So, I'm reading this latest piece by Neil Irwin in the Washington Post, titled "Manufacturing slowdown the latest sign the recovery is faltering," and I'm instantly grabbed by the opening line:
"The economic recovery is faltering, and Washington is running out of ways to get it back on track."
Right away, I'm hit by the shocking implications of this, and I think, "Wait a minute! You mean all this time, 'Washington' has been churning out job-creating idea after job-creating idea and I somehow missed this?" I seem to recall that only two weeks ago, the "efforts to fix a static unemployment problem," were actually "nonexistent." Now I learn that they've been so existent that they've run out of solutions! As you might imagine, I'm thus primed to get hit with an extensive list of these efforts. "I can't wait to highlight the myriad ways that lawmakers have dealt with the massive unemployment crisis, through their constant and attentive ideation," I think.
Unfortunately, the pickings turned out to be slim:
The weak expansion comes despite government efforts to boost it: a payroll tax cut that took effect in January and an initiative by the Federal Reserve to pump $600 billion into the ailing economy by buying Treasury bonds. But the Fed is unlikely to take further action, and Congress is focused on reducing the budget deficit instead of tax cuts or new spending that might spur economic activity.
Actually, this list of examples -- all two of them! -- doesn't go far enough. "Washington" also passed a stimulus package in 2008, and if you recall it came out all half-assed through a combination of GOP obstruction and the timidity of Democrats like Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who helped to diddlepick it into inefficacy. The resulting package was thus deemed too small by critics that spanned the ideological spectrum from Paul Krugman to Jon Huntsman.
There was also that time President Barack Obama hired General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, to do some job-creation stuff, which isn't too much to ask for in exchange for not paying anything in taxes and sending lots of American jobs overseas, I guess!
But it is true that, now, "Congress is focused on reducing the budget deficit." That's actually something of an understatement. As the joblessness crisis continues on and on and the overall indebtedness of households grows and grows and ordinary Americans continue to wonder why no one seems to care about what they're experiencing, deficit panic has set in. And yet, the solutions being discussed all are geared toward what amount, precisely will be set on the American people to shoulder in the form of further cuts to their health and retirement and quality of life, and how the "solution" can be crafted to ensure the reelection of incumbents.
And as always, the ongoing effort to alleviate everyone's deficit panic largely omits any discussion of the obvious and well-documented causes of those deficits. Because politicians have largely given up on ameliorating the unemployment crisis, the media has given up on covering it. I mean, how can they be expected to give column inches to a large, unfolding calamity when the people who they've worked so hard to gain "access" to never bring it up? If you were to suggest that they are delinquent in their duties to their constituents, why, those Important People might take that as an act of hostility, or something!
Of course, here's where you might be wondering, "Well, what if they are all out of ideas?" Well, like the Post reports, we've done the "payroll tax holiday" and the Federal Reserve has taken some action. But there are plenty of ideas that have been left on the table. Here are some that HuffPost's own Dan Froomkin has suggested. There! Now no one can possibly be "running out of ways" to get the economy going again and getting Americans back to work.
Naturally, if the Washington Post wants to report that the economic recovery is faltering because "Washington" can't be bothered to do anything about it, that would be welcome. It would also be very surprising!