The nation is heading toward the deadline for raising the debt ceiling to avoid fiscal default. The debate has been centered around whether or not an austerity program of massive cuts in federal spending will be “balanced” by much smaller tax increases. To be honest, most of the debate has been centered around whether the Republicans are crazy enough to go forward with their bluff to allow default and thus broad economic misery, even among Wall Street, unless all of their demands — which include deficit-increasing tax cuts — are met.
The boundaries of this debate are designed to make the nation’s fundamental problems — economic inequality, underemployment, global warming, and the like — worse, not better.
Outside observers such as Al Gore, the New York Times’ David Leonhardt, and the Center for American Progress’ Joe Romm have castigated President Obama’s economic conservatism and called for a response based on sound economic and scientific theory, instead.
Here’s my summary of the different approaches to these fundamental threats to the future of the American dream:
|Economic Malaise, Joblessness, Inequality||Massive Keynesian investment funded by progressive taxation on the rich and corporations.||Hope spending from beginning of term and Fed’s quantitative easing does enough. Argue that Keynes was wrong. Austerity cuts.||Massive austerity cuts, tax cuts for the rich and corporations, and privatize everything.|
|Global Warming||Huge clean-energy and infrastructure spending funded by heavy taxes and/or strict cap on carbon pollution.||Modest regulation of coal plants, increase in fuel economy standards, hope Recovery Act spending was enough. Don’t talk about it.||Deny existence. Argue protection of environment is a plot to take away freedom.|
|Debt Default||Raise the debt ceiling.||Claim it’s a huge problem, push massive austerity cuts and possibly some revenue increases. Argue against simply raising the debt ceiling.||Claim it’s not a problem, use fear of default to pass massive austerity cuts and privatize everything.|
|Long-Term Deficit||Massive Keynesian investment funded by progressive taxation on the rich and corporations.||Massive austerity cuts and slowing the rate of tax cuts for the rich and corporations.||Massive austerity cuts, tax cuts for the rich and corporations, and privatize everything. Increase deficit.|
As of this moment, the president’s negotiating stance is a lot closer to the radical, destructive goals of the far right than to the climate hawks and progressives.