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Out of touch once again

Talking with top Barack Obama adviser David Axelrod this past Sunday on his show, host David Gregory pushed back against arguments that the wealthy should pay their fair share of taxes.

“[I]f you really want shared sacrifice, then the middle class should pay taxes, too. I mean, roll back the Bush tax cuts for everybody rather than looking at the, you know, just having the rich pay more,” Gregory argued. “If it’s shared sacrifice, why not say to everybody, everybody’s going to have to do with less in terms of a social safety net, in terms of taxes and all the rest.”

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Who is this “everybody” that Gregory is talking about? It’s not himself, obviously. Or the people he hangs out with at his D.C. cocktail parties. 

Because our nation’s social safety net isn’t designed for Gregory and his pals. 

Yet here is Gregory, atop the Beltway media ecosystem, pretending that the middle class hasn’t “sacrificed.” One could hardly seem more out of touch, unless that person’s name was Mitt Romney. “You guys are great to get up at — what time is it here, 9 o’clock in the morning in Florence?” Romney asked his audience at a campaign rally in Florence, S.C., on Tuesday, Jan. 17. “Gosh, this is a workday, right?”

Yes, Mitt. Tuesday is a workday. And being somewhere at 9 a.m. isn’t that notable if, you know, you work for a living. Not everyone has Swiss bank accounts or offshore tax havens in the Cayman Islands!

But this is the financial elite who make the economic decisions for the rest of us, and this is the media elite who cheer them on. And the worst part is that when it comes to economics, they’re pretty much wrong about everything. Back in October 2010, David Broder couldn’t contain his glee at developments across the Atlantic. “[British Prime Minister David] Cameron and his partners in the coalition have pushed ahead boldly, brushing aside the warnings of economists that the sudden, severe medicine could cut short Britain’s economic recovery and throw the nation back into recession,” he wrote. “If Republicans emerge next month with sufficient leverage in the House and Senate to approach Obama with a proposition, they could insist that he ‘do a Cameron’ when it comes to federal spending: a radical rollback now in the welfare state.”

Thankfully, Obama ignored this idiotic advice, because as Britain has learned, there’s no such thing as economic expansion during times of austerity. The fourth-quarter data show that Britain’s economy contracted 0.2 percent, and as Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman noted, “the ongoing slump in Britain is now longer and deeper than the slump in the 1930s.” The median projection for 2012 is a growth rate of just 0.4 percent, with the gloomiest economists actually predicting contraction.

Fact is, austerity has never spurred economic recovery, anywhere in the world. Yet the financial elite — on both sides of the Atlantic — cling to the fiction that slashing government budgets will spur economic growth. Ask for a rationale, and they’ll spin some yarn about “economic confidence,” or some such nonsense. They revel in ignoring the warnings of economists, who actually do know better. In other words, they’re operating on ideological faith.

Unfortunately, their recommendations are being taken seriously as economic policy. And while the elite will never suffer the consequences of their fantasies (“shared sacrifice” means “someone else I don’t know suffers”), far too many other people will. 

Moulitsas is the publisher and founder of Daily Kos (dailykos.com).



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