CNN’s State of the Union featured Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer and Gene Sperling, ending with Mark Zandi. Their collective task, and they all agree on this, was to sound reasonable while not explaining what really matters in the emerging deal President Obama is hoping to impose on a helpless, and increasingly hopeless nation.
There were no guests to represent the victims of this deal, and there will be tens of millions of them. CNN invited no one who could explain or argue what a terrible deal this would be for the nation. The nation’s economy, the elderly, the poor and the unrepresented are about to take a serious drubbing, but thank the gods both Democrats and Republicans, Congress and the President will willingly administer the beatings and continue them until morale improves.
The basic components are reported to include:
1. Raising the debt limit by enough to get us into 2013, about $2.6 trillion or so. (No one thinks to ask, what then? Do we destroy even more government then?)
2. Cutting spending by at least the same amount, possibly even up to $3 trillion?
3. Agreeing to about half of those cuts now.
4. Creating a 12-member, Cat Food II Commission to achieve the other half by the end of the year, by greasing the Congressional skids for more cuts.
5. Adding “triggers,” so that if the Cat Food II Commission fails to agree, automatic measures are imposed to achieve the debt reduction goals.
6. Allowing a vote on some form of balance budget amendment to the Constitution.
7. Not mentioned: Remaining silent on anything that the country actually needs, like jobs, rescuing states, alleviating poverty and income equality, reining in the financial sector, stopping the looting, holding these criminals accountable, making the investments needed now and in the future, or planning to rescue the economy if it tanks again from the stupidest economic policies one could possibly imagine.
According to Mitch McConnell, who refused to reveal any details other than those designed to assure his craziest supporters, the deal may ultimately include as much as $3 trillion in spending cuts but include no new revenues. Host Gloria Borger asked, why would he expect Democrats to accept a deal with no revenues? Mitch trotted out the half chestnut that even the President agrees that raising taxes when the economy is weak would be a terrible idea.
Okay, but predictably, Ms. Borger did not then ask why the same implicitly Keynesian argument McConnell is using to protest tax increases does not apply with at least equal or greater force to spending cuts and government layoffs when the economy is weak. So Mitch McConnell never had to confront his favorite talking point’s hypocrisy.
Borger asked whether there might be any new revenues coming out of the Cat Food II Commission. “There are no tax increases in this deal,” he said.
Then it was Chuck Schumer’s turn to lie to the American people. He didn’t explain why, two days after the Commerce Department report showed that the economy is close to sliding back into official recession and the prospects for reducing unemployment are dismal, he and fellow Democrats were not screaming for a jobs and stimulus plan instead of spending cuts.
He wasn’t ask how he can assure the country that $3 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade will not hurt the economy and millions of Americans and seriously degrade vital public services. Nor was he asked how the Democratic leadership can justify a total capitulation to Republican blackmail and adopting their talking points.
No, Chuck’s main concern was making sure that when the Cat Food II Commission fails to agree, the triggers that kick in to impose further carnage on the economy and hurt millions of real people will hurt some Republican sacred cow too. Yeah, Chuck, that will make us all feel better. Gosh, we lost Medicare and Social Security benefits, but man, we sure stuck those hedge fund guys!
Next we heard from Gene Sperling, the White House spinner. He repeated, as David Plouffe did on Meet the Press, all of the Administration’s talking points we’ve heard from Obama and Bill Daley, most of which are illogical, economically backwards and/or morally offensive. “You can’t ask for sacrifice from seniors,” Sperling started off. But he didn’t know when to shut up. Instead he added “without asking for some sacrifice from the well off.” So, you can hurt seniors.
In the Orwellian universe in which this White House spins, “shared sacrifice” means that it’s okay to hurt seniors and extract even more from the poor and those without political power as long as we also change the tax treatment for hedge funds or corporate jets. “Compromise” means giving away the store, caving in to Republican blackmail, enraging Democrats and betraying everyone who voted for Obama or the Democrats. And then Sperling repeated the gibberish about how all this will restore confidence to the business community.
Next, Mark Zandi said the reported deal is a “great deal,” and that the $3 trillion reduction comes close to the “down payment” that will get us to “sustainability.” The market will react very positively, he assured us, knowing the reason is because lots of market folks believe this gibberish.
Would this improve the economy or create jobs, Borger ask? “Yes,” he said, forgetting that it contradicts everything he’s ever said about the effects of stimulus, the need for more, and the negative consequences of reducing government support while the economy is weak. There must be a dozen of his quotes out there,does Gloria Borger know? This deal will provide “certainty,” Zandi assured us, thus laying the foundation for improved growth in coming months. Confidence fairies flew out of my screen.
The only hope the American people ever had during this mugging, though no one but Krugman is ever allowed on tv to explain it, was that this abysmal Congress would deadlock. That would force the President of the United States to ask his lawyers again whether there was anything in the Constitution that gave him sufficient executive authority to tell Congress and the Republican crazies to kiss off and tell his Treasury Secretary to avoid default and pay the nation’s bills, all of them.
“Uh, well, gosh, now that you asked in that light, Mr. President, there are actually several ways you could do this . . . “ And then David Plouffe would send an apology to David Gregory for declaring the opposite today.
But that was never what President Barack Obama wanted. He used the phony debt crisis and debt limits extortion to get what he’s always wanted: shared responsibility in cutting programs for the elderly and the poor, while protecting the interests of the financial backers whose millions he’ll need to get re-elected. And never mind that he’s destroyed what’s left of the Democratic Party, not to mention a nation’s hopes for humane government.