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PORTSIDE  April 2011, Week 4

PORTSIDE April 2011, Week 4

Subject:

Deficit Fever: Loon Tune Time Among the Elite

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Date:

Wed, 27 Apr 2011 00:32:32 -0400

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Deficit Fever: Loon Tune Time Among the Elite

By Dean Baker
TMP Cafe
April 26, 2011

http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/04/26/deficit_fever_loon_tune_time_among_the_elite/

We already knew that the folks involved in debating and
designing economic policy had a weak understanding of
economics, that is why they couldn't see the $8 trillion
housing bubble that wrecked the economy, but now it seems
that they are breaking their ties to reality altogether. The
country is still smoldering in the wreckage of the collapsed
housing bubble, but the victims have left the policy debate
altogether.

Twenty five million people are unemployed, underemployed or
out of the workforce altogether, but that's not on anyone's
agenda. Millions of homeowners are underwater in their
mortgage and facing the loss of their homes, that's also not
on anyone's agenda. Tens of millions of baby boomers are at
the edge of retirement and have just lost their life savings.
This also is not on anyone's agenda.

Deficit cutting fever is the current craze in the nation's
capital. But even here there is little tie to reality. House
budget committee chairman Paul Ryan put out a budget that
proposes that in 2050 we will be spending less on defense,
domestic discretionary and various non-medical entitlements
together than we spend on defense today. And most of the
punditry praise its seriousness. Meanwhile, the Progressive
Caucus, the largest single bloc in Congress, proposes a way
to get to a balanced budget by 2021, and it is virtually
ignored.

There are certainly grounds to criticize the caucus's budget,
since it is not perfect. My list of deficit reducers would
include requiring the Fed to hold $3 trillion in debt, as a
way to save $1.5 trillion in interest payments over the
course of a decade. I would also give Medicare beneficiaries
the option to buy into more efficient health care systems in
other countries. This would both save money and show people
that we can get top quality care for a hell of a lot less
money. And I don't buy the need for major deficit reduction
in the first place, but if you want a serious effort to
balance the budget, here it is.

Remarkably, the elite media have almost completely ignored
it. David Brooks just wrote a new deficit whining track in
which he paid zero attention to the Progressive Caucus's
budget or any of the proposals it contained. In his
discussion of the release of the Caucus's budget, Washington
Post columnist Dana Milbank turned into a fashion critic. He
devoted more space to discussing the tie worn by
Representative Raul Grijalva (the chair of the Progressive
Caucus) then he did discussing the substance of the
proposals.

If the budget cutters were serious then the Caucus's proposal
would be very much at the center of the debate. All of its
proposals poll reasonably well and have been tested in the
United States or elsewhere. On the revenue side it calls for
raising taxes on the wealthy, but not to levels that are
higher than they were in past decades. It also calls for a
tax on financial speculation similar to the one that the UK
has had for decades and the U.S. actually had prior to 1966.

On the spending side it calls for a quick end to the wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan and a return to post-cold war levels of
military spending. It calls for a public option for health
care to save on the costs of the health care exchanges in the
ACA. And it calls for negotiating prescription drug prices in
Medicare.

All of these proposals pass the laugh test in terms of being
practical and politically feasible in the sense that the
public would support them. These proposals may not be
politically feasible in the sense that the people who pay for
political campaigns and own major news outlets do not like
them.

But this is still helpful. The Progressive Caucus has done
the country an enormous service in producing its budget. They
have helped to show as clearly as possible that the deficit
hawks do not give a damn about reducing deficits and
balancing the budget. They want to cut the programs that the
poor and middle class depend upon -- programs like Social
Security, Medicare, and Medicaid -- so that the rich can have
more money in their pockets.

Deficit reduction as it is usually discussed is a give to the
rich agenda. The fact that the Progressive Caucus budget was
so universally ignored drives this point home very well.

___________________________________________

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