Priorities In an Era of Deficit Anxiety


Mark Kleiman sums it up well—in order to overcome filibusters in the Senate, Harry Reid’s had to agree to pay for avoiding teacher layoffs by cutting nutrition assistance to poor families while in order to secure passage of the New START arms reduction treaty it’s necessary to agree to tens of billions of dollars in deficit-financed spending on new and unnecessary nuclear weapons.

This kind of mentality, refusing to invest in the future of the country while insisting on massive unproductive defense expenditures has been very costly to the country over the past thirty years and it only seems to be getting worse. The hypocrisy of so-called “deficit hawks” who want to lavish cash on the top two percent and sundry defense contractors rankles, but hypocrisy aside the choice of absolute priorities is just laughably misguided. Meanwhile, the level of state and local government fiscal assistance purchased through those SNAP cuts won’t be enough to prevent massive cutbacks in early childhood education.

Even in strict national security terms, if you think about what’s going to matter in determining the US-China balance of power in 2050 the performance of our education system this decade—a major determinant of our future level of prosperity and technology—will be much more important than whether we stockpiled nuclear weapons in 2010.