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Opinion The party in power is resisting pre-election stimulus? Really?

A banner against renter eviction is displayed on a controlled-rent building in Washington, D.C., on Sunday. (Eric Baradat/AFP)

If the economy is in a rut, the party in power usually tries to maximize the power of incumbency to improve conditions before an election. Infrastructure plans! Jaw-bone the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates! Announce job-creating trade deals! This White House and the current Senate Republican majority, however, are doing everything in their power to minimize or even prevent a stimulus deal while the party out of power insists on doing something big to prop up the economy before November. Go figure.

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) was practically fit to be tied. “Here’s the most amazing thing, Joe. Twenty Republican senators, some of whom [are] running for president in 2024, don’t want to spend one nickel,” Schumer said. “I would ask them to go back into the history books and look up a word: H-O-O-V-E-R. Herbert Hoover, [who] after the crash said, don’t spend any money, and we had the Great Depression.” He continued, “[T]hey’re all hanging their hats on this executive order. ‘Oh that will solve the problem and we won’t have to do anything.’ Well now it’s clear that these executive orders are going to be minimal at best.” He added, “Three words that I’ve used which now seem to be in the currency, are unworkable, narrow and scanty. They just won’t work.”

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It is not as if the economy is roaring back on its own. While the jobs numbers for July were not as bad as anticipated, the addition of 1.8 million jobs last month “represented a sharp deceleration from June, when 4.8 million jobs were added,” points out Steven Rattner, former “car czar” in the Obama administration. “So the scorecard at the moment is that of the 22.2 million jobs that were lost, only 9.3 million have been regained. Even if the July pace is maintained, it would take until well into next year just to return to where we were back in February.” You would think Republicans would do everything possible to help the economy perk up before they face the voters. Instead, as Rattner writes, the 10.2 percent unemployment rate “remains higher than at any point during the Great Financial Crisis and private sector economists believe it is likely to not be much lower on election day.”

Even if you believed a mere $600 a week encouraged sloth among unemployed Americans, you would want to put more money in people’s pockets to spend in the next few months. Nope. Republicans seem content to watch consumer spending plateau or fall off. (“By that measure, the recovery of consumer spending peaked in mid-June and has been roughly stable at a year-over-year decline of about 10% since then,” Rattner explains. “Another report — covering retail foot traffic — shows a similar plateau, at about 50% of normal levels. That does not augur well for future reports about jobs or economic growth.”)

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Perhaps Republicans are so attached to the donor class that they fear doing things that might not benefit them directly. (Although, don’t donors own businesses that sell things? Don’t they need functional state and local government?) Perhaps Republicans are so consumed by brain-dead trickle-down economics that they cannot even look after their own political fortunes. Or perhaps, tucked away at his country club in New Jersey — and surrounded by yes men trying to keep him swaddled in fake, good news — Trump still does not understand he has wrecked the economy. Trump’s courtiers might want to let him in on the unpleasant truth: Unless he does something dramatic, he and a whole lot of Republicans are going to join the list of the unemployed.

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