Thursday, January 20, 2011

More Delusion

NY Times poll and commentary by David Leonhardt.

Roughly speaking, we think the deficit is a big problem, but it is always "their" fault. We believe the deficit can be fixed without raising taxes or cutting spending. We are profoundly delusional. When giving talks to community groups on health reform and health care costs audience comments always goes something like this. Taxes are too high. We have to reign in out of control health care spending. Then I talk through several options that could slow health care cost inflation and people hate them all.

One of the worst byproducts of our political culture today is that both parties are able to get away with saying 'we are not as bad as them.' This basic message worked well in 2008 and 2010. This keeps us from directly addressing the big problems like health care costs in a serious manner. We need to go beyond the Affordable Care Act, not have meaningless votes to repeal these first steps with no concrete proposals about what would be better. Conservatives answer 'tax cuts' regardless of the question. Progressives are late arrivers to the issue of the deficit, and this has let the conservatives get away with rank fiscal hypocrisy.

In the end, I think Progressives have more at stake on the deficit than do Conservatives, because Progressives believe that government does have a key role to play in modern life. Conservatives are happy to cut taxes but not spending and then say the inevitable deficit proves government doesn't work. Progressives must take up the cause of developing a long range balanced budget or else there will be no room for government action where it is needed in the years ahead. Hopefully the President will begin making the Progressive case for sensible deficit reduction in the State of the Union.


  1. The left are the only people in this country who will openly state that we need to raise taxes to increase revenue because cutting spending in NOT the only way to cut a deficit.

    The left are the only people in this country who opposed the Obama / GOP tax giveaway that increased the deficit another 700 bn.

    The left are the only people in this country who will cut Defense Dept., the only real way to cut Government spending since almost all other spending in popular and less than Defense even when you combine them (except Medicare / SS).

    The left are the only people in this country who wanted to cut out insurance companies which add at least 15-20% of medical costs (just to pay for the middle man getting between me and my doctor) and join the rest of the civilized world in single payer.

    The left are the only people in this country that want to stop Wall St from taking everything they can get the hands on.

    The left just needs to be listened to and stop being called traitors when they suggest these solutions.

    Oh, and it just wouldn't hurt if we showed backbone sometime!

  2. Pres Obama has a chance to lead us in what is right both in policy and political terms

  3. Both Democrats and Republicans have voted for the budgets that got us into the current deficit.

    For progressives, the first move should be obvious, to return military spending from its current level of 4.5% of GDP to around 3.0% of GDP (the bottom of the range in the 1990s). Next, close a third of our 700+ off-shore military bases (those outside the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters). Earmark the first dollars for any cost required to assist displaced military personnel. Decreasing military expenditure from 4.5% of GDP to 3.0% amounts to ~$250B/year, $2.5T over ten years.

    $250B will not balance the budget, but it would give us a great start. If tax receipts increase to 2007 levels, the deficit would then be in the low-$100Bs. This is still a problem but way below Bush-era deficits.

    Politically, this is feasible. The Clinton-era military performed as needed. Reducing military spending was Ron Paul's first budget priority, so the libertarian wing of the Tea Party could be an ally.

  4. The left are the only people who want to see us with a single-payer system that delivers mediocre health a 6 months wait for a simple MRI in Canada that happens the same day ordered here.

  5. U.S. Medicare is the largest single payer insurance system in North America. There are today about 45 Million U.S. Medicare beneficiaries and about 34 Million Canadians.

  6. Good job. We need more posts like this.