Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Molting Season For Deficit Hawks

Resident New York Times altar boy Ross Douthat slunk into the confessional last weekend and pleasured himself with what he called some righteous journalistic flagellation. Now that Republicans are firmly entrenched in power, and now that the billionaires and corporations have been gifted with the permanent tax cuts costing the public at least a trillion dollars per decade, Douthat has nobly decided to apologize for being so wrong about his life-long crusade against Big Bad Government. It turns it's been a pretty damned Good Big Government  all along, working as it has for the benefit of the very rich at the expense of everyone else.

So in the interests of the sated (for now) alpha-raptors of the oligarchy and the mid-term appetites of the Reptilpublican Party, Douthat is dutifully retreating to the molting room for recovering deficit hawks. He's clinging to his John Maynard Keynes breviary as he recites the Confiteor and pretends to shed some of that self-righteous plumage of his.

Through My Squawk, Through My Squawk, Through My Most Grievous Squawk

Douthat used to pretend to be afraid of inflation. But now that the tax overhaul will inflate the wallets of the Forbes 400 to bursting, he no longer has the appetite for bullshit which has already served its purpose:
Instead, in hindsight the most important economic argument of the early Obama years was between two schools of thought that agreed we should put more money into the economy and only disagreed about how to do it — the Keynesians who wanted massive government spending and the market monetarists who favored looser monetary policy. Today, both sides of that debate look far better than the strict fiscal and monetary hawks, and the endless arguments about Bowles-Simpson look like an interesting exercise that did not deserve so much swarming attention from politicians and the press.
So far, so good. But then again,
 There are always real limits on what government spending or tax cuts can accomplish and how far they can go. A society only has so much productive capacity, dumb tax cuts can be hoarded and dumb spending used to enrich special interests or subsidize social pathology, and too much spending can eventually induce inflation.
Despite his self-flagellation with a few loose strands of al dente pasta, Douthat still cannot resist labeling the lower classes as a "social pathology," can he? He simply cannot flagellate to the extent of redirecting his knout at the real pathologies: the Pentagon and Wall Street, aka the Military-Industrial Complex.

My published response to his column:
This sounds suspiciously like a mea culpa of convenience. Now that the obscenely rich have been awarded their reverse Robin Hood of a tax cut, it's finally safe for the deficit hawks to admit that the austerity they've been shoving down our throats for the past decade and longer was nothing but a scam to enrich the oligarchs like they've never been enriched before.

Since this will be an election year, of course it behooves the GOP to pretend to embrace Keynes and modern monetary theory while the embracing's good... for them and their paymasters, that is. As long as they can fool enough of the people in their gerrymandered districts about their sudden devotion to Medicare and Social Security, they can bide their time until November, when the safety net slashings can re-commence with gleeful abandon.

 Ross gives the whole cynical game away when he implies that Social Security recipients "misspend" their paltry monthly checks, and furthermore, that this worker-funded insurance program be means-tested. Do you see too many old people selfishly eating three meals a day, Ross? Irresponsibly blowing their noses on three-ply tissue instead of two-ply? Wastefully setting their thermostats at 68 degrees instead of a more seemly 55? I really am curious about how you expect people just barely scraping by as it is to save cash.

If deficits really don't matter (and they don't) then I challenge Ross to support expanded Social Security and Medicare for All.
Now, just because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has sorely disappointed diehard deficit hawk Paul Ryan by vowing that Medicare and Social Security cuts will be off the table during this election year doesn't mean that vulnerable people still can't be punished in other creatively destructive ways.

That the leaders of both corporate political parties are getting together with the White House this week to wheel and deal and horse-trade and sausage-grind on the budget should be cause for great concern. Safety net cuts always work better when they're done in an opaque, bipartisan, accountability-free fashion. For example, the GOP might give an inch on DACA protections for young immigrants coupled with inhumane border crackdowns, while the Democrats might give a mile on more food stamp cuts and a major "reform" of the federal disability benefit system for the extremely poor. It always helps the oligarchic cause whenever they're forced to work in secret under an artificial deadline - in this case, the January 19th end to their bipartisan "continuing resolution" to keep the government open.

So while the deficit hawks might be in their merely temporary rest period, the molting of the Snakes in Suits will proceed at breakneck speed every day of the year. It has to. They are so engorged on their prey they have to keep shedding to grow all that shiny, scaly new skin and continue slithering around, searching for new victims to torture and kill. As usual, vast expenditures for perpetual war and the mass surveillance of citizens will not be subject to much, if any, debate.

In the serpentarium known as Congress, the Democrats are the baby boa constrictors, who lie around lethargically when they're not lovingly squeezing their victims - who, legend has it, "have nowhere else to go" - while they sleep. The Republicans are the friskier reptiles, puff adders and rattlesnakes who make a lot of show and noise as they sink their fangs into the body politic before they feed the bulk of the carcass to the King of All the Reptiles: the Corporocracy.

Lament at the Billionaire Zoo: "I Can't Believe I Ate the Whole Thing"

1 comment:

Kat said...

My statehouse is filled with these "work requirement" social safety net slashing folks,so I am hoping there is a Trump effect (meaning democrats prevail). The gubernatorial candidate that is casting himself as the Trumpian outsider that has made his fortune from a chain of nursing homes and other corporate welfare schemes (He's really rich) is sticking it to the man with right-to-work as one of his pet causes.