Showing Deficits Some Love

The latest Democracy Corps poll found:

Requiring Congress to forego a pay raise in any year the government runs a deficit or raids the Social Security trust fund, and requiring that any future benefit cuts to Social Security should apply to congressional pensions as well.

Matt doesn't like the idea because civil servant salaries are tied to congressional salaries, and this'd hurt them too. But if we can reformulate how salaries are calculated so this'd only hurt congresscritters, Matt says we should give the people the "wacky populism" that they want.

I disagree. It's all well and good to nail Bush for his huge and irresponsible deficits now, but Democrats really shouldn't be in the business of making moderate deficit spending impossible, or at least really, really unlikely. Fact is, we're the social program folks, and once this weird administration with its big-budget conservatism heads back to Crawford, and once our fiscal house is put in a bit better order, there are going to be times when we need to bust the bank in order to fulfill social ends. There are times, after all, when a bit of deficit spending isn't a bad thing.

Now, a deficit that's almost 6% of GDP is a Very Bad Thing indeed, and a proposal like the one above that withheld pay raises when the deficit exceeded, say, 4% of GDP, might be a decent idea. But we really don't want to make a bit of deficit spending against the interests of Congress. Sometimes you need counter-cyclical spending. Sometimes you need a bit of borrowing to make sure entitlements and programs helping those hit by an economic downturn aren't sliced up. Because when the economy goes into recession, government takes in less money. In order to fulfill its entitlement and spending obligations, it runs a deficit. If Congress is dead set against doing so, it's the poor who're going to feel the bite, as health spending and unemployment benefits and other social programs take the hit to make up for the lost revenues. And that's something no Democrat should support.

- Ezra

P.S -- Dan and Battle Panda are rocking the house, huh?

P.P.S -- Happy -- or at least poignant -- Passover!