Ezra Klein wrote an interesting piece over at the Wonk Blog this afternoon poking fun at congressional Republicans who have decided that, since current budget deficits are dropping, it makes more sense for them to focus on 30-year deficit projections.
Echoing a similar post by Jonathan Chait, Klein points out that 5- and 10-year budget projections are not particularly reliable, so making policy now based on highly unreliable estimates about the future makes little sense. "Imagine projecting the economy of 2013 in 1983," Klein writes. "Even the best model would’ve missed the Internet revolution and the rise of China and India and the 2008 financial crisis, not to mention the two Iraq wars."
Klein and Chait are both right that making policy changes now based on unreliable 30-year projections makes little sense. But the real purpose of these new projections is not just shifting the goal posts. It is shifting the discussion to cutting Social Security and Medicare.
Dean Baker at the Center for Economic and Policy Research hits closer to the mark in a response to an op-ed by Fred Hiatt at The Washington Post, who argues that progressives should want to cut Social Security and Medicare.
Fred Hiatt is Holding Head Start Hostage Until Liberals Support Cuts to Social Security and Medicare
That is the essence of his column today warning liberals of sharp cuts to domestic discretionary spending (e.g. Head Start, education, infrastructure etc.) unless there are cuts to Medicare and Social Security. Hiatt uses the term "entitlements" since it is less popular than the programs to which it refers.
The basic argument is that Hiatt has decided how large the deficit can be, he has decided that there can be no additional cuts to the military, and that there can be no new taxes ever. Therefore if liberals don’t want to see the domestic discretionary portion of the budget contract, then they better accept cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
Baker goes on to point out the absurdity of this position.
The common element in all of this? The very weakness of these arguments shows how little the ongoing crusade to cut bedrock safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare has to do with deficit reduction.
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