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Tilting at Windmills

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March 8, 2009

DAVID BROOKS GETS SHRILL.... Just yesterday I argued that respectable figures of the political establishment are reluctant to call obvious stupidity "stupid," especially when it comes to truly painful ideas like a spending freeze in the midst of the economic crisis.

To his credit, the NYT's David Brooks said on ABC's "This Week" today what many are of his colleagues have been unwilling to say.

Describing Republican leaders, Brooks said, "The problem with them and the problem with Limbaugh in terms of intellectual philosophy is they are stuck with Reagan. They are stuck with the idea that government is always the problem. A lot of Republicans up in Capitol Hill right now are calling for a spending freeze in a middle of a recession/depression. That is insane. But they are thinking the way they thought in 1982, if we can only think that way again, that is just insane."

On this, Brooks couldn't be more correct. But what I'm especially impressed with is his willingness, in this case, to lay it on the line. There's no sugar-coating -- what Republican leaders are proposing is "insane." There's no defense for such madness, and Brooks did the audience a service by saying so.

At the risk of sounding picky, I'd just add one small caveat, though. GOP lawmakers are "stuck with Reagan" and a pre-recession mindset; this much is obvious. But what occasionally bears repeating is that they don't even remember Reagan especially well. Reality may be blasphemous in some Republican circles but the inconvenient truth is Reagan raised taxes. He raised them several times. The conservative Republicans -- with Gingrich and the WSJ editorial page, I mean that literally -- who are whining incessantly about President Obama's proposed tax increases on the wealthy are the same ones who complained bitterly about Reagan's tax increases in 1982.

Brooks is right; conservative Republican lawmakers want desperately to turn back the clock to how they perceive the 1980s. But they're not only wrong about today's economy, they're not even getting the '80s right.

They were wrong about Reagan's tax increases. They were wrong about Clinton's tax increases. They were wrong about Bush's tax cuts. And now, they're wrong again about Obama's tax policy while simultaneously pushing "insane" ideas.

If they could just let the grown-ups talk for a while, we'd all be better off.

Steve Benen 2:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (50)

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Comments

This is the equivalent of the stopped clock being correct twice a day.

Posted by: CParis on March 8, 2009 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

I hope Brooks doesn't have to apologize to Limbaugh.

Also, the economic conditions when Reagan took office might have been bad, but they are very different than what they are today (home mortages at 18% interest, for example).

Posted by: qwerty on March 8, 2009 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

I shudder to think what my car looks like this morning, since I parked outside and pigs have obviously taken wing.

Posted by: Realist on March 8, 2009 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Retraction from Brooks begins in, how many seconds?

Posted by: berttheclock on March 8, 2009 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

republicans are stuck in their 90s attack mode. It has nothing to do with Reagan and everything to do with power. They think if they keep up the same old attacks they will regain a monopoly on power like they did beginning with the Congress in 1994.

Posted by: CDW on March 8, 2009 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Ironically, Reagan exploited rosy but false memories of the "good old days" in his 1980's rhetoric.

It's a consistent pattern with "conservatives" - yearning to return to a past that never existed.

Posted by: Okie on March 8, 2009 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

On this, Brooks couldn't be more correct.

After hearing him say "that is insane," I went for my remote to turn up the volume. Hearing him finish I had the same thought (above) as Mr. Benen. If not for my coffee almost going up my nose, I would have thought I was dreaming.

Posted by: Capt Kirk on March 8, 2009 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, I'm looking for Chris Wallace to come along any minute and explain that Brooksy really didn't mean Republicans are insane. And reiterate that Rush Limbaugh didn't really say he wanted Obama to fail.

With so many misunderstandings going on, it's lucky we have Chris around.

Posted by: Capt Kirk on March 8, 2009 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Brooks is far from my favorite pundit, and he is once again trying to straddle the divide as some sort of faux moderate. I doubt he will have to kiss Lush's fat ass, though, because Brooks travels in an entirely different elitist circle, one where Lush would suffocate because the oxygen is in such short supply. The ditto-heads don't read the NYT or watch PBS.

