Don’t Fall for the GOP Lie

Don’t fall for the GOP lie: There is no budget crisis. There’s a job and growth crisis.

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich’s Blog

Don’t fall for the GOP lie: There is no budget crisis. There’s a job and growth crisis.

“A friend who’s been watching the absurd machinations in Congress asked me “what happens if we don’t solve the budget crisis and we run out of money to pay the nation’s bills?”

It was only then I realized how effective Republicans lies have been. That we’re calling it a “budget crisis” and worrying that if we don’t “solve” it we can’t pay our nation’s bills is testament to how successful Republicans have been distorting the truth.

The federal budget deficit has no economic relationship to the debt limit. Republicans have linked the two, and the Administration has played along, but they are entirely separate. Republicans are using what would otherwise be a routine, legally technical vote to raise the debt limit as a means of holding the nation hostage to their own political goal of shrinking the size of the federal government.

In economic terms, we will not “run out of money” next week. We’re still the richest nation in the world, and the Federal Reserve has unlimited capacity to print money.

Nor is there any economic imperative to reach an agreement on how to fix the budget deficit by Tuesday. It’s not even clear the federal budget needs that much fixing anyway.

Yes, the ratio of the national debt to the total economy is high relative to what it’s been. But it’s not nearly as high as it was after World War II – when it reached 120 percent of the economy’s total output.

If and when the economy begins to grow faster – if more Americans get jobs, and we move toward a full recovery – the debt/GDP ratio will fall, as it did in the 1950s, and as it does in every solid recovery. Revenues will pour into the Treasury, and much of the current “budget crisis” will be evaporate.

Get it? We’re really in a “jobs and growth” crisis – not a budget crisis.

And the best way to get jobs and growth back is for the federal government to spend more right now, not less – for example, by exempting the first $20,000 of income from payroll taxes this year and next, recreating a WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps, creating an infrastructure bank, providing tax incentives for small businesses to hire, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, and so on.

But what happens next week if Congress can’t or won’t deliver the President a bill to raise the debt ceiling? Remember: This is all politics, mixed in with legal technicalities. Economics has nothing to do with it.

One possibility, therefore, is for the Treasury to keep paying the nation’s bills regardless. It would continue to issue Treasury bills, which are our nation’s IOUs. When those IOUs are cashed at the Federal Reserve Board, the Fed would do what it has always done: Honor them.

How long could this go on without the debt ceiling being lifted? That’s a legal question. Republicans in Congress could mount a legal challenge, but no court in its right mind would stop the Fed from honoring the full faith and credit of the United States.

The wild card is what the three big credit-rating agencies will do. As long as the Fed keeps honoring the nation’s IOUs, America’s credit should be deemed sound. We’re not Greece or Portugal, after all. We’ll still be the richest nation in the world, whose currency is the basis for most business transactions in the world.

Standard & Poor’s has warned it will downgrade the nation’s debt from a triple-A to a double-A rating if we don’t tend to the long-term deficit. But, as I’ve noted, S&P has no business meddling in American politics – especially since its own non-feasance was partly responsible for the current size of the federal debt (had it done its job the debt and housing bubbles wouldn’t have precipitated the terrible recession, and the federal outlays it required).

As long as we pay our debts on time, our global creditors should be satisfied. And if they’re satisfied, S&P, Moody’s, and Fitch should be, too.

Repeat after me: The federal deficit is not the nation’s biggest problem. The anemic recovery, huge unemployment, falling wages, and declining home prices are bigger problems. We don’t have a budget crisis. We have a jobs and growth crisis.

The GOP has manufactured a budget crisis out of the Republicans’ extortionate demands over raising the debt limit. They have succeeded in hoodwinking the public, including my friend.”


Robert Reich is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written thirteen books, including “The Work of Nations,” “Locked in the Cabinet,” “Supercapitalism” and his latest book, “AFTERSHOCK: The Next Economy and America’s Future.” His ‘Marketplace’ commentaries can be found on publicradio.com and iTunes.

Emphasis mine

see:http://www.readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/6813-dont-fall-for-the-gop-lie

The 6 Biggest Lies About the U.S. Debt

As Congress nears a vote on the various debt ceiling deals, let’s look at the lies and misinformation that got us into this mess.

