The onset of a surprisingly deep recession highlights the disconnect that exists between the "economic gurus" of the right and the reality of Americans' lives.
Let's take some recent news, culled from the head-lines via search engine search:
Comair, Kentucky, 500 jobs,
announced July 8
News Tribune of Tacoma, 84 jobs, announced June 2008
IBM, 180 semi-conductor jobs in Vermont, announced June 2008
Starbucks, closing 600 stores nationwide, costing 12,000 jobs
United Health, Minneapolis 4,000 jobs lost
Brunswich, boat manufacturer, closing 12 of its 27 plants, up to 2,700 jobs lost, announced July 2008
Gateway Pro Partners LLC, Tennessee computer plant closing, 144 jobs lost.
252,000 properties entered foreclosure proceedings in June, a rise of 171 percent over last year
1 out of every 122 households in Nevada is in foreclosure.
Now, let's hear from former Senator Phil Gramm (R., Texas), who holds a Ph.D. in economics:
"We have sort of become a nation of whiners. You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline.", and "You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession".
Interestingly, one of the industries most hard hit is the newspaper industry, in which waves of layoffs are occurring across the country--in part because of declining circulation and ad sales, in part because of rising material costs, and in part because even profitable papers get dismantled by investors seeking extreme returns.
Senator Gramm, until this week one of Senator McCain's economic advisers, has the strange idea that the declines in the economy are a journalistic ploy:
"Misery sells newspapers." "Thank God the economy is not as bad as you read in the newspaper every day."
As job losses strike newspapers, and the page counts of newspapers diminish, it is amazing to think that Phil Gramm, who should know better, would say such inane things. Senator Gramm used to understand about spending restraint and about how ordinary people can be hurt by things people in Wasihngton do or fail to do. He's more interested now in defending the sorry status quo. On the other hand, Phil Gramm has been an odd politician ever since he became a turncoat Republican in the early 1980s. His view of reality has not matched the actual reality for some time.
I'm pleased that Senator McCain reacted appropriately to this non-sense. Mr. Gramm had been prominently mentioned as a likely appointment as treasury secretary. I heard an interview with Senator McCain in which he flippantly referred to giving serious consideration to appointing Senator Gramm as ambassador to Belarus, only he was not sure if Minsk would want Phil Gramm.
We have had nearly eight years of people telling us that imprudent spending and imprudent tax cuts during wartime were "bedrock conservative values", that water torture is not torture, and that illegal wiretaps
would not take place, even as secret executive orders authorized these techniques.
I am not a conservative, and yet somehow what offends me most is that the actions of this current crew
are not remotely conservative in any sense of the word. It's perfectly legitimate to mistrust government and to want to have a debate about government's role. But to use government to grant pork barrel benefits to large corpoartions, while the middle class erodes and our national competitiveness suffers, is inexcusable.
There was a time when too many Americans gave deference to this current set of Republican "thinkers".
My hope is that this time has passed.