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Douglas Holtz-Eakin: Balancing the Budget Is Just a Sales Gimmick to Gut the Federal Government. And We Republicans Think It Will Work! [UPDATED]

But several right-leaning fiscal experts described a balanced budget as a tool to force a fractious Congress to tackle the nation’s long-term budget problems.

“It is important to reduce the debt, and balancing gets you there faster,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office and a prominent Republican economist. “That’s paramount.”

He said a balanced budget is a goal everyone could understand. “It gives Congress a way to say no,” he said. “Transparency and political buy-in are important, and people understand balanced budgets. It has a lot of virtues.”

So there we have it.  Balancing the budget is just a sales gimmick by Republicans to gut the federal government.  And they think it will work.  As both a sales gimmick and of course as a way to gut the federal government.  

People may understand what balanced budgets are, but they do not understand balanced budgets.  They would, if we had a president willing and able to explain such complexities to the masses, and to explain exactly what Holtz-Eakin just has, to the readers of today’s New York Times: that, while it is important to keep budget deficits below a certain level relative to revenue and relative to GDP over the long haul, it is not important to actually balance the federal budget. But the Republicans can convince the public that it is, because people understand the concept of balanced budgets, and can thereby, via semantics trickery, accomplish the Republican goal of gutting the federal government.

But we don’t.  Have a president who is willing and able to explain such complexities to the masses, that is.

We do, though, now have Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who has just provided a nice quote, should other Dem politicians recognize its value and decide to use it.  Here’s hoping.


UPDATE: Regular AB reader and commenter rjs and I just had the following exchange in the Comments to my post:

rjs:  as an economist, he should know that as long as we’re running trade defcits, it impossible for the feederal government to run a balanced budget while the private sector is deleveraging

Me:  He probably does know. But he also knows that the public doesn’t know that. (I didn’t.) And when you’re goal is really to gut the federal government, and you think you’ve found a way to con the public into thinking your goal is something else, that’s all that matters.

These people are downright diabolical.

Killing Mitt Softly: His Not Being In a Position To show Leadership By Persuading Rightwing Republicans to Agree to Their Own Policy Proposals

Both Romneys said he would be more effective at navigating the current political moment.

“I’ll look at what’s happening right now, I wish I were there,” Mitt Romney said. “It kills me not to be there, not to be in the White House doing what needs to be done. The president is the leader of the nation. The president brings people together, does the deals, does the trades, knocks the heads together; the president leads. And — and I don’t see that kind of — of leadership happening right now.”

Mitt Romney: ‘It kills me’ not to be president, Reid J. Epstein, Politico, this morning, reporting on Mitt and Ann Romney’s recorded interview with fox News’ Chris Wallace,* aired yesterday

Seriously, Mitt?  Seriously?  

You ran on a Tea Party fiscal agenda of lowering tax rates by 20%–a huge tax break for the wealthy–and increasing defense spending, and absolutely gutting social-safety-net spending.  You chose as your running mate the very architect of most of this fiscal plan, the exceptions being the across-the-board 20% tax cuts and the increased defense spending, although the tax cuts, if not the increased defense spending, would probably be an easy sell to the Tea Party folks.  And you claim that your superior leadership skills would enable you to persuade the Republican congressional delegation to agree, grudgingly, of course, to go along with this?

Yes, it would be a tough, uphill battle.  But onward, Mormon soldier.  Especially one with leadership skills.

The easier part, I guess, would be persuading the Senate Democrats to go along with this, by throwing them a bone or two–e.g., I’ll agree to not completely gut the Medicaid subsidies to elderly nursing home residents, since many nursing home owners vote Republican, and I’ll persuade the Tea Party legislators to give in on that!–and by reminding them that we just held an election that amounted to a referendum on my proposed fiscal plan versus the Democrats’ fiscal plan, and I won.  

And by reminding the Dem senators who are up for reelection in 2014 that their electoral “district,” unlike the House members’ districts, can’t be gerrymandered.  Not without changing the boundaries of your state, anyway, which might be hard to do.

And, well, since the Dem senators aren’t, y’know, Republican senators, much less Republican House members, they would understand that in fact we did just have an electoral referendum on these very issues.  And they would have enough respect for the concept of democracy to agree to compromise somewhat.

