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Thursday, October 27, 2016

WASHINGTON — The policy mystery of our time is why politicians in the United States and across much of the democratic world are so obsessed with deficits when their primary mission ought to be bringing down high and debilitating rates of unemployment.

And since last week saw a cross-party celebration of the opening of George W. Bush’s presidential library, I’d add a second mystery: Why is it that conservative Republicans who freely cut taxes while backing two wars in the Bush years started preaching fire on deficits only after a Democrat entered the White House?

Here is a clue that helps unravel this whodunit: Many of the same conservatives who now say we have to cut Social Security to deal with the deficit supported Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security — even though the transition would have added another $1 trillion to the deficit. The one thing the two positions have in common is that Bush’s proposal would also have reduced guaranteed Social Security benefits.

In other words, deficits don’t really matter to many of the ideological conservatives shouting so loud about them now. Their central goal is to hack away at government.

This goes to the larger argument about jobs and deficits. For a brief time after the Great Recession hit, governments around the world, including President Obama’s administration, agreed that the immediate priority was restoring growth. Through deficit spending and other measures, the 20 leading economies agreed to pump about $5 trillion into the global economy.

Obama and Democrats in Congress enacted a substantial stimulus. The package should have been bigger, but Obama — thinking he would have another shot later at boosting the economy — kept its size down to win enough votes to get it through Congress.

The second chance didn’t come because conservatives stoked anti-government deficit mania — and never mind that the deficit ballooned because of the downturn itself, the stimulus needed to reverse it, and those fiscally improvident Bush-era decisions.

Then along came academic economists to bless the anti-deficit fever with the authority of spreadsheets. In a 2010 paper cited over and over by pro-austerity politicians, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff argued that when countries reached a debt level above 90 percent of their GDP, they almost always fell into slow growth or contraction.

  • tranz2deep

    BAG the “give us your money, you can’t keep it” neo-greeds masquerading as politicians of the United States government.
    These guys govern about as honestly as Paul Broun respects science!

  • I believe we should not spend money that we don’t have, but I also believe that when the public refuses to pay for the benefits they need and benefit from, and when the private sector is reluctant to invest at home because they can make an extra buck overseas, the only option to keep our country from falling behind and making jobs available for those who want to work is public sector investment.
    The private sector invests when they believe they are going to get a good return on investment. If a market is saturated, or they believe economic prospects are not conducive to high sales and profits, they simply invest elsewhere or stash their money in safe havens to minimize tax liabilities and benefit from better interest rates on deposits.
    We would have had full employment by now had it not been for the House rejecting desperately needed investment in infrastructure.

  • AlfredSonny

    When will the fat cats and their Republican puppets claim the responsibility of 15 fatalities in Waco by shrinking the OSHA budget by 85% that resulted less safety regulations?

    • latebloomingrandma

      Are Faux News and certain Senators in an uproar about the 15 lives lost as they were about the 4 in Benghazi? When will the hearings start about the lack of regulations or inspections?

      • Lynda Groom

        Don’t hold your breath. Their are unlikely to try and do anything that might piss off their corporate owners.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    What’s behind this GOP Austerity regime? Look no further than your richest Americans. All you have to do is read one issue of the NY Post to see the greed dripping from their mouths each time they speak. It’s the most disgusting, sickening elitism to hit the US in history. It’s sly, subtle, deceptive and as unconstitutional as it needs to get.

    The reality is that the GOP has taken total control of the government and ignore the results of our elections. The proof of this is how many times in the past 4 years they stuck their noses into legislation the people wanted and managed to sabotage passage. How many times have they attempted to create slush money to keep wealth growing all while they refuse to tax that wealth properly and under constitutional law? How many times have they stonewalled legislation to avoid a concession by the Corporate Socialists who benefit from the GOP stalling on passage of legislation when it favors labor and not corporations? Stalling is the tactic the GOP uses to insure that their crony capitalists remain the elite Americans and untouched by the same constitution the rest of us honor and obey. Instead of fining them when they are caught with their hands in the till, we must now demand they be thrown in jail. Corporations as the Supreme Court states are “people.” As such these “people” are not entitled to escape jail the rest of us are subject to.

    • first off, you read a left leaning paper. second, you belive what’s in it. GOP only controls the house. The senate shoots everything down they send. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in love with Washington, but put the blame where it belongs. Harry, and Nancy are the problem.

