Whither the deficit?
From no less than Peter Orszag, former king of the deficit scolds:
Orszag cites a "little factoid": If Medicare costs continue to grow at the same rate per beneficiary as the average of the past five years, "there's no increase in Medicare as a share of GDP despite the coming retirement of Baby Boomers, the entire long-term fiscal gap in that program disappears and therefore most of the long-term fiscal gap facing the nation disappears."
Well, well, well isn't that something? After the years of overwrought fulminating this is what it comes to?
In fairness, Orszag has always believed that the answer to the projected long term deficits was cost controls in health care. Unfortunately, he was also playing Washington politics and put his name behind "deficit reduction" as a guiding principle, including the cutting of vital discretionary programs and Social Security benefits. Perhaps he really was just trying to placate people like Kent Conrad who was like a dog with a bone when it came to slashing government, but the result of that particular political strategy is a disaster.
By Democrats being so clever with this endless handwringing over "the deficit" (which they knew was mostly a rhetorical bludgeon the GOP picked up every time they wanted to justify destroying a new chunk of the New Deal and anything else they thought was helping the "wrong people" just a little bit too much) they ended up stepping on their own story and putting the long term budget into a suicidal spiral: austerity budgets as far as the eye can see. (If anyone thinks the GOP is going to suddenly relent on their jihad against government spending in light of lower deficits, I've got some cheap Fukishima real estate to sell them.)
This was political malpractice, in my book. And that's being generous. It's just as likely that most of these people agreed that the government was spending too much money on lazy people and what was needed was a good strong jolt of tough love to get this country moving. After all, most elites believe they all made it solely on the basis of their hard work and perseverance so why can't everyone else do the same? Whatever the motivation, the obsession with austerity is going to be very costly for a long time to come.