Friday, July 22, 2011

Debt, Deficit Reduction, and Rightwing Hubris/Cynicism

You know what pisses me off immensely in hearing conservatives try to defend the indefensible when it comes to having the wealthier assume a bit more than the poor in helping to solve our debt crisis? It's the arrogant idea that the wealth that the rich earn comes exclusively by the sweat of their own brow and that the society that had no small role in making their wealth possible has no claims on this in moments of national crisis.

The rich are rich in part by the efforts of their own labor and risk-taking -- I'll grant that -- but they are also rich in part (and I'd even argue a larger part) by the broader societal context of the country in which they operate. For the wealthy to look at the current state of our country and to essentially tell the broader society facing this crisis to go screw itself rather than to suffer the "indignity" of a 2% increase in their income taxes is the ultimate expression of cynicism. Why should I face the penalty of a larger hit against my economic security because this country goes into default when those who can afford to save this country from such a calamity by sucking up the "pain" of having to settle for the Jaguar instead of the Ferrari will simply refuse to even entertain this as part of a solution? The rich have to assume their part in how this country got to the point that it did; and for them to pretend that they aren't part of the problem is the ultimate expression of hubris. If they are in it like the rest of us are in it, they sure have a funny way of showing it.

Hell, even I'm willing to pay a bit more in taxes if it will help to put our fiscal house on more solid footing. I guarantee you that my paying a bit more in taxes is much better than my paying 10 times more than that in higher interest rates on my personal debt because of a federal default. You'd think that this would motivate the wealthy, too. It's like they'd much rather pay more in the penalties that would result from a debt default, than pay a little bit more in taxes to avoid such an outcome. If I were a wealthy private sector entrepreneur looking at a spike in interest rates on my outstanding corporate debt and a collapse in market stability for the sale of my product/services, I'd be getting pretty nervous right now. A minor increase in my income taxes would be looking much more rational and sane. And I'd be looking at Washington trying to see who is the more irresponsible party in heading us towards the edge of the cliff, and I'd come away thinking none too highly of the intransigence of the Republicans.

Trust me: everyone except the most blinded partisans can see that Obama has gone a long, long way to meeting the Republicans on terms favorable to their own position (even to the extent of angering the more liberal wing of the Democratic party) -- i.e. significant cuts in discretionary spending, an overhaul of the tax system along a much flatter and simpler tax code, and even painful cuts and reforms to sacrosanct entitlement programs --, and that Republicans simply refuse to meet him anywhere on the continuum, much less halfway.

It's clear to me that Republicans would rather run this country into default than agree to a compromise package of spending cuts and increased revenues (call it tax increases if you will, it doesn't matter) at a 3:1 ratio, respectively, to make a serious dent in our deficit.

Do supposedly fiscally-responsible conservatives not see what would happen if the plan that Obama supports and is proposing would be embraced and passed? Do conservatives think that this plan of fiscal austerity proposed by Obama would be viewed negatively by markets? Is cutting the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years by combining spending cuts and revenue increases a bad thing when it comes to tackling our fiscal problems? Even if you are a conservative, and would prefer a "Cut, Cap, and Balance" solution that involves no new "taxes," you still have to believe that the good (Obama's plan - which WILL dramatically reduce the deficit) is not the enemy of the better when it comes to reducing the deficit; and that the good (deficit reduction Obama-style) is certainly much more preferable than the bad (debt default). But expecting conservative Republicans to be sane and sensible about a real and palatable compromise that cuts the deficit significantly is just too much to ask, isn't it?

No comments: