The Corner

In Search of a Serious Man in Washington

We are $14,500,000,000,000 in debt. This year’s deficit is $1,700,000,000,000. The GAO says the government wastes $250,000,000,000 a year — and if that’s what the government says, rest assured that the figure is at least twice that. We’re financing two wars and holding the coats of the French in a third. The president spent $1,000,000,000,000 to stimulate the economy yet the unemployment rate has hovered at 9 percent for more than two years. Inflation promises to ravage savings and reduce real income.

How does Washington respond? The president frivols — promising yet more spending, higher taxes on the rich (flexibly and ridiculously defined), and  a slew of  new rainbows and unicorns federal programs. Democratic congressmen squeal that cuts amounting to 96 hours of spending are “extreme.” Tongue-tied Republican congressmen, wholly unable to make a persuasive case to the American people about the magnitude of the fiscal mess and urgent need to address it presently, cave at the prospect of being blamed for shutting down Crater Lake.

Sophisticated Beltway elites assure one and all that the very same Republicans who settled for cutting a fake $38 billion will magically grow spines in time for the far scarier debt ceiling debate. We’re told that these modern Leonidases — the same stalwarts who couldn’t keep their promise of (even trying) a $100 billion cut this year — will vindicate themselves in the FY 2012 budget debate, that serious cuts will come then. 

Upon what evidence? Paul Ryan is a smart, serious man. But he’s just one man. Based on the serial cave-ins by alleged fiscal conservatives over the last four months, what evidence is there that more than a shred of something resembling the Ryan Plan will even make it out of committee, let alone pass two houses of congress?

“Conservative” politicians have been too satisfied with too little for too long. They’re too easily cowed (still) by the editorial pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post. They behave as if they don’t have confidence in what they’re saying; that American voters are too stupid and venal to appreciate the scale of the problem. 

Sure, Republicans only control, as John Boehner repeatedly and inaptly reminds, only one half of one third of the federal government. And politicians, as opposed to pundits, must stand for reelection.

But if the economy is truly in dire straits, then serious politicians would summon the communication skills and political fortitude to persuade the electorate, win the debate, and pass the necessary reforms. If they can’t do it now — when the electorate only last November signaled a receptiveness to serious reforms, a receptiveness perhaps not seen since the Great Depression — then what’s the likelihood they ever will?

There are serious people in Washington. Just far too few.


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