Nonsense Beyond The Issue of Birthplace
You know them when you see them, or at least when you hear them. The Village, the Washington Wise Men (and, increasingly, Women). They're the ones unimpeded by intense partisanship, sober in their judgement, moderate in their values.
In the starting lineup, perhaps even batting cleanup, of the Washington Wise Men is David Gergen. As with the others, you know them largely by their words, as when Gergen in November remarked "Either we can show that we are mature adults who know how to govern a society responsibly, or we can refuse to do that and just take this country straight off the rails."
Gergen, then interviewed by CNN's Ali Velshi, was talking about attempting to slash the national debt, which this Wise Man, being sober and sophisticated, was all in favor of:
We're too close, as you know, to the edge financially. You just mentioned how big the debt was compared to the GDP. It's around over 60 percent. That's up in a very, very problematic zone. It's heading toward 100, which is very dangerous.
The cut of $61 billion proposed by the GOP (later pared to $38.5 billion after negotiations amongst Speaker Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Reid, and President Obama) would have cut economic growth by 1.5 to 2.0 percent in the middle two quarters of 2011, according to Goldman Sachs; and it would have reduced real economic growht by 0.5% in 2011 and 0.2% in 2012 (resulting in theloss of 700,000 jobs), according to Mark Zandi of Moody's Econometrics. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke had testified before Congress that the short-term cuts would cost 200,000 jobs.
But Gergen has remained reasonably consistent. He called Paul Ryan's budget scheme a "serious proposal" when a few days later after Barack Obama's budget speech he commented
The president entered this year confident of re-election, but just to be sure, he adopted a clever political strategy to deal with a growing debt crisis: His budget would duck the hard question about deficits, leaving a vacuum for Republicans to fill.
Meanwhile, Gergen, ever wise, complains the media is
giving this guy tons of time, letting him run his mouth and, meanwhile, people can't find jobs and America is, you know- is rich. China is rising beyond us. We've got all these other issues. You know, so I, like most of America, would like to see the end of this today, and they'd like us to move on.
Yes, Donald Trump is a blowhard "with a very big mouth," as Gergen puts it. Trump placed his bet on Obama's birth certificate never being unveiled or, better yet, revealing the President as a native of Kenya, East Africa. He lost and looks all the more foolish for it. But Gergen and the other Wise Men have done something, if a little more sensible, is little more sensible and much more dangerous. With an official unemployment rate of 8.8%- and the unofficial mark much higher; economic growth generously described as sluggish; and a housing market mired in a deep slump, these folks want government to contract. It is foolish when the gravest immediate threat to the American economy is a lack of jobs.
The GOP's apathy toward unemployment is motivated by a desire to destroy government's ability to help ordinary Americans. But on the part of the Fourth Estate, it is prompted by an obsession with deficits.
Commenting on Ryan's Path to Prosperity, Paul Krugman (mentioning no one specifically), summed it up neatly:
Once again, let us wonder at the way this plan has been treated by the commentariat. A guy says, “I care deeply about the deficit!” And then he releases a plan that depends on finding $3 trillion over the next decade from some unspecified source — oh, and he comes from a party that has a 30-year track record of promising to reduce the budget deficit but actually increasing it.
And everyone takes him seriously!
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