Sunday, November 27, 2011

Slaying the Same Dragon Again and Again and Again

Here is poor Paul Krugman dealing with a zombie myth of the political right in America: that Obama has "expanded government":
... what I’m seeing in comments and reactions, once again, is the claim that Obama has presided over a vast expansion of government — a claim backed not by describing any specific programs, but by pointing to the share of federal spending in GDP. Indeed, federal spending rose from 19.6% of GDP in 2007 to 23.8% in 2010 (it was briefly 25 in 2009, but that was a number distorted by the financial bailouts). So there has been a roughly 4 points of GDP rise in the spending share. What’s that about?

Well, part of the answer is that the ratio is up because the denominator is down. According to CBO estimates, in fiscal 2010 the economy operated about 7 percent below potential. This means that even if what the government was doing hadn’t changed, the federal spending share of GDP would have risen by 1.4 percentage points.

Then, look inside the budget data (pdf), specifically at Table E-10. You’ll see a surge in spending on “income security”; that’s basically unemployment insurance, food stamps, and similar items. In other words, spending on safety-net programs is up because the economy is depressed, and more people are falling into the safety net.

You’ll also see a sharp rise in Medicaid; again, this is because the lousy economy has pushed more people into hardship, making them eligible for the program.

I’ve done a bit of number-crunching, and here’s my allocation of the sources of the rise in federal spending as a share of GDP:
Click to Enlarge

So a depressed economy plus safety net programs that have grown as a result of a depressed economy are, overwhelmingly, the real story here.

What’s in that “other” category? Some of it is stimulus spending. Some of it is the leading wave of the baby boomers, who are starting to collect Social Security and enter Medicare. Some of it is rising health care costs.

What isn’t there, no way, nohow, is a massive expansion of government, which is a figment of the right wing’s imagination.
When a political party keeps repeating a lie, it is proves a complete disregard for honesty and truth. Only the power mad would repeat a discredited view. They know that the informed will be outraged, but they count on the fact that most people eitehr haven't heard that it is a lie, forgotten that it is a lie, or don't care if it is a lie. In short, they are appealing the ignorance and cynicism of marginal people.

This is how "family values" politicians can be continually caught in affairs with prostitutes or exercising serial polygamy by marrying and divorcing wife after wife while professing a "deep respect" for the family. Or to have the gall that one Republican, Joe Walsh, has of refusing to pay his legally obligated child support while running on "family values". Or pulling the Newt Gingrich stunt of divorcing a wife dying of cancer so that he can marry a pretty young thing while claiming to "respect" family values. So much for the "until death do us part" commitment of a family values man.

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