Posted by: rich on March 8, 2009 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

it's simply human nature to want to go back to a time viewed as a success. the reagan era was the one time in my life time when conservatism was seen on the rise. besides, who else do the republicans have? bush i and ii? nixon? ford?

hit's also human nature to view that era with rose-colored glasses; conservatives see that time in the way some baby boomers view the 60s. its simple nostalgia. of course nothing is ever the same. and that's the problem. especially when you're looking at a guy who was elected nearly 30 years ago as a role model to solve today's problems.

as for newt, his time has come and gone. his only success politically was as an insurgent and even there, he has a mixed track record at best.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on March 8, 2009 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Everything looks better (or worse) in hindsight and humans tend to romanticize things. "If only we could return to the "Ozzie & Harriet" days of the 50s", etc. People must be constantly reminded of reality.

Posted by: Me on March 8, 2009 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Brooks:
I did not say "insane." Check the tape! Oh, I did?

Well, what I said is not what I meant. So, I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to Rush. My words and thoughts were insensitive and wrong.

Do I want to apologize to the Republican leadership?

Hell no! Steele, Boner, and Cantor can kiss my ass! They're the ones who got us into this mess by not listening to Rush, and not being conservative enough in this center-right country.

Posted by: Winkandanod on March 8, 2009 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

This is a sign of one of three things:

1: brooks is a master of selling the conventional wisdom of a certain brand of beltway insiders as his own idea. So this could be a harbringer of frustration in those ranks.

2: brooks has a terminal disease and is trying to make amends before he meets his maker (I certainly hope, for his sake, this isn't it)

3: brooks was kidnapped by benevolent aliens and replaced with a cyborg that actually possesses brains.

So either one or three is equally likely.

Posted by: Northzax on March 8, 2009 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Those who cannot remember history are condemned to repeat it. Republicans figure, if they can misremember the Reagan years, maybe they can repeat their political successes from those years.

It's sort of logical, isn't it?

Posted by: dr2chase on March 8, 2009 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Freeing the Republican Party

No there won't be a retraction from Brooks. He knows the age of Palin-Jindal has come and gone...

And it is fairly obvious from his last few columns that he is setting himself up as the spokesman of a new party of moderates. And why not? Someone has got to step up and fill the void.

As a model, I suggest Brook and Sullivan take a look at Germany's Free Democratic Party. Listen to this paragraph from a recent NYTimes article on GM's fate (The Opel) in Germany:

Mrs. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, while still leading polls, has hemorrhaged support to the Free Democratic Party, the small business-friendly but socially liberal grouping that she hopes will help form a viable coalition in the next government

A business-friendly party with a socially liberal bent sounds utterly sane. The times demand it. I suspect, the smart money will end up there sooner or later. As there is no future in trying to deny gay people their rights. That's Loserville.

Lastly, it is also fairly obvious our future is dependent on a pro-active government. The collapse of the world's economy and it's sinking confidence is psychologically linked with the crisis of global warming. Really, the only question now is: How do we use Big Government wisely?

All debate must begin there...

Posted by: koreyel on March 8, 2009 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

Add to Brooks' remarks the Newt on Stephanopoulos effectively calling Rush "irrational" & RNC Chair Michael Steele calling the Republican party "an elephant mired in its own muck" (today's Times) & you have a party whose own leaders are calling each other "irrational," "insane," and full of it.

I can relate.

The Constant Weader at www.RealityChex.com

Posted by: Marie Burns on March 8, 2009 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote:

On this, Brooks couldn't be more correct. But what I'm especially impressed with is his willingness, in this case, to lay it on the line. There's no sugar-coating -- what Republican leaders are proposing is "insane."

Brooks couldn't be more wrong, nor could you.

What the Republicans are proposing is not "insane". It is dishonest.

