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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Wednesday, May 28, 2003



Clymer V. Krugman

Adam Clymer of the NY Times had a long piece describing the predicament of the Democratic Party today. One excerpt:

"The Democrats have generally spent their energy defending past accomplishments, from Social Security to Medicare, rather than seeking to refocus that basic commitment to the middle class and the poor into ideas that reflect how the nation has changed since those laws were passed. President Bill Clinton tried to reframe the party agenda, failing with health care, though succeeding with welfare revision and a few other issues. Still, after his troubles with Monica Lewinsky, he largely gave up and instead pushed small ideas, like school uniforms."

As evidence of this defense of the past, we offer the column by Prof. Krugman, which was published, presumably without a sense of irony, the following day:

..It's no secret that right-wing ideologues want to abolish programs Americans take for granted. But not long ago, to suggest that the Bush administration's policies might actually be driven by those ideologues — that the administration was deliberately setting the country up for a fiscal crisis in which popular social programs could be sharply cut — was to be accused of spouting conspiracy theories.

Yet by pushing through another huge tax cut in the face of record deficits, the administration clearly demonstrates either that it is completely feckless, or that it actually wants a fiscal crisis. (Or maybe both.)

Here's one way to look at the situation: Although you wouldn't know it from the rhetoric, federal taxes are already historically low as a share of G.D.P. Once the new round of cuts takes effect, federal taxes will be lower than their average during the Eisenhower administration. How, then, can the government pay for Medicare and Medicaid — which didn't exist in the 1950's — and Social Security, which will become far more expensive as the population ages? (Defense spending has fallen compared with the economy, but not that much, and it's on the rise again.)

... either taxes will go up again, or programs that have become fundamental to the American way of life will be gutted. We can be sure that the right will do whatever it takes to preserve the Bush tax cuts — right now the administration is even skimping on homeland security to save a few dollars here and there. But balancing the books without tax increases will require deep cuts where the money is: that is, in Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security."


Mr. Clymer seems to have a point.


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