fully loaded

Kevin Drum seems to think the only solution to what’s puzzling him is that Obama really, truly does want to cut spending. I think that’s right and I think that more importantly the President’s political intution on this is broadly on-target.

Look at the dynamic in DC today – here are two things:

  1. A new Mayor and City Council Chairman were elected and immediately began hiring children of aides and friends, as well as purchasing luxurious cars on the city’s dime.
  2. The city faces a $300m budget gap.

Now these two things, narrowly speaking, have nothing to do with each other – Kwame Brown and Vince Gray did not engage in $300m worth of corrupt or shady-seeming activity. Yet it is definitely making it harder to push higher taxation, rather than reduced spending, as the more preferable option for filling DC’s budget gap. And to the average person this makes perfect sense – why should they pay more money to a government that is wasting money on benefiting the politicians that run it? The fact that what would actually be cut would make DC a worse city to live in has a harder time asserting itself into the debate. Disappointing as it is, how can Kwame Brown take a stand in favor of raising taxes and not look like a shameless bastard?

And this is what I think the President intuits. People are in favor of cutting the government because they think all the money goes to foreign aid and NPR. If you can present the government as being “leaner” and “more efficient” then people will be more inclined to protect it. Conversly (and perversly) this sets up a nasty incentive system for right-wing politicians, who can drag public opinion rightwards by engaging in corruption, which can result in temporary electoral setbacks but short-term personal gain as well as long-term gains in public opinion about the role of governance. So it’s important that people who want the government to collect lots of tax money to pay for health care, etc are also at the forefront of any fight against wasteful or unethical uses of tax dollars.