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What do the Budget Thugs Trying to Gut the Safety Net Really Know About the Economy?

They say we have to cut Social Security and Medicare because they say so.

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The bursting of the bubble meant a loss in  annual demand of more than $1 trillion when the construction and consumption boom both collapsed. What exactly did the Debt Fixers think would replace this demand?

Did they think that firms would suddenly double their investment as they saw their markets collapse? Did they think that consumers would just spend like crazy even as their housing wealth vanished? If they have a theory as to how the economy could quickly replace the demand generated by the housing bubble without large government budget deficits, it would be great if they would share.

The reality is that the Debt Fixers and their allied economists and policy wonks saw none of the above. They were completely out to lunch in their understanding of the economy.

The Debt Fixers and their allies will have to explain for themselves how they managed to miss something as huge and important to the economy as the housing bubble. However, missing an $8 trillion housing bubble is not a small mistake. It is the sort of thing that, in other lines of work, gets you fired and sent looking for a new career.

What would Michelle Rhee, the hero of the "school reform" movement, do to a public school teacher if all of that teacher's students had huge drops in scores from the prior year? The economic experts among the Debt Fixers all fit this failed-teacher description.

This means that when we get a whole bunch of seemingly important and knowledgeable people telling us that we must cut Social Security and Medicare because the markets demand it, we have to remember that these are people who were just recently shown to be completely out to lunch in their economic judgment. If the Debt Fixers expect the country to take their pronouncements seriously, they should be forced to answer one simple question: when did you stop being wrong about the economy?

Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of "The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer" and the more recently published "Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of The Bubble Economy." He also has a blog, Beat the Press, where he discusses the media's coverage of economic issues.

 
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