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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press The Left and Right Can Agree That NPR Completely Misled Listeners About the Supercommittee and the Deficit

The Left and Right Can Agree That NPR Completely Misled Listeners About the Supercommittee and the Deficit

Wednesday, 23 November 2011 05:06

NPR badly needs donations of paper bags, because a lot of people there need to be wearing them over their heads after this piece. The piece ostensibly tells listeners that both left and right agree that things can't keep going as they are going and that the problem is Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

This is hugely wrong. First, the budget deficit first became large when the economy plunged because of the collapse of the housing bubble. The deficit in 2007 was just 1.2 percent of GDP and was projected to stay low in the next several years, even if the Bush tax cuts did not expire.

In other words, there is no short-term deficit problem. The problem was a collapse of private sector spending that made it necessary for the federal government to pick up the gap. Those who are unhappy about current deficits want higher unemployment. That is the reality, whether they know it or not.

The longer term problem is a health care story. We can say the cost of anything together with Medicare and Medicaid funding is a problem, because rising private sector health care costs, felt through these programs, is the problem. For example, we could say that funding for NPR (through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting) plus Medicare and Medicaid will rise hugely as a share of GDP over the next two decades.

Social Security is financed by its dedicated tax stream, which is projected to keep the program fully funded through the year 2038. It is misleading to imply that this is a cause of deficit problems. (Under the law, if Social Security funding is not increased, then only 81 percent of projected benefits will be paid in years after 2038. So the program would not contribute to the deficit.)

In reality, both left and right can agree that the broken U.S. health care system is the problem. The United States already pays more than twice as much per person as the average in other wealthy countries. If our per person health care costs were the same as those in Canada, Germany or any other wealthy country, we would be looking at huge budget surpluses, not deficits. 

Comments (7)Add Comment
NPR Projects Self Hatred Onto Defenseless Unemployed
written by izzatzo, November 23, 2011 4:56
Those who are unhappy about current deficits want higher unemployment. That is the reality, whether they know it or not.

Epictetus the Stoic Philosopher has said:
Where is the good? In the will. Where is the evil? In the will. Where is neither of them? In those things that are independent of the will. Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them.

NPR wants unemployment like a self-loathing sadist projects suffering onto others to avoid the sting of deserved guilt for tortured logic.

Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of deficits I will fear no evil for the unemployed shall protect me as they bear my guilt.

Stupid liberals.
In a Deep Recession, Deficits are Good
written by Paul, November 23, 2011 6:16
Why is that concept so difficult to understand? Keynes proved it 75 years ago, so there has been plenty of time to learn it.

Of course it is counter-intuitive, but so are many other problems we face, such as a skidding car - most drivers know to steer in the direction of the skid.

Are Americans simply the most ignorant people on Earth? Is our education system that bad?
written by Union Member, November 23, 2011 8:18
Nothing is either good or bad, tis thinking that makes itzzo - Shakespear
If NPR is miss leading or promoting austerity what does that mean?
written by Doyle Saylor, November 23, 2011 10:22
I see austerity politics as destabilizing and unpopular. So the question to my mind is why for example NPR is promoting austerity. I'm not interested to apply how the U.S. stabilized it's economy during the thirties. I'm interested to know why a stable system is being broken down by right wing ideology now. I see applying Keynesian economics to salvage the status quo as a futile project. I can see that in the thirties FDR created a long lasting stabilization in the U.S. which appears to me to be now breaking down.

Defending workers is my goal. I'd say then that austerity is being used to drive the global system toward a new arrangement. The breakdown in U.S. power which is what world wide austerity reflects is not going to be salvaged by Keynesian economics if we fail to grasp what the break down is about.

Unless and until the left acknowledges the status quo is broken and advocates a new stabilization in contemporary conditions we will fail in the face of austerity. In other words U.S. hegemonic arrangements will decline and is irreversible but the outcome can be shaped by a clarity about where the new stabilization leads to.

If the hegemonic power is losing it's grip what happens? The U.S. advantage of a continental sized power based on the English language unity fails in the face of supra national power entities. Hence hegemonic power is about continental sized forces making arrangements in the face of U.S. decline. National solutions cannot work in the face of continental power arrangements.

In that context austerity goes along toward breaking down the old hegemonic balances. Austerity though forces changes at the cost of political instability. From Europe's point of view they are forging a continental European power out of the collapse of U.S. hegemony. From the U.S. point of view continental power has failed. Hence politically austerity is no answer for the U.S. because it fails to arrest hegemonic collapse.

The solution for the U.S. and for the U.S. left is to see the status quo as indefensible as preserving hegemonic arrangements. And to challenge austerity as a path to follow for the U.S. future. Keynesian economics might work in a new arrangement if we know what that might be. A clear supra nationalistic solution as seems to be emerging in German influence in Europe would emerge in the U.S. from wholly different interests. In particular austerity politics here points at nothing but salvaging the status quo via right wing nostalgia for past glories. We have the means still to offer a counter to European hegemonic intentions. or to China's hegemonic intentions if we recognize the problem as it is now and offer stabilization processes that rests upon the contemporary world forces. The U.S. can't break down via austerity to a solution for hegemonic loss of power. The U.S. must offer stabilization as a real possibility via a view of global systems rather than continental power. In that context austerity represents failure for the U.S. Stabilization represents success.
Why NPR is promoting austerity
written by Ellen1910, November 23, 2011 1:23
Isn't it obvious?

"The House on Thursday [March 17, 2011] voted to strip National Public Radio's federal funding . . . ."

And which party controls the House? And which party champions austerity?

Let's not be naive, folks.
written by hil2, November 23, 2011 1:38
Why is NPR promoting austerity? Well, let's see, who contributes oodles of $$$ to NPR and has their companies (I mean Foundation) mentioned between news reports? Would you not say these "corporate" donors, and "private" foundations might not be entirely happy with NPR promoting higher taxes? Isn't an NPR donation a great way to avoid paying taxes?
Why does your projected benefits outlook fluctuate so often?
written by Anthony, November 23, 2011 5:02

I have noticed that over time your projection for the percentage of Social Security benefits to be paid after 2038 has gradually risen--from something like 75% to the current 81%. What accounts for this fluctuation? And is this improved outlook likely to continue?


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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.