You know that saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”? It’s particularly convenient if your enemy’s enemy has been your friend all along.
The enemy of Barack Obama and the Democrats this fall is our anemic economy. And so, since the Republicans want Democrats to fail at the ballot box this November, their best friend is the weak economy. The worse the economy gets, the better the GOP’s prospects for taking over Congress. But the sick and twisted yet incontrovertible fact is that Republicans are not only praying for our economy to get worse — they’ve been doing their best all along to hasten its demise.
Earlier this summer, Senator Debbie Stabenow — whose home state of Michigan has the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation — claimed that Republicans were not just blocking the extension of unemployment benefits but intentionally stalling and gumming up the legislative works on basic economic recovery legislation because, “In cynical political terms, it doesn’t serve them if things turn around (in the economy).” Sen. Stabenow said, “They want our country to fail to win an election, and they’re willing to take the people of this country with them.” That Stabenow is right is only more apparent now that Democrats and Obama are going to (increasingly obscene) lengths to pass economic policies that align with conservative doctrine while Republicans still block and attack any positive change.
You would think this is stupid. After all, if the Republican ploy works — if the economy crumbles and they gain control of the House and possibly the Senate, too — then the they will have an even-worse economic crisis on their hands that Republicans will be responsible for fixing. Ah, but that would be a problem only if they intended to fix it…
You see, the Republicans will eventually put more people to work, but only by eviscerating labor unions, minimum wage laws and worker protections so that employment levels technically go up but real income and quality of life for workers drastically declines. Meanwhile, conservative economic policies will concentrate more and more wealth in the hands of the richest of the rich. So in absolute terms GDP will rise, but the prosperity of average Americans will stagnate or drop. The GOP will not regret the continued rise of income inequality and the inability for regular folks to reach the American Dream. To the contrary: This was their elitist economic agenda all along.
Conservatives have designed and pursued an imbalanced, unjust, failed economy for the last 40 years. In fact, the good ol’ days of a “strong economy” to which Republicans want us to return is an economy where most Americans were working harder and harder for less and less while big business wrote the rules and the elite hoarded all the wealth. As the structural problems in our economy have compounded, the now “worse” economy is even better than elite Republicans could have dreamed — worsening levels of economic inequality with all spoils going to the already-spoiled AND political opportunism. To borrow President Obama’s metaphor, the Republicans didn’t just drive us into the ditch — they wanted us there all along.
Take the absurd Republican response to tax breaks for small businesses that Obama proposed this week. Republicans — while promoting themselves as the defenders of small business — have said that giving tax breaks to small business is bad policy and, instead, we should extend tax breaks for the richest of the rich. See, e.g., John McCain:
“Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” suggested that the new proposals from the White House to spur small businesses wouldn’t do the job. “It isn’t going to resolve this incredible uncertainty out there that large and small businesses have about their financial future,” he said. “’The American people want us to stop spending, so let’s just give them some certainty. Let’s extend the existing tax cuts, and then let’s give some more tax breaks to small businesses and large, and then maybe the American people will have some confidence.””
But the fact is, tax cuts are a variation of spending. If the government has less money, it has to borrow money from somewhere else to cover existing commitments. So Republicans aren’t really talking about spending versus not spending, they’re arguing about who money should be spent on. Obama and the Democrats want government to help working people and small businesses. Republicans want government to help the richest of the rich.
An economy that only works for the richest of the rich is by definition a failure. Except if you’re the Republican Party. For the Republicans, our failing and unfair economy — like your enemy’s enemy — is the friend they’ve been seeking for a long, long time.