From Alternet, by Arun Gupta

“There is one simple truth about the discussion of the looming U.S. debt crisis: it is largely a compendium of half-truths, distortions, myths and outright lies.”

“For example, is it true that the U.S. debt is unsustainable, which is spurring the budget-cutting fever? Far from it. While U.S. debt is at one of its highest levels ever in terms of gross domestic product, the interest payments in 2011 on the  $14.3 trillion public debt will be a mere $386 billion. This is barely more than the $364 billion paid way back in 1998. In real terms, the U.S. economy has grown nearly 30 percent since then. Rock-bottom interest rates on U.S. government debt account for the low payments today, but the practical effect is that servicing the debt as a percentage of GDP is the lowest it’s been in decades.

Or what about hysterical headlines like “U.S. Debt Default Looms” (courtesy of NPR) unless Democrats and Republicans agree to raise the debt ceiling? They are completely untrue. Richard Wolff, professor of economics emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, says, if there is no agreement by Aug. 2 to allow the U.S. Treasury to borrow more funds, then “the government instead would choose among cutbacks on various expenditures such as state and local aid, medical aid, for war, for infrastructure. It would extraordinarily unusual for a government in such a situation to attack its creditors.”

If no deal on the debt ceiling is reached this sucks for the rest of us, such as the millions depending on their portion of the $23 billion in Social Security payments scheduled for Aug. 3. A short delay would do no serious harm, but a longer delay, perhaps just a week or two, would be devastating.

For one, removing income support payments would have a major ripple effect in our consumer-based economy. Spending would drop precipitously on items like food, medicine, transportation, clothing and household goods. Peter Bratsis, a professor of Political Theory at the University of Salaford in England and a Greek-American, says his home country is a cautionary tale. Speaking from Greece, Bratsis said since the debt crisis hit last summer many people’s income have dropped up to 25 percent as wages, pensions and social welfare have been sacrificed to please the banks. As a result “Greece is in an economic depression. In Athens, on every block, you have shuttered bakeries, cafes, shoe stores, plumbers and other small businesses that are closed because either people don’t have the money to spend or are afraid to spend.”

Second, says Wolff, “The U.S. Government is one of the largest buyers, if not the largest purchaser of commodities in the world of oil, of computers, of weapons. In an already shaky global economy, the biggest buyer of goods would be making cutbacks. This would be stupefyingly dumb.” He adds that by playing chicken with the national debt, Washington has already irreparably wounded the economy. “The world depends on the U.S. economy running smoothly. A default would lead governments and companies to rethink their relation to the United States, and this has already happened.”

The point is while the dangers are rife in a delay in raising the debt ceiling the doomsday scenario of a government default on debt is not going to occur. The creditors will be kept happy and there will be no default because that is how government works in a capitalist economy. And even if the impasse dragged on, the Fed could dip into its $550 billion in reserves, including more than $400 billion in gold at current prices, to keep making debt payments.

One blatant lie is that Republicans and Democrats, the Congress and the White House are serious about reining in budget deficits to reduce the long-term debt. They are not. The Congressional Budget Office calculates that the deficit from 2011 to 2013 will be $3.5 trillion. Over the decade it will be $8.5 trillion. Now, lots of numbers are being thrown about on spending cuts over a 10-year period, but they keep dropping – the Senate Democrats are proposing $2.2 trillion in cuts and costs savings while the Republicans weigh in at $915 billion.

Cutting one or two hundred billion dollars a year is meaningless. Wolff says, “Even if you cut the debt $300 billion, you are left with an enormous annual deficit that adds hugely to the national debt they all claim to care so much about. It gives lie to the idea that the Republicans and Democrats are interested in trying to cut the national debt.”

