The following two items turned up back-to-back in my Facebook news feed yesterday:
First, Paul Krugman called the fashionable obsession with long-term budget deficits a "cop-out," since it lets budget scolds off the hook for dealing with America's here-and-now problems like our crumbling infrastructure, rising economic inequality, and jobless "recovery." In fact, it paints the people who want to address those problems as the villains.
Think about it: Faced with mass unemployment and the enormous waste it entails, for years the Beltway elite devoted almost all their energy not to promoting recovery, but to Bowles-Simpsonism — to devising “grand bargains” that would address the supposedly urgent problem of how we’ll pay for Social Security and Medicare a couple of decades from now. [...]
Discussions of short-run fiscal and monetary policy are politically charged. Oppose austerity and support monetary expansion and you’ll be lambasted by the right; do the reverse and you’ll be criticized and maybe ridiculed by the left. I understand why it’s tempting to dismiss the whole debate and declare that the really important issues involve the long run. But while people who say that kind of thing like to pose as brave and responsible, they’re actually ducking the hard stuff — which is to say, being craven and irresponsible.
Which brings me back to the president’s new budget.
It goes without saying that Mr. Obama’s fiscal proposals, like everything he does, will be attacked by Republicans. He’s also, however, sure to face criticism from self-proclaimed centrists accusing him of irresponsibly abandoning the fight against long-term budget deficits.
And immediately below it on the same feed was this cartoon by Gary Varvel, editorial cartoonist for the Indianapolis Star, crediting the economy-crippling sequestration cuts (talk about a cop-out!) for what recovery we're seeing right now, while blaming Obama for seeking ignoring long-term deficit issues to tackle the problems on his plate (and that of the Republican-controlled Congress) right now. You couldn't have measured that gap with an egg-timer.
The IndyStar's editorial board are no friends of Obama, although they did hang Varvel himself out to dry for a Thanksgiving season cartoon on Obama's immigration policy initiative that was generally considered to have crossed a line (although not for opposing Obama's policy in itself). And, amazingly, they keep that scourge of the liberal media, Mallard Filmore, going on the comics page.