      • jackass1

        I think she read the New York Post [not left leaning]. Maybe the right wing congress could send the senate something they could vote on instead of Paul Ryans comic strip.

        • commserver

          NY Post is FOX., which is far from left leaning

      • I always thought the Senate sends it to Congress, not the way you stated. Plus, when was the last time the Tea Party Congress ever Voted on anything? When there are lots of Congressmen that have admitted they will destroy America because a Black man is president, on camera in front of reporters, its a fact you can not deny. Those are the ones that want America destroyed, not the free thinkers and the ones that hold hundreds of billions of dollars in offshore tax havens.

        • Allan Richardson

          Point of historical fact: The Constitution requires that bills for RAISING AND SPENDING money originate in the House, although nothing prevents the Senate from getting their own version “ready to go” while waiting for the House (nothing other than obstructive filibustering, that is). Too bad that, in the interest of efficiency, sometime in the 20th century (I am not sure when), it became politically fashionable to put ALL the spending into ONE big bill, which is offered by the White House and then sent to the House and Senate simultaneously to be chopped up into sausage.

      • Independent1

        Apparently, you don’t keep up to date with the news, if you did, you’d have known that Mitch McConnell has exercised the filibuster rule 401 times over the past 3 years to prevent any legislation from getting through the Senate. And of course, when the filibuster rule hasn’t been invoked, the House has passed the Senate a bill that is just stoked with all kinds of free gifts to corporations already making billions in profits and paying no income taxes. Given that in any given year, 300 of the Fortune 500 companies pay ZERO taxes, can you even dream of one reason why us taxpayers should be subsidizing these greedy vultures???

      • Well if the House sent something workable and not so far out that it is obscene, then maybe the Senate would take a look!!

        • Allan Richardson

          I agree. By the way, if you are related to William Ayers, watch out for some vitriolic attacks by someone known as Charles___Darwin.

      • Scott, wrong again. They are a small part of the problem. The main problem is 44 lock step voting Conservatives do not want anything done with Obama’s name on it. I do believe that we need another Majority Leader in the Senate. Nancy is not the problem in the House. The problem there is John Boehner knows not what to do with approximately 78 Tea Party Congressman. Hopefully in time we can help by weeding these trouble makers out and sending them home where they can do less damage.

      • I do put the blame where it belongs – with the Senate GOP. They filibuster everything that Harry Reid tries to pass. And as far as the House goes, every bill that they pass and send over to the Senate either attacks and/or is meant to destroy various social programs. They know when send it over to the Senate, that it will be dead on arrival.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    When you have the courage to put present GOP posturing into proper perspective, you see that they believe their party makes all the rules. A gang of 8? A Tea Party that’s the brain child of two Bircher Koch Billionaires? The GOP is no longer a political party. As Stockman so accurately stated…they are a gang. A gang imposing their will on people unconstitutionally. It’s only when you look at this under the spotlight of the Constitution you see just where the GOP agenda is headed. Totalitarianism.

  • labrown69

    Wall Street is still stealing faster than any economy can produce and while we had to vote Obama for our daughters and our LGBT friends, his administration has refused to address Wall St theft. Eric Holder belongs in prison. Obama had a clear chance to turn things around 5 years ago and as of yet he has not lifted a finger.

    • It can still be done, if the Do nothing Republicans are voted out of the Senate and Congress. If Obama suggest it, 100% assurance it will not be voted on in Congress. Period. That is the block aid, not Obama, remember that in 2014 when Congress and Senate Elections come. Cant fix everything in 7 months, and all the time he had to everything in. Since November 2009, the United States has been at War with Congress, not the President.

    • Independent1

      As spoken by a typical Republican with selective tunnel vision. I suppose the fact that the stock market has hit its highest level ever is an indication Obama hasn’t turned things around? Or the fact that there have been almost 4 years of postive job growth despite the fact that the GOP has sat on two of Obama’s jobs bills for over 2 years isn’t a sign he’s turned things around? Or that fact that for people who actually have the skills to do the new jobs being created (those with at least a bachelor’s degree) have an unemployment rate below 3.7% and that there are actually more than 3,000,000 unfilled jobs because Americans don’t have the skills to fill them, isn’t a sign he hasn’t turned things around? Or the fact that he’s actually cut deficit spending more than 1/2 a trillion/yr over the past 3 years at the fastest budget reduction rate in history (From the 1.6 trillion/yr deficit spending budget Bush passed him to the current less than 1 trillion deficit budget) isn’t a sign he’s turned things around? Or the fact that he followed through on his promis to get us out of Iraq and wind down the Afghan war, helping him reduce the actual size of government by almost 600,000 people isn’t a sign he’s turned things around? And by doing that has saved billions of wasted dollars on what were two totally unnecessary wars. Like I said in the beginning, you Republicans just have to stop keeping your heads in the sand and living with tunnel vision.

      • Allan Richardson

        I believe you are replying to someone (labrown69) who is concerned that this President is not liberal ENOUGH. In an ideal political environment I would agree. But since the perpetrators of the Great Recession totally control the House and have enough votes to tie the hands of the Senate, I can understand why the President is concentrating on what COULD be done first. If he had sent Eric Holder after Wall Street crooks, their defenders on the Hill would be screaming “socialist” even louder than they already do.

        • labrown69

          Independent 1 – Guess you don’t have to worry about that seeing has how 5 years into this administration Holder has refused to bring even one single indictment but they put some poor slob in jail for exaggerating his income on a loan application. Independent 1 does not understand what happened or that the stock market is a sucker’s market of corporations and day traders. The current stock market is not a reflection of a healthy economy but a tool of Wall St to manipulate the population. Millions of Americans are homeless because of Obama and Holder. Nonetheless, he is satisfied to bellyache about Bush. By the way, I am no Republican.

          • adriancrutch

            Bush is damn lucky to have any friends! Maybe convict-type? I’d call it the Cheney Administration!

        • labrown69

          Right wingers are screaming socialist anyway. Who cares? They are always screaming. The sad reality is Obama has given them and me something to scream about and that is the lawless atmosphere his administration has produced. Deregulation is one of many reasons I do not vote Republican but I thought the Democrats were the good guys. It aint so.

  • JDavidS

    The idea that we could be investing in infrastructure, which is in dire need of renewal, while putting tens of thousands of people back to work at a time of low interest rates is simply common sense. It really is a win-win-win situation. Sadly, we have the GOP preaching its’ austerity lunacy, and pseudo-economists lending credence to their arguments, and half-wits like Paul Ryan, a self-professed “numbers guy” leading the charge. What that moron fails to mention is that all of his numbers are wrong.
    It seems that the only time deficits matter to the RepubliCONS is when there is a Democrat in charge.

  • Mr. Dionne; How much money do we have to take, either by taxes of inflation, from earners and give to those who have not earned it, to buy prosperity?
    Dik Thurston
    Colorado Springs

    • Allan Richardson

      You are operating under the assumption that the people who have fortunes all EARNED them in a moral and ethical way. These people have already TAKEN away worker’s protections since 1980, and are planning to go further back toward 1929, or maybe 1899. Taxes are not just “taken from earners”, to some extent they are taken from legal thieves. And would not “those who have not earned it” have more if they had been paid fairly in the first place?

      We have a choice: either Kenyesian or Dickensian.

    • You are just a right-wing shill. What you are saying has little, if any, fact, and no moral justification. Yours is just a right-wing slogan. A chant for the value of robbing those that actually earn and create. Your kind just “harvests.” Your justifications are your own arrogance and self-importance. You deserve more, in your own mind, but likely give nothing in return.

    • charleo1

      Says, Dik Thurston Howell, the third.

  • amadwight

    Obama needs to veto this transportation bill while congress is out of town so they can get a taste of what they are doing to the rest of the country—-maybe they will start to work on all the problem instead of just what effects them now.

  • Lynda Groom

    Whining about the deficit is easy…working to help the jobless is hard. Simple and lets move on.

  • charleo1

    For Wall Street, “We’re in the money!” For Main Street, “Mister can you
    spare a dime?” If this keeps up, there’s going to be hell to pay. The only
    question is, which one will wind up picking up the tab?

  • The don’t care about spending. They don’t care about the size of the government, or the deficit or the debt.

    The real goal of deficit reduction is to widen the wealth gap between the rich and he rest. Congress and the President have been bribed by the .1% (via campaign contributions and promises of lucrative employment later) to cut benefits to the middle and lower classes, as a way to widen the gap.

    It is the gap that makes them rich. Without the gap, no one would be rich, and the wider the gap, the richer they are.

    It’s all about the gap.