Thursday, February 17, 2011

He Is Not Amused

America's Leading Conservative Public Intellectual is not happy about the budget thingie.

No, not at all.

From the New York Times:

Tomorrow Never Comes

The budget has some fine features. I’ll soon be writing a column about how many of its provisions are better than anything the Republican Party is proposing. But it is laughably inadequate compared with the fiscal problems before us.

In 2012, the only year this budget controls, the president would actually increase the deficit with more spending. Roughly two-thirds of the alleged savings would nominally kick in after 2016. The budget imagines that $328 billion in financing for transportation projects will magically appear. While ignoring tax reform, it lards up the tax code with another layer of special preferences. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget calculates that $780 billion of the proposed deficit cuts are politically dubious.

The budget gets a lot of little things right, but it squanders the opening created by the debt commission. It fails to touch the big programs or ask for any shared sacrifice from the American people.

To which I have to say only this: I am not interested in anything any Republican or Conservative has to say about debt or deficits or "shared" sacrifice.

Not now. Not tomorrow. Not ever again.

You are the Party that inherited surpluses from Bill Clinton and pissed them away.

You are the Party that ran two wars on a credit card.

You are the Party that ran two wars on a credit card...while cutting taxes.

You are the Party that only learned how to spell d-e-f-i-c-i-t ten seconds after the Black Democrat was inaugurated.

You are the Party that held medical care for 9/11 first responders hostage so that you could ram through one more round of giveaways to billionaires.

America's Leading Conservative Public Intellectual continues:

Two explanations are commonly offered to explain why the White House decided to kick the can down the road. Some analysts say the Democrats are trying for a repeat of 1995: Do nothing on the deficit; goad the Republicans into announcing entitlement cutbacks and then savage them on the campaign trail for cutting off granny. I don’t believe this is in the president’s head. It would be morally reprehensible to bankrupt the nation for the sake of a campaign theme. Obama is not that sort of person.

I agree that it would be "morally reprehensible to bankrupt the nation for the sake of a campaign theme". Of course, what America's Leading Conservative Public Intellectual conveniently fails to note here is that deliberately "bankrupt[ing] the nation" as a means to achieving its ideological goals of wiping out the middle class and rolling back the New Deal is exactly what America's Leading Conservative Public Intellectual's own political party has been doing for the last 3o years.

From Common Dreams:

Two Santa Clauses or How The Republican Party Has Conned America for Thirty Years

by Thom Hartmann

By 1974, Jude Wanniski had had enough. The Democrats got to play Santa Claus when they passed out Social Security and Unemployment checks – both programs of the New Deal – as well as when their "big government" projects like roads, bridges, and highways were built giving a healthy union paycheck to construction workers. They kept raising taxes on businesses and rich people to pay for things, which didn't seem to have much effect at all on working people (wages were steadily going up, in fact), and that made them seem like a party of Robin Hoods, taking from the rich to fund programs for the poor and the working class. Americans loved it. And every time Republicans railed against these programs, they lost elections.

Wanniski decided to turn the classical world of economics – which had operated on this simple demand-driven equation for seven thousand years – on its head. In 1974 he invented a new phrase – "supply side economics" – and suggested that the reason economies grew wasn't because people had money and wanted to buy things with it but, instead, because things were available for sale, thus tantalizing people to part with their money. The more things there were, the faster the economy would grow.

At the same time, Arthur Laffer was taking that equation a step further. Not only was supply-side a rational concept, Laffer suggested, but as taxes went down, revenue to the government would go up!

Neither concept made any sense – and time has proven both to be colossal idiocies – but together they offered the Republican Party a way out of the wilderness.

Ronald Reagan was the first national Republican politician to suggest that he could cut taxes on rich people and businesses, that those tax cuts would cause them to take their surplus money and build factories or import large quantities of cheap stuff from low-labor countries, and that the more stuff there was supplying the economy the faster it would grow. George Herbert Walker Bush – like most Republicans of the time – was horrified. Ronald Reagan was suggesting "Voodoo Economics," said Bush in the primary campaign, and Wanniski's supply-side and Laffer's tax-cut theories would throw the nation into such deep debt that we'd ultimately crash into another Republican Great Depression.

But Wanniski had been doing his homework on how to sell supply-side economics. In 1976, he rolled out to the hard-right insiders in the Republican Party his "Two Santa Clauses" theory, which would enable the Republicans to take power in America for the next thirty years.

