, Salem, MA


October 3, 2013

Watson: Many factors weave into our economic crisis

The ongoing congressional impasse regarding the need to keep the government up and running, and the need to raise the debt ceiling by Oct. 17, illuminates a number of grim economic and political realities.

The very worst of those realities are economic, and their genesis — fortunately, in a way — is not primarily in Republican or Democratic political policies or differences, but in enormous trends and developments within capitalism, finance, technology, trade and the markets themselves.

I say “fortunately” because one necessary precondition for Americans to repair and put together a sustainable economy is to recognize that, for the most part, the current shape of our economy is the result of 40 years’ worth of factors — factors that are the consequence of Republican policy, Democratic policy, lobbyist influence, union and corporate power, automation, computerization, globalization and the widely shared human appetite for material consumption.

I say “fortunately” also because we are in a bad political moment. We are polarized, we are “red” or “blue,” we are “job creators” or slackers, and our Congress is paralyzed. But if we can recognize that the factors I list above are all at work and have been facilitated by or imposed on all of us — regardless of political belief — then we can look for and support those moderate political voices who acknowledge that broad range of factors and who, therefore, seek political approaches and economic reforms that do justice to the complexity of our economic difficulties.

It is just misleading, harmful and vastly oversimplified to identify government spending and policy as the primary cause of our economic duress. Instead, government spending should be seen as one part of an interlocking mosaic of factors.

More than ever, we need political leaders who are rational, reasonable, nonideological and willing to compromise. Here is where it must be said: The current 40 or 50 most ideological of the Republicans in Congress are obstructing the hard, bipartisan work that must be done to address the serious problems facing our government, economy and society.

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