The moustache of (mis)understanding strikes again
I know there is no more trite phrase in America, but Lord, this Thomas Friedman column is bad is bad. It's so bad you have to read the whole thing to experience the full horror of it. In fact, I'm not even sure he wrote it himself. It reads more like something the messaging shop at Fix the Debt put together to sound like Thomas Friedman. (I'm going to guess all you who read this blog regularly already know the topic, then.) Yes, the upshot is that old people are robbing the young of all their chances in this world with their insistence on needing to eat in their old age. Luckily, a billionaire pal of his named Stanley Druckmiller is on the case explaining to the kids why grandpa and grandma are parasites.
No mention of student debt, of course, because well I'm going to guess Friedman thinks such trivialities have nothing to do with the inability of the younger generation to get ahead. And certainly there is no mention of the fact that rich greedheads like Friedman and his pals are insisting on sucking up every last dollar in this world while forcing the government to cut back vital programs at the very worst time (and hey, if we're lucky institutionalize cutbacks for as long as the eye can see)which is having the effect of slowing growth to a crawl.
As Robert Kuttner explains:
Contrary to this sort of propaganda, the economic injustice problem in America is not about generations. It’s about class. Specifically, Stanley Druckenmiller’s class. But Druckenmiller, approvingly quoted by Friedman, blames the diminished horizons of the young on “current spending on my generation” as if he had anything whatever in common with the people reliant on Social Security.
Kuttner asks, "which of these things is not like the other?"
His remedy, also endorsed heartily by Friedman includes:
raising taxes on capital gains, dividends and carried interest — now hugely weighted to the wealthy and elderly — to make them equal to earned income taxes; making all consumers more price sensitive when obtaining health care; means-testing Social Security and Medicare so they go to those most in need; phasing in higher age qualifications for entitlements and cutting corporate taxes to zero, so the people who actually create jobs will have more resources to do so.
However the minor cuts in capital income (the bait) are offset by cuts in corporate taxes, and the real game plan is to slash social insurance—which won’t do anything for the recovery and will hurt a lot of people barely in the middle class.
Here’s the best single line in the column. Whatever the outcome of the debt crisis negotiations, Friedman writes
But there’s one outcome from such negotiations that I can absolutely guarantee: Seniors, Wall Street and unions will all have their say and their interests protected.
The consensus among the more progressive insiders is that the Tea Party will never relent on "tax reform" that includes a tax increase, even if it's offset by billions in tax cuts and that the White House will never agree to anything that doesn't include at least the appearance of revenue so we're safe from Friedman's Folly. I sincerely hope that's true.
But I'm not going to stop hammering on it until Democrats stop offering up "entitlements" in budget negotiations. And right now they are on TV every single day emphasizing just how willing they are to cut them. These are not programs to be used as betting chips in a game of chance and as long as they continue to validate the self-serving assumptions of elite columnists and their manipulative billionaire pals, it's important to maintain a very hard line. It just isn't smart to assume that people will never do the things they say they want to do.
The day the Democratic Party votes for a bill that cuts, rather than raises, Social Security benefits is the day it will have sold off the last piece of its already tattered political soul. I'm fairly sure the Villagers and the political establishment don't think that matters, but the rest of us should.