“All you have to do is just listen to what’s happening out there and you realize there is progress.” –O’Brien Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)
Rachel Maddow loves truth—so much, in fact, that she prefers to keep it as far away from her audience as she can, lest either get away from her. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy her style—she really does make intellectual laziness and systemic dishonesty look downright magical. I would even go so far as to say she reminds me of many a dear friend I made at and since Yale. But however fond I might be of her personally, her political analysis—and its tendency to represent the liberal consensus on “reality”—skews somewhere between malicious and unhinged. More importantly, it’s also very insightful.
In case I was not clear enough about this in my last post, the Left is not invested in spending reform. Just as President Obama has, with liberal enabling, enhanced and perpetuated the Bush approach to national security, the Democratic coalition has doubled down on Dick Cheney’s infamous riposte: “Deficits don’t matter.” To be sure, Republicans are not innocent in the matter of squandering a hard-won surplus, but George W. Bush is long gone, as is any fealty—at least on the right—to his spending agenda. (For what it’s worth, W would have squandered much less on the stimulus.) Put simply, the Right has learned from past mistakes.
Which brings us back to Maddow and the Democratic line: there are three essential truths about the budget crisis that you will not learn from her—or the President’s—latest post-election campaign of Orwellian doublethink. First, the federal debt is on track to exceed 100% of national GDP (i.e., the entire size of the U.S. economy) in the next decade. Second, escalating entitlement spending drives this debt above all else. Third, if that spending is not resolved, we’ll lean forward into inexorable ruin.
The annual deficit has exceeded $1 trillion for four years running. Barring sequester or balanced reform, the debt—already north of 70% of GDP—will escalate beyond reckoning. In the face of fiscal reality, the Maddow-approved Obama plan calls for $1.6 trillion in new revenue—up from $968 billion—over a decade and minor spending cuts that may very well be outmatched by another round of stimulus spending. If we pretend that these new taxes (and ObamaCare) will have no deleterious impact on the economy and will meet optimistic revenue projections, they will accrue enough money to offset a single year of deficit spending in about 6½ years (again, being optimistic). In the meantime, without significant cuts that pre-election Democrats agreed are necessary, our economy sails closer to Greece on an odyssey of war against “the rich” and Grover Norquist. (By the way, the Rising Tax Brigade may soon be coming for your 401(k).)
Of this Olympian catastrophe of a plan Maddow writes, “For the left, if there must be a focus on debt reduction, the White House proposal is the right way to do it.”
It is a terrifying world indeed when the President of the United States is aiming to govern by the playbook of MSNBC. But alas, here we are with the powers that tax (or want to) from the White House on down openly belittling the very legitimacy of reducing the deficit. The Left is not invested in spending reform. One could argue that some of them are deeply invested in defeating and breaking the GOP, but I imagine most wouldn’t put it that way.
Some have argued that Obama’s plan is primarily a bargaining position from which liberals expect to compromise. That may very well be true. But if nothing else, the nature of the starting line exposes the contours of the priorities in play. In opening with a proposal that fixates on tax hikes (with stimulus!) and hedges on cuts or any pretense of serious reform, Democrats are prioritizing raising taxes over anything else—budget balance, entitlement solvency, economic growth, etc. In other words, the President and his allies are negotiating as though these once-bipartisan goals—on which both sides ran for election—are merely concessions to be won by the other side rather than shared values to guide compromise. This is the crux of the whole problem.
Notwithstanding the unusually progressive essence of the U.S. tax system, Republicans agree that revenue ought to be included in any viable deal. Call it a major concession, if you like. But a “deal” that is heavy on hubris of spite and light on enduring solutions to underlying problems is not a deal; it is a sadistic game of chicken played by recalcitrant children against the faith and credit of the United States.
If the Democrats refuse to take spending cuts seriously with looming sequester, it would be asinine to expect them to change tune once all leverage has been conceded. Going over the fiscal cliff would be terrible, and the consensus holds that Republicans will be blamed for whatever happens. But if we don’t bear in mind that there are darker ships on the horizon, the Right will be as complicit as the Left in all the turmoil to come.
Balanced recession or unbalanced collapse: which would the President prefer we choose?