Monday, March 24, 2003

THE ONION GETS A BEAT
From Who Lost the U.S. Budget?, in the NY Times The Onion describes itself as "America's finest news source," and it's not an idle boast. On Jan. 18, 2001, the satirical weekly bore the headline "Bush: Our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over," followed by this mock quotation: "We must squander our nation's hard-won budget surplus on tax breaks for the wealthiest 15 percent. And, on the foreign front, we must find an enemy and defeat it."

Whatever our qualms about how we got here, all Americans now hope that the foreign front proceeds according to plan. Meanwhile, let's talk about the fiscal front.

The latest official projections acknowledge (if you read them carefully) that the long-term finances of the U.S. government are in much worse shape than the administration admitted a year ago. But many commentators are reluctant to blame George W. Bush for that grim outlook, preferring instead to say something like this: "Sure, you can criticize those tax cuts, but the real problem is the long-run deficits of Social Security and Medicare, and the unwillingness of either party to reform those programs."

Why is this line appealing? It seems more reasonable to blame longstanding problems for our fiscal troubles than to attribute them to just two years of bad policy decisions. Also, many pundits like to sound "balanced," pronouncing a plague on both parties' houses. To accuse the current administration of wrecking the federal budget sounds, well, shrill ? and we don't want to sound shrill, do we?

There's only one problem with this reasonable, balanced, non-shrill position: it's completely wrong. The Bush tax cuts, not the retirement programs, are the main reason why our fiscal future suddenly looks so bleak.


So much more to read...

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