Brian Beutler has an interesting piece up at the Crooked site about the trap Republicans will undoubtedly try to spring on Democrats if (when!) we dislodge Trump in November and are charged with once again cleaning up a gigantic mess left behind by a feckless GOP administration. Beutler notes that the astroturfed “reopen” protests echo the equally ersatz tea party bullshit that arose the last time Republicans needed to rebrand after an economic calamity. He also correctly notes that the media is falling into the same trap they fell into last time: amplifying these fringe actors to create a snowball effect.
Beutler says the House Dems should use their leverage to put long-term economic recovery relief efforts in place — programs expressly designed to continue beyond Trump’s first and please-FSM only term. That would help us avoid some of what happened in 2009, i.e., Republicans shoveling money to bail out the economy as long as Bush was in the White House and shutting off the cash spigot (causing untold suffering and long-term damage for countless Americans) under the cover of deficit concern trolling the minute President Obama was sworn in.
I agree that would be ideal but am unsure just how much leverage the Democrats have. My understanding is Pelosi & Co. are working on their own relief bill right now. That seems like the smart play — it can form the basis of the next round of negotiations, which will definitely happen even though McConnell is starting to make faint, querulous noises about the deficit now. Trump wants to get reelected, and the economy is crashing around his ears, so he and Mnuchin will almost certainly be willing to make the money machine go whirrrr, McConnell be damned.
I do like what Beutler has to say about how Biden could approach Republicans’ bad-faith deficit framing:
Biden will eventually be tempted to throw Republicans’ fiscal vandalism back in their faces, and remind voters that this is an established pattern of GOP governance. It’s an easy and effective political hit, but it also runs the risk of validating the bullshit premise underlying fake-deficit hysteria: that the debt must be urgently addressed. After all, if it’s a problem that Republicans, once again, blew up the debt, shouldn’t a responsible party make a priority of balancing the books?
The only way to square the circle is make clear at the outset that if deficit reduction is to be a priority, it will be coming out of the collective hide of Trump and his loyalists. The country’s fiscal and economic situation is the consequence of the richest, greediest people in the country taking a gamble on empowering an incompetent crook who promised to make them richer, and they—not workers or pensioners or poor people—will be the ones who pay for the devastating consequences of their actions.
I like the idea, but I don’t know how realistic that is either. The depth of the economic abyss we’re in isn’t altogether clear to everyone yet. I can hardly bear to think about it and have no credentials to speculate, but I suspect it’s going to be exponentially more devastating than the Great Recession. We can and should soak the greedy bastards who were responsible for inflicting the incompetent and criminal shitgibbon on us, but it won’t be enough, even if such a thing were politically possible.
Still, it’s a good rhetorical strategy, which is what Beutler intended. If the deficit is so goddamned important, let’s claw back the trillion-dollar tax cut the “job creators” spent on stock buy backs first. It won’t happen, but it’s the right clap-back when Republican ghouls start coming for social programs. The framing will be important, so I hope we get it right.