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Friday, April 13, 2012

Paul Krugman: Cannibalize the Future

Republicans say they care about the future, think of our children and all that, but their actions aren't consistent with their words:

Cannibalize the Future, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: One general rule of modern politics is that the people who talk most about future generations — who go around solemnly declaring that we’re burdening our children with debt — are, in practice, the people most eager to sacrifice our future for short-term political gain. You can see that principle at work in the House Republican budget, which starts with dire warnings about the evils of deficits, then calls for tax cuts that would make the deficit even bigger...
And you can see it in the actions of Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, who talks loudly about acting responsibly but may actually be the least responsible governor the state has ever had.
Mr. Christie’s big move ... was his unilateral decision back in 2010 to cancel work that was already under way on a new rail tunnel linking New Jersey with New York. ...Mr. Christie claimed that he was just being fiscally responsible, while critics said that he had canceled the project just so he could raid it for funds.
Now the independent Government Accountability Office has weighed in with a report..., and it confirms everything the critics were saying. ... Mr. Christie ... apparently couldn’t make that case without being dishonest about the numbers. So what was his real motive?
One answer is that the governor is widely assumed to have national ambitions, and the Republican base hates government spending in general (unless it’s on weapons). ...
Another answer is that canceling the tunnel allowed Mr. Christie to divert funds from that project ... and put them into the state highway fund, thereby avoiding the need to raise the state’s tax on gasoline. ...[A]s a candidate, Mr. Christie said that he wouldn’t raise those taxes, so cannibalizing the tunnel helped him avoid embarrassment.
The crucial point ... is that the ... governor poses as a man willing to make hard choices for the future, but what he actually did was sacrifice the future for the sake of personal political advantage...; he cared more about avoiding embarrassment over a misguided campaign pledge than about serving an urgent public need.
Unfortunately, Mr. Christie’s behavior is all too typical these days.
America used to be a country that thought big about the future. Major public projects, from the Erie Canal to the interstate highway system, used to be a well-understood component of our national greatness. Nowadays, however, the only big projects politicians are willing to undertake — with expense no object — seem to be wars. Funny how that works.

    Posted by on Friday, April 13, 2012 at 01:08 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  Comments (82)

          


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