Normally I don’t do this
I try very hard not to blatantly and lengthily copypasta someone else’s blog.
However, I have been so frustrated and upset but what has been happening that I am beyond words. I have nothing but a stream of obscenities to express myself with.
The U.S. government is having no trouble borrowing to cover its current deficit. It’s true that we’re building up debt, on which we’ll eventually have to pay interest. But if you actually do the math, instead of intoning big numbers in your best Dr. Evil voice, you discover that even very large deficits over the next few years will have remarkably little impact on U.S. fiscal sustainability.
No, what makes America look unreliable isn’t budget math, it’s politics. And please, let’s not have the usual declarations that both sides are at fault. Our problems are almost entirely one-sided — specifically, they’re caused by the rise of an extremist right that is prepared to create repeated crises rather than give an inch on its demands.
The truth is that as far as the straight economics goes, America’s long-run fiscal problems shouldn’t be all that hard to fix. It’s true that an aging population and rising health care costs will, under current policies, push spending up faster than tax receipts. But the United States has far higher health costs than any other advanced country, and very low taxes by international standards. If we could move even part way toward international norms on both these fronts, our budget problems would be solved.
So why can’t we do that? Because we have a powerful political movement in this country that screamed “death panels” in the face of modest efforts to use Medicare funds more effectively, and preferred to risk financial catastrophe rather than agree to even a penny in additional revenues.
The real question facing America, even in purely fiscal terms, isn’t whether we’ll trim a trillion here or a trillion there from deficits. It is whether the extremists now blocking any kind of responsible policy can be defeated and marginalized.
If you paid attention to what he actually said during the primary and the election, he was always a very conventional centrist. Progressives who flocked to his campaign basically deluded themselves, mistaking style for substance. I got huge flack for saying that at the time, but it was true, and events have borne it out.
Just to forestall the usual (or to try, anyway): no, we don’t know that Hillary would have been any better. And John Edwards turned out to be a worse person than one could have imagined. So I’m not trying to rerun the primary. I’m just pointing out that a lot of people were remarkably blind to the warning signs.
I had hoped that Obama would rise to the occasion, but he keeps not doing it. And no, I have no idea what progressives do in the near term.
When I was reading history in school, I always had a sort of smug sympathy for the people who went through the Great Depression. “Those poor bastards, good thing that can’t happen nowadays…”
The Republicans/Tea Party aren’t just pushing us towards a repeat, they’re binding us hand and foot, tying an anvil to us, and chucking us over the cliff. And the President seems unwilling to do anything but stand to the side and ask if perhaps they might consider using a smaller weight.