The Republicans are advocating the same policies that they have advocated for a generation, because those policies have a track record of proven success at enriching and empowering their rich and powerful white-collar crook corporate cronies and financial backers at the expense of the American people.

That is the Republican Party's agenda, plain and simple. If the goal is to enrich the rich to the detriment of everyone else, their proposals are not "insane" at all. On the contrary, they are tried, tested, and proven effective at achieving that goal.

Obviously, the Republican Party cannot openly assert that agenda, because it would make it clear to the American people that the Republican Party is no longer a legitimate political party, but an organized crime enterprise masquerading as a political party, whose goal is to use the power of government for corrupt purposes of private financial gain.

So, the Republicans lie. They misprepresent their proposals, e.g. more huge tax cuts for the rich and the elimination of any government spending that benefits the middle class or working class, as "solutions" to problems for which they are not a solution at all.

They are not "insane". They are liars, frauds, phonies and crooks.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 8, 2009 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

I think SecularAnimist is on to something, there. The Republicans certainly aren't interested in actually governing anything and haven't been for a very long time.

Posted by: Curmudgeon on March 8, 2009 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

the Free Democratic Party, the small business-friendly but socially liberal grouping

please, Sir, can I have one here?

Oh, we do? And they are called PROGRESSIVES?

Posted by: DAY on March 8, 2009 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

I think what Republicans are doing is outrageous as well, but it is not insane. Republicans are enjoying the irresponsibility that goes with irrelevancy. They are not rolling up their sleeves to help us solve this crisis because they don't have to. What they can do instead is work overtime creating the counter-narrative and conditions that will benefit them should public opinion turn against Democrats because the recession remains stubbornly in control. Their idea of freezing spending IS nuts objectively at a time when demand has collapsed, but if the recession goes on for months it gives them the plausible talking point that the recession was CAUSED by too much government spending. But to be a plausible alternative Republicans must remain uniformly, even unanimously, against all government spending, which is where the hazy memory of the Reagan years helps their cause.

It matters very little that the idea this recession is caused by government over-spending is objectively false. All that matters is that it is politically plausible. And that is how we should view ALL Republican actions from here on out. Their only objective is creating the conditions, the pretexts and the storylines that will get them back into power should a desperate nation suddently start scrambling for new ideas, even whacky ones, to end this economic suffering.

Posted by: Ted Frier on March 8, 2009 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

I wish all the politicians who think that government is the problem would prove that they really mean it, by resigning and getting out of the government.

I'm tired of people who have government provided first class health care telling me I don't "need" health care.

Posted by: Stuart on March 8, 2009 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Brooks is right but he will be ignored, as Limbaugh's audience don't read the NYT or watch the shows he appears on. What is striking is the lack of anyone from the GOP's congressional delegations with any stature or authority to assert some leadership in the party. Gingrich (Gingrich!), by contrast, is still treated by the media like a great guru, and apparently DeLay is trying to get back into the game. So there's a great vacuum there, which is what allows Limbaugh to flourish.

Posted by: davidp on March 8, 2009 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

David Brooks is an elitist fuckhead.

Posted by: ed on March 8, 2009 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

Also, Reagan tried at least to get cap gains in line with other rates, to broaden the base. Also, the argument of Reaganauts back then was to lower the rates some, to trade off against cutting loopholes and the like. But today's Republihacks would love to lower rates and keep loopholes so their donors actually pay about half of the nominal rates (and remember this when a Galtard complains he or she pays X in taxes based on the base rate ....) Heh, I'm just now reminded of conservative simpletons saying, Presidents don't raise taxes or make budgets (Constitution, but it's not followed in practice) depending on whether it advantages their argument at the time or not.)

Brooks: It is very important for him to have said the ReRushlickin's plans are "insane" - he can get away with it, he will be on the panels and not left out like Glenn Greenwald (the sharpest IMHO, David Sirota for example is good too but gets too fussed up or something, like Olbermann.) Well, he doesn't really GAWI since Rush will tear into him again. Rush: Republicans' favorite dope.

