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You Can’t Make A Deficit Deal With People Who Don’t Care About the Deficit

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I’ve neglected to respond to Marc Esiner’s challenge, so I suppose I should make a couple of points.   First, as Annie Lowrey points out, doing nothing would actually be a pretty good plan; certainly more effective than the fraudulent Ryan plan.

But, on some level, this is beside the point.   As Lowrey points out, nobody thinks that this will happen, and the primary reason for this is that Republicans don’t care about the deficit.   I guess I can understand why conservatives seem to think we will have forgotten what happened last time we went through this — after all, Barack Obama seems to have — but if you haven’t spotted the scam in the first thirty seconds you are the sucker:

Once upon a time Ronald Reagan was president, and the agenda was focused on gigantic debt-increases tax cuts and boosts in defense spending. Once upon a time the administration of Bill Clinton succeeded in achieving massive deficit reduction. At that time, George W Bush argued that the absence of giant deficits was an indication of policy failure requiring massive tax cuts to address it. The leading economic lights of the time including Maestro Alan Greenspan argued passionately that insufficient debt was a huge problem and one that only tax cuts could save. Then with Barack Obama in office, even as all the objective indicators point to the need to focus on unemployment the Beltway is seized with a passionate need to address the problem of too much debt.

Once we understand that there’s no way that one Congress can hold a future Congress to a deficit deal, the discussion can stop right there. The last time there was a surplus, Republicans literally argued that the disappearance of the national debt was a problem that needed to be solved by massive upper-class tax cuts. There’s no reason to think it wouldn’t happen again; indeed, the GOP has if anything become more fanatical in their ruthless devotion to upper-class tax cuts in the meantime. So there’s no point in talking about a “deficit deal,” and I’m certainly not going to pretend that Ryan’s destroy-the-welfare-state-to-pay-for-more-upper-class-cuts plan has anything to do with deficit reduction. If deficit-reducing policies that are otherwise good on the merits are proposed progressives should support them, but otherwise there’s no point discussing it.

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