Austerity in Europe, Delusional Washington

July 24, 2011

Mark Steyn, as usual, is must-read material:

As Obama made plain in his threat to Gran’ma last week that the August checks might not go out, funding nonproductivity is now the principal purpose of the modern state.

27 Responses to “Austerity in Europe, Delusional Washington”

  1. Snoodickle Says:

    Isn’t Obama pushing for a four trillion dollar reduction package with Boehner? It’s ironic you used delusional in the title.

  2. You didn’t read Steyn’s piece, did you?

    Anyway you’re behind on the news: A couple of weeks ago, President Obama was “reportedly seeking deficit cuts of $4 trillion over the next decade which would be about a one-third cut in the cumulative deficits.” (Note that even if that were true, (1) that’s not $4 trillion in spending cuts, it’s $4 trillion in total “deficit cuts”, a weaselly way of saying spending cuts and tax increases combined; (2) that’s not real, immediate cuts—or even “cuts”—it’s hypothetical cuts that could be phased in, or repealed, over the next ten years; and (3) that’s not even close to eliminating the deficit, even over a ten-year window—“about a one-third cut in the cumulative deficits.”)

    As of Friday, negotiations between President Obama and Speaker Boehner are over. Now that they are, we know more of the details of what was being proposed: President Obama was offering “$1 trillion-plus in discretionary spending cuts; $650 billion in unspecified cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security; and $1.2 trillion in increased tax revenue”. That doesn’t even add up to $4 trillion, and it’s still not any real spending cuts right now; it’s unspecified cuts to be enacted in the hypothetical future.

    Meanwhile credit-rating agencies imply that reducing the deficit by $4 trillion over the next ten years (with a “credible plan”—not just pretending to support hypothetical future spending cuts) is probably the minimum we have to do to avoid losing America’s AAA credit rating. That article notes that “that also depends on a healthy pace of economic growth,” which means (again, at a minimum) not raising taxes right now. As someone has observed, “The last thing you want to do is raise taxes in the middle of a recession . . . .”

  3. Snoodickle Says:

    I actually did read it. All two paragraphs of it.

    So you do admit that President Obama was trying to do something about the deficit, even if you disagree with the way he was doing it?

  4. Snoodickle Says:

    The format confused me though, and I may have missed other pages.

  5. It’s more like fifteen paragraphs long, but I’ll agree that that Orange County Register page is a little bit confusing. (It divides the piece into four pages. You have to scroll down past the ads to continue reading.) I think the layout was at least slightly different when I first linked to it. Anyway you can read the same piece in a clearer format (though still divided into two pages, and you still have to scroll past ads) on National Review Online. “Delusional Washington” was Steyn’s phrase, in the last sentence of the piece.

    I’m not sure what to say about the president’s efforts. I want to say that he’s at least “trying” to do “something” about the deficit, but I’m afraid I’m more inclined to say that he’s behaving pretty much exactly as he and congressional Democrats have been doing all year: He and they still haven’t actually proposed any real plan (i.e., anything detailed enough to be called a “plan”—something more than vague generalities), they’re still fighting tooth and nail against every real plan that has been proposed, and his main idea all along (to the extent that he has proposed anything) has been, and still is, raising taxes in a recession—a terrible idea, not according to crazy right-wing ideologues, but according to President Obama himself in 2009.

    In short, as I said before, it appears to me that the Democrats have been “totally unserious about dealing with Washington’s spending problem and the national debt.”

  6. Snoodickle Says:

    Again, putting aside whether raising taxes on the wealthy would be a bad thing during the recession (President Obama was referring primarily to ordinary Americans, even though he may have said “anyone”), how can you say the Democrats are unserious about the debt when they tried to let Bush tax cuts expire, which would have cut into the deficit considerably? It doesn’t even make sense.

    • Tevyeh Says:

      “how can you say the Democrats are unserious about the debt when they tried to let Bush tax cuts expire, which would have cut into the deficit considerably?”

      Correction: Democrats tried to let the Bush tax cuts expire *for the top bracket.* There was never any serious discussion of letting the low to middle brackets go back to pre-Bush levels.

      Anyway, by my own back-of-the-envelope calculations (using static assumptions), allowing the top bracket to go back to 39.6% would bring in an additional $50 Billion/yr. That’s less than 4% of this year’s budget deficit.

      Don’t get me wrong, 4% is a significant amount. (Economics is a science of the margins.) However, I think it’s fair to say that this additional revenue would be inadequate to get the federal government back on track for medium-to-long-term solvency.

  7. Snoodickle Says:

    “The contours of Mr. Boehner’s backup plan were not entirely clear, but it seemed likely to take the form of a two-step process, with about $1 trillion in cuts, an amount the Republicans said was sufficient to clear the way for a debt limit increase through year’s end. That would be followed by future cuts guided by a new legislative commission that would consider a broader range of trims, program overhauls and revenue increases.”

    One trillion in cuts? Revenue increases? Hypothetical future cuts determined by an undetermined legislative commission?

    O wait, that’s the Republican leader’s plan. Ha!

