Monday, November 21, 2011

Supercommittee Superthoughts

I don't recall anything that's been so thoroughly misreported as the demise of the Joint Select Committee, which of course (1) was widely anticipated by everyone who follows budget politics, and (2) doesn't add a single nickel to the deficit.

For a much-needed corrective, head over to Jonathan Chait, who explains what the actual goal of the JSC was, and why it was entirely successful:
The whole plan was to start talking about something other than the debt ceiling, in hopes that the tea party would find some different shiny object to pick up and try to smash with a rock. And it worked!
Click through for the full, smart, explanation. You'll want to also check out Andrew Sprung's reaction.

As to the future, I've been agreeing with those who note how nothing that happens now can bind future Congresses, and that it's likely that the sequester won't happen the way it's written into law...but I also wrote something over the weekend arguing that undoing the trigger on defense cuts isn't going to be the slam-dunk some seem to think it will be.

Also, Ezra Klein had some very good points this morning about the immediate Congressional agenda in the wake of the JSC demise.

But the people who are running around talking about supercommittee failure -- the NYT right now has "hopes were dashed" as their headline -- should really stop and ask themselves if they perhaps have this story entirely wrong. Since, after all, they do.


  1. I personally wonder if any American, regardless of party affiliation, actually thought that the "super committee" (bad name in my opinion) would accomplish ANYTHING it was created to do. Our elected officials in DC cannot agree on anything, at anytime, concerning anything, except when they take vacations. I have never seen grown men and women at the pinnacle of power act so much like pre-schoolers. Perhaps the 536 elected members of our national government didn't get the "play nice with others" class that the rest of America got in kindergarden. Regardless, the one thing I am certain of is that in the next year, the "automatic cuts" will be wrangled into something else, or done away with all together. Partisan politics are killing this country, and the only ones who can see it are the ones it will hurt the most.

  2. The press tends to take our leaders at their word, even when nobody really believes it.

  3. In my kindergarten, we read Federalist 10 and didn't get the "play nice with others" class.

    It's supposed to be a contact sport. Faction is the check on faction.

  4. "Partisan politics are killing this country, and the only ones who can see it are the ones it will hurt the most. "

    Just who would that be, pray-tell?

  5. It's beginning to seem like a lost cause that major newspapers will ever re-evaluate their naive and simplistic fetish for 'bipartisanship' as a set of gestures and rhetorical flourishes. It's been years since that seemed deeply stupid, and there has been no change. Given that context, the supercommittee story wasn't really misreported to an out-of-the-ordinary degree: they delivered to a thoroughly average degree.

  6. @phat The ones that are going to get hurt are NOT the 536 elected officials or any of their cronies. It is the hog farmer in Iowa, the steel worker in Pennsylvania, the coal miner in West Virginia, the orange grower in Florida, even the guru in California. It is every American who has a stake in the decisions and indecisions of our government. Neither the Republicans or the Democrats have put their party-ideals aside and made a case for common sense. And I concede that many Americans are doing the exact same thing, supporting anything that comes from the mouth of a Democrat or a Republican. We, as a society, are smarter than that. We have the ability to think for ourselves and make a well informed decision. There are those that stand as an exception to this rule, but they are not the majority. If Americans are happy with the status-quo government and their hijinks, then let it be so. But I cannot see how the majority of our country thinks that things are "just peachy".

  7. @Davis, we've seen the outcome of checks and balances to the extreme. Government that can't do a ding dang thing. If Americans ran their homes like the politicians run the country, we'd all be homeless and broke within a month.

  8. PF: But in this case wasn’t it the parties themselves that claimed to be committed to bipartisan consensus-building? The press have proven that they will swallow any lie (ie, fancifully bipartisanship, sequestration) if both sides are serving it up. They’re so limited to repeating partisan narratives that when the truth itself lacks party support, they will conveniently miss it. Yes, partisanship is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be so all-consuming as we have let it become.

  9. @Couves: Yes, I think that's well put, and I take your point that this was the perfect storm of all parties/factions mouthing bipartisanship, not a split-the-difference centrism by the media.

    I suppose the supercommittee reporting brings out the complicated entanglements that occur when you have certain influential actors unwilling to even partially adjudicate substance, as opposed to surfaces. Because the media likes the air of neutrality offered by bipartisanship fetishism, they can be easily played by clever politicians on the one hand, and on the other hand, politicians learn that they never really get ahead by having facts on their side or by casting their position concerning a judgment about facts in openly political terms to a journalist, only by better playing the game of bipartisanship beauty contests. This politicians/media dynamic is one half of the entanglement.

    The other side is a public for major print and television journalism that's confused and thus clings to ideals of bipartisanship, rather than being moved to demand/engage with substantive assessments. (Understandable given that heuristics help the time-pressed, but why follow heuristics that have long since stopped working?) The media thus plays to that, in addition to having its own personal preferences for a transcendence of politics. So pseudo legislative events like the supercommittee become ritualistic occasions for politicians, journalists, and many segments of the American public to reaffirm commitment to illusory ideals of bipartisanship. The wallowing in disappointment in some sense feels good to them because at least it works within a familiar framework of bipartisanship as only legitimate avenue.

    All three groups are to blame here in part, but it's also simply the product of a perverse dynamic of our political culture which encourages presentation, assessment, and consumption of political disputes in nonpolitical terms. So the supercommittee story was misreported but in an entirely predictable and typical way.

  10. Fed Up,

    The point is that eliminating the deficit through budget cuts was a stupid idea to begin with. Reducing spending (i.e., government demand) before the recovery of consumer and corporate demand will eliminate one of the few pillars holding what's left of the economy up.

    To address the deficits you have to look at the roots of the deficits. In the immediate term, that's a weak economy held back by insufficient demand. In the long term, it's skyrocketing health-care costs. If you can resolve the unemployment problem, that will take care of a large part of the current deficit (unemployed people cost the government money; employed people contribute to it). If you try to tackle the deficit directly through cuts, you will only make unemployment worse and further reduce tax revenues and increase the need for payouts for unemployment benefits, aid to states, and other stimulus measures; the deficit could even get worse as a result. In the long term, if you try to cut deficits by cutting the budget for Medicare and Medicaid, you may reduce the deficit, but you're also dumping the skyrocketing health-care costs back onto the people who already can't afford them. If you can address the rising cost of health care at the source, then you can reduce Medicare and Medicaid expenditures without the adverse side-effects. The health-care reform begins (but only begins) to do that. Some cuts and adjustments will be necessary along the way, but they shouldn't be the core. The focus of debate until now--determined largely by the Tea Party--has been all wrong.

  11. Ah but comes now Obama who just said he would VETO any attempts by Congress to circumvent the required cuts, which sort of trumps Jon Kyl, it seems. Krugman also thinks the Supercommittee failure is a great and good thing.

  12. @Fed up, Unless a lot a people take to the streets (not just urban campers), nothing except absolute emergency is going to force the two sides to negotiate. Correction, only one thing will make Congress negotiate: enough representatives have to be willing to shut down government and hold tight until there are concessions. I don't see enough people in Congress brave enough to do that. We'll have no changes until the next Congress, and maybe a different president, after the 2012 elections. No one has enough leverage to make these two sides compromise.

