David Brooks: This Fiscal Cliff Deal Is Rather A Crapburger, Eh?
The NY Times’ resident “conservative” (who resembles a conservative about as much as Nancy Pelosi) offers up a nice summary of the fiscal cliff deal.
After first expounding that the public debt as a percentage of gross domestic product went from around 38 percent in 1965 to 74% now, that it could hit 90% in a decade, and 247% in 30 years, he notes that while some may talk about Doing Something, no one does, and this deal doesn’t deal with it at all. Then we get
President Obama and Speaker John Boehner both earnestly wanted to achieve these things. But the deal we are heading toward is discouraging. Yes, the deal does raise $600 billion in revenue over 10 years from a tiny sliver of the population (compared with the $8 trillion in new debt likely to be accrued over that time).
Remember when Obama called half that debt unpatriotic? Then increased the debt by $6 trillion?
But the proposal is not a balance of taxes and spending cuts. It doesn’t involve a single hard decision. It does little to control spending. It abandons all of the entitlement reform ideas that have been thrown around. It locks in low tax rates on families making less than around $450,000; it is simply impossible to avert catastrophe unless tax increases go below that line.
Along with raising the income tax rates on $400k individual and $450k join filer to 39.6%, along with moving the capital gains rate to 20% from 15% for those same earners. Unemployment insurance would be extended for a year with no offsets. The “sequester” would be put off for 2 months, which is a whopping $110 billion in cuts. The estate tax would go up to 40% from 35%. Deductions for high earners would be limited. The wind farm tax credit is extended, as well as many other “green” energy tax credits. And lots of other tax credits, both individual and corporate. Know what’s not included? And spending reductions. And spending reforms. And acknowledgement of the severe federal government spending issues.
Whom should we blame for this? Again, we should not blame Obama and Boehner. In their different ways, they and a number of other people in the Congress are trying to find a politically palatable way to deal with these hard issues. They got what conditions allowed.
No, David, there’s plenty of blame for both, along with Senate Democrats, though Obama gets the lions share, since he was unwilling to live in the real world and make substantive changes as he drives America into a coffin, along with Democrats, who said that ever “safety net” program was off the table.
Ultimately, we should blame the American voters. The average Medicare couple pays $109,000 into the program and gets $343,000 in benefits out, according to the Urban Institute. This is $234,000 in free money. Many voters have decided they like spending a lot on themselves and pushing costs onto their children and grandchildren. They have decided they like borrowing up to $1 trillion a year for tax credits, disability payments, defense contracts and the rest. They have found that the original Keynesian rationale for these deficits provides a perfect cover for permanent deficit-living. They have made it clear that they will destroy any politician who tries to stop them from cost-shifting in this way.
For a change, Brooks makes sense. There are too many voters who want their free stuff, their free Obamaphone, free healthcare, their free welfare, their free everything paid for by other people. There are too many moochers, that 47% who have a net zero federal liability on income tax. Too many who vote themselves money. Too few politicians stand up against this notion, and too many run on giving free stuff. And we have a president who is the king of free stuff. And too many voters who have no business voting. They do not know the issues, and, really, if someone is living off the teet of the government, in most cases they should not be voting.
Oh, and David? We can blame the media, especially your newspaper, for railing against any and all substantive changes that reign in the debt and spending, other than jacking up tax rates.