Domestic Disturbances…

While I’m still waiting to hear Democratic outrage over continuing to engage American volunteers into needless death and dismemberment in the Iraqi desert (I’m still waiting… and waiting…), I have little doubt we will NOT hear similar silence in response to the clear implications of Dubya’s (W as in wield-the-ax) likely budgetary priorities as set forth in this La-La Times (registration required, damn them) piece. (Thanks, and saints be praised, to Bruce-the-veep for the always timely assist; Bruce also sends along this Grey Lady piece on nucular proliferation where we can expect a defeaning silence from boths sides of the aisle– as they said in the Blues Brothers, country and western).
Anyway, back to budgetary matters. Cliffnotes version: doctors (via malpractice suits) generate too much money that is recycled to Democratic candidates, and even though the AMA and many doctors are loyal Republicans, they preside over a system that, on net, helps Democrats, and hence, they (doctors) will have to single-handedly bear the brunt of Bush’s budget axe via Medicaid/Medicare reductions (more the latter), and hence, elderly people will have fewer medical care options as more and more doctors just cut off new patients rather than risk measlier and measlier reimbursement rates.
Think of it this way (as the LaLa Times Piece suggests): the budget has around 5 roughtly even fiscal components: (1) interest on debt payable to our Chinese and Japanese overlords– untouchable unless we want to default and trigger the end of foreign credit; (2) “defense” and “homeland security”, billions and billions spent on missile systems that don’t work against enemies that no longer exist, and maybe– MAYBE– a few hundred bucks for body armor and armored vehicles for, you know, our troops… or not, as the case may be…, which the President has declared untouchable; (3) social security, which the President has declared untouchable; (4) medicare/medicaid (two separate Great Society programs, the former for the elderly, the latter for the poor); and (5) everything else (so-called “discretionary spending”, from NASA, SEC, Interior, Commerce, Justice, courts, science and disease research… you name it…).
Ordinarily, one balances the budget via… taxes. This President tells us that doctrinally, he will not do that. Because he is a true believer (believer that his father lost reelection by being fiscally responsible, that is), he will not, under any circumstances, do anything remotely responsible. Hence, all he has left is budgetary matters. However– in sheer numbers, even cutting category 5 in its entirety would not bring us a balanced budget. Oh– he won’t raise taxes to cover either his increased Iraq “off-budget” spending, or the trillions of dollars in social security privatization transition costs.
That’s right, boys and girls: if all our federal government did was pay for the Pentagon (and the new Homeland Security Department), interest on the debt, social security and medicare AND NOTHING ELSE, thanks to the St. Alan Greenspan blessed tax cuts and resultant massive deficits, our budget would STILL be unbalanced.
Now– John Kerry’s answer to this debacle was twofold: spend more money on categories four and five, which, of course, is “the problem”, and increase taxes (wheewww… the solution… except…) on… the… rich… only. While this is the sort of nonsense that Democrats are forced to spout in order to win primaries, it is precisely the same nonsense that costs them (time after time) in general elections. You see: Americans value and cherish our rich. Its our poor and middle class, of course, who can go to hell. But if you ask our rich to bear any form of sacrifice, its only fair that said sacrifice be matched (and preferably exceeded) by the burden you ask the poor to bear. Worse still, Kerry’s super-pandering envisioned yet more and more complicated “middle class” tax dodges.
Only Howard Dean (who, as a result, is the enemy of all organized Democratic Party insiders, and the blocking of whom is the only thing they can agree on– besides legalizing abortion on demand under any and all circumstances, of course) had the honest answer: Bush’s tax cuts were the problem– and hence, they had to be repealed in their entirety. No “fine tuning”, no pandering– just take us back to the “incentive killing” 39.5% top marginal rate that governed during the economic expansion of the ’90’s.
Don’t look for any other Democrat to spout any such nonsense. Won’t happen. Democrats (probably even led by John Kerry himself) will now rail against Bush’s “heartless” budgetary cuts, and they will,, of course, rail about his “tax cuts for the rich”, while if one accepted their proposed solutions (if they have any), budgetary imbalance would even be worse still.
If Democrats want to have any credibility whatsoever, they (we?) will have to come up with a reasonable alternative. Seems to me that the only governor who didn’t have a state constitutional requirement of a balanced budget who balanced his budget anyway (that would be Howard Dean), is somebody Democrats ought to be listening to– instead of portraying him as a mad man– to get some street creds on fiscal responsibility.
I’m waiting… Look for much carping about the heartlessness of the President’s budgetary priorities from Democrats. Do NOT look out for solutions (by Democrats, anyway), that won’t actually make things worse from a fiscal perspective. I can always be pleasantly surprised, but… we won’t hold our breath… Again– even without a coherent response to what he’d do on Iraq, had Kerry even been disciplined with respect to domestic policy and fiscal matters (besides “I’ll spend more money and pander to the middle class”), he might have picked up, say, Iowa and West Virginia and New Mexico and eked out a win…
No matter. Look for Democrats to do what they always do: carp, to win support from “the base”, without actually proposing to solve anything. It may be the day after Christmas, but Americans want Santa Claus to come from Washington all year. Democrats have yet to figure out how to play this, while Republicans have seemed to have figured it out with a vengeance… Somebody’s got to be the damned grown-up… but no one wants to be… Well, enough incoherence from me… Just keep all of this in mind as “the budget debate” plays out. You can take it to the bank (assuming the dollar is still worth anything…)