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View Diary: My Journey as a 9/11 Republican Turned Modern Progressive (263 comments)

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  •  Similarly trending more progressive (3+ / 0-)
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    aguadito, worldlotus, David PA

    I never bought the free-markets-are-always-best rhetoric, but I did willingly (embarrassingly, it turns out)  participate in the deficit hawk movement.

    I thought the deficit scolds had a some very good points -- in the mid-1990s.  The economy was booming, probably near or above potential, unemployment was low, and there wasn't much progress on health costs besides the typical, usually unsustainable and fairly random cuts in payments to health care providers.  Medicare structural changes seemed like a good idea; there weren't another other ideas for health cost control on the table besides unsustainable cuts in reimbursements to health care providers.  Likewise, distributing the short-term budget surpluses (remember those?) by funding personal Social Security private accounts coupled with some future benefit reductions seemed like a plausible, even potentially progressive, approach to keeping future federal costs down.

    But times change.  The economy is now operating far below potential.  We don't know yet if some recent changes in health care economy will be lasting, but there does seem to be some unsteady progress toward lower cost growth.  Some of the elements of Medicare reform discussed in the 1990s are being implemented via the ACA and prior laws and regs (Medicare purchasing more carefully and rewarding good/penalizing bad health care providers; new drug benefits; more options for private alternative plans).  Finally, we can't distribute long-gone federal surpluses to cushion future cuts in Social Security.

    Last decade's growth, mediocre as it was, was based on some investments (exotic financial machinations; suburban sprawl and greenfields paving, homeland security complex) that will not likely aid productivity much going forward.  The nation's main superficially efficiency-improving investment of the last decade (fossil fuel extraction by fracking) may turn out be devastating environmentally (productivity gains from lower energy costs likely offset by costs of localized water pollution and on a broad scale from droughts, floods etc. resulting from higher carbon emissions).  So on a broader scale, not efficient at all.

    The country needs to reinvest in sustainable community building, smarter transport, local agriculture etc.  Austerity is not appropriate now, and we have more immediate problems to handle before worrying about the potential future cost of social insurance programs, especially with Medicare costs, at least temporarily, growing slowly.   At this point, Republicans need a completely new vision to attract intelligent support -- their anti-regulation and austerity policies have failed on the ground, and their (anti) social insurance and (regressive) tax policies have been exposed as more about (upward) income redistribution and class warfare than fiscal stewardship or economic growth.

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