Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Waiting for the SOTU Tuesday evening

Our star pundits will be looking for what they consider the important things. Will Democrats and Republicans "cross the aisle" and sit with each other? Will the bold Maverick McCain make surprising facial expressions? Will Chief Justice Roberts pick his nose during the speech?

For some background on evaluating the substance, Dean Baker is one good source. in Peter Peterson’s Budget Ball SEPR 01/24/2011, he writes about the ideology of the billionaire anti-Social Security zealot: "According to some accounts, he is now the largest employer in the D.C. area after the Pentagon." He explains Peterson's view of federal debt and deficits:

In short, in Peterson's budget ball, we can't make any changes that might create any serious inconvenience for the rich and powerful. We can have some small cuts in defense and modest tax increases for the rich as window dressing, but what we are left with is a massive budget deficit and nothing but Social Security, Medicare, and other social programs left to cut.
Paul Krugman blogs about The War on Demand 01/24/2011, by which he means the astonishing consensus among so many Serious People that the basic lessons of the last century or so on counter-cyclical economic policy (both fiscal and monetary) should just be disregarded:

It's kind of shocking if you think about it. Here we have a huge, hard-won intellectual achievement, one that accounts very well for the world we actually see, and yet it's being thrown away because it doesn't go along with ideological preconceptions. Once that sort of thing starts, where does it stop? The next thing you know, the theory of evolution will get the same treatment. Oh, wait.

Seriously, though, this is truly sad — and dangerous. Demand-side understanding, in my view, played a big role in helping us avoid a full replay of the Great Depression; if enough people had shared that understanding, we might have avoided even the minor-league Depression we're going through. But willful ignorance is on the march — and the odds are that we'll handle the next crisis very badly.
"Militant ignorance" would also be a description for it.

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