Opinion: Throwing gasoline on a roaring fire

Back in 2009, in the midst of the greatest recession in 80 years, with 800,000 Americans losing their jobs each month, congressional Republicans refused to support a major economic stimulus package needed to pull the country back from the brink.

It was, they explained, a matter of principle.

Even with the nation teetering on economic depression — “this sucker could go down,” as President Bush had earlier put it — Republicans simply could not support legislation that would increase the deficit. It was a line they would not cross, because it defined them as a party.

Eight years later, with the economy recovered, the jobless rate low and the stock market purring along nicely, their principled concern about the deficit suddenly vanished. The economic stimulus that they would not consider at a moment of dire national need under a Democrat, they rushed to enact under a Republican.

At a pricetag of $1.5 trillion in additional debt, their stimulus plan came in twice as high as the package that they could not support eight years earlier. It also came at a moment in the economic cycle when an injection of cheap money was not only unnecessary but downright dangerous, substantially increasing the odds of inflation and rising interest rates.

Some of the consequences are already apparent. We face annual deficits of more than $1 trillion, even in good times when revenues are strong and when we ought to be repairing our finances. Should the economy falter — as it will at some point — those deficits will skyrocket. Just last week, the Congressional Budget Office warned that because of the tax cuts, we will run up against the national debt ceiling in early March, much earlier than predicted.

So why this, and why now? Because Donald Trump needed a “win.” That is the level of seriousness that our national leaders now demonstrate.

Let’s be clear: This is not money that is “being returned to the American taxpayer.” That is a gross deceit, and the proof sits in black and white and red on the nation’s balance sheets. The money that we are using to further enrich corporations already reporting their highest after-tax profits in history, the hundreds of billions that we’re handing to rich Americans already enjoying concentrations of wealth not seen since just before the Great Depression, is money that we are borrowing from — taking from — our children and grandchildren.

In the past few days, we have witnessed a bit of a challenge in the stock market, driven by concerns of an overheating economy. This may prove to be a temporary blip. It might be something more serious.

What we do know is that sooner or later, debts incurred must be repaid. We also know that our governing political party has abandoned pretenses of principle and policymaking in service to its new leader. Whatever contorted position is required to maintain their loyalty to Trump, that is the contorted position that they will take.

A party that had long detested the Russia of Vladimir Putin suddenly treats Moscow with deference. The party that championed free trade and global commerce now preaches trade barriers and economic warfare. The party of traditional values and the sanctity of marriage now embraces as its moral leader a man who cheated on his pregnant third wife with a porn star, later paying her $130,000 in hush money. And the party that took pride in defending law enforcement now launches groundless attacks on the FBI rather than risk learning the truth.

Party on, boys. Party on.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Opinion


Liberals, media blinded by anti-Trump hatred The unhinged anti-Trumpers and in-the-tank disgraced media are like rabid animals; nothing will satisfy or tame them. If Trump had punched Putin in the nose on camera, hugged him tight or bowed down to him as Obama did before the Saudi sheik, any of those actions would have been roundly excoriated. Just...
Opinion: Spare me your shock at Trump’s sellout to Putin

“Lawmakers in both major parties and former intelligence officials appeared shocked …” —The Chicago Tribune “U.S. lawmakers of both political parties reacted with shock …” —Voice of America “Some of Mr. Trump’s own advisers privately said they were shocked …” —The New...
Opinion: Our ‘America first’ president put America last in Helsinki

America’s child president had a playdate with a KGB alumnus, who surely enjoyed providing daycare. It was a useful, illuminating event: Now we shall see how many Republicans retain a capacity for embarrassment. Jeane Kirkpatrick, a Democrat closely associated with such Democratic national security stalwarts as Sen. Henry Jackson and former Sen...
Opinion: When trade skirmishes hit home

On Friday’s front page of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, reporters Tamar Hallerman, our Washington correspondent, and Michael Kanell, a business reporter based here, wrote about Ironmonger Brewing Co., a Marietta-based company. Co-owner David Sheets worries about a trade war. Why? Tariffs on aluminum and steel might drive up the cost of the...
Opinion: Fewer resources, less ‘common good’ fueling U.S. mental health crisis

With every school shooting, celebrity suicide, and aggressive police encounter, we hear the common cry, “Get them to mental health!” While there is good reason to worry about the mental illness of our nation as the country becomes more fragmented and polarized, in the cost-driven marketplace of 2018, the public mental health system has...
More Stories