Theda Skocpol is not one to mince words. Here she is, in classic form, on fiscal austerity measures:
The President, Congressional leaders, and Democrats of all stripes should be yelling day in, day out, that REPUBLICANS ARE SABOTAGING NATIONAL ECONOMIC RECOVERY AND PREVENTING JOB GROWTH, JUST FOR POLITICAL ADVANTAGE. That should be the message all the time, led by the President. Stop the murky compromises and the whining about “helping the unemployed.” Stop pretending this is about the deficit — nothing will hurt the deficit more than delayed economic growth. Say what [is] happening in terms of the national interest.
By my lights, Obama’s failure to effectively explain the Recovery Act to the American people back in 2009 will go down as one of the biggest PR blunders of the decade. The Recovery Act was, of course, the largest middle class tax cut and jobs creation program in American history — yet most Americans don’t know that. Only 12% (of 95%) know that Obama lowered their taxes; journalists continue to report widespread confusion between the righteous “stimulus package” and the devil’s bargain bailouts; and even in districts that benefited hugely from the bill, Obama is widely blamed for the downturn, as George Packer reports in his classic “Obama’s Lost Year.”
And here we go again, with the so-called “deficit hawks.” I’m with Professor Skocpol: enough with the carefully-wrought explanations of Keynesian countercyclical fiscal policy (as, for example, Larry Summers gives us here and Paul Krugman here). Keynes can be counterintuitive (re: why spend more during a depression, when you have less?) and economics is confusing. In this case, the message is blindingly simple — being for austerity means being against job creation and against economic growth.
Whether this president, who’s failed again and again to effectively communicate his policy goals to the American people, let alone give us some sort of positive progressive vision for this country, can deliver that message — that’s another question entirely.