The Common Good

The Republican Debates So Far (Part 2)

Most people who follow the political public discourse in our country know the Republican mantra on the economy -- cut taxes, cut regulation, cut federal spending, balance the national budget, and all will be well.

In the most recent Republican presidential debates, we hear this same old song.

But it's not a golden oldie.

Recent history has proven that cutting taxes and regulations does not economic magic make. If that were the case, the United States' economy (and the world economy) would have gone into overdrive during the administration of President George W. Bush. They did not.

In fact, the economy weakened during the middle years of the 2000s. Housing prices started to go down. People found themselves underwater on their mortgages as early as 2006. The air started to go out of the housing bubble then and led to the financial crisis of 2008. This Wall Street crisis was the event that caused our current economic retraction, from which the entire world economy may need a decade or more to recover.

When former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney says this is Obama's economy, the statement is cute, but it is not true. Furthermore, it is an insult to the intelligence of the American people.

It has been said that the U.S.A stands for the "United States of Amnesia," but not all of us have forgotten. Some of us vividly remember the autumn of 2008 when our economic system came within a hair of collapse.

We still have public libraries in this country. And while we do, anybody with a library card can borrow one or several books and movies about the financial crisis, such as the U.S. Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission's official report, All the Devils are Here: the Hidden History of the Financial Crisis by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera, or filmmaker Charles Ferguson's documentary Inside Job.

Ferguson's film chronicles the billions of dollars that Wall Street honchos made from immoral and in some instances fraudulent transactions that preyed upon people in the lower middle class. In the end, the federal government--your tax dollars and mine-- bailed out these financial services institutions, and a new law was passed with the intent to tighten regulations on too-big-to-fail companies.

For many Americans, the Dodd-Frank Law is much too weak.And yet the Republican field of candidates wants to repeal it.

According to McLean and Nocera, the seeds of the financial crisis were sown in 1970 during the Nixon administration (and when President Obama was nine years old). They write: "Here's a surprising fact: It was the government, not Wall Street that first securitized modern mortgages."

Securitized mortgages developed into a number of exotic financial instruments that, through a lack of regulation advocated by both Democratic and Republican administrations, led to our current economic woes.

Because of his hope to work in a bi-partisan way with Congress, Obama passed a stimulus package that was far too small. Still, I have no doubt that our economic situation would be worse had he not passed what he did.

On foreign policy, these debates have revealed a stunningly superficial -- some might say incoherent -- knowledge of the intricacies of the world and the things that make for peace. It is thin gruel indeed, not even enough to critique.

And why do Republicans seem to hate the Department of Education?

portrait-elverton-dixon1Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at JustPeaceTheory.com. She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.

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