thoughts on politics

October 6, 2008

Mad Money with Matt Brandenburgh

Haven’t had time to finish a longish post I started last week in response to some NY Times opinion stuff, but I’ll try to get to that this week. In the mean time, Maureen Dowd’s column Sunday rocked, as could have been expected. Final line: “True mavericks don’t brand themselves.” True dat, Mo. Bill Kristol, on the other hand, I don’t even know why they keep around.

Realclearpolitics today featured an editorial from the Chicago Sun-Times asking a question that no one else seems to be discussing: in the midst of ongoing conflicts in two countries, a severe economic crisis, the coming demographic deluge, and wildly oscillating prices of oil, how do the candidates (Obama and McCain, anyway) propose to pay for the promises they are making on the trail, such as tax cuts (both of them), healthcare (Obama), and extending our stay in Iraq (McCain)? Though the notions of low spending and fiscal responsibility have long been out of vogue in Washington, they do still apply, whether our candidates pretend they do or not.

Something has to give. Even before President Bush signed the historic Wall Street bailout bill Friday that will, at least initially, add $2,300 in government debt for every American, the two leading candidates for president, John McCain and Barack Obama, were proposing new programs and tax cuts that threatened to run up the federal deficit.

Now, with the $700 billion bailout pushing the federal debt limit to more than $11.3 trillion (with new tax breaks, to boot), one question becomes more pressing than ever: How will the next president make ends meet?

In tomorrow’s presidential debate, let’s hope that’s the first question asked — and forthrightly answered.

Both candidates have largely dodged the issue, trotting out stock solutions that no doubt date to George Washington’s day. They would “close loopholes” and “eliminate waste” and “go after earmarks.”

To his credit in the first debate, McCain did vaguely propose “freezing” spending on all but “vital” programs, but he did not spell out a single particular that might cause a voter pain, such as freezing farm subsidies. Obama proved even more reticent, saying only that some programs are ”probably going to have to be delayed.” He sounded more interested in stressing what spending he would not trim, such as for education.

How serious is this disconnect between promises and reality?

Even before the Wall Street crisis, the independent Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, estimated that Obama’s tax plan would increase the federal deficit by about $3.6 trillion over 10 years to $5.9 trillion. McCain’s plan would boost it by $5.1 trillion to nearly $7.4 trillion. More troubling, the Center’s analysis concluded, various health proposals and other campaign promises not in the candidates’ official position papers could increase costs further.

To offset his tax cuts, McCain promises to make cuts in discretionary spending and entitlements, and to eliminate earmarks. Both candidates say they would save billions by creating efficiencies in the health care market, and Obama says he would save billions more by ending the war in Iraq.

Our purpose here is not to discourage ambitious plans and bold action by our next president, whether it is Obama or McCain. We agree on the need to provide better health care for every American, on the importance of a good education for every child, on the need to invest in the development of alternative sources of energy.

And we love a good tax cut as much as anybody does.

But it was America’s refusal to face up to the old truism “there’s no free lunch” that got us into this mess, and harder times could be ahead.

The job for Obama and McCain is to help this nation get a grip on reality.

I recently read the book I.O.U.S.A., which addresses the fiscal problems of our country. Though the book wasn’t very good (see my negative review on amazon), it made me realize how the political establishment silences discussion of this very real issue by refusing to address it at all. In this way, it grows and grows, and every time someone comes along and points out the irreconcilability of the government’s spending habits, they look crazy for even talking about it. If it’s just one guy yelling about it, how real can the problem be? That type of tacit thinking marginalizes observers and political players who raise the issue.

So anyhow, kudos to Chicago Sun-Times for the editorial, and to RCP for featuring it.


Finally, Tina Fey hit another one out of the park in SNL’s parody of the VP debate. She’s as good as Darrell Hammond’s Bill Clinton, but for my money, the best political impersonator in SNL’s history is Dana Carvey, for his George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

And here’s Dana:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Dana Carvey as Ross Perot | TV, Music…“, posted with vodpod

1 Comment »

  1. finar flonots mamakucha tif bing icky?

    Comment by Ivana Kutyakokov — November 3, 2008 @ 6:20 pm | Reply

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