The Appalling Deficit Deal

The Appalling Deficit Deal

Daniel Greenwood: The Appalling Deficit Deal


That is the only word to describe the president’s deal to, in the words of the White House fact sheet, “reduce non-defense discretionary spending to its lowest level since Dwight Eisenhower was President.”

Our population, economy, and needs are far greater than they were in 1950. And we are in the middle of a jobs crisis, where low demand has led to low job growth and wage stagnation, leading to more low demand.

What we need is expanded investment, not “shared sacrifice” that is neither shared nor sacrifice, but simply willful destruction of our future.

Our economy cannot survive unless we vastly increase governmental investment in the basic underpinnings of middle-class life. We need to expand, not cut, governmental support of education at all levels and primary research. We need to build a modern, high-speed, train-based transit system to first-world standards. We need to reform our medical care system and its financing, bringing our costs down and effectiveness up to the levels of the rest of the rich world (which will save us and our government far greater sums than the President’s Tea Party?inspired cuts). And to save on medical care, we will need to pay for more of it through taxes and less via profiteering and incompetent insurance companies.

For too long, our government has been in thrall to a small class of businesses and finance professionals that profit from breaking rules, lowering standards, externalizing costs on others, and redistributing income upward. We’ve been cutting domestic government investment in infrastructure, regulation, education, and the foundations of middle-class life as a percentage of GDP since Reagan.

The result is, predictably, that the already lopsided U.S. economy is nearing the breaking point. We are a country so rich that our elite can fly their children to summer camp by private jet, yet we chose not to provide basic education, medical care, and retirement plans to the middle-class, let alone decent nutrition to the poor. For a generation we staved off the collapse of the middle class by finding creative ways to let families borrow more; now that game is over. We must return to middle-class wages that pay enough to support middle-class demand–and that can happen with a powerful governmental sector making the investments that the private sector will not.

The Talmud explains that the sin of Sodom, the reason God destroyed the city, was that its inhabitants were so evil that they would injure others even when it did not benefit them at all. In this sense, the GOP/Obama deficit reduction plan is fundamentally Sodomite. We give up economic growth for the sake of increasing inequality and hurting Americans. This is just wrong.

Wurgraft | University of California Press Lima