The Talk: Congressional Recess and the Economic Mess
August 5, 2011
Chip Lebovitz: The debt ceiling crisis has been finally defused, or at least, temporarily disarmed. Congress has fled the capitol for its August recess. With unemployment over 9 percent, how should the president be trying to get the country back on track?
Ross Freiman-Mendel: Having just turned 50, the president should probably just celebrate his birthday. The most effective thing that he can do at this point is nothing — this vacation could be the least destructive weeks of his presidency. In all seriousness though, the name of the game when Congress and the president return will be the economy.
Chip Lebovitz: Think more proactively: the name of the post-recess game may be the economy, but the unemployment numbers determine the score. The president has a couple of options moving forward to help bolster the flagging economy. A smart first step would be to demand a resolution to the recent Federal Aviation Administration shutdown. 75,000 workers should not remain unemployed because members of congress are more focused on their recess and fundraising than actually running the country.
Ross Freiman-Mendel: Again, Congress remains divided on the FAA issues, with both houses having offered different plans. The president displayed his immaturity as a negotiator and inability to lead during the debt-ceiling debate, so I don’t expect much from him. With a failed attempt at stimulus, can you be more specific in what the current administration can do?
Chip Lebovitz: Don’t gloss over the differences between the two houses even if the shutdown was resolved mid conversation, because it’s a symptom of Republicans undercutting every part of the president’s agenda. But instead of criticizing the stimulus, which by the way with the recently downgraded GDP statistics has been more explicitly highlighted as the wall protecting the fragile economy from the full ferocity of the recession, the president could continue unemployment benefits and the payroll tax holiday. A part of the December deal to extend the Bush tax cuts, these two provisions have some of the largest effects on the economy, with every dollar spent on these benefits boosting GDP by a $1.60.
Ross Freiman-Mendel: Chip, I think you’re wrong on unemployment benefits: they have the adverse effect of keeping unemployment higher, as job-seekers either look for a suitable job or become complacent. Aside from jobs, the GOP should capitalize on the president’s unpopularity. The House is the only impediment against his liberal-social agenda.
Chip Lebovitz: That’s just pure partisan pontificating. Instead of reciting rote memorizations from the Republican austerity playbook, look around and see that it has become progressively harder for the long term unemployed to get jobs, as employers are often seeking currently employed individuals for new openings. Predicting another similar argument from you about alleged worker laziness, how about instead consider investing in America’s education infrastructure. As this American Society of Civil Engineers report shows, we desperately need to spend more on school infrastructure, creating jobs through a politically popular method.
Ross Freiman-Mendel: Just because it’s an attack on a liberal president — or dare I say, truthful attack — doesn’t relegate my comments to “partisan pontificating.” I will proudly stand up for any austerity, be it Republican or not, in light of $14.3 soon to be $16 trillion national debt and $144 trillion in unfunded liabilities (see http://www.usdebtclock.org/). For me Chip, it’s a simple issue: we’re broke and we don’t have any more money. On a more fundamental level, how do we rectify that issue in order to preserve, for example, investments in education and infrastructure?
Chip Lebovitz: Ross, incredibly everything does not revolve around your obsession of automatically disagreeing with the president – a misguided conflagration that has in this case unfairly singed the unemployed who lost their jobs in the recession (clearly due to laziness, I’m sure). To raise the money necessary for education investment, let’s take a page from the book of Reagan and marginally raise the gas tax. If that doesn’t sit well with you then what would you do to restore the economy, other than institute a Götterdämmerung?
Ross Freiman-Mendel: I don’t disagree with the president automatically; I just think he has been wrong on most issues. Since my party and I had to take the heat during the Bush years — the president whose ills were to be rectified with change we can believe in — there’s no need for you to be on the defensive. If education is your concern, we can begin by scrapping the Department of Education (and its great results) and limit the corrupting influence of the teachers unions.
Chip Lebovitz: Education in this case isn’t my concern, jobs are. Stop dancing around the question. What plan do you have to create jobs?
Ross Freiman-Mendel: My party controls only the House. It is not I who am dancing, but rather the president.
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