Kevin Drum had a post lamenting that Congress is doing nothing when it could be spending money that would, in his view, stimulate the economy out of a recession. All well and good, and predictable based on his assumptions. But he ended with this
We are ruled by charlatans and cowards. Our economy is in the tank, we know what to do about it, and we're just not going to do it. The charlatans prefer instead to stand by and let people suffer because that's politically useful, while the cowards let them get away with it because it's politically risky to fight back. Ugh indeed.
I was horrified by this sort of discourse, and wrote back:
It is so tiring to see both parties ascribing horrible and hostile motivations to their political opponents. Your last paragraph is just absurd, implying that everyone agrees with your economic prescriptions and that the only reason everyone is not following them is either a) political self-interest or b) loathing for the poor and helpless.
Is it really so hard to understand that well-intentioned, intelligent people who honestly want the economy to get better might disagree with you about the benefits of deficit spending? The literature is at best mixed on this topic and certainly there is nothing about the last stimulus that causes me to become a believer.
Those of us who believe strongly that diverting trillions of dollars of capital from private to public hands (ie from hands focused on productively employing it to hands focused on politically employing it) makes the economy worse by necessity are just as motivated by trying to improve the economy as you.
I really don't understand this absolute insistence on ascribing bad motivations to those with whom one disagrees. Is it ego, or just insecurity? If one admits his or her opponents can be smart and well-motivated, it certainly creates an edge of doubt and uncertainty. Deal with it. That's healthy. It keeps us intellectually honest.