Fiscal follies

First, I must apologize: I am at Saybrook’s residential conference right now, where I’m not really well set up for writing. I will not, therefore, be citing sources in the way that I prefer. UPDATE: Some citations have been added since this post was originally published.

I have seen the story in Politico this morning that a significant portion of the House GOP caucus is willing to accept sequestration and a default on the federal debt, rather than accept an increase in the debt limit without spending cuts.[1] We can agree that these people are nuts. In terms of the present paradigm, it would be a reasonable determination that these people are a danger to themselves (politically) and others (with far more dire consequences) and should be involuntarily committed for psychiatric treatment. It is also reasonable, as Paul Krugman and others have expressed, that the “fiscal” conservative concern is not really with the deficit itself, but rather who is spending what on whom[2]–it is unlikely, for example, that the Republican caucus would be engaging in these theatrics if Mitt Romney had been elected, and if it were widely acknowledged that we were accumulating these deficits in large part due to defense spending based on a notion of “national security” that is more imperialist than rational.[3] Read more

  1. [1]Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen, and Jake Sherman. “Double trouble: House GOP eyes default, shutdown,” Politico, January 13, 2013,
  2. [2]Paul Krugman, “Hawks and Hypocrites,” New York Times, November 11, 2012,
  3. [3]Roger Simon, “Fools on the Hill,” Politico, January 3, 2013,

Hoping for cleaner air

The "grey one" and the "black one" (we still don't have names for them), December 31, 2012.
The “grey one” and the “black one” (we still don’t have names for them), December 31, 2012.

I’m hoping we’ve dodged a bullet. My mother is allergic—with asthma—to at least one of the new cats. I’ve been running a grooming comb through their fur and she has put some stuff on them that’s supposed to knock down the dander. But last night the allergies were awful and a strong antihistamine was insufficient.

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Our dysfunctional elite: A defense of C. Wright Mills

It’s been an ignominious few days for the United States political elite as they sought to avert a purported “fiscal crisis” that Paul Krugman argues is instead a political crisis and a diversion from a more important concern about unemployment.[1] President Obama’s negotiating skills were, yet again, called into question as he conceded ground he had pledged not to.[2] But the outcome, which the Republican-controlled House of Representatives finally approved—with mostly Democratic votes—was a labeled “a compromise that the White House and Senate leaders had carefully crafted,”[3] which is something like, we are to understand, what the people of the U.S. expect.[4]

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  1. [1]Paul Krugman, “The Forgotten Millions,” New York Times, December 6, 2012,
  2. [2]Peter Baker, “View From the Left: Obama ‘Kept Giving Stuff Away’,” New York Times, January 1, 2013,; Elspeth Reeve, “Just How Bad Was Obama’s Fiscal Game?” Atlantic, December 31, 2012,
  3. [3]Lori Montgomery and Rosalind S. Helderman, “Congress approves ‘fiscal cliff’ measure,” Washington Post, January 1, 2013,
  4. [4]Jeffrey M. Jones, “Americans Widely Prefer Compromise on Fiscal Cliff,” Gallup, December 4, 2012,