Monday, October 21, 2013

George Packer: The Republicans Are Still Winning

The Republicans were defeated in their shutdown-and-defund debacle and are experiencing sinking favorability. Writing in The New Yorker, George Packer provides a sobering reminder that the GOP is still setting the economic policy agenda. Spending cuts, austerity over stimulus, cutbacks in federal employees, the sequester–among the Republican fiscal policies that shrink the government, benefit the wealthy and hurt the vulnerable–continue to prevail:

These days, Republicans may be losing politically and resorting to increasingly anti-majoritarian means—gerrymandering, filibuster abuse, voter suppression, activist Supreme Court decisions, legislative terrorism—to nullify election results. But on economic-policy matters they are setting the terms. Senator Ted Cruz can be justly described as a demagogic fool, but lately he’s been on the offensive far more than the White House has. The deficit is in fairly precipitous decline, but job growth is anemic, and millions of Americans remain chronically unemployed. Democrats control the White House and the Senate, and last year they won a larger share of the national vote in the House than Republicans did. And yet the dominant argument in Washington is over spending cuts, not over ways to increase economic growth and address acute problems like inequality, poor schools, and infrastructure decay. “The whole debate over the last couple of weeks is playing against a backdrop of how much to increase austerity, not to invest in the economy,” Neera Tanden, the president of the Center for American Progress, said last week. “We are living in a time of government withering on the vine.”

While House Republicans go home to sift through the debris of their defeat, the sequester remains in place, with deeper cuts ahead. A hiring freeze at United States Attorneys’ offices will continue and they will have to go on using volunteers. There will be no new agents to fill training classes at the F.B.I. Academy, while the bureau’s concrete headquarters, on Pennsylvania Avenue, crumbles. The loss of government scholarships at the National Health Services Corps will mean fewer doctors in underserved areas. [IRS employees] will look for jobs in the private sector. And the talk in Washington will return to deficit reduction.

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