Andrew Leonard talks politics

Andrew Leonard’s review of David Wessel’s Red Ink (which I have not yet read) gets to the heart of the problem of much of our discourse on the economy: Red Ink, according to Leonard, is a very useful guide to exactly what the problems are with the federal budget, explained in an even-handed manner.

And as Leonard points out, that even-handed manner is the problem.

For instance, remember the Medicare drug benefit? It increased spending—more than it had to, because the government was not allowed to use its buying power to negotiate with the drug companies—without raising taxes or cutting other spending. Unlike Obamacare, which is actually paid for. Except that if you listen to Republicans, it’s not. Leonard writes:

It’s very difficult to dwell on this without going apoplectic. Again: Republicans passed an expansion of healthcare without any mechanism to pay for it. That’s pretty bad, from a boosting-the-deficit standpoint. But when Democrats passed their own expansion, funded by a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes that, together, lower the deficit, Republicans just dismissed the numbers as fake.

There’s a reason why we can’t seem to make any progress on our fiscal mess: One of our two political parties has gone nuts.

And then he gets to what I consider the meat of the issue:

Wessel explicitly chooses not to make this clear in his treatment of our national budget debacle. It’s easy to understand why: As soon as you position yourself on one side of the political spectrum, you completely lose the attention of everybody who is aligned on the other. Your numbers get dismissed as partisan. This review of “Red Ink” will certainly suffer that fate. And that’s a shame. But it’s not enough to merely explain why “inaction imperils our future.” You also need to explain why there’s inaction in the first place. And that requires taking sides.

In other words, Wessel provides a lot of useful information about what happened, without the why. Which, really, is a rather good demonstration of the why; as Leonard says, one of our two political parties has gone nuts, but too much of our discourse—including, apparently, Red Ink, which I’m still going to read—politely ignores the fact that they’re nuts, and treats their insane programs as if they were not, in fact, insane.

Well, y’all don’t have to worry about Economix, folks. I don’t shy away from finger-pointing.

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