Billboard of the day

Damn do I love this from the NC Council of Churches:

The billboard is from the North Carolina Council of Churches, a statewide organization representing 18 Christian denominations in the state and 6,200 individual congregations. About 1.5 million North Carolinians are members of congregations under the Council’s umbrella, the council says.

“It will go up this week and stay in place for the next four weeks, another crucial message for all of us while gun violence continues to erupt all around,” the council said in a news release announcing the billboard.

And, it is, in fact, spot-on.  Six years ago I wrote about the “sacred” (and thereby “sacrilegious”) value of gun ownership:

What’s happened with the debate over gun ownership in America is that gun ownership has come to be seen as a sacred value (rather than a consequentialist value).  Sacred values are absolute values which leave no room for compromise or negotiation.  They’re sacred!  To compromise would be profane.  Gun rights reasoning falls perfectly into this category.  Meanwhile, gun control advocates generally take a much more cost-benefit approach that considers social and political realities.  Of course, that doesn’t get people excited and entrenched in their positions– sacred values do that.  And if you’ve read NRA types waxing about the fundamental value of gun ownership, you know exactly what I’m talking about…

Trade the Constitution for God and the sacred and absolutist nature of gun rights arguments is absolutely clear.  What this all means in practical terms is that those favoring easy and widespread gun ownership see it as a sacred value where compromise is not something to be negotiated but a genuine moral failing.  And furthermore, it means adherents will be more engaged and active on the issue than the gun control advocates who take a constitutionalism position.

Deficit stupidity

Now, I’m on record saying we shouldn’t freak out about deficits, because that’s what Republicans want you to do every time a Democrat is in charge.  And there’s time when significant deficit spending makes a lot of sense (e.g., coming out of the Great Recession).  But what the Republicans are doing to the deficit in times of a fairly strong economy is just stupid, stupid, stupid.  Drum:

Today’s CBO budget report is out, and it tells us that the Republicans’ $1.5 trillion tax cut will increase the federal debt by…$1.9 trillion:

This is not the CBO’s long-term budget report, so it only goes through 2028. During that period, spending goes up only modestly. In other words, spending still isn’t the problem. The problem is tax cuts for the rich that slash revenue and increase debt service. Put those together, and even with a modest supply-side economic benefit the tax cut still costs more than the static revenue estimate. [italics is Drum; bold is mine] Maybe it’s time to finally put the Laffer Curve to rest, boys.

Ugh.  Hadn’t even thought about the effects of the interest on the debt.  Obviously, we have to pay that (or obvious to sane, non- Freedom Caucus types), but opportunity-cost wise, it’s basically throwing money away we could be putting to productive purposes.  So stupid!

And Wonkblog’s Heather Long:

It’s a report that should make Americans concerned, especially younger ones.

On a basic level, this means the U.S. government is spending way more money than it brings in. This is not a new problem. The United States has been running a deficit every year since 2002, but the situation is about to get really ugly. The country has never run this high of a deficit during good economic times. If spending keeps up at this pace (and there is every indication that it will), President Trump and his successors are going to have less flexibility to pump up the economy during a downturn or even a crisis…

Didn’t Obama run a $1 trillion deficit? Some may recall that the U.S. government ran trillion-dollar deficits each year from 2009 to 2012, but that was during a terrible economic period when America (and much of the world) was trying to climb back from the global financial crisis and ensuing recession. The government spent heavily to try to revive the economy.

Now growth is healthy, unemployment is extremely low (4.1 percent) and confidence is strong. In times like these, the U.S. government has almost always narrowed the budget deficit — or even runs a surplus, as it did from 1998 to 2001, the end of the dot-com boom. But instead of improving the government’s budget situation, Congress is going the opposite direction and adding to it.

“We are running up the national credit card when everything is going our way economically,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “It shows Congress has lost any will to make hard choices to fix near-record debt levels we’re already facing.”

The Wonkblog piece also has two nice “why do we have this problem” and “what can be done about it” sections that are thorough and overly fair.  It’s pretty damn clear that we have this problem, at least to this extreme extent, due to Republican’s extreme bad faith on issues of deficits and spending.  What can be down about it?  Well, Democrats aren’t perfect on the matter, but I’d argue evidence from the last 3 decades makes a pretty good case that what can be done to improve things is electing Democrats.

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