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Gary Hart Headshot

Who Is Standing on the Airhose?

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Within hours of the debt ceiling debacle, serious people agreed that economic stimulation was far more important, at least in the short term, than phony efforts to balance the budget. The hue and cry among central bankers and thoughtful economists is: Governments must act! By that they mean, stimulate stagnant economies by providing unemployment compensation, investing in public works, and providing temporary tax relief for workers (not gazillionheirs).

But, predictably, the president's army of opponents and their conservative commentariat harangue the president for being "anti-business" and for increasing regulations on business. He is doing neither. To lay the current economic disaster at the feet of Wall Street and the fast-buck speculators of the Bush years is not "anti-business." It is truth telling. And to re-impose financial regulations that prevent housing and other investment manipulations is prudent governance. When someone burns your house down, you try to prevent them from doing it again.

The giant banks and corporations are rolling in money. Were they to start investing and hiring we'd be pulling out of this ditch pretty quickly. But they keep giving excuses for not doing so. Uncertainty. Well, hell, life is uncertain. I thought capitalism was about taking risks. Where are the real capitalists today? Hiding? Waiting for the US Government to guarantee every investment? For a time it was uncertainty about the debt ceiling. That got taken care of (in a way children should not watch). But still no investment. What are they waiting for? We have one of the lowest effective corporate tax rates in the Western world.

For a simple-minded Colorado cowboy there is a temptation to wonder whether Big Money and Big Business are not playing poker with America's well-being and our future. Could that poker game be about "deal me the hand I want, then I'll play"? Is there a collective decision to sit on the financial sidelines for another year in the hopes of another neo-con, anti-government, anti-regulation, devil-take-the-hindmost, let-her-rip administration? Does anyone think for a minute that Big Money doesn't put its own financial interests ahead of the national interest? That's sure what my lightly-educated, working class father thought.

If so, the voters of this country, and particularly the functional fifteen percent (or more) of the unemployed, and the parents raising their kids in the back seats of cars, and a lot of the rest of us are going to have to stand up in 2012. And it would help a lot if President Obama started sounding like Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Unless private interests that control America's wealth begin to put this country first and do what should be done to create jobs, they should not be surprised to see a nation that has been tilting right begin to do what it has done under similar circumstances and demand action by our Government. Americans are not going to let this poker game go on much longer. And we shouldn't.

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