10 Ways Right-Wingers Will Try to Wreck Any Economic Recovery
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Conservatives have a legislative agenda for 2011 that will hurt your ability to get or keep a job, your neighborhood's ability to recover from the recession and this country's ability to regain its footing in the global economy.
To keep conservatives from enacting policies that will kill a nascent economic recovery, progressives will have to organize against these top 10 economy killers.
1. Repeal of Health-Care Reform
Republicans have placed "repealing Obamacare" at the top of their legislative agenda for 2011. If they succeed, the economy is going to come down with multiple serious illnesses—at least 24, according to a report released this month by Rep. Peter Stark of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Among them: a $143 billion increase in the deficit by losing the savings the reforms created, an increase the number of uninsured by 30 million people, an end to free preventative care services and the loss of the requirement that insurance companies devote the bulk of premium payments to health care costs rather than expensive advertising and executive perks. While a Virginia judge is a conservative hero for blocking health-care reform's requirement that people buy private insurance, conservatives are silent on the fact that if that requirement goes, the reform's mandate that insurance companies cover preexisting conditions is unsustainable.
We'll be back to uncontrolled cost increases in private insurance. But, as the state of our health compared to other leading nations continues to decline, conservatives will at least be able to say that they maintained the United States' global leadership as the nation that spends the most on health care and gets the least.
2. Diminish the Federal Government's Ability to Support Job-Creation
Conservatives are poised to execute a strikingly broad assault against federal spending, particularly programs that help jump-start and steer the nation's job-creation engine. It includes the expected targets—such proven programs as Community Development Block Grants—as well as some new ones, such as the Small Business Administration (there goes all that Republican fealty to "small business") and even the requirement that the Federal Reserve take employment impact into account when it sets monetary policy.
That latest addition to the target list goes after the Humphrey-Hawkins full employment law, named after Rep. Augustus Hawkins, an early leader of the Congressional Black Caucus in the 1970s, and Sen. Hubert Humphrey. The law was passed in reaction to the Nixon-Ford inflation-fighting era, when the Fed ratcheted up interest rates to cool the economy, without regard to unemployment rates that were then approaching the scandalous levels of 9 percent. The right never liked this bill, but now with the election of people such as Rand Paul in the Senate and cheerleading from The Wall Street Journal editorial page, repeal has moved from right-wing think-tank wish lists to serious legislative agenda item.
Since the right can't complain about inflation—there is none— the enemy is "quantitative easing," the Fed's bid to pour liquidity into the economy in hopes that fuels investment and jobs. Take away quantitative easing and there's literally nothing left in the economic policy playbook to keep the economy from slipping back into recession.
3. Slash Federal Infrastructure Spending
The departing chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. James Oberstar, offered some rare frank talk earlier this year when he said the country's transportation network "was once the envy of the world" but has now "slipped into decline." And it's not just transportation: The systems that deliver clean water to our taps were given a grade of "D-" in 2009 by the American Society of Civil Engineers.