Present “Fixes” for Future Problems

Matt YglesiasI first really took notice of Robert Reich many years ago when he said he was no longer for a balanced federal budget. He had been Labor Secretary under President Clinton, and he had seen how it was to work with Republicans. The way he saw it (I think this was in 2003), what was the point of Democrats accepting cuts in programs they believed in for the sake of balancing the budget? Once the Republicans got into office, they would unbalance the budget with tax cuts for the rich and unnecessary wars. When I heard that, I knew I had found someone who could cut through all the bullshit that covers political reporting.

I would go further, however. As you probably haven’t heard (except maybe here), Obama has greatly cut the federal deficit over the last three years. And yet, what did we hear throughout the campaign with almost no push back: Obama has exploded the debt! And Republicans will always run on this kind of stuff. It doesn’t matter how much they have to distort what’s actually going on. It is like a lot of other issues. The Democrats will never get the NRA endorsement, regardless of how nutty pro-gun they become. So what is the point of pandering?

Yesterday, Matt Yglesias made pretty much the same argument about the desire for a “grand bargain.” He isn’t making a partisan argument (as are Reich and me). There can be no “grand bargain” because current legislatures cannot bind the hands of future legislatures:

The only grand bargain that would work would be an abolition of democracy. How much the government should spend, and on what, and where the money should come from is the essence of politics. Corporate leaders’ hazy desire for long-term “certainty” is understandable to a point, but it’s completely impractical.

This is serious stuff. All this talk of a “grand bargain” is hurting our country now and could be much worse later. But what I find most interesting is how no one in the mainstream call out the hypocrsy of the austerity crowd. Pete Peterson has long been for a “grand bargain” to “fix the debt.” Yet when a situation comes along that quickly gets the debt on a much firmer footing, he’s against it. Why? Because that’s not how he wants to do it.

Peterson and all the people like him are just conservatives. Like Paul Ryan, they want something other than they claim. In Peterson’s case, he clearly doesn’t like Social Security and Medicare. Yglesias discussed this earlier in a different article:

What [Fix The Debt] believe in, instead, is the overwhelmingly importance of rate-cutting tax reform and reduced spending on retirement programs. Which is fine. Tax reform and the appropriate level of spending on bolstering the living standards of retired people are legitimate topics for debate. But if you saw a bunch of Quakers running around in a panic about the national debt pushing a plan to reduce the debt by cutting military spending, and then loudly objecting to all debt-reduction plans that don’t slash military spending you’d rapidly reach the conclusion that the Quakers don’t actually care about the national debt. They’re just pacifists. And good for them! But it would be extremely frustrating for them to run around pretending to be accountants.

Now, all these people are trying to use the crisis that they had a large hand in creating to justify fixing the (actually minor) problem by enacting policies they want for other reasons. It’s too bad we can’t try these people for treason.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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