The media tends to run in packs. And on this whole matter of the long-awaited sunset of the Bush tax cuts combined with the earlier-negotiated package of budget cuts (including a much needed start to cutting back on that bloated soaker of 60% of all federal expenditures, the military), the media really can't seem to think for itself.
So we keep hearing about how we should worry about the "fiscal cliff". Even though for some reason bond traders aren't. Even though people are still flocking to US Treasuries rather than the debt of other sovereign nations. Even though the economy seems to be looking the other way and consumer confidence is up.
People like Peter Peterson (private equity vulture capitalist) want us to think the deficit is the worst crisis imaginable and therefore that we need to adopt austerity (cut "entitlement" programs). People like Alan Simpson (curmudgeonly former senator and never one whit a progressive) and Erskine Bowles (upright Chicago School-thinker on economics issues and not a progressive either) want us to think we need to focus on debt and that we should have a pick (austerity) package with 2/3 spending cuts and 1/3 tax hikes and, oh yeah, "entitlement" "reforms."
These are people who are peddling the same old cure for the GOP-invented problem of "beastly" government that needs to be "starved." When what we have in reality is a problem of an unequal economy that needs to be jumpstarted, in order to get government monies rolling to support infrastructure and human capital development, which will get the middle class growing, which will be good for everybody.
Why would anybody listen to Peter Peterson, Erskine Bowles, Alan Simpson or any of that crowd? They are not much different from the Mitt Romney of the 47% remarks fame--they're nowhere near middle class themselves, they haven't the foggiest notion of what it might be like not to be able to afford decent medical care or a decent retirement, and they think of themselves and the white men like themselves, as the leaders of the free world who merit all the wondrous things they have. Bull Shit.
Jeff Madrick is a mildly progressive (he'd probably say "centrist") member of the "next new deal" project at the Roosevelt Institute. He writes in Salon.com about the arbitrary nature of most of the foundation of the austerity "gotta pay down the deficit and pay the debt" movement. In particular, he writes aobut the idea that there is something fundamentally wrong about federal spending that exceeds the historical trendline of 21% of GDP. See Jeff Madrick, The Simpson-Bowles consensus makes no sense, Salon.com (Nov. 28, 2012). As he notes, the idea that we should never exceed that historic trendline comse from the Heritage Foundation--a propaganda tank that puts forth all kinds of material that wants us to stay with the status quo. It would mean "deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid over time, as well as virtually all other federal programs." Centrists in discussions at the Brookings INstitution suggested spending in the range of 23 to 25% of GDP would be more reasonable, given our context (decades of underspending on infrastructure and overspending on military). And Madrick thinks we need to keep these ideas in mind:
Centrists had better get together and remind America, with analysis, pragmatism, and a keen sense of justice and America’s future, how deeply wrongheaded most of the basic principles of Simpson-Bowles are. This thinking has led to today’s fiscal cliff, and as a blueprint for the future it is both damaging to the economy and cruel for most Americans. Id.
Folks. There is no merit, per se, in any status quo. There is no there there. As Jeff says, "American cannot be run by men like these" (speaking of Simpson, Bowles, and Peterson, elites all three who want the economy to be brought under control by cutting entitlements a lot and not raising taxes much). Id.