Our Ms. Brooks: Save The Baby, Drain The Tub
Liberals and conservatives alike suddenly want the government to fix our broken economy by doing something big and fast -- but Congress long ago lost the habit of thinking big and moving fast. Since the Reagan era, prevailing leadership ideologies have encouraged members of Congress to think small, slow and stupid -- to forget about regulating, to forget about governing and occupy themselves instead with trivia: debates about constitutional amendments to ban flag burning, for instance.
So even as many outside economists began to argue that there were dramatically different rescue packages that could be cheaper and better, congressional leaders of both parties seemed unable to do more than tweak the original package.
That's a shame, because this is a time for thinking big.
And in case Congress has forgotten just how to think big, Ms. Brooks hauls up the most pertinent piece of history our country has with respect to economic crisis:
Taking office during the depths of the Depression, FDR didn't just talk, and he didn't just tinker. He launched the New Deal, the ambitious package of relief, reform and recovery programs that most economists credit with helping steer the nation back to prosperity.
FDR wasn't afraid to experiment, and some programs ended up on the scrapheap. But many proved to be crucial investments in America's future. Tighter New Deal-era regulations helped keep our financial system stable for decades. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which guarantees the safety of our deposits when banks fail, was created. So was the Social Security Administration. (And hasn't this week made you glad the GOP didn't succeed in privatizing Social Security?) Programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration helped stabilize wages and stimulate employment. They also left us a long-term legacy of roads, dams, parks, schools and electricity grids. ...
FDR knew what most small-business owners instinctively understand: If you want to make money, sometimes you have to spend money first. Yes, we should cut wasteful government programs -- but this is no time for a spending freeze, as John McCain has proposed. This is a time for renewed public investment in infrastructure, technology and education.
Instead of priming the pump by giving away millions in tax breaks and bailouts to the wealthy in the hopes that they will spend the undeserved largess to the benefit of the less wealthy, the government needs to pump those billions into putting all Americans back to work.
And while doing so, the government should also take a good hard look at those who gamed the system to get us to where we are today. Although I have my own ideas on what to do with those miscreants (I admit to being a vindictive bitch), some punishment should be directed at those who rubberized the paper that caused this meltdown.