The Treasonous Politics of the GOP

As you may have heard, Congressional Republicans have sent a letter to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke arguing that “further intervention by the Federal Reserve could exacerbate current problems or further harm the U.S. economy,” that is, urging him to do nothing about the economy at this perilous time. As Matthew Yglesias puts it, they are basically urging him to keep unemployment high.

Here’s how David Frum, a conservative (if also a renegade Republican) explains the letter:

I’m not shocked by much any more, but I am shocked by this: the leaders of one of the great parties in Congress calling on the Federal Reserve to tighten money in the throes of the most prolonged downturn since the Great Depression…

As is, we’re looking at a continued economic slump, more unemployment, and more deleveraging via continuing catastrophic consumer default on mortgages, car loans, credit cards, and student aid. And now the GOP leadership is urging that the Federal Reserve make the catastrophe worse? To what end?

We know that Republicans these days usually put ideology (their extremist right-wing ideology) ahead of what’s best for the American people. (Just think back to their hostage-taking of the country during the debt ceiling crisis, as well as their persistent threats to shut down the government whenever they don’t get what they want.)

But this isn’t so much about ideology, it seems, as it is about brute partisanship, about doing whatever it takes to get Republicans elected. If the economy continues its apparent downward trajectory, or at the very least if confidence remains low and uncertainty remains high, voters, they hope, will blame Obama and vote Republican next year.

Indeed, as Andrew Sullivan observes, looking at some deeply troubling poll numbers for the president (with independents in overwhelming numbers saying they’ll vote against Obama), “the GOP’s total intransigence seems to be paying off politically.” What they’re hoping is that even more intransigence, and getting the Fed to play along (as if the country’s central bank should be a partisan extension of the Republican Party), will pay off even more at the polls.

As Steve Benen writes:

Frum doesn’t come right out and say it explicitly, but reading this, it appears Frum believes Republican leaders are — or at least may be — trying to hurt the economy on purpose, as part of a political strategy to undermine President Obama during a crisis.

In other words, Frum seems to be suggesting that the top GOP officials in Congress, including the entire party leadership, may be involved in some kind of sabotage campaign. That’s no small charge.

No, but it appears to be an accurate one:

A few months ago, Kevin Drum wondered whether this will ever be “a serious talking point,” adding, “No serious person in a position of real influence really wants to accuse an entire party of cynically trying to tank the economy, after all.”

Given recent events — the debt-ceiling scandal, the GOP-driven downgrade, the Republican rejection of any efforts to boost the economy, the letter to Bernanke, the repeated threats of government shutdowns — it appears all kinds of serious people are at least entertaining the possibility.

We should do more than just entertain it. The evidence points to a concerted effort on the part of Republicans — and not just any Republicans, the top Republicans on Capitol Hill, and perhaps also most of the Republicans seeking their party’s presidential nomination — to benefit politically from a weakened and (if they have their way) weakening economy, cruelly and callously to score political points at the expense not just of President Obama but of the American people, millions upon millions of whom are struggling to make it through this difficult time, if they are even in a position to struggle at all.

Personally, I call that treason. Do you have a better word for it?

(Cross-posted from The Reaction.)