More Reading to Bring Good Cheer (Debt-Ceiling Dept.)

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1) In the latest issue of the New York Review of Books, Elizabeth Drew on how our current moment may look in retrospect:

>>Someday people will look back and wonder, What were they thinking? Why, in the midst of a stalled recovery, with the economy fragile and job creation slowing to a trickle, did the nation's leaders decide that the thing to do--in order to raise the debt limit, normally a routine matter--was to spend less money, making job creation all the more difficult?...

Lawrence Summers, Obama's recently resigned chief economic adviser, said on The Charlie Rose Show in July that he found it "dispiriting" that "all of the energy is on the projected deficits...when the problem right now is that the economy is in danger of stagnating from lack of demand." The Republicans had made it clear for months that they would use the need to raise the debt ceiling as an instrument for extracting concessions from the Democratic President in the form of more cuts in federal programs. And the President assented to their premise, but only if there should also be some additional revenues. Were they all insane? That's not a far-fetched question.<<

Whole article worth reading.

2) Two weeks ago, on Weekend All Things Considered, the program began with a special retrospect on the budget-cuts and deficit-fighting crusade of 1937. The segment's title: "When a Turn Toward Austerity Turned to Disaster." From the NPR summary:

>>Four years into Franklin Roosevelt's first presidential term, the worst of the Great Depression seemed behind him. Massive jolts of New Deal spending had stopped the economic slide, and the unemployment rate was cut from 22 percent to less than 10 percent.

"People felt that there was momentum," U.S. Senate historian Donald Ritchie tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered. "Finally, there was the light at the end of the tunnel."

So Roosevelt, on the advice of his conservative Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, decided to tackle the country's exploding deficits....<<

Or more simply put, What were they thinking? And as for what happened next ... well, you know, but whole segment worth listening to.

Or you could go have a beer or take a run or something.

3) UPDATE: And, if you'd like to see the alternative view, in which the deal is really a victory for 18-dimensional chess strategy on Obama's part, you can see it at The Liberal Lamppost. Central points: no big Medicare/Medicaid/Pell/Soc Sec cuts; leverage for Dems in the next tax fight (since "Bush tax cuts" will expire unless explicitly renewed); in theory the big "triggered" cuts would come from defense. Doesn't change my mind but for the record there it is.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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