  13. Here is Obama today.

    "One way or another, we will be trimming the deficit by a total of at least $2.2 trillion over the next 10 years. That's going to happen, one way or another. We've got $1 trillion locked in, and either Congress comes up with $1.2 trillion, which so far they've failed to do, or the sequester kicks in and these automatic spending cuts will occur that bring in an additional $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.
    Now, the question right now is whether we can reduce the deficit in a way that helps the economy grow, that operates with a scalpel, not with a hatchet, and if not, whether Congress is willing to stick to the painful deal that we made in August for the automatic cuts. Already, some in Congress are trying to undo these automatic spending cuts.
    My message to them is simple: No. I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off ramps on this one."

  14. Some time ago Prof. Bernstein, in defense of his deficit dovishness, argued that we needn't worry about the deficit until the ratings agencies downgrade us, at which point Congress would automatically be pushed do the right thing.

    Well, Congress did the wrong thing in August, and S&P downgraded us to AA-, and Congress did the wrong thing again in November, and CW says that Fitch's and Moody's will follow suit to AA-, (and S&P stay one step ahead, dropping to AA), and apparently in November the good professor no longer agrees with his earlier self that the ratings agencies' opinions matter at all.

    Reading the linked pieces was like listening to the alcoholics down on the corner, explaining why now is not the time to quit their habit. So cutting the deficit will have a material impact on economic growth? No shit - deleveraging is painful whenever it is embarked upon. Here's a bet: if we're still here in 2016, when the economy is inexplicably forecast to grow at 4% again, I bet the commenters linked on this thread will forget their promises to their 2011 selves to bite the bullet at some point down the road, arguing instead (in 2016) that a 100-basis point drop in the forecast (via deficit reduction) just can't be undertaken because the forecast is much much too fragile.

    The truth is that most of us deficit hawks recognize that something doesn't have to be done immediately, but it surely must be done soon - see: ratings agencies - and waiting for the deficit dove to get religion is like waiting for the increasingly sickly alcoholic to say, okay, today's the day I stop drinking. I guess that happens now and again - but its probably in everyone's interest to push.

  15. btw - was I the only one who noticed the rich irony in Sprung's piece, who noted that the failure of the supercommittee was a good thing because it was the best road forward for Obama to reelection?

    Ironic because a while ago Sprung weighed in on the Plain Blog and concluded that Jonathan seems like a nice enough guy, but his casual acceptance of Machiavellian politics was a bit bracing.

    Maybe its only bracing when the other guy does it?

  16. Sorry - total brain fart on my part - of course S&P has us at AA+ (and Moody's and Fitch's are apparently going there shortly). I was obviously getting ahead of myself :)

  17. As I recall, well over a majority of the country did not want the deficit ceiling raised AT ALL.

    So the honorables raised it anyway, but they had to trick it out with something, since they were going to ignore the people and didn't want to risk their wrath. And since obviously they had no intention of attaching any fiscal discipline to that debt ceiling rise, the trick turned out to be some "super committee" nonsense.

    We spend $10-15B in Iraq and Afghanistan every month, and I'd assume most of the "savings" will come as those wind down. End them both tomorrow, and it'd be ALL of the $1.2T over 10 years, plus or minus a bit.

    Although, Obama seems anxious to redeploy those forces elsewhere overseas. Australia and Uganda and Libya so far recently, but other places, I'd assume to come. So the real savings won't be what it should be. These would all be "good wars" though, not like the other tribes' wars, which are all bad (even if both tribes voted for them). The party continues apace.

    Some day we'll shed this tribalism, but not 'til we go broke, it appears.

  18. Some of my recent thoughts on our politicians.

  19. CSH: It will take a Greek-like disaster to really get the attention of some deficit doves. That "silent sucking sound" on our future growth and prosperity is apparently not enough.

    Anon -- Agreed until your last line. We'd shed this tribalism only to invent a new tribalism.

  20. CSH and Couves,

    In practice, the deficit people that you deficit idealists -- hawks, if you like that -- need to worry about that are the War on Budget Republicans. Deficit realists such as myself are, as far as I can see, a small and inconsequential sect.

    But on the long as the bond markets keep telling us that deficits aren't a problem, and as long as there are other obvious major problems to contend with that are screaming for attention (flat GDP, unemployment), I still think the deficit should probably be larger, not smaller.

  21. Just for kicks, I went over to the CBO site and downloaded one of their fun spreadsheets filled with interesting economic data. By decade, here's average Real GDP since 1950:

    1950s: 4.2%
    1960s: 4.4%
    1970s: 3.3%
    1980s: 3.1%
    1990s: 3.2%
    2000s: 1.8%

    Now, I don't want to make this TOO easy for liberals, but then take a look at wages and salaries, as a percent of GDP, by decade:

    1950s: 51.5%
    1960s: 51.4%
    1970s: 50.5%
    1980s: 47.8%
    1990s: 46.7%
    2000s: 46.2%

    Which pretty much suggests that economic growth has been slowly strangled over 60 years as the purchasing power of the average American worker has been consistently diminished, which everyone already knows.

    CBO also tells us that the 2011 deficit, as a percent of GDP is the third highest - by percent - in the past 65 years. The two higher? 2010 and 2009 (Good job, Obama Era!).

    And these trends don't bother the realists, as they realistically want to continue to rack up unprecedented debts to return to the glidepath we've been living the past 6 decades? Why in the world would we want to continue that? I thought liberals especially stood athwart that historical trend?

  22. Bond markets didn’t have a big problem with Greece, until they did.

    Regarding growth: I mentioned this on your other post, but it’s worth pointing out again -- the CBO sees the stimulus as a drag on GDP growth:

    Running high deficits only amounts to robbing our future selves. There’s no Keynesian pixie dust that can change this fact.

  23. Let's take a look at what Elmendorf had to say without filtering it throught the Reason Foundation.

    "Despite the near-term economic benefits that would arise from reductions in taxes
    and increases in government spending, such actions would add to the already large
    projected budget deficits, either immediately or over time. Unless offsetting actions
    were taken to reverse the accumulation of additional government debt, the nation’s
    capital stock, its future output, and people’s future incomes would tend to be lower
    than they otherwise would have been. If policymakers wanted to boost the economy
    in the near term while seeking to achieve long-term fiscal sustainability, a combination
    of policies would be required: changes in taxes and spending that would widen the deficit now but reduce it later in the decade. Such an approach would work best if the future policy changes were sufficiently specific and widely supported so that households, businesses, state and local governments, and participants in financial markets believed that the future fiscal restraint would truly take effect."

  24. CSH,

    I'm afraid you're going to have to make it even easier. I'm not sure what point you're making with your lists and how it fits into the argument so far.

    On the later point, nobody denies that deficits have been high. It's the consequences of cutting them that are at issue.

  25. "Let's take a look at what Elmendorf had to say without filtering it throught the Reason Foundation."


    It's the same message, even without the Reason filter. Porkulus is a longterm drag on the economy. So says Elmendorf.

    But at least we have +9% unemployment, stagflation, leviathan government and mounting debt to keep us warm.

