Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Suddenly, Deficits Do Matter?

Ed Koch, former mayor of New York City, pronounces his last name "koch."

Pretty easy, huh?

The billionaire Koch brothers who are funding much of today's right-wing conservatism pronounce their last name "coke."

How many pronunciations can there be for such a short name?

New York's former mayor, a Democrat, prides himself on being a "what you see is what you get" kind of guy. Whether you agreed with his politics or not. Like the way you pronounce his last name: koch = koch.

But for Charles and David Koch, pronouncing their last name differently than it's spelled hints at something more: is the political side they want us to see what we really get?

Take, for example, Charles' editorial in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, in which he claims that "crony capitalism and bloated government prevent entrepreneurs from producing the products and services that make people's lives better."

Nothing incorrect about that statement, of course. Both Democrats and Republicans have been claiming - and proving - it for years. And plenty of the Journal's readers heartily agree, as I do. But how curious is it that Charles has apparently been able to justify preaching such conservative political activism to such gushing receptivity... when he didn't preach it during our last Republican administration?

In fact, although it's hard to actually disprove most of the points Koch makes in his piece, the vehemence of his argument can quickly blind the reader to the blazing fallacy of what he doesn't say.

First, Some History

While admitting that both liberal and conservative politicians have contributed over the years to America's bloated budget and suffocating deficit, Koch deftly ignores the fact that it was a fellow Republican, George W. Bush, #43, who built almost all of the massive deficit and perpetrated much of the overspending for which our current president is being blamed.

Back when Ross Perot, one of our most successful entrepreneurs in Texas, and one of this conservative state's most conservative businessmen, ran for President in 1992, he ran against the deficit-builder George H. W. Bush, #41, and the government spending Bush and his ex-boss, Ronald Reagan, had lavished upon taxpayers. Perot lost, of course, but not to #41, but to Bill Clinton, under whose watch the budget managed to balance (although conservatives like to say it was due to #41's tax increases - another oxymoron).

Enter #43, and his arrogant sidekick, Dick Cheney. After some of the neo-con hawks started shooting up the old Persian Empire after 9/11, causing government spending to spike, Cheney sneered that "deficits don't matter" because of how the economy rallied after Reagan's generous spending.

But wait! Back in 2004, liberal economist Robert Kuttner wrote an obscure little opinion piece for Businessweek in which he quotes some of the anxious Republicans during #43's first term. At the time, these fiscal conservatives were torn between angst over spending and the raw ambivalence washing over them from the White House.

In his article, Kuttner quotes Robert L. Bixby, executive director of the conservative business group Concord Coalition:

"We used to get a lot of Democrats saying: 'You're just a Republican front group.' Now it's almost the reverse. The change in the Republican Party has been astounding... the Republicans are now the ones making excuses for big deficits."

Why Didn't He Speak Up Years Ago?

Which brings us back to Charles Koch's editorial yesterday, in which he sounds like deficit spending has only come about since Barak Obama came into office. Koch even has the audacity to claim that spending needs to be chopped back to 2003 levels - just about the time those few remaining fiscal conservatives gave up trying to fight the Bush administration's out-of-control spending.

Now, to his credit, Koch correctly points out that Obama doesn't seem interested in making the bold spending reductions that might put a dent in our deficit. And yes, Obama has himself made some financially goofy decisions regarding bogus "stimulus" spending. Koch even admits that his own company could do without all of the handouts industries receive from Uncle Sam. He logically points out that since pulling out of those subsidy programs unilaterally would compromise their competitiveness, they have to put up with the lunacy of it all to stay in the game.

Indeed, you have to get even pickier than me to find the flaws in Koch's argument for cutting spending and restoring fiscal sanity to our treasury. He's not really wrong about anything. Just a little disingenuous.

Where were he and his brother back in 2003 and 2004, when Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld could do no wrong by the Republican party? Koch could have been a bigger hero if his tough love against deficit spending had been preached while conservatives considered it good policy.

Right-wingers who are blasting away at Democrats now shouldn't be surprised when liberals think they're crying wolf. This is why partisanship doesn't work in government.

You never know when your inaction can come back to haunt you.

1 comment:

  1. "chanced" upon your blog. I am a Canadian who loves America and all things american. The rest of the "Free world" looks at the actual US military spending and wonders... It is so incredibly high. It is really astounding. It gives the impression of a system that has taken a life of itself and is out of control.
    Military budget (in billions)

    United States of America 667.7[1]

    United Kingdom 59.638

    France 54.592

    Germany 38.145

    So if the US would satisfy itself with a budget equal to that of UK+France+ Germany, it would cost 153 billions.

    The other aspect that needs to be underline: the possibility that the HUMONGUS size of your military makes it tempting to use it. Some kind of built-in pressure. So a more reasonnable budget would probably decrease the chance of wreckless move like Irak...


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