Government Spending

Times' Kristof on "this Republican Eden, this Utopia…Pakistan"


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.

NEXT: He Fell In Love With the Video Nasty

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  1. Kristof? Never heard of him. Which district does he represent?

  2. Well I’m just glad he’s picking up some new job skills while traveling abroad.

  3. Why is Obama wearing a bra on his head?

    1. Because he’s a boob. When it’s cold out you can see the point on the top of his head.

    2. That’s Gangsta Barrak

      1. I believe his street name is B-Rock


  4. What’s that Mr. Kristoff is balancing on his head there…why….it’s a basketful of air!

  5. Wow, a NYT columnist is a moron. Who’d have thought?

  6. Kristof is just preparing us psychologically for when Obama sends Seal Team Six to shoot Boehner, Ryan, or Palin in the face.

  7. Well those guys seem to know what the deal is lol.

  8. The only thing better than Kristof’s duel with the Rethuglican strawman was Friedman LARPing as the Chinese Minister of Peace. I didn’t get to read Krugnuts’ column this week, but I can only assume it was equally awesome.

  9. Aren’t some of the countries he mentions struggling because they lack strong protections for private property rights, and fair and reliable courts to turn to for enforcement of contracts? Is anyone in the Republican party or Tea Party calling for the erosion of private property rights or the dismantling of a court system for the enforcement of contracts? Just a couple of questions that arose while reading this article.

    1. Everyone in government, with very few exceptions, is calling for the erosion of private property rights. The only difference is whether they’re doing it to help* the poor** or to prevent 9/11***

      *Not actually help, but they will still claim credit for their good intentions

      **as long as the poor don’t vote against Obama

      ***Or pretend to

      1. True, but I don’t think the policies Tea Partyist’s promote would result in a greater erosion of private property rights than what Obama supports.

        I do believe that a lack of private property rights or a way to enforce contracts contributes to poverty. It is hard to get a loan to start or expand a business if you can’t show a lender that you own anything.

  10. Why isn’t duh LEFT getting behind Ryan’s Medicare plan? After all, his proposal will stick it to duh ritch. Ryan’s proposed Medicare subsidy will be means tested, so duh ritch will stop receiving any Medicare benefits.

    1. The argument I have heard is that EVERYONE needs to be on medicare/medicaid/ss/etc. It was hard for me to dig deeper, but the underlying motivation seems to be that keeping the rich and powerful on the system ensures that the rich and powerful will continue to support it.

  11. “dismantling of a court system”

    The party of Tort Reform (and contract reform if you count the pro-arbitration bent of recent events)?

    1. Yeah TEAM BLUE would never break a contract. Like, hypothetically, they would never screw over bondholders to ensure their union buddies get the first bite of the carcass of GM.

  12. To me, Kristof will always be the lowlife scumbag who falsely accused Dr. Steven Hatfill of being the anthrax letter murderer and cost the American taxpayers millions of dollars as a result.

    1. It’s a tough job being a scribe for the American ruling class.

  13. so the decade before the boomers arrive Medicare grows 75% and they’re going to hold it to 56% the decade they do arrive? please.

  14. Somebody should tell Kristof those straw men contribute to global warming.

  15. I really thought that one of the few things that a President Obama might be good for would be reducing military spending. Instead we have the President proposing more military spending than the Republicans.

    In my dream world, Democrats would point out that defense is such an enormous part of the budget that Republicans can’t possibly meet their promises without cutting it, and would offer budgets that cut defense instead of other programs, setting off a bidding war. Instead, we have a complete absence of a Democratic Senate budget, and the President proposing more defense spending than the Republicans.

    Must make MNG even sadder than me, I assume.

    1. The democrats budget will be short and simple: “all the money.”

  16. As I mentioned on Balko’s blog “this Republican Eden, this Utopia… SOMALIA!!!” would have been considered pandering to Hit and Run commenters.

  17. You’ve got to remember how statist math works: a 10% increase in the budget is “cutting it to the bone”.

  18. Speaking of national comparisons, the Heritage Economic Freedom Index just came out. Canada beats the USA for economic freedom. It also has medical marijuana. I might be moving north.

    1. We need a fence, eh.

  19. This is a variation of the Somalia Fallacy. It goes something like this:

    Libertarians don’t like government therefore SOMALIA!

    The Kristof variant: Conservatives don’t like liberals therefore PAKISTAN!

  20. In my dream world, Democrats would point out that defense is such an enormous part of the budget that Republicans can’t possibly meet their promises without cutting it, and would offer budgets that cut defense instead of other programs, setting off a bidding war.

    Actually, that’s pretty much how the Reagan years worked.

    The Democratic Congress kept complaining about too much military spending and the Republican Administration kept complaining about entitlements being too high.

    In the end they compromised and spend even more on both.

  21. Don Boudreaux had a fun time demolishing Kristof’s ridiculous strawman in a letter to the NYT editor. He posted the letter over at cafehayek on Sunday.


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