Live at the Atlantic

August 3rd, 2011 at 1:16 pm

…where I’m going to try to write a regular column about how to get out of the mess we’re in.  Part 1 explains my view of how we got here.  Always reductionist to compress 40 years into a few sentences, but I’ve tried to put on a filter to get at the essentials.

I get that folks are understandably breathing a sigh of relief that self-imposed default is not upon us (though some are apparently rubbing their eyes after this bad dream, looking about them, and seeing a very tough economy).

But it is not really behind us.  To the contrary, we seriously risk enshrining some of what just happened into lasting public policy.  That’s not a paranoid fantasy, that’s the stated intention of influential Republicans, as I stress here and my CBPP Bob Greenstein powerfully underscores here.


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8 comments in reply to "Live at the Atlantic"

  1. Dan says:

    Considering the absolutist positions the GOP has embraced regarding tax increases, and their seemingly endless drive to destroy the welfare state, it seems to me that part of the problem is simply one of nomenclature.

    That is, “discretionary spending”, and more specifically non-defense discretionary spending, will always (and recently has been) a prime target for cuts because it is titled so vaguely. If the public understood that it included transportation, education, agriculture, energy, and general infrastructure (and further broken down for explanation), this category would be less, perhaps much less, likely to be first on the chopping block.

    Let McConnell, Ryan, and Boehner et al try and convince their constituents that we need massive cuts to schools, highways, and the energy grid. As usual, their success is predicated on a lack of specificity, and the ability to mislead or obscure the true cost and intent of their preferred policies. Obama and the Dems need to respond, and strongly. This is a good place to start.

  2. foosion says:


    Will the Atlantic have an RSS feed for your column? If not, please post links here.

  3. Tom Cammarata says:

    “But it is not really behind us. To the contrary, we seriously risk enshrining some of what just happened into lasting public policy.”

    Too late. Already happened. The GOP has enshrined that all policy henceforth must be made by the lame leading the blind leading the deaf.

    At least the results will be predictable.

  4. Jan says:

    Dear Mr. Bernstein,
    Thank you for helping me understand a bit about how this works. You are a great teacher.

    I truly believe that tax revenues need to be part of the solution and I know the administration does too. So I’d love to see the Bush tax cuts expire on millionaires and billionaires and any revenue socked away in the SS lock box to save on interest payments.

    But ultimately income tax is no way to solve the problem. It gets to be a big, fat, ugly political fight about the people not wanting their taxes to go up and government getting “too big.” However, it’s pretty obvious that some politicians would prefer to starve the government rather than have it serve its citizens, so I’d love to neutralize that “Baloney Sandwich.”

    Since the Commerce Clause appears to tell us that the Founders advocated capitalism but that they expected the success of capitalism to pay for “entitlements” from our government, why isn’t the budget formulated in a constitutionally mandated manner?

    First we need to re-pay the SS Trust Fund by ending the Bush tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, and re-locking the lock box.

    Then it seems we can stipulate a standard budget that is “cut, capped, and balanced” by:
    (1) First, taxing Commerce so that it gives back the percentage of GDP that Congress needs to fund the government for We the People (20% of GDP?); and then (2) spending that revenue according to a consistent formula (such as 6% for the national Debt, 6% for the national Defense, 6% for the national Welfare, and then perhaps 1% for national emergencies, and 1% for progressive investments).

    As far as I can tell from my reading of the Constitution, it looks the authors never expected the people to pay for their own government — whether big or small. The Founders gave Congress the power to tax capitalism’s success, in order to fund a government that serves the needs of We the People.

    It’s time to tax corporations to pay for our welfare, rather than taxing us to pay for corporate welfare.

    Thanks for listening. Keep up the good work.

  5. Geoff Freedman says:

    I read the article. I’m not sure that Democrats have gotten the message about the scary part. On one level, it seemed like Democrats could not respond effectively to the ruthless, determined and downright ugly tactics used in the debt ceiling fight. The Tea Party either did not get what a default meant, or did not care, and I don’t know which is scarrier, ignorance or coldness.

    There no longer seems to be any sense of the common good, and I am 65 years old and a native born American and I feel like a forigner in my own country.

    Obama needs to be more aggressive, and at least I know he can use the bully pulpet to teach, and explain. He should be good at that.

    This is the way its going to be from now on; a kind of relentless onslaught against the new deal institutions with the intent of dismantling the apparatus. It seems as if those in favor of small governemnt without common welfare programs are gaining the upper hand for now.

    If Democrats are Socialists, what does that make them?

  6. Neildsmith says:

    What if conservatives and moderates just don’t care any more about the poor, unemployed, elderly, and disabled? Every time someone suggests cutting benefits, progressives cry out in agony about how cruel it would be. These cries are met, generally, with a collective yawn from moderates and hostility from conservatives. We demand that they pay higher taxes to support people they think are unworthy of their support. That’s a losing proposition as demonstrated by the last 30 years of American politics. Progressives are out of touch and the backlash is getting worse because we have utterly lost all credibility.

  7. mer says:

    Hello, I have enjoyed reading your blog since Digby linked to it about a month or so ago. You might want to reconsider writing for the Atlantic until Megan McArdle is relieved of her duties. She seems to make stuff up that isn’t true and they let her post it. I’m not sure a person of your caliber would want to be associated with the same publication. And yes, I do like your blog. Thanks.