The Incredible Shrinking Budget Debate
Why the Only Choice We're Being Offered Is Between Bad and Worse
We are now locked in the great budget battle of 2011. Who will win, the president or House Republicans? It's impossible to say yet, but I do know who is going to lose: us. In fact, we've already lost. This is due, in part, to the fact that our country no longer seems capable of coming up with anything other than what
Just look at this so-called "debate" we're having. The problem ostensibly on the table is the deficit. But, without any context, the raw deficit number is meaningless. If the country's debt were, say,
Yet, the debate is concentrated almost entirely on the debt side of the equation and barely at all on ways to increase the GDP side. How has the playing field of what is acceptable in this debate been so shrunken that the only two competing proposals still allowed on the field are the president's cuts and the House GOP's draconian cuts?
Well, it was no accident. And, as it turns out, there's an entire field of study based on the dynamic being played out: Agnotology. Coined by
Sound familiar? It's the process underlying practically every crisis that has befallen this country in the past decade or so. But you don't need to be a professional agnotologist to see that this pattern is endangering the future of the country.
And here we are in the middle of another budget "debate" in which the only choices being offered are largely confined to which programs in the non-military discretionary budget are going to be cut and by how much. That means almost all the cuts are limited to a portion of the budget that makes up just over 12 percent of our spending.
And the way to enact these "necessary" cuts is, to quote
But curiously omitted from all this self-congratulatory talk about making "tough choices" is any mention that the president just gave away nearly
In fact, had the administration done the right thing in December, it would have had the public on its side. Only 26 percent favored extending the cuts for everybody, with 53 percent wanting them extended only for those making under
The reason is easy to understand, concluded
But not only are the solutions allowed on the table by the establishment inadequate to the crisis, they'll actually do long-term damage to the country. "Slashing spending while the economy is still deeply depressed," wrote
It's a vicious circle. But it's not inevitable. It's happening because this is the choice -- and not a "tough" one -- of those who control our political debate.
We all know basically how this "debate" is going to end -- with lots of unnecessary suffering. Whether we're going to have to deal with bad choices or worse choices might still be up in the air, but let's at least stop pretending that it's a real debate and that nothing else was possible.
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