Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Deficit "Hawks"

I'm sure you've also been appalled by the media barrages of language like "fiscal hawks", "deficit hawks", and notions like "fiscal discipline", etc. I know this has been with us for some time. But the fact that this shit has caught on is amazing.

Years of ideological conditioning have made it seem reasonable to assess a government in terms of whether or not it "balances its budget". If we take the media at face value (which we shouldn't), the main question that we, as citizens, should always ask is: "does this particular government have its books in order?"

This is crazy. It's the equivalent of single-mindedly obsessing over the fertilizer levels of your garden while not giving a damn about the well-being every single plant growing in it. The only reason we have fertilizer at all (OK, comrades who know more about ecology and the politics of agrobusiness should feel free to correct me here) is for the sake of flourishing plants. Fertilizer, as such, has no intrinsic worth.

Fetishizing the "balanced budget" is similarly irrational. Look, I can give you a balanced budget in which the government collects only $2 a year in total tax revenue and spends only $2 a year. Our society would crumble, people would die, children would starve, unemployment would sky-rocket, vital public agencies would collapse, and pandemonium would ensue. But, you know, the budget would be balanced. Isn't that all that matters?

Rather than talking about such nonsense as "fiscal discipline" and "deficit hawks", let's adopt some different evaluative criteria. How about the following: does this society meet my basic needs? Is it responsive to my well-being and the well-being of others? Does it enable me to develop and cultivate my talents and powers?

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