Time to get to work

As passion for the election – on both sides of the aisle – turns into the more difficult and less sexy day-to-day chore of governance and fixing real problems, regular columnist Paul Krugman and guest columnist Ramesh Ponnuru, from the ultra-conservative National Review, offered thoughtful commentaries in Friday’s The New York Times.

Krugman states:

And right now happens to be one of those times when the converse is also true, and good morals are good economics. Helping the neediest in a time of crisis, through expanded health and unemployment benefits, is the morally right thing to do; it’s also a far more effective form of economic stimulus than cutting the capital gains tax. Providing aid to beleaguered state and local governments, so that they can sustain essential public services, is important for those who depend on those services; it’s also a way to avoid job losses and limit the depth of the economy’s slump.

Ponnuru observed:

Most conservatives were preoccupied in this campaign with cultural issues: flag pins, 1960s radicals and the like. These issues are legitimate, and certainly easier to understand than the details of health policy. But they have never been enough to win over most voters. Barack Obama offered a better life to most voters. Without challenging that claim, Republicans were never going to be able to portray him as out of the mainstream.

Krugman begins the drumbeat for a new way of thinking about how to get out of this economic mess – by investment in people’s lives, through health and unemployment benefits and public services. Ponnuru warns conservatives that to continue focusing on the culture war – at the exclusion of people’s economic security – is a surefire recipe for continued losses in the voting booth.

Back here in New Mexico, conservatives might be making the very mistake Ponnuru writes of. The Republican brand in the Land of Enchantment may quickly be known most, not by pocketbook issues, but by two, less glowing characteristics — voter suppression and fanning racial flames (see Otero County Republican Party):

If conservatives do re-write their playbook as Ponnuru suggests, they might also be wise to heed another gem from Krugman:

Now, the Obama administration shouldn’t emulate the Bush administration’s habit of turning anything and everything into an argument for its preferred policies. (Recession? The economy needs help — let’s cut taxes on rich people! Recovery? Tax cuts for rich people work — let’s do some more!)

Yes, let’s all start focusing on how to help people’s pocketbook, but no, let’s not use the failed economic philosophy of “tax cuts at all costs” to do it. It’s time for some new thinking on how to fix the economy.

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