Conservative Leaders Still Reject Reality

Algernon Austin presents an excellent, concise, and wonderfully read scholarly examination of the complicated landscape of race, class and popular perception. Besides the prison industrial complex, black strides in education, poverty rates, crime and other indices contradict claims that blacks are “moving backward.”
--Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar, Director, Institute for African American Studies, University of Connecticut and author of Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity (The Johns Hopkins University Press), 2004 and Hip-Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap (University Press of Kansas), 2007.

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[A senior advisor to president George W. Bush] said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''
Ron Suskind, 2004

"By almost every measure available . . . this recession is steeper than any in the last 40 years, including the harsh recession of the early 1980s," states Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute, an organization that I also work for. By every measure except for the way conservative members of Congress have been behaving. They have played petty politics in holding up the economic recovery package while the rate of job losses has increased to about a half a million a month. Everyone seems to realize that we needed urgent action--a month ago--but them.

The global economic meltdown basically started in the United States, but the United States has lagged in implementing an economic stimulus package. The Center for American Progress reports that Argentina, Australia, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia and South Korea have all passed stimulus packages ahead of the United States.

Conservative leaders are big on tax cuts, but the record of tax cuts in stimulating the economy is poor. The Bush administration cut taxes and yet the Bush years had the worst record for economic growth since World War II. Even the conservative economist and former Ronald Reagan advisor, Martin Feldstein, acknowledges that tax cuts are very weak when it comes to stimulating the economy. He states, "Experience shows that the money from such temporary, lump-sum tax cuts is largely saved or used to pay down debt. Only about 15 percent of last year's tax rebates led to additional spending." He adds, "The proposed business tax cuts are also likely to do little to increase business investment and employment." For those of us in the "reality-based community," pushing for more tax cuts in the recovery package and less spending, makes the package worse not better.

Conservative leaders do not seem to get that the point of a stimulus package is too spend money to jumpstart the economy. John McCain recently condemned the recovery package by saying, “This is not a stimulus bill; it is a spending bill.” Consumers are cutting back spending and businesses are cutting back spending causing the economy to tank. The point of a stimulus package is for the government to step in and increase spending rapidly in the hopes ending the downward economic spiral. Conservative leaders think that by limiting the amount of spending in the stimulus package they are somehow being fiscally responsible. How is prolonging and deepening an already severe recession fiscally responsible?

Judging from the statements of Rush Limbaugh, we cannot be certain that conservative leaders even know that we are facing a severe economic crisis. Last month, Limbaugh wrote in the Wall Street Journal:
There's a serious debate in this country as to how best to end the recession. The average recession will last five to 11 months; the average recovery will last six years. Recessions will end on their own if they're left alone. What can make the recession worse is the wrong kind of government intervention.
The current recession began in December of 2007, 13 months ago. In January, the U.S. economy lost nearly 600,000 jobs. This month was the worst so far for job losses. We have lost 3.6 million jobs in total and the recession is not likely to end any time soon, so why is Limbaugh even discussing recessions that last 11 months or less?

There are now 2.2 million blacks unemployed. Without an effective stimulus we could add another million blacks to the ranks of the unemployed before the economy begins to recover. Someone, somehow needs to get conservative leaders back into the "reality-based community" or else they will continue to make matters worse.

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--Algernon Austin, Ph.D.

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