The spectacle of Democrats and Republicans arguing about who is to "blame" for the "failure" of the "Supercommittee" is certainly tempting for many partisans. But any progressive who participates in the spectacle risks attacking their own interests to the degree that they promote the implicit assumption that the public interest would have been better served if the Super Committee had reached a deal.
We shouldn't be arguing about who is to "blame" for this development. We should be arguing about who should be awarded credit for this best-plausible-outcome.
We should, to borrow a phrase from Monty Python, be dancing on the Super Committee's grave, singing Halleluyah.
Who should get the Academy Award? The AFL-CIO? The Strengthen Social Security Campaign? The Tea Party? All of the above?
Indeed, it was a de facto coalition between the AFL-CIO and its friends and the Tea Party and its friends which again defeated the cruel plan of the extreme center to trade Social Security cuts and raising the Medicare retirement age for a relatively meaningless increase on the tax rates paid by rich people.
Why meaningless? Because tax rates raised today can easily be lowered in the future. Cutting Social Security benefits by changing the cost-of-living formula and raising the Medicare retirement age are forever.
From the point of view of the national aspirations of the indigenous people of the United States, what was the right price to charge for Manhattan Island? Surely the answer is: there was no right price. Cash is ephemeral. Control of territory could be forever.
Similarly, there is no amount of increasing taxes on rich people that can compensate low-income workers for cutting their Social Security benefits and taking away their access to Medicare.
Ordinarily, I think of myself as a card-carrying liberal. But lately, I'm getting the feeling that Liberal America had a meeting to decide on our current priorities and peace advocates weren't invited. I open my email and it's full of rallying cries about the urgency of taxing the rich. When was it decided that taxing the rich was the marquee demand of Liberal America at this juncture? Were peace advocates invited to this meeting? I see no evidence that we were.
In a different political juncture, I would be happy to march behind the banner of taxing the rich. But at this political juncture, when the war budget is half of federal discretionary spending, and when because of the Budget Control Act and the Supercommittee, we have a historic opportunity to cut the war budget - a much better prospect, at present, than our prospects for raising tax rates on rich people - I ain't marching for this dogwhistle anymore.
Suppose there were a massive government program to dump truckloads of dioxin in Lake Michigan. And suppose that - in addition to the direct effects of poisoning a major source of drinking water - this program were tremendously expensive in blood and treasure. Suppose that since October 7, 2001, more than five thousand American workers had been killed carrying out the Lake Michigan-poisoning project, with tens of thousands of American workers counted as wounded, and the real toll of wounded American workers many times higher. And suppose that the budgeted cost so far of the massive government program to dump poison in Lake Michigan were over a trillion dollars so far, with the real financial cost to society, when you count things like the future health costs of the poisoned American workers, much higher.
Would the marquee demand of Liberal America be to make Warren Buffett pay his fair share for the Lake Michigan-poisoning program? Or would the marquee demand of Liberal America be to stop dumping poison in Lake Michigan?