Extreme In The Beltway

[C]razy, kooky, extreme actions are perpetrated by establishment centrists far more often than by marginalized libertarians. -Conor Friedersdorf

Conor Friedersdorf writes:

Forced to name the “craziest” policy favored by American politicians, I’d say the multibillion-dollar war on drugs, which no one thinks is winnable. Asked about the most “extreme,” I’d cite the invasion of Iraq, a war of choice that has cost many billions of dollars and countless innocent lives. The “kookiest” policy is arguably farm subsidies for corn, sugar, and tobacco—products that people ought to consume less, not more.

Friedersdorf is discussing the mindlessness of the Beltway, with its acceptance of the views of Very Serious People as non-kooky while pretending that Rand Paul's views are nuts. (To be clear, Paul's views are indeed nuts, imo. But they also are, for the most part, the views of the mainstream Republican Party.)

Perhaps the kookiest view pressed by the Very Serious People of the Beltway is the idea that we need to cut government spending in the midst of a jobs crisis and a stagnant economy on the precipice of a second recession dip. Meteor Blades explains:

Democrats have chopped more than 25 percent out of the jobs bill, which is actually an amalgam of economic relief measures. The objective: collect "moderate" votes from other Democrats needed to pass the legislation. There is no guarantee the cuts will achieve that objective, however.

[. . .] The reality is - as the continuing mess in Europe and today's disappointing gross domestic product numbers and new jobless benefit claims demonstrate - the recovery remains dicey. That means worries about deficit spending ought to be far down in Democratic thinking.

[. . .] It's not that huge amounts of deficit spending can go on forever. And nobody suggests they should. But the economy is far from healed. And while we obviously can expect little from Congress in the way of measures pushing long-term structural improvement in the economy - something that deals with stagnant wages and industrial policy - can't we at least get a bit more of what actually worked 17 months ago to keep us out of a depression? You know, from Democrats, the party of FDR? Instead of all this lame neoliberal caterwauling?

As a "neoliberal" myself, I think Meteor Blades misuses the word (it generally refers to trade policies). But his larger point holds true. The views of the "moderates" on this issue are simply lunacy. Now is not the time to cut government spending. Now is the time to INCREASE government spending to spur aggregate demand and push the economy into a sustainable recovery.

The lunatics of course are the Very Serious People in the Beltway. The SAME people who brought you the Iraq Debacle, the 2008 financial meltdown, the inadequate stimulus of of 2009, and many other idiotic policies.

As the man said, change is hard. But it would be nice if Democrats at least tried.

Speaking for me only

< Hearings Today on U.S. Drug Aid to Mexico | Thursday Morning Open Thread >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Krugman is throwing up his hands (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by andgarden on Thu May 27, 2010 at 11:55:51 AM EST
    He's been saying essentially the same thing on the economy for 2+ years, and nobody's listening to him.

    I'm not economics scholar, but his arguments make sense. Those of the budget cutters do not--except in the beltway.

    I could not agree more (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by ruffian on Thu May 27, 2010 at 11:59:23 AM EST
    As atrios said recently, it would be nice for once if the market that pols keep worrying about 'reassuring' was the labor market and not the stock market.

    Locally it is playing out as a Republican moratorium against accepting earmarks, all as a pre-election morality play. Earmark king Rep. John Mica says he has nothing against earmarks himself, but it is part of the strategy to take the house. I'm sure his jobless constituents appreciate that as FLs unemployment rate stays above 11pct.  Actually given the idiocy rate around here, they probably do think he is a fricking economic genius.


    So true (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by NYShooter on Thu May 27, 2010 at 12:35:54 PM EST
    "......the labor market and not the stock market."

    The stock market is up 200+ points this afternoon even though jobless claims and 1'st quarter growth were both worse than expected. Reason? China said some nice things about the future prospects for Europe.

