Useful Fantasies

Yesterday, I noted with some alarm the fact-free nature of the GOP debate.

A recent report from the Brookings Institution offers a useful reminder that–inconvenient or not– facts really do matter, particularly when economic policy decisions must be made.

The dog days of August have given way to something much worse. Congress returned to session this week, and the rest of the year promises to be nightmarish. The House and Senate passed budget resolutions earlier this year calling for nearly $5 trillion in spending cuts by 2025. More than two-thirds of those cuts would come from programs that help people with low-and moderate-incomes. Health care spending would be halved. If such cuts are enacted, the president will likely veto them. At best, another partisan budget war will ensue after which the veto is sustained. At worst, the cuts become law.

The putative justification for these cuts is that the nation faces insupportable increases in public debt because of expanding budget deficits. Even if the projections were valid, it would be prudent to enact some tax increases in order to preserve needed public spending. But the projections of explosively growing debt are not valid. They are fantasy.

The remainder of the article–which is well worth reading in its entirety–explains that projections of deficits result from the use of “conventions” (assumptions) that do not reflect current reality, and are evidently not intended to do so.

I do not pretend to understand the utility of these conventions for budgetary purposes, but   to the extent they produce “projections” that do not reflect reality, their use as ammunition in the effort to reduce government to a size that can be “drowned in a bathtub”–to use Grover Norquist’s phrase–is pernicious.

But what if we did face persistent deficits?

The assumption seems to be that the only avenue open to policymakers would be budget cuts. It’s as if we have taken tax increases off the table–despite the fact that America’s tax rates are historically low, America’s wealthiest enjoy a wide range of unconscionable tax loopholes, and America’s most profitable corporations continue to evade taxes by parking their profits offshore.

I don’t understand the dogged determination of the “morality party” to ignore the facts in order to protect the perquisites of the already advantaged at the expense of those who have little or nothing.


  1. I would guess they are just serving their master. Dance with on who brung ya. They are owned by the rich and powerful and do whatever they are told to do. Or so it seems to me.

  2. This brings us again to “What’s wrong with _________(Kansas). 50.1% of the 99% believe the ‘cut taxes’ mantra of the GOP, thereby insuring we 99% will make up the deficit, perhaps thru sales taxes, the most regressive.

  3. The American Dream has become a NOT so Useful Fantasy. Ask anyone on the street or shopping at “big box” stores to save what now amounts to pennies, or not buying meat in supermarkets, shopping for clothes at thrift stores…again to save what now amounts to pennies due to the current economy, hoping we have enough to pay for doctor appointments and medication – or can we delay that a little longer? Most of us count pennies, not trillions of dollars in deficit which we cannot imagine or be of help to pay down. Survival is the name of the daily game today for most Americans; with no relief in sight as long as the privately owned GOP is running the country. These are the facts, ma’am…and sir.

    Anywhere we can hold budgetary conferences? I am aware of the vast difference between government budget and the average – or below average – American’s budget; we can’t relate to or understand their findings or their reasoning. We understand we need financial help to survive…that is no fantasy.

  4. The problem is not just the “majority party”. What I witness is a kind of disdain for the poor that crosses all political and religious boundaries. When I question someone with such views the response is always along the lines of, “they made their decisions. Let them live with it.” I often see in this a rationale for selfishness. Sometimes it is a kind of punishment for those who are “different”. Whatever the basis for such a view, it is personal and says a great deal about the character of the one withholding help to those in need.

  5. The problem is not just the “majority party”. What I witness is a kind of disdain for the poor that crosses all political and religious boundaries. When I question someone with such views the response is always along the lines of, “they made their decisions. Let them live with it.” I often see in this a rationale for selfishness. Sometimes it is a kind of punishment for those who are “different”. Whatever the basis for such a view, it is personal and says a great deal about the character of the one withholding help to those in need.

  6. Can you all imagine the benefit to society if we ‘just’ taxed the churches? Then we could use that money to help service the poor, the hungry and get the homeless off the streets, like the churches are ‘supposed’ to do. And then, tax the hedge fund managers who pay less taxes than you and me. And then, let’s go after those corporations that are the BIGGEST welfare queens on the planet.
    Stop the presses, it would end the war on the poor.