If you really believe shrinking the debt is an imperative, then there are easier ways to do it then stealing grandma’s meds. The Bush wars and tax cuts – which are still going – cost $3.3 trillion from 2002 to 2009. Cutting the trillion-dollar war budget in half, ending the Bush tax cuts (which Obama could have done with no sweat when he was bursting with political capital in early 2009 or by calling the GOP bluff before or after the 2010 midterm elections) and raising tax rates on corporations would pretty much wipe out the deficit over the next decade. In the case of corporate taxes, during the last decade it averaged only 10.7 percent of federal revenues – and since 2008 it’s shrunk to barely 5 percent – versus 29.8 percent in the 1950s.

Of course, the stand-off is based on another lie: that Congress and Obama administration can enforce cuts over a 10-year period. The budget process is an annual exercise. There is no provision whatsoever to make cuts permanent because they can always be undone by Congress, and taxes can always be lowered or costly new wars started, both of which always seem to happen, widening the deficit once more.

There is no end to the falsehoods and fantasies from the chattering classes. “We are in recovery.” So says Ben Bernanke – since 2009 no less. Obama has been saying the same since 2010, while hedging that it is “painfully slow.” Really? Tell that to the 25 million Americans who are unemployed, underemployed or have dropped out of the labor force. This amounts to an unemployment rate of16.2 percent, but the real rate is probably closer to 20 percent after factoring in youth unable to enter the workforce or those who have taken early retirement. Or try telling the 100 million Americans who are effectively caught in poverty (using far more realistic measures than the government does) or the 6.5 million households with mortgages that are delinquent or in foreclosure that we are in recovery.

The notion we are in recovery is based on believing the downturn was “the Great Recession,” a distortion the New York Times helped spread. Paul Krugman is one of the few mainstream commentators saying that not only is there no end in sight to the four-year-long slump, let’s give it a more accurate label such as, “the Lesser Depression.” Suppose the corporate media had been saying “Depression” for the last few years. It would have bolstered support for extraordinary measures to dig out of an extraordinary crisis, such as policies that did work during the last depression: jobs programs, infrastructure, social welfare, stronger labor rights and aid to local governments. But this would mean redistribution of wealth downwards instead of upwards. Therefore, saying recession makes it sound part of the normal boom-and-bust cycle, one we will overcome through the magic of the market as we have so many times before.

We can then move on to the recovery phase, which means getting our economic house in order by reducing the debt, a lie told by Serious People whether pundits, politicians or experts. We are being led to think the wisest course is repeating the major mistake of the Great Depression – enforcing austerity in a deep economic funk. When the New York Times backs huge cuts to social spending, you can be sure the rest of the media assumes squeezing the poor and middle class harder is the tonic for economic health. Sure, the Times may sniffle that Obama’s stunning offer to hack $650 billion from Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security was “overly generous” to Republicans but that is just code for “we in the liberal penthouse support it with mild reservations.” On the other side of the media aisle, the Wall Street Journal endorsed the Republican sadism, saying that none of the critics on the right offer “anything nearly as fiscally or politically beneficial as Mr. Boehner’s plan.”

This is what passes for the range of opinion in the two most esteemed newspapers in the country. That’s because we are still in thrall of the biggest lie of all – market fundamentalism. An eternity ago, in 2009, Newsweek declared, “We Are All Socialists Now.” They were right, but only in the way America has always been socialists: we socialize the rich when they lose money, and then we socialize their ability to profit. (The esteemed economic historian Karl Polanyi argued “laissez-faire was planned.” By that, he meant profit-making depends on government regulation of land, labor, finance and the environment. On top of that, there are outright transfers of wealth that occur during wars, infrastructure building and as part of social reforms, such as the railways, the Cold War, Medicare, the internet, and the bank bailouts.)

Thus, the debate is about differing Democratic and Republican visions on which parts of the welfare state should be sent to the glue factory. “We all must sacrifice,” is the mantra. Never mind that the effect on the national debt will be laughably small. Slashing $650 billion from entitlements – Obama’s burnt offering – will nick a miniscule 3 percent off the national debt by 2020, while the suffering will be enormous. But we must do it to appease the markets.

Pleasing the markets means pleasing the credit rating agencies – Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch – an example of cult-like devotion in which the elite command us to drink the Kool-Aid. Like a death watch, the media turn anxiously to the rating agencies to ask the condition of U.S. government debt. Are they going to downgrade it, which would mean higher interest rates and an even bigger debt problem? This is one more big lie as Japan’s huge debt – more than twice the size of U.S. debt as a percentage of GDP – was downgraded in January and “there was no negative impact at all,” according to one analyst.

But first let’s go to the tape and review how the big three credit rating agencies inflated the mortgage bubble. The bubble was driven by the banking industry’s insatiable appetite for debt, the repackaging of dicey mortgages into profitable securities. The agencies, especially Moody’s and S&P, gave investment-grade ratings to almost any sack of residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS) and collateralized debt obligations (CDO) that passed across their desks. By law, banks, pension funds, insurance companies and other institutional investors need investment-grade ratings on these securities to hold them. Since the rating agencies were paid by the issuers, they were raking in the cash by gold-plating shit. Moody’s revenue on these securities quadrupled from over $61 million in 2002 to over $260 million by 2006. For S&P, it went from $64 million to $265 million for CDOs in the same four years and from $184 million in 2002 to $561 million in 2007 for RMBSs.

Don’t think they didn’t know exactly what they were doing. At S&P, one manager emailed a co-worker in December 2006, “Let’s hope we are all retired and wealthy before this house of cards falters.” Then, according to a U.S. Senate report, the ratings firm triggered the financial collapse by downgrading huge amounts of these securities from AAA to junk. In one day, on Jan. 30, 2008, S&P downgraded an astonishing 6,300 ratings. In 18 months the two firms downgraded more securities than they had done in their entire 90-year histories. Once the securities turned to junk, the big players could no longer hold them, which burst the bubble as they were sold in a panic and losses began mounting on the bank’s balance sheets.

We know the rest of the story – the financial collapse, the trillions in bailouts and credit lines, the lack of punishment for executives at any of these firms, the return to obscene profits a year later, the de-fanging of any credible reform. But now, we are being told, the rating agencies word on debt is the word of God.

This time, S&P is not so much looking for a fast buck as nakedly pushing an agenda. In a blatant lie, S&P President Deven Sharma, who was summoned to testify before a House subcommittee on financial oversight on July 27, said his firm was “misquoted” in demanding $4 trillion in cuts and unctuously preached that ratings should be free of politics.

What happened is two weeks earlier, on July 14, S&P issued a detailed statement, explaining that it was placing both long-term and short-term U.S. debt “on CreditWatch with negative implications.” It explained that “there is an increasing risk of a substantial policy stalemate enduring beyond any near-term agreement to raise the debt ceiling.”

It did offer a safe passage. S&P said that if “an agreement would be enacted and maintained throughout the decade” to realize “budget savings of $4 trillion,” then “other things unchanged” it could affirm the stellar ratings on both short- and long-term U.S. debt. But, it warned, any “credible” agreement “would require support from leaders of both political parties.”

S&P knew exactly what it was saying. The only budget number it mentioned (three times) was $4 trillion. By saying both parties needed to sign on to an agreement to be credible, it knew the Republican agenda of strangling the last of social welfare would triumph. And by issuing the statement in the heat of negotiations, it threw its lot in with the Tea Party mob.

S&P was telling Capitol Hill to drive a stake through the heart of the welfare state. To let us peasants know we must till the corporate fields until the day we die. Otherwise, the credit rating deities will rain downgrades upon our heads, blighting the land for future generations.

We must pay now and forever. That is the truth, a truth so crude and cartoonish it seems comical. Which is why we need so many lies.

Arun Gupta is a founding editor of The Indypendent newspaper. He is writing a book on the decline of American Empire for Haymarket Books.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/151827/the_6_biggest_lies_about_the_u.s._debt?akid=7335.123424.kt7uO7&rd=1&t=2

Taxes are Way Too Low!

If you count payroll taxes, the richest 400 Americans, pocketing over $354 million a year, are paying a lower tax rate than a hospital orderly working for $29,000 a year.

Robert Borosage, Our Future

“.. Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem,” says House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). All Republican legislators have been taught to chant this tired Republican “talking point” as if it were the Hare Krishna mantra.

To borrow one of Cantor’s favorite sneers,How could anyone believe that? Here’s a graph showing federal revenues as a percentage of GDP. Clearly Washington has a revenue problem.

