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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press David Brooks is Upset that the Politicians Are Listening to Voters

David Brooks is Upset that the Politicians Are Listening to Voters

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Tuesday, 23 November 2010 05:47

David Brooks told readers that he is very upset. It seems that even though the Social Security and Medicare cutters have spent tens of millions of dollars pushing their agenda, the politicians still are unlikely to act.

Of course the facts are very clear. There is no truth to the whining about out of control government spending. According to the Congressional Budget Office, non-interest federal spending was 18.8 percent of GDP in 1980. In 2020 it is projected to be 18.6 percent of GDP.

The story of Social Security impoverishing our children is just a fairy tale intended to scare little kids. According to the Congressional Budget Office it can pay all benefits through the year 2039 with no changes whatsoever. If the projected shortfall over its 75-year planning period was closed entirely with an increase in the payroll tax (as opposed to raising the cap and/or using other taxes) it would offset the projected increase in in real wages over about an 18 month period. That doesn't quite fit the story of child abuse that the deficit hawks like to push.

And of course the whole long-term deficit nightmare story is driven entirely by our broken health care system. If per person health care costs in the United States were the same as in any of the wealthy countries with longer life expectancies we would be looking at huge budget surpluses, not deficits.

Given the facts, it is not surprising that even conservatives are opposed to cutting Social Security and Medicare. But that leaves Mr. Brooks hugely disappointed. After all, the Wall Street gang spent a huge amount of money and effort to build up the current drumbeat for cuts to these key programs. In addition to the commissions, they have essentially enlisted the Washington Post and National Public Radio and other media outlets as full time cheerleaders in this effort, abandoning any pretext of journalistic objectivity. If all this effort goes to waste, how they ever going to take these benefits away from the middle class?

Comments (19)Add Comment
Keep repeating
written by bakho, November 23, 2010 5:25
"If per person health care costs in the United States were the same as in any of the wealthy countries with longer life expectancies we would be looking at huge budget surpluses, not deficits."

If you can get this message on TV 5 times it will start to get traction.
Bipartisanship and Compromise Are Just Codewords
written by Ron Alley, November 23, 2010 6:12
When I read Brooks, I always have to remind myself that bipartisanship and compromise are just codewords for surrendering to the GOP agenda. Brooks and the other conservative columnists can't bring themselves to address true compromise on any issue in plain and simple terms.

Take the issue of the expiring tax cuts. While, continuing the middle class tax cuts will act as an immediate economic stimulus, continuing the tax cuts for incomes over $250,000 will not. The deficit will be trimmed little by ending the middle class tax cuts, but substantially by ending the tax cuts for incomes over $250,000. This compromise has been on the table since Obama was elected.

The day that Brooks writes that the Republican leadership is wrong in blocking this compromise is the day that Brooks can be taken seriously.
The Economics of Original Sin: Let the Alan Simpson Blood Flow
written by izzatzo, November 23, 2010 7:45
From the NYT article, this quote by Brooks:
In fact, all affluent countries are now faced with the challenge of reforming their welfare states and few are as immobilized as the U.S. is. ...

... For centuries, American politicians ... were constrained by a mentality inherited from the founders ... in a state of equilibrium between its many factions. ... fragile because we are flawed and fallen creatures and can’t quite trust ourselves. So all of us, but especially members of the leadership class, should practice self-restraint. Moral anxiety restrained hubris (don’t think your side possesses the whole truth) and self-indulgence (debt corrupts character).


Interpretation: It wasn't welfare redistribution that brought down affluent countries after all. It was the fall of competing political factions that kept them together, replaced by the gridlock of Original Financial Sin.

When financiers bit into the Apple of Original Sin, they were made aware that they too, were flawed and fallen distrustful creatures, and proceeded with an Educational Austerity Program to disseminate this knowledge in an act of admission.

The Sin of Housing Extravagance, unlike other self-indulgent sins, was a Systemic Sin of Shared Sacrifice that affected everyone, beyond anyones control to avoid the erosion of character and self restraint. Everyone is culpable because no one is culpable.

Let the Alan Simpson Blood flow to the sound of Teabagger Leeches as they heal the festering wounds gouged into capitalism by the flawed and fallen. All it requires is a confession that one is no better or worse than a banker.
David Brooks keeps....
written by JesusCrispy, November 23, 2010 8:02
Polishing the turd that is conservatism. The more he shines it the more s?@t he gets on his hands and face.
...
written by tomm, November 23, 2010 8:05
If people would just quit buying garbage rags like the NY Times, and stop watching the Sunday Morning news show drivel like This Week, then ignorant pundits like Brooks would have to go out and find real jobs. Lets boycott the corporate media stooges!
So What Is the Real Agenda of Brooks, the Times, NPR, etc?
written by Hugh Sansom, November 23, 2010 9:51
The facts are pretty straightforward, but the major media outlets, the Simpson-Bowles brigade, the Obama-Summers pseudo-Democrats, and so on, are all determined to cut Social Security. Why?

Are they too beholden to Wall Street?

