Setting the Table

In one of his more recent columns, The New York Times’ Bob Herbert spoke loudly and clearly:

“One of the most frustrating tendencies of mainstream leaders in the United States is their willingness, year after debilitating year, to embrace policies that have no hope of succeeding.

“From Lyndon Johnson’s mad pursuit of victory in Viet Nam to George W. Bush’s disastrous invasion of Iraq to today’s delusionary deficit zealots, the tragic lure of the impossible dream seems never to subside.

“Ronald Reagan told us he could cut taxes, jack up defense spending and balance the budget – all at the same time. How’d he do? As his biographer Garry Wills tells us, the ‘Gipper nearly tripled the deficit in his eight years, and never made a realistic proposal for cutting it.’ …

“There is no time to waste on plans that won’t succeed. The deficit hawks want to radically cut budgets and shrink the government, which they assure us will not only get the economy moving again but will eventually bring budgets into balance as neatly as some ideal middle-class family balances its checkbook.

“This will somehow be achieved, we’re told, without raising taxes. And Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a darling of the Tea Party, said on ‘Meet the Press’ on Sunday that he was not in favor of cuts in benefits to senior citizens, meaning Social Security and medicare, or any reductions in veteran’s benefits. You can’t have a coherent conversation about deficit reduction if tax increases are off the table and the country is still at war. This is fantasyland economics …

“People traveling in the real world understand that the federal budget deficits are sky-high because of the Bush-era tax cuts, the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the spending that was needed to keep the Great Recession from spiraling into another Great Depression.

“Even if deficit reduction right now were a good idea – which it is not, given the sorry state of the economy and the vast legions of the unemployed – the deficit zealots have no viable plan for getting their misguided mission accomplished. What’s needed now is the same thing that had been needed for the past two years and more, a bold plan to put millions of Americans back to work and paying taxes, and a careful, thoughtful, strategic but unequivocal withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Iraq …” –

Mr. Herbert, as usual, is right on both counts: job creation and troop withdrawal. Troop withdrawal can be achieved with a “stroke of the pen” – Obama’s pen. And likewise, the creation of millions of jobs can be achieved with a “stroke of the pen” – the same pen, by the way. Under the gun in the 1930s, FDR showed that the only possible way to create millions of jobs was by revitalizing the more than a hundred dormant shipyards for our Emergency Shipbuilding Programs. It was the only way then, and it’s the only way now. The table is already set. Ignoring the inevitable is criminal.