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Sunday, December 02, 2012

Let's Get Serious about Getting Serious

Jonathan Weiler:

The Republican Party Should Have Zero Credibility on Deficits, by Jonathan Weiler: Speaker Boehner's angry response to the White House's opening gambit in the budget negotiations related to the so-called fiscal cliff provides a useful opportunity to remind folks that the GOP should have zero credibility on deficit reduction. Boehner claims that the Democrats proposal is not serious and is a bad-faith offer. Coming from him, that's rich. We have a three-decades long record to prove definitively that Republicans are themselves unserious about deficits. That has been evident during periods in which they've controlled the presidency, as both Reagan and W. presided over explosions in our national debt. And we have the account of GOP insider after GOP insider revealing the true motives behind GOP fiscal policy. As far back as 1981, Reagan budget director David Stockman admitted that Republicans' professed concern with the impact of deficits and debts on our children and grandchildren was just a ruse to allow Republicans to avoid responsibility for the adverse consequences of lowering taxes on the rich. Bruce Bartlett, a former Reagan treasury official has explained in detail that the right-wing's rhetorical push against deficits over the past thirty years was not the product of a sincere commitment to fiscal prudence. Rather, Bartlett has shown, the goal was to reduce taxes on the rich, which would starve the government of funds, which would require government to cut spending for the less well off. In other words, the concern was never deficits. The desire was to reduce social spending for those deemed undeserving by the Republicans, including poor children, the struggling elderly and other disfavored groups. Deficits were merely the excuse for doing so. And Vice President Dick Cheney stated as emphatically as he could that, when Republicans hold power, "deficits don't matter." ...

He says "Boehner claims that the Democrats proposal is not serious." Paul Krugman explains:

What Defines A Serious Deficit Proposal?, by Paul Krugman: Just a thought: if you follow the pundit discussion of matters fiscal, you get the definite impression that some kinds of deficit reduction are considered “serious”, while others are not. In particular, the Obama administration’s call for higher revenue through increased taxes on high incomes — which actually goes considerably beyond just letting the Bush tax cuts for the top end expire — gets treated with an unmistakable sneer in much political discussion, as if it were a trivial thing, more about staking out a populist position than it is about getting real on red ink.
On the other hand, the idea of raising the age of Medicare eligibility gets very respectful treatment — now that’s serious. So I thought I’d look at the dollars and cents — and even I am somewhat shocked. Those tax hikes would raise $1.6 trillion over the next decade; according to the CBO, raising the Medicare age would save $113 billion in federal funds over the next decade.
So, the non-serious proposal would reduce the deficit 14 times as much as the serious proposal.
I guess we have to understand the definition of serious: a proposal is only serious if it punishes the poor and the middle class.

Here's an example:

On Sunday, during an appearance on Meet the Press, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) reiterated his call for restructuring entitlement programs like Medicare, highlighting the “very painful cuts” he has proposed as part of a package to avert the fiscal cliff. ...

Host David Gregory seemed to agree with Corker’s characterization and pressed fellow panelist Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) to accept reforms that will shift health care costs to seniors in order to show that Democrats are “serious” about entitlements:

CORKER: Look, I laid out in great detail very painful cuts to Medicare. ...

GREGORY: Name some specific programs that ought to be cut that would cause pain in terms of the role of our government that Democrats are prepared to support.

McCASKILL: Well,... a lot of us voted for more cuts in the farm program…and defense. I spent a lot of times in the wings of the Pentagon. if you don’t think there’s more money to be cut in contracting at the pentagon, you don’t understand what has happened at the Pentagon. [...]

CORKER: David, as much as I love Claire, those are not the painful cuts that have to happen. We really have to look at much deeper reforms to the entitlements …

Note the "those are not the painful cuts that have to happen." It's not enough that the cuts be "painful." To actually count and be endorsed, the cuts have to be targeted at particular people and programs.

    Posted by on Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 09:54 AM in Budget Deficit, Economics, Fiscal Policy, Politics | Permalink  Comments (45)


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