In fact, Americans are paying the lowest percentage of their income in taxes since 1958. Corporate taxes which brought in over 6% of GDP in 1950 are nownear historic lows of barely 1%. Senator Carl Levin has just introduced the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act of 2011 targeting the $100 billion in taxes lost annually to offshore tax havens. (Needless to say, House Republicans vow to go to the mat to protect the corporate tax dodges since loopholes are deemed tax hikes in their Fox world)

It gets worse. Hedge Fund billionaires now pay a lower tax rate than their chauffeurs, or the teachers of their children, or the cops that patrol their streets. The IRS reports that the richest 400 Americans – who made an average of $354 million a year in 2007 – paid an effective tax rate of 16.6%, down from 30% in 1995 and 23% in 2002. Even as their incomes doubled from 2001 to 2007, their effective tax rates were virtually halved from 1995.

If you count payroll taxes, the richest 400 Americans, pocketing over $354 million a year, are paying a lower tax rate than a hospital orderly working for $29,000 a year.

Clearly we have a “revenue problem” – and a major league indecency problem.”

emphasis mine

see:http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/2011072814/ignorance-index-iii-revenue-problem

Bush Tax Cuts, a Decade Later: How They Helped Break the Economy

It seems hard to believe but, just a decade ago, the deficit didn’t exist and there were surpluses as far as the eye could see. The United States was on track to eliminate the national debt altogether by 2010, making the country debt free for the first time in nearly two centuries.

From Alternet. By Steve Benen | Sourced from Washington Monthly

It seems hard to believe but, just a decade ago, the deficit didn’t exist and there were surpluses as far as the eye could see. The United States was on track to eliminate the national debt altogether by 2010, making the country debt free for the first time in nearly two centuries.

Then 2001 happened. In fact, a year ago this week, George W. Bush’s tax policy became law, and to honor the occasion, Slate’s Annie Lowrey tried to “find something redeeming” to say about them. Alas ,she came up empty, concluding that they’ve “been a failure in every conceivable way.”

Ten years ago this week, the policy’s conservative champions made bold predictions about what the tax cuts would do — massive job growth, vast new wealth, higher incomes, smaller government, and balanced budgets. None of these predictions proved to be even remotely true.

The fine folks at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities put togetherseveral worthwhile charts this week to mark the 10th anniversary of this tragic mistake, but this one’s my favorite.

But the spectacular failure of the policy is really only part of the story. Indeed, to a certain extent, looking back at recent history only helps provide a salient foundation for the more important problem: the fact that we haven’t learned anything from the mistake.

Well, perhaps “we” is the wrong word. Some of us have learned quite a bit. But in the Republican Party, we have lawmakers who continue to insist that their votes in support of this monstrosity were fully justified. They won’t apologize, they have no regrets, and they’d rather cause a deliberate recession than any allow a single penny of tax increases to be imposed on anyone.

And on the presidential campaign trail, it’s arguably even worse. Tim Pawlenty is pushing a tax-cut plan that’s triple the size of Bush’s tax-cut package, convinced that it will — you guessed it — generate massive job growth, vast new wealth, higher incomes, smaller government, and balanced budgets.

Worse, in the process, Pawlenty is setting a bar and challenging his presidential rivals to follow him. He wants $11.6 trillion in tax cuts — will other candidates match that? Surpass it? The race is on to see which Republican presidential candidate can be the most ridiculously irresponsible, and the competition will no doubt be fierce.

We are, in other words, talking about a party that tried an ambitious and radical experiment, saw it fail, and decided what’s needed now is significantly more failure.

 I mind that Republicans got this wrong and we’ll be dealing with the consequences for many years to come, but I really mind that Republicans think they were right. As Ezra noted the other day, the party not only “hasn’t learned anything from the failure of the Bush tax cuts,” it’s actually managed to “unlearn some things, too.”

Emphasis Mine.

see:http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/612959/bush_tax_cuts%2C_a_decade_later%3A_how_they_helped_break_the_economy/#paragraph2

Eight Nasty right wing lies about Obama

The public has been misled on a ton of issues like tax cuts, the deficit, the economy, and the cost of health care.

