Perhaps most everyone has heard that little saying from Ben Franklin – “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Never has this been illustrated so graphically as it is being now. The Covid-19 virus outbreak has been been hard to deal with because of its characteristics anyway, but the lack of preparedness on the part of the current administration has been monumental.
From the very beginning of this corona virus crisis the current administration has – like it does in most anything it screws up – tried to cover up reality with accusations of malfeasance by Democrats, claims of lies by the media and their usual misleads with other stories. At the bottom, the current administration thought it could bluff its way out of this health crisis just like it bluffed its way out of the Russia scandal and the Ukraine scandal.
But I am not here to rehash stories and opinions that you have heard over and over. We all know how Trump has completely failed in this real test of leadership. What most people will fail to understand is that he has not only failed, he and his Republican predecessors have set the country up such that the response to this crisis or any real crisis will be hard to do and will be costly.
Remember when Ronald Reagan said in his inaugural address that “government is the problem?” He and his Republican successors have since done all they could to make sure that government would not function. One of their strategies has been to run up huge debts.
Since the Reagan administration the economic policy of the Republican Party has been to bankrupt the government with the goal of choking any safety net or social programs because of a lack of money. Regan drove the national debt over $3 Trillion. Reagan’s successor Bush I added another $2 Trillion and Bush’s son took it down another $6 Trillion. In all 3 cases they left not only a huge debt but also an ongoing yearly deficit that would ensure that Democrats would either have to keep running up the debt or enact unpopular tax increases.
President Clinton was able to pay down some of the debt to the point that there was even a conference on what to do if the government was out of debt. President Obama was handed a huge debt run up by the Republican presidents and a broken economy that was teetering on a world wide depression. Saving the economy from depression was priority #1.
When Franklin Roosevelt became president at the height of the Great Depression in 1933 he employed what eventually became known as ‘Keynsian Economics’ named after economist John Maynard Keynes. In short the idea is that government could stop the wild boom and bust swings by using monetary policy. In good times the government saves money and is less deeply involved in the economy, but keeps big booms tamped down with tax policy. In lean times, the government keeps the economy from bad recessions by spending money – which was accumulated through taxes during good times – putting people to work and lightening taxes. Thus would spur the economy and stave off recession and depression.
Since Reagan, Republicans have turned Keynsian economics on its head by doing such things as cutting taxes during good times, cutting interest during good times and running up huge debts in both good times and bad. Thus we have had 40 years of running up debt. The objective was at some point to claim that the government could no longer afford social programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, education, housing and so on.
Theoretically there would also be no money to respond to crises such as the current health crisis because that would drive the debt way too high. In such crises money in the Social Security Trust Fund and Medicare and any other such funds could be drawn on, at least in the view of Republicans.
Most of the money that funded the government in the post war years has disappeared from the government budget. Where did it go? Well, a good example is the Trump tax cut of 2017. This has been the crowning achievement of his administration. Who got the money? The very rich and corporations. The idea was that they would create new jobs and give pay raises.
But that is not what happened. Instead much of the money was invested in the stock market in what are known as “stock buy backs.” This is where companies buy their own stock to keep the price up. No job creation, no pay raises. As you have seen in the last couple of weeks most of that money has just disappeared as the administration’s totally incompetent response to the Covid-19 crisis revealed major problems on the country’s leadership.
In the process of making the government “the problem,” the administration even dismantled an agency built to confront the specific crisis we have today. Seems to me the only time “the government is the problem” is when we put Republicans in charge.
From Robert Reich at Inequality Media: