Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Breaking up with Andrew Sullivan

So yeah, budget stuff. Where libertarians and liberals part ways. It's probably for the best. After the move, I expect to have a lot less free time...trying to keep up with his 46.8 items a day (according to google reader) would probably kill me. So really I would have to stop reading his blog either way; it's just an added bonus that I'll miss a few laments about how Barack Obama and reality aren't completely reconfiguring to match Andrew Sullivan's ideology. (No, deficit reduction is not actually an untapped political goldmine, nor is any Democratic president likely to turn his back on the left's entire post-WWII legacy in monomaniac pursuit of it. I don't feel like I even need a citation to back myself up, it's so obvious).

I haven't figured out what I personally think about the budget. I don't know how to weigh the dire predictions of doom associated with the deficit. I don't know how right which people are about the massive amounts of waste in what sectors of government spending. I'd like to think that you could wave a magic wand, eliminate agricultural subsidies (without undermining agricultural communities), go back in time and not invade Iraq and Afghanistan, rationalize the incarceration rate, and make sure Medicare only pays for treatments that are medically beneficial (while somehow not ignoring the psychological need for some terminally ill patients to "try everything"), and the problem would be solved. It doesn't seem likely that there are no hard choices though. And even if there is significant amounts of spending in the federal budget that really, truly serves no legitimate public interest...just think how powerful the political constituency of that spending must be to have gotten it in the first place and maintained it all this time.*

So....higher taxes it is! But I think it's also important to remember that it is a more complex equation than taxes-go-in-spending-goes-out. Economic growth (or, say a recession) also has the potential to have a huge impact, particularly at the state level. Right now there's a fight between the Obama administration and the Republicans about which growth predictions to use. I think maybe the fact that it makes such a big difference is a sign that maybe we should spend less time worrying about how much money we can save if we let more Senegalese children die of malaria and more time figuring out how to achieve that 4% growth. Of course, that's just an invitation to each side to retreat into their ideological corners. Republicans will want to cut taxes and Democrats will want to do things like make sure the 40,000 people who take Caltrain every day, many of them to get to work, can continue doing so. I wonder if anybody's ever done a comparison of the number of people who "Go Galt" vs. the number who lose their jobs because of lack of reliable transportation.

*I have a vague feeling that Matt Yglesias should get some kind of citation here, but for the life of me I can't find a specific post.

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