Robert Samuelson on the myths of deficit reduction Robert Samuelson wants to "banish the budget fictions of left and right," he writes in The Washington Post. As the Super Committee determines how to reduce federal deficits, both liberals and conservatives are creating "fictions" to support their preferred policies. Conservatives argue, "We can reduce deficits and cut taxes by eliminating 'wasteful spending.'" Liberals say, "We can subdue deficits and raise social spending by taxing 'the rich' and shrinking the bloated Pentagon." Both make deficit reduction sound relatively painless. On the conservative end, there are, in fact, wasteful government programs which Samuelson thinks should be cut: he cites Amtrak, farm subsidies, and others. Entitlements, too, need trimming. "But plausible savings don't match conservative rhetoric. All the suspect 'discretionary' programs come to tens of billions, not hundreds of billions," and to match the trillions we need to cut, we'd have to look at unthinkable cuts to federal expenditures like the FBI, he writes. Trimming entitlements won't save money, it will just account for the growing pool of beneficiaries. On the liberal end, it is a myth to think that tax increases only on the rich will match our budget deficits. The rich already fund much of the government. Sen. Harry Reid's plan to raise taxes 5.6 percentage points on those making over $1 million would raise $453 billion over 10 years compared with a projected $8.5 trillion deficit. Liberals won't admit that unless social security and Medicare are significantly reduced or restructured, we'll face either huge deficits, huge tax increases, or cuts to discretionary programs. Neither side will do it, but both "need to identify the most justifiable spending cuts -- lots of them -- and the least damaging tax increases, which will still be sizable."
Albert Hunt on electing the non-politician "[O]ver the past century almost no one, save for Herbert Hoover, a disaster, and Dwight D. Eisenhower, ha[s] won the U.S. presidency before serving in another political office," writes Albert Hunt in Bloomberg View. So, he asks, is Herman Cain the next Eisenhower? The idea, he says, is "ludicrous." Cain is simply "the latest avatar of a recurring phenomenon in American politics: The usually short-term appeal of the nonpolitician, the outsider who vows to be different and not play the game by the rules." Yet politics is like a business, Hunt says. Experience should be a prerequisite. We've considered others, from Donald Trump to Wesley Clark and Ross Perot. Yet, "the bubble usually pops once voters try to imagine how this political novice would govern, or serve as commander in chief." Ross Perot had an impact by driving discussion toward reducing the federal deficit, but his difficult personality seemed unfit for the presidency. Cain has risen primarily on the attractive simplicity of his 9-9-9 tax plan and his personality. But on other issues, particularly on foreign policy, he remains too uninformed. He also released an ad with his campaign manager smoking a cigarette, confusing the message he sends about overcoming cancer. "These aren't matters of ideology or principles; they go to knowledge and judgment." People complained that neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama had sufficient experience before taking office, but "the answer to such concerns, if they're genuine, isn't to elect someone with less political experience." Hunt takes a moment to acknowledge that Eisenhower had uniquely strong leadership experience commanding an army and dealing with politically difficult allies through WWII. "There may be another 'non-politician' Eisenhower on the horizon. He or she hasn't surfaced over the last 60 years."