Posted by: Neil B ♪ ♫ on March 8, 2009 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

David Brooks is well-educated and well-spoken, but he sold his soul to Conservative ideals decades ago. It's nice that he's enough of a realist that he can say "the sky is falling" when the sky is falling, but it's not evidence of a conversion, and he'll be right back down there kissing Conservative ass the moment a viable candidate appears.

Posted by: Mark on March 8, 2009 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

People can be wrong and still not be insane. Insanity is a medical condition, famous for being used by dictatorships to punish dissidents. I don't think the term should be used in a political context in a democracy, especially in terms of something as complex as economics in which no one has all the answers.

Posted by: Dale on March 8, 2009 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

Chris Wallace!? Did his old man ever explain WTF happened?

Posted by: Neil B ☺ on March 8, 2009 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

“Conservatism” is not a set of national policies that is why it is so ill-suited to national goals- if by “national” we mean “promote the general welfare”. It is a set of radical policies for maximizing wealth accumulation and nothing else. Conservatives sell their policies, as they must in a democracy, as lifting all boats but in truth conservatism concentrates wealth in the hands of a few. Everything else, including moral crusades and jingoistic nationalism, is just a little sugar to help the medicine go down. Wealth concentration is the only real goal the conservatives have achieved after 40 years of political dominance.

Posted by: bellumregio on March 8, 2009 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

"Reality may be blasphemous in some Republican circles but the inconvenient truth is Reagan raised taxes. He raised them several times."

SEVEN TIMES is a lot more than "several times":

* In 1982, just months after their tax rate cuts failed dismally, Reagan signed into law two major tax increases. The 'Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act' and the 'Highway Revenue Act'. According to the Treasury Department, TEFRA alone raised taxes by almost 1 percent of GDP, making it the largest peacetime tax increase in American history.

* In 1983, Reagan signed legislation raising the Social Security tax rate.

* In 1984, Reagan signed another big tax increase in the 'Deficit Reduction Act'.

* In 1985, Reagan signed the 'Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act' which raised taxes again.

* Even the 'Tax Reform Act' of 1986, which was spun as being revenue-neutral, contained a net tax increase.

* In 1987, Reagan signed the 'Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act' which raised taxes still more.

Posted by: Joe Friday on March 8, 2009 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

" But they're not only wrong about today's economy, they're not even getting the '80s right."

That's today's GOP. By god, if they're going to be wrong, they're going to be wrong together. Every.last. damn. one of them.

Posted by: palinoscopy on March 8, 2009 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

tax increases cause recessions (1929, 1936), except for when they don't (1982, 1993). Budget surpluses cause recessions (1929, 1936 again) except for when they don't (2000).

Tax cuts cause economic growth (1961), except for when they don't (1981, 2001). Increasing budget deficits increases growth (1933, 1961, 2009?) except for when they don't (2001.)

Like the laws of supply and demand (price increases cause demand decreases unless demand is inelastic), these economic laws are not that hard to understand.

Posted by: marketeer on March 8, 2009 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

When I think of the relationship between tax rates and tax revenue, I think of a curve; at some point, lowering taxes may bring more revenue, but after that, no mas. And it's situational.

Conservative rhetoric and policy has devolved to a non-situational generalization. You have a 45 degree angle, showing that tax cuts mean more tax revenue, growth, ponies, god knows what else.

In theory it would be easy to get across that this notion of tax cuts' utility is not in line with any economist. But our discourse and journalism is so feeble that the distinction between "under some circumstances a tax cut may help" and "tax cuts always help" cannot be made. Indeed, if a sensible person admits to the former, he/she might as well have said the latter, in the current climate.

Posted by: CRA on March 8, 2009 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

Huh? But in any case, we have to look at the prior tax rates and not just blubber about "cutting taxes" - in most of these cases where the result was "good", the rate was already very high. So it's like going from 70% to 50 or 50 to 40, and yeah that can help since it's on the far end of the Laffer hump. But what we notice from looking at the graph downblog ("Soaking ...") is that Hoover reduced top rates way down to favorite conservative levels (25%) and then the Crash happened - it prompted bubble speculation, no wonder.

