It’s Cool to Worry About the Deficit

The President, in Rolling Stone:

Well, on the economic front, their only agenda seems to be tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. If you ask their leadership what their agenda will be going into next year to bring about growth and improve the job numbers out there, what they will say is, “We just want these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, which will cost us $700 billion and which we’re not going to pay for.”

Now what they’ll also say is, “We’re going to control spending.” But of course, when you say you’re going to borrow $700 billion to give an average $100,000-a-year tax break to people making a million dollars a year, or more, and you’re not going to pay for it; when Mitch McConnell’s overall tax package that he just announced recently was priced at about $4 trillion; when you, as a caucus, reject a bipartisan idea for a fiscal commission that originated from Judd Gregg, Republican budget chair, and Kent Conrad, Democratic budget chair, so that I had to end up putting the thing together administratively because we couldn’t get any support — you don’t get a sense that they’re actually serious on the deficit side.

This seems to be a plausible line on which to wage the close of the campaign. Boehner’s Republican Party successfully played the Fabian strategy into the late-game, refusing to put a set of policy options on the table until it’s almost too late for anything to seep into the collective mind of the electorate.  Instead, he let rage build against the administration’s perceived ignorance of the budget issue. Without any alternative to compare the President to, voters could inflect their hopes and dreams onto the GOP’s blank slate.

A slate, of course, that is now populated by a plan that hides its basic impossibility in plain sight (pdf):

With common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops, we will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone and putting us on a path to balance the budget and pay down the debt. We will also establish strict budget caps to limit federal spending from this point forward.

Such “common-sense exceptions” will unhinge their jaw, and swallow whole the rule. Boehner’s bet is that the public isn’t sufficiently intelligent, engaged, or aware to grasp the problem. Sadly, that bet may pay — watching this video, one gets the impression the devastated Fox host actually thinks he won — but the Democrats should take the short side. We’re in a place now where we have to fight an electoral war to prove that a modern democracy can responsibly discuss fiscal policy, and that war can no longer be postponed.

Meeting Republicans on the merits may be an uphill battle, not because we’re wrong, but because the Republicans won’t defend the Pledge. They expect to win on emotion, not logic, so we will arrive at this Cannae to find the field deserted. But making the argument may bleed more sensitive voters from the Republican ranks, and create situations where we can provoke, and the enemy noisily decline, the pitched battle that they’d lose. We have to bet that logic still matters. It’s a losing bet so far, but sometimes, you have to roll the hard six.



  1. I’ve talked about this book before, but Don’t Think like an Elephant talks about part of this. How liberals/democrats assume that we can win on logic, and don’t try for an emotional narrative and that’s where we can lose.

    Wrong: The truth will set us free. If we tell people the facts, since people are basically rational beings. They’ll reach the right conclusions.

    But we know from Cognitive science people don’t think that way. They think in frames. Neuroscience tells us that the long term structures ins in our synapses in our brain and they can’t be changed by telling someone a fact. otherwise facts go straight in and they go straight back out. Frames are in synapses in peoples brains, psychical neural circuits. When the facts don’t fit the frames, the frames are kept and the facts ignored.

    1. Not only it this why the Democrats are loosing battles right and left right now, its why science keeps getting thrown under the bus by both sides.

      but I digress . . . .

  2. Let’s be honest about the simplicity of the liberal position on taxes. Democrats believe that the federal government needs more money. Republicans don’t.

    The electorate will decide which position they favor. Given the attittude of the country right now, my money is on no new money for Uncle Sam.

    1. Needs more money…to help balance the budget in which I thought Republicans were the big supporters of. Because I’m sorry, no one’s going to be cutting either enough to change the deficit nor where it counts.

      I’ve said it before, number one concern with voters are jobs & the economy (, not taxes or deficit or whatever else. Democrats just need to change their message to address those concerns and not get caught up in what Republicans want to talk about.

  3. That’s clearly right, but the problem is the GOP evinces no interest in matching its “starve the beast” attitude to an actual downturn in social services. The result is a lot of rhetoric about small government, balanced budget, and low taxes, and actions aimed only at part 3.

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