  26. Scott,

    Thanks for asking for the clarification, as my point was not entirely clear. Stepping back from the hysteria of the "this-minute-focus", we can see that we're being asked to throw billions and billions of (hopefully Keynesian) borrowed dollars at an economy that has been slowly grinding to this sorry state over several decades. When the limb is gangrenous, and has been increasingly so for a very long time, not sure why anyone thinks its a good idea to put another band-aid on it, especially when that band-aid is extremely expensive to our children.

    This I think is a liberal paradox that, if they were more articulate, the conservatives might exploit: so we've been sinking to this point for several decades, but we should borrow a whole bunch of money to get back to the previous status quo, or the prior downward trajectory? Why does that make sense?

    Said another way, I'm not a Keynes expert, but I suspect that even he would agree that borrowed money makes sense to halt temporary demand interruptions, assuming the underlying economy is otherwise functional. The data from the CBO would seem to suggest differently in this case.

  27. CSH,

    Okay, now I follow you. You're right that you don't want to run deficits forever, and we have been doing just that for the better part of 40 years. The exception is the latter part of the Clinton administration (which makes me wonder if the optimal situation for cutting deficits is a strong economy, a Democratic president, and a Republican Congress out to undermine him and his agenda at every turn--but enough of that). The accumulated debt has put us in a bad position for dealing with the present crisis, but deal with it we must. The growing debt is a problem, but the weak economy and unemployment are a more immediate problem, and addressing the deficit first will make the other problem worse rather than better. That means running up the debt even further, which will be a problem later on, but hopefully not as much of a problem as slashing budgets today would be. No one has come up with a solution that does not make something worse.

    What Elmendorf is saying above (and elsewhere) is that you have to spend now and pivot back to paying off at a later date. The obvious political problem with that is that no one believes Congress will really do it because we have a record of 40 years of deficits (peaking Reagan and G. W. Bush, who ran deficits in good years and bad--but again, enough of that). One potential benefit of the supercommittee--if it had worked--could have been coming up with a longer-term blueprint for doing what Elmendorf describes.

    I also agree that stagnating incomes is a drag on the economy. You can't sell what people can't afford to buy. I haven't thought through what to do about that, however. I think it would help if we could get people to invest their available capital in this country rather than abroad. Having the government pour more money into the economy doesn't help as much if it's all spent on imports. Actually, there is some recent murmuring that the state of manufacturing may be picking up. (Harold Sirkin, et al, Made in America, Again. Boston Consulting Group, August 2011.)

  28. Alternatively, some people do call for cutting spending in some areas while expanding it simultaneously in other areas, especially in areas like infrastructure investment, which we need anyhow.

  29. Well, Anonymous, where did that Porkulous come from? Why, from our Conservative presidents! Do we recall that Clinton left your hero Bush with a nice fat surplus? How'd that Bush tax cut work out for you in terms of 'growing the economy', as the cliche goes? Cheney, of course, that Conservatives conservative, famously said that Reagan taught them that deficits don't matter and he's right, if we are to look at history honestly: Reagan's Borrow and Spend policies are what cratered the economy and destroyed the middle class here (though it was sure a boon to China's middle class). Nice work, Mr President! Then, upon recept of Clinton's surplus (oh, I forgot, in Fox News world, he was a taxand spend liberal, though he shrunk government and left the books balancd) Bush started two insane wars (2-4 trillion), kited unfunded Medicare Part D to the nation's credit card (10-12 trillion or more) as a gift to Big Pharma, plus the $1 trillion tax cuts. Obama comes in on the heels of Paulson's and Bush's TARP bailout of the banks and throws $800 billion to save the millions of jobs around the auto industry which were about to go under; gives a bunch of tax cuts to people like you; and then takes the heat from right wing crackpots and ideologues who somehow think he caused this mess? Are you for real? I am not a huge Obama fan, but I don't like liars either - and your analysis is bogus, and blindly partisan.

  30. Scott, if you watch the video, Elmendorf says that the stimulus will have a "net negative effect on the growth of GDP." We pay for the short term benefits of the stimulus with less GDP than we otherwise would have had after ten years.

  31. ". . . if no other actions were taken."

  32. Scott, look at it again -- that statement does not qualify the prediction of GDP reduction over a ten year period. Elmendorf is saying that if no other actions are taken (ie, debt reduction), the drag on GDP will go beyond that ten year period. Doing nothing, the drag on growth would be perpetual. But the more near-term drag is baked in the cake, at least according to the CBO.

  33. ...where did that Porkulous come from? Why, from our Conservative presidents!


    Well first of all, we haven't had any conservative presidents in a very long time, certainly not fiscally conservative.

    Second, Porkulus was created by Pelosi, Obama and company.

    And now, since the CBO guy says Porkulus is a longterm drag on our economy, it's all over but the blame. Guess who gets it?

  34. Couves,

    I'm afraid there are no options that are free of costs. What would have happened, for instance, if the supercommittee had succeeded in its stated goal? According to Elmendorf:

    "CBO estimates that the fiscal restraint stemming from the expiration of provisions in the 2010 tax act and from enactment of the Budget Control Act—including $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction from legislation originating from the deficit reduction committee or from automatic spending cuts—will decrease real GDP in 2013 by between about 1½ percent and about 3½ percent compared with what it would have been otherwise. However, CBO also estimates that the reduction in deficits resulting from those policies will boost output later in the decade."

    So it would boost output in 10 years, but it would actually shrink GDP by 1.5%-3.5% in 2013.

    What happens if we do nothing?

    "Economic growth at the rates CBO anticipates will leave a very large and persistent gap between actual output and the agency’s estimate of potential output; that is, a large amount of labor and capital resources will be unused for some time. In CBO’s August baseline projections, the output gap is about 5 percent of potential GDP at the end of 2011 and does not close fully until the second half of the 2011–2021 projection

    "As a result, a large portion of the economic and human costs of the recession and slow recovery remains ahead. In mid-2011, according to CBO’s estimates, the economy was only about halfway through the cumulative shortfall in output relative to its potential level that will result from the recession and the weak recovery. Between late 2007 and mid-2011, the cumulative difference between GDP and estimated potential
    GDP amounted to roughly $2½ trillion; by the time the nation’s output rises back to its potential level, the cumulative shortfall is expected to equal about $5 trillion.

    "Not only are the costs associated with the output gap immense, but they are also borne unevenly. Those costs fall disproportionately on people who lose their jobs, who are displaced from their homes, or who own businesses that fail. In the first quarter of 2011, for example, the recession and weak recovery led to a shortfall of about 10 million jobs relative to the number that would have existed had the recession not occurred and had job growth matched the average rate in the previous business cycle. The unemployment rate has now exceeded 8.5 percent for 32 months, the longest
    such period since 1947, and the number of workers who are employed part time but want full-time work has averaged almost 9 million since early 2009, about double the number before the recession. . . ."

    There are also long-term costs associated with spending now (the nature of the costs and of the benefits vary depending on the nature of the spending--not all spending or taxes have the same impact), but the CBO seems to believe that they can at least be mitigated. As the quote cited above indicates, there can be "offsetting actions."

