John Boehner, the House minority leader, was widely mocked last year when he declared that “It’s time for government to tighten their belts” — in the face of depressed private spending, the government should spend more, not less. But since then President Obama has repeatedly used the same metaphor, promising to match private belt-tightening with public belt-tightening. Does he lack the courage to challenge popular misconceptions, or is this just intellectual laziness? Either way, if the president won’t defend the logic of his own policies, who will?Obama is a smart guy. But he refuses to see what is obvious. He came into power during a Great Recession but he has governed as if health care were the only major issue facing the citizenry. He has show no curiosity and no intelligence in dealing with the economy.
Meanwhile, the administration’s mortgage modification program — the program that inspired the Santelli rant — has, in the end, accomplished almost nothing. At least part of the reason is that officials were so worried that they might be accused of helping the undeserving that they ended up helping almost nobody.
So the moralizers are winning. More and more voters, both here and in Europe, are convinced that what we need is not more stimulus but more punishment. Governments must tighten their belts; debtors must pay what they owe.
The irony is that in their determination to punish the undeserving, voters are punishing themselves: by rejecting fiscal stimulus and debt relief, they’re perpetuating high unemployment. They are, in effect, cutting off their own jobs to spite their neighbors.
There are two excellent videos on this situation that were shown on CBS's Sixty Minutes. First they show the devastation that the lack of focus on jobs and the economy has done to small town America. That is followed by a video clip from that same show that points out the idiocy of "tax cuts" that is eating away at civil society: