Return of the Austerians

Now that the 2013 election recount and all is behind us, Virginia’s disproportionately Republican House of Delegates is determined to emulate their counterparts in DC, a body of NO dedicated to hamstringing anything Democrats or the Governor proposes.

When even this elections biggest loser, Mark Obenshain stressed the need for “bi-partisanship” in his concession speech, one has to ask; why are they being so inflexible? Perhaps it’s because they’re not interested in being legislators representing your interests; their actions are consistent with a single minded devotion to securing power.

Such focus comes with a high price for the Commonwealth; ideologically based legislation which benefits few. Their no worries problem free philosophy quickly ensures that the only real “power” remaining to them is legislative obstruction.

In many ways, their tactics are reminiscent of a line from the movie “The Wild One” where Marlon Brando was asked “What’re you rebelling against, Johnny?” to which he replies “Whaddya got? “

While some may find this brand of NO the closest thing to carrying the cross while wrapped in the flag, that doesn’t make it any less reprehensible. So long as such folklore continues to trump reality, there remains a strong headwind against change.  For many, those beliefs are being challenged like never before.

For some, their trials come when their unemployment expires because the House refused to put it in the budget. These cuts will take hundreds of millions a week from the national economy and ~ $ 3 million a week from the Commonwealth. Others will be tested as they loose assistance for food and shelter as the sequester quietly unfolds.

For the poor, disabled and seniors it will happen when the General Assembly rejects Medicaid expansion, costing the Commonwealth thousands of jobs and billions of dollars.  All these actions are based on two false premises; first, the only way to keep the poor from becoming an unmanageable drain on society is to completely cut then off from any assistance.

You may recall, the English nobility tried this during the great Irish potato famine, and histories judgments on how well that worked out is clear. Their second related bogus claim is that we can cut our way to prosperity.

These Austerians have hitched their social Darwinism survival of the fittest approach to snake oil economics. Ignoring the fact that starving an economy out of a recession has never worked, turning economist John Keynes observation about the “paradox of thrift” completely upside down.

While it’s prudent for heavily indebted families and individuals to cut down on spending, it’s extremely dangerous for entire economies. Economic growth is based on consumption and spending, with one person’s spending becoming another person’s income. If everyone cuts spending at once, our economy slows down leading to; fewer jobs, lower tax revenues, and increased debt.

The only alternative is to stimulate or spend our way out. The debt is not a problem. Inflation is not a problem. Austerity is the problem. For local businesses, nothing else matters when there aren’t enough customers coming in. The usual prescription of lowering their taxes doesn’t help when their customers don’t have any money to spend.

Most people don’t care whose fault it is because it’s irrelevant to their lives, because they are far too busy making ends meet to notice any disconnect between their being able to reap the benefits of Social Security and Medicaid, and consistently voting against their economic interests.

Such public complicity allows conservative myths like ones moral character and hard work are how the ultra rich got there  along with the presumption that “Republicans seem to do more for people” to circulate unchallenged.

When enough Americans and people in Louisa start questioning these assumptions, things will get very interesting.

Jon Taylor