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PORTSIDE  November 2011, Week 4

PORTSIDE November 2011, Week 4

Subject:

Dancing on the Super Committee's Grave, Singing Halleluyah

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Thu, 24 Nov 2011 22:59:40 -0500

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Dancing on the Super Committee's Grave, Singing Halleluyah

by Robert Naiman

Just Foreign Policy 
November 22, 2011

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/1080

The spectacle of Democrats and Republicans arguing about who
is to "blame" for the "failure" of the "Supercommittee" is
certainly tempting for many partisans. But any progressive
who participates in the spectacle risks attacking their own
interests to the degree that they promote the implicit
assumption that the public interest would have been better
served if the Super Committee had reached a deal.

We shouldn't be arguing about who is to "blame" for this
development. We should be arguing about who should be
awarded credit for this best-plausible-outcome.

We should, to borrow a phrase from Monty Python, be dancing
on the Super Committee's grave, singing Halleluyah.

Who should get the Academy Award? The AFL-CIO? The
Strengthen Social Security Campaign? The Tea Party? All of
the above?

Indeed, it was a de facto coalition between the AFL-CIO and
its friends and the Tea Party and its friends which again
defeated the cruel plan of the extreme center to trade
Social Security cuts and raising the Medicare retirement age
for a relatively meaningless increase on the tax rates paid
by rich people.

Why meaningless? Because tax rates raised today can easily
be lowered in the future. Cutting Social Security benefits
by changing the cost-of-living formula and raising the
Medicare retirement age are forever.

From the point of view of the national aspirations of the
indigenous people of the United States, what was the right
price to charge for Manhattan Island? Surely the answer is:
there was no right price. Cash is ephemeral. Control of
territory could be forever.

Similarly, there is no amount of increasing taxes on rich
people that can compensate low-income workers for cutting
their Social Security benefits and taking away their access
to Medicare.

It would be one thing if you could put the increased tax
revenues from the rich people in a special fund that could
only be used to benefit low-income workers. Even then, it
wouldn't make sense, but at least in theory, there's a point
at which you could equalize.

But of course, you can't do that. More than half of the
increased revenues would go to feed the Pentagon monster,
protecting the largest centrally planned economy on earth
from cuts to its bloat that are long overdue. And moreover,
that bloat isn't just a waste of taxpayer money. To the
extent that the bloat supports the far-flung imperial
ambitions of the neocon wing of the foreign policy elite,
that bloat actually threatens the physical well-being of
Americans, because the bigger the military is, the more
neocon wars we will have. Furthermore, since military
spending is the least efficient form of government spending
from the point of view of job creation, if we have to cut
somewhere during a period of high unemployment, then the
military is the best place to cut.

Indeed, the "horrible consequence" which was supposedly the
big incentive for the Supercommittee to reach a deal was
that if they didn't, it would trigger half a trillion
dollars in cuts in projected Pentagon spending over ten
years - about a 15% cut. That would take Pentagon spending
back to 2007 levels - hardly a shutdown of the military-
industrial complex. More like an overdue haircut.

Now that the trigger is supposed to take place, expect even
more whining and special pleading from those who get fat off
Pentagon contracts at taxpayer expense.

However, these people have now been beaten twice in the last
year: once when the Budget Control Act passed, and once when
the Supercommittee failed to reach agreement. The "revealed
preference" of Congress so far is this: there is no majority
coalition in Congress which prefers cutting Social Security
benefits, raising the Medicare retirement age and increasing
taxes on rich people to cutting the projected Pentagon
budget by 15% over ten years.

That's a fact to be celebrated - and defended - not mourned.

[Robert Naiman is Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy. He
edits the Just Foreign Policy daily news summary and writes
on U.S. foreign policy at Huffington Post, and is president
of the board of Truthout. Naiman has worked as a policy
analyst and researcher at the Center for Economic and Policy
Research and Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch. He has
masters degrees in economics and mathematics from the
University of Illinois and has studied and worked in the
Middle East. You can contact him here.]

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