According to an old Yiddish proverb, the definition of chutzpah is murdering your parents and then begging for mercy because you’re an orphan. I think Priebus's column yesterday, though, may have given us a new definition of the term. Now, we can define chutzpah as a political party crashing the American economy, opposing any and every attempt by the other side to fix it, insisting on policy proposals that actually make the situation worse — and then turning around and blaming their opponents for the lack of jobs.
Priebus is absolutely right that millennials have "borne the brunt of the recession." Study after study has shown that those who enter the job market in a down economy suffer the consequences throughout their entire career. So let’s look at why the economy isn't working for my generation.
For those who’ve somehow forgotten — or, like Chairman Priebus, would prefer to forget — the economy collapsed under George W. Bush. The housing bubble began to burst in 2007, and Wall Street and the banking system imploded in late 2008. Because of that, we entered into the most severe recession since the 1930s. While the situation today is far from perfect, it's a marked improvement from where things stood when President Obama took office. In the fourth quarter of 2008, the last full quarter of George Bush’s presidency, the economy shrunk at an annualized rate of about 9%. Last quarter, it grew at a 2.5% rate — the 15th straight quarter of growth.
Today, unemployment is still too high because we haven't yet fully recovered from the previous mess. The reason for that is actually simple — Republicans have thrown out nearly a century of accepted economic wisdom in pursuit of futile and self-defeating policies that have hurt the economy and cost us jobs. It was ironic that on the same morning Priebus published his op-ed re-affirming his commitment to budget cuts at any cost, the New York Times reported that both non-partisan budget analysts and private sector economists believe his party's obsession with austerity is keeping growth down and unemployment up.
By insisting on drastic budget cuts in an economy that desperately needs more spending, the Republican Party has done quite a number on the American economy. Here in my hometown of New York, I can think of three large projects to improve interstate commerce — the ARC Tunnel, a modern Tappan Zee Bridge with real mass transit options, and an extension of the 7 train to Secaucus — that were either cancelled or are struggling to get off the ground because of insufficient federal support or outright Republican opposition. These are the kinds of projects we should be funding but that Republicans now refuse to consider.
If Priebus is interested in helping millennials instead of cynically trolling for votes, he’ll confront his party's extremists and support policies that grow the economy. He'll support targeted stimulus programs and stop supporting more of the same old self-destructive austerity that's weighing our economy down. I'll take his pleas for support seriously when he does so.