Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cry, The Beloved Country

Referring to the teabagger-inspired House R budget, John Boehner was asked (and Dana Milbank writes about it):

"Do you have any sort of estimate on how many jobs will be lost through this?" Pacifica Radio's Leigh Ann Caldwell inquired at a news conference just before the House began its debate on the cuts.

Boehner stood firm in his polished tassel loafers. "Since President Obama has taken office the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs, and if some of those jobs are lost in this, so be it," he said.

"Do you have any estimate of how many will?" Caldwell pressed. "And won't that negatively impact the economy?"

"I do not," Boehner replied, moving to the next questioner.

Well, Mr. Speaker, I do. I checked with budget expert Scott Lilly of the Center for American Progress, and, using the usual multipliers, he calculated that the cuts - a net of $59 billion in the last half of fiscal 2011 - would lead to the loss of 650,000 government jobs, and the indirect loss of 325,000 more jobs as fewer government workers travel and buy things. That's nearly 1 million jobs - possibly enough to tip the economy back into recession.

So be it?

It's a dilemma: what to wish for?

A cockeyed optimist, I keep thinking that once people understand the devastation that would be brought upon us were the current crop of Republicans to have their way, it'd be the end of them and we'd get back to trying to make sense. So there's a part of me that says, screw it: let them catch the car they're chasing and see what they do when they have it. Let voters have the opportunity to say, gee, I didn't know that would happen.

But I also know that if they actually get their way it's likely we'd never recover. We have once, sort of, barely. I can't imagine how it could happen again. The next time will be different: instead of starting with a strong economy and budget surplus, we'd be kicking ourselves while we're still down. Hard.

Here's the sort of thinking, from a conservative, that is so far beyond teabaggers as to be in another universe:

Conservatism could once be described as a three-cornered stool: social, economic and national security conservatives.

Today though it’s more relevant to think of conservatism as an attempt to draw a line connecting four points:

1) No tax increase
2) No defense cuts
3) No Medicare cuts
4) Rapid move to a balanced budget.

Obviously it’s impossible to meet all four of those commitments. It would be difficult enough to combine #4 with even two of the first three...

... Much of the 2012 GOP presidential nomination will attempt to send signals as to which commitments each candidate will sacrifice. Since so much of this signaling is non-verbal, it will be hard to pin down who truly is committed to which. ...

... You can play this game at home too – and it may tell you a lot about the kind of conservative you really are.

In the spirit of full disclosure, here’s how I’d square the quadrangle.

I don’t think we should be moving rapidly to budget balance. The time for budget austerity begins when unemployment drops below 7%, not before.

I don’t think we can cut defense spending before we have successfully concluded commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. And generally I favor the Herb Stein approach to budgeting: First you decide how much it costs to maintain America’s global supremacy. Everything else comes after that.

I affirmatively want to see Medicare squeezed. The American health system is wasteful, wasteful, wasteful.

I am prepared to accept tax increases provided they fall on consumption and pollution rather than work, saving and investment. A carbon tax yes, a VAT if need be, but no increases in personal or corporate income taxes or capital gains taxes. On the other hand, the 15% tax rate on corporate dividends seems to me a laughably unjustifiable giveaway, even though I personally benefit from it.

With the exception VAT, which I think is much more regressive than income tax, there's much in it that makes sense to me.

The problem is, it's clear that teabaggers and those that love them simply don't have the ability to visualize. If the idea of consequences had any meaning to most of them, if they were inclined to think things through, they'd be on the other side of the argument. Except, of course, for the "so be it" faction: those that couldn't care less what happens to the country toward which they make exclusive claims of patriotism, as long as they have theirs and don't have to spend any of it in taxes.

Given the inability of most teabaggers to think sequentially, and given that the rest of them don't care, trying to point things out in advance is futility. And yet, to wish they'd get their way as a sort of final and undeniable proof of their simplistic solipsism would be a dark perversion of the Make-a-Wish Foundation: the last thing we do before we die.


  1. Finally something we can agree on...
    Except I'd like to see Medicare cut completely, I mean whats the sense wasting money on pacemakers and Namenda so Granny can drool in a Nursing Home for a few more years??? I don't get it, just cause your 65 you get special treatment??? CHARLES MANSON is older than that, excuse me if I don't shake his hand.
    And thats not my opinion, but my Dads, who's just a little miffed cause he found out Medicare doesn't cover 3.8 years of Grandmas Nursing Home Bills, and he's hinting I should kick in a little bit of my 1/2 million income if I want a share of his rediculously small estate when he kicks off in 11.3 years..
    And have you ever checked out these "Life Expectancy Calculators"?? There Great!!
    And I like Taxes just fine the way they are, just like the President approved back in December, what are ya Sid, a RACIST!?!?!?
    And nothin personal, if your ever in the A-T-L let me know, and we can grab lunch at the Varsity, take in a Braves game, and give Homeless guys monopoly money...don't knock it if you haven't tried it...


  2. Paul Krugman summed it up pretty well the other day:

    "Republicans don't have a mandate to cut spending; they have a mandate to repeal the laws of arithmetic."


Comments back, moderated. Preference given for those who stay on topic.

Popular posts