Monday, May 30, 2011

To Jared Berstein, on shoulds and coulds

Jared Bernstein writes:
Especially re the WPA-idea, this got me thinking about the relative value of important voices like Paul’s promoting what we should do right now as opposed to what, given political constraints, we could do. And I think now is a good time to emphasize the latter.
My reply in comments, slightly edited, which I record here, since I doubt this will clear moderation.

What coulds?

You did all you could, or at least you say you did. It wasn't anything near enough. Maybe the administration did do all that it could. The administration and the Democrats now own the new depression and as far as I can tell, it's going to last for ten years.

A 30-year propaganda campaign created the Tea Party Republicans. They were not born from one mortgage modification. They started as a tiny group of radicals given a megaphone by the Koch Brothers and the DeVos family, and perhaps a few other wealthy family groups. That opposition network, ALEC, the State Policy Network, and perhaps other radical right organizations that I don't yet know the names of, will oppose anything that will bring a real improvement. Their Supreme Court judges--which your party allowed to be confirmed--have allowed them even greater influence in the Citizens United decision.

So there's no sense appeasing them: they will try to shoot down anything that might make a real difference.

In the long term the demographics are changing. In the long term most of the financial fallen angels of the conservative movement will die, and their children will find other things to do with their vast ill-gotten wealth. About all that I can see to do now is to teach the truth and begin reforms that will lay the groundwork for new politics in the future. So Paul Krugman is on target: he is teaching. I do not know how he does it, how he keeps on going, day after day, as the developed world slides deeper and deeper into its self-imposed misery.

I am not a young bird. You and Paul Krugman are about my age. I expect we will all be old before we see any substantive positive changes.

Postscript: when a very young Paul Krugman dreamed of being Hari Seldon, I doubt that he considered that Seldon's vision of a falling empire, and of mitigating the fall, was one of centuries of heartbreak, though one with an ultimately positive outcome. Asimov, who created Seldon, never fully engaged the emotional impact of Seldon's vision. But heartbreak it was, and all Seldon could do was lessen the harm. There is perhaps some relevance to the current situation, here.

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