Millions of Jobs, Trillions of Dollars: We Can't Afford the Republican Right
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Melpomene
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Journalists are understandably captivated by the government shutdown and the looming confrontation over the debt ceiling. Those are certainly dramatic stories. But another, quieter drama has been playing out for years in homes and communities across the country, as millions of jobs and trillions in wealth have been lost to Republican economic folly.
Now the Republicans are doing their best to make things even worse. Their budget stance offends many Americans' sense of morality, since they're asking poor and middle-class Americans to subsidize the luxuries of the wealthy and the profits of powerful corporations.
But in the end the country may reject their ideology for an even simpler reason: We can't afford it anymore.
Millions Left Behind
The story begins with the financial crisis and recession of 2008. Reports say that the incoming Obama Administration reduced its proposed stimulus because it thought Republicans would reject the actual level of spending needed to rescue the economy. The resulting stimulus package saved or created millions of jobs, but the country remained in the grip of an ongoing recession that limited both job creation and wage growth. Further stimulus spending became politically unfeasible after they won the House in 2010.
The result? Wealth inequality has became worse since the crisis. The top 1 percent of American earners saw their income increase by a staggering 32 percent in 2012, even as millions of others remained mired in an ongoing de facto depression. For the first time since they began tracking the numbers a century ago, the wealthiest 10 percent of the country captured more than half its total income.
It didn't have to be this way. A number of jobs proposals were put forward that would have helped the "99 percent" obtain more jobs and strengthen its wage base, including the Economic Policy Institute's " American Jobs Plan" and our own " Citizens' Commission on Jobs, Deficits and America's Economic Future" (from the Institute for America's Future).
These programs would have created jobs and strengthened the economy for everyone, while also enhancing education and funding urgently-needed repairs to the nation's infrastructure. We still need those investments, and they would still create jobs.
Wrong Way Out
Unfortunately spending cuts, not job creation, became the main topic of Washington debate. This misguided fixation became much worse after Republicans recaptured the House in 2010, leading to the 2011 budget showdown and the disastrous cuts which followed.
How damaging were those cuts? Economist Adam Hersh estimated what the jobs figures might have been without the destructive austerity cuts agreed upon after the last showdown with the GOP. U.S. employers would have added more than 260,000 jobs last month, according to Hersh, and the unemployment rate would have fallen below 6 percent. The economy would have added 8.2 million jobs since the end of 2010, 2.4 million jobs than it actually did.
And that's without stimulus spending, solely by avoiding the austerity cuts demanded by Republicans in the last budget confrontation. Add in needed spending on jobs and growth and we would be experiencing a full recovery.
The Ghosts of Republicans Past
Republicans have passed one extremist budget after another since winning the House in 2010. Those budgets, with cuts in the $1.2 trillion range, would have led to catastrophic double-dip recession and major additional job loss had they passed the Senate and been signed into law.
The GOP's budgets would have also had an enormous disruptive effect on society, with cuts to a bewilderingly wide range of programs: Emergency storm warnings. The Small Business Administration. State and local law enforcement.