Posts Tagged 'Deficit reduction'

Whaddaya got?

I poured a glass of cheap wine, plunked myself on the couch and grabbed the clicker.  One of my favorite programs is the PBS NewsHour.  Jim Lehrer is the non-profit version of Dick Clark.  He goes on and on like the Energizer Bunny and his face displays but a few cute wrinkles probably acquired as a result of holding his breath while interviewing conservative neocons and America Firsters.

I was particularly amused on Wednesday when the program showcased John Cochrane of the University of Chicago who gleefully discredited the benefits of the Obama stimulus plan.  Not surprising since Professor Cochrane famously predicted the doom of the program when it was first announced.  Maintaining a perpetual silly smirk reminiscent of you-know-who, I wondered what his economics students must have to put up with.  Probably a proponent of the flat earth theory, the Professor holds sway on Chicago’s South Side by championing supply side economics in a manner that would make Ronnie Reagan proud.

One of the Professor’s more erudite statements was in response to Jeffrey Brown’s question of whether the stimulus might have helped stave off a second depression…I mean, the stimulus, in the end, is taking money from one place and giving it to another place. And it’s too easy to forget that you had to take money from somewhere in order to do any stimulating.  Pretty heady stuff.

Brown then asked Professor Cochrane whether any jobs might have been created or saved by the stimulus money…Well, it’s lovely to tout the benefits, but let’s not forget the costs.  Like any time the government spends money, it has to come from somewhere.  So, you get to see the jobs that the stimulus — I don’t want to say created, but the jobs supported by the stimulus. What you don’t see is every dollar of stimulus had to come from somewhere.  Thesis material indeed or at least fodder for a pop-quiz.

Sometimes though we are treated to folks who actually make sense.  Like Thursday when Judy Woodruff interviewed Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson.  I like Judy.  She asks simple questions and her facial expressions speak volumes.  The subject was the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.  Better known as “Cutting Costs and Collecting More Taxes”, Obama formed the non-binding commission when the Senate shied away from the opportunity in an election year.  But then every year seems like an election year.

I’m a fan of Alan Simpson.  The former three-term Republican senator from Wyoming mixes common sense and humor in a way that puts you in your place and you say “thank you sir, may I have more?”  The June 7, 1994, edition of the now-defunct supermarket tabloid Weekly World News reported that twelve U.S. Senators were aliens from other planets, including Simpson.  Those who argue that it’s downright unfair to give equal voting weight to an alien from a small state like Wyoming alongside big state senators, turn strangely quiet when Senator Simpson is mentioned.  Maybe they remember George Murphy, the song and dance man from California who tapped his toes for six years in the Senate before being defeated by John Tunney, the son of heavyweight boxing champ Gene Tunney.

Senator Simpson along with Bowles, a Democrat, are co-chairing the commission.  Bowles, a nice guy, was relatively quiet as Simpson took and held the spotlight.  WoodruffWell, some people, mainly Republicans right now, are arguing, what’s really needed are tax cuts, that, even if it raises the deficit in the short-term, that this would get government out of the way of business, business could grow, and the deficit will take care of itself.  SimpsonWell, I’m not smoking that same pipe.  Wise man.

The same program aired a clip of the Republican leadership reacting to news of the Commission.  Emerging en masse and in lock-step from a Capitol chamber, they were led by Senator McConnell and House Minority Leader  Boehner. They strode to the microphone.  Having escaped voluntary vetting by the Truth Squad and having conveniently forgotten that last year he had praised the commission idea as the best way to address the crisis, Mitch announced his opposition to the Commission on the grounds that it was loaded with Democrats and focused on tax increases.  This notwithstanding the fact that of the 18 members, 3 will be appointed by him, 3 by Boehner, and two more Republicans by Obama.  As befitting the current Washington mood of  “all for one and one for all”  at least 14 of the members have to agree on any recommendation.

At least these guys are consistent.  Having come up with a Republican plan that includes lying low, inciting the base and hoping for the worst, they refuse to see any good in any thing.  Like my friend Harry who said I don’t like so many things that I don’t know what I don’t like anymore, it’s enough that they just take sustenance, maintain their innocence and wait for November.

They’ve practiced this approach for so long that maybe they’re not devious obstructionists.  Maybe they don’t even know why they’re against anything anymore.  It reminds me of that scene from The Wild Ones.  The one where Brando’s asked what he’s rebelling against and he says, Whaddaya got?


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