When Will Wall Street Call for More Federal Spending?

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RobertReich.org

When Will Wall Street Call for More Federal Spending?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped another 3 percent today as Wall Street metabolized the truth most Americans already know: We’re in a recession. The “double dip” has arrived.

Most Americans never really emerged from the Great Recession anyway. 

We can get out of this recession but not via the Fed’s “quantitative easing” alone. When consumers can’t spend and businesses won’t spend without additional consumers, government must be the spender of last resort.

Juicing the economy back to health (notice I didn’t use the “s” word Republicans have now vilified) will require at least $700 billion in additional federal spending this year and next. (This number takes account of state and local government cutbacks as well as well as the current shortfall between current economic activity and the economy’s productive capacity at or near full employment.)

But this magnitude of additional spending isn’t feasible in the face of Tea Party Republican intransigence. Hell, Republicans won’t even spend additional money on flood and hurricane relief. The Tea Party obsession about the federal deficit and the size of the government is prevailing.

Not only is this obsession keeping millions of Americans out of work, it’s also starting to bring down the Street.

If this keeps up, we’ll have a showdown between establishment Republicans who understand what must be done — and who will support substantially more federal spending in the short term in order to goose the economy — and Tea Party zealots who refuse to face reality. 

The crack in the Republican Party between its establishment and Tea Party wings is viewed politically as a contest between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. But in reality it’s a brewing fight between economic pragmatists and right-wing ideologues. (Don’t expect Romney to call for more government spending, at least before the Republican nomination.)

The titans of Wall Street may not want to Barack Obama reelected, but the Street has an even greater interest in saving its assets and its ass.

Robert Reich

Robert Reich, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including his latest best-seller, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future; The Work of Nations; Locked in the Cabinet; Supercapitalism; and his newest, Beyond Outrage. His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and Chairman of the citizen’s group Common Cause. His widely-read blog can be found at www.robertreich.org.

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