Writer Irwin M. Stelzer for the conservative Weekly Standard tells us there are “reasons to be happy” about the American economy. I know it’s hard to fathom that a part of the establishment that has attacked Obama and the Democrats for everything they do is actually conceding that perhaps it is working. Of course there are no literal comments praising Obama. In fact he makes several statements intended to put the President in a bad light. But the message is clear that despite actions the administration and their allies in Congress have taken, recovery is in fact occurring in the markets and appears to be generating consumer confidence.
In his article, “Rays of Happiness Cutting Through the Economic Gloom”, Stelzer notes that “The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia – the Philly Fed in investors’ jargon – reports that new manufacturing orders, shipments, and numbers of employed workers rose in October, while mortgage delinquencies and the percent of loans in foreclosure proceedings fell. Nationally, sales at retail shops increased for the fourth consecutive month, and recorded their sharpest gains in seven months. Mid-priced retailers, Macy’s, J.C. Penny, and Kohl’s, report that sales are beating expectations, giving reason to believe that the fears that have kept middle-income shoppers out of the malls are dissipating. New York City’s mid-priced restaurants report that non-rich consumers are once again dining out.”
What makes this so interesting is that though jobs are the primary focus for many Americans, conservatives are focused on market successes. It’s not that conservatives do not want to see a jobs recovery but their view on how this should be achieved is through policies that benefit the wealthiest, expecting lower income people to benefit from any trickle down effects. It’s a laissez faire approach which doesn’t allow any government interference in what goes on in the market. Yet here we have an economy that is clearly recovering, according to a conservative publication, in a time when government bailouts and federal stimulus money and regulations have been active and clearly present. Can anyone honestly say that what is going on in the markets has not been affected by these government actions? I really don’t see how.
Even Stelzer points out that further success relies on putting “the financial system on a sounder footing”. A close read of piece would see he is not calling for Wall Street Reform but some success thus far would conceivably derive from actions that the Obama administration has taken in the areas of financial reform. When President Bush and Secretary Paulson initiated bail outs for the failing financial institutions many criticized this action as socialism. Obama carried this over in his administration but with more safeguards to determine where the money was going in order to recover what was loaned out.
Time has shown us however that this action stabilized the credit markets and may have prevented a 1929 style Depression. All money that the private financial sector received from the federal treasury has been paid back with interests. The bail outs of the auto industry have also proven fruitful. GM is now back on track to making huge profits and paying off its debt to the government and Chrysler is not far behind. Jobs were saved whose losses could have been added to the growing unemployment rate.
So why are conservatives stoking the rhetoric that fails to recognize the success that has been achieved here? One answer – politics. The obstructionist tactics of congressional Republicans has done everything conceivable to insure as Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell has stated that “Obama is a one term President”. Their entire motivation has not been to rebuild an American economy that fell flat as a result of deregulated policies pushed by conservatives but to in fact pursue tactics that would insure continued hard times in the hopes of perpetuating an angry population that has seen as many as one in ten people scurrying to the unemployment lines.
Defeated Republicans aligned themselves with an angry Libertarian movement, now referred to as the Tea Party, that evolved right after the inauguration of Barack Obama which was based solely on the actions that their “free market” views were tread on after government bailouts occurred and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed, sending federal dollars into the markets to stimulate job growth. The GOP seized upon this anger and realized as long as they could perpetuate it against the President and Democrats that supported his actions that perhaps their humiliating defeats in 2006 and 2008 could be reversed. To the detriment of American working families the Party that adheres to a trickle down economy stifled job growth with every action their legislative resources allowed in the hopes of regaining seats of power that are all too often controlled behind the scenes with payola from corporate lobbyists.
But their success depends on the view that recovery is not happening. Once people begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel conservatives fear they will lose the support of angry voters and their chances of victory in 2012 will be offset. That’s why it is surprising to find a conservative writer breaking with this pattern and exposing a flaw in the Republican Party’s strategy. Clearly the job loss is still critical but even conservative economists know that job growth is the last factor of a recovering economy.
This slow process can prove to be a hamstring for the President and the Democrats who acted on behalf of working families. Until unemployment starts reaching levels that existed in 2007 the voting public will continue to be easy prey to the messaging of conservatives and corporate interests. The accomplishments that were in part due to actions that many vilify now will perhaps show fruition at a time that proves too late for the Obama administration to restore his voting bloc that got him elected originally. Republicans could take ownership of a recovery that had little if anything to do with them and are apt to regain the seats of power as a result of a poorly informed public who also has a short memory.
Fate is often on the side of the lucky, not the practical applications of others.