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Monday, December 31, 2012

Paul Krugman: Brewing Up Confusion

Some well-funded groups are trying to "exploit the fiscal cliff to push a benefit-cutting agenda":

Brewing Up Confusion, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Howard Schultz, the C.E.O. of Starbucks,... posted an open letter urging his employees to promote fiscal bipartisanship by writing “Come together” on coffee cups. ... In the letter, Mr. Schultz warned that elected officials “have been unable to come together and compromise to solve the tremendously important, time-sensitive issue to fix the national debt,” and suggested that readers further inform themselves at the Web site of the organization Fix the Debt. Let’s parse that, shall we?
First of all,... the fiscal cliff ... doesn’t reflect a failure to “fix the debt” by reducing the budget deficit — on the contrary, the danger is that we’ll cut the deficit too fast.
How could someone as well connected as Mr. Schultz get such a basic point wrong? By talking to the wrong people — in particular, the people at Fix the Debt... For example,... Maya MacGuineas, the organization’s public face,... was trying to confuse readers on that point, and she apparently confused Mr. Schultz too. More about Fix the Debt in a moment..., let’s move on to Mr. Schultz’s misdiagnosis of the political problem we face.
Look, it’s true that elected politicians have been unable to “come together and compromise.” But ... implying a symmetry between Republicans and Democrats, isn’t just misleading, it’s actively harmful. The reality is that President Obama has made huge concessions. ... In return, the Republicans have offered essentially nothing. ... Given that reality,... when people like Mr. Schultz respond by blaming both sides equally ... they’re ... rewarding intransigence and extremism...
I’m willing to believe that Mr. Schultz doesn’t know what he’s doing. The same can’t be said, however, about Fix the Debt. You might not know it reading some credulous reporting, but Fix the Debt isn’t some kind of new gathering of concerned citizens..., it’s ... the usual suspects ... backed by an impressive amount of corporate cash.
Like all the Peterson-funded groups, Fix the Debt seems much more concerned with cutting Social Security and Medicare than with fighting deficits in general... What’s happening now is that all the Peterson-funded groups are trying to exploit the fiscal cliff to push a benefit-cutting agenda that has nothing to do with the current crisis, using artfully deceptive language — as in that MacGuineas letter — to hide the bait and switch.
Mr. Schultz apparently fell for the con. But the rest of us shouldn’t.

    Posted by on Monday, December 31, 2012 at 12:24 AM in Budget Deficit, Economics, Media | Permalink  Comments (85)


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