French Reject Austerity; Are US Republicans Listening?


This past weekend French voters denied their incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy reelection  in a resounding rejection of austerity policies which have kept European economic recovery out of reach. In arrant disavowal of this message and mounting real world evidence to the contrary, Republicans in the U.S. continue their own pursuit of spending cuts policy.

Sacrifice and spend is the basis of the GOP strategy. Its most recent incarnation of this budget approach is embodied within the Ryan Budget which does reduce the deficit but sacrifices funding for numerous social and health programs while extending generous tax cuts and increases defense spending. As of this morning, the House of Representatives approved a bill which retains defense spending levels while cutting $18 billion from Medicaid and the President’s housing assistance program for struggling homeowner’s this year and $250 billion over the next decade. It also cuts funding from a regulatory agency that oversees controlled collapses of failing financial firms in an effort to avoid what was witnessed during the Great Recession.

     While the concerns are warranted and efforts by the conservatives in Washington to reduce national debt is understandable, as the world has seen in Europe the timing is inappropriate. Debt reduction is a long-term goal while creating the conditions for recovery from a deep economic crisis involves short-term policies. The two are incompatible with one another. Given this, there are balanced approaches which can be implemented over time while maintaining the resources needed for recovery in the short-term. Two similar plans have originated in congressional committees over the past 3 years. All included sustainable spending cuts and responsible tax increases. However, each of the plans were thwarted by the No Tax pledge signed by the vast majority of congressional Republicans.

     In principle, the newly elected French President, Francois Hollande, has declared his wish to take a similar balanced debt reduction, growth fostering strategy as those proposed in the US. Spending in the short-term needs to be targeted and geared towards investment. The retraction in this aspect is a significant reason why the continent sits in constant fear of a second downturn and why countries like Spain are experiencing a double-dip recession. The US’s stimulus stemmed the tide of job losses and the investment it was able to make helped create conditions for the private sector to begin hiring again. As was evident from the May 2012 job report April was the 26th straight month for private sector growth. As stimulus funding faded and budget cuts took effect the primary source of job loss was in the public sector, in government jobs. These losses negated many of the gains made in other sectors and illustrates how austerity diminishes the overall recovery.

     For the Republican Party the question avails itself, will European public outcry and real world evidence running counter to their austerity policies result in a predictable dismissal of the outcomes as testament to the detriments of socialism? Or, with their own particularly low public approvals will they consider this a portent of things to come and acknowledge the need to break from party line principles to find a way to listen without pretense?

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8 Comments to “French Reject Austerity; Are US Republicans Listening?”

  1. There will never be a Republican break, until an election that absolutely decimates the party numbers in congress. I’ve long maintained that there really is no one in charge, so there is no one to lead them closer to the middle. For thr repubs, it is really a very serious game of ” can you top this” in the march to the further fringe of partisianship, with guys like Cantor, Ryan, Boehner, McConnell, Mittens Romney, Grover Norquist and Limbaugh, playing the game, and Fox news egging them on.

    • It does seem like they are competing to see who can be the crazier. All at the expense of fixing the problems we face.

      Fox actually seemed giddy about the potential for Europe falling into deeper economic problems so that it would “hopefully” drag the US down and Obama would get blamed.
      That is the mentality we’re fighting against here and more people need to realize what they are doing.

  2. Now things really will get interesting. My prediction? EU disintegrates within 1-2 years. This will be a shame because, although it has never yet resolved the injustices of the Common Agricultural Policy, the EU has been a positive influence on driving forward imperfect Kyoto Protocol-style measures to tackle AGW/ACD/HIRGO. Meanwhile, I guess you must hope that the 75% of US Citizens that accept reality will punish the GOP for being in denial.

    AGW = Anthropogenic Global Warming.
    ACD = Anthropogenic Climate Disruption.
    HIRGO = Human Induced Global Overheating.

  3. Of course they aren’t listening because they know what is best – and anyone who doesn’t believe obviously hasn’t asked one. And when it doesn’t work, they have their excuses ready.

    Meanwhile, doesn’t it seem that the best time to cut government expenses is during good times? … and yes, probably something the GOP has never done … well, probably not the Dems either.

    • Frank> “And when it doesn’t work, they have their excuses ready”

      Yes they do OR they simply enter the realm of denial.

      And why not wait until the good times, or more stable times to make cuts? Where’s the logic in doing it now?

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