Posted by: Neil B ◙ on March 8, 2009 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

Mrs. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, while still leading polls, has hemorrhaged support to the Free Democratic Party, the small business-friendly but socially liberal grouping that she hopes will help form a viable coalition in the next government

A business-friendly party with a socially liberal bent sounds utterly sane. The times demand it. I suspect, the smart money will end up there sooner or later. As there is no future in trying to deny gay people their rights. That's Loserville.

I don't know if that could be achieved here in the U.S., as I doubt Germany has any region similar to the American South, where cultural issues trump everything (a major reason that part of the country lags behind the rest of America in culture, education and income). It is the center of the current Republican party -- and unlike the days of the Democratic "sold South," the GOP has no other area to serve as a counterpoint, as the Democrats did with their urban machines. It's going to be increasingly difficult for Republicans to reinvent themselves as the nation becomes even more multicultural.

Posted by: Vincent on March 8, 2009 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

Don't overdo this.

You're making it sound as if every tax increase ever was a good thing. That is stupid and insane, too.

When the economy is suffering, and there's little real cash to go around, don't pretend that there is no reason to cut the least essential spending. There is such a thing as healthy belt-tightening.

One more thing on Reagan: If you're claiming now that Reagan raised all those taxes and that was good, don't claim tomorrow that Reagan only cut taxes and that was bad.

I didn't agree with Reagan much on social policy, but he did get a few things right. For one, that Social Security tax increase actually did some good for Social Security. No one since Reagan has done anything to help.

And 26 years ago today, Reagan called the Soviet Union the "evil empire." That speech against a "nuclear freeze" led to nuclear arms reductions in 1987 and the end of the Soviet Union in 1991. Well done.

Posted by: Frank Warner on March 8, 2009 at 9:25 PM | PERMALINK

marketeer,

" tax increases cause recessions (1929, 1936)"

Taxes were CUT prior to the Great Depression starting in '29.

The GDP in '36 was over 10%. No recession.


"except for when they don't (1982, 1993)"

Except, there WAS a recession in '82, but not in '93.

The tax increases in '93 were on the Rich & Corporate, whereas those in '82 were not.


"Budget surpluses cause recessions (1929, 1936 again)"

Again, no recession in '36.


"except for when they don't (2000)."

No recession in 2000 either.


"Tax cuts cause economic growth (1961)"

Wrong on both counts.

The tax rate cuts were in '64, and GDP plummeted over a cliff, dropping from 10.1% down to 1.4%.


"except for when they don't (1981, 2001)"

Correct.

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while


"Increasing budget deficits increases growth (1933, 1961, 2009?) except for when they don't (2001.)"

The declining revenue after '64 coincided with declining economic growth.

Perfect example of WHY one does deficit spending making a difference in the result.

Posted by: Joe Friday on March 8, 2009 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

Frank,

"You're making it sound as if every tax increase ever was a good thing."

I think the point was that cutting tax rates has NEVER been a "good thing".


"When the economy is suffering, and there's little real cash to go around, don't pretend that there is no reason to cut the least essential spending. There is such a thing as healthy belt-tightening."

That would be anti-stimulative. The LAST thing you want to do in a recession is cut spending.


"One more thing on Reagan: If you're claiming now that Reagan raised all those taxes and that was good, don't claim tomorrow that Reagan only cut taxes and that was bad."

Actually, he only had to raise taxes after cutting tax rates turned out to be such a miserable disaster.


"I didn't agree with Reagan much on social policy, but he did get a few things right. For one, that Social Security tax increase actually did some good for Social Security."

Nevermind he chose THE most regressive manner to do it.


"No one since Reagan has done anything to help."

Help what ?

Social Security is more financially sound today than it has been throughout most of its 72-year history.


