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Austerity Forever! The Mind-Boggling Stupidity of Our Debt Debate

No matter how the "fiscal cliff" is resolved, "entitlement reform" will still remain Washington's favorite solution.


With various Republicans making headlines recently for suddenly, shockingly appearing open to considering small tax hikes on wealthy people, it can seem sometimes that some fundamental shift has just transpired in the national political conversation surrounding the national debt and government spending. I assure you, that is not remotely the case.

Joe Scarborough, America’s blogger,  made a very good point in his The Politico blog, the other day: While Barack Obama did promise to raise taxes on rich people, and then he won the election, Republicans should continue refusing to raise taxes on rich people because they also won elections.

It may be the case that millions more Americans voted for Barack Obama than Mitt Romney. It may also be true that Americans voted for a significantly more liberal (and still Democratically controll) Senate. And some crazy people have been pointing out that more people nationwide voted for Democrats to represent them in the House than for Republicans. And, sure, the thing Obama has been promising to do since 2008 — when he also won the election by lots of votes — is raise taxes on rich people. But Americans will totally understand if Republicans refuse to do this thing everyone wants to do.

The President’s intentions on tax hikes could not have been clearer on the campaign trail. But would Americans be outraged at Republicans if they insisted that revenue be raised by closing tax loopholes and hiking rates on capital gains? I doubt it. That’s one reason Republicans should not meekly fall in line to raise marginal tax rates during this lame duck session.

Basic cable television talk show host Joe Scarborough is our foremost expert on what the American people think and feel.

Also, Republicans don’t want to raise tax rates on capital gains, what the hell is wrong with you, Joe. If they wanted to do that they’d also be open to slightly raising the top marginal tax rate to Clinton-era levels. And then they’d be Democrats. LiberalDemocrats. Then Joe says, “there is more than one way to raise a trillion dollars in taxes,” which is I guess true, though all of those ways involve “raising a trillion dollars in taxes” and that happens to be the crux of the argument right now.

But by the following morning, Morning Joe had basically forgotten his “let’s cut loopholes and raise the capital gains tax rate” solution in favor of a much more comfortable old favorite, “asking old people to work longer and accept less in return.”

He was joined in this by TIME columnist Joe Klein, a Beltway press liberal, which is to say a man whose opinions are precisely the same as those of Joe Scarborough.


Two key lines from their conversation:

Does Barack Obama have a “mandate”? Joe Klein: “I think moderation has a mandate.”
Joe Scarborough: “He might have a mandate for moderation.”

“Moderation” in this context means cutting Medicare, the most popular government program in American history. QED, etc.

Cutting (or “reforming”) Medicare in response to a pseudo-crisis invented by Congress would be an effective way to prove that liberal conspiracists are correct when they claim that all deficit hysteria is merely an excuse to roll back social insurance programs.

But then we’re always surrounded by that proof. The many CEOs currently receiving glowing press attention for their patriotic decision to start a “deficit reduction panel” all agree that  now is a good time to cut Medicare, and while we’re at it, we should probably also cut the corporate tax rate. Rich people deciding that deficit reduction should come from healthcare for old people rather than corporate profits is “bold thinking,” you see.

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