Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

For the Love of Carbon Republicans Flip-Flop to Push the Keystone Pipeline

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

For the Love of Carbon Republicans Flip-Flop to Push the Keystone Pipeline

Article excerpt

It should come as no surprise that among the first moves of the new GOP Senate is an attempt to push President Barack Obama into approving the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Canadian tar sands. After all, debts must be paid, and the oil and gas industry - which gave 87 percent of its 2014 campaign contributions to the Republican Party - expects to be rewarded for its support.

But why is this environmentally troubling project an urgent priority in a time of plunging oil prices? Well, the party line, from people like Mitch McConnell, the new Senate majority leader, is that it's all about jobs. And it's true: Building Keystone XL could slightly increase U.S. employment - slightly as in replacing only about 5 percent of the jobs America lost because of destructive cuts in federal spending that resulted from the Republican blackmail over the debt ceiling.

Don't tell me that the cases are completely different. You can't claim that pipeline spending creates jobs while government spending doesn't.

For more than seven years - ever since the Bush-era housing and debt bubbles burst - the U.S. economy has suffered from inadequate demand. Total spending hasn't been enough to fully employ the nation's resources.

In such an environment, anything that increases spending creates jobs. And if private spending is depressed, a temporary rise in public spending can and should take its place. That's why a great majority of economists believe that the Obama stimulus did reduce the unemployment rate compared with what it would have been without that stimulus.

All along, however, Republican leaders have insisted that we should slash public spending in the face of high unemployment. And they've gotten their way: The years after 2010, when Republicans took control of the House, were marked by an unprecedented decline in real government spending per capita, which leveled off only in 2014.

The evidence overwhelmingly indicates that this kind of fiscal austerity in a depressed economy is destructive. If the economic news has been better lately, it's probably because federal, state and local governments have finally stopped cutting. …

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