Credit Where Credit Is Due

During the Iraq occupation in 2006, I observed that at the top of their game conservative spinmeisters are as skilled at misdirection as close-up magicians at the Magic Castle. One of their best sleight-of-hand tricks is “Heads, I win. Tails, you lose.” Steve Benen at Washington Monthly observed the same thing about the weak jobs numbers released last week and illustrates his point with simple graphics:

When the jobs reports were looking quite good in the early spring, Republican leaders were eager to take credit for the positive numbers they had nothing to do with. Needless to say, GOP officials are no longer claiming responsibility, and are in fact now eager to point fingers everywhere else. It’s a nice little scam Republicans have put together: when more jobs are being created, it’s proof they’re right; when fewer jobs are being created, it’s proof Obama’s wrong. Heads they win; tails Dems lose.

Their skill is remarkable; their faith-based propositions unblinkingly unfalsifiable. Tax cuts for "job creators" create jobs. And when jobs fail to appear, when the benefits stubbornly fail to "trickle down," it simply means we need more tax cuts. Did you know tax cuts pay for themselves? It's true ... except it's not. Just like the Iraq war cost only $50-$60 billion. Except it didn't. Just like Iraq's oil revenues paid for reconstruction. Except they didn't.

Now, about that looming "debt crisis" Washington has been all atwitter about lately, John Amato reminds us that "Cheney said Reagan proved deficits didn't matter, and conservatives didn't even blink." After Reagan's death in 2004, the Washington Post took stock of his economic policies, quoting former Reagan administration official, conservative economist Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth:

"Voters and politicians became anesthetized to big deficits," Moore recalled. "Reagan was running these big deficits, and liberals argued it was going to be Armageddon. We were going to ruin the economy. Interest rates were going to go through the roof. And none of these things happened."

The fiscal shift in the Reagan years was staggering. In January 1981, when Reagan declared the federal budget to be "out of control," the deficit had reached almost $74 billion, the federal debt $930 billion. Within two years, the deficit was $208 billion. The debt by 1988 totaled $2.6 trillion. In those eight years, the United States moved from being the world's largest international creditor to the largest debtor nation.

It was almost as if Reagan intended to create a "strategic deficit," one "so large that absolutely everyone becomes convinced that no more money can be spent.” But where Reagan failed in generating the requisite sense of imminent apocalypse, Bush II and 21st century Republicans succeeded (with a little help from Pete Peterson and the Koch brothers). Today, the Tea Party would primary Reagan as a faux-conservative apostate.

In this clip, Thom Hartmann gives credit where credit is due. He takes viewers for a stroll down Short Term Memory Loss Lane to remind them just where the debt "crisis" actually came from (as illustrated in another graphic). Still, the worst recovery on record for American workers has taken place with Barack Obama in the White House. That he hired economic advisors from the same school of economics as his Republican predecessor, and from the same accountability-free financial institutions whose cowboy capitalism triggered the Great Recession speaks volumes about the corporate capture of Washington. The president who promised change now bears responsibility for its perpetuation.

(Cross-posted from Scrutiny Hooligans.)