Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Scourge of the Deficit Scolds
Poor Dean Baker is probably going to be found one day wandering in the streets mumbling "it's the housing bubble, the housing bubble, the housing bubble" to uncomprehending passersby, but until he finally succumbs to the insanity induced by dealing with today's media/politico/corporate elites, we can all appreciate the eloquence with which he scourges them for, e.g., blaming deficits on "we, the people":
Was it we the people who were too dumb to see an $8 trillion housing bubble and recognize that its collapse would wreck the economy? No, that was the job of the great Maestro Alan Greenspan and his sidekick Ben Bernanke, the brilliant scholar of the Great Depression. It was also the job of all the economists who do research and opine to the public on the macroeconomy. Virtually all of these highly educated highly intelligent economists either did not see the bubble or insisted it was not worth their time.And "those scary long-term deficits" are "all health care...all health care."
Our deficit today is due to the collapse of this bubble. There is no dispute about this. If there had been no bubble and the economy was still chugging along with 4.5 percent unemployment, the budget would either be balanced or close enough that no serious person would be expressing alarm (check out the pre-crisis CBO projections).
Is our huge deficit a problem today? Not if you think people should have jobs. Private sector demand has plunged because of the collapse of the bubble. If the public sector does not fill the demand gap with deficit spending, then we have less demand and fewer jobs. That’s worth saying a few hundred thousand times since the deficit hawks have filled the airwaves and cyberspace with so much nonsense.
The deficit hawks tell us we can’t fix our health care system. What they actually mean is that they don’t want to confront the powerful interest groups that cause the United States to pay two or three times as much per person – with no obvious benefit – as people in other wealthy countries. It is easy to devise mechanisms that will get our costs more in line with other countries (e.g. this or this).Thanks, Dean, and I'm glad you're on vacation this week 'cause dealing with these people and their class-based groupthink has gotta be exhausting.
Because such measures threaten the incomes of powerful interest groups the politicians won’t push them. And, because they have not been endorsed by enough elite economists (you know, the folks that couldn’t [sic] $8 trillion housing bubble) elite journalists will not talk about them either. Instead, they will blame ordinary workers for thinking that they should be able to get a decent retirement and have the same sort of health care coverage as people in every other wealthy country.