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Michael Hiltzik: The deficit commission's war on the middle class

November 13, 2010 | 10:05 am

Turn on CNBC at any hour of the day, and you'll hear mouthpieces for Wall Street explaining that wealthy individuals and big corporations need more tax breaks so they can "create jobs."

Of course, they have it completely backwards. What creates jobs in the economy is demand. And nothing has sapped demand in the U.S. economy more than the squeeze on the middle class.

Which brings us to the recommendations for reducing the federal deficit released Wednesday by the co-chairs of the National Committee on Fiscal Reform, the egregious Alan Simpson and the Wall-Streeter-in-Democrats'-clothing Erskine Bowles.

As my Sunday column reports, Simpson and Bowles would cut retirement payouts for the middle and working class by gutting Social Security. Lay off 10,000 federal employees. Charge for admission to government museums and federal parks. Add co-pays for veterans' medical care. Cut subsidies for local governments' water and sewer-treatment projects. Eliminate subsidies for public schools. Eliminate federal aid for airport improvements.

Do these proposals really shrink the deficit? They might shrink the federal deficit, but they're bound to expand state and local deficits, and your household deficit. That means less money to spend in the consumer economy, which means less business for the big companies that are being flacked for by those talking heads on CNBC. Nobody has to launch a class war against the wealthy in this country, as CNBC keeps fretting about -- they're perfectly willing to cut their own throats.

The column begins below.


With dismal frequency, popular panics sweep across our social or political landscapes, filling the airwaves and the halls of Congress with irrational fears. Healthcare “death panels,” a  president’s supposed foreign birth … and now, the federal deficit.

Last week, deficit panic gave birth to a set of harsh proposals for federal budget cuts and tax changes from the co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, a bipartisan 18-member panel created this year by President Obama and congressional leaders.

The chairs, former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming and former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, are expert practitioners of deficit panic. They made their proposals public Wednesday as a trial balloon, evidently because it was already plain that the package could never garner the 14 votes needed to make it part of the commission’s formal recommendations, due Dec. 1.

They dressed their plan in the full red, white and blue. “We have a patriotic duty to come together,” they said. Americans must “sacrifice to make our nation stronger.”

Those would be inspiring words had they not come from a couple of chaps who evidently define “patriotism” as something to be paid for by you and me.

Read the whole column.

-- Michael Hiltzik