POLITICS

Elite Beltway Consensus Is A Looming Danger For America

07/07/2014 02:26 pm ET | Updated Jul 07, 2014
JEWEL SAMAD via Getty Images

It's not often that I have the opportunity to read something sensible about deficit mania and the terrors that have followed in its wake, but when I do it's a real relief to the soul. So, in case you missed it over the holiday weekend, here's The Week's Ryan Cooper with an explanation about how the "rapidly falling deficit" has been "an absolute disaster" and President Barack Obama's "single greatest failure."

Cooper's not the first to note that the rapidly falling deficit has been a huge drag on economic recovery. His summation, though, is wonderfully concise: "It means that millions of Americans were kept out of work, that trillions in potential output was flushed down the toilet, and that the American economy was very seriously damaged, probably permanently, for no reason at all."

Of course, the situation is not entirely Obama's fault, given the pressure he was under from all sides to lower the deficit. His major failing was threefold: underestimating how dangerous undershooting the stimulus would be (despite being warned at the time), banking on a Grand Bargain to shore up his bipartisan credentials in the run-up to the 2012 election, and failing to understand how irresistible austerity would be to Washington insiders. Think of austerity as a big shiny bag of crystal meth, and D.C. elites as a bunch of jittery speed freaks who haven't had a fix in weeks.

I think that it's safe to say a fourth thing belongs in that mix: blind faith that Congress would do everything in its power to avert disaster when given the choice to make a budget deal or enact the sequestration -- which was designed to be as psychotic a budget remedy as possible, in the hopes that the pure animal fear of doing something so demented to America would guide our Congresscritters on the path of genteel sanity. Guess what, though?

But I digress.

As Alex Pareene is fond of pointing out, the anger of Beltway elites at Obama for not doing more to secure the fabled "Grand Bargain" was one of the most terrifically hilarious phenomena in American politics, because most of the time it seemed like Obama was the only "person in Washington who legitimately, seriously [wanted] one." And Obama chased their favor with the same zeal as the U.S. men's World Cup team chased a second goal against Belgium. Ultimately, 'twas GOP intransigence that killed the Bargain that President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) nearly wrought, proving that GOP intransigence is, at least, good for something.

Nevertheless, as sure as I know anything, I know this: the austerity meth freaks will never let up in their desire to get some of that sweet, sweet ice in their veins. If you want to know what I'm looking for in a presidential candidate, someone willing to repudiate the Washington Post's editorial board as a danger to humanity would be a pretty good start.

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