Ringside Seat: Down Goes the Deficit

In case it slipped your mind during all this talk of scandal and impeachment, official Washington has spent the last couple of years gnashing its teeth about the budget deficit. Even as European austerity policies threw the continent into a period of extended despair, Republicans and their allies in the well-appointed conference rooms of "centrist" think tanks told us sternly that unemployment would have to wait; the most immediate crisis was the deficit.

Well today, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued its latest deficit projection, and lo and behold, it turns out that mercilessly slashing spending and allowing some modest tax increases has an impact. They project the deficit will be $642 billion this year, lower than it has been since 2008. Not only that, the CBO's projections of future Medicare spending have been reduced as well. Hard as it might be to wrap your head around the idea, there has been some good news of late on the fiscal front.

So here's a bold prediction: This will not stop Republicans from pushing for more spending cuts. Because let's be honest, for them deficits were always a means to an end. No matter how many times they said "We have to cut spending," what they really meant was, "We have to cut spending on programs we never liked in the first place." Nor will it stop Erskine Bowles, Alan Simpson, and the rest of the deficit scolds from insisting that nothing has changed, and we must still cut holes in the safety net. But let's not forget this good news the next time the subject comes up. You know, in a year or two, after the impeachment push fails.

So They Say

"I really like your idea. If we had guns that shot chocolate, not only would our country be safer, it would be happier. People love chocolate. You are a good boy."

Vice President Joe Biden, responding to a letter from a Wisconsin second-grader

Daily Meme: Conservatives' Best Week Ever

  • Yesterday we showed how the White House's "terrible, horrible Friday" was stretching into this week...
  • Which means that conservatives' best week ever has just begun!
  • The Daily Caller's politics page is all scandal, all the time.
  • The Drudge Report is scandal-happy too, and has chosen to lay on the metaphor of the scandal "raining down" on the Obama administration real thick.
  • Even Fred Thompson, former presidential candidate and TV star, has felt the need to weigh in on the biggest news event of the year—and demand the formation of a special committee, because those always do wonders.
  • Many news outlets have quickly jumped onto the "He's Nixon!" bandwagon.
  • Did we say many? Here's the Boston Herald: "President Obama’s second-term campaign slogan was “Forward,” but instead we’ve got cover-ups, congressional investigations and the government persecution of political opponents and reporters. That sounds like “backward” to me. All the way to, say, 1972."
  • Rush Limbaugh is gleefully espousing theories of what all of this means, most of which can be summed up by this image on his website.
  • The American Spectator announced"This is the United States of Alinsky in its full glory."
  • As Jeffrey Toobin points out, conservative rage means the real scandals of the week aren't getting enough play: "The scandal—the real scandal—is that 501(c)(4) groups have been engaged in political activity in such a sustained and open way."
  • Regardless of how this week plays out, Alan Abramowitz disputes the fact that these are "game changers. "Just the use of the term 'game changer' should set off alarm bells. How many “game changers” did we see during the 2012 campaign, not one of which turned out to be an actual game changer? This is another example of what I like to call  'whatever just happened is the most important thing that has ever happened until the next thing that happens' journalism."
  • And, even without scandal week, Obama's second term was off to a rough start.

What We're Writing

  • Ordering crimes committed (Nixon), perjury (Clinton), intentionally breaking the law (Reagan): as far as Republicans are concerned, these don't hold a candle to creating misleading talking points, writes Paul Waldman. "The most damaging charge for which there is even the wispiest scintilla of evidence is that after the Benghazi attack, some people in the Obama administration were worried the whole thing might make the administration look bad. And that's probably true. But it's not a crime."
  • Da Gr8 Gatsbee, as Tom Carson's taken to calling Baz Luhrman's remake of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic, lets loose a "whooshing, clamorous debauch" on its viewers, a film as entertaining as it is "meta-kitschy." "It's a great joke that the latest screen adaptation of a book that helped define the nature of modernity is being assailed for being too 'modern.'"

What We're Reading

  • Planet Money collects advice for college grads from economists.
  • Here's an explainer on what the IRS tea party scandal is all about.
  • Nate Silver thinks that the IRS debacle could have ramifications for 2014.
  • Did Obama lose Jon Stewart and, by extension, his millennial base?
  • Garrett Epps asks, why is it so hard for the IRS to say out of politics?
  • Why are both pro-life and pro-choice groups claiming victory in the Gosnell verdict?
  • "By the end of the century, the birthplace of America may be underwater." Thanks climate change!


Poll of the Day

Sigh. After gradually climbing from a near-historic low of 17 percent in 2011, American's are again becoming less satisfied with the state of the country. According to this month's Gallup poll, a mere 24 percent of us identify as satisfied with "the way things are going in the United States," down from 30 percent in April. The negative response could have to do more with current events than with broader trends, however—the Boston Marathon bombings took place during Gallup's May polling period.