    For those who are interested, the prepared testimony can be found at:

  35. Scott, I don't see any suggestion of "offsetting" the GDP-reducing effects of the stimulus...

  36. "Unless offsetting actions were taken to reverse the accumulation of additional government debt, the nation’s capital stock, its future output, and people’s future incomes would tend to be lower than they otherwise would have been."

  37. Scott, that doesn't contradict the CBO's Congressional testimony I linked to, which is that the stimulus is predicted to decrease GDP to lower than what it otherwise would be after a ten year period. If we don't want it to be an ongoing drag on GDP after that, we need to reduce the debt... that's the policy outlined by your quote.

  38. But Couves, he's talking about increasing the debt first and then reducing it later to mitigate the adverse side-effects of having increased it.

  39. Just a quick question regarding JB's article in the New Republic over the weekend. You said there basically are four ways that the Congress can prevent the triggered cuts. Isn't there another way, at least in the medium term. Couldn't a lame-duck Congress next year just extend the deadline a year or several years down the road? Aren't there some plausible scenarios where that type of situation could occur?

  40. Scott, maybe I'll look more closely at the written testimony. But the text you've posted here doesn't contradict what seems to me to be the clear meaning of what Elmendorf says in the hearing.

  41. Oh Anonymous, that is that old right wing dodge that none of these right wing presidents like Reagan or Bush have been right wing enough. You guys simply don't know how to apologize. Every time your presidents are a disaster and their policies wreck the country, you pretend they failed because they just weren't conservatives. Nevermind that when Bush was in office, you worshipped the ground he walked on. Nevermind that conservatives gave him 90% approval ratings up until he had become a national joke. With you guys, it's just a religion, so there really is no point debating with you, any more than you can debate with a scientologist. Bush was your wet dream for 8 years and now you pretend he never existed. Which is why I continue to say I have never met a single right winger with the integrity and sense of honor to apologize for the damage your wicked ideology has caused.

  42. ...he's talking about increasing the debt first and then reducing it later to mitigate the adverse side-effects of having increased it.


    Oh yeah... that'll happen. For sure for sure, good buddy! It's like good ol' Biden says... you gotta spend money to save money.

    Look lefties, the massive spending increases we've seen will only subside if we dump this spending binge, and follow a path of fiscal conservatism. And despite what the above lefty is whining about, we haven't seen a fiscally conservative president in a loooooooooooooooong time. We need one.

  43. What a dodge, Anonymous. The last fiscally conservative president we had was a fellow named Bill Clinton, who left the budget in surplus. I bet you are a big admirer of old Bill. What phonies you right wingers are - never,ever apologize or admit error because yours is a religion not a set of coherent principles. Clinton shrunk the government, stanrdards of living rose for the poor and middle class as well as the rich, and he left a huge surplus besides. Yet to you phonies, he was a tax and spend liberal, and Bush, who you worshipped was the great CEO president, the tax cutter (he did cut taxes, right?) and now of course you pretend that he wasn't a true conservative.

  44. Clinton "shrunk" the government? You must be joking. The US federal government doesn't "shrink". I wish.

    Actually, after the fiscally profligate GHW Bush jacked spending, Clinton fought to jack it even further, with HillaryCare among other boondoggles, but was parried first by the D Congress, who smelled electoral trouble brewing, and then by the new Congress following the 1994 wipeout. Following that point, the new Congress forced federal spending to fall from +21% of GDP levels to just over 18% of GDP. That wasn't by Clinton's choice, as we know. It was rammed down his throat. He wanted to spend MORE, and forced shutdowns to SPEND MORE. This is all part of the historical record, fyi.

    But eventually, congressional fiscal conservatism fell away, and as I say, we haven't had a fiscally conservative president in a looooooooooooong time, so spending and debt exploded.

    And let's explode the myth of the "surplus" Clinton created. There are many hundreds of billions of treasuries Clinton piled up, as he deficit spent his way through the "trust funds", and social security excess revenues. The "surplus" is a fantasy.

  45. RIght, it was the Congress what done it; And Clinton's surplus wasn't really a surplus, it was just money he got to pass over to Bush the Junior who gave it all back to the rich in the form of $1 trillion in tax cuts,(seems to me you guys were sure calling it a surplus at the time. And hey, how'd that $1 trillion giveaway to the elites work out for you? Any of that trickle down to the economy yet? Grow those jobs like they said it would? So Clingon didn't cut the budget, Al Gore's task force never really existed, the surplus doesn't count now, though it counted then because... because, um... . keep those crazy plates spinning, Baby!. Your entire world view just crashed into a million pieces with in the Great Recession of 2008, which was brought on by a Conservative, low tax, laissez faire administration, a culmination of 30 years of Reaganomics and Trickle Down. It crashed just like it did the last time, when Coolidge and Harding handed the same ball over to our old friend Hoover. The business of AMerica is Business! Get government off our backs! Same party; same ideology; same sell out to the banks and the corporations' same result. No wonder you guys are in such bitter deniallook at you: you can't ebven admit an error like the one the other day when you tried to pawn off that Fox news hoakum about how Obama called Americans lazy, when a simple google search provided the quote in context and the cynical dishonesty behind the claim. Yet you couldn't find it in you anywher to man up and apologize, which is not so hard to do, except when to apologize opens the door to having been so wrong about so much. Hell, I would be panicked too, if the leaders I supported had caused this mess.

  46. An amusing little summary of how Clinton 'shrunk the government', exactly as you would wish. Let's see if you have the integrity to credit him for it.
    "Its major accomplishments included:

    Ending the Era of Big Government

    Reduced the size of federal civilian workforce by 426,200 positions between January 1993 and September 2000.1 Thirteen of 14 departments reduced in size; Justice grew because of Administration’s fight against crime and drugs. The government workforce was for the first time the smallest it had been since the Eisenhower Administration.
    Action on more than two-thirds of NPR recommendations resulted in savings of more than $136 billion.
    Cut government the right way by eliminating what wasn’t needed – bloated headquarters, layers of managers, outdated field offices, obsolete red tape and rules. For example, cut 78,000 managers governmentwide and some layers by late 1999.
    Cut 640,000 pages of internal agency rules (equivalent to 125 cases of copy paper).
    Closed nearly 2,000 obsolete field offices and eliminated 250 programs and agencies, like the Tea-Tasters Board, the Bureau of Mines, and wool and mohair subsidies.
    Procurement reform led to the expanded use of credit cards for small item purchases, saving about $250 million a year in processing costs.

    This appeared in 2001, which was a decade ago. Was a decade a LOOOOONNNNNGGGG time for you?

  47. Look, 233, this meme of budgetary control from Clinton, evidenced by the surplus, never dies. But perhaps the link at the bottom (go to page 26) will at least disabuse a few people of this fantasy.

    From 1997 (Clinton's last year of deficit) to 2000 (his final year in the Presidency, and largest surplus), federal expenditures increased by a staggering 12%. That look like success to you? Of course, revenues skyrocketed 28% over the same time period, driven by a little thing called the tech bubble, with a staggering increase in taxes from short-term trades.

    In other words, holding up Clinton as the template of fiscal responsibility is essentially equivalent to a prescription of "Just get a bunch of jackasses to increasingly misvalue, and the budget will be balanced". Works maybe once a century. Not really a long-term solution.

  48. Also, one can't mention the Clinton Administration's initiative to 'reinvent government' without recalling the unforgettable, exceptionally stiff Al Gore, spearheading that effort, on Letterman in late 1993.

    For some reason I can't find that segment on Youtube, but Gore famously smashed an ashtray and said, in his signature wooden incredulous manner, "Can you BUHLEEEEVE, Da-a-a-a-ve, it will cost the military $125 to replace this? Can't we do better?" he asked incredulously.

    If you weren't a CPA, you probably wondered why no one, before the Goracle, had that thought. If you were a CPA, you were gobsmacked that a person could be eight months into an (allegedly) massive government spending overhaul operation and lack, apparently, even the most rudimentary knowledge of how allocation accounting works.

    Budget control from the federal government is, and always has been, a total clusterboink. The days of being able to look past this dreadful fact are rapidly coming to an end.

    On that pleasant note, Happy Thanksgiving friends!!!

  49. Well gee, CSH, the Bush people sure called it a surplus when they got in to office, cause they used it to justify their $1 trilion giveaway to the rich. Oh back in those wonderful days you are counting on all of us to forget, everybody talked about the surplus - your guys gave credit to the Gingrich Congress, and others gave credit to Clinton and Time magazine had your hero Greenspan on the cover saying he was the man who saved the world. Yep, we all agreed that Clinton brought prosperity and peace - so much so, your team spent 2 years tearing him apart over a sex scandal cause that was all you had then. So if we all called it a surplus then and used it to give away a trillion to the elites, how come we don't get to call it a surplus now? Was the CEO president and Paul O'Neill and all those grown ups all just lying to us? If so, they should be in jail. If not, how come it was a surplus then, but not one now? Then, when Bush came in, and the question of returning to massive deficit spending came up to promote those idiotic wars, Cheney famously justified the whole fiasco by telling Paul O'Neill that "Reagan taught us deficits don't matter" - and off we went again. Now, if Cheney cited Reagan as justificiation for deficit spending, did he just elide Clinton? FUrther, please look at the citation above: Clinton slashed the federal bureaucracy by 426,000 people. Want to take another shot and this and how it was just a bunch of braying jackasses?
    Over the weekend the Eurozone will crash and on Monday our markets will be in freefall. Krugman has a pretty dire blog on it this morning. On that note, Happy Thanksgiving...

  50. Let's focus on this:

    1. When Clinton left office, the government workforce was for the first time the smallest it had been since the Eisenhower Administration.
    2. Action on more than two-thirds of NPR recommendations resulted in savings of more than $136 billion.
    3. Reduced the size of federal civilian workforce by 426,200 positions between January 1993 and September 2000.1 Thirteen of 14 departments reduced in size.

    Perhaps this is more important than your anecdote about Al Gore and the ashtray, which, my CPA tells me, was actually a way to popularize the idea of cutting pentagon waste n a simple minded way that was accessible to an audience of a few million people who were not CPAs. You see perfidy and folly here but that tells me more about you than it does about Gore or Clinton.

  51. First of all, 233, Happy Thanksgiving. Now, aside with Tryptophan and down to business: Clinton's last three years resulted in a surplus. You can see that on page 26 of the linked OMB report in my recent post on this thread. Subtract expenses from revenues and you get a positive number in 1998-2000, by definition a surplus.

    The quibble is what caused the surplus. Maybe this example will help. Suppose your take-home pay was $60 K/year, and you were tracking to spend $70 K/year. Suppose further that, on December 31 you hit a lottery jackpot that was worth $20 K after taxes.

    You might go to your financial planner in January, bursting with pride because you had a $10 K surplus last year. ($10 K = $60 K + $20 K - $70 K). But your planner would damper your enthusiasm by pointing out that your "going" self (that is, ex-lottery ticket) was actually in debt. The same applies to Clinton's surplus years - the massive influx of revenues, via taxes from tech bubble transactions, was the government equivalent of a lottery ticket. Can we win that lottery again? Not likely.

    In conclusion, I'm not disputing that Clinton delivered three years of surplus, rather the notion that we just need to return to that state of affairs and everything would be fine. That's true, if we could find a massive hoard of jackballs to throw increasingly irrational sums of money at enterprises like Without that, its pretty much impossible to revisit Clinton's surpluses, because while they were real, they weren't sustainable.

    One other thing, so Clinton saved this much over here and that much over there? If you've ever worked in or with large organizations, you know that there are always folks who will trumpet such helps to the bottom line. And you also know that the only thing that really matters is said bottom line, as the bragged-about good works are inevitably offset by less trumpeted not-so-good works - in other words, all we really care about is the end result. In Clinton's 'glorious' three years of surplus, the "end spending result" was a government that grew faster than inflation.

    And in fairness, I was too harsh by describing the ~4% annual nominal growth in government from 1998 to 2000 as "staggering", its not staggering, its just not very good, and in a world where nominal GDP is growing around 5-6%, such growth in government is tolerable but probably higher than you want, especially after 50 years of poorly-controlled budgets. Celebrating Clinton's "accomplishment" in this regard feels a bit like that ubiquitious American trend of congratulatory ribbons for kids who finish 5th out of 6th, because everyone's a winner.

    Oh, and finally, if I understand you correctly, there's nothing reprehensible about Gore going on national TV and dumbing down - or actually, outright misrepresenting - his important national intiative for the sake of making a connection with the slobbering masses watching at home?

    How like the partisan left-wing media. Always throwing out these ill-informed, wacked-out irrational ideas and justifying themselves by virtue of providing what the unwashed masses want...its pretty offensive, you know...I demand an apology! ;).

  52. This is typical right wing cherry picking, of the kiind that drove us into Iraq. Yes, Clinton presided over an economic boom, the resukt (gasp) of the tax cuts that every one of your right wing cadre in the house opposed. As a result, the economy soared and the Bush recession was banished. Now, this is hardly the equivalent of winning the lottery but simply an acknowledgment that taxes on the rich were too low. Now, I have listened patiently while right wing hacks like you have tried to spin that one away, but the facts are that the Clinton tax cuts were the right prescription for the economy. At the end of his term, Clinton left the country with a huge surplus and a government bureaucracy that had been shrunk by half a million people. 12 of 13 government agencies were shrunk. But of course, being a blind partisan, this is simply no good for you. DO you insist that he shrunk the Justice department, also? The unhappy fact is you can't deal with the Clinton record honestly, so you have to spin it away by describing it as a fluke, which is typical of right wing hacks. As we lawyers say, if the facts are on your side, you argue the facts. If the law is on your side, you argue the law. If the facts and the law are against you, you just argue. This is all I am left with after your pretty weak rejoinder. Again: Bush called it a surplus. Time Magazine called it a surplus. Greenspan and the Congress called it a surplus. I think we can call it a surplus and recall that the profits made on tech stock are hardly enough to make much of a dent in one year's surplus, let alone 4. I admire your frantic spinning, but I don't think you persuade anyone.

