Republican Lobbyists Bowles-Simpson

Bowles-SimpsonTwo years ago today, Damian Paletta interviewed Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. And in that interview, they said that a destabilizing fiscal crisis was coming in—Wait for it!—two years. Okay, they actually used a weasel word. The exact quote is, “The U.S. could face a destabilizing fiscal crisis in two years or even sooner.” In truth, the US could face an alien attack sometime this afternoon. But in saying that, it is clear that this is an unlikely occurrence. The Bowles-Simpson claim is meant to imply that the crisis is coming and that two years is the longest that it would take.

It is two years later. Want to know what the status of that crisis is? The government can now borrow money for half the interest rate it could when they said it. But the terrible thing is not that they made this prediction and it turned out to be wrong. The terrible thing is that they’ve been making these predictions for years, they are always wrong, and yet the mainstream media and politicians from all sides still treat them as oracles.

What I think is interesting is that it is standard in journalism to note who a lobbyist works for. If someone is lobbying for a gun manufacturer, it is understood that this might affect his thinking on increased background checks. But in the case of people like Bowles-Simpson and the many other deficit fear groups, the media treat them as objective truth tellers. But they aren’t. These groups are best thought of as good old fashioned conservatives. Above all else, they want to cut funding for Social Security and Medicare and reduce tax rates.

Again, I can’t help but quote Matt Yglesias:

What they 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.

These people are always wrong when it comes to what they claim to be doing. But given it is just a smokescreen, that isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that so many people don’t see that. To do my part, I will here after refer to these guys as Republican lobbyists Bowles-Simpson.


Note: Yglesias was specifically talking about Fix the Debt, not Bowles-Simpson, but it equally applies.

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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.

6 thoughts on “Republican Lobbyists Bowles-Simpson

  1. Oh, it’s entirely possible the US (and/or world) could face a destabilizing fiscal crisis within two years. It’s entirely possible that one might crop up tomorrow! But of course it wouldn’t be caused by the US deficit — it would be caused by banks which are, still, almost wholly unwatched and unregulated.

    A staple bad-guy cliche in movies now is the diabolical cyberwhiz who wants to throw the world into chaos. In fact, somebody right now, working late, crunching numbers on the fifty-third floor of a Street firm might well be developing the smart bomb which fucks us all.

    This almost assuredly will happen. Unlike S/B, however, I’m not quite silly enough to put a date on it. (Their "inside of two years" sounds like those nutjobs constantly promising apocalypse, and constantly pushing the due date back when apocalypse fails to deliver as hoped.)

  2. @JMF – The difference is that B-S (Hmm…) are taken serious by powerful people. But let’s look at their claims. The [i]first[/i] thing they want to do is lower marginal tax rates. They say this will be good for the economy. Of course, if that’s true, it will make our debt situation worse because it will raise bond rates. And bond rates are the reason they are doing everything. It just doesn’t make sense.

    They should be honest: they want to savage the social safety net and lower rich people’s taxes. That’s the fucking Republican plan. Why are these assholes taken seriously?

  3. I think it’s just a matter of institutional inertia. Baker, Stiglitz, Galbraith and others are pointing out, repeatedly, that a depressed economy needs the average Jane/Joe to have more purchasing power. Better wages, taxes on assholes which are spent on useful social programs, etc. It’s common sense (the loony anti-semite Henry Ford understood it) and it’s been proven to work in the past. While tax cuts for the rich have never spurred growth, and, as primary candidate George H.W. Bush described them in 1980, are "voodoo economics."

    But those sane people are currently not being heard. For whatever reason, the makers and shakers of economic policy right now are pimping Friedman bullshit. They are the wise men (always men), and sensible Presidents listen to the wise men.

    The chance was there, in 2008/09, to throw out the wise men who led us into this latest disaster, and have millions of Americans shout "yes, please!" That chance was missed. The truly smart women and men are stuck and stumped, waiting until the next disaster to be heard.

    History suggests two possible outcomes. First, our next financial boondoggle will make Americans realize that the wise men are fools, and it’s time to enlist new wise types who start thinking about different ways to adjust our economy. That’s happened before. Second . . . well, you know what the second outcome is. And of course that’s happened before, as well.

  4. @JMF – I don’t understand it. The truth is that the rich have even more to gain than the poor in getting the economy back on track. As it is, the reason bond rates are so low is that the rich can’t find anything good to do with their cash. I still don’t understand why the rich don’t see that they actually do better under liberals. It must be all about how the conservatives deify the rich. The rich don’t get that so much from the liberals. I suppose when you have that much money, you don’t need more. (There are too many contradictions to even think about here.)

    I tend to think it will take another real crisis to fix the system. But it is just as likely to bring on fascism 2.0.

  5. I think it’s the "free rider" syndrome. Yes, redistributing money to consumers enables them to buy products, a good thing for rich investors. (They hated the New Deal, which essentially saved capitalism.)

    But rich investors are essentially psychotic, and want the system to work for themselves, not for consumers or other rich investors. They want to be the ones that win; that’s hugely important for them. I don’t know why this is. It’s not a motivation I understand. If you do understand it, that could be a very useful chapter in your book.

  6. @JMF – Part of it is just pettiness. I think it is natural (for some) to think it is better to have 100 and your neighbor have 1 than it is to have 1000 and your neighbor have 999. I’ve definitely seen that attitude. (There’s a joke about a genie and your neighbor getting twice of whatever you wish for yourself. So the guy asks the genie to beat him half to death.)

    To be clear: I think most people just want the economy to be reasonably fair. Unfortunately, that is a middle class value. The rich have abandoned that idea. That’s why most of them are rich.

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