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« Harvard’s Rogoff Sees Sovereign Defaults, ‘Painful’ Austerity | Main | Sen. John McCain: 'I was misled on the TARP bailout' »
Wednesday
Feb242010

The Bankruptcy Boys (By Paul Krugman)

Mitch McConnell

Krugman might be absolutely correct in his latest editorial, only it wouldn't be a bad thing.  Anything that spurs deficit-cutting could be regarded positively.

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By Paul Krugman

O.K., the beast is starving. Now what? That’s the question confronting Republicans. But they’re refusing to answer, or even to engage in any serious discussion about what to do.

For readers who don’t know what I’m talking about: ever since Reagan, the G.O.P. has been run by people who want a much smaller government. In the famous words of the activist Grover Norquist, conservatives want to get the government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

But there has always been a political problem with this agenda. Voters may say that they oppose big government, but the programs that actually dominate federal spending — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — are very popular. So how can the public be persuaded to accept large spending cuts?

The conservative answer, which evolved in the late 1970s, would be dubbed “starving the beast” during the Reagan years. The idea — propounded by many members of the conservative intelligentsia, from Alan Greenspan to Irving Kristol — was basically that sympathetic politicians should engage in a game of bait and switch. Rather than proposing unpopular spending cuts, Republicans would push through popular tax cuts, with the deliberate intention of worsening the government’s fiscal position. Spending cuts could then be sold as a necessity rather than a choice, the only way to eliminate an unsustainable budget deficit.

At this point, then, Republicans insist that the deficit must be eliminated, but they’re not willing either to raise taxes or to support cuts in any major government programs. And they’re not willing to participate in serious bipartisan discussions, either, because that might force them to explain their plan — and there isn’t any plan, except to regain power.

But there is a kind of logic to the current Republican position: in effect, the party is doubling down on starve-the-beast. Depriving the government of revenue, it turns out, wasn’t enough to push politicians into dismantling the welfare state. So now the de facto strategy is to oppose any responsible action until we are in the midst of a fiscal catastrophe. You read it here first.

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Reader Comments (1)

I LOVE Paul Krugman's NYTimes articles.

I find the paper a bit scratchy, yes, but all in all a very absorbant and efficient option FOR WIPING MY ASS when I can't get REAL toilet paper.
Feb 24, 2010 at 2:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterRecoverylessRecovery
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