Quotations are offered not because I agree or disagree with them, but as points of departure for continued reflection.
Ed Morrisey (a couple days ago):
There is a lot of anger at the moment in the US over the embarrassment of the downgrade, as well as shock. I’m most amused by the shock, to tell the truth. S&P didn’t say anything yesterday that was not common knowledge and common sense. If you had to rate a potential investment that had an income of, say, $22,000 a year but had costs of $37,000 per year, a standing debt of $143,000, and contracted future debt that exceeded $1 million, would you give that investment a gold-plated AAA rating and buy their bonds at the lowest interest rate possible, or at all? Of course not, but that’s exactly the fiscal situation of the US, at a 100,000,000:1 scale.
Some of the hyperbolic rhetoric we are now hearing about efforts to trim the deficit is coming from advocacy groups warning that much of our cutting will fall on the poor. These advocates frequently use the plight of the poor to inveigh against cuts in programs that don’t accomplish anything. We spend several billion dollars a year on community development block grants that originated decades ago as naïve, if somewhat well-intentioned efforts to restore declining neighborhoods. Over the years, however, Congress expanded the program to richer communities and gradually made it into a haven for member earmarks. When in 2006 the Bush administration actually proposed refocusing the grants on poor neighborhoods and redesigning them so that groups would need to show some evidence their programs helped ameliorate poverty, the advocacy community and members of Congress in both parties revolted, refusing to consider any such evidenced-based grantmaking.
Some programs are so sacrosanct the media can’t bring itself to confront the evidence that they don’t work. Head Start has been the subject of much study by academics who’ve found the program doesn’t do what it is supposed to, that is, give lower income kids a good educational head start. The government keeps commissioning studies hoping to change that, but when the latest study sponsored by Health and Human Services was released in 2010 again showing there were no lasting educational effects of the program, the media virtually ignored it. And so, $100 billion later, we continue to fund a program that fails to accomplish its purpose.
Much of what we try to do with government today is an attempt to replicate through human means what God has provided through a relationship with Him. As the Christians for a Sustainable Economy initiative suggested last week, a key question posed in that endeavor is: “Whom shall we indebt?” That is, who is on the hook for the cost of making good on those promises? God holds Himself obligated already, but rather than doing things His way, we make up earthly systems that indenture our fellow men to our needs, preferences, and even caprices.
Perry and his fellow religious-right candidates for the GOP presidential nomination may genuinely believe their messianic notions are private matters, that they can preach to 30,000 fellow believers about re-installing God as the invisible leader of the nation and still not be seen primarily as prophets of a reactionary political theology. They may be right. Evidence suggests that the mainstream press only comprehends them as kooky, delusional, and perhaps provincial figures, rather than rational actors with ideas fundamentally opposed to liberal democracy. But that is what they are—a reality made all the more tragic by the fact that the contradictions of liberal democracy created them.
The big question, 10 years later, is whether things have improved or worsened for those in the bottom third of the income distribution, the people who clean hotel rooms, work in warehouses, wash dishes in restaurants, care for the very young and very old, and keep the shelves stocked in our stores. The short answer is that things have gotten much worse, especially since the economic downturn that began in 2008.
The recession may be the political fault of George W. Bush, but the Democrats must take the blame for the disappointing recovery, for it was they who had total control of the federal government in 2009 and 2010.
And the Democrats are set to pay for it – big time. Goldman Sachs recently revised its 2012 economic forecast; it now sees growth ranging between 2 percent and 2.5 percent next year, and unemployment edging up to 9.25 percent. If this forecast turns out to be accurate, then Barack Obama will lose next year by a large margin, and scores of congressional Democrats will follow him down to defeat.
So, party leaders are in a full-blown panic, and rightly so. They are desperate to turn the public’s gaze away from their own shortcomings, and no doubt some too-clever-by-half pollster or focus group hack suggested blaming the Tea Party.