Congressional Progressive Caucus: Economy Going to Hell Fast

By David Swanson

Live Blogging Progressive Caucus Hearing on Economy

January 16, 2008 – I’m in the Cannon House Office Building Caucus Room, and it’s much fuller than it has been in the past for some recent Congressional Progressive Caucus events. That’s encouraging. But the few Congress Members who were here at the start of the event have left to go vote. Other than the Caucus Co-Chairs Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee, who offered opening remarks, I only noticed Sheila Jackson Lee here briefly.

When I first got here a staffer I know wished me a happy new year. “Let’s hope it’s better than the last one,” I replied. “It’s already shaping up to be,” he answered. “I mean, look at the energy in these primaries.”

In other words, this year, for Congress Members and staffers and those who think like them, is already next year, 2009. That outlook also dominated the days’ remarks on the economy. All four speakers thus far, Woolsey, Lee, Bob Borosage of the Campaign for America’s Future, and Bob Kuttner of the American Prospect, all argued that we are rapidly headed into a pretty grim recession.

Borosage described the prospects for a “bipartisan” economic stimulus package, and remarked: “Hopefully the president will agree to negotiate for the first time in many years.” But Borosage suggested absolutely no reason to believe such a reversal of the laws of nature was about to occur.

Kuttner, the featured speaker, who gave the longest remarks and then took questions, was also the most depressing herald of the looming depression, which he called “the most serious downturn since the Great Depression,” and which he blamed in part on the same kinds of abuses that led to that disaster.

The root problem, however, Kuttner argued well, as he has prolifically for years, is the rise of “right-wing ideology,” the domination of our politics by a financial elite, and the lack of a true opposition party.

Yet Kuttner, like Borosage, kept coming back to the importance of the presidential election. The economic crisis is upon us this year, but our efforts to address it will primarily come in 2009. Kuttner spoke of returning the influence of the people to politics, but did not develop the idea, and spoke more about hoping. “I hope,” he said, “that our nominee will have the courage” to transform the economy. “That is the ONLY way we will reverse the Republican squandering of our economy.”

Is it? A lot of statistics were thrown around here today, and most of them can be found on the websites of Borosage’s and Kuttner’s organizations. But here’s one that didn’t come up:

Recessions greatly increase the likelihood of impeachments.

With Congress Members off voting, a staffer for Barney Frank spoke about the Democrats’ plans for a stimulus package. He proposed getting money into the hands of working people and Social Security recipients through a tax rebate. Second, he said, they would increase Medicare and Medicaid payments by the federal government in order to decrease payments by states. Third, they’ll use a food stamp increase. Fourth, they’ll boost unemployment insurance. Fifth, they’ll include money to assist people in mortgage refinancings, to assist local governments in converting vacant property into rental housing, and assisting community-based loan counseling.

Hmm. Do you see anything there Bush would not veto?

Frank will refuse, his staffer said, to agree to make Bush’s tax cuts permanent as part of any deal.

Hmm. Now what are the chances of a veto?

The Speaker has scheduled an appointment with Bush for Tuesday, after which we’ll know where things stand, Frank’s staffer said.

Borosage asked about money for bridges, schools, other public works, and was told it’s “on the shopping list” but is not a priority because not unambiguously QUICK.

Hmm. And passing a bill and getting it vetoed and HOPING your party can claim the White House IS quick?

I’m going to step out of this time warp, which I suspect is controlled by all the metal detectors at the doors.

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