From Alternet:

“The public has been misled on a ton of issues like tax cuts, the deficit, the economy, and the cost of health care.

There are a number things the public “knows” as we head into the election that are just false. If people elect leaders based on false information, the things those leaders do in office will not be what the public expects or needs.”

Here are eight of the biggest myths:

“1) President Obama tripled the deficit.

Reality: Bush’s last budgethad a $1.416 trillion deficit. Obama’s first budgetreduced that to $1.29 trillion.

2) President Obama raised taxes, which hurt the economy.

Reality: Obama cut taxes. 40% of the “stimulus” was wasted on tax cuts which only create debt, which is why it was so much less effective than it could have been.

3) President Obama bailed out the banks.

Reality: While many people conflate the “stimulus” with the bank bailouts, the bank bailouts were requested by President Bush and his Treasury Secretary, former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson. (Paulson also wanted the bailoutsto be “non-reviewable by any court or any agency.”) The bailouts passed and began before the 2008 election of President Obama.

4) The stimulus didn’t work.

Reality: The stimulus worked, but was not enough. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus raised employment by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million jobs.

5) Businesses will hire if they get tax cuts.

Reality: A business hires the right number of employees to meet demand. Having extra cash does not cause a business to hire, but a business that has a demand for what it does will find the money to hire. Businesses want customers, not tax cuts.

6) Health care reform costs $1 trillion.

Reality: The health care reform reduces government deficits by $138 billion.

7) Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, is “going broke,” people live longer, fewer workers per retiree, etc.

Reality: Social Security has run a surplus since it began, has a trust fund in the trillions, is completely sound for at least 25 more years and cannot legally borrow so cannot contribute to the deficit (compare that to the military budget!) Life expectancy is only longer because fewer babies die; people who reach 65 live about the same number of years as they used to.

8) Government spending takes money out of the economy.

Reality: Government is We, the People and the money it spends is on We, the People. Many people do not know that it is government that builds the roads, airports, ports, courts, schools and other things that are the soil in which business thrives. Many people think that all government spending is on “welfare” and “foreign aid” when that is only a small part of the government’s budget.

This stuff really matters.

If the public VOTESin a new Congress because a majority of voters think this one tripled the deficit, and as a result the new people follow the policies that actuallytripled the deficit, the country could go broke.

If the public VOTES in a new Congress that rejects the idea of helping to create demand in the economy because they think it didn’t work, then the new Congress could do things that cause a DEPRESSION.

If the public VOTES in a new Congress because they think the health care reform will increase the deficit when it is actually projected to reduce the deficit, then the new Congress could repeal health care reform and thereby make the deficit worse. And on it goes.”

Dave Johnson blogs at Seeing the Forest and is a Fellow at theCommonweal Institute. He has over 25 years of technology industry experience.

EMPHASIS mine.

see: http://www.alternet.org/news/148614/8_nasty_conservative_lies_about_the_democrats_and_obama_that_must_be_debunked_before_the_election/

Don’t sit it out – vote!

Sam Webb:

Some voters on our side of the struggle are taking a powder on the elections. They claim that President Obama raised their hopes as a candidate and let them down as a president.

They expected bold action on the economic crisis, but it didn’t happen. The stimulus didn’t go far enough. Ditto for health care legislation. The scale and pace of change has been too slow – too many people are out of work, out of affordable health care, and out of their homes.

Meanwhile, their riff goes, bloodletting continues in Afghanistan, corporations are sitting on nearly $2 trillion of idle money, profits are up, inequality is growing, and tax cuts for the wealthy are draining our treasury and driving up the national deficit.

There is truth here, but the question is: is it enough to stay home? I say no for three reasons.

To begin with the most obvious, the elections’ impact on people’s lives. Even though the size of the stimulus was inadequate and a public option was missing in the new health care law, both bills bring a measure of relief to millions of people. And as a friend of mine keeps reminding me, it may make only an inch of difference, but a lot of people live on that inch.