    As for Al Gore, it is hardly left wing(nor am I left wing, being, at least at this stage of this shindig, a Romney man) to find your claim that Al Gore's ashtray story is some kind of smoking gun to be a little desperate also. Cheney went on tv all the time to lie and cajole and manipulate the unwashed masses. He was truly the Duke of Deception with his nonsense about Saddam and shady hookups with Al Qaida in Prague and all that other folly which the history books will account for far better than I. Al Gore was VP in peacetime -- his shtick was no more or less misrepresentative. Let me clue you in: this is what politicians do when they get on tv. You see? We live in a complex, modern culture where sometimes national politicians try to get their talking points out to the public. That's how they stay popular and get re-elected. How like right wing hacks whose politics are based on a religious orthodoxy where when their guy does something, it's good but when the other guy does the same thing, it's bad. Thus, when Cheney goes on tv and lies about WMD, inciting a war that cost the treasury $2 trillion and counting, that's acceptable; but when Al Gore goes on tv and does some lame shtick about cutting the defense budget, that's an outrage. Up is down, down is up. We've had 30 years of this shit. It's tired. It's nonsense. No one buys it. Get real...

  53. I think I'm not making the Clinton revenues point clear enough. Suppose it is 1997, near the onset of the tech boom, and among the parade of ridiculous IPOs being floated is Knowing that CSH rocks, I subscribe and buy 1,000 shares for $10 each.

    You are more skeptical, but a week later has zoomed to $20, and you think you'll make a quick buck, so you buy my 1,000 shares. I made $10,000 in a week, from which I must pay tax at ordinary rates to the Man.

    You surely recall the rest of the story. We keep trading back and forth until the price runs up to $1,000/share, and every time we flip that bird, we have to pay ordinary tax rates to the Man for our (ridiculous) paper gains.

    One final time, I invite you to check out the hard data on the OMB report (p 26) I linked a while ago. You will note that government revenues in 1998-2000, cumulatively, were just under $1 T higher than a 1997 base.

    It's been argued that the bursting of the tech bubble wiped out around $5 T in paper wealth. It follows that as that wealth was built (via the trading of ridiculous stocks like, folks were paying a blend of short and long term tax rates - mostly short, probably - that likely averaged out to around 20% of those gains.

    Thus, in conclusion, there were around $5 T of (irrational) paper wealth gains at the tail end of the Clinton Presidency, 20% or so of which were fed back into government coffers in the form of taxes on stock transactions. And Clinton's surplus is built on the back of an unusual $1 T or so of government revenues in 1998-2000 (again, look at the data to see for yourself).

    Really, I don't know if it can be made much simpler how ephemeral Clinton's surplus was.

  54. No, it is nonsense as the US economy dwarfs the tax receipts from the tech bubble; second, by your very illogic, you disprove your point. Let me explain how taxes work: when you sell stocks at a profit, you pay far less than you do on income. These are called long term and short term gains. The rates are set lower - as our old friend John Edwards used to say, we tax work in this country, not unearned income. Further, the reason why there was $5 trillion in paper losses when the bubble crashed (I doubt your stats, but will cede them for the sake of argument) means that people were not selling their stocks at all, but hanging on to them and riding them upwards - and then down. How could people simultaneously be paying all these cap gains on stocks at the same time they were taking such an epochal bath? Your illogic is typical of most ideologues: you begin with a thesis (to take down Clinton because he stands in the way of the right wing hogwash you picked up from National Review, or wherever this comes from) so you cherry pick facts to prop up that point of view. Here is what really happened: Clinton raised taxes on the rich; the economy soared; standards of living improved across all social strata (the poor and middle class trailing, as always, but improving nevertheless). Clinton cut half a million government jobs; cut $136 billion from government, reduced 12 of 13 government agencies. PLus he left billions in surplus. None of this is in dispute, or can be in dispute. Now your guy came in, told the country he would be returning that surplus to the people in the form of a massive tax redistribution of $1 trillion which went mainly to the 1%. He then started 2 wars which cost $2.5 trillion and counting; enacted unfunded Medicare Part D with a price of $12-14 trillion as a giveaway to Big Pharma for a total of around $15.5 trillion to 17.5 trillion in a scant 8 years. And you want to pick apart Clinton? Again, this dialogue tells me far more about you than it does the Clinton years...

  55. 233, it's always fascinating when a virulent opponent of blinkered right-wing ideology angrily defends sacred left wing facts, especially when such defense involves fighting data with ad hominems.

    I'll grant that not all of the $5 T bubble was subject to capital gains. I'll also grant that some of the tax burden came at the much lower long-term rates (i.e. held one year or more). I'll even grant that some of the gains were realized by foreigners protected by treaty, some were in tax-protected retirement vehicles (i.e. Roth IRA), some were at lower, ordinary income tax rates, and some was before the runup began in earnest in 1998.

    So I'll throw out all those caveats. Without the caveats, you have $5 T of ephemeral paper wealth taxed at ordinary rates, or about a third of that total. What is an appropriate adjustment for the factors in the paragraph above? None of them should have been very big, but I'll generously cut my estimate in half to account for all of them (and realistically probably much more).

    If you look at the OMB file, you'll see that the last three years of Clinton's presidency resulted in net surplus of $431 B. Using 1997's -$22 B deficit as a starting point, the adjustment to get to 1998-2000 totals is comprised of $339 B of additional spending and $837 B of additional revenue.

    You know what's interesting about that $837 B of additional revenue, 233? Multiply $5 T (the ephemeral paper bubble) by 1/3 (roughly the short term rates faced by the richest payers) by 1/2 (the adjustment for the factors above). What do you get?

    I get the sense that you find this all to be heresy, but keep in mind that - at least in this post - there's nothing judgmental beyond a guess at how the tech bubble broke out. The rest is just math. If this still angers you, perhaps some day Rupert Murdoch will find a way to channel his Foxy News empire for the other team, and you can be its first subscriber.

  56. It's not heresy, it's junk economics cherry picked to support a thesis. Now, if you want to claim that the Clinton economy was benefited by the peacetime surplus, the tax cuts, the tech boom, rising standard of living for the middle class so that they too could pay more in taxes, rising stock market overall, not just the tech sector of NASDAQ which boomed from around 6,000 to around 11,000 (hey, gee, I bet I could pull $837 out of my ass on the rise of the Dow alone) I might say you were being reasonable and non partisan, and that that was a fair assessment. The US Economy is an enormous behemoth, like a giant aircraft carrier, and it is powered by many powerful engines and propellers. To say oh Clinton only outstripped St Reagan and the Bush dynasts because of one propeller way over on the far right side of the boat is in a word, blinkered and self serving hogwash, not heresy.

  57. "peacetime surplus, the tax increases..." etc

  58. Further, I am not defending 'left wing facts." The fact that Clinton cut 500,000 jobs, cut $136billion in government waste (oh, and reformed welfare, anathema to the lefties) and reduced 12 of 13 government agencies are not 'sacred left wing facts' but simply facts, just as the Bush $1 trillion tax cuts to the elite, the bankrupting accumulation of war debt and unfunded medicare part d are also simply facts, sad as they are for your tribe when it comes to making a case for how right wing economic theory and more trickle down are the way forward...

