If you’re really into competing blueprints for the federal budget—and we both know you are—then it’s an exciting week. The president released his 2014 budget request today, and for the first time in many years there are White House, House and Senate budgets all on the table at the same time. There are also two other proposals, one from the House’s right wing and one from its left. These great graphs from the Washington Post compare these five plans to one another and to current policy. Note than on the first metric, the ever-popular question of budget deficits, all five dip lower than current projections in just a couple years.
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.
In politics, competence sometimes serves as a rhetorical proxy for intent. Politicians like to talk about how terrific they/their ideas are. They aren’t always as gabby about what they/those ideas aim to accomplish. Example: privatization. Some conservatives insist that private enterprise is simply more efficient--more competent--than the government. So why not let the private sector take over certain public functions? But even if we concede that business is categorically more efficient than government, there remains the question of what it's doing so efficiently.
Redistributing wealth is what all public budgets do. The question is whether a given type of redistribution promotes justice and decency.
For the last couple years, congressional Republicans have often acted as if the only point of governing is to do less of it. Not so with the Senate minority leadership this week.
Among those of us who maintain that not everything the federal government does should be either privatized or eliminated, it's common to point out that income tax rates are a lot lower than they used to be, especially but not only for the rich.
Paul Ryan is using the deficit as an excuse to shrink the government via tax relief for the rich and program cuts that largely target the poor—while sparing military spending. That isn't courageous; it's simply wrong.