The War on Arithmetic

Paul Krugman says the Republican Party has declared war on arithmetic. The Pledge to America promises to extend the Bush tax cuts and balance the federal budget by cutting everything but “common sense” exceptions for “seniors, veterans, and our troops.” Krugman interprets this to mean that Social Security, Medicare and the defense budget are not on the table, but we’ll return to this point later.

Anyway, Krugman continues,

Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has done the math. As he points out, the only way to balance the budget by 2020, while simultaneously (a) making the Bush tax cuts permanent and (b) protecting all the programs Republicans say they won’t cut, is to completely abolish the rest of the federal government: “No more national parks, no more Small Business Administration loans, no more export subsidies, no more N.I.H. No more Medicaid (one-third of its budget pays for long-term care for our parents and others with disabilities). No more child health or child nutrition programs. No more highway construction. No more homeland security. Oh, and no more Congress.”

For many years it’s been an article of faith among Wingnuts that if the feds could just cut out programs that assist the poor, plus other “frills” like the Department of Education and the National Council on the Arts, that the budget would balance. In reality, except for Social Security and Medicare, cutting all the programs wingnuts don’t like would barely scratch the surface of the deficit.

As Steve Benen says, Republicans “believe they have a policy agenda because they published a document they call a ‘policy agenda.’ … They find pesky details like arithmetic to be annoying distractions.”

And, of course to today’s Republicans a “policy agenda” is just a prop, a stack of paper to add gravitas to their dog-and-pony act du jour. And the point is to help them win elections. Krugman continues,

And what happens once the movement achieves the power it seeks? The answer, presumably, is that it turns to its real, not-so-secret agenda, which mainly involves privatizing and dismantling Medicare and Social Security.

That, and turning the keys to government over to their corporate sponsors.

Even the editorial writers of the Washington Post smell a scam:

The Republicans would repeal the Obama health-care plan, a plan that at least holds out the prospect of slowing the growth of health-care spending in general and Medicare in particular. An earlier proposal by Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) at least had the honesty to outline major, if unwise, changes in Medicare; he would turn it into a voucher program. By contrast, the “Pledge” vows grandly to “make the decisions that are necessary to protect our entitlement programs for today’s seniors and future generations. That means requiring a full accounting of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, setting benchmarks for these programs and reviewing them regularly, and preventing the expansion of unfunded liabilities.” Asked about this big fat asterisk, Mr. Boehner promised “an adult conversation.” When? What was this, the children’s hour?

This paragraph was, of course, followed by the obligatory “Democrats are just as bad” clause. Hey, it’s the Washington Post.

Going back to Krugman– he says that while it is doubtful the GOP will be able to enact its real agenda in the near future, the real danger is that “Republicans will gain just enough power to make the country ungovernable, unable to address its fiscal problems or anything else in a serious way.” And as the quality of life in the United States deteriorates, so will go political stability. Hey, what was it the neocons used to say about “creative chaos“?

16 thoughts on “The War on Arithmetic

  1. Arithmetic is for libruls. You know it’s bad enough that the democrats are running against the GOP and the entire for-profit media, also this year add in the citizen united case and it’s hard to see how they really have a chance. But then the democrats pull something like this. Zoe Lofgren needs to pull her head out of her ass. What the fuck is she trying to accomplish by making a joke of testifying in front of congress (we have an election in 4 weeks for cripes sake). I mean I like satire and snark as much as the next guy but this is a serious subject, he is testifying to a house subcommittee, this is no fucking joke. But it really is just typical of what I’ve seen from the democrats ever since 2006, they can’t really handle being in charge. They are tone deaf to the general mood of the public and worse they cannot reach consensus and compromise within their own ranks, Pelosi and Reid are completely ineffective as party leaders. Conyers the head of the subcommittee knew this would look bad yet he allowed it anyway. He’s got about as much backbone as Harry Reid, what a disgrace.

