Gallows Humor

Matt Barganier, September 19, 2011

My neck will grasp as the rope descends
How much the ass weighs in the end.
~Francois Villon

Paul Krugman got a lot of applause from progressives last week for blasting the politicians and pundits who “cash[ed] in on the horror” of 9/11. A few days later, as if to prove that even Donald Rumsfeld makes good decisions occasionally (albeit for bad reasons), Krugman twisted Rep. Ron Paul’s answer to a why-are-libertarians-so-awful question at the tea party debate.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Representative Ron Paul what we should do if a 30-year-old man who chose not to purchase health insurance suddenly found himself in need of six months of intensive care. Mr. Paul replied, “That’s what freedom is all about — taking your own risks.” Mr. Blitzer pressed him again, asking whether “society should just let him die.”

And the crowd erupted with cheers and shouts of “Yeah!”

The incident highlighted something that I don’t think most political commentators have fully absorbed: at this point, American politics is fundamentally about different moral visions.

Perhaps. Someone definitely needs to visit a moral ophthalmologist, anyway. Erik Wemple of The Washington Post remarked, “The distortion of which Krugman is guilty on this front summons parallels to Hannity and Limbaugh.” Ouch. Welcome to the club (Read Jeremy Hammond for more on Krugman’s breezy dishonesty. Hat tip to Matt Welch.)

While we’re on the subjects of death and debt and Ron Paul and Paul Krugman, I ask you to consider the non-hypothetical case of a terminal glutton and spendthrift:

Our government is utterly broke. There are signs everywhere one looks. Social Security can no longer afford to send us our annual benefit statements. The House can no longer afford its congressional pages. The Pentagon can no longer afford the pension and health care benefits of retired service members. NASA is no longer planning a manned mission to Mars.

We’re broke for a reason. We’ve spent six decades accumulating a huge official debt (U.S. Treasury bills and bonds) and vastly larger unofficial debts to pay for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits to today’s and tomorrow’s 100 million-plus retirees.

The government’s total indebtedness — its fiscal gap — now stands at $211 trillion, by my arithmetic. The fiscal gap is the difference, measured in present value, between all projected future spending obligations — including our huge defense expenditures and massive entitlement programs, as well as making interest and principal payments on the official debt — and all projected future taxes.

The data underlying this figure come straight from the horse’s mouth — the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO’s June 22 Alternative Fiscal Scenario presents nothing less than a Greek tragedy. It’s actually worse than the Greek tragedy now playing in Athens. Our fiscal gap is 14 times our GDP. Greece’s fiscal gap is 12 times its GDP, according to Professor Bernd Raffelhüschen of the University of Freiburg.

In other words, the U.S. is in worse long-term fiscal shape than Greece. The financial sharks are circling Greece because Greece is small and defenseless, but they’ll soon be swimming our way.

I say sharks gotta eat, same as worms, but I’m waaaaay further out than The New York Times editorial page can even imagine. Back in the realm of red and blue, wacko wingding extremist Ron Paul calls for reducing the national debt, preferably by scrapping the most harmful, counterproductive government spending (hint: it’s not on Grandma’s prescriptions). Sober, wise, compassionate Nobel laureate Paul Krugman and other serious liberals have a different moral vision.

But whatevs. In the long run, we are all dead.




28 Responses to “Gallows Humor”

  1. The US government cannot be broke as it issues its own currency. The days of the gold standard are over, there can be no run on the US government to empty the gold from Fort Knox. Social Security takes more money than it pays out. Debt to GDP ratio is less than that of that of Japan and the interest rate on its 10-year bond is 1%. So no, there is no need to throw large numbers of citizens to the wolves.

  2. Krugman alluded to Keynes who bitterly observed in the late '30s that the elites will only do as he says and end the depression with government spending when the government spending is on war. They won't spend it on things to help people, they'll spend it to kill. If there was a major war requiring massive government spending above what is spent now, the elites will spend that money, money will be no object, despite claiming before the war that there's no money left.