  59. (hey, gee, I bet I could pull $837 billion out of my ass on the rise of the Dow alone)

    That seems unlikely, since the DJIA didn't rise as much - proportionally - as the NASDAQ, and the shares weren't exchanged with the same frenzy. But I could be wrong.

    More importantly, I think that while you're still mad at me, you're beginning to get to my point. The DJIA did increase by a significant amount in the late 90's, probably not $800 B of taxes worth, but a lot.

    And so there we are: Clinton delivered a surplus built on just under $1 T of unusual revenues, and per the sentence italicized above, I think we both have a pretty good idea where those revenues came from, and it wasn't Clinton's sound management or any other replicable thing.

    Even though you're still mad at me.

  60. Hmm, well yes, the treasury does rely on tax receipts and a booming economy - on all fronts - does tend to increase revenues. especially if the economy's managers do a capable job of keeping things moving and employment is high, productivity also high, confidence and consumer spending also high and you are competently cutting governemnt and defense to take account of what the grown ups called The Peace Dividend, al of which went into what is commonly accepted (except to right wing deadenders as The Clinton Boom). Does the fact that the stock markets went up detract somehow from the Clinton record, or simply amplify it? The only way it detracts is if somehow one is determined to turn a positive into a negative. If that is the case, then up is down and down is up -- illogic that is typical of the right wing worldview.

    Finally, you need to talk to your CPA who will explain to you that if you have $5 trillion dollars in losses, you don't pay taxes on those losses. You only pay taxes when you sell your stock at a higher price than what you bought it for.

  61. We're not talking about a stock market rising as a result of a successful economy, we're talking about a bubble. We know its a bubble as it deflated starting in March 2000. That's at the heart of what makes those 1998-2000 revenues unsustainable. Further, the bubble was inflated precisely during the time of Clinton's surplus, so post-2000 losses are irrelevant to this discussion.

    You agree with me. Its pretty hard to miss the impact of one-time revenue on Clinton's 1998-2000 surplus. You just don't want to admit it.

  62. No, I don't agree with you. It's cherry picked junk economics which sets out to deny Clinton credit for the 90's prosperity. No more, no less. Again: big economy, big, big, big. Full employment, tens of millions of new jobs (hey, think that might have been a part of the boom, or did the tech bubble account for all that also?) If the boom had happened under one of your tribe's leaders, we would never hear the end of it. But it didn't, so now we have to hear sour grapes rationalizations like this.

  63. More fun with statistics!

    Historically speaking, of course, the Clinton era market performance was not an aberration. Democratic presidents are far better for the markets than Republican presidents, though your friend Neil Cavuto and the good folks at AEI and Hoover would like to obscure that. Take a look and let's hear the spin:

    When a Republican president held office, the value-weighted return delivered nearly a 2% premium over the T-bill. When a Democrat held office, the premium was nearly 11%. While the 9% difference clearly favors the Democrats, the results from the equal-weighted portfolio were even more telling, with a 16%+ result in favor of the Democrats. (

    Portfolio Returns Under Republican Administrations Returns Under Democratic Administrations
    Value Weighted 1.69% 10.69%
    Equal Weighted -0.01% 16.52%
    Figure 1: Excess returns of CRSP indexes versus three-month Treasury bill, 1927-1998

    Further investigation reveals the results were generated by higher real returns and lower interest rates under Democratic administrations. Business cycle fluctuations showed no correlation to the results, demonstrating statistically significant outperformance for the Democrats regardless of underlying economic conditions. Value-weighted portfolios posted a steady 10% premium in favor of the Democrats, while equal-weighted portfolios came in at around 20%.

    Examination of additional business cycle variables revealed that expected returns (those anticipated by the markets) were 1.8% higher under the Republican administrations analyzed in the study, while unexpected returns were 10.8% higher when Democrats were in power, suggesting that stock market results may be driven by Democratic policies that surprise investors. Interestingly, the results do not show up in close proximity to election dates, but rather grow over time during the president's term.

    Read more:

  64. An interesting excerpt from David Frum's excellent article in New York magazine, which I think best accounts for the frantic efforts by those on the right, like our friend above, to deny accountability for the economic collapse. Since Frum was a writer for the WSJ, a soeachwriter for Bush and the author of The RIght Man, which typified the Iadulation conservatives then had for W, he deserves a careful reading. Read this and now consider the desperate attempt to take credit away from the democrat for the 90's boom.::
    Frum: "Imagine yourself a rank-and-file Republican in 2009: If you have not lost your job or your home, your savings have been sliced and your children cannot find work. Your retirement prospects have dimmed. Most of all, your neighbors blame you for all that has gone wrong in the country. There’s one thing you know for sure: None of this is your fault! And when the new president fails to deliver rapid recovery, he can be designated the target for everyone’s accumulated disappointment and rage. In the midst of economic wreckage, what relief to thrust all blame upon Barack Obama as the wrecker-in-chief.

    The Bush years cannot be repudiated, but the memory of them can be discarded to make way for a new and more radical ideology, assembled from bits of the old GOP platform that were once sublimated by the party elites but now roam the land freely: ultralibertarianism, crank monetary theories, populist fury, and paranoid visions of a Democratic Party controlled by ACORN and the New Black Panthers...

  65. So, 233, just to recap: your opponents are little better than wretched ideologues who cling to whacked out ideas in spite of overwhelming, obvious evidence to the contrary, and among other things lack the simple dignity to apologize - to you.

    And yet, a data point that suggests that a political hero of yours was the unwitting beneficiary of good luck associated with a "tech bubble" - well that wasn't actually luck, or for that matter, even a bubble, but rather your-hero-generated solid economic growth, as proven by the fact that others, like your hero, achieved similar results in dissimilar circumstances. Oh, and, never mind the fact that everyone in captivity, everyone of either conservative or liberal or any other stripe, describes the period of the market in question as a "bubble", that's no concern of yours, concluding instead that such assessments are "junk economics".

    Some folks might be agitated by such a collection of views in one person, but I gotta tell ya, you can't count me as one of them, to me that's all pretty much par for the course.

  66. What a bizarre and pointless response. Let's go back to basics. Clinton left a surplus. It was created by many, many factors, of which the tech bubble was one. (Nobody questions the notion of a tech bubble, liberal, conservative or me, so that is just intellectually dishonest but typical.) Further, no one questions that the economy grew under Clinton, except possibly you (which is also typical). Let us remember that Bush and his team cited the Clinton surplus to justify the $1 trillion he gave away to the rich. Now if the Bushies thought the surplus was real, were they idiots, or just not as smart as you? As for luck being the key to Clinton's success, history will record that poor slob was far from lucky: he inherited a recession and was forced to raise taxes over frantic GOP opposition - and in the end, Gore had to cast the deciding vote. That tax bill and not the ridiculous notion that taxes from day traders was the catalyst which ignited the economy. Further, Clinton cut government by 500,000, cut 12 of 13 government agencies, etc. etc. and yes, no conservative has ever apologized to me for what they did to that poor bastard either. But hark! a conservative has apologized no for some of it! His name is David Frum, and boy is he something. Reading him, you can almost feel that up is finally up and own is finally down with you guys, and that indeed there may be hope for this country. I cited a fragment of his fascinating essay which appeared thsi week in New York magazine. I refer it to you, and to others here.

