The Anti-Economist — March 7, 2013, 1:33 pm

A Republican Magic Trick

Deficit misdirection

It’s becoming increasingly clear that America’s deficit hawks are using the classic magician’s trick of misdirection: wave your right arm around frantically, and you’ll distract your audience from your left hand as it pulls a card from your sleeve. In their version of the trick, Republican lawmakers and well-financed right-wing think tanks (some of whom call themselves centrist) are sounding the alarm about a huge rise in the U.S. budget deficit when we reach the 2030s. Then, they pick the pockets of Americans by getting concessions on cuts to Medicare, Social Security, and other vital programs.

The long-term deficit scare is based on projections of rapidly rising health-care costs that will almost definitely not occur. In the past four years, these costs have been growing slowly. Moreover, America spends so much on health care, it has a lot of room to become more efficient without undermining quality — maybe even while improving it.

The projections come from the supposedly non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. But the office is making simplistic extrapolations from the historical data. The CBO’s economic model is demonstrably conservative, lending far too much weight to the deleterious consequences of future budget deficits; the office’s economists are big advocates of the “crowding out” thesis that federal deficits reduce business investment, and great deniers of Keynesianism. To base fiscal policy on their twenty-year forecasts would be like betting the ranch on a Farmer’s Almanac prediction.

It may be time for the president to hire a professional magician himself. Or at least time for him to tell Americans they’re being bamboozled, and to stop buying the Republican line that program cuts are necessary.

Share
Single Page

More from Jeff Madrick:

From the February 2014 issue

How Germany Reconquered Europe

The euro and its discontents

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

February 2015

The War of the World

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Sharp Edge of Life

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Great Republican Land Heist

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Captive Market

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Day of the Sea

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Great Republican Land Heist·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The wholesale transfer of public lands to state control may never be achieved. But the goal might be more subtle: to attack the value of public lands.”
Photograph by Chad Ress
Article
The Sharp Edge of Life·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The struggle of the novelist has been to establish a measure, a view of human nature, and usually, though not always, as large a view as belief and imagination can wring from observable facts.”
Photo by Eddie Adams/Associated Press
Article
Captive Market·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Fear of random violence lives on, but the reality is that violent-crime rates have dropped to levels not seen since the early Seventies."
Photograph by Richard Ross
Article
The Day of the Sea·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Fifteen judges will then sit together in a wood-paneled room, in a city thousands of miles from the Andes, and decide whether the ocean Bolivia claims as its right will at last be returned to it.”
Photo by Fabio Cuttica/Contrasto/Redux
Post
The Art of Outrage·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Illustration by Art Spiegelman

Estimated total calories members of Congress burned giving Bush’s 2002 State of the Union standing ovations:

22,000

A fertility scientist named Panayiotis Zavos announced that he had created human-cow embryos that were theoretically viable, but denied that he planned to allow such a hybrid to be implanted in a woman’s womb. “We are not trying to create monsters,” he said.

A statistician determined that the five most common first names among New York City taxi drivers are Md, Mohammad, Mohammed, Muhammad, and Mohamed.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today