Is it that they are all advocates of the great transfer of wealth from the middle class to the rich? Would that be because they see themselves on the receiving end of that transfer?
You say red, I say blue...
written by TeacherZ, November 23, 2010 9:51
David Brooks' loves the false dichotomy arguments. In his world there are two kinds of people: those who can count.
...
written by Arne, November 23, 2010 9:58
"In 2020 it is projected to be 18.6 percent of GDP."

The table I see at the link says "total outlays" = 25.2 percent, "net interest" = 4.2 percent. That makes "non-interest spending" = 21.1 percent.

Am I reading it wrong?
Brooks says:
written by diesel, November 23, 2010 10:33
"For centuries, American politicians did not run up huge peacetime debts."

Well there's a howler right there. Brooks, look around you. We are in a state of war and have been for quite some time now. There's no money to plow the snow off the streets in front of my house because we're spending it by the wheelbarrel full in the Middle East and God knows where.

The poor hapless American citizen. Misled by his/her leaders into believing that constant war is not incompatable with a decent life style. That war is actually "good" for someone somewhere. War will break us as surely as it has broken every other imperial state. The end is on the horizon when a nation has to hire mercenaries to fill the army's ranks and private armies spring up to do the bidding of factions operating within the government without constitutional sanction.
...
written by PeonInChief, November 23, 2010 10:56
Perhaps the majority of the citizenry has figured out that this is an attempt to part of from resources that we've already paid for--and we don't like those who crashed the economy putting their hands in our pockets yet again.
...
written by PeonInChief, November 23, 2010 10:57
Oops, should be "part us from resources". Sorry.
...
written by jerry, November 23, 2010 2:21
"Am I reading it wrong?"


Doesn't seem like it. Also, looks like it's 19.8 (21.7 - 1.9) in 1980.

Still, comparing 21.1% and 19.8% makes about the same point that spending isn't "out of control."
Spending from 1980 to 2020 was not the problem
written by AndrewDover, November 23, 2010 10:47
Extensions of Tax cuts is the threat as can bee seen in: Table 1-2, "Projected Spending and Revenues Under CBO’s Long-Term Budget Scenarios"

of http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/115...0-LTBO.pdf

It shows spending in percentages of GDP from 2010 to 2035:

1.4 to 3.9 Interest + 2.5
3.6 to 5.9 Medicare + 2.3
1.9 to 3.8 Medicaid, CHIP, exch subsidies + 1.9

But that is the extended-baseline scenario which assumes the Bush tax cuts expire and AMT and Doc fixes don't happen again.

Under the alternative fiscal scenario, where the Bush tax cuts etc are extended,
1.4 to 8.7 Interest +7.3

That shows it pretty well, if you don't stop the tax cut nonsense, interest spending will exceed Medicare spending in 2035.

Dean is right to highlight medical spending, but the accumulation of interest if we don't let the Bush tax cuts expire is 7.3% of GDP to Medicare+Medicaid+CHIP's 10.9%.
...
written by umass1993, November 24, 2010 1:46
Read "Sins of Commissions". Great piece Dean.
Wall Street wants a cut OF Social Security, not TO cut it.
written by FGS, November 24, 2010 1:50
Privatizing Social Security means diverting the funds into accounts that Wall Street controls. The only cut Wall Street wants to Social Security is the percentage they intend to keep for themselves when they start "managing" everyone's privatized accounts.
Spending from 1983 to 2020
written by deanx, November 24, 2010 5:07
Historic Government spending has been a problem. Congress treated Payroll Taxes as General Tax Receipts in this period an consequently built up a huge debt. This slight of hand, promoted by both parties over 30 years, is the primal cause of the looming crisis. Unfortunately the time to question that thinking is past.
...
written by nike air max, November 24, 2010 7:50
When financiers bit into the Apple of Original Sin, they were made aware that they too, were flawed and fallen distrustful creatures, and proceeded with an Educational Austerity Program to disseminate this knowledge in an act of admission.

The Sin of Housing Extravagance, unlike other self-indulgent sins, was a Systemic Sin of Shared Sacrifice that affected everyone, beyond anyones control to avoid the erosion of character and self restraint. Everyone is culpable because no one is culpable.

Let the Alan Simpson Blood flow to the sound of Teabagger Leeches as they heal the festering wounds gouged into capitalism by the flawed and fallen. All it requires is a confession that one is no better or worse than a banker.
...
written by air max bw chaussures, November 24, 2010 8:00
The poor hapless American citizen. Misled by his/her leaders into believing that constant war is not incompatable with a decent life style. That war is actually "good" for someone somewhere. War will break us as surely as it has broken every other imperial state. The end is on the horizon when a nation has to hire mercenaries to fill the army's ranks and private armies spring up to do the bidding of factions operating within the government without constitutional sanction.
Social Security
written by Dan Nile, November 24, 2010 10:53
Actually the CBO forecast Social Security goes into deficit by 2020 under the current trajectory (in actuality, it's coming as soon as next year):

http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=6074&type=0


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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.

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