  8. Nice try. Boehner and the House Republicans already passed an actual bill last week, which puts them way ahead of the president if you want to compare seriousness. Now that the Senate has “tabled” the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act, Speaker Boehner is again taking the initiative in proposing a (relatively specific) plan B. Based on your description, it sounds like $1 trillion in immediate spending cuts plus the “to be determined” cuts—and even for those, Boehner is apparently designing and publicly proposing a specific mechanism for going about them (the legislative commission, which, from what I’ve heard, is already more specifically planned than your description), which (does it go without saying?) is much better than saying “there will be cuts” and reading the number “four trillion dollars”.

    If you want to play gotcha games, I should also point out that you failed to link to (or cite, or give any indication of) your source.

    As to your and the Democrats’ obsession with raising taxes, go back and reread the last section of that entry from my blog that I linked to in my previous comment (here it is again), in which I get into some of the math on how far tax increases would go toward closing the deficit.

    • Tevyeh Says:

      There was nothing “serious” about Cut, Cap, and Balance. I hope “Plan B” turns out to be more realistic. I’m far too jaded by the GOP to be optimistic at this point.

    • Do you mean politically serious or policy serious? Politically, it passed the House by a huge margin and was tabled in the Senate only 51 to 46. Policy-wise, I understand that there were arguments (even just among conservatives) for and against it, but on balance, based on what I heard, I thought it was a good idea; in any case, it seems unfair to call it unserious as policy.

    • Snoodickle Says:

      Now we’re cooking!

  9. Snoodickle Says:

    I agree with Tevyeh in so far that even if Cut Cap and Balance passed the House and almost passed the Senate, it was nowhere near the 2/3 needed for the constitutional amendment, so it really wasn’t that politically serious.

  10. Or that’s the genius of Cut, Cap, and Balance: The bill (the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act) only needed a simple majority in each house (and the president’s signature) to pass. If it had passed the Senate as well as the House, that would have created pressure for the president to sign it, and if he had done so and it had become law, that would have created additional pressure for both houses to pass the constitutional amendment, because it would be either that or miss the August 2nd deadline.

    • Snoodickle Says:

      Even if both Houses passed the amendment, 3/4 of the states would still have to ratify it. That process takes years sometimes.

  11. Sure, but the debt ceiling would have been raised as soon as Congress passed the amendment and sent it to the states.

  12. Snoodickle Says:

    Here’s a brain teaser. What if we passed an amendment stating that there can be no more constitutional amendments? Any attempt to repeal such amendment would be unconstitutional, would it not?

  13. I suppose so. Why do you ask? You might as well ask what would happen if we passed an amendment repealing the Constitution.

  14. Snoodickle Says:

    Yes, but you could repeal that amendment unless it had a provision making it unrepealable.

  15. Snoodickle Says:

    To follow up on your question, the only provision in the Constitution that is untouchable is equal suffrage in the Senate. Thus, if the entire Constitution were repealed, the Senate would transform into the epicenter of the federal government, and America would come to resemble the Roman Republic. However, the Supremacy Clause would be repealed as well, so it wouldn’t be clear what effect laws passed by the newly aggrandized Senate would have vis a vis state law. The states could not dissolve the Senate, though, and a power struggle would ensue.

    I should write a novel about this.

  16. Snoodickle Says:

    You’re the one who won’t admit that Rush Limbaugh is racist. Basically, you have endorsed his racist comments.

    • Snoodickle Says:

      Will you denounce these comments? Or will you continue to support this man? And if you do continue to support him, what conclusions should we draw about your views on race?

    • Have you ever listened to Rush Limbaugh? I listen to his show pretty often. It seems clear to me that he’s not a racist.

      To be blunt, your evidence to the contrary is at best sloppy and ignorant, and at worst malicious and lying:

      The list you link to links to its “source” for each of the ten “quotes”, but sometimes the “source” is nothing more than another Web site’s “bare assertion” that Limbaugh said it. Several of the quotes aren’t racist at all until Newsone reads racism into them, including one (re buses) in which Newsone’s source is another Newsone page, which makes it clear that this list is taking the quote out of context and that Limbaugh was in fact criticizing the position Newsone is accusing him of taking. The list repeats the ignorant criticism of Limbaugh’s “Barack the Magic Negro” parody song that has been repeated by other liberals (including you, in conversations with me in person), which was, again, Limbaugh’s criticism of a liberal’s use of the term “magic negro”.’s research indicates that other items in your list (e.g., the “12%” one) were never said, while Limbaugh has publicly repented of the “bone” remark. That appears to be the worst that he’s ever said—and it was thirty to forty years ago, and he has said that he is sorry.

      This reminds one of the time in 2009 when the news media circulated other false quotes attributed to Limbaugh (e.g., saying that slavery “had its merits” etc.). The particular quotes, having been exposed as indefensibly and unambiguously false, have been abandoned, but apparently the general tactic, smearing him as racist, is alive and well.

      The fact that you’re willing to convict this man of racism on such poor evidence—and to convict conservatism generally, on no more evidence (while the bizarre things to come out of prominent liberals’ mouths, even just in the last five years, prove nothing)—again, I think that’s pretty low.

      • Tevyeh Says:

        “…which was, again, Limbaugh’s criticism of a liberal’s use of the term ‘magic negro’.”

        But the liberal in question is the Reverend Al Sharpton, who is also black. Ergo, such critical satire is necessarily racist.

  17. Snoodickle Says:

    Need I say it?

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