Democratic Seppuku Too Horrible to Watch

Robert Borosage

Politics is not rocket science. Karl Rove and the political witch doctors like to pretend they can concoct mysterious potions to steal elections, but that’s just con man puffery. Politics really is mostly common sense.

Democrats just got “shellacked” in an election. The reason was simple. We had the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Democrats were in power. They had neither a successful economic agenda, nor a compelling economic message. They lost. Not more complicated than that. Pretty easy lesson to learn.

So now we still have 9.8% unemployment, a faltering economy, the highest poverty numbers since the Census Bureau started keeping numbers. We’re still losing manufacturing jobs, foreclosures are continuing. The economy still sucks.

So what are Democrats arguing about? We have the president’s Deficit Commission, not a jobs commission. The president is freezing the pay of federal workers, not laying out a jobs initiative. Democrats in the House are lining up against extending tax breaks on upper end incomes, a good thing, but they fail to make any claim that they’ll use the money to generate jobs and growth. Republicans defend the rich as is their wont, but have learned to repeat robotically that tax breaks for the wealthy will help generate jobs. This is preposterous, but it happens to be the ONLY JOBS ARGUMENT OUT THERE.

What explains this folly? Not public opinion polls. The most recent post-election CBS poll shows 56% of Americans want jobs and the economy to be the first priority of the Congress, 4% choose focus on budget deficits. Not economists. From the conservative Chair of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, to the liberal Nobel prize-winners Paul Krugman and Joe Stigltiz, economists are pleading for more fiscal stimulus—spending or tax cuts – to help generate jobs. Hell, even the president’s own economists — Larry Summers, Christina Romer, Jered Bernstein – are for a big jobs initiative.

Instead, if the vote of Senator Dick Durbin in favor of the Deficit Commission is any indication, the president is about to sign on to cutting Social Security benefits, raising the retirement age, and pushing for deep cuts in federal spending and employment. This will cost millions of jobs.

What can explain this behavior? Perhaps mysterious potions do work. Democrats are enthralled by an alluring establishment seduction, oblivious to the ruin outside the beltway, enticing them to parade the manly virtues of fiscal austerity.

Or perhaps they are just suicidal. 2010 was simply a warmup. In 2012, they are intent on full Seppuku, a ritualized suicide, noble in intention, horrible in execution.

Preposterous? OK. But what other explanation would you offer for a party that looks on mass unemployment and fixates on a deficit commission?

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