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I didn’t and don’t really care to comment on the debt ceiling and spending fiasco. The fact that I would even have to defend a doubling of federal spending in less than a decade or an increase in spending of over $1 trillion since President Bush left office as “large and perhaps unwarranted” is shocking. The whole discussion of whether taxes should or should not be raised was and is a mirage and a cover – a cover for the insane spending blowout at the federal level.

Here are Arnold Kling’s very wise words on the deal: I would be very willing to take bets with folks who disagree:

I think it is reasonable to worry that the spending levels in this plan will become a floor rather than a ceiling. This is particularly likely to be the case if the narrative for the agreement becomes “The Tea Party won, and the left lost.” That narrative implies that spending could not possibly be cut further in a responsible way.

Relative to the Bowles-Simpson baseline, which is where centrists on both sides thought that the budget should head, it was not the crazies on the right who were able to move the needle. It was the crazies on the left.

Kling has persuaded me that more than anything in politics, narrative matters. The progressives directed the narrative surrounding the New Deal and the Great Society and have even managed to disparage the Reagan boom popularly. And they have already taken control of the narrative here. In my view, despite it being politically inevitable, the conservatives took a beating in this deal – and not because the cuts were not large, I don’t think it would have been sensible to do that at this point, but because this was a chance to rethink the tax code and a good deal of other enormous inefficiencies in the system that many progressives agree ought to be fixed. Instead, we kicked the can on entitlement reform down the road, which was always going to happen, and we still have 7 zillion pages of income tax documents, 15 quadrillion different taxes, rules and regulations, armies of federal workers staffing growth and innovation stifling bureaucracies, etc. The Tea Party actually does not care about getting good government – my sense is that the “base” is energized by just supporting a no new tax pledge, and are happy so long as nothing bad seems to happen to them. Of course, we’ll all be circling the drain if we don’t fix things.

There were so many ideas and options that would have been popular among the left and the right that simply never were floated. I’m not even sure you can blame anyone for it – I think the blob has finally subsumed us.

One Response to “Wisdom from Arnold Kling”

  1. RIT_Rich says:

    Do “we” care about getting “good government”? I personally would fear “good government”. If the government gets even a trivial task “right”, it advertises it as if its the drawing of a 4 year old that should be put on the fridge for display. Imagine if they got a few more things “right”; most leftists would willingly give their children over to government at that point. But I can’t blame the Tea Party or conservatives on this. Making the argument to spend other people’s money on your grandmother…is always easier and nicer than saying you can’t spend anymore.

    Unfortunately I don’t think most people can learn, collectively, until there is a consequence. If our debt rating were lowered (as it likely will be), then we will pay some consequence. And that is probably what we need. Eventually, you run out of other people’s money. But until then…

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