Kevin Drum - July 2011

Fixing the Deficit By Doing Nothing

| Fri Jul. 1, 2011 10:46 AM PDT

Via Ezra Klein, here's an interesting chart. CRFB's Marc Goldwein shows us graphically the difference between the CBO's "Extended Baseline Scenario" — which assumes current law just goes on forever — and its "Alternative Fiscal Scenario," which is supposed to be a somewhat more realistic look at what Congress is likely to do in the future. Under the AFS, the budget deficit soars to 360% of GDP by 2050. But under the EBS (the bluish chunk at the bottom, modified to assume our wars end eventually) the deficit stays placidly under control forever:

Now, no one actually thinks that the EBS is realistic. Still, this is a fairly dramatic (and colorful!) way of making a point: if Congress just disbanded and let existing law continue forever, there would be no deficit problem. More realistically, if Congress let the bulk of current law continue (i.e., the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule, PPACA cost controls are allowed to take effect, etc.), drew down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and simply agreed to pay for any changes that just have to be made (doc fixes, AMT patches, etc.), there would be no deficit problem. This is not quite as intractable a problem as Republicans would have us think. It's only intractable if you refuse to pay for your spending.

There are more details on all this stuff at the link. It's worth a quick read.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

What if You Held a Class War and No One Showed Up?

| Fri Jul. 1, 2011 9:20 AM PDT

National Review's Robert Costa interviews rising right-wing attack dog Marco Rubio:

Rubio tells us that he will respond to Obama’s recent press conference, where the president reveled in class-warfare bluster....“Talking about corporate jets and oil companies,” Rubio says, missed the point. “Everybody here agrees that our tax code is broken,” he says, and he is open to discussing tax reform. “But don’t go around telling people that the reason you are not doing well is because some rich guy is in a corporate jet or some oil company is making too much money.”

Watching Obama brandish such talking points made Rubio wince. “Three years into his presidency, he is a failed president,” he says. “He just has not done a good job. Life in America today, by every measure, is worse than it was when he took over.”

“When does it start to get better?” Rubio asks. “When does the magic of this president start to happen?”

Today is one of those days where I hardly know how to react to things anymore. Part of me shrugs at this stuff: politics is politics. Of course Republicans are going to call a Democratic president a failure. What else would they do?

But then, for about the thousandth time, my mind wanders over the past ten years. Republicans got the tax cuts they wanted. They got the financial deregulation they wanted. They got the wars they wanted. They got the unfunded spending increases they wanted. And the results were completely, unrelentingly disastrous. A decade of sluggish growth and near-zero wage increases. A massive housing bubble. Trillions of dollars in war spending and thousands of American lives lost. A financial collapse. A soaring long-term deficit. Sky-high unemployment. All on their watch and all due to policies they eagerly supported. And worse: ever since the predictable results of their recklessness came crashing down, they've rabidly and nearly unanimously opposed every single attempt to dig ourselves out of the hole they created for us.

But despite the fact that this is all recent history, it's treated like some kind of dreamscape. No one talks about it. Republicans pretend it never happened. Fox News insists that what we need is an even bigger dose of the medicine we got in the aughts, and this is, inexplicably, treated seriously by the rest of the press corps instead of being laughed at. As a result, guys like Marco Rubio have a free hand to insist that Obama — Obama! The guy who rescued the banking system, bailed out GM, and whose worst crime against the rich is a desire to increase their income tax rate 4.6 percentage points! — is a "left-wing strong man" engaged in brutal class warfare against the wealthy. And Rubio does it without blinking. Hell, he probably even believes it.

We are well and truly down the rabbit hole. The party of class warfare for the past 30 years is fighting a war against an empty field and the result has been a rout. I wonder what would happen if the rest of us ever actually started fighting back?

Is DSK Innocent?

| Fri Jul. 1, 2011 7:58 AM PDT

The New York Times is reporting that the prosecution's rape case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn is "on the verge of collapse" because the hotel housekeeper at the center of the case has lied repeatedly and now has some very serious credibility problems. Serious enough that, if true, this would not be a case of DSK getting off on some kind of technicality. He'd be getting off because it's at least plausible that the housekeeper made up her entire story. Jeralyn Merritt asks:

It sounds like this case will be dismissed. Cyrus Vance will have much deserved egg all over his face. (I'm glad I supported his opponent.) The DA's sex crime unit was apparently in such a hurry to detain DSK they did no homework and took the accuser at her word. All they had to do was conduct a proper investigation, and if her account panned out, get a sealed indictment and arrest him the next time he came to NY. DSK would have been none the wiser. Instead they staged a perp walk, and DSK became the biggest pariah and media sensation since Bernie Madoff. The buck stops with Vance.

....How does DSK get his reputation back? You may not think he deserves it, after all the post-arrest media stories about his womanizing. But he had one until his arrest, and those stories would never have been published but for the arrest. Not only did he lose his IMF job, but his chances of running for President of France were obliterated. All because of an accusation, that according to the New York Times, the prosecution is now willing to dismiss. The DA's office isn't Emily Littela, they shouldn't just get to say, "Never mind." There should be serious consequences for this kind of recklessness.

As with the original charges, I'll wait to see how this pans out. But if everything the NYT reports is true, Vance and his prosecutors do indeed have some explaining to do.

How Much Oil Can Saudi Arabia Produce?

| Fri Jul. 1, 2011 7:14 AM PDT

There's a fair amount of guesswork involved in this, but Stuart Staniford takes a look at Saudi oil production over the past decade, compares it to the number of active rigs in the Kingdom, and comes to a gloomy pair of conclusions:

  • Saudi Arabia currently is producing at capacity, which has eroded from 9.5mbd [million barrels per day] in mid 2008 to 8.8ish today.
  • If that's right, then oil production will not go to 10mbd by July. Thus the IEA is going to be disappointed in its hopes, and world leaders will have to decide whether to keep draining the SPRs or not.

The official line from the Saudis has always been far more optimistic: they say they can produce 10-11 mbd right now and are building capacity to increase that significantly within a few years. And maybe they can. But the actual facts on the ground have never been very friendly toward this claim. I'd say they still aren't.

Quote of the Day: A Status Report on our Non-War

| Fri Jul. 1, 2011 6:58 AM PDT

From AFRICOM spokeswoman Nicole Dalrymple, commenting on U.S. involvement in our non-hostilities in Libya:

As of today, and since 31 March, the U.S. has flown a total of 3,475 sorties in support of OUP [Operation Unified Protector]. Of those, 801 were strike sorties, 132 of which actually dropped ordnance.

But don't call it a war. These are merely support operations that also happen to be dropping bombs on people.

Via Doug Mataconis.