Jonathan Chait on the most obnoxious tic in politics:

A virulent example of this has emerged during the latest iteration of the fiscal debate. Advocates of what Matthew Yglesias calls “BipartisanThink” have found themselves trapped between two impulses. On the one hand, they fervently believe that the country’s most vital priority is to pass a plan to reduce the deficit through a mix of cuts to retirement programs and reduced tax deductions. On the other hand, they believe with equal fervor that the two parties are equally to blame for the country’s problems in general, and the failure to pass such a plan in particular.

Their problem is that one party agrees with them completely, and the other rejects them. This creates a paradox between the two mental tentpoles of BipartisanThink. The solution is to simply wish away the facts, thus bringing them into line with reality.

David Brooks today devotes his column to upholding the known truths of BipartisanThink. He lashes out at the obstinacy of the Republican Party and its refusal to compromise on the deficit. But he has to balance it out by asserting that President Obama, too, lacks any such plan:


  1. Then prove it – support Simpson Bowles.

    Otherwise this is episode 1,798 of “Mental Masturbation” on this blog.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Simpson-Bowles is better than either party’s plan so far bc it assumes full expiration of all the Bush tax cuts. I don’t like it because of the Social Security cuts, which are mean and unnecessary. We need to increase Social Security benefits, not cut them. Long run deficit reduction in no way requires us to stick it to old and poor people.

      • Except that you don’t care about old people, you just want a pile of cash waiting for you in 40 years. The level of selfishness in your generation is staggering.

        Jon, in the 1950s there were 16 people working for every SS recipient. Now there are 3 and soon to be 2. The only way this is sustainable to your retirement without significant is to throw alot more of someone else’s money at it (sound familiar?)

        We need to get people who don’t need it off, and we need to significantly increase the retirement age because people are living longer. And we need to bring the full force of the law down on anyone fraudulently claiming benefits.

        Remember the program was designed as a safety net, not a full fledged retirement plan. I full support taking care of people who need it. I am virulently opposed to sending checks to criminals or those who don’t need it.

        I know why you want to expand benefits – it helps elites like you control the unwashed masses and make them dependent on your largesse for their very lives. Why you support criminals and rich people continuing to receive benefits is beyond me.

        • Jon Geeting says:

          I care about the current beneficiaries, the people who are about to retire. Gen X, and the Millenials, none of whom are going to be able to afford a decent standard of living in retirement. We need an immediate 20% increase in Social Security benefits, at the very least.

          • You want increasing benefits? Then how about a plan to pay for it (other than throwing other people’s money at it).

            I’ve made concrete recommendations here, and you still haven’t addressed them.

          • Jon Geeting says:

            They’re bad recommendations. I’m against means-testing in general, but particularly in this case because it weakens the political support that makes Social Security untouchable. Social Security is so popular precisely because it’s not “other people’s money” it’s your money. You paid in, you’re entitled to the benefits, no matter who you are. I’d pay for the benefit increase by increasing the payroll tax, and raising the cap on taxable earnings.

          • It’s not your money Jon. It’s a tax that funds an Federal safety net for people who need it.

            Grow up already, it’s not the government’s responsibility to take care of you, it’s your responsibility. It’s government and society’s responsibility to help those who need it, not those who don’t.

            Do you have an IRA, and are you contributing to it? If not, you are a leech. Have any of those policy classes you’ve taken talked about the time value of money and how important it is to start saving early?

          • Jon Geeting says:

            It is my money. I’m paying into it now, and I want the money when I retire, as promised. You’re arguing against the whole concept of social insurance – that something bad could happen to you at any time, and that we need a safety net in case things don’t work out as planned. I’m saving money, but maybe some horrible accident will happen to me that will force me to deplete all my savings. The whole idea of a safety net is that any one of us could end up in poverty through no fault of our own, so we should backstop how bad it can get. The evidence is clear that 401Ks are a disaster, and thats why I support beefing up SS benefits. It should be the whole pension, not supplementary income.

          • ” I full support taking care of people who need it. ”

            I said this a couple of entries up. How do you think that means I”m against social insurance? I’m 100% for it. Period. And yet again, you really need to read full entries, articles, etc. instead of just reading headlines and guessing. It’s getting old pointing out your factual errors and lies over and over again.

            That’s what social security was designed to do – provide that social safety net. You want it to be a full retirement fund, fine – figure out a way to pay for it besides hitting the middle class with a crushing tax increase (which your plan on increasing the payroll tax and the income limit would do). Your plan would decimate the economy.

            It’s not your money Jon, the government took it and it’s theirs now. You don’t like it? Too fucking bad.

          • Jon Geeting says:

            But you clearly don’t understand social insurance. The idea is that we don’t know who will be poor in the future. The benefits should be there for every American, full stop. I’d increase the payroll tax and the EITC at the same time to help out the people who can least afford it. The US can afford a somewhat higher payroll tax. We are among the lowest taxed developed countries.

          • The benefits should be there for every American WHO NEEDS THEM, full stop. If you don’t need them that’s great. Don’t be a leech and be proud of the fact that you can take care of yourself – a tenet this country was founded on.

            That’s social insurance. You want to change it to a full retirement plan.

          • Jon Geeting says:

            The idea that you fully control your destiny is the antithesis of social insurance politics. You certainly do not. Shit happens. People who once were rich become poor. That idea is central to Social Security, and we should not turn it into a program only for poor people.

          • You’re not advocating social insurance Jon, you’re advocating social control.

            Care to share with us your views on nationalizing IRA and 401k accounts? $10 trillion in cash sitting there….. Socialists like you have to be salivating at getting your hands on all that money.

  2. As a govt employee, I get the sense that both sides have decided that sequestration is the easiest way for everyone to back out of a poor political position. Everyone can blame someone else, no one has to vote for defense or other programmatic cuts. In the end, “the system” is to blame–after which everyone can survey the damage and write a new budget to reflect new realities. it will be an interesting spring.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Both sides don’t support it though. The Democrats don’t want to do it, and don’t care about doing spending cuts or tax increases right now, because austerity is counterproductive at this point. Republicans are insisting on some kind of austerity, and prefer the sequester to nothing, so we have to bargain unfortunately. But the best position is no cuts, and you’d have a majority of Dem votes for that position if the Republicans weren’t committed to forcing some kind of austerity package.
      You’re right though that the real vote that matters will be in late March when we can potentially undo all of this via the budget negotiations.

  3. I do think a lot of people in Congress, of both parties, want to reduce defense spending (which makes sense), and this offers an easier politically if clumsier path.

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