Democrats, he said, had been able to be "Santa Clauses" by giving people things from the largesse of the federal government. Republicans could do that, too – spending could actually increase. Plus, Republicans could be double Santa Clauses by cutting people's taxes! For working people it would only be a small token – a few hundred dollars a year on average – but would be heavily marketed. And for the rich it would amount to hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts. The rich, in turn, would use that money to import or build more stuff to market, thus increasing supply and stimulating the economy. And that growth in the economy would mean that the people still paying taxes would pay more because they were earning more.

There was no way, Wanniski said, that the Democrats could ever win again. They'd have to be anti-Santas by raising taxes, or anti-Santas by cutting spending. Either one would lose them elections.

When Reagan rolled out Supply Side Economics in the early 80s, dramatically cutting taxes while exploding (mostly military) spending, there was a moment when it seemed to Wanniski and Laffer that all was lost. The budget deficit exploded and the country fell into a deep recession – the worst since the Great Depression – and Republicans nationwide held their collective breath. But David Stockman came up with a great new theory about what was going on – they were "starving the beast" of government by running up such huge deficits that Democrats would never, ever in the future be able to talk again about national health care or improving Social Security – and this so pleased Alan Greenspan, the Fed Chairman, that he opened the spigots of the Fed, dropping interest rates and buying government bonds, producing a nice, healthy goose to the economy. Greenspan further counseled Reagan to dramatically increase taxes on people earning under $37,800 a year by increasing the Social Security (FICA/payroll) tax, and then let the government borrow those newfound hundreds of billions of dollars off-the-books to make the deficit look better than it was.

Reagan, Greenspan, Winniski, and Laffer took the federal budget deficit from under a trillion dollars in 1980 to almost three trillion by 1988, and back then a dollar could buy far more than it buys today. They and George HW Bush ran up more debt in eight years than every president in history, from George Washington to Jimmy Carter, combined. Surely this would both starve the beast and force the Democrats to make the politically suicidal move of becoming deficit hawks.

And that's just how it turned out. Bill Clinton, who had run on an FDR-like platform of a "new covenant" with the American people that would strengthen the institutions of the New Deal, strengthen labor, and institute a national health care system, found himself in a box. A few weeks before his inauguration, Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin sat him down and told him the facts of life: he was going to have to raise taxes and cut the size of government. Clinton took their advice to heart, raised taxes, balanced the budget, and cut numerous programs, declaring an "end to welfare as we know it" and, in his second inaugural address, an "end to the era of big government." He was the anti-Santa Claus, and the result was an explosion of Republican wins across the country as Republican politicians campaigned on a platform of supply-side tax cuts and pork-rich spending increases.

To reiterate, I am not interested in anything any Republican or Conservative has to say about debt or deficits or "shared" sacrifice.

Not now.

Not tomorrow.

Not ever again.

And least of all the fatuous, deceit-encrusted cluckings of America's Leading Conservative Public Intellectual.


Fiddlin Bill said...

While I entirely agree with you regarding the Republican bullshit wagon, the motherfuckers are at the moment fomenting a fascist backlash in Wisconsin by attempting to turn peaceful and responsible objectors to that state's appalling fiscal policies into a seeming mob to be put down with deadly force if necessary. This is the Beck/Limbaugh talking point of the week. On my own disgusting "Rush Radio" station here in NC, a local host said "fire all the teachers just like Reagan fired the air traffic controllers" this past Wednesday. Pretty amazing. Pretty stupid. But then a fist is always pretty stupid.

Mister Roboto said...

I hope the reason you haven't said anything yet about what's going on in Wisconsin is because y'all are savin' it up for the podcast. :-)

yardley said...

Wisconsin is the shots being fired at bunker hill. I wondered how long it would take the people to realize that they want us either in chains or dead.

Cletis said...

Drift, there can't be a word of truth in any of this. I would have seen it on Fox by now.

The Laffer "Laugher" Curve always killed me.

Love your fire, man.

Habitat Vic said...

Gov Walker announced (tried to sneak in actually) his anti-union bill last week Thursday. By last Friday afternoon (less than 24 hours later) the cable TV was running anti-union-worker ads. Those ads were already produced and the time slots bought & paid for.

I think WI Repubs did not expect the growing protests, however. Only a few thousand (heavily UW students, props) on Monday, but hit around 30K the last two days. I was there yesterday and what a tonic to my soul to be in a sea of protesting liberals.

Supposedly the Tea Party is going to have a counter protest this Saturday, including busing in protesters from conservative parts of the state. I'll be back for that one.

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