The two parties are miles apart on how to cut the deficit and national debt: Republicans want to slash spending even more. Democrats want to raise revenue.
And then there are the other Democrats — the ones who reject the entire premise of the current high-stakes fiscal fight. There’s no short-term deficit problem, they say, and there isn’t even an urgent debt crisis that requires immediate attention.
Wonkblog has taken to using “austerity crisis” in place of “fiscal cliff.” They’re right: “fiscal” is not very specific, while “cliff” suggests a problem that happens all at once.
The reality is a crisis that unfolds over time. And it’s caused not by our fiscal policy in general but by something very specific: a severe austerity package actively imposed by Congress the last couple times it kicked the can down the road.
And as we saw then, there are really two questions at hand: when to reduce the deficit and how. The latter is a relatively straightforward partisan standoff. The former has become rhetorically rather bizarre.
Per usual, Ross Douthat is in this post occasionally wise but often infuriating:
It’s useful to think of Obama’s stimulus bill and Walker’s budget repair bill as mirror image exercises in legislative shock and awe, and the Tea Party and the Wisconsin labor protests as mirror images of backlash.
Amid a fragile economic recovery, it shouldn't be hard for Congress to pass things like extensions of the payroll-tax holiday and unemployment benefits. But it is, not because these measures are themselves controversial--they aren't, or at least not very--but because the Congress is mostly broken, rendered dysfunctional by the perverse incentives of electoral politics.
The new poverty numbers came out today, and they aren't pretty.
The Census Bureau reports that more than 15 percent of Americans
are living in poverty--a number that's gone up for three consecutive years and
is the highest it's been since 1959.
"In these tough times, Americans are tightening their belts—and their
government needs to do the same." This bipartisan applause line is pithy, full of populist empathy and easy to
understand. It's also exactly wrong.
The big political news this week is yesterday's deal
between the White House and Republican leaders: in exchange for extending the
Bush tax cuts for two years and relaxing the estate tax, Obama got a 13-month
extension of unemployment benefits, a one-year payroll tax decrease and some
additional tax c
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