To understand how ridiculous the “serious” people are in Washington, and how broken our political debate is, let me draw your attention to the three biggest political stories of the day. Together, they make the clear case that all this so-called concern about the “deficit” is simply a justification the powerful use to attack the middle class.
Tax Cuts for the rich must be extended
We learn the Democrats and President Obama are likely going to fold to Republican demands and extend all the Bush tax cuts. A move that will cost the government hundreds of billions. From the Huffington Post, ”White House Gives In On Bush Tax Cuts”:
President Barack Obama’s top adviser suggested to The Huffington Post late Wednesday that the administration is ready to accept an across-the-board, temporary continuation of steep Bush-era tax cuts, including those for the wealthiest taxpayers.
That appears to be the only way, said David Axelrod, that middle-class taxpayers can keep their tax cuts, given the legislative and political realities facing Obama in the aftermath of last week’s electoral defeat.
[Note: Axelrod has tried to walk this back even though the White House has been signaling the cave in for a long time.]
Three more years of war
We also are hearing rumors Obama plans to spend hundreds of billions to keep troops in Afghanistan for several more years—because, for some reason, we need to prop up a deeply corrupt and unpopular government. From the New York Times, “U.S. Tweaks Message on Troops in Afghanistan”:
The Obama administration is increasingly emphasizing the idea that the United States will have forces in Afghanistan until at least the end of 2014, a change in tone aimed at persuading the Afghans and the Taliban that there will be no significant American troop withdrawals next summer.
In a move away from President Obama’s deadline of July 2011 for the start of an American drawdown from Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all cited 2014 this week as the key date for handing over the defense of Afghanistan to the Afghans themselves.
Ignore that other stuff because we must cut the middle class’s Social Security, Medicare and veteran’s benefits.
Finally while we are told by the “serious” people that we need to completely ignore those two massive expenditures, we are also told we must really consider Alan Simpson’s and Erskine Bowles’ plan to cut social security, Medicare, soldiers’ pay and veterans’ benefits to get “serious” about the deficit. From the New York Times Editorial page, ”Some Fiscal Reality”:
The draft proposal by the chairmen of President Obama’s deficit-reduction commission was a welcome antidote to the low-minded debate that dominated the midterm elections, in which politicians all vowed to reduce the deficit but offered no credible plans.
The proposal, released Wednesday, comes from Erskine Bowles, formerly the chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, and Alan Simpson, the former Republican senator from Wyoming. It frankly acknowledges what most politicians are too cowardly to admit — that deficit reduction will require shared sacrifice.
Always more money for everyone–except the middle class
There is always more money for extending a decade-long war without point or objective. There are always billions to pay for tax cuts for millionaires. But it is time we start asking regular Americans to sacrifice to reduce our deficit. The absurdity of our political debate would be funny if it weren’t so real, so painful, and so seemingly effective. Seriously.