Economist's View: The Real Moral Problem: Ezra Klein points out that we shouldn't confuse structural and cyclical debt accumulations. Saying that recent changes in debt reflect a moral issue when it is being driven by the recession is very misleading:
Deficits don’t reflect a crisis of American character, by Ezra Klein…. ”Every generation has an incentive to spend on itself, but none ran up huge deficits until the current one,” Brooks writes. His point is that the growing federal debt is… a reflection of changes in the national character. But that’s not what the numbers show. Rather, they show that the growing federal debt is attributable to tax cuts that began in the 1980s and, in the future, to the aging of the population and the ceaseless advance of medical technology. Current deficits… show an economy saving itself, not a generation spending on itself…. [T]here’s been no major change to structural deficits in the last 20 years, and thus, no evident change in the national character…. [E]very generation has an incentive to cut taxes on itself, but none ran up huge deficits doing so until Ronald Reagan. But that was a previous generation. Then this generation did the same thing under George W. Bush...
Why should we care about [Brooks's] misleading rhetoric? Because it gives ammunition to those who have had social programs in their sites for decades -- it gives them the arguments they are looking for to make severe cuts in government programs. And centrist, right-leaning Democrats will go along….
Grand bargain, redux?, by Steve Benen: Last year, as part of the fiasco surrounding Republicans' debt-ceiling hostage crisis, President Obama offered House Speaker John Boehner (R) an overly-generous "grand bargain." Though some of the details are murky, by all accounts, the Democratic president offered Republicans a $4 trillion deal on debt reduction, which included GOP-friendly entitlement "reforms," in exchange for modest increases in tax revenue. Presented with a ridiculously sweet deal on what is ostensibly the party's top priority, Republicans rejected the offer out of hand….
If there's a moral issue here, it's the Republicans using misleading rhetoric about the effects of tax cuts on growth, trickle down economics, tax cuts paying for themselves, and so on to obscure what, at its essence, is a large transfer of income to those at the top of the income distribution….
Brooks wants to blame a cyclical budget problem and budget problem arising from the Bush tax cuts on the morals of the general population? How convenient.
And isn't empathy a desirable moral trait, one that someone like Brooks would endorse? How about self-pity, is that an attractive moral trait? What about selfishness to the extent of demanding tax cuts for yourself that are likely to come at the expense of important programs for the poor? How moral is that?:
Fanning the Flames of Class Warfare, by Bruce Bartlett, Commentary, Ny Times: A curious phenomenon occurs during every economic crisis – the rich whine that they are the ones who are suffering most. While obviously one’s capacity to suffer under any circumstances is subjective, when we hear that the very well-to-do... seek pity, it comes across as callous and clueless….
I’m still waiting for the growth Republicans promised under George W. Bush after they cut the top federal income tax rate to 35 percent from 39.6 percent, the top rate on qualified dividends to 15 percent from 35 percent and the top rate on capital gains to 15 percent from 20 percent…
There are moral issues out there, but they aren't the ones that Brooks and company think they are. Many of the people pointing fingers at the moral failings of others need to take a hard look at their own behavior...