Tabled Talk

The biggest question on Planet Washington, according to Professor Robert Reich, was whether the congressional “supercommittee” could reach an agreement. We were all correct in our assessment of this latest congressional smoke screen. It was a stupid move. It had two chances of success – slim and none. It was more wasted time – with little or no wasted effort. And now Washington is on the road to do what it originally had in mind – make budget cuts that will further slow the economy, increase unemployment, and impose additional hardship on millions of Americans.

The real question should be how to stop this austerity train wreck, and if Professor Reich had a say in the matter he’d be advising the following:

– “First: No cuts before jobs are back – until unemployment is down to 5 percent. Until then, the economy needs a boost, not a cut. Consumers – whose spending is 70 percent of the economy – don’t have the money to boost the economy on their own. Their pay is dropping and they’re losing jobs.

– “Second: Make the boost big enough. 14 million people are out of work, and 10 million are working part time who need full-time jobs. The President’s proposed jobs program is a start but it’s tiny relative to what needs to be done. It would create fewer than 2 million jobs. We need a big jobs program – rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure, and including a WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps.

– “Third: To pay for this, raise taxes on the super-rich. It’s only fair. Never before has so much income and wealth been concentrated at the very top, and taxes on the top so low. Go back to the 70 percent marginal tax we had before 1980. And include more tax brackets at the top. It doesn’t make sense that any income over $ 375,000 is taxed at the same 35 percent, even if it’s a billion dollars. And tax all sources of income at the same rate, including capital gains.

– “Fourth: Cut the budget where the real bloat is. Military spending and corporate welfare. End weapons systems that don’t work and stop wars we shouldn’t be fighting to begin with, and we save over $ 300 billion a year. Cut corporate welfare subsidies and special tax breaks going to big agribusiness, big oil, big pharma, and big insurance – and we save another $ 100 billion.

“Do you hear me, Washington?” Professor Reich asks. “Do these four things and restore jobs and prosperity. Fail to do these things, and you’ll make things much, much worse.” –

Right. Resurrect the WPA and CCC’s and put them to work on the nation’s infrastructure again. So far, so good – those are the same stopgap measures FDR took in the 1930s. But then he created the Emergency Shipbuilding Programs and the tide was turned. Those shipbuilding programs created more jobs than we had Americans to fill them – and the Great Depression was history.