  7. Ken, what if all the fish have been taken or killed by the powers that be. Not much left to fish for.

  8. We do err in placing blame on the GOP. Labels are no more than tools employed to divide and conquer. Dems are loathe to admit that the greatest damage adone to the middle class was done by the Clinton administration. Glass Steagall and NAFTA have hurt you as much as any war of foreign aggression, sans the human casualties.

    What is so harmful is that the clown, nor his wife, will not even address his folly. How can she be different when she is a clone of him? It’s insane to think that W was different form H.W. He gave us Iraq and H.W. gave us Uncle Thomas. We wind up with’ corporations are people’. Which hurt us more?

    Who sent Reno to Waco? The Guard to Kent State? The SWAT team to assassinate Fred Hampton whose only crime was feeding children and UNITING PEOPLE.

  9. Yes, Earl: Glass Steagall, NAFTA and the Citizen’s United decision were the worst things to happen to the country.

  10. It’s seems to me to boil down to those who believe that the government is ours to serve our society and country, all of it, or a useless institution that those who “count”, only the 1% and their friends, don’t need.

    Earl says all political parties are alike but that’s not my experience. It boils down to conservatives and liberals and most of one philosophy is found in one party and most of the other philosophy is found in the other party.

    I don’t see how anyone who hates our government and country can be qualified to participate in it.

  11. It is all too possible that the parties are very similar, given the pervasiveness of corporations and their deep intrusion in to most parts of life. However, for me there is one essential difference that always points the way to who to vote for:

    To use an old deck-building example from out here – a premier had to step down because a supposed influence seeker built him a deck (a plain old deck, not a big deal one, and he did pay for it). The opposition party who then came in after the next election proceeded, among other outrages, to sell the provincial railroad system to an American company, after promising and swearing during the campaign to do no such thing – and the price they got was seriously questionned. They continue in power, continue to decimate public ed while sending their children to private school, attempt to break unions, favour big oil and big pharma and the like – the drill will be familiar to you all. My point and why I would never, ever, vote for these guys, even though by some lenses, some individuals are doing better…is this – I believe that most in government may try to get a new deck in some way…

    …BUT, the current, called liberal but truly conservative group, will try in every way to ensure that you and I never get one and they will take two if they can. The previous group, social demcratic in truth, may (or may not – it wasn’t really proven) get a new deck, but they will intend and really try to see that the general population truly benefits – providing real benefits is their entire purpose in seeking power. They might bumble and some may be venal (there is always a jerk somewhare), but their hearts and intentions are headed in the best directions and (in my mind, they inspire like ‘best intentions’ (read ‘beyond self interest, way beyond) in the rest of us. Conservatives, these days, by being so unrelentingly self-interested, inspire the worst in everyone (‘they are getting away with whatever, why shouldn’t I???).

    Not only is the world apparently going to hell in a handbasket, we are letting ourselves get nastier and nastier as people. A true race to the bottom!

  12. Earl, you are right on. As a Baby-Boomer I have lived through the destruction of our manufacturing base. I personally think Bill Clinton did more to wreck the old Democratic Party of FDR than any Republican could have dreamed of. Bill Clinton made that sharp Right turn and Wall Street loved him for it. You can add in Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China as another Clinton touch along with Defense of Marriage Act. He also supported the Telecommunications Act which brought us the coagulation of the McMega-Media.

    So I am often surprised that the Democrat Proles lift Bill Clinton up to near Sainthood. Now these same Democrat Proles want the coronation of the shape shifting Hillary. Bernie in 2016!!!

  13. Pete:

    I don’t know what you’re implying here but I will inform that I gave ten full years serving under Curtis LeMay in defense of this country. And I was not always in the rear with the gear.


    Brevity is the soul of wit.

    To you all:

    “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends…

  14. Who, participating in these streams, did not witness the party of Lincoln becoming the party of David Dukes? Who wasn’t here when the party of the KKK became Dixiecrats and then the GOP? How can anyone here deny such a clear cut fact?

    In view of this fact, how can a party be defended or isolated? How is it possible to infer there is a difference? The Civil Rights Act was achieved under Reagan.

