During a casual conversation with a small group of acquaintances this weekend I heard someone express the opinion that we were somewhere near the middle of a double-dip recession and that there was going to be a “white riot” when the second dip hit. This was more than a little troubling, since it certainly was not the first time I’ve come across that sentiment. I generally try to remind myself that due to the massive volume of political opinion I read, it’s very easy to get caught up in whatever disaster scenarios people are trying to promote for political advantage, but I feel like this kind of fear-with its implicit helplessness and apathy-is becoming far more common. Maybe it’s because people forgot what an actual recession is like, or didn’t live through one in the first place. Maybe it’s because there are no jobs and there seems to be little appetite to increase stimulus or regulation. Maybe it’s because we live in an age where paranoia rules the day.
Paul Krugman has an excellent op-ed in the Times today that takes a look at that paranoia from the right side of the spectrum. Contending that “the G.O.P. has been taken over by the people it used to exploit,” he observes that
The Obama administration’s job-creation efforts have fallen short, so that unemployment is likely to stay disastrously high through next year and beyond. The banker-friendly bailout of Wall Street has angered voters, and might even let Republicans claim the mantle of economic populism. Conservatives may not have better ideas, but voters might support them out of sheer frustration.
And if Tea Party Republicans do win big next year, what has already happened in California could happen at the national level. In California, the G.O.P. has essentially shrunk down to a rump party with no interest in actually governing – but that rump remains big enough to prevent anyone else from dealing with the state’s fiscal crisis. If this happens to America as a whole, as it all too easily could, the country could become effectively ungovernable in the midst of an ongoing economic disaster.
Is he right? Who knows? It’s hard not to feel pessimistic about things these days (look at California). I’m just going to hope that someone in a garage somewhere right now is inventing a new Internet or something so we can bubble things up again. That would be nice.