Is the answer to the ‘sabotage’ question ‘obvious’?

Seven months after raising the specter of Republicans trying to hurt the economy on purpose, I can’t help but notice the “sabotage” question appears to be picking up some steam.

Just this month, some high-profile, mainstream pundits have begun exploring the issue, and just this week, two of Congress’ most powerful Democrats broached the same subject.

Yesterday, Michael Tomasky went even further, arguing that Democrats should start “saying openly what has been clear for months or even years now — that as long as economic recovery would work to the political benefit of Barack Obama, the Republicans have been, are, and will be in favor of sabotaging the economy.” Tomasky added this is “obvious.”

The point isn’t to question Republicans’ bizarre priorities or values; the point is to make economic argument clear to the public. Too many bemoan a vague “lack of political will” or “absence of leadership” as the reason so little gets done. Those people are wrong.

Washington is a city of conspiracies, but far and away the most pernicious one is the fiction, in which one must participate if one wants to be regarded as a “serious” person, that both parties are more or less equally to blame for the present malfunctioning of our democracy. […]

Nonsense. There’s nothing vague about it. It’s crystal clear. We can’t do these things because of the extreme nature of the Republican Party and the right-wing noise machine that enforces such rigid ideological purity. Period and end of story.

Tomasky added that he suspects many people know this “deep down,” but bite their tongue because “it’s thought impolite to say it.” As a result, the political culture “refuses to acknowledge one of its fundamental truths.”

Indeed, it’s generally forgotten, but one of the first debates of the Obama era began immediately after the president’s inauguration, when many prominent Republican voices agreed that they “hope Obama fails.” The main difference between then and now is that these same voices are in a position to ensure the president fails by blocking measures that would benefit the country — in many cases, measures Republicans supported until Obama said he agreed with them.

Which is why I support at least asking the question and having the debate.

Republicans said a payroll tax cut would help create jobs, and now they’re opposed to their own idea. Republicans said the Economic Development Administration is great for the economy, and now they’re opposed to that, too. Republicans have traditionally supported infrastructure investment, but the “infrastructure bank” idea appears likely to be killed by the GOP. Many Republicans endorsed the TANF Emergency Fund last year as an incredibly effective method of lowering unemployment, and the congressional GOP killed that, too.

Republicans are blocking qualified Treasury Department nominees who could also be working on economic policy. Republicans are blocking qualified Federal Reserve nominees who could also help improve the economy, while demanding that the Fed do nothing to promote economic activity. The GOP is demanding that Congress and the White House agree to immediately take money out of the economy and eliminate public-sector jobs, even when conservative economists say that’s crazy. What’s more, these same Republican officials have made it abundantly clear that failure to give them the cuts they want would force them to crash the economy on purpose.

And it’s against this backdrop that one of the most powerful Republican officials on Capitol Hill has argued, more than once, that his “top priority” isn’t job creation, but rather, “denying President Obama a second term in office.”

Tomasky thinks it’s “obvious” Republicans support “sabotaging the economy.” It is, to be sure, an uncomfortable subject, but maybe it’s time for the political world to have the awkward conversation anyway.