It's the growing meme throughout the traditional media and newly "fiscally responsible" Republican Party: we must prepare for austerity. In fact, Sen. Tom Coburn is so sure that we must make deep, painful cuts (to the middle and lower classes, naturally) to protect the next generation that he warns of "apocalyptic pain" if we don't.
I told you the other evening that if we didn't take some pain now, we're going to experience apocalyptic pain, and it's going to be out of our control. The idea should be that we control it.[..]
I think you'll see a 15 to 18 percent unemployment rate. I think you will see an 8 to 9 percent decline in GDP. I think you'll see the middle class just destroyed if we don't do this. And the people that it will harm the most will be the poorest of the poor, because we'll print money to try to debase our currency and get out of it and what you will see is hyperinflation. So we don't have a lot of options other than living within our means and sending the signal that creates confidence that we can repay our debt and that we're not going to debase our currency to do it.
Holy Flying Spaghetti Monster on a popsicle stick, what does Coburn think it's like now for the 99ers (who have been forgotten by Congress) and the exponentially growing number of people are on government assistance, more now than ever before? A frickin' picnic? There's a whole lot of pain out there, Senator, exacerbated by you and your party's INSISTENCE that the wealthiest 2% keep paying Bush era tax rates. Talk to me about austerity and pain when EVERYONE in this country feels it as bad as the neediest. C&L commenter Wilbur1 put it astutely in Karoli's earlier post on Tom Friedman's similar calls for austerity:
What he is calling for is generational theft. His parents weren't GIVEN a god damn thing. They fought for what they got and they paid much higher taxes, had far more constricted trade and finance, had more social programs handled by the government and a wider safety net than we do. They were handed a good country and made it better. When it came time to pay for that society they did. Now, Friedman and his generation comes along and when it is time for them to pay, to pass on to the next generation a good educational system, health care system, etc, they refuse. They've destroyed everything with their nihilistic materialism. They refuse to pay higher taxes, allow for inequitable trade, financial and tax deals, allow for economic exploitation and greed to dominate the economy and here we are. They have made every single part of our society worse and are now saying to us that we better not dare hold them accountable. We better not let billionaires who couldn't posisbly "earn" that much money (it isn't possible to earn that much money, you must obtain that money by monopolizing someone else's work in some way or creating debt that adds nothing to the world) pay for money they didn't earn. It's not even let them eat cake. It's denying that cake exists, that he and his parents had plenty of it when he was younger but now he's grown, fat. and its all gone. He's telling them to eat paper.
And would it surprise you to learn that Coburn & Co. are looking at this problem completely ass-backward? I didn't think so. Economist Dean Baker (who has been far more correct on economic issues than Tom Friedman and the rest of the Chicago School of Economics devotees have been put together) appeared on Countdown last week to warn that these austerity measures are ignoring the real problems and the deep cuts they advocate will absolutely bring on the apocalyptic pain they're predicting:
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More from Dean Baker: Shared Sacrifice: Where's Wall Street's Sacrifice?
I'm not suggesting that we're not in a terrible economic position and need to make changes to bring us back into recovery. But no one with an ounce of sense can suggest that reducing the incomes of those already in dire financial straits will help the economy recover.
Transcripts below the fold...
WALLACE: Well, let me turn to 2011 and the new Congress. How much, realistically do you think the new Congress can cut in federal spending?
COBURN: I think that remains to be seen. We could certainly cut $100 to $200 billion and help ourselves. What most of America doesn't understand is if we don't put our house in order, we are going to look like Greece or Ireland or even Spain and Italy, which are coming, or even maybe ultimately Japan.
And so, time is of the essence for us. And you're seeing economists around the world starting to worry about whether or not we're going to make the substantive changes to austerity that we need to make in our country to correct our course and to create the confidence that we don't wind up like in Ireland.
WALLACE: Let's get more specific. We'll get to the debt situation, the economic situation in a minute, but let's talk about the job that Congress has.
You just released what you called "Waste Book 2010," in which you outline $11 billion in what you call wasteful spending, including some of those crazy earmarks like $5 billion for an neon sign museum in Las Vegas.
But Senator, for all the waste, if you are going to cut spending seriously, aren't you going to have to cut programs that Americans now rely on? Aren't you going to be calling on Americans to make some tough sacrifices?
COBURN: Absolutely. The problem that faces our country today, the last 30 years we have lived off the future, and the bill is coming due. So there cannot be anything that is not put on the table. There will not be one American that will not be called to sacrifice. Those that are more well-to-do will be called to sacrifice to a greater extent. But the fact is, if we all want a successful future for our kids, and we want to see a renewal in America's productivity and growth, we're going to have to make sacrifices. We've -- both the Republican and Democratic administrations have refused to do that. And we're at a time where we don't have the option anymore, and we need to make those decisions ourselves, rather than have those decisions forced upon us by the international financial community.
