The presidential election is still more than a year away, but as of last week's Republican debate on the subject of economics, every candidate in the field has disqualified him or her-self for the job. In 2008, John McCain did that to himself when, faced with the sudden, staggering financial freefall (the depths of which even the experts underestimated, which is part of the reason every response so far has been inadequate), his reaction was to suggest that we should freeze government spending. That would have guaranteed that the situation would have been far worse than it was, and it was plenty bad enough.
Like McCain, this year's contenders are not dealing with the world that we actually live in. If any of them was seriously a legitimate candidate for the office, he or she would stand up to the Republicans in Congress and tell them that the nation's fiscal health is more important than political advantage, and they should stop obstructing every effort to cope with the terrible unemployment situation that is the biggest drag on the country at the moment. They would stop pretending that deficits are the problem (which they only forget when they're endorsing yet more tax cuts for the wealthy) and they would remember that the economy needs a strong middle class to prosper.
But they're doing none of those things. Since the biggest roadblock facing the US is unemployment, and they all refuse to honestly address the issue, much less allow any substantive progress to be made, electing any of them would be a national disaster.
Some key reading on these points: Paul Krugman (you might have to sign up for the NYT online) on Rabbit-Hole Economics.
Robert Reich on The Seven Biggest Economic Lies.
Kevin Drum on six economic myths (okay, one fewer than Reich, but more graphs so it's a wash).
Bizarrely, the only Republican candidate to say anything halfway sensible about the economy this week was Michelle Bachmann. Only I'm pretty sure she didn't know what she was saying. Her suggestion: "I want to reinstitute the Reagan tax model from the 1980s.”
Of course, most progressives these days are only pushing for returning to the Clinton-era tax structure (when the economy did really well), and not the higher rates of the Reagan era. But if Bachmann can convince her party to go along with an across-the-board tax hike, it might be worth trying.