"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Debt Ceiling Deal as Propaganda

Here's my problem with the debt ceiling "deal."   Let's assume that the "cuts" of some $900 billion over the next ten years that are identified in the deal are real cuts.   I don't think they are; I'm confident that Senators and Congressmen will use accounting gimmicks to get the numbers they want and can sell; but let's assume it anyway.   And let's assume that the prospective cuts of $1.5 trillion over the next ten years that the "Super-Committee" of Senators and Congressmen are supposed to come up with by Christmas will be real cuts too.   Again, I don't think they will be, but let's play along.

Okay, then, so we have $2.4 trillion or so of cuts over the next ten years.   But the CBO's projected spending for the years 2012-2021 is... wait for it.... $46 trillion.   (Here's the CBO report to prove it... go to page 72 and weep.)   That means that we've managed to cut a whopping 2% out of our projected spending in the immediate cuts, and a total of a projected 5% if the Super-Committee actually does what it says it's going to do.  

Does anyone have any belief that the CBO's projections of federal government spending over ten years are even accurate to within 5%?   To within 2%?  I don't think they're accurate to within 10% or, likely, even 20%.   

So we're enacting "cuts" and congratulating ourselves on our fiscal responsibility, when what we propose to cut is within the margin of error of our estimates.

In other words, if what you're cutting is a rounding error, you haven't really cut anything.  

They're telling us a nice story to keep us from buying guns and canned goods and preparing for Armageddon.   I guess as a Burkean conservative I'm all in favor of telling the nice story, because Armageddon is so distasteful, but it's hard not to notice in your heart of hearts that it's just a story, and that we're being played.  

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