The GOP's deficit-attention disorder.

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Dec. 21 2002 1:16 AM

Deficit-Attention Disorder

The Fray on the Republicans' new math.

We're all Keynesians now (again): Michael Kinsley is shocked, shocked to find Republicans in love with deficit spending. The Readme Fray is not. randy_khan and ChasB had the best back-and-forth thread in the Fray, with some down-and-dirty deficit numbers, beginning here. rk's point is one many made, that Republicans never were committed to fiscal responsibility; Chad-B's initial point is that deficits aren't a bad idea right now.

For posters like The_Slasher-8, there is an inherent push to run deficits on both sides of the aisle to fund programs that effectively buy off constituencies (his post is here). WaterAngel was the first to argue that Republicans run deficits as a way of starving Democratic social programs here. Publius addsthis:

Reagan understood that the vast majority of Americans no longer cared whether the budget was balanced and that most would not sacrifice anything to balance it anyway -- not their tax lower tax rates, not their federal aid to education or health, not their local postal service, not their Army bases, not their farm subsidies, and certainly not the wide array of federal expenditures that flowed to corporations in which they had one or another stake.

They still don't care.

Finally, if there is one common point in the ReadMe Fray it is this: everyone regards Reagan budget director David Stockman's Triumph of Politics as the bible for understanding what happens when supply-side faith meets up with horse-trading politics; in the emerging era of deficits, it may be required reading again. An exemplary use from Pacimini here:

[C]onservatives argue that free-spending Congressional Democrats kept the government from enacting the spending cuts that would have brought the [Reagan-era] budget into balance. But that line was decisively refuted by David Stockman's account of dealing away most of his spending cuts to get REPUBLICAN votes for the Reagan program in The Triumph of Politics

No relation to Ty: The Fray is engaged in a two-part discussion of Cardinal Bernard Law's culpability—Should he be in jail? Why was he such a bad manager? As to the first, while Dahlia Lithwick thinks that prosecutors should not be "deterred by a shortage of enforceable laws," several posters disagree. None more than Publius here, who notes that "It's hard to see how someone like Dahlia will be able to return to these pages with any further commentary on the Bill of Rights."

Still, the most striking post was coffee's here, which made the case for a RICO prosecution and came up with the best characterization of the Church's "system" for dealing with pedophiles:

A modest proposal: if ex-Providence mayor Buddy Cianci influence peddling and favor-giving is worthy of criminal sanction, then surely every bishop and cleric who has participated is this macabre underground railroad of cover-up and reassignment deserves jail time also.

As for the Andrew Bushell's contention that the problem with the Church is its lack of business skills, many have argued that the problem is a spiritual one. Tiresias's "By their bottom lines ye shall know them?" does it best:

There was a time self-renunciation made business sense: I perfect myself spiritually now, so I can be with Jesus on the year-end statement. Good deal. But when the eternity side drops out, the equation doesn't balance any more. Why give up something to get nothing? Instead, why not optimize your outcome in the current quarter by enjoying both your carnal lusts and the respect paid to a member of the clergy? …

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