In Midterms, a Mixture of Economic Amnesia and Absurdity

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Thomas Friedman's column today reads like a very good speech from a moderate third-party candidate sighing at the mixture of economic amnesia and economic absurdity at the heart of midterm election rhetoric. Here are the first four paragraphs:

I confess, I find it dispiriting to read the polls and see candidates, mostly Republicans, leading in various midterm races while promoting many of the very same ideas that got us into this mess. Am I hearing right?

Let's have more tax cuts, unlinked to any specific spending cuts and while we're still fighting two wars -- because that worked so well during the Bush years to make our economy strong and our deficit small. Let's immediately cut government spending, instead of phasing cuts in gradually, while we're still mired in a recession -- because that worked so well in the Great Depression. Let's roll back financial regulation -- because we've learned from experience that Wall Street can police itself and average Americans will never have to bail it out.

Let's have no limits on corporate campaign spending so oil and coal companies can more easily and anonymously strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its powers to limit pollution in the air our kids breathe. Let's discriminate against gays and lesbians who want to join the military and fight for their country. Let's restrict immigration, because, after all, we don't live in a world where America's most important competitive advantage is its ability to attract the world's best brains. Let's repeal our limited health care reform rather than see what works and then fix it. Let's oppose the free-trade system that made us rich.

Let's kowtow even more to public service unions so they'll make even more money than private sector workers, so they'll give even more money to Democrats who will give them even more generous pensions, so not only California and New York will go bankrupt but every other state too. Let's pay for more tax cuts by uncovering waste I can't identify, fraud I haven't found and abuse that I'll get back to you on later.

Henceforth, the popular phantom scapegoat of overspending called "Waste, Fraud and Abuse" should be re-named "Waste I can't identify, Fraud I haven't found, and Abuse that I'll get back to you on later." I like that quite a bit.

Read the full column at NYT.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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