Perhaps the most annoying thing about the debt ceiling debate, after the fact that the ransom the GOP gets for raising the ceiling is likely to further tank our economy, is that, win or lose, the Republicans have successfully dominated the economic narrative and made it all about deficits.
There are few mainstream voices challenging this assumption, on the left or the right – not President Obama, not Sen. Reid or Rep. Pelosi, and certainly not the news media. The main point of contention is tax hikes, but the kind of modest tax hikes that are on the table aren’t going to do much of anything to make these spending cuts less catastrophic.
But all that aside, the point is that the talk, unfortunately for America, is all about deficits. And the punditry, needless to say, is busy talking about who to blame for them. The answer to that is pretty simple, of course – Reagan and the Bushes – but it’s not the answer the punditry wants. Rather than accept that a) the decisions that led us to our current deficit and debt situations were both finite and unnecessary, and b) that these decisions were deliberately designed to shift wealth upwards and limit true economic growth, most of the pundits who aren’t predisposed to far-left thinking are convinced that our debt and deficit problems are systemic.
We expect this from the right-wing side of the punditry, of course, what with all their hypocritical rhetoric about small government. But in some ways, the centrists are even more annoying, because their reflexive belief that both parties are extremists on opposite sides of the spectrum requires them to put stock in the conservative mythology about entitlement spending, yet they still assume a completely unearned stance of rationalism.
In reality, of course, both Democrats and Republicans are well to the right of the kind of governing this country needs; one party just happens to have strayed so far to the right that they’ve gone off a cliff and are tumbling ever faster into incoherence.
To clarify, this is what centrism looks like:
It’s the banksters. It was Bush. It was Obama. It was Reagan. It was the people who couldn’t afford a house and borrowed more than they should have. It’s the unwed welfare mothers who get paid more to have more illegitimate children. As usual, post modern America is too busy yelling and trying to assign blame for the current pickle we are collectively in rather than solve the problem.
Gratingly smug condemnation of both sides for finger-pointing and blame-assigning? Check. Reference to “post modern America,” as if all this partisanship and divisiveness is some brand new thing? Check. (After all, it’s not like the US was ever so sharply divided between two ideological viewpoints that it triggered a civil war or anything crazy like that.)
There are two completely different groups who are mostly responsible for the mess. [...] You can probably figure out who they are:
Well, to be sure, I can readily point to who I think they are, but I’m also willing to place a bet on what you’re about to say, my centrist friend.
the very poor and the very rich
Oh, you are a reliable one.
They’re an enormous drain on the system and they’re clobbering everyone in the middle.
Ah, it’s the aggrieved middle-class citizen, bravely standing up to the government that just won’t cut him/her a break. I’ve long felt that centrists are basically conservatives, primarily as a function of the real vs. perceived position of the Overton window in American discourse, and this is a good example. Sure, our centrist friend recognizes that the rich are fucking them over, but like all conservatives, they compensate by finding an even less privileged group than themselves and scapegoating them.* There’s just no rational line of thought that could lead one to believe that the politically powerless, frequently disenfranchised, economically disempowered lower class is even capable of screwing the middle class over.
Yet, according to the author, “Washington basically represents these two groups almost exclusively.” Yes, the poor middle class just can’t catch a break.
They bring some reasonable evidence to bear in their indictment of the upper class, beginning with this chart:
This is an awesome chart
Uh, I guess it’s pretty cool…
This is an awesome chart on the income sources of the very top of the American income scale I pulled from Business Insider. Look at the squiggles on the far left and then the far right. A century ago, the very wealthy vaulted America full bore into the industrial age. They built big, successful business. The businesses represented their wealth and value. Bottom line: they created stuff. The far right tells a different story. The uppermost of the uppermost have evolved from a class of creators and innovators into a bunch of overpaid assholes who create very little if anything.
So far, quite reasonable. But remember, our friend is a centrist, and being fair and balanced requires pretending that the shit-blisteringly stupid opinions are equally valid simply by virtue of being opposed to the reasonable ones. So, what evidence will they bring to the table to demonstrate that the lower class is also guilty of driving our country into debt?
I don’t have any charts about the lower end
Oh. So none. Okay. Well, I don’t want to lob any accusations, but it almost sounds like your opinion about the lower class isn’t based on facts so much as prejudice and a cheap attempt to claim intellectual superiority by placing yourself between – and thus somehow above – two opposite points of view.
but with stats like 14% of all Americans using food stamps, why go there?
Why go there? You mean, why go in the direction of actually providing evidence for your assertions? Well god, I don’t know, maybe so that we have some reason to believe that you’re not just a classist chucklefuck?
For starters, food stamps only cost about $70 billion in 2010, and overall they’re not a huge chunk of federal welfare spending. But let’s look beyond just food stamps, since unlike our centrist friend we’re interested in actual facts and data. Income security cost the federal government $622.2 billion in 2010, which is about the same as the defense budget. Medicaid, another means-tested program (which thus also counts as welfare, I suppose) cost another $272.8 billion. So, total federal expenditures to poor people: about $900 billion. (All data comes from the White House Office of Management and Budget.)
That’s a lot of money – I’m certainly not going to claim otherwise. It’s a dire situation, to be sure. But need I point out that we’re in a major recession? Let’s go back in time to 2006, back when the shit was still en route to the fan. Total welfare expenditures for 2006, again including both income security and Medicaid: $478 billion dollars.
That’s right, welfare spending has nearly doubled since 2006.** So let me just reiterate that this problem is not systemic; it’s the result of a depressed economy in which more people are in poverty.
So do we blame the poor for being poor, as our centrist friend does? Sure, if we’re assholes. But going back to their food stamp example, consider this (warning: pdf): the median annual income for a household receiving food stamps in 2009 was $8,532. The average household receiving food stamps had between 2 and 3 members (so no, centrist friend, the root issue here is not women who pop out baby after baby; asshole). The problem here is not, as the author implies, that food stamps cover too wide a range of households. It’s that too many households are living in poverty.
And we can blame the rich for that, for reasons I don’t need to rehash.