Writing in the New York Times, celebrated columnist Nicholas Kristof illustrates just how freaking great it must be to live in a world untroubled by reality.
His point this time around to get a dig in at the GOP and all its many monsters. If they want a low-tax, low-regulation, socially conservative country, he jibes, they oughta move to Pakistan. Here's the rim shot:
The budget priority is a strong military, the nation's most respected institution. When generals decide on a policy for, say, Afghanistan, politicians defer to them. Citizens are deeply patriotic, and nobody burns flags.
Har har har. Kristof's complaint about the minority party in the United States is that it's somehow killed all sorts of government funding for just about everything except soldiers and rockets.
Let's leave aside for the moment that the Dems have been in power in part since 2006 and in full from 2008 through the start of this year. And let's leave aside that George W. Bush jacked overall government spending through the roof (even before you factor in the last-minute binge that we now know as TARP) and also massively increased the number and scope and cost of regulations. Kristof talks about how in America "mass transit is underfunded," that "schools have trouble paying teachers," that access to higher education is going down the tubes, and then there's that terrifying "Republican plan to dismantle Medicare as a universal health care program for the elderly."
It would be interesting if any of this sort of claptrap were true. Take a look at this chart to get a sense of just how cheap the U.S. federal government has gotten over the past decade:
If you don't see any minus signs over on the right-hand side above, that's because there aren't any.
Under Paul Ryan's budget plan, ostensibly the GOP blueprint to "dismantle" Medicare, spending on that program would increase from $491 billion in 2011 to $809 billion in 2021 in current dollars; beyond that, Ryan's plan says nothing about killing the universality of the plan. The idea that access to higher ed is threatened is belied by reports of record percentages of high school graduates heading to college (whether they will graduate is another issue) and surely Kristof knows that K-12 spending per pupil has been on the rise for decades, class size has been on the decline, and test scores have been flat as a pancake.
And here's the real rub: When it comes to military spending, which is definitely bloated and ineffective, Kristof shouldn't just pick on the Republicans, however awful they are on the issue. Because Obama is worse: Under his proposed budget, in 10 years time, he'd be spending about $160 billion more per year than Paul Ryan. That shouldn't be hard to understand to a guy who has traveled the world, balanced objects on his head, and must have at least one research assistant.
Kristof includes the obligatory line that "long-term budget issues do need to be addressed" but now just isn't the time, don't you see, especially when we're about to hit the debt ceiling, which would mean…addressing long-term budget issues that do need to addressed…but not now, fer chrissakes.
Maybe this is why he's so soft on the war-monger Obama, the guy who actually campaigned on a "net spending cut," and then went on to issue the sort of dinner toast familiar to every shopaholic on a buying bender:
We've lived through an era of easy money, in which we were allowed and even encouraged to spend without limits; to borrow instead of save….
Once we get past the present emergency, which requires immediate new investments, we have to break that cycle of debt.
Tomorrow never comes in Obama's and Kristof's scenarios. And neither, apparently, do bills. Gonna kick tomorrow, man.
Want to balance the budget the budget in 10 years without raising taxes or cutting essential services? Here you go.