"And 26 years ago today, Reagan called the Soviet Union the 'evil empire.' That speech against a 'nuclear freeze' led to nuclear arms reductions in 1987 and the end of the Soviet Union in 1991. Well done."

I'm afraid not.

According to the CIA, Soviet military spending began to decline dramatically prior to Reagan setting foot in the White House, and it was Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev that unilaterally informed Reagan that "We are no longer your enemy", and it was he that ended the Soviet Union.

Posted by: Joe Friday on March 8, 2009 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

wsj publishes an article in defense of Obama:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123655553728965955.html

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on March 8, 2009 at 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans are like a company trying to make money, but they're not willing to really provide good services or a product people want, so they just go to the ad agency and beg them for better words and images.

They are, as many of us said during the campaign, completely bankrupt. Naturally they identify with the Rich who are a little less rich these days.

Posted by: MarkH on March 8, 2009 at 10:37 PM | PERMALINK

Joe, you are so wrong about Social Security it's sad. I know it's an article of Democratic faith to say there's no crisis, but your faith will soon be tested. In four years, you'll discover there's nothing in the fund to make up for the shortage of tax dollars for Social Security benefits. Nothing.

Reagan did negotiate history's first-ever reduction in nuclear arsenals.

And a lot of things contributed to the Soviet Union's fall, among them Reagan's resolve, Reagans support for Afghans after the Soviet invasion, three years of accidentally quick Soviet leadership changes (the deaths of Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko disrupted bureaucratic loyalties) and the courage of democrat Boris Yeltsin.

Gorbachev was part of introducing the reforms. But he still says he had no intention of ending the Soviet Union.

Posted by: Frank Warner on March 8, 2009 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

Frank,

"In four years, you'll discover there's nothing in the fund to make up for the shortage of tax dollars for Social Security benefits. Nothing."

Gibberish.

Go here:

TRUST FUND ASSETS

Click on the "GO" button in the bottom left-hand corner.

You're gonna feel foolish.


"And a lot of things contributed to the Soviet Union's fall, among them Reagan's resolve"

Sorry, it was all over before he set foot in the White House.

Posted by: Joe Friday on March 8, 2009 at 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you for demonstrating the fundamental dishonesty behind efforts to 'fix' Social Security. The Social Security Trust Fund has enough funds to pay full benefits for over 30 years based on mid-range economic forecasts and current tax/benefit rates would be able to pay about 75% of scheduled benefits after the trust fund is exhausted.

We only have a crisis if the government is not going to honor the I.O.Us in the trust fund. Since the entire purpose of the FICA tax increase in the 1983 was to build that trust fund, then either there is no immediate crisis or else Ronald Reagan and Alan Greenspan were the prime architects of the greatest act of theft in the history of the U.S.

Personally, I prefer to think the government will redeem the U.S. Treasury securities held by Social Security Trust Fund. Btw, Social Security payments aren't expected to exceed the revenue from FICA taxes for 8 more years, not 4.

As for Reagan and the USSR, support for the Afghan resistance started under Carter, not Reagan and the Soviet Union's fall was ultimately due to economic problems that had nothing to due with Ronald Reagan despite ongoing attempts by conservatives to claim otherwise.

Posted by: tanstaafl on March 9, 2009 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK

btw, my post was a response to Frank Warner. Joe Friday's post didn't show up on my pc until long after the the posting time shown.

Posted by: tanstaafl on March 9, 2009 at 1:31 AM | PERMALINK

In four years, you'll discover there's nothing in the fund to make up for the shortage of tax dollars for Social Security benefits. Nothing.

Social Security would be fine if we hadn't drained it to pay for our excellent adventure in Iraq. Do you generally blame the victims of embezzlement for being crime victims, or is SS a special case?

Posted by: Mnemosyne on March 9, 2009 at 1:54 AM | PERMALINK

There are so many thinking-in-the-box assumptions here. Are we in a recession, or merely conventionally bankrupt from public and private profligacy?

