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If you read one thing today . . .
The New York Times’ Paul Krugman paints a rather stark and depressing picture of American politics in the wake of the GOP’s take over of the House and its agenda to oppose all things Obama. Krugman figures Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke might have better luck tilting at windmills than gaining some Republican buy-in on measures to reduce unemployment.
Indeed, far from being willing to help Mr. Bernanke’s efforts, Republicans are trying to bully the Fed itself into giving up completely on trying to reduce unemployment.
And on matters fiscal, the G.O.P. program is to do almost exactly the opposite of what Mr. Bernanke called for. On one side, Republicans oppose just about everything that might reduce structural deficits: they demand that the Bush tax cuts be made permanent while demagoguing efforts to limit the rise in Medicare costs, which are essential to any attempts to get the budget under control. On the other, the G.O.P. opposes anything that might help sustain demand in a depressed economy — even aid to small businesses, which the party claims to love.
Right now, in particular, Republicans are blocking an extension of unemployment benefits — an action that will both cause immense hardship and drain purchasing power from an already sputtering economy. But there’s no point appealing to the better angels of their nature; America just doesn’t work that way anymore.
Remember Bob Ney, the Ohio congressman who was brought down in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal? Ney left Washington in disgrace for a 30-month sentence in a federal prison. The National Journal’s George E. Condon Jr. caught up with Ney in, of all places, in India where he is hanging out with devotees of the Dali Lama. Ney spends his days listening to the Dali Lama’s teachings on meditation and such.
“You bring a pillow, or you can buy one,” Ney explains. “They come around with some bread and some butter tea. You sit, and you bring a hat because of the sun—because it is quite warm here. And you sit out there … on stone areas, and he does the teachings.”