The editors of the Washington Post have examined the fiscal policy proposals of the president and Gov. Romney and find them both not only wanting but dangerous:
The fundamental Republican myth is that the country’s fiscal problems can be tackled without new revenue — or, in the more sophisticated version of this argument, that they can be addressed by rejiggering the tax code in a way that would promote economic growth, and therefore produce additional revenue, without asking any households to pay a larger share of their income in taxes. In the Romney-Ryan version of the myth, marginal rates can be cut even further, eliminating popular deductions — deliberately unspecified — and counting on unduly optimistic projections to fill the gap. As the Tax Policy Center has demonstrated, that approach would “provide large tax cuts to high-income households, and increase the tax burdens on middle- and/or lower-income taxpayers.”
The fundamental Democratic myth is that the country’s fiscal problems can be solved by focusing on, and asking for sacrifice from, only a tiny, vilified slice of the population: the wealthy. The central promise of President Obama’s 2008 campaign, reaffirmed in 2012, was that he would not raise taxes on the middle-class, defined as households earning less than $250,000 annually. At the same time, Democrats want voters to believe that Social Security and Medicare can be fixed, to the extend they need fixing, barely touching ever-rising benefits.
In an op-ed in the New York Times David Stockman, director of Office of Management and the Budget under Ronald Reagan is equally harsh:
Mr. Ryan professes to be a defense hawk, though the true conservatives of modern times — Calvin Coolidge, Herbert C. Hoover, Robert A. Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower, even Gerald R. Ford — would have had no use for the neoconconservative imperialism that the G.O.P. cobbled from policy salons run by Irving Kristol’s ex-Trotskyites three decades ago. These doctrines now saddle our bankrupt nation with a roughly $775 billion “defense” budget in a world where we have no advanced industrial state enemies and have been fired (appropriately) as the global policeman.
Indeed, adjusted for inflation, today’s national security budget is nearly double Eisenhower’s when he left office in 1961 (about $400 billion in today’s dollars) — a level Ike deemed sufficient to contain the very real Soviet nuclear threat in the era just after Sputnik. By contrast, the Romney-Ryan version of shrinking Big Government is to increase our already outlandish warfare-state budget and risk even more spending by saber-rattling at a benighted but irrelevant Iran.
Similarly, there can be no hope of a return to vibrant capitalism unless there is a sweeping housecleaning at the Federal Reserve and a thorough renunciation of its interest-rate fixing, bond buying and recurring bailouts of Wall Street speculators. The Greenspan-Bernanke campaigns to repress interest rates have crushed savers, mocked thrift and fueled enormous overconsumption and trade deficits.
The problem, as I suggested yesterday, is that even extracting pain, however fairly distributed, isn’t enough. We need fundamental reforms to basic institutions and structures of government. Our greatest fiscal problems are, in order, healthcare spending, too much military spending, the inefficiency and obsolescence of our tax code, based as it is on the assumptions of a generation ago, and interest on the debt. As Mr. Stockman notes our biggest regulatory problem is the banking system. The two major political party tickets are united, shoulder-to-shoulder, in refusing to come to terms with any of these pressing concerns.
Over a period of thirty-five years I have arrived at the conclusion that we can’t cut costs in healthcare spending in the context of the fee-for-services system and the insurance system as its presently constituted. Military spending and, importantly, military commitments are so obviously beyond what is reasonably necessary to preserve our security I can barely see how the question is debated at all but, indeed, it’s a subject of bitter debate with the present Republican ticket taking the remarkable position that military spending should be increased.
In the face of such titanic dysfunction I have only a handful of alternatives. I could full-throatedly support one or the other of the two major party tickets, delusional as they both are. I could support a third party ticket in the full knowledge that the very best that will accomplish is the perverse result of injuring the major party ticket that I prefer. I could become a sociopath. I could become a psychopath.
Or, I could be a voice crying out in the wilderness, choose among frankly unhinged alternatives, and hope for the best. That’s my choice.