The New Republican Congress

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President Obama inherited an economy that had been devastated by the financial crisis. This did not happen on his watch. The last two months before George Bush left office the economy lost 750,000 jobs in each of those months. And GDP was negative by over 8%. The wheels were coming off the economic cart, and the economy was a basket case thanks to eight years of prior Republican stewardship. It’s no wonder the “D” word (depression) was being used to describe conditions in the economy. George Bush and the Republicans instituted the first “hated” stimulus — not because they wanted to (this was anathema to the laissez faire principles they hold so dear), but because they were forced to do something really extraordinary or we would have found ourselves in a full blown, 1920’s style, jobless, wealth destroying depression with millions more people unemployed.

Once he was in office, Obama had no choice but to continue the stimulus program — the only problem, it wasn’t any where near being big enough. Republicans scurried to help their Wall Street banker friends (the guys who had created the toxic mortgage based derivatives) with government-backed loans and a bail-out, but dragged their feet in providing any kind of relief to the millions of beleaguered middle-class homeowners who were having their mortgages foreclosed.

The mid-term elections now are over, and Republicans made pretty much a clean sweep. They are due a victory lap, and I’m sure they’ll be taking more than just one. But now that they’re the party in control of the Congress, the challenge for them going forward is to actually govern in a responsible manner. That they can do this is not a forgone conclusion. And the results in the election should not in any way be taken as a mandate, but you can bet that Americans are going to be watching to see what the Republicans do to improve the economic and social prospects for the average American. The Republicans are going to have to expand their agenda beyond government shut-downs and debt defaults, and just obstructing Obama. They are (if this is even possible) actually going to have to learn to govern. In my estimation, this is tantamount to a monkey solving the Pythagorean Theorem. They’re going to have to make the government work again — make Washington a place that represents all Americans, not just the 1%.

No doubt we’ll be treated to a lot of hype and political folderol, expect big-time dog-and-pony-shows with press conferences in the rotunda of the Capitol featuring Mitch McConnell and John Boehner proudly announcing the roll-out of the Republican’s new “grand plan” for America. We’ll all be breathless I’m sure. But it’s going to take more than the Keystone Pipeline, repeal of the medical devices tax, the elimination of parts of Dodd-Frank, more tax perks for the wealthy, and another idiotic run at repealing Obama Care to get average working Americans into good paying jobs.

Authorizing the Keystone Pipeline is not going to help the minimum wage single mom make ends meet at the end of the week. Repealing the medical devices tax is not going to help a new, unemployed college grad struggling with too much student debt. Tweaking Dodd-Frank to deliver yet another boon to the Wall Street banksters (fraudsters) does nothing to help a long-term unemployed person find a meaningful job..

If you are waiting expectantly — hoping for something positive to be done on immigration, infrastructure spending, the minimum wage and relief on student debt — don’t hold your breath. It’s not going to happen. Both parties can talk all they want about bipartisanship, but there’s no mood for compromise and cooperation across the aisle in this Congress — not with the likes of Ted Cruz skulking in the shadows. K-Street and the Koch brothers still call the shots in the Republican caucus. And the recent election is only going to make the conservative hard-liners on the “red” side of the aisle even more recalcitrant and more reactionary.

I’m not holding my breath for anything good to come out of this election, and you shouldn’t either.

The Money Trader

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