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Let's talk Depression, even if the politicians won't

Obama speaks to Congress

Is it possible that things are even worse than we think?

And even more sobering, is it possible that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans can fix what's ailing the U.S. economy?

On Monday, Jaime O'Neill argued in an Op-Ed:

Economists and politicians told us that the recession was over, though some of them now worry about it taking a double dip. For those of us living farther from the ledger sheets and closer to the reality of what's happening in our towns and on our streets, this has been and remains a depression.

Too pessimistic, you say?

Then how about this story from The Times on Tuesday: "Record 46.2 million Americans live in poverty, Census Bureau says."

High joblessness and the weak economic recovery pushed the ranks of the poor in the U.S. to 46.2 million in 2010 -- the fourth straight increase and the largest number of people living in poverty since record-keeping began 52 years ago, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday.

President Obama is pitching his $447-billion jobs package to get the country back on track. 

But congressional Republicans aren't on board.

Obama's proposal for putting Americans back to work rebuilding roads and bridges is a non-starter to Republicans: [House Majority Leader Eric] Cantor called it another round of "stimulus" spending. GOP leaders also want no part of Obama's proposal to raise taxes on the wealthy.

So, what do Republican presidential hopefuls have to say? On Monday night, they met for another debate. Here's what happened:   

Texas Gov. Rick Perry came under sharp criticism from his Republican presidential rivals in a "tea party" debate Monday night for promoting tuition benefits for illegal immigrants and ordering young girls to be inoculated against a sexually transmitted disease.

Plus, there was this harrowing exchange, when moderator Wolf Blitzer questioned Rep. Ron Paul about how to care for an employed, able-bodied citizen who comes down with a serious illness but lacks health insurance:

"But congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?" Blitzer asked.

"Yeah," came the shout from the audience. That affirmative was repeated at least three times.

So, Republicans are completely tied to a "no new taxes ever" stance, plus a vow to shrink the size of government (which would, obviously, only add to the country's unemployment problem). And the party is in thrall to its conservative wing, which demands candidates who are far to the right of mainstream America on many social issues.

Presumably, if a Republican wins in 2012, his (or her) answer to the economy would be lower taxes.  This despite the fact that the Bush-era tax cuts have failed to stem unemployment.

If Obama wins, his answer would probably be more stimulus spending. This despite the fact that the previous stimulus failed to right the economic ship. Plus, Republicans would be no more likely to go along in Obama's second term than they were in the first.

President Herbert Hoover and many others believed the Depression was just another economic downturn, one that the nation would work its way out of.  Not until President Franklin Roosevelt took radical action -- and then a world war -- did the country recover.

Is it possible that the U.S. in 2011 is heading into a decade like the 1930s? 

Is it possible that the leaders of both political parties are arguing about deck chairs as the country plows into an economic iceberg?

If so, then sadly, the headline on O'Neill's Op-Ed will seem even more timely:

"Where's today's Dorothea Lange?"

RELATED:

Identifying the job killers

Obama's proposed tax cut a quandary for GOP

Perry understated drug company campaign cash

Interactive: Americans living in poverty, state by state

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: President Obama speaks before a joint session of Congress last week about his plan to boost employment. Credit: Olivier Douliery / Abaca Press

 

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