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January 22, 2013 / needhamgrassroots

Sorry, the Deficit ISN’T the Problem

deficit chicken hawkMost of the deficit scolds don’t really care about the deficit; it’s all really about using deficit fears to bully us into downsizing government and tearing down the safety net.

Consider the deficit-scold habit of hectoring President Obama for failing to endorse a balanced combination of deficit reduction through tax increases and spending cuts, despite the fact that this is exactly what he has endorsed, many times.

Why, you’d almost think that deficit-reduction doesn’t count if it comes from a Democrat.

From Paul Krugman’s Blog — Mark Thoma is puzzled: if Larry Summers is going to write a piece about how we’re obsessing too much about the deficit, why begin with two paragraphs about how the deficit is a big problem?

But there’s no mystery: that’s the INK disclaimer — I’m Not Krugman. It’s supposed to establish Larry’s bona fides as a Serious Person, appeasing the deficit scolds so that he can get on with the substance of his argument.

I wish him luck, but don’t think he’ll get far. For the deficit scolds are unappeasable.

If you believed that the scolds were just honest citizens concerned about America’s long-run prospects, you might also believe that a careful, rational argument about how those prospects are better served by investing more, not less, while the economy is depressed could win them over. But to hold such beliefs, you’d have to have been living in a cave, reading nothing but the Washington Post editorial page, for the past four years.

The reality, first, is that the deficit scolds — who are, after all, making a living by scolding — depend on constant warnings of imminent fiscal crisis to drum up interest. Saying that it’s a longer-term issue, and not our first priority right now, is not something they can afford to hear.

Moreover, most of the deficit scolds don’t really care about the deficit; it’s all really about using deficit fears to bully us into downsizing government and tearing down the safety net. Remember, three of the leading deficit-scold organizations gave Paul Ryan an award for fiscal responsibility even though anyone who understood numbers could see that his plans would actually increase the deficit; and David Walker endorsed Mitt Romney despite his budget-busting proposals on taxes and military spending.

Or consider the deficit-scold habit of hectoring President Obama for failing to endorse a balanced combination of deficit reduction through tax increases and spending cuts, despite the fact that this is exactly what he has endorsed, many times. Why, you’d almost think that deficit-reduction doesn’t count if it comes from a Democrat.

So Larry is trying to curry favor with a segment of respectable opinion that, as far as I can tell, doesn’t actually exist. OK, it’s a big country; there may be somebody out there who’s persuadable, maybe even someone inside the Beltway. Maybe that person and Larry can have lunch.

Paul Krugman, Unappeasable Scolds – NYTimes.com (1/22/2013) – http://s.shr.lc/143msJC

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