Elsewhere in that interview, Romney attributed his loss to the 47% videotape and to a wholesale (my word; not his) rejection by racial minorities.  Which he was tremendously effective in navigating as part of the current political moment when, a week after the election, when he no longer was soliciting campaign contributions from very wealthy Republicans but was instead apologizing to the ones who donated generously, he effectively reiterated his hostility and condescension toward both the 47% and racial minorities by attributing his loss to minorities–mainly Hispanics–who were eager for the gifts (his word; not mine) Obama was giving them, especially the gift of “free” healthcare, through Obamacare.

Yup, that’s what made the difference in the election. Not a rejection of the Tea Party/Ryan/Romney fiscal plan, but gifts to Hispanics via Obamacare.   

Cluelessness continues to be a hallmark of Romney’s better half, as well.  Wife Ann, not to be outdone by her husband in missing the message of this election–that, by about five million votes in the presidential election. about one and one-half million votes in congressional elections, and by a clear majority in Senate elections, as well, the electorate rejected what Romney says his leadership as president would lead to–said all that was necessary for her husband to have won was for the public to learn how kind he is to members of his church, and to others he knows personally, when they need some kindnesses.

Really, Ann?  You really think that?

In an article today in the New York Times titled As Automatic Budget Cuts Go Into Effect, Poor May Be Hit Particularly Hard, Times reporter Annie Lowrey reports that federal housing vouchers, including to many disabled people, in New York City and Seattle and other high-rent cities, are about to be cut off, as are federal financial assistance to homeless shelters.  But few of the people, at least outside Utah, who will be affected are members of Romney’s church or know him personally.  So neither Romney’s kindnesses in his personal life nor his leadership skills as president, had he won the election, would have helped them, although his wife fails to understand this.  

The fact is that Romney is not in the White House because a majority of the electorate disagrees with him, and with the Tea Party, about what needs to be done. We do nonetheless await with bated breath his more effective navigation of the current political moment.  Assisted by wife Ann, his navigator.

*CORRECTION: This post originally said the interview was with NBC’s David Gregory. My sincere apology, NBC and Mr. Gregory. Obviously, I didn’t watch the interview; I just read about it.

Rep. Greg Walden (R. OR) Explains the Debt Ceiling. Good For Him!

Either that or he means that the public understands what the debt-ceiling statute actually is, and will never support Congress’s authorization of payment of already-incurred expenses earlier authorized by none other than Congress itself.

Obama and the congressional Dems should take the ball Walden has handed them and run with it.Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, signed on to the trillion-dollar coin plan, telling Capital New York: “It sounds silly but it’s absolutely legal. And it would normally not be proper to consider such a thing, except when you’re faced with blackmail to destroy the country’s economy, you have to consider things.”

But he might find resistance from Representative Greg Walden, Republican of Oregon, who said he would introduce legislation to close the loophole and end the debate once and for all.

“My wife and I have owned and operated a small business since 1986. When it came time to pay the bills, we couldn’t just mint a coin to create more money out of thin air,” Mr. Walden said.

A Trillion-Dollar Coin Brings a Jackpot of Jests, Annie Lowrey, New York Times, Jan. 9 H/T Dan Crawford, below

Presumably, Walden and his wife therefore paid the bills their small business had incurred via contracts he and his wife entered into on behalf of the business, such as utility bills for past months, bank loans, labor costs, rent, and inventory or raw-material purchases.  Unless, that is, they decided not to authorize payment of those bills and lost their business, necessitating Walden’s career change.

Walden ought to explain those basics to his party’s House leader, John Boehner, who as recently as two days ago reportedly said the public will never accept a debt ceiling increase without an accompanying spending cut.  

By which, I assume, he means that as long as the Republicans keep playing on the public’s lack of knowledge about what the quirky debt-ceiling statute actually concerns, and keep telling the public falsely that an increase in the debt ceiling is an increase in future spending appropriations rather than an authorization to allow the Treasury to pay already-incurred expenses, the public will never support Congress’s authorization to pay the federal government’s already-incurred expenses and prevent what would be the small-business-analogy causing the collapse of the business for failure to pay its already-accrued operating expenses.

I’m pretty sure he’s wrong even about that, since polls indicate that a majority of the public does not want the types of spending reductions that the Republicans want. Which, of course, is why the Repubs are refusing to actually specify to the public what, exactly, the do want cut, and by how much. But this much is certain: the public will support congressional authorization to pay already-incurred financial obligations. Just as Walden and his wife thought it best for them to pay their small business’s bills rather than default on them and lose the business.  Even if that meant taking out a small-business bank loan in order to do that.  

And here’s betting that, at times, it did.