It's quite the spectacle watching a pundit who is so often wrong regularly accuse his political opponents of insanity and extremism. But Paul Krugman is the man for the job -- economist, bon vivant and amateur psychiatrist. And this debt ceiling situation is so insane that he’s now brought the exclamation point to the pages of the august New York Times.
President Obama has made it clear that he’s willing to sign on to a deficit-reduction deal that consists overwhelmingly of spending cuts, and includes draconian cuts in key social programs, up to and including a rise in the age of Medicare eligibility. These are extraordinary concessions. As The Times’s Nate Silver points out, the president has offered deals that are far to the right of what the average American voter prefers — in fact, if anything, they’re a bit to the right of what the average Republican voter prefers!
Most of this, unsurprisingly, is untrue. To begin with, Obama hasn't made anything "clear" because he hasn’t forwarded any plan. And anyone who believes this administration is going to make “draconian cuts in key social programs” (what isn’t a key social program, really?) has either been living on Venus or St. Croix.
Moreover, the evidence cited by Nate Silver does not back his conclusion. And though I am skeptical that Republicans are for real on spending, and I’m nearly certain they will lose the public relations war on the debt ceiling, the Gallup poll illustrates that the Democrat’s “must-tax” stance is what stands outside mainstream opinion.
In the Gallup poll, 67 percent of Americans believe that “mostly” or “only” with spending cuts. Does that sounds like the Democratic Party's position to anyone? Biden has reportedly been pushing for large chunks of the deal to be realized in tax hikes (it's patriotic!) . Obama has threatened to veto any resolution that doesn't include tax increases on the profiteering class. And “mostly” spending cuts does not mean “mixed.” Look at the other numbers in the poll and see if, in a general sense, they comport favorably with the administration’s plans.
Krugman and Silver also ignore another recent Gallup poll claims that Americans want Congress to vote against any hike in the debt ceiling (42 percent 22 percent, with around one-third unsure what to do), which sounds a lot more like the Tea Party position.
After all, Obama's latest concrete stab at budgeting – and he's given us nothing else to go on -- added, not cut, $9.5 trillion in deficits over the next ten years. Is that the position of mainstream America? For Krugman, that brand of irresponsible spending was “hardly something to cheer about.”
Again, I don’t doubt that the Republicans-Are-Holding-The-World-Hostage narrative will win the day, but that spawns from the GOP’s ineptitude, infighting and failure to explain their position to the American people -- who, if polls are to be believed, agree with them.