Friday, October 07, 2005

Faux Finances Redux

One wouldn't have guessed that a member of the radical right would be as big of a fan of recycling as Hyman appears to be.

In a recent series of of commentaries, Hyman repeats nearly the exactly the same argument he made just a few months ago (April of 2005) about the need for a budget "law" that would require a 2/3 majority to change spending limits.

As we pointed out at the time, Hyman's story (one of an "out of control" Congress that is spending us into deficit and needs the paternal hand of the executive to control it) is one that is meant to sound like good ol' fashioned common sense, when in fact it is a radical redistribution of powers between the legislative and the executive branches and a direct assault on the role of government. It is, to borrow Grover Norquist's disturbing metaphor, an attempt to "shrink government down so that the radical right can "drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."

Such a move is contrary both to the Constitution and to the desires of an overwhelming number of Americans.

Since Hyman has chosen to simply repeat an earlier argument, I'll include my original response to the first commentary he did on the subject below. In my next post, I'll include Parts II and III of my rebuttal of Hyman's paean to the wonders of budgetary law and the supermajority.

Faux Finances [Originally posted Sunday, April 24, 2005]

In his first of a promised (threatened?) several part series on his cures for the financial woes of the country,
Mark Hyman suggests entitlements such as Social Security shouldn’t be “off budget” and that pork should be slashed.

A couple of brief notes here: first,
Social Security’s “off budget” status is a bit hazy to begin with. Whether it is or isn’t depends in large measure on whom you ask and in what context. To the extent that it is off-budget, it is to protect the program’s funding. Bring Social Security back on budget and suddenly it becomes easier to cut it.

Unless, of course, you go the opposite way. Some Republicans want to put the possible $2 trillion costs of moving to a privatization scheme “off budget” because that’s the only way they can hide the debt-swelling costs of the program.

Both for the Hyman’s of the world who want Social Security more vulnerable to congressional whim and those who want to camouflage the privatization of the system by putting these costs “off budget,” the goal is the same: to gut the system as it is currently practiced. Social Security is one of the most productive and useful governmental programs ever created, keeping countless millions of elderly out of poverty. For right-wing conservatives, however, it’s simply an entitlement, and that means it should be starved of cash until it withers and dies. Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric of “saving” Social Security.

And as long as we’re talking about putting things “on budget” so they can be accounted for accurately, we wonder what Hyman has to say about the
$100 billion “emergency” funding in the last year of the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that the president exempts from his budgets. Shouldn’t such expenses be counted as well? Hyman doesn’t say.

Speaking of Iraq, Hyman bemoans the pork barrel spending that he says has added up to $25 billion in the last year. True, this figure is tiny in comparison with the overall budget. Also true is the fact that governmental
spending has risen under Bush and a Republican Congress, not gone down. But let’s grant that pork should be cut. What about money that just goes missing, however? According to recent audits, around $9 billion dollars, more than a third of the total pork barrel spending Hyman gnashes his teeth about, has simply vanished in Iraq with nothing to show for it.

Perhaps we might start getting our financial house in order by being a bit more honest and careful about how we spend our money in other countries.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


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