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Hullabaloo


Saturday, December 29, 2012

 
Don't Come Together

by David Atkins

Ezra Klein had by far the best takedown of the stupidity of many elites, including Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, in demanding more generic "bipartisan compromise." But Paul Krugman was also on his game as well:

One of the enduring fantasies of the pundit class – most dramatically demonstrated by the ludicrous Politico piece on What Insiders Know – is that all we need to fix our economic problems is to get the great and the good together and bypass those pesky elected officials. Business leaders, in particular, are presumed to have the know-how to deal with all the important issues.

But the reality is that the business leaders intervening in our economic debate are, for the most part, either predatory or hopelessly confused (or, I guess, both).

I’d put Fix the Debt in the predatory category; it’s quite clear that the organization (which is yet another Pete Peterson front, this time explicitly dominated by corporate interests) has an agenda more focused on cutting social insurance and corporate taxes than on reducing the deficit per se.

Meanwhile, Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, exemplifies the hopeless confusion factor. By all accounts, he’s a good guy, with genuinely generous instincts. But in his message to employees, urging them to write “come together” on coffee cups, he gets the nature of the fiscal cliff completely wrong...

OK, first of all, the fiscal cliff is NOT A DEBT PROBLEM. In fact, it’s the opposite: the danger is that with expiring tax cuts, expiring unemployment benefits, and the sequester, we’ll reduce the deficit too fast. Deficit scolds are having a hard time reconciling their sudden concern about excessive deficit reduction with everything they were saying before – and evidently Mr. Schultz hasn’t gotten the message that we are now at war with Eastasia, and always have been.

And then, on top of that, he has the politics all wrong, in the characteristic centrist way: he makes it sound as if the problem was one of symmetric partisanship, with both sides refusing to compromise. The reality is that Obama has moved a huge way both in offering to exempt more high-earner income from tax hikes and in offering to cut Social Security benefits; meanwhile, the GOP not only won’t agree to any kind of tax hike at all, it also has yet to make any specific offer of any kind.
The system is broken. One side--the conservative Republican side--is breaking it. The conservatives are breaking the system specifically in order not to reduce the deficit, but to starve the beast in order to transfer wealth from wages to assets, and from the poor and middle class to the wealthy.

And most of our business and political elites are in on the con, or too befuddled and incompetent to realize the con, or willfully blind to the con because to admit there is an extortion racket being used against the American People would be "extreme" and "partisan". And "extreme" and "partisan" people don't get invited to the nice cocktail parties. Only people who paper over politics with an appeal to "come together" get invited to those.

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