    What does it take to make you understand?

    and more than that: There was a general knowledge afoot that the Tea Partiers were out to get Lugar, one of the most effective legislators on the Hill. The people, had they had a modicum of smarts, would have consolidated to protect his seat. What did they do? Including some who pontificate here, noted that it was abominable to cross party lines to vote for Lugar in the primary. We end up with Donnelly.

    Who would deny that the parties regularly cross lines to screw you.

    Here comes a few facts that will shock some and confound others:

    Sen. Arlen Specter, probably the most influential of those backing Clarence Thomas, was a Democrat from 1951 to 1965. He then became a Republican from 1965 to 2009. Then he reverted to become a Democrat again.

    One name: Joe Lieberman

    Political parties? Case closed.

  15. Earl, the Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964 by Lyndon Johnson.

    From Wikipedia: “Reagan did not support federal initiatives to provide blacks with civil rights. He opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1982 he signed a bill extending the Voting Rights Act for 25 years after a grass-roots lobbying and legislative campaign forced him to abandon his plan to ease that law’s restrictions. In 1988 he vetoed the Civil Rights Restoration Act, but his veto was overridden by Congress. Reagan had argued that the legislation infringed on states’ rights and the rights of churches and business owners.”

    Just sayin’.

  16. Earl; from your dissatisfaction with President Obama and the current Democratic party, are we to assume you are supporting Donald Trump at this time? Some of your recent posts are similar to Gopper’s. You do seem to be well informed regarding military history; past is always important to prevent repeating poor decisions. We need to concentrate on staying out of war with Iran, paying attention to North Korea’s nuclear threats and never stop watching Russia for treachery. Clinton stated during his administration that Glass Steagall was no longer relevant; he cannot be blamed for the current banking conditions that plague all of us – except the 1% – in ways that affect us daily.

    We do NOT err in placing blame for most current conditions in this country on the GOP. If you don’t like the Clintons; don’t support them but tell us something positive about the party and who you do support. I remember your mantra, “Run, Liz, run!” It doesn’t appear you will get your way on that nomination; find one you do support and stop with the negativity about everything and everyone in the Democratic party. We ain’t all that bad. We need to stand together through elections this November and gear up for the 2016 November presidential election.

    We have become a country owned by the “haves” and supported by the “have nots”; our concentration needs to be centered on changing this. Change will not come without standing together and supporting the party (even if we don’t agree on every issue), the Constitution and all Amendments as written by the founding fathers, NOT as interpreted by the pseudo Christian GOP who continue gerrymandering away our civil and human rights.

  17. Joy: Your point?

    For those of us planning to vote for Bernie in 2016, listen to what he calls for: ” We need a political revolution in America!”

    He is trying to tell you what I have been telling you. We have been voting Dem and GOP since the death of the Whigs. We lose each year.

  18. My point is you said “The Civil Rights Act was achieved under Reagan.” It was achieved under Johnson. That’s all.

  19. I’m sorry Joy. I meant the Voting Rights Act which has to be renewed periodically and was by Reagan. ( I know he fought it.) Voting rights are the gist of civil rights.

    We belabor a distraction:

    One in nine black men are in prison and one in four have experienced the criminal justice system.
    In 1984, Clinton signed a bill offering grants to states that built new prisons and reduced paroles, creating the world’s highest prison population.
    We are now considering electing a Clinton Clone.

    Yes, I touted Liz and still do. Her movement morphed into the Bernie onslaught. He is not, nor ever was, a Democrat.

  20. Earl; re: your last paragraph, hopefully Liz will be Bernie’s running mate in 2016. Until recent years I was never a Democrat; I was always an Independent voter and deeply resent being forced by the current Republican party’s shaky, privately owned platform to no longer vote for an individual, their stand on issues and past accomplishments. This is what Independent voter means; not all Democrats are right and – used to be – not all Republicans are wrong. Maybe someday in the future they will return to normal and give us viable options rather than pushing away rational, logical, forward thinking voters…many not voting at all. Remember Mayor Bill Hudnut and Senator Richard Lugar…and never lose sight of President Abraham Lincoln when you look at today’s lineup of Republicans.

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