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Austerity is in vogue

(L-R) U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), U.S. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) participate in a Joint Deficit Reduction Committee hearing October 26, 2011 in Washington, DC.

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Kai Ryssdal: These are not the best of times to be a member of the United States Congress. Just 13 percent of us approve of our duly elected representatives. But it's arguably an even worse time to be a member of the congressional super committee, the dozen lawmakers who've got the unenviable tasks of cutting the deficit by $1.2 trillion -- by Thanksgiving.

They're being hounded by lobbyists, their own party leaders and colleagues, and now the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, and a bipartisan group of others who's saying just $1.2 trillion? Bloomberg and the rest want a much bigger package, maybe $3 trillion or $4 trillion in cuts.

The National Journal reports Bloomberg's hosting a "Go Big" dinner party this weekend, as Washington comes to terms with a new economic term. Marketplace's David Gura reports.


David Gura: You know what's all the rage here, in D.C.? It's austerity.

Dean Baker: Oh yeah, I mean, there's an absolute obsession.

That's economist Dean Baker. He hasn't bought into the "Go Big" hype that some lawmakers and pundits have. You won't see him in one of their videos.

Last month, 60 people wrote a letter (PDF) to the super committee, saying we have to bring down the deficit now; that entitlement programs are unsustainable and our credit rating is on the line.

Baker says, "Hold on a sec." First, the government should spend to create jobs and fix our short-term problem. Then it can deal with the deficit.

Bob Bixby disagrees. As head of the The Concord Coalition, he's been sounding the alarm about the deficit for decades.

Bob Bixby: I think you can walk and chew gum at the same time when it comes to the budget.

Bixby signed that letter to the super committee.

Bixby: It is entirely consistent to be talking about measures that will help the economy in the short-term, or at least not harm it, while at the same time enacting long-term deficit reduction measures.

The trouble is, that it sounds contradictory. Jim Kessler's with Third Way, a centrist think tank.

Jim Kessler: Boy, that's a hard message to sell. Like, we need to really reduce the deficit, but we've got to spend more right now.

Kessler says he believes that you can do both, but Congress isn't getting that nuance. The message is "Go Big" -- or go home.

In Washington, I'm David Gura for Marketplace.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.
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My oversight: I didn’t click for further info. (The Committee for Responsible Federal, etc). A non-partisan or bipartisan committee? No wonder the country’s going to hell in a handbasket.

Going Big, with Propaganda:
You see what happens to media without a Fairness Doctrine? At the very least, MarketPlace should voluntarily disclose the source of the video in this piece. Who sponsored it? It pretends to say something, but in fact says nothing. The budget deficit and our debt have been issues for decades. Judging from the tone of immediacy in these conservatives’ call for fiscal responsibility, I have to conclude that they’re not talking about downsizing the military or defense contracting, nor increasing taxes as an answer to the problem. I agree that this is a major concern, and has been for over a generation; that’s why we need to restore Glass-Steagall immediately (and should never have repealed it in the first place), separate investment and commercial banking, require that banks write down not only existing toxic assets (with investors taking the losses), but those in the making that promise to take down whole governments, along with the institutions that provide the basic social services necessary to sustain them.

Austerity should begin at the TOP. It is easy for lawmakers, business leaders, tenured academics, and senior government officials to advocate austerity. They will not feel it personally. Neither will any of their well connected families and friends.
That is why it is all the more important to make sure that Austerity begins at the top, so such demands reflect genuine need and not hypocritical serf-bashing by the well off.

Some banks may be too big to fail, but their LEADERS are not.
They should lose their jobs, be banned from finance or any corporate leadership position for at least 10 years, face massive personal fines that impovrish them, and possible jail time. When individual bank leaders recognize that their personal skins are at risk, you will start to see some serious attention to preventing future malfeasance.
When the elite corportate and government leaders start to personally experience poverty, unemployment, inability to provide for their families, the humiliating loss of their social networks and friencds, and face personal austerity, we will begin to see JUSTICE for the millions of innocent hard working Americans and Europeans whose lives they have destroyed for personal gain.

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