To the editor:
Your 12/17 Walt Handelsman cartoon shows Obama and Boehner teetering on the brink, each asking the other to get out and push. This cartoon deserves awards for condensation: It references an amazing amount of false conventional wisdom in a single misleading image.
The “fiscal cliff” myth. Failure to reach agreement on budget issues by a certain deadline will not have sudden, catastrophic impacts. Instead it will cause initially small but slowly increasing hardships.
The myth of Democratic-Republican equivalence. This crisis is wholly owned by Republicans in Congress who threaten to shut down government if they don’t get their way on hugely unpopular cuts in Social Security and Medicare that the electorate rejected in November.
The myth that Obama won’t bargain. Obama has proposed quite specific revenue enhancements and relatively specific health care cost cutting. Boehner has never specified exactly what budget items he wants to cut or what tax loopholes he wants to close.
The deficit crisis myth. You’d never know it from newspapers, but majority opinion among taxation and macro economists says the best way to reduce the deficit is to get the economy growing faster with more short-run stimulus. The worst possible way is to follow Europe into an austerity-induced double-dip recession.
The myth of a coherent economic narrative. The conventional wisdom is self-contradictory: the “fiscal cliff” story claims that making expenditure cuts will cause a recession, while the “deficit crisis” story claims that not making expenditure cuts will cause a recession.