Republican leaders like to claim that the midterms gave them a mandate for sharp cuts in government spending. Some of us believe that the elections were less about spending than they were about persistent high unemployment, but whatever. The key point to understand is that while many voters say that they want lower spending, press the issue a bit further and it turns out that they only want to cut spending on other people.So the Republicans will destory the country for future generations so they can pretend that they "solved" the budget problem. This makes utterly clear their political hypocrisy. They will say or do anything to acquire or cling to power. They have no interest in the health of the country or a practical political program to ensure a healthy and strong country. They are political poseurs who will lie and cheat to get power. They will sell for the future to cling to power just one more day.
That’s the lesson from a new survey by the Pew Research Center, in which Americans were asked whether they favored higher or lower spending in a variety of areas. It turns out that they want more, not less, spending on most things, including education and Medicare. They’re evenly divided about spending on aid to the unemployed and — surprise — defense.
The only thing they clearly want to cut is foreign aid, which most Americans believe, wrongly, accounts for a large share of the federal budget.
Pew also asked people how they would like to see states close their budget deficits. Do they favor cuts in either education or health care, the main expenses states face? No. Do they favor tax increases? No. The only deficit-reduction measure with significant support was cuts in public-employee pensions — and even there the public was evenly divided.
The moral is clear. Republicans don’t have a mandate to cut spending; they have a mandate to repeal the laws of arithmetic.
How can voters be so ill informed? In their defense, bear in mind that they have jobs, children to raise, parents to take care of. They don’t have the time or the incentive to study the federal budget, let alone state budgets (which are by and large incomprehensible). So they rely on what they hear from seemingly authoritative figures.
And what they’ve been hearing ever since Ronald Reagan is that their hard-earned dollars are going to waste, paying for vast armies of useless bureaucrats (payroll is only 5 percent of federal spending) and welfare queens driving Cadillacs. How can we expect voters to appreciate fiscal reality when politicians consistently misrepresent that reality?
Which brings me back to the Republican dilemma. The new House majority promised to deliver $100 billion in spending cuts — and its members face the prospect of Tea Party primary challenges if they fail to deliver big cuts. Yet the public opposes cuts in programs it likes — and it likes almost everything. What’s a politician to do?
The answer, once you think about it, is obvious: sacrifice the future. Focus the cuts on programs whose benefits aren’t immediate; basically, eat America’s seed corn. There will be a huge price to pay, eventually — but for now, you can keep the base happy.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Eating Your Own Seed Corn
Paul Krugman writes a NY Times op-ed that lays bare the hypocrisy of the Republicans over budget cuts. Here's the key bit: