years.

Given the tax subsidies and other types of federal spending required to achieve even that tiny gain, this part of the Romney stimulus package would cost us dearly. But then, as economic historian Dick Cheney once noted, “Deficits don’t matter.”

Share
Single Page
undefined

More from Jack Hitt:

Political Asylum November 6, 2012, 2:01 pm

The Electoral Battle Between Corporationism and Empiricism

Obama’s data-driven approach may decide today’s race—and determine the future of the G.O.P.

Political Asylum September 25, 2012, 3:18 pm

Wall Street Places Its Election Bets

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2016

Land of Sod

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Only an Apocalypse Can Save Us Now

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Watchmen

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Acceptable Losses

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Home

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Tennis Lessons

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
 
Andrew Cockburn on the Saudi slaughter in Yemen, Alan Jacobs on the disappearance of Christian intellectuals, a forum on a post-Obama foreign policy, a story by Alice McDermott, and more
Artwork by Ingo Günther
Article
Land of Sod·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Just a few short years ago, Yemen was judged to be among the poorest countries in the world, ranking 154th out of the 187 nations on the U.N.’s Human Development Index. One in every five Yemenis went hungry. Almost one in three was unemployed. Every year, 40,000 children died before their fifth birthday, and experts predicted the country would soon run out of water.

Photograph by Mike Slack
Article
The Watchmen·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Just a few short years ago, Yemen was judged to be among the poorest countries in the world, ranking 154th out of the 187 nations on the U.N.’s Human Development Index. One in every five Yemenis went hungry. Almost one in three was unemployed. Every year, 40,000 children died before their fifth birthday, and experts predicted the country would soon run out of water.

Illustration by John Ritter
Article
Acceptable Losses·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Just a few short years ago, Yemen was judged to be among the poorest countries in the world, ranking 154th out of the 187 nations on the U.N.’s Human Development Index. One in every five Yemenis went hungry. Almost one in three was unemployed. Every year, 40,000 children died before their fifth birthday, and experts predicted the country would soon run out of water.

Photograph by Alex Potter
Article
The Origins of Speech·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"To Chomsky...every child’s language organ could use the 'deep structure,' 'universal grammar,' and 'language acquisition device' he was born with to express what he had to say, no matter whether it came out of his mouth in English or Urdu or Nagamese."
Illustration (detail) by Darrel Rees. Source photograph © Miroslav Dakov/Alamy Live News

Chances that college students select as “most desirable‚” the same face chosen by the chickens:

49 in 50

Most of the United States’ 36,000 yearly bunk-bed injuries involve male victims.

In Italy, a legislator called for parents who feed their children vegan diets to be sentenced to up to six years in prison, and in Sweden, a woman attempted to vindicate her theft of six pairs of underwear by claiming she had severe diarrhea.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today