Sullivan is mad because of this comment last night:
The fundamental thing you need to understand when talking to deficit hawks is that when they say something is painful or that cuts will hurt people, you need to recognize that what they really mean is that the cuts will be painful TO SOMEONE ELSE and hurt people THEY DON’T KNOW AND WILL NEVER MEET. That’s why it’s so easy to be a condescending asshole about the budget. That’s why it takes nothing to suggest raising the retirement age for Social Security. That’s why, after taking a month off from writing on the internet to recover from a cold, he can tell people who work back-breaking manual labor every day of their god damned lives for much less money than he or McMegan earn that they should “contribute” more to their health care costs.
Three weeks, actually. Cole adds his own personal touch to attacking me for being lazy rather than sick. I haven’t given every single detail of my own bout of illness for what small shred is left of my privacy. But when you are HIV-positive for 17 years and have a triple viral, bacterial and fungal infection in your already asthmatic lungs, are attached to a nebulizer because you cannot breathe even when stationary, and lose half your t-cells in a month, you’re not just “recovering from a cold”. Yes, I am lucky to have an employer’s health insurance. That’s why I backed a law that makes it possible for everyone to have access to such insurance. But just because I believe that the debt will kill us unless we tackle defense, revenues and Medicare, I am a heartless, insulated, lying asshole. Really: you have to resort to this kind of nastiness to make a point?
I do regret claiming he just had a cold, because with the additional information, it is a cheap shot. For that, I am sorry, and Sullivan, more than anyone, knows the dangers in hasty and hot-headed blogging. I apologize, Andrew.
However, Sullivan still doesn’t get it- the austerity measures he is advocating would be a personal attack on millions of people. Millions of people who do not have the kind of health insurance, job security, or line of work that would afford them the luxuries Andrew has. Let’s look at how he now states he wants to deal with our financial problems:
Actually, my own position – that we should focus future cuts on the wealthier elderly (by means-testing, higher premiums based on income, etc), that sending social security checks to Warren Buffet is unaffordable, that the Bush tax cuts on those earning over $250,000 should go because of the fiscal crisis, that defense should be on the table – doesn’t seem like an attack on the poor. If I live long and prosper, I’d be the one getting taxed at much higher rates, getting much less social security and paying bigger premiums and bigger co-pays for Medicare.
Really? That’s it? Because I really don’t have any problem with any of that, although means testing social security in that manner won’t account for much money at all, which Krugman has pointed out repeatedly. I know, I know- when you get all your financial analysis from McMegan, it requires ignoring or mocking Krugman. But even then, what he proposes would be an inconvenience for him at some later date, but for others with fewer financial means, they would be disastrous.
Let’s continue on and examine Sullivan’s posting the past few days to see where he makes these assertions and see if these issues come up. Here he quotes Chris Christie (serious Republican), at length:
“Let me suggest to you that what game is being played down here is irresponsible and it’s dangerous. We need to say these things and we need to say them out loud. When we say we’re cutting spending, when we say everything is on the table, when we say we mean entitlement programs, we should be specific. And let me tell you what is the truth. What’s the truth that no one is talking about? Here is the truth that no one is talking about: you’re going to have to raise the retirement age for social security. Oh I just said it and I’m still standing here! I did not vaporize into the carpeting and I said it.
We have to reform Medicare because it costs too much and it is going to bankrupt us. Once again lightning did not come through the windows and strike me dead. And we have to fix Medicaid because it’s not only bankrupting the federal government, it’s bankrupting every state government. There you go. If we’re not honest about these things, on the state level about pensions and benefits and on the federal level about Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, we are on the path to ruin,” – governor Chris Christie.
Oddly enough, no mention of increasing revenues or means testing Social Security. Lots of pain for everyone else, though, including going after pensions. Here’s a post about the budget crisis in California:
The Golden State’s legislature is deeply beholden to public employee unions, so reformers are looking to Governor Jerry Brown for answers. And like his analogues at the national level, making good policy for the people will require him to go against his political interests.
No mention of additional revenue, and more pain for the masses. Here’s another, urging Obama to attack entitlements:
This is as plausible as the arguments that it’s a political loser for Obama to propose entitlement cuts. Even so, the most compelling reason to put forth a budget that actually addresses the fiscal issues plaguing the United States is that it’s the right thing to do. Partisans can always fool themselves into the proposition that public policy is served better in the long run by doing the politically expedient thing in the short term.
But here’s the thing: for pols who focus on short term expedience, the long term never arrives. There’s always a theory that explains why serious reforms are best pursued during the next session of Congress, or after the next election.
Notice anything missing? Here’s the snide post that started it all, and finally, a mention of tax increases:
The current math simply demands either massive tax hikes or massive benefit cuts in the future. Adjusting now will make the future, relative suffering less rather than more painful. And like Megan, I’d like to see the cuts focus on those who are most able to afford it. To use the obvious example: why should we be sending Warren Buffet a social security check?
But my worry is that not only will acting now make the pain more bearable later, but not acting now may precipitate a financial collapse of confidence in the US that would mean far worse misery than the government actually balancing its books. Borrowing to help people now – at the great expense of people later – is not a responsible policy. And financial panics and crises tend to happen with little warning.
Alas, the tax increases are not suggested as a remedy, even though the Bush (and now Obama) tax cuts, the former of which Sullivan and I both foolishly supported are one of the biggest holes in the budget. But again, this is not a proposal, but a threat of future tax increases. The inconsequential means testing of social security does get a mention, though. Perhaps if he stopped outsourcing to McMegan, he’d know how little this means in the big picture.
And even in this post, when DeBoer takes great pains to point out the actual pain this action would cause, Sullivan’s response is “No shit” and then to simply state it needs to be done to avoid future pain. It’s flabbergasting that someone like me, who reads everything Sullivan writes would come to the conclusion that “you need to recognize that what they really mean is that the cuts will be painful TO SOMEONE ELSE and hurt people THEY DON’T KNOW AND WILL NEVER MEET. ” It’s a real mystery why I would come to that conclusion, isn’t it? And I’m someone who has spent the last decade giving him the benefit of the doubt.
And finally, with the added information, I concur that claiming he had “just a cold” is a nasty personal attack. But why is it acceptable for Andrew to launch what amount to personal attacks on millions of people every single day? Because he doesn’t know their names or illness or line of work and won’t hear about it if and when the pain caucus and austerity now brigades, in the form of Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie, or the union bashing goons in the form of Scott Walker, all people Sullivan is defending, get their way? Is that what makes it different? Because when you tell millions of people they no longer deserve the pension they are counting on, and tell millions of people to eat a bag of dicks because Megan’s math demands something, trust me, it is a personal attack.
And it is one that matters beyond a flippant “No shit.”
BTW- I have no idea what sick blogger he is talking about (although it did inspire the title of this post), unless he is confused about the mention of Tunch’s anal glands, which would be amusing on several levels.