Marketplace Scratch Pad

Dumping on the tea parties

Scott Jagow Apr 15, 2009

Why is it that conservatives aren’t allowed to protest? Is it because they’re generally the party of the status quo and not the party of “change?” Memo to the party poopers: Let these people have their tea parties. Listen to what they’re saying.

In today’s LA Times, Marc Cooper says the tea parties are steeped in insanity:

Nobody I know is very pleased with the billions ladled out to teetering banks and corporations. Yet a clear majority of Americans are sophisticated enough to know that these bailouts are a necessary evil and are intended — unlike the lollipop Bush tax cuts — not for personal profit but rather as a radical, emergency measure to help Americans keep their jobs, their homes and their retirement.

Evil, yes. Necessary? We can have an argument there. And we should have an argument, not just blindly follow what the President, the Treasury and the Congress are feeding us. A clear majority of Americans are sophisticated enough to know these bailouts are good for them? Do you know how 1984-ish (not to mention snobby) that sounds? Now that Goldman Sachs has taken its bailout money and its AIG money and turned it into rousing results, I’d say there’s quite a bit of personal profiting going on.

As for stimulus, we need to question that too, before strapping more financial weights to the backs of future generations. That doesn’t mean we reject the notion of government spending as part of the solution. It just means, we think about it first.

I want to hear from many different voices on this. Fox News AND Paul Krugman. Robert Reich AND Jamie Whyte. In fact, let me do that now.

First, Robert Reich:

The current stimulus package is proving way too small relative to the shortfall between what consumers and businesses are buying and what the economy could produce at full capacity…

If Geithner gets Congress to give him more bailout money, Congress won’t be in any mood to do what it really needs to do – which is to enlarge the stimulus package. Voters are already worried about too much government spending. At most, the administration is going to get only one more bite at the congressional apple. Make that more stimulus rather than more bailout.

On the other hand, Times of London writer Jamie Whyte argues that more stimulus is exactly the wrong approach. He says the economy isn’t dying. Economies don’t die:

We should be relatively unconcerned about the economy’s immediate future. We know it will survive. What matters is its long-term quality of life. Crippling a patient who would otherwise die may be worth it. But crippling an immortal patient who would otherwise have to endure a brief period of intense pain is not.

From Fox News:

Call it bailout remorse.

With economic signs beginning to point upward and banks returning federal rescue funds, analysts are now debating whether the government’s $700 billion bailout program, known as the troubled assets relief program, or TARP, was ever necessary.

Some say a normal business cycle and Federal Reserve policy, not TARP, accounts for the strong profit forecast from Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs, a drop in unemployment benefit filings and several retailers predicting solid April sales.

From Paul Krugman:

President Obama hails the fact that stimulus projects are coming in “ahead of schedule and under budget.” Yay — but boo.

Ahead of schedule is good. Under budget — well, ordinarily that’s a good thing. But the point of the stimulus is to increase spending!

Seriously: if the projects really are coming in cheaper than expected, that doesn’t mean we should bank the savings; it means that we need more projects.

It takes all kinds of voices to have a real conversation about the economy and our future.
It includes the people carrying around those tea bags today. Just like it included the people shouting for change a few months ago.

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