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Monday, December 26, 2011

The Futility of Moving to the Middle

Will the real Robert Samuelson please stand up:

Robert Samuelson Again Forgets What He Said About the Budget Deficit, by Dean Baker: Less than a month ago Robert Samuelson told readers that it was unreasonable to expect the Super Committee to solve the country's deficit problem since the real issue is health care. He said that the Super Committee was not going to come up with a politically acceptable way to fix health care in three months so it was unrealistic to imagine that it would produce a solution to the long-run deficit problem.
His comments in today's column suggest that he is unfamiliar with the piece he wrote last month. (Hot rumor: there are two Robert Samuelsons.) This one tells us that the problems is that the Republicans don't want to raise taxes and the Democrats refuse to consider cuts in spending, therefore we are going to have a long-term budget problem that will lead to an enormous economic crisis.
Of course Samuelson's column last month was completely right. We pay more than twice as much per person as the average for other wealthy countries. If we get out health care costs in line with other countries we would be looking at budget surpluses not deficits. ...
There are a few other points worth hitting Samuelson on in this piece. First, if we get military spending back down to its pre-September 11th share of GDP (3.0 percent), it will go far towards getting our future deficits down to sustainable course. (This would imply a savings of roughly $2 trillion over the next decade, if the reduction took place immediately.) ...
Finally, the idea that if we don't get the deficit down something really bad is going to happen ignores the fact that something really bad is happening now. ... It is remarkable how easily Samuelson can ignore the disaster in front of his eyes, and would instead have us divert our attention to a vaguely defined really bad disaster in the indeterminate future. ...

The Democrats "refuse to consider cuts in spending"? This reminds me of something Paul Krugman said not too long ago:

Reality just doesn’t matter here — which is why Obama might as well reach out to his base instead of the unreachable right.

What Samuelson and others like him need to understand is that failing to place blame where it belongs enables the very behaviors they find so appalling (of course, if the real target is social insurance rather than the deficit, then the strategy of blaming the Democrats for spending no matter the reality makes more sense).

    Posted by on Monday, December 26, 2011 at 09:48 AM in Budget Deficit, Economics, Politics | Permalink  Comments (38)



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