GOP: We’ve been lying all along

Oh my…is the Speaker of the House a bit upset with the tea-party faction of his caucus?

Salon

Boehner’s admission that we don’t really have a debt crisis reveals his party’s ulterior, program-cutting motives…

I never thought I’d write these words, but here goes: Thank you, John Boehner. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for finally admitting on national television that all the fiscal cliffs, sequestrations and budget battles you’ve created are, indeed, artificially fabricated by ideologues and self-interested politicians and not the result of some imminent crisis that’s out of our control.

America owes this debt of gratitude to Boehner after he finally came clean on yesterday’s edition of ABC’s “This Week” and admitted that “we do not have an immediate debt crisis.” (His admission was followed up by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who quickly echoed much the same sentiment on CBS’ “Face the Nation”).

In offering up such a stunningly honest admission, the GOP leader has put himself on record as agreeing with President Obama, who has previously acknowledged that demonstrable reality. But the big news here isn’t just about the politics of a Republican House speaker tacitly admitting they agree with a Democratic president. It is also about a bigger admission revealing the fact that the GOP’s fiscal alarmism is not merely some natural reaction to reality, but a calculated means to other ideological ends.

Before considering those ends, first remember that Boehner (like Obama) is correct on the facts.

As Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman has pointed out, “Even if we do run deficits, federal debt as a share of GDP will be substantially less than it was at the end of World War II” and “it will also be substantially less than, say, debt in several European countries in the mid- to late 1990s.” It is also lower than the 80 percent of GDP level that many economists say starts to put countries in a precarious position. Additionally, citing Congressional Budget Office data, the Center for American Progress notes that the long-term debt outlook is only dire because the projections simply assume without question that “future Congresses will enact huge new deficit-increasing tax cuts and spending hikes.”

“The debt outlook is bad (but) we’re not looking at something inconceivable, impossible to deal with,” writes Krugman. “We’re looking at debt levels that a number of advanced countries, the US included, have had in the past, and dealt with.”

So yes, we should start dealing with the long-term debt in a pragmatic and sober way, but we shouldn’t pretend it is some sort of imminent crisis worthy of draconian austerity measures.

If we could somehow do that, then there would be plenty of gradual steps that could be taken right now — steps that deal with the debt in measured ways that do the least harm to the overall economy. Those include starting to phase out the Bush tax cuts, which show no correlation with job growth and yet are the single largest driver of annual deficits; starting to reduce defense and war spending, which, job-creation-wise, is one of the least effective ways for the government to spend money; starting to move the United States toward the least costly, more efficient, and more effective single-payer healthcare system that most industrialized countries have, and that lowers overhead for employers; and starting to spend more money on social programs that fight economic inequality, with the understanding that driving down such inequality tends to boost macroeconomic growth and consequently boost public revenues (this is the Reagan-esque idea of growing one’s way out of debt).

But, of course, we aren’t having a sober and measured discussion about such pragmatic solutions. Instead, the national conversation about the budget is dominated by debt demagogues with ulterior motives. Taking a page out of the shock doctrine playbook that says every crisis is an opportunity, these alarmists have sought to create the perception of an immediate crisis in order to quickly manufacture opportunities to legislate their otherwise politically impossible agenda items.

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