Andersen’s ivory tower rhetoric
October 4, 2010
Paul Andersen’s Oct. 4 column in The Aspen Times, “Teabagger brew-ha-ha,” is a perfect example of the elite, out-of-touch thinking that prevails in the valley. While I do not like the Tea Party movement, I understand the cause. Mr. Andersen does not.
Mr. Andersen asserts that “they shout down progressives while lining up for unemployment necessitated by the Bush legacy of unregulated financial markets, misconceived wars, and tax giveaways to corporations and the wealthiest Americans.” He also suggests that they have “a fundamentalist, almost childlike, view of American history.”
I would suggest that Mr. Andersen entertains an almost “childlike” understanding of the causes of the current economic difficulties. The nation’s problems did not begin with the previous Bush administration but rather with the Clinton administration. President Clinton reappointed Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. It was Chairman Greenspan who caused the financial bubble cited by Mr. Andersen. President Clinton also signed the financial deregulation law, not President Bush.
The Democrats and Mr. Clinton also began the nation’s rush to pursue free trade. The Democrats pushed through NAFTA and other measures which opened U.S. markets to imports. The Democrats also negotiated the entry of China into the WTO, a program that was competed within months of President Bush’s inauguration.
The trade-opening measures were supposed to be accompanied by measures to retrain Americans who lost jobs when factories relocated to Mexico or China. Clinton and the Democrats did nothing to help workers losing jobs and neither did the Bush administration.
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As Nobel award-winning economist Paul Krugman has noted, the market-opening measures have made a huge contribution to job losses in the Untied States. By artificially depressing its exchange rate, China has caused many factories to relocate.
Many of the members of the Tea Party movement have suffered as a result of this pursuit of free trade. Like the German workers in the late 1920s and early 1930s who suffered from the terms of the Versailles Peace Treaty, they are responding at the ballot box. Mr. Andersen asserts that they are responding to a failed education system and accuses them of reflecting a “Reader’s Digest” mentality. Sadly, it is he, not the Tea Baggers, who reflect the results of failed education system.
The Tea Party movement reflects a very serious, and very real, response to the failure of America’s elites to address the problems created by ill-informed economic policies. The progressives Mr. Andersen applauds, led by Nancy Pelosi, had their chance and failed miserably, just as the progressives in the Weimar, particularly Chancellor Papen, failed 80 years ago. Unfortunately, Mr. Andersen fails to understand this, perhaps because he lacks even a “Reader’s Digest” view of history.
Philip K. Verleger
David Mitchell/Encana professor
University of Calgary