  2. I’m about to roll out my “Pledge to Scarlett Johansson.”
    (Halle’s getting a bit too long in the tooth for a deviant old geezer like me).
    If she picks me, I’ll pledge to love her forever and do whatever she thinks is best for her!
    And I’ll make her forget all of her other lovers. How will I do that? LAUGHTER! She’ll be so busy laughing at me, she’ll forget all about the others. Milan Kundera wrote about that in “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.” At least I think it was about that. Maybe I’ll have to reread it (or at least read it once).
    And I’ll do my best to look after her financially, promising not to increase her deficit as I hand out her money to my pals to trickle around amongst themselves and me.
    Hey, why not? My pledge will have as much chance of success as the Republican one, since neither one is grounded in any sense of reality or possibility.

  3. This latest Republican gobble-dee-gook is laughably transparent. It’s all about( all of it) redistributing income UP. Listening to designated Party spokesmen, when questioned, try to ‘explain’ the latest proposals coming from the Wings is, finally, somewhat embarrassing. Recently, one such managed to get himself stuck in the argument that all the ‘cutting’ would be from the discretionary side of the budget – adding that it would not include Defense. Since Defense is 60% of the discretionary budget, it was pointed out to him, how could there possibly be any meaningful, effective cuts in that budget excluding Defense. (It was fun to watch him squirm, however.)

  4. Lower taxes and fiscal responsibility is a rock and a hard place.

    When the worst happens, leading Republicans will have nothing but their noise machine to fall back on. My bet is they’re fully aware of this and will go no further than to “make the country ungovernable”, and use the noise machine to keep their base and any naïve independents in line, so their overlords can continue to keep those leading Republicans well-fed.

    A truth based, factually backed, repetitive mantra and noise machine may be the Dems only option.

  5. I’ve been thinking that one upside to a Republican majority might be to show (yet again) to the short-memoried public that they are not more able to solve the country’s financial problems than are the Democrats. The only thing Republicans have ever done is enrich themselves and their buddies and dig the rest of the country into an even deeper hole. Our third world status seems to be peeking around the corner.

  6. I’d like to hear the particulars on how the “privatization” of Social Security is supposed to work. Is there some plan or is it a euphemism meaning that everybody is on their own for financial security in their golden years.

    My father died in 1959 leaving my mother a widow at 28 years old with 7 children all under the age of 17. My mother was working as an attendant in a state mental hospital at minimum wage( about $1.50 an hour) at the time my father passed away. As you can figure my mother was not in a very good financial situation, but she was eligible to collect a meager Social Security survivor benefits to get our family through a difficult time. I try to imagine how a privatized system forged by the Repuglicans would accommodate a situation such as my mother was faced with. For some reason I sense the reupugs think that Social Security is a glorified welfare system wherein everybody is just on the tit freeloading away.

    I just don’t get it..Social Security was created to deal with a pressing need for our nation and that need has not abated, it’s probably stronger now than ever before and yet they they feel confident in attacking Social Security when the majority of Americans are solely dependent on the Social Security system when their earning capacity has dissipated. Why not spend less on the military on the National Security bullshit and divert the billions of misspent money letting people live their lives with some measure of security.

    My biggest fear is economic survival. And my biggest enemy is anyone who would threaten it…Like the self serving Repugs who want to play with peoples survival.

  7. uncledad, I have to disagree with you about Colbert’s testimony. The article you link left out several important aspects of context. Colbert appeared before the subcommittee as part of a promise he made to the UFW. Most of what he said was in fact serious (the article’s extremely misleading on that point), and all of it (including the satire) was pointed and accurate. Any Democrats who squirmed (if they really did; I saw no one else reporting it) most likely deserved to.

    Colbert at least accepted the UFW’s offer to spend a day as a farm worker; I’d say he has the right to describe that experience on his own terms to anyone who should listen– especially that subcommittee. Frankly, all I come away with is reduced respect for the Christian Science Monitor.

  8. “Frankly, all I come away with is reduced respect for the Christian Science Monitor”

    I could care less what the CSM wrote; I only linked to that because it came up first in my Google search. I have a real problem with making a mockery out of official congressional testimony. I understand Colbert’s and Lofgren’s intention, it was just done in bad taste. The mainstream media does not report context, they report sensationalistic bullshit, and Lofgren gave them a silver platter full of it. It makes Lofgren look like an out of touch bureaucrat, which in this election season can’t do any good for the rest of the party. She should have gone on his show, having him testify on the hill is about the dumbest thing the democrats have done lately.

