Monday, June 27, 2011

Deficit Debate: Air-Cooling the Desert

As the President prepares to confront Mitch McConnell and John Boehner on the deficit, an irresistible image arrives for the absurdity of those deliberations.

Among the endless laundry list of government expenditures to be evaluated is $20.2 billion, an item larger than the entire N.A.S.A. budget, scheduled to go for air-conditioning in Afghanistan and Iraq next year.

What would be the tradeoffs between scrapping the space program or letting our troops fry in Middle East heat? Or could that much more just be sliced from the American old and poor by a new stroke of the Paul Ryan cleaver?

McConnell drops a Sunday talk show gauntlet: “Throwing more tax revenue into the mix is simply not going to produce a desirable result, and it won’t pass. I mean, putting aside the fact that Republicans don’t like to raise taxes, Democrats don’t like to either.” (He makes it sound like eating spinach or going to the dentist.)

So Republicans frame the struggle to avoid national bankruptcy as a we win-you lose effort for the White House: You can cut out apples, oranges, grapes or even figs but add nothing to the other side of the scale.

If that seems like a weird process, taxpayers can look forward to Tea Party help as the parsimonious patriots form a commission to find ingenious new ways to cut government expenses and reduce the deficit.

In the movie, “The American President,” a politician claims that, without leadership, a parched public would head for an imaginary oasis and try to drink the sand. But apparently not without air-cooling it first.

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