We are witnessing what social critic Naomi Klein has called “the shock doctrine” — politicians using a crisis to force through ruinous policies that the public would otherwise never accept.
The trillion-dollar annual deficits coming out of the Great Recession are used to justify an assault on core building blocks of economic security. The debt-ceiling debacle bequeathed the misbegotten “fiscal cliff” — mandated spending cuts and expiring tax provisions at the end of the year. To avoid that, legislators are meeting in backrooms about a “grand bargain” to reduce deficits by trading cuts in Medicare and Social Security for some greater tax revenue.
Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editor and publisher of the Nation magazine, vanden Heuvel writes a weekly column for The Post.
Neither presidential candidate is prepared to embrace this folly publicly or break with it in private. Obama put forth a bold jobs act last fall, but now ties any talk of investment to talk of deficit reduction. Romney rails about deficit reduction while peddling more tax breaks for the wealthy — eliminating the estate tax, sustaining the top-end Bush tax cuts, even defending the obscene carried-interest dodge.
We need action now to put people to work. With interest rates near record lows, we should be issuing Rebuild America bonds to rebuild our failing infrastructure. The resulting increase in jobs, productivity and competitiveness would more than pay for the investment. We should be helping states and localities to rehire teachers and police officers. We should be creating urban corps and green corps to provide jobs to veterans and the young. With the richest 1 percent of Americans pocketing a staggering 93 percent of national income growth coming out of the recession, we can pay for the state and local aid jobs by asking them to pay a fair share of taxes.
We’ve seen a case study of this in Europe. With a fragile recovery, conservatives in Great Britain focused on deficits and inflicted austerity on the British economy. The result has been a double-dip recession, rising unemployment, spreading poverty and misery — and belatedly a change of course. There is no reason to repeat that calamity here.