Monday, December 5, 2011

I say, Pickering, what do you suppose liberals really want?

This, by John Harwood, from back before Thanksgiving, clarified for me something I have never understood about self-denominated "centrists". It is about the meeting held at Tulane to game through the process of creating a deficit reduction plan under the guidance of Alice Rivlin and Pete Domenici, representing the bourbon-drinking Ronald-Reagan-and-Tip-O'Neil wings of their respective parties, but it is printed in the ragged right style the Times adopts for things that are not intended to be a factual statement. Anyway, the setup is like this:
Democratic members, whose forebears created the entitlement programs that senior citizens cherish, really don’t want to cut them. But they fear that fiscal sanity requires it.

So the party of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson agrees to consider a change in Social Security benefit formulas to reduce cost-of-living increases. They even entertain the idea of transforming Medicare into a “premium support” program of fixed subsidies for beneficiaries, though more generous ones than in Republican Representative Paul D. Ryan’s plan.

The Republicans, who have sought to brake the growth of government for decades, really don’t want to raise taxes. But they, too, worry that fiscal sanity makes such increases necessary.

So the party of Barry M. Goldwater and Ronald Reagan considers increasing the amount of income subject to Social Security taxes. Republicans press to cut the top corporate and personal income tax rates to 27 percent from 35 percent, but ponder a plan to more than make up for the lost revenue by sharply curbing deductions.

What's new to me here is the absence of any clue that somebody might actually believe that cutting Social Security and Medicare could be a bad plan that would harm the economy, even though all sorts of people, Nobel Prize economists included, have been saying so repeatedly for the last three years.

No indeed! We just cling to our COLAs out of respect for the sentimentality of the voters, exactly as Republicans cherish that 15% tax rate on capital gains, knowing that it is wrong, from pure tenderness for their sleepless, nail-biting billionaire donors. Harwood has used the theory of bipartisan equivalence to construct a model of that mysterious and elusive particle, the Liberal Mind! (With much more elegant results, obviously, than you'd get by asking a few liberals what they think.) And then the model proves that the Great Compromise is exactly what everybody needs--plus a little whiskey.

I love this image--the Village journalist as Cartesian scientist, acquiring a sense of reality by blandly deducing it from First Principles, as if that were a better approach than opening his eyes--so much I want to marry it.

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