Yesterday, I noted with some alarm the fact-free nature of the GOP debate.
A recent report from the Brookings Institution offers a useful reminder that–inconvenient or not– facts really do matter, particularly when economic policy decisions must be made.
The dog days of August have given way to something much worse. Congress returned to session this week, and the rest of the year promises to be nightmarish. The House and Senate passed budget resolutions earlier this year calling for nearly $5 trillion in spending cuts by 2025. More than two-thirds of those cuts would come from programs that help people with low-and moderate-incomes. Health care spending would be halved. If such cuts are enacted, the president will likely veto them. At best, another partisan budget war will ensue after which the veto is sustained. At worst, the cuts become law.
The putative justification for these cuts is that the nation faces insupportable increases in public debt because of expanding budget deficits. Even if the projections were valid, it would be prudent to enact some tax increases in order to preserve needed public spending. But the projections of explosively growing debt are not valid. They are fantasy.
The remainder of the article–which is well worth reading in its entirety–explains that projections of deficits result from the use of “conventions” (assumptions) that do not reflect current reality, and are evidently not intended to do so.
I do not pretend to understand the utility of these conventions for budgetary purposes, but to the extent they produce “projections” that do not reflect reality, their use as ammunition in the effort to reduce government to a size that can be “drowned in a bathtub”–to use Grover Norquist’s phrase–is pernicious.
But what if we did face persistent deficits?
The assumption seems to be that the only avenue open to policymakers would be budget cuts. It’s as if we have taken tax increases off the table–despite the fact that America’s tax rates are historically low, America’s wealthiest enjoy a wide range of unconscionable tax loopholes, and America’s most profitable corporations continue to evade taxes by parking their profits offshore.
I don’t understand the dogged determination of the “morality party” to ignore the facts in order to protect the perquisites of the already advantaged at the expense of those who have little or nothing.