Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Super Committee? Super Nonsense.

In an excellent--and balanced--article on the budget woes of the U.S. and what the much-vaunted Super Committee should do about such, Robert Samuelson succinctly sums up the fictions promulgated by the Right and the Left:
The conservatives’ fiction is: We can reduce deficits and cut taxes by eliminating “wasteful spending.” 
The liberals’ fiction is: We can subdue deficits and raise social spending by taxing “the rich” and shrinking the bloated Pentagon. 
You will notice one similarity. Both suggest that reducing deficits involves little real pain. No one, after all, favors “wasteful spending.” Similarly, taxing “the rich” doesn’t threaten most people who aren’t rich.
Even when politicians are screaming about cuts and taxes, the reality is that the supposed pain is being amplified to ridiculous proportions. Consider the recent debt ceiling "crisis" and the the deal that averted in and created the Super Committee. The admin and the Democrat leadership bemoaned the cuts that were forced upon them, pundits claimed that the tea party crowd had successfully held the nation hostage to get these massive cuts, and the polls showed a declining level of support for the tea party, as a direct consequence of the deal.

Even today, this fiction lives on. Consider this article by Brian Beutler at TPM. Supposedly an analysis of the Super Committee--but actually just another hit piece on conservatives--Mr. Beutler offers up this bit of phony history:
With that in mind, here’s a quick reminder of how we got here, and a guide for the days, weeks, and months ahead. 
The Super Committee exists because of Congressional Republicans’ decision to hold the nation’s debt ceiling hostage — a bid to force Democrats to agree to major budget cuts. In the end, they got half of what they wanted up front, but punted the second half — cuts to big-ticket items like Medicare and Social Security — to a new joint select committee on deficit reduction...
Note the repetition of the "hostage" meme. But more importantly, note the ridiculous claim: Republicans got half of the "major budget cuts" that they wanted. Half? Really? The truth is that the Deal resulted in miniscule budget cuts. In fact, the numbers show that with the deal in place, Federal outlays keep going up, year after year, just at a slightly lower rate. Here's a chart from the Cato Institute that shows how puny these cuts really were:

Assuming Beutler is right, that this represents half of the major budget cuts the Republicans wanted, what the hell are we arguing about? There's no cut in total spending, at all. And worse still, this is all predicated on future leaders not upping spending. In a word, it's meaningless. But we're supposed to accept that this deal was so painful, it could only be had a the point of a sword?

Now, the Super Committee is in the crosshairs (forgive my divisive language choice, please). And the spin being offered up is that--once again--those opposed to upping income tax rates on the rich and upping capital gains rates are the de facto bad guys, nevermind that the Super Committee is no more prepared to make meaningful cuts to spending than was Congress.

The whole thing is an exercise in futility.

Cheers, all.

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