U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn is back in the state scaring his town hall crowds with partisan and extremist claims about the current federal budget deficit.
According to the Tulsa World, Coburn, Oklahoma’s junior Republican Senator, told an audience in Checotah today that the nation is nearing a “tipping point” when it comes to its financial solvency. Coburn, the newspaper reported, argues the nation has two or three years to turn things around and then, if not, well, it’s all over. Spooky stuff, right?
What Coburn won’t mention is that many economists remain unconcerned about the current deficit and that some, most notably Paul Krugman, think the deficit should be even larger to spur job creation. Coburn also doesn’t mention that markets continue to purchase Treasury bonds at low interest rates, a sure indicator that the private sector remains confident in the nation’s long-term financial health.
Economist Jamie Galbreath, in a recent exchange with Krugman, argues:
The so-called long-term deficit is not a real problem. And the capital markets demonstrate every day that they agree with this judgment, by buying long-term Treasury bonds for historically-low interest rates.
Krugman, a columnist for The New York Times who has won a Nobel Prize in economics, noted in February that “fear-mongering” by Republicans is the reason the country is hearing so much more about deficits. According to Krugman:
The main difference between last summer, when we were mostly (and appropriately) taking deficits in stride, and the current sense of panic is that deficit fear-mongering has become a key part of Republican political strategy, doing double duty: it damages President Obama’s image even as it cripples his policy agenda. And if the hypocrisy is breathtaking – politicians who voted for budget-busting tax cuts posing as apostles of fiscal rectitude, politicians demonizing attempts to rein in Medicare costs one day (death panels!), then denouncing excessive government spending the next – well, what else is new?
Is Coburn employing this fear-mongering strategy? Absolutely, and it’s disingenuous and wrong. It dumbs down the discourse here and works to eliminate critical inquiry. The last thing Coburn or most any other Republican wants this election year is an informed citizenry that uses reason and logic to determine its views.
You may recall that Coburn, who is up for reelection this year, told The Oklahoman editorial board last month that people are “petrified.” Of course, Coburn is one of the reasons people would be petrified since he consistently uses fear and slippery slope arguments to scare people. The newspaper did not note this fact.
Unemployment remains high in the country and the country’s two military occupations continue to drain the budget. State and city governments are cutting services. Teachers are losing their jobs throughout the nation. The federal fiscal stimulus plan did save jobs, but it wasn’t enough.
No one, especially Krugman, is trying to argue all is well with the country’s economy.
But Coburn’s political rhetoric replaces facts and logic with fear and omission. It might well be a winning political strategy here in Oklahoma, but it’s not informative. It’s not the language of leadership; it’s the language of political calculation.