Which brings me to next month’s congressional elections. If the Republicans regain control of the House of Representatives, that inch of difference (things like unemployment insurance extensions, food stamps, relief for local and state governments, modest jobs and infrastructure programs, readjustment of tax policy in favor of working people, funding for education, a real fight over military appropriations for Afghanistan) will probably vanish – along with hope for more far-reaching measures.

Furthermore, “austerity” will become the watchword, the pressures to weaken Social Security and Medicare will grow, and the economic pain for working people is likely to get much worse.

A second reason to vote is a little less obvious, but you don’t have to know higher math to understand it: A Republican victory at the polls on Nov. 2 – defined as winning a majority of seats in the House – would be the opening act of a horror show, culminating in the Republican right reclaiming full dominance of Congress and the White House in 2012.

For the far right, electoral success in the current elections and then in 2012 is the eye of the needle through which it must past in order to radically transform the country to the advantage of the most reactionary section of monopoly capital and its allies, motley and dangerous as they are.

No one on their side is going to stay home on Election Day. A “no show” is a “no-no” for them. Everyone is expected to march to the polls and bring others with them.

You won’t hear of any of them scaling down the importance of the elections. Their lens is wide-angled enough to see the big picture. The claim that the two parties of capitalism are indistinguishable is a fool’s notion in their world. And they see this election and the one two years from now as a crossroads in American politics whose outcome will determine the kind of nation we will become.

Finally, a Republican victory this fall will not simply weaken the president and his party, but likely demoralize and take the wind out of the sails of the loose coalition that emerged in 2008 and after a post-election hiatus is finding its stride again, as evidenced by the Oct. 2 rally in the nation’s capital.

To believe otherwise is naïve at best. Millions will feel that the promise of 2008 evaporated in the voting booths in 2010. They may not be entirely right about that, but that is how they will feel, and people act on the basis of their feelings. The mobilization of people in the post-election period will become more difficult.

Of course, some people are so deeply cynical that nothing could persuade them to vote.

Then there are a few others who will sit these elections out for ideological reasons. They argue that participation in the two-party system spreads illusions about the Democratic Party, delaying the formation of an anti-capitalist alternative.

In their view, the elections are simply a contest between two parties with no differences of any importance; thus, it makes little, if any, difference who wins – Bush or Gore, Bush or Kerry, McCain or Obama, candidates of the right or candidates of the center and left of center.

Any even temporary and tactical alliance with the Democratic Party – well, it’s worse than the plague, to be avoided at all costs. Support for a Democratic candidate as a “lesser evil” is tantamount to craven political bankruptcy and opportunism.

What is to be done? It’s simple, say the advocates of this point of view: make a “strategic break” with the two-party system. But there is an oh-so slight hitch that serious progressive and left-thinking people can’t afford to overlook.

A “strategic break” makes sense only if millions of people and their organizations are ready to march out of the Democratic Party into a labor/people-based political party, but guess what? They aren’t.

Yes, many people stay home on Election Day, but it is not an expression of political acumen nor is it the majority. The most active layers of working people organize others to vote and vote themselves.

While many of them express dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party, it hasn’t risen to the point where they are ready to bolt it in any near term that I can envision.

Moreover, the rise of right-wing extremism reinforces this sentiment. Broad unity, not division, not attacking people’s leaders as the “super leftists” love to do (they see these leaders as the main reason that people stay put in the Democratic Party – how simple-minded) is the blood that flows through the veins of the people’s movement at this moment.

Politics is a contested, complex, and impure process. There are waves and breaks – progressive and reactionary – in continuity to be sure, but in between there are longer periods in which the struggle doesn’t soar to new heights or sink to new depths, but still is consequential to the breaks that do come.

In 2008, politics, economics and mass thinking became unhinged from their old moorings and a political turn, albeit partial, occurred. Since then the completion of this turn has become a more protracted and difficult process than many, including myself, thought.

The elections in less than three weeks, for good or bad, will mark a new phase in this process. No one with an iota of common sense will sit it out. Shoot yourself in the foot if you like, but don’t do it on Nov. 2 because the buckshot will hit the rest of us!

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/robboudon/291583692/ cc 2.0

see: http://www.peoplesworld.org/sitting-out-the-elections-think-again/