Who’s Afraid of the Budget Deficit?

Democrats shouldn’t put themselves in a fiscal straitjacket.

On Thursday, the best House speaker of modern times reclaimed her gavel, replacing one of the worst. It has taken the news media a very long time to appreciate the greatness of Nancy Pelosi, who saved Social Security from privatization, then was instrumental in gaining health insurance for 20 million Americans. And the media are still having a hard time facing up to the phoniness of their darling Paul Ryan, who, by the way, left office with a 12 percent favorable rating.

There’s every reason to expect that Pelosi will once again be highly effective. But some progressive Democrats object to one of her initial moves — and on the economics, and probably the politics, the critics are right.

.. The issue in question is “paygo,” a rule requiring that increases in spending be matched by offsetting tax increases or cuts elsewhere.

You can argue that as a practical matter, the rule won’t matter much if at all. On one side, paygo is the law, whether Democrats put it in their internal rules or not. On the other side, the law can fairly easily be waived, as happened after the G.O.P.’s huge 2017 tax cut was enacted.

But adopting the rule was a signal of Democratic priorities — a statement that the party is deeply concerned about budget deficits and willing to cramp its other goals to address that concern. Is that a signal the party should really be sending?

.. Furthermore, there are things the government should be spending money on even when jobs are plentiful — things like fixing our deteriorating infrastructure and helping children get education, health care and adequate nutrition. Such spending has big long-run payoffs, even in purely monetary terms.

Meanwhile, the federal government can borrow money very cheaply — the interest rate on inflation-protected 10-year bonds is only about 1 percent. These low borrowing costs, in turn, reflect what seems to be a persistent savings glut — that is, the private sector wants to save more than it’s willing to invest, even with very low interest rates.

Or consider what happened after Democrats enacted the Affordable Care Act, going to great lengths to pay for the additional benefits with tax increases and spending cuts. A majority of voters still believed that it increased the deficit. Reality doesn’t seem to matter.

.. Anyway, the truth is that while voters may claim to care about the deficit, hardly any of them really do. For example, does anyone still believe that the Tea Party uprising was a protest against deficits? From the beginning, it was basically about race — about the government spending money to help Those People. And that’s true of a lot of what pretends to be fiscal conservatism.

.. In fact, even the deficit scolds who played such a big role in Beltway discourse during the Obama years seem oddly selective in their concerns about red ink. After all those proclamations that fiscal doom was coming any day now unless we cut spending on Social Security and Medicare, it’s remarkable how muted their response has been to a huge, budget-busting tax cut. It’s almost as if their real goal was shrinking social programs, not limiting national debt.

.. So am I saying that Democrats should completely ignore budget deficits? No; if and when they’re ready to move on things like some form of Medicare for All, the sums will be so large that asking how they’ll be paid for will be crucial.

White America’s racial resentment is the real impetus for welfare cuts, study says

White Americans are more likely to favor welfare cuts when they believe that their status is threatened and that minorities are the main beneficiaries of safety net programs, the study says.

The findings suggest that political efforts to cut welfare programs are driven less by conservative principles than by racial anxiety, the authors conclude. That also hurts white Americans who make up the largest share of Medicaid and food-stamp recipients.

.. Those results show that the push to cut welfare programs is not driven by pure political motives, such as decreasing government spending or shrinking government bureaucracy, Wetts said.

“We find evidence that these shifts [in sentiment against welfare programs] are specifically directed at programs people see as benefiting minorities instead of whites,” she added.

.. people embrace more conservative politics during periods of rapid social change — not necessarily because they fear their racial status is threatened, but because they fear change is happening too fast.

.. Researchers have also shown that white Americans’ racial prejudice affects their views on everything from healthcare policy to the death penalty to dogs. On the same day Wetts’ paper published, a separate study in the journal Environmental Politics found that people with high levels of “racial resentment” are more likely to believe that the scientific consensus on climate change is false.

.. “More and more, white Americans use their racial attitudes to help them decide their positions on political questions such as whom to vote for or what stance to take on important issues including welfare and health care.”

.. white Americans make up 36 percent of food-stamp recipients, 43 percent of Medicaid recipients and 28 percent of recipients for cash welfare.

The Museum of the Bible Is a Safe Space for Christian Nationalists

a recent gathering at the museum featuring speakers who intend to “transform nations” by “igniting a holy reformation in every sphere of society,”

.. “We wholeheartedly believe the Museum of the Bible represents an ‘Ark of the Covenant’ for our nation, bearing witness to his goodness,”

.. A typical museum might invite visitors to explore the multiple meanings of the Bible and the complex history of its reception in different cultures over time. But this museum is not the place for that kind of inquiry; you’re here to celebrate.

.. The museum is a safe space for Christian nationalists, and that is the key to understanding its political mission.

.. Its subtler task is to embed a certain set of assumptions in the landscape of the capital.

.. Mr. Drollinger believes that social welfare programs “have no basis in Scripture,” that Christians in government have an obligation to hire only Christians and that women should not be allowed to teach grown men.

.. He lays out his thinking in a 2013 book, “Rebuilding America: The Biblical Blueprint.”

.. The “institution of the state” is “an avenger of wrath,” he explains, and its “God-given responsibility” is “to moralize a fallen world through the use of force.”

.. participants in his groups, however, aren’t just anybody. They include Mike Pompeo, the director of the C.I.A.; Attorney General Jeff Sessions; Vice President Mike Pence; Betsy DeVos

.. the message that national unity can be achieved only through a religious “awakening” and allegiance to conservative Christianity.

.. to inspire confidence in the absolute authority and reliability of the Bible.”

.. When Steve Green, the museum’s founder and the president of the Hobby Lobby crafts chain, formed the museum’s parent organization in 2010, he informed the I.R.S.

.. the location of this museum was an act of symbolic and practical genius. If you’re going to build a Christian nation, this is where you start.

 

The Great American Tax Heist

when this bill leads to these predicted deficits, Republicans will return to their sidelined deficit rhetoric armed with a sickle, aiming the blade at the social safety net, exacerbating the egregious imbalance of the tax bill’s original sins.

.. That’s the strategy: Appease the rich on the front end; punish the poor on the back. Feed the weak to the strong.

.. No matter how folks try to rationalize this bill, it has nothing to do with a desire to help the middle class or the poor. This is a cash offering to the gods of the Republican donor class. This is a bill meant to benefit Republicans’ benefactors. This is a quid pro quo and the paying of a ransom.

.. Last month at a rally in Missouri, Trump said of the tax bill, “This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing, believe me.” He continued:

.. “This is not good for me. Me, it’s not so — I have some very wealthy friends. Not so happy with me, but that’s O.K. You know, I keep hearing Schumer: ‘This is for the wealthy.’ Well, if it is, my friends don’t know about it.”

That, too, was a lie.

..  It also lines the pockets of people like Senator Bob Corker, who mysteriously “coincidentally” switched his vote from a no to a yes on the bill after the language was added.

.. Donald Trump is a plutocrat masquerading as a populist. He is a pirate on a mission to plunder.

.. Republicans in Congress rushed the bill through for other reasons: to combat the fact of their own legislative incompetence, to satisfy their donors and to honor their long-held belief that the rich are America’s true governing force.

.. They are simply a veneer behind which a crime is occurring: the great American tax heist.