The Congressional Budget Office last year warned that the increase in payroll taxes coupled with the $85 billion Sequester would cut the growth rate for 2013 in half. That's happening. Instead of furloughing public employees, the government should be adding new public jobs. Obama's tour to promote a recovery from the "middle out" is a good start, but there is nothing in his agenda that would fundamentally change the pitifully slow recovery. His proposed grand bargain on taxes would cut the corporate tax rate in exchange for closing loopholes, yielding net new revenues in the short run but no new revenue over time. Instead, we need corporations to start paying their fair share. The claim that corporate America is over-taxed is nonsense. For Obama to embrace this idea plays once again to right-wing ideology.
While the Administration and the Republicans and far too much of the commentariat are obsessed with public debt, private debts are killing the recovery. Some 22 percent of mortgages are still under water, and student debt has surpassed a trillion dollars. Banks can unload their toxic securities onto the Fed. Corporations can use the bankruptcy code's Chapter 11 to write off old debts (including to their pensioners) and get a "fresh start." But college borrowers stay indentured forever, as do underwater homeowners unless they want to lose the house.The upside-down policy, of cutting public spending, giving debt relief to banks and corporations, while showing no mercy to students and homeowners, keeps the whole economy in debtors' prison. Until these policies change, we can look forward to a decade of high unemployment and an underperforming economy.
A speech delivered by Janet Yellen, vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, began by reminding the audience that the Fed's mandate is a society of high employment, not just low inflation, and she made several important points that seem to have eluded President Obama -- all of which are implicit rebukes to the Administration's fiscally deflationary approach to the recovery. What sort of a topsy-turvy world is it when we have to look to the Federal Reserve, normally the home of inflation hawks and shills for commercial bankers, for ordinary common sense on the economic recovery? It's not that the Reserve has become dangerously left wing. It's that the rest of Washington has been captured by the deflation delusion.
Thanks to his exceptional luck in drawing Mitt Romney as his opponent, Barack Obama will probably win a narrow reelection despite the dismal recovery. But on Wednesday morning, a struggle begins within the Democratic Party to save him (and us) from himself -- to keep him from agreeing to a budget deal that will only slow growth, needlessly sacrifice Social Security and Medicare, and make the next four years much like the last four years. What a waste, what a pity. Democrats should be resisting the economic lunacy and political sway of an extremist Republican Party. Instead, they will be working to keep their own president from capitulating to fiscal folly.