  3. Ah, this is what it is about.

    I now get a new e-mail on a variation of "Why Ron Paul wants to have uninsured people die with Tea Partiers cheering him on and how you can stop him!" from my favorite progressive websites every single fracking day. I was just assuming that they hadn't afforded themselves the intellectual perspective to understand some nontrivial point about finite resources and allocation of the same and didn't even bother getting to the bottom of this. Red meat for the Internet-connected proletariat ain't of no great interest.

    So it was the Blitzer The D.C. Propaganda Propeller who was involved? Even worse.

  4. No-one is being "thrown to the wolves" but blindered mindless optimism and the keys to the progressive Ferrari isn't what is needed right now.

  5. No, no, no. Matt is an optimist in a time of pessimism, or the reverse. Americans are the hope for the world, along with the Palestinians and Asmaa Mahfouz.

  6. Raimondo or any other Libertarian – in your perfect Libertarian world, how do you fund the highway system? Taxes are out right? So what is it? Toll-gates? Something else? If so, what?

  7. First, why are you addressing Raimondo? Do you not see the byline? Second, if you're capitalizing "Libertarian," then you're referring to a member of the Libertarian Party, which I and most libertarians are not. Third, what does your tax question have to do with anything I wrote? I could be a Maoist and still recognize that Krugman was lying and that while Ron Paul has focused on cutting military, not welfare, spending, Krugman and his ilk just want to increase spending — even on war — to appease the Great Economic Statistics in the sky.

  8. [...] Gallows Humor « Antiwar.com Blog Posted on September 20, 2011 by Abhay Gallows Humor. Matt Barganier, September 19, 2011. Print This | Share This | Comment | Antiwar Forum. My neck will grasp as the rope descends. How much …www.antiwar.com/blog/2011/09/19/gallows-humor/ [...]

  9. I won't say whether I agree with your or not, but why is this on antiwar.com?

  10. Oh, oops, I see what you're getting at now. My bad.

  11. Economist MIchael Hudson is fond of telling people of what would happen if a time machine was invented and someone was to go back to the 1940s and tell them of our technological advances. They'd conclude that we'd be living lives of leisure, Hudson says. They wouldn't believe that people are working longer hours for less and that there's talk of throwing people overboard in the name of scarcity. Futurists actually believed that the very wealthy would reach a point of saturation where they wouldn't need any more. What they forgot was that wealth is like an arms race, like is any kind of power. That the US spends more on war than the rest of the world combined is an example of how there is no saturation when it comes to lusting for power.

  12. I missread the byline – I had no intention of insulting you.

    Libertararian ve libertarian vs "Libertarian" – semantics, word games. I made no specific refeence to the political party. You inferred it from the capitalisation of the word.

    The rreason I asked is that libertarians are full of generalities, no specifics. I have asked Raimondo and other libertarians the same question with no answer. You have not answered either. You and the other libertarians asked have no answer to this specific real policy question. I repeat the question how would the higway system be funded in a libertarian world?

    I have not picked on you specifically. I will ask any other libertarians whose threads I read the same question. I would really like to know, even if you are not in the Liber

  13. Ooops my text has been truncated – the last paragraph should have read

    I have not picked on you specifically. I will ask any other libertarians whose threads I read the same question. I would really like to know, even if you are not in the Libertarian party.

  14. Again, the practicability of libertarianism has zilch to do with the point of this piece. Let's assume that Libertopia would be a nightmarish hellscape of cannibalism and bestiality. What does that have to with Krugman's dishonesty? What does that have to do with the fact that Ron Paul has said that he prefers cutting the military budget to cutting social services, whereas Krugman and co. are willing to spend money on anything — even war — just to spend more money?

  15. The only thing Libertarians get right is their opposition to war and that opposition is based not on love of their fellow man but love of money. Man is a social animal. I come here for the anti war part not the Libertarian antisocial pathologies.

  16. Deep, man.

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  20. Do you not see the byline? Second, if you're capitalizing "Libertarian," then you're referring to a member of the Libertarian Party,

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