Eric and Irene
By PAUL KRUGMAN
A few weeks ago, Mr. Cantor was the hard man in the confrontation over the debt ceiling; he was willing to endanger
Mr. Cantor’s critics have been quick to accuse him of hypocrisy, and with good reason. After all, he and his Republican colleagues showed no comparable interest in paying for the Bush administration’s huge unfunded initiatives. In particular, they did nothing to offset the cost of the
And it turns out that in 2004, when his home state of
But, as I see it, hypocrisy is a secondary issue here. The primary issue should be the extraordinary nihilism now on display by Mr. Cantor and his colleagues — their willingness to flout all the usual conventions of fair play and, well, decency in order to get what they want.
Not long ago, a political party seeking to change
But today’s G.O.P. has decided to bypass all that and go for a quicker route. Never mind getting enough votes to pass legislation; it gets what it wants by threatening to hurt
Of course, Mr. Cantor would have you believe that he’s just trying to be fiscally responsible. But that’s no more than a cover story.
Should disaster aid, as a matter of sound public finance, be offset by immediate cuts in other spending? No. The time-honored principle, backed by economists right and left, is that temporary bursts of spending — which usually arise when there’s a war to fight, but can also arise from other causes, including financial crises and natural disasters — are a good reason to run temporary budget deficits. Rather than imposing sharp cuts in other spending or sharply raising taxes, governments can and should spread the burden over time, borrowing now and repaying gradually via a combination of lower spending and higher taxes.
But can the
So the claim that fiscal responsibility requires immediate spending cuts to offset the cost of disaster relief is just wrong, in both theory and practice. As I said, it’s just a cover story for the real game being played here.
Now, Mr. Cantor may end up backing down on this one, if only because several of the hard-hit states have Republican governors, who want and need aid soon, without strings attached. But that won’t put an end to the larger issue: What will happen to
And, yes, I mean one of our parties. There are plenty of bad things to be said about the Democrats, who have their fair share of cynics and careerists. There may even be Democrats in Congress who would be as willing as Mr. Cantor to advance their goals through sabotage and blackmail (although I can’t think of any). But, if they exist, they aren’t in important leadership positions. Mr. Cantor is. And that should worry anyone who cares about our nation’s future.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs