Imagine you have a great business idea. You run it by a few friends and they love it. You mention it to some very smart people and they agree that it will be a hit. But you have no money to start with, so you consider going to the bank. At this, your father snorts and says, “Borrow Money! Back in my day we didn’t borrow. We scrimped, and saved. When times are tough you don’t borrow and spend, you tighten your belt”.
No simplistic analogy can cover the scope of our economic situation. But I hope my little story casts some doubt on the one-liners that right wingers are trying to sell us as their economic policy, like “when times are tough you tighten your belt”, or “when you’re in a hole you stop digging.”
The truth is, sometimes when you’re in a hole you have to dig yourself out. Most economists seem to agree that we need to raise the debt ceiling. Even Republicans seem to understand how vital it is, which is why they feel emboldened to hold the debt ceiling hostage in order to force more of their draconian “Fuck the poor” policies. The wealthiest Americans remained wealthy through the Great Depression. Republican politicians have little to fear from the economic consequences that they’re willing to risk.
No matter what happens, Republicans will be able to keep their wealth and blame any problems on Obama. If they get their way and cripple the economy, they won’t say “Darn, our obstructionist tactics ruined the economy”, instead they’ll say “Imagine how bad it would have been if we weren’t there to keep it from getting worse.”
The economic policies that the president has enacted are working. In 2004, President Bush got reelected in part because we were in the middle of a crises and people said, “Don’t switch horses in the middle of a river”. Right now we’re in the midst of an economic crisis, but things are starting to get better. Let’s not take this moment to switch strategies and go back to the economic practices which got us into this crisis in the first place.
Most importantly, while simple analogies are important to help us understand complicated issues, remember that analogies usually leave out important details. Let’s not make important decisions on the bases of simplistic one-liners.