    Wall St. & Main Street continue to go their separate ways. Financial news that affect the 99% of working folks brings yawns from Wall St, but a comment from China that affects the holdings of the other 1% send the markets to the moon.

    The problem is....it can't go on forever, and eventually, if Main St. doesn't recover. Wall St. comes tumbling down. But, as long as the Bank hucksters, egged on by the Administration (0% interest rates) get paid on short term results, Main St. problems aren't even on the agenda.


    A company announces massive (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by jondee on Thu May 27, 2010 at 02:11:27 PM EST
    lay-offs and it's stock price goes up; it's forced to comply with environmental regulations and it's stock price goes down..

    It's as amoral, hyper-materialistic, disconnected from reality and helpful to the long term well-being of the citizenry as anything dreamt up by Mao or Lenin.


    I see your .Friedersdorf.. (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Thu May 27, 2010 at 12:19:50 PM EST
    and raise you a Mark Twain:

    "The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them."

    H/T Colorado Pols

    This makes my heart sink (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by sj on Thu May 27, 2010 at 12:37:37 PM EST
    Even more disheartening are the comments at politico (which MB sources) which has commenters screaming for more cuts in spending and calling for deficit reduction.  No sense that it's our own foot they're shooting at, not the looters of our economy.

    Once again, the Republicans (mostly them anyway) (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by ruffian on Thu May 27, 2010 at 01:33:03 PM EST
    show how adept they are about playing on people's reptile brain fears. Most every 'man in the street' has a great fear of excessive debt, even as they rack it up themselves. Especially as they rack it up themselves. It is easy to convince them that deficits are the biggest problem.

    That's why better leadership would help to explain and prioritize those fears instead of going along with them.


    I don't think I'm buying that anymore (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by sj on Thu May 27, 2010 at 01:56:51 PM EST
    Once again, the Republicans (mostly them anyway)...

    This concession is to the Blue Dog Dems.  I know people don't want to hear it, but those folks would have been Republicans when I was growing up.  Republican radicals.  Although most of my neighbors were Republican they were far to the left of the Blue Dogs.  It boggles my mind.

    Maybe I do agree you on the "mostly them" thing.  Except that now for some reason "them" are in Democratic leadership positions.


    Maybe the clue is parenting styles (none / 0) (#9)
    by ruffian on Thu May 27, 2010 at 01:38:36 PM EST
    As a child, when you woke up at night screaming from a bad dream, did your parents pretend to kill the dreamed monster, or explain it to you? Which would have made you feel better?

    My dad was an explainer. 'Look, there are no spiders on your pillow.'


    Both sides are nuts! (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by coast on Thu May 27, 2010 at 02:03:24 PM EST
    Deficit hawks are nuts to think that you can cut spending in a recession.  While free spenders are nuts to think that deficits don't matter.  Meteor Blades statement that "Its not that huge amounts of deficit spending can go on forever.  And nobody suggest they should" is patently false.  The WH and CBO both project deficits thru the next decade.  With the deficit actually increasing toward the end.  Total projection adds another $4 to $6 TRILLION to the current deficit.  People have to face the fact that sure we may spend our way out of this mess now, but eventually you are going to have to tighten the purse strings.  And when that happens, its going to hurt.  Questions is, when do you do it?

    The answer to your question (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by lilburro on Thu May 27, 2010 at 04:32:54 PM EST
    Not now?  Pols paying lip service to the fact that we will eventually have to deal with the deficit is only distracting from the spending we should be doing IMO.

    The other, equally important question is (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by BackFromOhio on Thu May 27, 2010 at 07:18:00 PM EST
    how do you do it?  Amounts spent on self-defeating health insurance bill that does not put caps on insurance costs or permit purchasing of prescription drugs in Canada, amounts spent on the drug war, bailing out banks, etc. cost far more money that the main street relief bill some Dems tried to get through the house.

    The issue is values -- who is the government supposed to help, and what/who are priorities?


