The silver lining

Boy, Paul Krugman’s really upset about Obama’s pay freeze on federal workers. Here’s what he has to say:

The truth is that America’s long-run deficit problem has nothing at all to do with overpaid federal workers. For one thing, those workers aren’t overpaid. Federal salaries are, on average, somewhat less than those of private-sector workers with equivalent qualifications. And, anyway, employee pay is only a small fraction of federal expenses; even cutting the payroll in half would reduce total spending less than 3 percent.

So freezing federal pay is cynical deficit-reduction theater. It’s a (literally) cheap trick that only sounds impressive to people who don’t know anything about budget realities. The actual savings, about $5 billion over two years, are chump change given the scale of the deficit.

Anyway, slashing federal spending at a time when the economy is depressed is exactly the wrong thing to do. Just ask Federal Reserve officials, who have lately been more or less pleading for some help in their efforts to promote faster job growth.

Meanwhile, there’s a real deficit issue on the table: whether tax cuts for the wealthy will, as Republicans demand, be extended. Just as a reminder, over the next 75 years the cost of making those tax cuts permanent would be roughly equal to the entire expected financial shortfall of Social Security. Mr. Obama’s pay ploy might, just might, have been justified if he had used the announcement of a freeze as an occasion to take a strong stand against Republican demands — to declare that at a time when deficits are an important issue, tax breaks for the wealthiest aren’t acceptable.

But he didn’t. Instead, he apparently intended the pay freeze announcement as a peace gesture to Republicans the day before a bipartisan summit. At that meeting, Mr. Obama, who has faced two years of complete scorched-earth opposition, declared that he had failed to reach out sufficiently to his implacable enemies. He did not, as far as anyone knows, wear a sign on his back saying “Kick me,” although he might as well have.

Could the upside be any more obvious? Now it’s our turn to play the “no no no” game! It’s so easy, even a Democrat could do it! In fact, anyone who’s ever raised a teenager should already know the drill:

But voter, we really, really need to cut Social Security!

Um, no, we don’t. If you were so worried about the deficit, you shouldn’t have passed a $700 billion tax cut for the rich.

Medicare is bankrupting the country. We need to throw people off.

Well, I guess you should of thought of that before you passed a $700 billion tax cut!

All the other countries get to cut social programs….

I might have been willing to talk about it before you abused my trust and passed a $700 billion tax cut. Now you’ll have to work to regain my trust.

See how easy it is? Go on, try it!

2 thoughts on “The silver lining

  1. President Obama is not on our side. I have begun to sincerely believe that he made a deal during the primary to cooperate with the bankers plans in exchange for the presidency.

  2. Krugman’s closing paragraphs:

    So what are Democrats to do? The answer, increasingly, seems to be that they’ll have to strike out on their own. In particular, Democrats in Congress still have the ability to put their opponents on the spot — as they did on Thursday when they forced a vote on extending middle-class tax cuts, putting Republicans in the awkward position of voting against the middle class to safeguard tax cuts for the rich.

    It would be much easier, of course, for Democrats to draw a line if Mr. Obama would do his part. But all indications are that the party will have to look elsewhere for the leadership it needs. (My emphasis)

    We can hope Dems will do something on their own. Obama is not going to change; he is, after all is said and done –all together now!-, a conservative.

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