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March 15, 2013

Paul Krugman: After the Flimflam

Is the tide turning?:
After the Flimflam, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NYTimes: It has been a big week for budget documents. In fact, members of Congress have presented not one but two full-fledged, serious proposals... Before I get to that, however, let me talk briefly about the third proposal presented this week — the one that isn’t serious, that’s essentially a cruel joke.
Way back in 2010, when everybody in Washington seemed determined to anoint Representative Paul Ryan as the ultimate Serious, Honest Conservative, I pronounced him a flimflam man. Even then, his proposals were obviously fraudulent... Since then, his budgets have gotten even flimflammier. ...
The good news is that Mr. Ryan’s thoroughly unconvincing policy-wonk act seems, finally, to have worn out its welcome. ... This time..., quite a few pundits and reporters have greeted his release with the derision it deserves.
And, with that, let’s turn to the serious proposals.
Unless you’re a very careful news reader, you’ve probably heard about only one of these proposals, the one released by Senate Democrats. And let’s be clear: By comparison with the Ryan plan,... this is a very reasonable plan... It is, however, an extremely cautious proposal... the plan really should be calling for substantial though temporary spending increases. It doesn’t.
But there’s a plan that does: the proposal from the Congressional Progressive Caucus ... which calls for substantial new spending now ... offset by major deficit reduction later in the next decade, largely though not entirely through higher taxes on the wealthy, corporations and pollution. ...
There are no Ryan-style magic asterisks,... this honest proposal ... rests on solid macroeconomic analysis, not the fantasy “expansionary austerity” economics ... that Mr. Ryan continues to espouse despite the doctrine’s total failure in Europe. ...
And it’s refreshing to see someone break with the usual Washington notion that political “courage” means proposing that we hurt the poor while sparing the rich. No doubt the caucus plan is too audacious to have any chance...; but the same can be said of the Ryan plan.
So where is this all going? Realistically, we aren’t likely to get a Grand Bargain any time soon. Nonetheless, my sense is that there is some real movement here, and it’s in a direction conservatives won’t like.
As I said, Mr. Ryan’s efforts are finally starting to get the derision they deserve, while progressives seem, at long last, to be finding their voice. Little by little, Washington’s fog of fiscal flimflam seems to be lifting.

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