Ruining the GOP Brand

When the top four congressional Republican leaders recently wrote a joint letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke urging him not to engage in any further stimulation of the economy, it became clear even to committed conservatives that their party had taken a turn toward economic sabotage for partisan gain.

The letter was signed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.); Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Republican whip; House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). It was sent in the midst of a two-day meeting in which Fed officials were expected to undertake policies to reduce long-term interest rates. The Fed’s move was intended to loosen up credit in hopes of promoting growth.

The congressional Republicans did not go as far as Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who suggested that Bernanke would be engaging in treason if he manipulated the money supply to improve the economy before the election, but David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush who now writes at the center-right FrumForum, commented, “I’m not shocked by much anymore, but I am shocked by this: the leaders of one of the great parties in Congress calling on the Federal Reserve to tighten money in the throes of the most prolonged downturn since the Great Depression. ...

“As is, we’re looking at a continued economic slump, more unemployment, and more deleveraging via continuing catastrophic consumer default on mortgages, car loans, credit cards, and student aid. And now the GOP leadership is urging that the Federal Reserve make the catastrophe worse? To what end?

“I know what the detractors will say: to the end of defeating President Obama and replacing him with a Republican president. And if you’ve convinced yourself that Obama is the Second Coming of Malcolm X, Trotsky, and the all-conquering Caliph Omar all in one, then perhaps capsizing the US economy and plunging your fellow-citizens deeper into misery will seem a price worth paying to rid the country of him.

“But on any realistic assessment of the problems faced by Americans – and not just would-be Republican office-holders – it’s the recession, not the presidency, that is National Problem #1 and demands the most urgent action ...”

The same Republican leaders sent Bernanke a letter last November voicing concern about the central bank’s move to purchase additional Treasury bonds. At that time, they expressed concern that the “quantitative easing,” while intended to improve the short-term growth of the US economy and maintain a stable price level, could result in inflation and generate “artificial asset bubbles.” (While Republicans have raised alarms about Obama’s and the Fed’s inflationary policies, inflation actually has remained at historically low levels.)

Republicans who have admitted that defeating President Obama is their single highest priority must be sorely disappointed that Bernanke, who was appointed by George W. Bush, is failing to work with them toward that goal. So Republicans have been forced to oppose nearly every attempt Democrats have come up with to help the economy recover, from the loans to help General Motors and Chrysler stay in business and the stimulus bill that helped to preserve as many as three million jobs to the proposals to extend benefits for the long-term unemployed. Now Republicans are branding as socialism President Obama’s American Jobs Act that would spend $50 billion to build and repair roads, bridges and other public works, send $30 billion to state and local governments to help them keep workers on their payrolls and put $10 billion into a national infrastructure bank to help state and local governments pay for public works. Republicans are willing to raise taxes on the working class but not on the rich or corporations. And they’re threatening to shut down the government again if Democrats don’t agree to massive budget cuts that threaten the jobs of hundreds of thousands of federal, state and municipal employees, which would further tank the economy. But the corporate media continues to tut-tut over the inability of Democrats and Republicans to get along.

Andrew Sullivan, another honest conservative, wrote at TheDailyBeast.com (Sept. 21) that the Republican intransigence seems to be paying off politically, as more independents say they plan to vote against Obama in 2012. Obama, as president, is being held responsible for the stalled economy even though Republicans have prevented further economic stimulus. And now Republican leaders are trying to intimidate the Fed from doing its job.

“Every time you think the ultras in the current GOP won’t go there, they do,” Sullivan wrote. “They’ll sabotage economic growth for short term political advantage. They’ll sabotage their own president in negotiating with allies. They’re happy for the US to default if it means they can damage Obama. Their own plan for immediate, drastic austerity would be catastrophic for the global economy. Their pre-Arab Spring belligerence would shut America out of a critical opportunity to ease tensions with the growing and burgeoning Muslim world. And they have no problem treating the world economy as a partisan plaything.”

Obama and the Democrats have tried to deal with the Republicans, but the GOP has pursued a policy of denying Obama any victories and destroying the people’s confidence in government. Republican leaders hope that disgusted voters will give the anti-government party one more chance in power. Progressives have little choice but to double down on the Democrats and hope Obama has learned his lesson.

Texas ‘Justice’

There are at least two good reasons to oppose capital punishment. The first is that the state should not be engaged in the killing of people. The second reason is that the state cannot be entrusted with the power of life or death. The case of Troy Davis, who was executed by the state of Georgia Sept. 21 despite substantial doubt that he was guilty of the murder of an off-duty police officer for which he was convicted, is only the latest case to illustrate the reckless nature of capital punishment.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he doesn’t lose any sleep over the 235 people executed by the State of Texas under his watch so far, prompting cheers from a Republican crowd when he said killers will face “the ultimate justice” in Texas.

But it’s one thing to cheer the execution of acknowledged murderers. It’s quite another to accept the reckless disregard for possible innocence of death row convicts.

The Death Penalty Information Center summarizes cases of at least nine people who apparently have been wrongfully executed in the US since 1989. All nine cases offer compelling cases of innocence and six of them were victims of Texas Justice.

The latest fatal Texas miscarriage was that of Cameron Todd Willingham, who in 1992 was convicted of homicide by arson in a house fire in Corsicana, Texas, that killed his three children. Arson investigators with little scientific training testified that there were signs of an accelerant in fire patterns in the house. Willingham consistently denied that he set the fires, but a jailhouse snitch claimed Willingham confessed to him in the county jail. Before Willingham was executed, four national arson experts concluded that the original investigation was flawed, that the arson investigators’ theories have been repudiated by scientific advances and it was possible — indeed, highly likely — that the fire was accidental. Also, Willingham had no apparent motive to kill his daughters and had to be physically restrained by firefighters from running back into the burning house.

Despite the experts’ doubts, state courts and Gov. Perry refused to stop the execution, which proceeded on Feb. 17, 2004. Perry has never admitted that Willingham might have been innocent, instead calling him a “monster.” Perry went to the lengths of removing three key members of the state Forensic Science Commission on the eve of a meeting in 2009 at which the panel was to hear a report eviscerating the Willingham case. A documentary film, Incendiary: The Willingham Case, examines the flawed case against Willingham and the attempts to cover up the examination of the case in an election year. Not much to cheer about. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2011


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