Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Galbraith's Battle Cry

Here is a bit from an interesting article in The New Republic by James K. Galbraith arguing that the debate of deficits & debts is a ploy to achieve the dream of the right wing: destroy entitlements in order to provide yet more tax cuts for the ultra-rich:
This is not a moment to describe policies that would, for example, create jobs, build infrastructure, or deal with energy or climate change. Nothing like that can happen now until ideas change. And the first change must be to challenge and reject all the nonsense about long-term budget deficits, national bankruptcy or insolvency, and even “fiscal responsibility” that we are hearing. The entire object of this propaganda campaign is to cripple government—including regulation and the courts—and to roll back Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The defense of those successful, effective—and yes, sustainable—programs just became far more difficult, and perhaps impossible. But it needs to be carried on to the last ditch.
And here is a bit where he points out that the political left, under Obama, has shot itself in its foot by playing the deficits & debt game with the political right:
The other force is the political liberals who were desperate to get a short-term stimulus package through Congress two years ago and who were therefore prepared to concede the case for “long-term deficit reduction.” What that case is—crowding out? Inflation? High long-term interest rates?—they rarely, if ever, say, because none of those things is remotely plausible given the 9 percent unemployment, debt-deflation, and rock-bottom long-term interest rates we see now. But having made the concession, mainly for political and rhetorical balance, they are trapped. Paul Krugman is a key example; as recently as August 6, he wrote on his blog:
America does have a long-run fiscal problem, driven by the combination of rising health costs, an aging population, and the unwillingness to raise taxes to pay for the programs we already have. If we don’t come to grips with that problem, bad things will happen.
Notice two things here: First, Krugman doesn’t say what the “bad things” are. Second, he does not mention the interest rate and never discusses what happens to the debt/GDP ratio if rates stay put. (Answer: It stabilizes eventually and nothing else happens, as I have shown in a paper linked here.) And thus he lends his great weight to the pressure that will build, later this year, for the cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid that were deferred in August—and which Krugman surely opposes.
The article is worth a read.

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