Wednesday, February 16. 2011
The main topic this week seems to be Obama's budget proposal, which is hugely disappointing in practically every way I can imagine. Yet the only way that directly matters is how it holds up against schemes even worse being bandied about by the House Republicans. As Andrew Leonard points out, even with last year's Democratic majorities Congress didn't actually wind up passing a budget, so the odds of that happening now are even slimmer. What Obama's presumably doing is staking out the ground he wants to argue over in the runup to the next election. Thus he wants to be able to point to lots of spending cuts. And while his budget arguably enables the Republicans to insist on deeper and more painful cuts, it's not like they're going to turn around and accuse him of counterstimulating the economy, since they've already locked themselves into that position.
Still, the whole debate as presently constituted is just disgusting. I've warned all along that it would be nothing short of insane to give the Republicans any perch of power in Washington, and we've already seen that prediction born out in the House. All I really have to say about it is I told you so, and I'm sure you'll be as sick of hearing it as I'll be of saying it two years from now. At this point, I don't even care if Obama's budget strategy works or not. I've never been an advocate of making things worse to get a better reaction, but if the American people are stupid enough to empower Republicans, they clearly need to be smashed around with a harder, sharper stick. I don't know how else to get through to people. (In retrospect, those of us who supported TARP made a mistake. Clearly now, we should have made sure that people realized that chasm wasn't just a colorful colloquialism. Instead, what we got was an even more concentrated banking system and nothing to help an economy that was, if you subtract the bubble of the financial system, already ailing.) Even if Obama does win the big budget cuts showdown on points, he's already sacrificed both principle and understanding to do so. Nothing good will come of it.
Meanwhile, some links that might have been interesting if we were actually in a situation where political policy mattered:
The Reich-Leonard flap about marginal tax rates is an example of one of those things we can't talk about because we have to stay focused inside the box, which is a place where we can't talk about taxing the rich.
You can't say that Boehner isn't completely insensitive about the employment effects of government spending cuts. He did, after all, keep the F-35 second engine scam in his budget, possibly because the GE plant that would make the engine is located in his district. That's just the sort of fatally compromisd message that fails to convince, as evidenced by the bipartisan House vote against the program. Also suggests that military spending isn't as sacrosanct as Obama seems to believe.