Facts and Myths

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As to the economics, remember that when it comes to deficits and debt, the real issues over the long term are (1) the ratio of debt to GDP (we’re still under 50 percent, which ain’t bad, considering all the spending that’s been going on; at the end of World War II it was substantially above 120 percent). And (2) whether and when we’re back to growing the GDP, which is the most reliable way of improving the ratio.

Obama’s Goal: Halving the Budget Deficit by 2012. Really?” Monday, February 23, 2009, Robert Reich

If Obama is mostly successful, then the epistemological skepticism natural to conservatives will have been discredited. We will know that highly trained government experts are capable of quickly designing and executing top-down transformational change. If they mostly fail, then liberalism will suffer a grievous blow, and conservatives will be called upon to restore order and sanity.

The Big Test,” February 23, 2009, David Brooks

The next several months– much of the summer too, no doubt– is going to be party-time for the right wing, wacky to relatively reasonable, as the debate over the Obama changes begins to build up steam. I think some careful educational reading is in order.

I don’t think it’s quite true, as Brooks claims, that the Obama administration is inventing a plan whole-cloth alone in an office. I don’t know the history of each of these ideas, but certainly everything from deficit spending to green energy investing has a rich and varied history they can use.

Brooks’ fears about bureaucrats is a gentile version of the Reagan hypocrisy. The right’s myth says one thing– big government is bad, the market is good– and then does something else. Expand the government by expanding the defense budget; ignore the market when your pals want a no-bid process.

I think there is psychological truth to the paranoid sounding notion that the right would like to cripple government by bankrupting it both ideologically and financially. I can’t think of any other reason why they (in the guise of Bobby Jindal) would propose a simplistic repetition of bad policy.

I think Robert Reich is a good guide to the stimulus plans and budget, although I think his lack of confidence in the economic recovery might be overstated, perhaps purposefully. We also have a lot of data that will help flush out the myths; I like the Swivel Site for the visuals, which help me keep track of things.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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