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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

 
Want to curb the deficit? Then go over the cliff already

by David Atkins

It's been said before, but not often enough: you'll know the true deficit hawks if they eagerly choose to go over the "fiscal cliff" rather than cut a deal to protect tax cuts or spending. That's what has been most surreal about this entire charade: the fact that for all the preaching and hand-wringing, neither side actually seems very concerned about the deficit at all. Jonathan Bernstein lays it out:

Tea partiers have, The Post’s Jerry Markon reports, largely stayed out of the debate about the fiscal cliff. Markon gets several passive, fatalist comments from various leaders of tea party organizations, mostly to the effect that the whole issue is hopeless.

Well, I suppose. But what is missing from this article is any sense of the main context: Anyone who really wants deficit reduction immediately — as tea party activists have claimed since they got started — should support plunging over the fiscal cliff as fast as possible. No other possible outcome could do more for reducing federal budget deficits than simply carrying out the policies due to take effect in the next several days.

So: Do tea party leaders actually care about deficits? Is deficit talk all just a cover for a traditional (over the last 30 years at least) Republican insistence on low tax rates for rich people, regardless of what actually happens to the deficit? Do they have no idea what they’re talking about at all, and are lost when it comes to actual policy choices instead of easy slogans?
I think there are various answers to this question. Some truly are concerned about deficits, but also believe despite all evidence in their cult-like faith that trickle-down economics is the only path to economic salvation. Others are simply Norquistian snakes in the grass, using deficits as a temporally convenient excuse, only present during Democratic Administrations, for drowning the government in the bathtub. Most others are simply led around by the nose by the conservative media establishment, obsessing over whatever Fox News and the latest conservative chain emails tell them to obsess over. That last group includes members of Congress. And then there's the final group: the cocktail circuit crowd sitting at the Kool Kids table along with their neoliberal Democratic friends across the aisle, all of whom know that "serious" people are really worried about deficits by definition.

In any case, none of them deserve the respect or attention they're given except insofar as they serve as obstructions and useful idiots of the wealthy in America.


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