I See The Party, But Where's The Tea?
Anyone who reads political news with even a passing interest knows that there's this big earth-shattering, existential fight between good and evil (aka, the "cut the deficit NOW or the Earth will implode" thing). Good article worth checking out if this sorta thing suits your fancy:
Good ol' Paul Krugman. His opinions are pretty predictable, but he always includes some kind of damning facts to support them.
Consider the following excerpts:
"And what they’ve been hearing ever since Ronald Reagan is that their hard-earned dollars are going to waste, paying for vast armies of useless bureaucrats (payroll is only 5 percent of federal spending) and welfare queens driving Cadillacs. How can we expect voters to appreciate fiscal reality when politicians consistently misrepresent that reality?"
a couple of paragraphs later...
"In a better world, politicians would talk to voters as if they were adults. They would explain that discretionary spending has little to do with the long-run imbalance between spending and revenues. They would then explain that solving that long-run problem requires two main things: reining in health-care costs and, realistically, increasing taxes to pay for the programs that Americans really want. "
I couldn't agree more. I admittedly got a poor grade in the public spending/debt policy class I took, but the one central thing I got from that class is that the vast majority of Americans do not understand how federal budgeting or national accounting works. Even the most well informed may not realize that, for example, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FEDERAL BUDGET.
You heard me. Yes, the prez publishes a proposed budget every year but that is really just his basic outline of what he would like to see if he got his way. People who do the hard work of studying this stuff know that the federal government --just like a big corporation--has many ways of assessing the financial position of the government. Each of these accounting methods tells you different information about government finances.
Just like a corporation releases a cash flow statement, an income statement, and a balance sheet (among other things) to their investors because you need different types of information to get understand the big picture of something as massive as a corporation, much less the federal government.
On top of that, whether the government is really increasing the national debt depends on whether you look at things in 1-year, 2-year, 5-year, etc. terms. That's complicated, but I can tell you where to read if you want to know why that is.
The lesson to take away here is that, national accounting is NOTHING like planning the monthly budget of a family of four.
As Krugman says,
"How can voters be so ill informed? In their defense, bear in mind that they have jobs, children to raise, parents to take care of. They don’t have the time or the incentive to study the federal budget, let alone state budgets."
And that's fine. I don't expect everyone to know everything about every subject. Give me a paint brush and canvas and I'd be indistinguishable from a neanderthal.
But if you're gonna make shrill screams about making massive "budget" cuts that will affect the lives of tens of millions of people, at least have the decency to do your homework before you go screaming.
I didn't vote in the last county elections because I knew nothing about the candidates. Only the [second most] responsible thing to do.
Posted by Sam at Monday, February 14, 2011