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The Deficit Scam


And, of course, it’s even worse than this. If the Obama administration does succeed in cutting the deficit, this will just be a pretext for even more upper-class tax cuts from the next Republican administration. After all, otherwise we might face history’s worst crisis, paying off the national debt too quickly!!!!!!!!!!!! Or, more likely, a brand-new pretext that’s even more idiotic.

If you hear from any nominally Democratic or liberal pundit who hasn’t figured out the con yet, you can safely decide to ignore everything they might have to say about politics in the future.

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  • The more I think about it, the more I think progressives should put less effort into fighting odd opinions about the deficit and more effort into arguing for higher taxes on the wealthy.

  • Anon

    Republicans are hacks who don’t care about the deficit and want to always give huge tax cuts for the rich. Most “centrist” pundits are also hacks, etc. All of this is true.

    But how do you jump from that to deciding that there is absolutely no problem with the deficit, Social Security, etc.? Smart people like Brad DeLong disagree with you. Please, less dismissiveness.

    • Scott Lemieux

      That’s not the issue. All things being equal, I agree that it would be better if less money went to financing the national debt. The problem is that given an actually existing politically situation, in which the GOP refuses to accept any tax increases, unilateral disarmament is a sucker’s game.

      • Anon

        I don’t understand why the position of progressives on this issue should be hostage to the whims of the Republican Party. The GOP isn’t changing anytime soon, so forget about them. A tax reform bill only needs 50 Senate votes anyway.

        A bunch of progressives have been arguing that deficits don’t matter. Center-left types tend to think that the long-run deficit is a big problem. If the center-lefties are right, we probably should address it. So let’s figure out who’s right rather than just saying the center-lefties have fallen for a “scam.”

        Bill Clinton thought deficits mattered in 1993, and that’s why he passed a deficit reduction bill made up of half tax increases and half spending cuts. He got no Republican votes for it and they bashed him for raising taxes. Maybe he was a sucker. But, from what I understand, it was good policy and helped set the stage for ’90s growth.

        • Not that I disagree with your larger point, but the situation in 1993 was pretty much the opposite of what we’re facing now.

  • TT

    “If you hear from any nominally Democratic or liberal pundit who hasn’t figured out the con yet, you can safely decide to ignore everything they might have to say about politics in the future.”

    But pundits who have “figured out the con” are pundits who will have to turn in their Serious badges, and that means no playing in Fred Hiatt’s sandbox, no invitations to lecture at Brookings, and no appearances on Sunday talk shows (except to play the crazy aunt/uncle and object of centrist ridicule role once every couple of months). In short, professional suicide for the aspiring centrist/vaguely leftish writer, who combines the cultural attitudes of Mike Barnicle with the economic views of Robert Samuelson.

  • Morbo

    So I can officially ignore Turley? Finally.

  • DrDick

    We could always slash the defense budget (the largest federal outlay by a large margin) by 2/3 and still have the largest in the world. There is more waste, fraud, and pork in there than everywhere else combined. Of course I expect that to happen somewhere after hell freezes over.

  • howard

    as lord keynes tells us, the time to cut the deficit (indeed, the time to run a general fund surplus) is during a period of growth, not during a period of decline and/or early on in recovery, which is the time to run a deficit.

    the simple fact is that if we had run a general fund surplus during the bush years as we should have, there would be no problem with amping up the scale of deficit spending now, and in that sense, starve the beast worked.

    but deficit spending is not what caused the crisis, and eliminating deficit spending is not what will solve it.

    meanwhile, anyone who didn’t support john kerry’s attempt in 2004 to get the war in iraq paid for (you know, “i was for it before i was against it”), doesn’t get to discuss the deficit now, which applies to basically every single gop congressperson….

  • El Cid

    Remember, being ‘concerned about the deficit / debt’ means you only care about the spending side, not the revenue side.

    • DrDick

      I strongly advocate treating all income, including capital gains and inheritances, the same and bringing back the top marginal rates under Eisenhower. That should nicely take care of all of our problems.

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