There must have been times over the last couple of years when Bob Herbert felt like Jeremiah -- warning that a reckoning was on the way, and being ignored by those who might be able to avoid it. His frustration was evident in Saturday's New York Times:
The country is a mess. The economy is horrendous, and millions of American families are running out of ammunition in their fight against destitution. Steadily increasing numbers of middle class families, who never thought they'd be seeking charity, have been showing up at food pantries.
Throughout the battle for health care reform and the battle for Wall Street reform, Herbert has written that the government's first priority should be job creation. While it is true -- as Peter Orzag stoutly maintained -- that the best way to control ballooning deficits is to control health care costs, it is also true that, for average Americans, the best way to pay the bills is to be employed.
Herbert is in good company. Like Paul Krugman and Robert Reich, he believes that without government supported employment, the economy will not recover:
The problem with the U.S. economy today, as it was during the Great Depression, is the absence of sufficient demand for goods and services. Consumers, struggling with sky high unemployment and staggering debt loads, are tapped out. The economy cannot be made healthy again, and there is no chance of doing anything substantial about budget deficits, as long as so many millions of people are left with essentially no purchasing power. Jobs are the only real answer.
And there is plenty of work to do. Like the TVA and the Interstate Highway System -- two pertinent examples -- investments must be made in America's infrastructure, to ensure the nation's economic viability in the 21st Century. Those investments will require a staggering amount of money -- a thought which sends modern Republicans into apoplexy. But Herbert correctly quotes Franklin Roosevelt, "You cannot borrow your way out of debt, but you can invest your way into a sounder future."
Roosevelt's proposition will be tested in November. If one believes the polls, that proposition may go down to defeat. However, the very Republicans whose poll numbers have them dreaming of a return to power, may be President Obama's salvation. As Eugene Robinson reminded readers of The Washington Post and The Moderate Voice last week:
Democrats may be facing a tough fight this fall, but Republicans are giving them plenty of material to work with. In several high-profile contests, candidates who won nominations with fervent tea party support appear to be in the process of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
In Colorado, the Republican candidate for governor sees urban cyclists as part of a United Nations conspiracy. In Nevada, Sharon Angle wants the press to ask her only the questions she chooses to answer. In Connecticut, Linda McMahon, the wife of the man behind the WWE, has been known to enter the ring with other brutish bores and kick men in the crotch. And, in Kentucky, Rand Paul has expressed doubts about the wisdom of the Civil Rights Act.
Herbert's premonition that it's a hard rain's a gonna fall on Democrats may be justified. Certainly, he would say, they should have seen it coming. On the other hand, with candidates like Angle, McMahon and Paul, the tide may run the other way.
This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.