And oddly enough, they don't even seem to know it.
This one might be a scoop, people, because none of the bloggers I follow on the internet have made this connection. It's also a hard-won scoop, because I extracted it not from another news source, but from once again subjecting myself to the trial-by-ordeal that is a Scott McClellan White House Press Briefing.
So Social Security privatization was the hot topic for McClellan's daily blatherama on Thursday, December 9th, which C-SPAN courteously (or sadistically) serves up in full for your edification. And so they were kinda beating the crap out of Scott there, though rather ineffectually--I swear, either our political press corps are fucking morons or he's a simulacrum of a human being composed entirely of some non-stick polymer. Probably both.
Anyway. When asked, repeatedly, to explain how W's administration was going to meet even the immediate costs of social security privatization without raising taxes, raising the ceiling for Social Security contributions, or undercutting W's pledge to shrink the deficit back down again by half in the next five years, McClellan eventually retreated to a position not unreminiscent of old Uncle Bill's linguistics shenanigans ("It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is," or whatever). He basically suggested that "costs" couldn't be incurred in implementing the privatization policies, whatever form they might eventually take, because any money spent now had to be set against how much it would cost to fix the system later, and whatever immediate outlays there were would undoubtedly result in lower expenses later. So there would be no "costs", only "savings".
The really funny thing about this is that it is, at its most basic, the core tenet of a macroeconomic theory roundly despised by Republicans and embraced historically by Democrats, one that went out of general fashion in national economic policy circles around the time of Reagan and the main underpinning of all the activity that makes "tax-and-spend" a label that still sticks to Democrats. Somewhere back in the 1940s or so, a British economist named John Maynard Keynes offered up the proposition that a nation could justify driving itself into debt if it were investing in projects that would sufficiently boost economic growth in the long-term that budgetary shortfalls would be recouped by increased tax revenues. I may be getting the finer points of that wrong, but that's broadly what it suggested and how it was implemented. It's the "you gotta spend money to make money" chestnut writ large, and it's what gave our nation such treasures as the interstate highway system and other expensive infrastructure improvements. More broadly, decoupled from infrastructure projects, it gave birth to the whole concept of deficit spending, which was exactly the logic that McClellan was describing (or, more rightly, parroting, because it was pretty clear that, as always, beyond his prepared remarks and refrains McClellan is nothing but a pustule of actualized PR, a wart on the face of the administration that don't know nuthin' about nuthin').
Sad thing, among all the other sad things about watching presumably serious and well-intentioned reporters sit through half an hour of his bullshit and evasion and song-and-dance, is that none of them seemed to have the economic understanding to pick up on this either. Of course, most of them had probably drunk up several gallons of martini before attending, or gotten monstrously stoned in the stairwell on the way up--I would--but still. Come on, people. It's your job to be informed, and if you're trying to ask probing questions about economic matters, then economic matters are one of the things it's your job to be informed about.
Anyway. That's all for the late night blogging, I think. Long live John Maynard Keynes!