What Mindless Cliché-Driven Centrism From a High-Profile Pundit Looks Like, in Detail.

The State of the Union ritual is by now familiar to most Americans. President Obama leads the Democratic side of the chamber to a series of standing ovations for proposals that everybody knows won’t become law. Republicans show their seriousness of purpose by smirking or making stony faces — and by inviting as guests to the speech people such as rocker Ted Nugent, who has called the president a “piece of [excrement]” who should “suck on my machine gun.”

But this spectacle, unlike [Mardi Gras], is not all harmless fun. Obama made clear that he is not entertaining serious spending cuts or major entitlement reforms. Republicans, in their responses, repeated that they are not budging on taxes. The hard choices will have to wait for another day.

The standoff gives new meaning to Fat Tuesday: The nation’s finances are a mess, but — what the heck? — let’s have another round. No wonder a new Washington Post poll found that 56 percent of Americans have a dim view of the country’s political system.

Let the bleak times roll, Dana Milbank, Washington Post, today

Yup.  Fifty-six percent of Americans want another deep recession.  Now!  Our nation’s finances are a mess.  And they want to see them become messier!  And they want a few million hungry or homeless elderly. Not necessarily now.  But soon.

The luxury of being a Centrist, at least one of this particular and common variety, is that you can spout generic truisms without ever actually tying them to specifics.  Much less to basic economics principles. Milbank’s column is so replete with unsupported and in fact completely unexplained inferences–declaratory clauses and sentences each made in its own little vacuum but offered as though dependent upon one another–that Milbank’s heard somewhere, that I wondered as I read this thing whether he’d brought his MacBook Air to a Uline plant to watch the speech last night. I mean, how else to explain this?:

Early in his address, Obama pronounced himself “more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.” He blithely proclaimed that the rest of the job could be done by making “modest reforms” to Medicare and “getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off.”

He didn’t mention that this would leave the country with a historically high debt level — and would be but a temporary fix before health-care costs explode in a decade. Departing from his prepared text, Obama challenged the idea that “deficit reduction is a big emergency, justifying making cuts in Social Security.”

Oh, horrors. After all, deficit reduction is a big emergency. And a historically high debt level–irrespective of the specifics, such as how high that debt level is relative to GDP–will crash the economy.  Just like the historically high debt levels did at the end of World War II.

“Washington’s version of Mardi Gras had begun early in the day, at the Capitol South Metro station, where members of a nonpartisan balanced-budget group, Bankrupting America, offered beads to passersby willing to ‘show us your cuts,’” Milbank writes. “By that standard, few necklaces would be distributed. Democrats and Republicans alike would sooner bare their private parts than come clean about what government programs they would cut.”  True enough.

But then, this:

Even [Paul] Ryan, who is drafting a budget that could slash domestic discretionary spending by 40 percent over a decade, doesn’t like to be specific.

Even Paul Ryan doesn’t like to be specific about cuts that would slash domestic spending by 40 percent over decade?  Even Paul Ryan?  You don’t say!

And then, of course:

And House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says, “It is almost a false argument to say we have a spending problem.”

Pelosi’s formulation is just as reckless as the Republicans’ mantra: “We don’t have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem.”

Of course. Which is why, pre-Bush-tax-cuts, and pre-Bush-unfunded-wars, we didn’t have a spending problem. Now we do, so let’s cut Social Security!  Canada, Germany, Australia and Holland must also have spending problems.  After all, they have extensive social safety-net programs, and high standards of living.

Milbank ends by saying, “In reality, we eventually need both spending cuts and tax increases — and lots of them. But sacrifice will have to wait. In Washington, they’re still partying like there’s no tomorrow.”

No, actually, the Democrats are partying like there is a tomorrow. There’s real, if unwitting, irony in the headline writer’s choice of a heading for Milbank’s column. Although–who knows?–maybe the headline writer actually is familiar with Keynesian economics.

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