Bruce Bartlett Is Badly Disturbed
20050408: Economics 113 Final Paper Assignment

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (The Washington Post Editorial Board Clown Show Department)

Well, well, well. Washington Post editorial board, be ashamed of yourselves. Remember that your jobs are not to be complaisant and compliant shills for the Bush administration, or quit and go find honest jobs.

Dean Baker and David Rosnick have been making the completely obvious and unexceptionable point that Social Security ranks, at best, third in urgency and severity among America's fiscal problems. The most urgent and severe problem is the fallout from Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts that once again destabilized the financing of the American government. The second most urgent and most severe problem is the medium- and long-run financing of the government's health-care programs: Medicare and Medicaid.

Dean and David make the obvious and unexceptionable point that a government that cared at all about making good fiscal policy would be tacking the big and urgent problems that threaten to cause significant economic damage in the next two decades. It makes no sense to focus on Social Security when there are bigger and more urgent fish to fry. They point out that one aim of the Bush focus on Social Security is to keep there from being serious discussion of--or attempts at solutions to--the bigger and more urgent problems.

Now everybody who is even half-informed knows that this is the case: their points are obvious and unexceptionable. When Treasury Secretary John Snow goes to Wall Street, people there ask him why the government isn't tackling the important stuff: the current deficit and health care. Snow has no answer: his only response is that Social Security is Bush's priority, and so that is what the government is going to focus on.

But the Washington Post editorial board is upset at Dean Baker and David Rosnick. They defend Bush's focus on Social Security because... because... because... [Y]es, this President Bush can be criticized for hyping the "crisis" in Social Security.... Dean Baker and David Rosnick of the Center for Economic and Policy Research make [the] argument [that the government should focus on the more urgent and substantial fiscal policy problems].... "Politicians and commentators who claim to be concerned about the living standards of future generations of workers seem to be misdirecting their energy by focusing on the comparatively minor problem of Social Security.... Clearly the inefficiency of the U.S. health care system poses a far larger and more immediate danger to the living standards of our children and grandchildren."

Perhaps so. But... [d]oes anyone who's watched the Social Security debate this year imagine that figuring out what to do about health care or Medicare would go just swimmingly?... Sadly, the Social Security debate so far has served chiefly to underline the difficulty, in a political environment dominated by dogma and short-term self-interest.... This is irresponsible, on both sides.

But so, too, would be dropping the subject. If they can't solve this "comparatively minor problem" now, politicians are unlikely to be brave enough, or rash enough, to return to it anytime soon. And we hate to think how they'd face up to a comparatively major challenge.

Dropping a less important issue to deal with a more important issue is "irresponsible"? In what quadrant could that possibly be true?

What the Post editorial board does not say is that America's Republican politicians do face a major fiscal policy challenge--two major fiscal policy challenges, in fact. What the Post editorial board does not say is that America's Republican politicians are already not facing up to the major challenges--there's no need to speculate on what the editorial board "hate[s] to think" about. What the Post editorial board does not say is that it has taken on the mission of helping the senior Republican politicians in their corrupt and incompetent irresponsibility by attacking people who actually have a clear view of America's relative fiscal policy challenges.

Shame on you, Washington Post editorial board, minor apprentices in the clown show that is Bush administration economic policy: Fred Hiatt, Colbert I. King, Jackson Diehl, Ken Ikenberry, Anne Applebaum, Robert Asher, Sebastian Mallaby, Ruth Marcus, Benjamin Wittes.