Is an Obamaville in your future? That’s the question asked by a mailer sent in by one of Greg Sargent’s readers. The mailer is sponsored by the 60 Plus Association, which describes itself as “the conservative alternative to The American Association of Retired Persons.” The mailer, which features well-known Depression-era pictures of the shantytowns known as “Hoovervilles,” suggests that reelecting Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) could leads to “Obamavilles.”
As Sargent says, the mailer features “a rather creative reading of economic history.” The mailer warns that continued stimulus spending and higher taxes threaten Medicare and Social Security, and could lead to “permanent high unemployment, 21st century ‘bread lines,’ failed banks, a worthless dollar, millions of homeless and moneyless seniors, ruined pensions, unaffordable and rationed health care, thousands of businesses shut down, and a future without liberty or prosperity.”
It’s certainly fair to hold President Obama and the Democrats accountable for not having done more to improve the economy. But of course the various stimulus bills were passed in response to unemployment—they didn’t cause it. In fact, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Recovery Act saved between 1.4 and 3.5 million jobs and substantially increased the nations gross domestic product this year. And while the national deficit costs money to service and poses a long-term danger to the economy, Obama’s stimulus programs—which are largely expiring—are hardly the main cause of the deficit. As Philip Klein points out, even if you had cut out non-defense discretionary spending entirely—completely eliminating the budget of all federal agencies and departments—it would only have eliminated half of last year’s deficit. The real problem is that as it is we can't pay for the growth of the Medicare, Social Security, and defense spending without raising taxes.
But what’s really strange about the mailers, as Sargent points out, is that Depression-era shantytowns were called “Hoovervilles” because people blamed Hoover for not taking exactly the kinds of stimulus measures Obama has taken to reduce unemployment. Not extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy isn’t likely to slow job growth much in the short-term, and it’s certainly not going to be forcing the rich into shantytowns. But it would allow to Obama to put people back to work building our infrastructure and help slow the growth of the deficit. So let’s be clear what things will really be like in an “Obamaville”: rich Americans may have to put off buying new houses for a few years, but for the most part the rest of us will be able to stay in our homes.