Thursday, May 20, 2010

OMG - There's a Deficit!

Remember when Michael Gerson was head cheerleader for the Bush Administration, before entering his permanent audition to be chief water carrier for the Republican Party? Looking back on those days, Gerson himself admitted "I am not generally a deficit hawk." As I previously commented,
No, a guy who was cheerleader in chief for a President who turned record budget surpluses into record deficits, refused any sensible tax policy, refused any sensible spending policy, and decided to deficit spend our way through an extraordinarily expensive war of choice (also supported by Gerson) is not a deficit hawk. (Meanwhile, that same President failed to notice or take action to prevent an alarming crisis in the nation's financial industry that has precipitated the need for massive stimulus spending and trillion dollar bailouts.)
As the political winds have shifted, Gerson has pretty much transformed himself into a full-fledged, fear mongering deficit hawk. So why not, after all, open his latest attack on the Obama Administration with a false statement?
The Obama administration's budget proposals would dramatically increase publicly held debt as a percentage of the economy over the next decade, eventually slowing economic growth, fueling inflation and making America more dependent on the kindness of creditors.
I'll be the first to admit that I don't like the size of our projected deficits, but that doesn't mean we should ignore the facts.

As you would expect from a Republican water carrier, there's only one plausible solution to the problem - slash spending on programs that benefit the middle class. Remember a month or two ago (was it even that long) when the Republicans were spouting off about how allowing a tax cut to expire is the same thing as a tax increase? How it is unacceptable under the tax pledge signed by most Republican Members of Congress to eliminate a tax break, even in the name of balancing the budget, if it raises he payer's marginal tax rate? Well, that's only when we're talking tax policies that benefit the rich, or corporate welfare.
This round [of deficit reduction] may require not only the means testing of Social Security and Medicare but also the reduction or elimination of middle-class entitlements such as the mortgage interest deduction and the employer health-care exclusion.
See? It's "different" because it's a "midle class entitlement", so like magic it's no longer a "tax increase" to eliminate tax deductions or credits. But outside of that context, tax increases mean doom, even if history suggests otherwise. Unless, of course, it's a VAT, something Gerson now endorses as the next best solution to slashing government spending (without regard for how that might impact the economy). I'll refer back to my skepticism that Republicans oppose a VAT. Like every other idea Gerson offers, it's gloriously regressive.

It is of course fascinating that the Republican Party marches in lockstep against malpractice reform, and against any notion of single payer or even a public option, while ignoring the fact that every western nation, even those with significantly better outcomes and typical levels of service, spends far less on health care per capita than the United States. It's almost enough to make you think they're not serious about reducing the deficit - that they have another agenda. (I'm not saying the agenda's not shared by the Democratic Party, which was instrumental, after all, in killing off even a public option, but can't we be honest about the fact that a majority of Members of Congress prioritize the elevation and protection of corporate profits above all other concerns?)

Strangely, despite his new found zeal to balance the budget at all costs, Gerson has forgotten to endorse cuts in spending in areas other than those that benefit the middle class and poor. Such as cuts in military spending, cuts in corporate welfare and agricultural subsidies.... Is it that he lacks the brains to recognize the potential for savings, or lacks the stomach to stand up to his party?

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