October 17, 2013


Obama Beat the Hostage-Takers. Now He Has to Fight the Fiscal Scolds. : The fecklessness of Washington's professional budget alarmists (ALEC MACGILLIS, 10/17/13, New Reublic)

Fix the Debt, the organization that took flight last year from the very deep pockets of octagenarian Blackstone co-founder Pete Peterson, held an afternoon event at the National Press Club to remind everyone that, crisis averted, the real problem in this country remained our crushing long-term debt. You might think that the fiasco of the past few weeks would have prompted some soul-searching within the organization - after all, its well-broadcast doomsday warnings of a nation drowning in red ink have only helped to feed conservative Republican fury about out of control spending, even as budget deficits steadily decline and the long-term fiscal picture brightens. It is that fury that, as much as anything, drove the brinksmanship over the government shutdown and debt ceiling, but Fix the Debt officials spoke as if they have had no role in bringing us to this point - as if, to the contrary, we arrived at this point precisely because we were not listening to them. Compared to them, the second-guessing Republicans on the Hill Wednesday were models of candor and self-awareness.

One by one, the officials offered the usual above-it-all bipartisan bromides, scrupulously avoiding naming the people or even the party that brought the crisis to a head.

"My hope is that everyone learns the...lesson: that it's time to govern, to roll up their sleeves and get to work," said Leon Panetta, the former Defense secretary, CIA director, congressman and Clinton administration chief of staff who was last seen taking not-so-veiled swipes at President Obama and whose deficit hawk credentials have apparently not been undermined by his having spent some $1 million in taxpayer funds on weekly flights home on a military jet to his spread in Monterey, Calif.  "The place they should be is in a budget conference....working on the key issues they need to address if we're serious about reducing the deficit..."

"Most in a bipartisan way can say that fixing the debt has got to be the ultimate goal. Everything else, yeah, we'll have those fights, we'll have those disagreements," chimed in Jim Nussle, a former Republican congressman from Iowa, budget director under President George W. Bush and member of Fix the Debt's steering committee. He offered: "We can give them the tools for that toolbox as they go in to build that consensus."

"How deeply has our nation sunk into the trenches of partisan politics," lamented Javier Palomarez, head of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, one of several speakers enlisted by Fix the Debt to buttress its message. "Our Congress has been plagued by divisive politics...Ask Congress to put an end to this hostile era of partisanship and brinksmanship."

Yes, let's ask "Congress" to do that. That such rhetoric lives on, zombie-like, is a reminder of how much lies ahead of President Obama and congressional Democrats, even as they relish their victory over Republican hostage-takers.

Balancing the budget isn't about economics, it's pure aesthetics.  That the deficit fights are so unsightly just adds to the aesthetic case for the valetudinarians.

Posted by at October 17, 2013 1:47 PM

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