  67. Here is the link to the Frum article. Would that others on the right had his integrity. Also, a terrific piece by Martin Wolf in the FT this week assailing austerity in the UK..

  68. Hey folks,

    I'm just checking in now on this thread after a couple of days, and I want to caution everyone to please assume the best of those you're in conversation with here. Play nice!

  69. Heh. David Frum a conservative?

    Hee hee. That's a good one.

    Next you'll be claiming David Brooks is a conservative. ;-)

    Oh, and as for the UK, Osborne's "austerity" budget was within 1% of Alistair Darling's, which should serve to put the lie to any claims of "austerity" in the UK. But then, the UK has quite a few more "conservatives" the likes of Brooks and Frum, who propagate falsehoods, and so lies like the UK being in "austerity" just slide right on through.

  70. Another, perhaps less ideological, point of view.

  71. David Frum thinks he's a conservative. I guess in today's GOP you can't be a conservative unless Anonymous Righty and Limbaugh anoint you, kind of like some weird college fraternity... Here's Frum anyway.

    Frum: I’ve been a Republican all my adult life. I have worked on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, at Forbes magazine, at the Manhattan and American Enterprise Institutes, as a speechwriter in the George W. Bush administration. I believe in free markets, low taxes, reasonable regulation, and limited government. I voted for John McCain in 2008, and I have strongly criticized the major policy decisions of the Obama administration. But as I contemplate my party and my movement in 2011, I see things I simply cannot support."

  72. Right. And every conservative laughs at Frum. I mean, we literally laugh at the poor stooge. It's like the nerd who wants to be one of the cool kids, but they won't let 'im in.

    Let me give you a little hint. If hardcore lefties are celebrating a guy, it might be an ever so slight indication that he ain't a conservative.

  73. Hmm. Sounds to me a lot like the old Communist party where Stalin and his henchmen got to determine who was a party loyalist and who wasn't. Mao and the Reds also insisted on these kinds of purity tests where they murdered hundreds of thousands of those who didn't fall completely in line with that crazy - and wicked = ideology. This is why radical conservatism is like a religion, with no coherent set of principles. Frum is a low taxes, small government, pro defense, pro corporate anti Obama right winger who was embraced by the purists who gobbled up his inane panegyrics to Bush and rallied to his framing of the Axis of Evil. Yet, because he has mildly dissented from radical orthodoxy, he is cast out and cut off all that ymmuy right wing welfare money that the corporations reserve to reward their useful idiots and propagandists. Truly, how is this different than the old Soviet Union, since the guy has simply been 'disappeared' by the right wing Kremlin?

  74. "...right wing welfare money that the corporations reserve to reward their useful idiots and propagandists."


    The thing is, you lefties don't understand that your lefty heroes are bought off by crony corporatism, and play that game better than anybody. Your messiah Obama has a Wall Street logo tattoed on his forehead, as does Schumer, Pelosi and the whole gang.

    And Frum, being basically a lefty, likes the way that game is played. He likes crony corporatism. And fyi, he's the furthest thing from "small government" there is.

    As mentioned, if you hardcore lefties are celebrating a guy, it may... just may... be an indication that the guy isn't a conservative. That should be intuitively obvious, but as the Left doesn't appear to be blessed with the requisite intuition, or even the cognitive ability to recognize their own internal hypocrisy, it has to be mentioned literally.

  75. In Anonymous Righty's world, the Party gets to define who is a conservative and who is not. It makes no difference what an individual believes, writes or how he votes. It makes no difference that he served in the most rightwing administration in US history, or that he served loyally at the hand of a president that Anonymous Righty revered and voted for, passionately, defiantly, twice. It makes no difference if an individual will faithfully vote and support the right wing candidate in the next or all future elections, that he is anti abortion, pro defense, pro guns, God, etc. or that he opposes Obama and has never ever voted for a democrat. To Anonymous Righty, and the neo Stalinists, the fact that that individual has dared to mildly criticize some aspects of radical right wing orthodoxy means he has failed the purity test. This is what we are dealing with. There is nothing about Frum this guy can actually cite that he disagrees with. Frum has paid plenty of lip service to platitudes about small government (though he, like Anonymous Righty, are both impotent players in the real world where policy actually takes place and platitudes are cheap). But because Frum criticized the party, Anonymous Righty now brands him a lefty. In the world of the Radical Rightwing, anyone who does not agree with everything the Randical RIght happens to believe at the time (and this always changes because the Radical Right has no coherent set of principles, but is like a religion, with strict but incomprehensible tenets and codes) is condemned to be a lefty. To Anonymous Righty, Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Dole, Bush 1 and now, apparently W as well, were all lefties. What a nutty bunch!

  76. In Anonymous Righty's world, the Party gets to define who is a conservative and who is not.


    No, actually, in the real world, we conservatives define who is a conservative, and who isn't. And that definition has precious little to do with your precious little "R's" and "D's", which are apparently the prism through which you view the world.



    "...he served in the most rightwing administration in US history..."


    Huh? You don't seem to know much US history, it appears.



    "...a president that Anonymous Righty revered..."


    So you don't know much US history, and also fantasize mine?



    Frum has paid plenty of lip service to platitudes about small government"


    Precisely, but then, I can get Obama to mouth platitudes about small government, and he isn't a conservative either.

    Look, let's keep it simple, so even you can understand it. If lefties are celebrating a guy, it's dead certain he isn't a conservative. That's a fairly simple proposition, isn't it?

    And it's particularly amusing because we conservatives pillory NOBODY more than we do Frum. Brooks is a close second, but Frum's just a lot more fun to kick around. Iowahawk just torches these 2. It's hilarious. ;-)

  77. I do not mean Party in the sense of R and D, obviously, but in the sense of The Communist Party which insisted on similar purity rites of its acolytes. Stalin of course, killed those who dissented from Party orthodoxy, whereas in Frum's case, he is simply purged of his think tank job and banned from Fox news. Thus Frum, Bush and Brooks, who have all had long careers hawking all the right wing horseshit about smal government, low taxes, anti abortion and guns, etc. are cast out of the Party because of some minor demurral on some small point or another. Nothing of course is more fascinating than watching right wing ideologues tear into one another -- it's like the sectarian craziness we see in the Arab world and similarly hard to keep straight. Frum coined the Axis of Evil. Was he a conservative then but not one now? If not now, what changed? How and when did he stop being a conservative? When Limbaugh said he wasn't? Based on what? And yes, the Bush administration was the most right wing administration in US history, since modern conservatism is a recent invention, arising out of the ashes of the John Birch society, The Goldwater debacle of 1964, Commentary Magazine and Nixon's Southern Strategy. It has no coherent set of principle. Was Bush more right wing than St Reagan, the old borrow and spend, deficit kiting, tax raising Gipper? The toadies at the National Review and Fox news all said he was, but who knows - maybe it's a tie. As for Frum, the fact that a couple of nobodies laugh at him does not prove your thesis.

  78. You'll have to pardon my reply to the above fringe lefty poster, who I ignore as non value added, but the anonymous post musta sucked me in.


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