Monday, August 1, 2011

Progressive and Liberal Criticism of the Debt Deal

President Obama has accepted a compromise to raise the nation's debt ceiling. In exchange for raising the ceiling, Congress will immediately slash over a trillion dollars from government spending. A "supercommittee" in Congress will then propose additional cuts of nearly two trillion dollars late this year. If Congress cannot agree to specific cuts, then the cuts will be made across the board.

The debt compromise only includes spending cuts. It does not include any mechanism to increase revenue, even though both lower revenue and higher spending have caused the historically high deficit. Also, President Obama initially said that revenue must be a factor in any compromise. He later abandoned that position.

Criticism from the Left

Many liberals and progressives have responded critically to the compromise. Here are some of those arguments.

Robert Reich

Reich, Secretary of Labor during the Clinton Administration, has offered a scathing critique of the proposal. Reich argues that:
Anyone who characterizes the deal between the President, Democratic, and Republican leaders as a victory for the American people over partisanship understands neither economics nor politics.

The deal does not raise taxes on America’s wealthy and most fortunate — who are now taking home a larger share of total income and wealth, and whose tax rates are already lower than they have been, in eighty years. Yet it puts the nation’s most important safety nets and public investments on the chopping block.
Glenn Greenwald

Greenwald, a columnist for, attacks the notion that Obama was compelled to accept the slashing of safety net programs in order to prevent a default. Greenwald says that, instead, Obama wanted that outcome:
It appears to be true that the President wanted tax revenues to be part of this deal. But it is absolutely false that he did not want these brutal budget cuts and was simply forced -- either by his own strategic "blunders" or the "weakness" of his office -- into accepting them. The evidence is overwhelming that Obama has long wanted exactly what he got: these severe domestic budget cuts and even ones well beyond these, including Social Security and Medicare, which he is likely to get with the Super-Committee created by this bill. . . .
Jared Bernstein

Bernstein, an economist and former economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, has written several essays criticizing the debt deal. Bernstein has criticized the lack of a revenue-generating provision in the compromise; he has argued that conservative ideologues were willing to sacrifice the health of the nation to get spending cuts; and he has argued that the debt compromise will inevitably lead to deep cuts in safety net and other important domestic spending programs.

Liberals in Congress

Liberals in Congress have begun to criticize the deal as well. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, described the proposal as "a sugar-coated Satan sandwich" and as a "shady bill."

Also, the debt deal apparently does not thrill Nancy Pelosi. The Washington Post reports that Pelosi offered lukewarm reactions to reports of the compromise:
First, Pelosi said of the deal: "We all may not be able to support it, or none us may be able to support it." Then, later in the evening she folowed up with this lukewarm comment: "I look forward to reviewing the legislation with my caucus to see what level of support we can provide."

Despite these critiques, Congress will probably approve the debt deal. But if the bill passes without significant changes, it simply cannot represent a victory for President Obama -- unless he is really a fiscally conservative Republican in disguise.


Joyce L. Arnold said...

Hey Darren, I'm very glad to see you posting more often again :)

Nice round-up of some of the criticisms from the Left, or what passes for the Left these days. My take: Obama really is a "fiscally conservative Republican in disguise," though I question the "disguise" part. He seems rather open about it to me.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Nice round-up of some of the criticisms from the Left, or what passes for the Left these days. -- Great line!

Roxanne Peterson said...

There is no doubt about the fact that many liberals and progressives have responded critically to the compromise. Way to go. More to come :)

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