Fix The Debt's Maya MacGuineas, who is largely responsible for shaking down corporate CEOs for spare millions which are then used to fund America's Deficit Peacock racket, is having her moment in the sun. And just in time, too, considering the fact that if no deal is reached to avert the "fiscal cliff" and we end up "going over" the "fiscal cliff," one of the more immediate things that happens is that the Deficit Hack Cult loses what little bargaining leverage they have in the discussion. (The fact that any post-cliff deal will likely not be amenable to Pete Peterson -- the private-equity billionaire who has financed dozens of deficit-hysteria shell groups over the years -- is, to my mind, the best argument for "going over the cliff.")
And so, we have multiple profiles, some of which artfully sum up MacGuineas' contradictions, and some of which enable them.
On the former score, we have Noam Schieber describing, among other things, MacGuineas' bizarre behavior during the recent period of high lunacy over the debt ceiling:
During the House Republicans’ experiment with refusing to raise the debt ceiling last year, MacGuineas issued a press release stating that “[t]hreatening to blow up the nation’s credit rating and potentially the economy should not be seen as a legitimate negotiating strategy.” She then added: “At the same time, failing to use this debt ceiling ‘hammer’ to force serious fiscal reforms would be a dangerous lost opportunity.” It was a bit like condemning hostage-taking in the strongest terms, then warning that failing to use hostages to, say, secure a Palestinian state would be downright irresponsible.
In other words, we have a woman who does not make a whole lot of sense, a theme that Matt Yglesias teases out further in a piece over at Slate in which he uncovers the fact that like so many of us, MacGuineas is primarily driven by some cultural artifact she pulled from the 1990s and stupidly decided to fetishize. This is the joke that entirely drives the show Portlandia, but here it comes with a fiscal cult twist: in MacGuineas' case, she's left her "formative years" being oddly worshipful of grunge-era "bond vigilantes." As Yglesias points out, this is a worldview founded entirely on misplaced faith:
Recall that during the first five years of George W. Bush's administration, the United States racked up an enormous deficit overwhelmingly caused by tax cuts and wars that liberals didn't approve of. Since liberals thought these were bad policies, liberals also really wanted to believe that there would be a kind of comprehensive reckoning for the sheer irresponsibility of the borrowing. Said liberals spent a fair amount of time waiting for the attack of the bond vigilantes that they knew would be Bush's comeuppance. But it never happened, and then along came the 2008 election and conservatives began waiting for the bond vigilantes. But they didn't arrive in 2009 or 2010 or 2011 or 2012 either.
So now at the end of the year we find ourselves facing the "fiscal cliff," a politics-driven crisis of excessive short-term austerity whose existence has been deliberately engineered by deficit hawks because the bond vigilantes never seem to show up in time.
Yglesias pulls that critique out of yet another profile of MacGuineas' -- in this case, the only one of the lot that forgives her of her contradictions and hackery in order to goopily fawn all over her. Not surprisingly, the story is published in the Washington Post, which reliably carries water for the Deficit Hack Industrial Complex. What is surprising is that Suzy Khimm is the author of this piece, because take a look at this paragraph:
Critics charge that MacGuineas’s campaign is simply a ploy by chief executives to push for lower corporate tax rates and head off automatic budget cuts in such areas as defense that would hurt their bottom line. Even fans of MacGuineas’s, including the American Enterprise Institute’s Kevin Hassett, argue that her campaign is giving cover to self-interested players who “wanted to look virtuous.”
The Easter Egg in that paragraph is the hyperlink over the word "lower," which, when clicked, takes you to another piece in the Washington Post -- critical of MacGuineas' Fix The Debt -- that's co-bylined by ... Suzy Khimm. So, when the writer of this MacGuineas profile says that "critics charge" her of enabling "chief executives to push for lower corporate tax rates and head off automatic budget cuts in such areas as defense that would hurt their bottom line," one of those critics making that charge is the profile writer who is now just, you know, letting that pass.
All of which raises a few interesting questions. Like, say, does Khimm disown one of these articles? Is that link a sly way of getting a piece of her own conscience past a decrepit Post editor? Does anyone at the Post have the obligation to simply point out to MacGuineas, as Schieber might, that "the economic damage" of going over the fiscal cliff "would be virtually nil if the GOP caved within a few weeks," and that maybe she's doing the entire nation a disservice by pretending an economic apocalypse is looming? That would qualify, actually, as a "public service" to the paper's readers (who then might be all the more amenable to subscribing to their print edition or paying for the paper's content online, as they plan to start asking people to do).
Actually, what I would really like to know is why the Post thought now was the best time to run a Maya MacGuineas "beat-sweetener." I mean, sweet fancy Moses, if the Post thinks they still need to tongue-bathe the deficit loons after the years they've spent lathering them up in the hopes that they'd get the public at large to support their own impoverishment, surely they realize that this cause of theirs is hopeless.
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