When Will Wall Street Call for More Federal Spending?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped another 3 percent today as Wall Street metabolized the news the rest of America already knows: We’re in a recession. The “double dip” has arrived.

Most Americans never really emerged from the Great Recession that began in 2008.

We can get out of this recession but not via the Fed’s “quantitative easing” alone. When consumers can’t spend and businesses won’t spend without additional consumers, government must be the spender of last resort.

Juicing the economy back to health (notice I didn’t use the “s” word Republicans have now vilified) requires at least $700 billion in additional federal spending this year and next.

But this magnitude of additional spending isn’t even on the table in the face of Tea Party Republican intransigence. Republicans won’t even spend additional money on flood and hurricane relief. The Tea Party obsession about the federal deficit and the size of the government is prevailing.

Not only is this obsession keeping millions of Americans out of work, it’s also starting to bring down the Street. If this keeps up, we’ll have a showdown between establishment Republicans who understand what must be done — and who will support substantially more federal spending in the short term in order to goose the economy — and Tea Party zealots who refuse to face reality.

The crack in the Republican Party between its establishment and Tea Party extremists is viewed politically as a contest between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. But in reality it’s between economic pragmatism and right-wing ideology. (Don’t expect Romney to call for more government spending, at least before the Republican nomination.)

The Street may not want to Barack Obama reelected, but the Street has an even greater interest in saving its assets and its ass.

About Robert Reich 545 Articles

Robert Reich is the nation's 22nd Secretary of Labor and a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

He has served as labor secretary in the Clinton administration, as an assistant to the solicitor general in the Ford administration and as head of the Federal Trade Commission's policy planning staff during the Carter administration.

He has written eleven books, including The Work of Nations, which has been translated into 22 languages; the best-sellers The Future of Success and Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His articles have appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Mr. Reich is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine. His weekly commentaries on public radio’s "Marketplace" are heard by nearly five million people.

In 2003, Mr. Reich was awarded the prestigious Vaclev Havel Foundation Prize, by the former Czech president, for his pioneering work in economic and social thought. In 2005, his play, Public Exposure, broke box office records at its world premiere on Cape Cod.

Mr. Reich has been a member of the faculties of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and of Brandeis University. He received his B.A. from Dartmouth College, his M.A. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and his J.D. from Yale Law School.

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