You Can Safely Blame “Centrism” for Most of Our Fiscal Problems
Dana Milbank’s column in today’s Washington Post is impressively incoherent:
The federal debt has exploded to an incomprehensible $12.1 trillion, and the nation continues on its path to becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of the People’s Republic of China. Yet lawmakers can’t even agree on a modest proposal to form an independent debt commission and then vote on its recommendations.
The debt commission is expected to be voted down Tuesday morning, as foes on the far left and the far right unite to form a status quo supermajority. Prospects have become so bleak that a couple of retired congressional leaders got together Monday morning in hopes of shaming their former colleagues into action.
Assuming words haven’t suddenly lost all meaning, it is literally impossible for an extremist fringe to constitute a supermajority. For that to happen, any given fringe would have to come in striking distance of a plurality, in which case, it wouldn’t actually be a fringe.
That bit of logical incoherence notwithstanding, Milbank’s column is a pitch perfect example of how Beltway elites are utterly incapable of correctly identifying or explaining problems, especially ones for which they are intimately responsible. Our bleak fiscal outlook is mostly due to the Bush tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the financial collapse. Put another way, each of the policies responsible for the deficit were supported, sometimes enthusiastically, by the “center” of American politics. Beltway elites — Democrats and Republicans — gleefully signed on to massive tax cuts, senseless “projection” of American power, and deregulation of the financial sector.
If anything, the “fringe” that Milbank (and other Beltway elites) deride was responsible for putting up what little resistance there was to the most egregiously “centrist” policies. Paleo-cons and progressives were, and are, deeply skeptical of the wars, the tax cuts, and the frenzy of deregulation that characterized the late-Clinton and Bush eras. And now, in this era of massive deficits, it’s the “fringe” advocating policies and approaches that actually have a chance of solving the problem. Progressives and reform-minded conservatives (which in the conservative movement, is a fringe view) recognize the need for tax increases, reduced military spending, and a restructuring of federal entitlements. Of course, there are serious points of disagreement, but let’s not pretend like its the fringes who are to blame for America’s sorry shape. That distinction belongs to the Beltway elites who dominate our political discourse.
(cross-posted from my blog)