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The Silence of the Elites | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

The Silence of the Elites

Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

Nero’s fiddling while Rome burned may be nothing compared to the folly of Washington and Wall Street’s inaction while the world economy teeters on the verge of global depression. No wonder the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators have spread across the world. By raising a din, they might wake folks up.

Last week, yet another filibuster by Republican senators blocked even a debate on President Obama’s jobs bill, which is already modest in the extreme. More than half of the bill would simply avoid making things worse—extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance, and trying to limit layoffs of teachers and police officers next year. Without the extensions, the cuts in government spending and hikes in taxes would reduce an estimated 2 percent of GDP from growth next year—at a time when the economy is already near a standstill.d

A good portion of the bill would provide tax breaks for businesses. And a far-too-small part would provide money for building schools, roads, sewers and other infrastructure projects that will put some people to work.

Feeling some heat, Republican senators released their version of a jobs act, which offers up sacrifices to the business gods. It would repeal financial and healthcare reform, suspend regulations across the board and advance a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. And Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) promises, with some Kentucky magic, that it would produce 5 million jobs.

Worse, the bipartisan gang of twelve legislators in Congress’s “supercommittee” continues to meet in closed sessions to decide how to cut another $1.2 trillion from deficits over ten years. If the members fail to agree, deep cuts in defense and domestic spending begin in fiscal year 2013.

Newt Gingrich got this right for once: “It’s like saying we’re going to shoot you in the head or cut off your leg, which do you prefer?” And with the committee tasked to report before Thanksgiving, we are virtually guaranteed to spend the winter arguing about how to mutilate the economy, not about how to get it going.

Editor’s Note: Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

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