    M3 money supply is shrinking (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by cenobite on Thu May 27, 2010 at 03:28:39 PM EST
    US Money Supply Shrinks at Alarming Rate

    This is a warning of deflation -- the total amount of money in the economy is going down. Not only should the government be running a deficit, it should be running a bigger one, a much bigger one.

    The US government is sovereign in its own currency. It can run as big a deficit as it wants to without having to borrow a dime from bondholders, it's just a matter of changing account balances at the Fed.

    The true constraints on deficit spending are inflation or full employment. We're nowhere near either of those. Open the taps, open them now, or that depression they promised us just might happen.

    I'm Sure Its Just A Coincidence (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by john horse on Thu May 27, 2010 at 05:02:45 PM EST
    that the "Very Serious People in the Beltway" only seem to become concerned with deficits when Democrats are in the White House.

    I couldn't believe it when I read the following:

    Democrats have chopped more than 25 percent out of the jobs bill, which is actually an amalgam of economic relief measures.
     All this just to get the votes of a few "moderate" bluedog Democrats!  I wish someone would do the math. In order to get the support of the "moderate" Democrats how many people could be working today but aren't?  What is the average number of unemployed per "moderate" Democrat?

    Seriously (none / 0) (#17)
    by Rojas on Thu May 27, 2010 at 07:28:43 PM EST
    “We cannot sustain this [current] level of deficits and debt without losing our influence and being restrained in the three D’s,” Secretary Clinton said.

    A Country That Does Not Come Back Economically (none / 0) (#19)
    by john horse on Thu May 27, 2010 at 09:41:29 PM EST
    will lose its influence. Balancing the budget in the midst of a jobs crisis and while the country is in a serious economic recession is the worst thing you can do to get our country to recover.

    The problem with our economy is that there isn't enough aggregate demand.  What businesses and individuals do in hard times is cut back on their purchases.  While this may commendable on an individual basis, if everyone plays this game businesses will be worse off because now everyone is selling less because everyone is buying less.  So they lay off more people, business and individuals become more worried so they continue to purchase less, and the downward spiral continues unless the government steps in and starts spurring aggregate demand by increasing spending.  


    How much (none / 0) (#18)
    by reslez on Thu May 27, 2010 at 08:01:17 PM EST
    did they cut out of the Afghanistan spending bill?

    Never mind, I think I answered my own question.


    This is a leadership issue (2.00 / 1) (#20)
    by klassicheart on Fri May 28, 2010 at 12:17:30 AM EST
    and Obama is not a leader.  His press conference on the Gulf was further evidence of this, as is his handling of the entire oil disaster.  Why should anyone expect anything different on a jobs stimulus.
    He spent an entire year on health care and what  did we get?  Instead, his time should have been focused on jobs jobs jobs first first first.  The Very Serious People brought us Barack Obama....Leadership is critical and we haven't had it for a long long time.

    Change is especially hard... (none / 0) (#1)
    by Dadler on Thu May 27, 2010 at 11:53:19 AM EST
    ...when it's all you've got in your pockets, as in a few measly coins.  I'm endlessly amazed at the right, which acts as if money is somehow minted and guaranteed by the almighty and not the government.

    Majority position too taxing for Dems? (none / 0) (#5)
    by MO Blue on Thu May 27, 2010 at 12:29:19 PM EST
    They are doing everything in their power to regain their comfort zone in the minority. Question:

    Will the 300,000 teachers who lose their jobs vote for the party currently in power in November?

    Charlie Brown and the football (none / 0) (#21)
    by mmc9431 on Fri May 28, 2010 at 12:19:42 PM EST
    This same game plays out every time the Democrats gain power. Republicans gut the economy and sneer at the deficit.(Remember Cheney).

    As soon as they're out of power the drums start to bang for fiscal responsibility.

    When will the Democrats tire of the game? I still ask where all these fiscal conservatives were during the 8 yrs that GWB looted the national treasury and put us on the brink of depression? (Blue Dogs included).