Sunday, February 01, 2004

Friedman comes out swinging - Nightmare budget scenario only 6 years off

Thomas Friedman writing in the NYT accuses the Bush Administration of gross fiscal irresponsibility. This is hardly startling since anyone who can balance a checkbook can see that Bush's policies if carried out long enough are going to be disasterous. Thomas Friedman while being a liberal has relentlessly supported the invasion and overthrow of Saddam Hussein in op-ed after op-ed. Beyond all reason, he has kept the mantra up that intervening in the middle east is a positive step for the region and will advance U.S. democratic interests. He must be pretty bitter to lay it all on the line that hoping beyond hope that was some method to this madness, and to be disappointed at the end of it all.

Friedman writes:

" It should be clear to all by now that what we have in the Bush team is a faith-based administration. It launched a faith-based war in Iraq, on the basis of faith-based intelligence, with a faith-based plan for Iraqi reconstruction, supported by faith-based tax cuts to generate faith-based revenues. This group believes that what matters in politics and economics are conviction and will — not facts, social science or history...

" The Bush team's real vulnerability is its B.M.D. — Budgets of Mass Destruction, which have recklessly imperiled the nation's future, with crazy tax-cutting and out-of-control spending. The latest report from the Congressional Budget Office says the deficit is expected to total some $2.4 trillion over the next decade — almost $1 trillion more than the prediction of just five months ago. That is a failure of intelligence and common sense that threatens to make us all insecure — and people also feel that in their guts...

" Quite simply," argues Mr. Peterson, "those bell-bottomed young boomers of the 1960's have fully matured. The oldest of them, born in 1946, are only six years away from the median age of retirement on Social Security (63). As a result, our large pension and health care benefit programs will soon experience rapidly accelerating benefit outlays. . . . Thus, at a time when the federal government should be building up surpluses to prepare for the aging of the baby boom generation, it is engaged in another reckless experiment with large and permanent tax cuts. America cannot grow its way out of the kinds of long-term deficits we now face. . . . The odds are growing that today's ballooning trade and fiscal deficits, the so-called twin deficits, will someday trigger an explosion that causes the economy to sink — not rise."

" The same Bush folks who assured us Saddam had W.M.D. now assure us these budgets of mass destruction don't matter. Sure. "During the Vietnam War," notes Mr. Peterson, "conservatives relentlessly pilloried Lyndon Johnson for his fiscal irresponsibility. But he only wanted guns and butter. Today, so-called conservatives are out-pandering L.B.J. They must have it all: guns, butter and tax cuts."

" This is so irresponsible and it will end in tears. Remember, says Mr. Peterson, long-term tax cuts without long-term spending cuts are not tax cuts. They are "tax deferrals" — with the burden to be borne by your future or your kid's future.

" If this isn't the election issue, I don't know what is.
" [emphasis added]

Looks like Friedman has lost faith. Looks like Bush is gonna have to take his message to the flock better since more and more only "true believers" are buying his spin. Furthermore as Brad Delong on his blog has pointed out even the policies having money spent on them usually make little to no sense. It's not as if we were spending big and getting something back for it. The immigration policy where they propose not just letting in agricultural workers but flooding the country with professionals like teachers, engineers, etc. to compete with domestic American jobs; the Mars exploration program where they want to carve out 2/3rds of NASA's present budget to fund it; the $87 billion being spent in Iraq and Afghanistan (with another $40 billion they plan to request after the November elections) that Americans will be lucky to see a dime back of; increased missile defense spending ($100 billion and counting...) on a weapons system that doesn't even work (it'd be different if they were doing R&D, but they want to built a ready to fire system now) - what in the hell are they thinking? From any point of view it makes little to no sense.

Of course despite this budget madness the advantage is still to Bush-Rove. It's not like they can't start a war or anything if they start getting into trouble. It remains to be seen whether the American electorate will fall for this "jedi mind trick". An important rule in the oldman's playbook of life is that if somebody tries to tell you that you can have it all, they're probably trying to take you for all you got. As Heinlien stated there is no such thing as a free lunch. There is however stealing somebody else's lunch out of the fridge at work!

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