  9. I agree with uncledad… Colbert could have been much more effective had he left the humor home. It wasn’t the time and place to be funny. He diminished his message trying to be humorous.

  10. Here is some of what Colbert actually said:

    COLBERT: Maybe we can offer more visas to the immigrants who, lets face it, will probably be doing those jobs anyway. And this improved legal status, might allow immigrants recourse if they are abused. And it just stands to reason to me that if your co-worker can’t be exploited, you’re less likely to be exploited yourself, and that itself might improve pay and working conditions on these farms, so that eventually, Americans may consider taking these jobs again….

    CONGRESSWOMAN JUDY CHU: Mr. Colbert, you could work on so many issues, why are you interested in this issue?

    COLBERT: I like talking about people who don’t have any power. And this seems like some of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come and do our work but don’t have any rights as a result. And yet we still invite them to come here, and at the same time ask them to leave. And, you know, whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers, these seem like the least of our brothers, right now. And I know that a lot of people are the least of my brothers because the economy is so hard, and I don’t want to take anyone’s hardship away from them or diminish it or anything like that, but migrant workers suffer, and they have no rights.

    I don’t see one word of mockery there. And I certainly don’t see anything in bad taste, other than the useless Congressional subcommittee that was in that room. What’s the old saying? “Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable”? I don’t care who does it, or if they lead into it with satire or by singing “Kum-Ba-Ya,” as long as it gets done. After Colbert started speaking the plain truth, Republicans were the first to burst out of that committee room yelling about “Mockery.” Overnight, the news media– from Fox News to Mother Jones, for crying out loud– then joined ranks to carry water for the Repugs and mischaracterize Colbert’s testimony. Some hated Colbert’s message (not diminished at all, in the ears of the anti-immigrant crowd), and others apparently think they own that message; but mostly the media are all upset because this “comedian” stepped up to initiate dialogue on an issue where, up to now, there was none.

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  12. I watched the episode last night, which was very funny.
    I watched his testimony, and while mildly humorous, I think it took away from what was trying to be said.
    His brand of humor works best when it’s skewering big shots, not supporting the little guy. Maybe if he was testifying against “Big Farm,” it might have worked better.
    I think all that this proved is that while there are a lot of clowns in Congress, we don’t need comedians there as well (unless they hold office, like the great Al Franken).

  13. Joanr16:

    You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, but it is slightly disingenuous to post quotes from Colbert that were delivered out of character and act like he did not say anything that made a mockery of the process. All the cables and broadcast new shows are not playing the serious portions of his testimony, they are playing this: “I don’t want a tomato picked by a Mexican. I want it picked by an American, sliced by a Guatemalan . . . and served by a Venezuelan in a spa where a Chilean gives me a Brazilian”. So if you think that is acceptable again you’re entitled to your opinion. I understand that it is satire, but the united states house of representatives is not the place, it was stupid of Lofgren to invite him and quite irresponsible of Colbert to make a joke of his testimony, it came off as a silly publicity stunt to me……

  14. uncledad, in “making a mockery of the process,” Colbert would have to take a number and get in line. If, let’s say, Joe McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee is #1, the Southern guy beating the abolitionist with his cane is #2, and the Orrin Hatch/Clarence Thomas puppet show the morning after Anita Hill testified is something like #15, Colbert’s testimony would have to rank somewhere around 3,000.

    And isn’t it disingenous to select one sentence from a larger quote that points out the hypocrisy of anti-immigrant outrage from the offspring of immigrants? Are we not supposed to point that out anymore? Or just not to Congress? Even the sentence you mention makes a point about who actually does the dirty work that makes for all of our comfortable lives.

    From the entirety of what Colbert said, I think all of it was delivered “out of character.” As Dr. Seuss says, “He meant what he said and he said what he meant.” The use of sharply-pointed quips to speak truth to power is a cultural and literary tradition that goes back to Shakespeare and his “fools,” and tends to be employed by desperately annoyed literary types appearing before Congressional committees, such as Lillian Hellman. The people in power never like it, that much remains consistent. A lot of people just don’t get it, that much also remains true.

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