WALLACE: If I can, Senator, let's get a little specific. Give me the idea of some p
rograms, because, of course, the dirty secret is everybody is opposed to government spending in general. But when it affects them, they like government spending for the programs that actually benefit them. Give me an idea, in your mind, not necessarily Congress is going to pass of a couple of specific programs you'd have to say aren't waste, but we simply can no longer afford?
COBURN: Well, first of all, we haven't even done the hard work of identifying all the duplications in the federal government. A year ago or two years ago, I asked the GAO to give me a report of all the government programs that are out there, so we could cross-reference which ones do the same thing. It's taken the GAO a year-and-a-half and they refused to do it until I put it in the last debt limit extension.
But for example, we could save about $50 billion a year by eliminating programs. I'll give you a couple of examples. We have 267 job training programs across 39 different agencies. Why do we have 267 of them?
We have 105 programs to encourage people to go into science and technology, engineering and math. That's 105 sets of bureaucrats. None of them have metrics on it. We have $100 billion at a minimum of fraud in Medicare and Medicaid. The healthcare bill didn't significantly address that. That is money that's just being blown away.
The Pentagon can't even audit its own books. It doesn't even know where its money is going. And we refuse to have the tough forces go on the Pentagon so that at least they are efficient with the money they're spending.
So we have a round-up of about $350 billion that will not truly impact anybody in this country that we could eliminate tomorrow.
WALLACE: Now you mentioned the magic phrase, "debt limit." The fact is that the continuing resolution, which Congress just passed, will fund the government until early March. That is about the time that we think the debt limit is going to come up.
And my question is, how tough are you and do you think your fellow Republicans willing to get to say to the Obama administration, look, if you want to increase the debt limit, if you want to keep this country from defaulting on its obligations, you're going to have to give us serious spending cuts?
COBURN: I'm not sure. I have spoken with the president, and he understands where we are with some of these issues. The question will be, will he help lead in making the hard choices?
And of course, most of the things that I've been talking about are discretionary spending. Will he help us fix the problems that have been created by new healthcare bill, and the underlying problems in healthcare is that it costs too much because there are no market forces controlling its cost?
My hope is that he gets out, holds hands with us, and we make some significant cuts. Some economists say that if we cut spending, it will hurt our recovery. Well, we just set up about $1 trillion to be spent in the economy over the next few years in terms of the stimulus. So I think there is no problem that we could cut $100 or $200 billion and start making a down payment and come to an agreement. There doesn't have to be a standoff. What there has to be is real leadership and recognizing the serious nature and the urgency of our problem.
WALLACE: Let's talk about that because I think it's fair to say you are an alarmist about debt. You talk about a, quote, "debt triggered apocalypse." You talk about the idea that if we don't do it, the international community is going to do it. You raise the comparison to Greece. Do you think the U.S. is headed to be another Greece?
COBURN: I do. I think within three to four years, if we have not done the critical changes that we have to make, I think the confidence in our economy and in our currency will be undermined significantly. And that may scare some folks. It's not intended to.
But the fact is we're living off our future, and everybody else in the world that's doing that today is getting punished. And what makes us think we can continue to do that? And so, if we send a signal to the rest of the international financial community that we are going to start down a road to austerity, we're going to start living within our means, we're going to decrease our spending, we are going to look at what the true role of the federal government is and try to limit our impact to that range, and we're going to eliminate programs that are not a priority.
Chris, the issue is not whether the government can do good things. It does great things. The question is what are the good things it can do and still afford to do it without doing significant harm? And what is happening in our country is we're not taking seriously the very real and urgent threat that will undermine the standard of living in this country.
And I agree. I told you the other evening that if we didn't take some pain now, we're going to experience apocalyptic pain, and it's going to be out of our control. The idea should be that we control it.
WALLACE: I was going to say, let's talk about that. You say you don't want to scare people. Go ahead and scare people, Senator. You scared me the other night when we happened to be at a dinner together.
WALLACE: How bleak do you think our financial and economic picture in this country will be over the next decade if we don't get serious about cutting spending?
COBURN: I think you'll see a 15 to 18 percent unemployment rate. I think you will see an 8 to 9 percent decline in GDP. I think you'll see the middle class just destroyed if we don't do this. And the people that it will harm the most will be the poorest of the poor, because we'll print money to try to debase our currency and get out of it and what you will see is hyperinflation. So we don't have a lot of options other than living within our means and sending the signal that creates confidence that we can repay our debt and that we're not going to debase our currency to do it.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/fox-news-sunday/transcript/sen-coburn-talks-debt-and-taxes-cardinal-donald-wuerl-religion-and-politics?page=1#ixzz19FzHbzt3