Down Big Before Election Day – Democrats Tossing Up Hail Mary’s

Just before halftime of the Green Bay and Chicago football game last night, Aaron Rodgers, quarterback of the Packers, heaved a Hail Mary pass into the endzone. The strategy of such a play is simple. You toss the football as long and as high as you can. It gives both the receiver and the cornerback ample time to get under the ball. If the receiver catches it, it is an easy 7 points. If the cornerback intercepts it, there is very little chance that he will return it for a touchdown, and the half will be over. High reward with very low risk.

As Election Day nears I see more and more liberal pundits tossing up Hail Mary’s in the hopes that something, anything sticks. If one of the partisan jabs lands, it could mean serious trouble for Republican momentum. If it misses, who cares, you’re in the exact same position you were already in – losing.

The latest desperate lob towards the election endzone was hurled by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich. In an article penned for the Huffington Post Reich attempts to argue that Republicans’ agenda is an “every man for himself” proposal in which the strong will survive and the weak will suffer. If only he had the facts to support his thesis.

His article gets off to an inauspicious start. He uses a quote from House Minority Leader John Boehner and his solution to the economic crisis – “Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmer, liquidate real estate. It will purge the rottenness out of the system. People will work harder, lead a more moral life.”

The trouble is Boehner never said those words. They were said by industrialist Andrew Mellon in 1929. In fact Boehner has said nothing of the sort. The only “purge” Boehner has even hinted at is squeezing the corruption and back-room dealing out of Washington.

But even then, would it have been so bad if Boehner had said it? There is a significant amount of “rottenness” in the system. The government is keeping housing prices artificially high. Enormous government debt is squeezing private investment out of the economy. Federal injections of synthetic money into the economy is perpetuating favored businesses at the expense of the efficient. And a redundant government bureaucracy is placing undue strain on the backs of taxpayers.

Seems to me there is a lot of rottenness that could be, should be, squeezed out of the system.

But none of those true-conservative laments are discussed in Reich’s article. Instead he conjures up the typical election year boogeymen – privatizing Social Security, evil “big business,” and destroying the social safety net. A series of Hail Mary attempts which he likely knows will fail but throws up in the hopes one will catch on.

Let’s address them one by one.

Social Security

Reich’s Claim: “Republicans have wanted to destroy Social Security since it was invented in 1935.”

The Truth: This one is easy. As nonpartisan Factcheck.org recently wrote:

“Few if any Republicans now in Congress have ever pushed for total “privatization” of Social Security. What President Bush proposed in 2005 was to allow workers under the age of 55 to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in private accounts. Most of their taxes would have continued to go into traditional Social Security. . . There was so little support for Bush’s plan, even among members of his own party, that it died without ever being introduced as a formal piece of legislation. Furthermore, we’ve seen no evidence that Republicans are any more enthusiastic about the idea now than they were the last time they had control of Congress.”

Then again, Republicans, unlike Democrats, are at least willing to admit that there is a problem with the program. The program ran a deficit for the first time in its history this year. Moreover, the Social Security Trustees’ Report found that the program’s Trust Fund will begin to run a deficit by 2016.

Health Care:

Reich’s Claim: “Repealing the new health-care legislation would cause health-care costs to rise even faster. . . The new law could help control rising health costs.”

The Truth: Not even Democrats support Reich’s claim. A leaked memo to Democratic candidates urged them to abandon claims that it will reduce costs and instead focus on promises to “improve it.” In fact, listed under a section entitled “Do Nots” the memo includes “say the law will reduce costs and deficit.” Apparently Reich didn’t get the memo.

Perhaps that is not enough for Reich. Okay well how about a report issues by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office which states that ““In CBO’s judgment, the health legislation enacted earlier this year does not substantially diminish [the] pressure of [rising health costs].” Such an assessment is backed by a separate investigation done by the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services which found that “for calendar years 2010 through 2019 [national health expenditures] would increase by $311 billion, or 0.9 percent, over the baseline projection.”

In other words, the Democrats’ healthcare bill does exactly the opposite of what Reich says – it doesn’t help control costs, it actually accelerates them.

Unemployment Insurance:

Reich’s Claim: “Republicans also hate unemployment insurance. They’ve voted against every extension because, they say, it coddles the unemployed.”

The Truth: This should really get your blood boiling because it is not simply a case of misinformation, it is a boldfaced lie. Republicans never vote against an extension because it “coddled” the unemployed. Rather, Republicans (and some Democrats for that matter) voted against the extension because Democratic leadership refused to pay for the bill. Don’t take my word for it. Take Ben Nelson (D-NE) who explained why he voted no by saying,

“So, Congress should provide additional unemployment benefits but not as a bailout to the states that worsens the deficit and passes the bills onto our children.”

Or Democrat Betsy Markey (D-CO) who said that, “the [unemployment insurance] extension wasn’t paid for. The bill spent money without cutting somewhere else.” She was of course referring to the previously passed “pay as you go” legislation that requires spending bills be met with equal spending cuts elsewhere.

Quite the contrary to Reich’s “hate” narrative, Republicans were eager to pass unemployment extensions at the time. In fact Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “We’ve offered ways of paying for these programs, and we’ve been eager to approve them.”

History also doesn’t support Reich’s claim that Republicans hate unemployment insurance. As Politifact.com recently found,

Bush signed two general extensions in 2003 for 13 weeks each, with significant Republican support. He also signed extensions in 2008 with Republican support.

We were unable to find any instances when Bush asked for an extension of unemployment benefits and Congress refused him.

The Deficit:

Reich’s Claim: “Republicans want to cut the deficit and balance the budget at a time when a large portion of the workforce is idle.”

The Truth: Hey, he actually got one right! Republicans do want to cut the deficit. The problem comes when he begins explaining what will happen if federal spending is curtailed. “Cutting the deficit and balancing the budget any time soon will subject tens of millions of American families to unnecessary hardship and throw even more into poverty,” Reich claims.

This of course is one of the fundamental fallacies of Keynesian philosophy. As Nobel Prize winner wrote in “Economics in One Lesson,”

“There is no more persistent and influential faith in the world today than the faith in government spending. Everywhere government spending is presented as a panacea for all our economic ills. Is private industry partially stagnant? We can fix it all by government spending. Is there unemployment? That is obviously due to “insufficient private spending power.” The remedy is just as obvious. All that is necessary is for the government to spend enough to make up the ‘deficiency.’”

Of course, what stimulus peddlers fail to remember is that everything must eventually be paid for through taxes. To be sure, spending will create some jobs. However, to understand the devastating impact of spending you must look beyond immediate consequences and beyond those who are directly benefited. For instance, if $1 billion is spent on a green energy windmill today, taxpayers must eventually pay an additional $1 billion in taxes. That $1 billion taken away can no longer be spent on the things they wanted or needed most. Moreover, the jobs that would be devoted to building those things we wanted would be lost. As Hazlitt wrote,

“All that has happened, at best, is that there has been a diversion of jobs because of the project.”

Running enormous deficits doesn’t actually benefit society in the long term. It only allows the government to choose who wins while hiding away the losers. But the losers are clear – it is the young adults, the next generations, who will be responsible for paying for today’s irresponsibility. It will be they who Reich suggests will suffer “unnecessary hardship” and “poverty.”

That is the sum total of Reich’s article. A series of political footballs tossed up in the hopes of scaring some unsuspecting reader into voting for a Democrat. Some of these footballs are misinformation, some are lies, but they all are nothing more than an election year ploy for votes. It is sad to see someone so accomplished reduced to such tricks.

by Brandon Greife, Political Director of the College Republican National Committee