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The Coastal Packet

The longtime national journal, Progressive Review, has moved its headquarters from Washington DC to Freeport, Maine, where its editor, Sam Smith, has long ties. This is a local edition dealing with Maine news and progressive politics.

8/27/09

PRESS HERALD'S 'BIPARTISAN' PALS TRY TO SCARE US

Here's how the Press Herald put in on the front page: Americans should spend less, save more and start thinking about how the nation's mounting debt will affect their children's and grandchildren's quality of life. That was the message delivered Tuesday by a panel of financial experts and members of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan organization that has dedicated itself to educating the public about the consequences of federal budget deficits. The panelists came to Maine this week as part of their "Fiscal Wake-Up Tour," a national event organized by the coalition and aimed at cutting through partisan rhetoric and stimulating public debate on ways government can reduce spending. Members met with the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram editorial board Tuesday morning before traveling to the Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport, where they co-hosted a forum with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. About 200 people attended the forum and listened to the panel discuss ways to reduce the deficit – on the same day the Obama administration predicted a skyrocketing 10-year federal deficit of $9 trillion. Kennebunkport police said another 100 people assembled outside the Ocean Avenue resort, carrying signs and joining in a rally to voice their support for health care reform. That topic was mentioned during the discussion, but was not the focus.

In fact, the Concord Coalition is a bunch of deficit hawks who have been sniping at Social Security and Medicare for some years now. Here are some back stories that put the Concord con in perspective.

Richard Rhames, Counterpunch, 2007 - "[Comptroller general David] Walker is heading a group of analysts from the political left and right on a nationwide 'Fiscal Wake-Up Tour,' speaking to dozens of Rotary clubs and newspaper editorial boards. Pollsters are holding focus groups in which citizens, once informed of the nation's fiscal future, usually say they'll accept tax increases or cuts in benefits." USA Today, 10/9/07

The game continues. In the aftermath of World War II, when it looked like the New Deal would be continued and completed with universal health care and greater democratization of the economy, elites set out on a sort of long march. Their aim was to "re-conquer" the ideological and political ground they had lost to the majority in the 30s and 40s. Through propaganda, subversion, and the agency of a perpetual warfare state their aims are lately, perhaps, within reach. There's a grotesque and embarrassing bipartisan consensus now that economic and social rights should only be available to those who can purchase them. No Child Left Behind (at the federal level) and "school consolidation" have painted a target on the back of public education. And finally, the ground is being prepared for the final assault: What Reagan's budget guy David Stockman called, "storming the twin citadels of the welfare state--Social Security and Medicare . . . "

To aid in the process, we're to be guided by something called the "Fiscal Wake-Up Tour." USA Today calls this PR push "a group of analysts from the political left and right . . . " As usual of course, there will be nobody passingly leftish in this crew. It's headed up by the right-wing Concord Coalition's Robert L. Bixby, who, prior to the New Hampshire whistle-stop told PR Newswire that this supposedly imminent mass drowning is "One thing that Democrats and Republicans can agree on." It will, he warns, "require hard choices, " but should be seen it as an "opportunity."

"Who for?" you might ask.

Robert Reich, 2009 - The White House announced that the deficit projections are worse than it had thought. And as expected, the same old group of deficit hystrics went ballistic. "A 10-year deficit of $9 trillion is $30,000 for each man, woman and child in the United States!" kabaam. "Public debt will total a whopping $17.5 trillion by 2019 - three-quarters of the nation's entire economy!" Kaboom. "The number would send Reagan's stack of thousand-dollar bills into satellite orbit!" Zowee.

First, ten year projections are notoriously irrelevant. Remember Ross Perot? In 1992, he predicted that the federal budget deficit was on track to end to the world as we knew it. In fact, the rapid growth of the economy during the following years reduced the deficit to zero (neither Bill Clinton's famous deficit-cutting nor Republican insistence on a balanced budget was responsible; the deficit reached zero before any major fiscal changes kicked in).

Second, deficits and debts mean just about nothing anyway -- at least out of context. In 1945, the federal debt was 120 percent of the entire U.S. economy. Yeegads! Yet only a few years later, the debt as a proportion of GDP had been tamed -- and not primarily because of cuts in government spending. Yes, of course, wartime spending ended. But the big change was in the denominator of the equation. Economic growth kicked in big time, and reduced the debt as a proportion of the economy to manageable levels.

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