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Mark Kleiman Was Snarky Last Night: Long-Run Fiscal Crisis and the Future of America Department


Civility Dep’t « The Reality-Based Community: On behalf of my fellow Democrats, I would like to engage in a bit of bipartisan good sportsmanship. While lots of people – starting with the candidate – deserve credit for Kathy Hochul’s convincing victory in a Jack Kemp’s old Congressional district, the bulk of the kudos belongs to Paul Ryan, without whose plan to destroy Medicare the result would not have been possible. The rest of the Democrats owe it to Mr. Ryan to carry on his good work, by making sure that every voter in American knows that voting for the Ryan budget means denying health care to old people. In the spirit of bipartisanship, we can do no less.

I am somewhat less happy.

Don't get me wrong--few things would please me more than the electoral collapse of the Republican Party followed by a recognition that the next opposition party to the Democrats needs to turn over a new leaf, return to a base in reality, and no longer try to lie to all the people all of the time--about global warming, about health care, about how to finance the federal government, about whether Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction, and so forth. The Ryan fiscal plan was cruel, stupid, and counterproductive: you do not try to improve health care by destroying Medicare and adopting the RyanCare plan of turning insuring the elderly over to private insurance companies whose first act is to hire more administrators and pay them $250 billion a year to try to screen the Medicare patients who will be expensive to treat out of their policy pool. And the claim that eliminating Medicare and replacing it with RyanCare for the elderly was essentially the same thing as FEHBP for members of congress is a lie of extraordinary magnitude and cynicism.

And we should not be worrying right now about the cost of Medicare in the 2020s and 2030s. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. And the 9% unemployment of this day is indeed evil. Government right now should be focusing on creating jobs now, not on potential deficits a generation hence--especially as no congress can bind its successors.

But given that we are worrying about the 2020s and 2030s right now, it is a fact that there is a large long-run gap starting about a decade and growing between the 20%-plus of GDP that congress on its current institutional trajectory will tax and the missions that congress has promised the American people that the federal government will assume. And the political lesson of the past two years is now that you win elections by denouncing the other party's plans to control Medicare spending in the long run--whether those plans are smart like the Affordable Care Act or profoundly stupid like the replacement of Medicare by RyanCare for the aged--sitting back, and waiting for the voters to reward you.

Thus our politics is likely to become another order of magnitude more dysfunctional in the next eighteen months, hard as that may be to believe. And whatever coalition takes office in early 2013 will be drinking from a poisoned well.

As I have said before, within the Democratic Party caucus you can argue for rational policies that are in America's interest--internationalism, expanded trade, balancing the budget, strengthening the safety net, improving the efficiency of the health care system, dealing with global warming, properly regulating the financial system, etc.--and you can usually win. The Democratic Party is, by and large, reality based. But the Republican Party is not reality-based. How long has it been since the rational technocratic faction of the Republican Party has won any internal argument? As more than one former Republican staffer has told me: "We did not raise any of those issues. It would have been a very short conversation."

The only constructive road I can see would be for the Republican Party to collapse, and then perhaps something good for America could be built on its foundations..