If the problem is being in debt over your head, is the answer really to borrow enormous sums of money and vastly increase your spending? If so, about the only "investment" that will pay off sufficiently to get out of the hole is a good lottery ticket.

Posted by: Luther on March 9, 2009 at 1:56 AM | PERMALINK

"And 26 years ago today, Reagan called the Soviet Union the 'evil empire.' That speech against a 'nuclear freeze' led to nuclear arms reductions in 1987 and the end of the Soviet Union in 1991. Well done."

Oy. Where to begin? About the only aspect of the Soviet Union's demise that one can credit to Reagan is that he did cultivate a strong personal relationship with Mikhail Gorbachev that allowed the Soviet leader to pursue reforms without feeling that the US would exploit the USSR's weak economic and political position to start an all-out war. George H.W. Bush's and Jim Baker's even-keeled foreign policy in the late 80's and early 90's did more in my opinion than Reagan's jingoistic blustering to bring about a peaceful transition to democracy in the Baltics and Eastern Bloc countries that ultimately toppled to Soviet Union. The "Evil Empire" speech? Please. It's like saying the Gettysburg Address won the Civil War.

Posted by: jonas on March 9, 2009 at 2:25 AM | PERMALINK

Are we in a recession, or merely conventionally bankrupt from public and private profligacy?

A distinction without a difference considering how inured we are to the profligacy, at least five decades worth.

Our material standard of living was and is unsustainable. Now we're beginning to pay the piper.

When your riding a wave made entirely of the foam of bubbles upon bubbles, the only direction to go is down. The direction isn't the question. The velocity (or even the acceleration) is the question.

Posted by: lobbygow on March 9, 2009 at 2:30 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, and on the Social Security debate: Joe Friday is basically right -- there's no "crisis" in Social Security that can't be fixed down the road with either a small increase in payroll taxes and/or slightly raising the retirement age, and maybe means-testing at the high end. The real entitlement problem is Medicare, because health care costs are currently rising at such a fast pace that within a few short years costs are going to quickly outstrip our ability to cover them without massive tax increases or massive reductions in coverage. Say goodbye to grandma's drugs, hip replacement surgery and nursing home care! Neither is tenable, so there's option 3: a single payer health care system that controls costs in the long term and provides a basic level of coverage to everybody paid for by a modest tax increase and the savings that would come from not spending nearly twice as much money per capita on health care as every other industrialized nation on earth. That's not entirely painless in the short term, of course, but it's better than the catastrophe we're currently headed for.

Posted by: jonas on March 9, 2009 at 2:39 AM | PERMALINK

The Republicans aren't trying to take us back to the '80s -- they're shooting directly for the late '20s.

Posted by: SquareState on March 9, 2009 at 2:57 AM | PERMALINK

Is there a 'crisis' in Social Security?

"We only have a crisis if the government is not going to honor the I.O.Us in the trust fund."

This has been the point that rethugs have been making for years now, that the government should NOT honor the bonds that they created in the 'trust fund'. American workers have been 'overpaying' into the trust fund since the Reagan-Greenspan 'solution'.

With the exception of a few years of the Clinton Rethug-Lite administration, the politicians have been spending that 'surplus'. During the Bush Criminal Enterprise years, they spent that money on tax cuts for the wealthy. The wealthy will fight to keep from being taxed to repay that debt to retirees.

The rethugs & their corporate media echo chamber will carry forward the battle to make sure that there is a crisis, because we (the U.S.) cannot 'afford' to pay those bonds.

As a 60 year old who has lost over half of his retirement savings in the last year, maybe you can understand why I am angry! That the corporately owned politicians of both parties are willing to discuss economic solutions based upon raising the retirement age, cutting retirement benefits, and raising payroll taxes just plain pisses me off. Of course, raising the cutoff level for paying into the trust fund is 'off the table'.

Posted by: AngryOldVet on March 9, 2009 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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