Monday, October 26, 2015

Finding Myself Partly Agreeing With Robert A. Samuelson (On The Debt Ceiling)

In today's Washington Post the usually egregious Robert A. Samuelson has written a column, "Dump the debt ceiling," whose main message I agree with.  It is about time the VSPs in Washington figure out that the US debt ceiling is utter nonsense, with the US the only nation ever to have such a nonsensical mechanism, even though we have had it in some form or other since 1917, only four years after we got our income tax (of course, many nations have limits on budget deficits, a very different thing). He goes over this history and repeats arguments I have made on numerous occasions in the past such as here.

So, where do I have a problem with him?  Of course he went from his reasonable discussion of the silliness of the debt ceiling to talking about how we could achieve a balanced budget, something that we do not  need to do.  He dumps on Republicans because they are unrealistic about various plans they have put forward that the spending cuts they propose would leave anything meaningful  left of the government, without admitting that this implies getting rid of such things as air traffic control and the weather service.  This is also not unreasonable.

But then for going after the Dems he revives his usual VSP rant against Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, arguing that benefits for these should be cut.  Otherwise we are facing 20 to 25 percent tax increases, not doable only on the rich.  No discussion that lowering the rate of increase in health care costs might help out on all this. 

To quote Dean Baker, who I am surprised did not comment on this, "It is Monday, and the columnists at WaPo are calling for cuts in Social Security and healthcare."

Barkley Rosser


Bruce Webb said...

Social Security is a threat to the Neo-Liberal world-view that has dominated the DC Village since the advent of the self-appointed Democratic Leaders of the DLC and the cult of Bi-Partisan Deficit Hawkery that you see on the boards of every organization from the Concord Coalition onwards to now include Third Way-ism of all types and No Labels.

This world view can be summed up quite pithily as "Socialism drools, Markets rule". And so that the proper role of the Democratic Party is to remake itself in the model of Joe Lieberman. Who can then shake hands with Judd Gregg and get this country moving right down the middle of the appropriately named Centrism Track.

This view which really came to the fore in the late 70's was fueled by a widespread and (given the numbers) not unreasonable belief that the New Deal was ultimately a failure, that is great early promise and promises had withered and weathered by the time we were in the cold winds of the oil crisis and stagflation. And crystalized around the idea that Social Security (however popular) was "unsustainable".

And to a large degree the recognition of the "unsustainability" of the New Deal and its programs was the touchstone that divided the "sensible" and the "serious" from the "shrill".

And this view has of course dominated the editorial pages of the Washington Post ever since. Because 90% of Samuelson et al's schtick is that they are the "serious and sensible center". Or course Social Security is unsustainable! Everyone knows that!! And nobody needs to look at the numbers, because someone must have!! Maybe that nice lady Maya MacGuineas. She seem bi-partisany.

And then came people with numbers and formulae like Baker, and Krugman, and Rosser. Who only idiotic fanboys would pay attention to. I mean the choice is pretty clear: "shrill" or "sensibly serious"? Which through what can only be a Looking Glass inversion is taken by the Village to be Krugman/Baker vs Samuelson/Brooks.

It is times like these that I like to appeal to my favorite Bible verse, and not just because it is the shortest: John 11:35 "Jesus wept".

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Bruce Webb said...

Barkley sent you an e-mail. You deserve an audience a little wider than me and Mr. Red Wood. Though if I ever sail a boat to India and need some non-skid tape for the deck I am set. So I got THAT going for me.