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Friday, March 11, 2011

Paul Krugman: Dumbing Deficits Down

The Whitehouse is "aiding and abetting" the Republican's attempt to promote "wrongheaded and destructive" notions about the deficit:

Dumbing Deficits Down, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Like anyone who writes regularly about what passes for economic and fiscal debate in American politics, I’ve developed a strong tolerance for nonsense. ...
Yet there are still moments when I find myself saying, “They can’t really be that stupid,” or maybe, “They can’t really think the rest of us are that stupid.” And I had one of those moments reading about a recent conference on national health policy, which featured a bipartisan dialogue among Congressional staffers.
According to a column in Kaiser Health News, Republican staffers jeered at any and all proposals to use Medicare and Medicaid funds better. Spending money on prevention was no more than a “slush fund.” Research on innovation was “an oxymoron.” And there was no reason to pay for “so-called effectiveness research.”
To put this in context..., while the government does have a long-run fiscal problem, that problem is overwhelmingly driven by rising health care costs. ... So if you’re serious about deficits, you shouldn’t be pinching pennies now; you should be looking for ways to rein in health spending over the long term. And that means taking exactly the steps that had those G.O.P. staffers sneering. ...
We need to work harder on prevention, which can be much cheaper than a cure. We need to find innovative ways of managing health care. And, above all, we need to know what works and what doesn’t so that Medicare and Medicaid can say no to expensive procedures with little or no medical benefit. “So-called comparative effectiveness research” is central to any rational attempt to deal with America’s fiscal problems. ...
Republicans ... claim to care deeply about deficits — but they’ve spent the past two years putting cynical, demagogic attacks on any attempt to actually deal with long-run deficits at the heart of their campaign strategy.
Here’s a recent example. In his new book, Mike Huckabee ... attacks the Obama stimulus because it included funds for, yes, comparative effectiveness research: “The stimulus didn’t just waste your money; it planted the seeds from which the poisonous tree of death panels will grow.” ...
The president and his aides know that the G.O.P. approach to the budget is wrongheaded and destructive. But they’ve stopped making the case for an alternative approach; instead, they’ve positioned themselves as know-nothings lite, accepting the notion that spending must be slashed immediately — just not as much as Republicans want.
Mr. Obama’s political advisers clearly believe that this strategy of protective camouflage offers the president his best chance at re-election — and they may be right. But that doesn’t change the fact that the White House is aiding and abetting the dumbing down of our deficit debate.
And this dumbing down bodes ill for the nation’s future. Health care is only one of the large and difficult problems America needs to deal with, ranging from infrastructure to climate change, all of which demand that we engage in a lot of hard thinking. Yet what we have instead is a political culture in which one side sneers at knowledge and exalts ignorance, while the other side hunkers down and pretends to halfway agree.

    Posted by on Friday, March 11, 2011 at 12:42 AM in Budget Deficit, Economics, Politics | Permalink  Comments (84)

          


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