Gregg Easterbrook

McChrystal ‘scandal’ is phony

June 23, 2010

McChrystalWashington, D.C., is the world capital of phony. Even by Washington’s low standards, the Stanley McChrystal “scandal” now in progress gives phoniness a bad name.

June 23, 2010

POINTS THAT DIDN’T QUITE MAKE THE MAIN COLUMN:

* The 1981 controversy regarding OMB director David Stockman’s comments to The Atlantic involved genuine points of policy. President Ronald Reagan had said supply-side economics, and supply-side tax cuts, were fundamentally intended to help the poor: Stockman told The Atlantic that everyone in the White House knew supply-side was a gift to the rich – that White House rhetoric was “a Trojan horse” to conceal what the Republican Party’s wealthy donors wanted. Top-rate income tax reduction may have been justified, but that’s a separate issue from whether the president was being honest with the public. Compared to the dustup over McChrystal, the Stockman controversy was substantive.
* The 1951 firing of Douglas MacArthur involved policy disagreements and statements far worse than a worst-case reading of the Obama-McChrystal situation. MacArthur publicly accused President Harry Truman of advocating “appeasement and defeatism” regarding China, attempted to order his units into military actions that civilian leadership had forbidden, and demanded the Korean War end with China surrendering to him personally – the latter suggesting MacArthur had come unglued.
Truman made himself seem weak by flying out to Wake Island to meet MacArthur, rather than recalling him to the White House. It’s a long trip from Washington to Wake Island even today, via jet; imagine doing this in a prop plane, for the convenience of your disobedient general. In the White House, the president has the home-field advantage. Barack Obama was right to meet McChrystal there.
*Wasn’t there some kind of oil spill? The McChrystal confabulation gives BP a few days’ vacation from the front page. “They will never forget you/till somebody else comes along,” as the song goes. And we’ve already forgotten who BP pushed off the front page — Toyota and Goldman Sachs. Sources tell me Toyota sent BP a big box of fancy chocolates, while Goldman Sachs sent flowers and a card that reads, “BP, luv u 4-ever! {signed} Goldy S.”
* This sort-of-scandal needs a name, and the “XXXX-gate” formulation is exhausted. Propose your names for the scandal using the reader comment space below.

June 17, 2010

POINTS THAT DIDN’T QUITE MAKE THE MAIN COLUMN:

*“We need additional federal relief because our state constitution requires a balanced budget.” Governors often say this as a way of rationalizing giveaway demands. In effect they are saying – because my rules forbid me to be responsible for my bills, you must pay for me. I think I’ll try this argument with the waiter next time I’m out to dinner!

Stop bailing out the states

June 17, 2010

Most states’ fiscal years are ending, accompanied by what is becoming an annual ritual – demands that Washington bail out state and local deficits.  In 2008 and 2009, federal taxpayers covered for the featherbedding and corruption at the local level by awarding state and local governments a total of about $275 billion in bonus payments. Right now on Capitol Hill, state and local governments are demanding a fresh $50 billion round of bailout checks.

Congress’ “emergency” spending is out of control

June 10, 2010

After listening to President Barack Obama call for fiscal restraint in his State of the Union Address this January, the United States Senate imposed the “paygo” rule on itself – no new expenditures unless offset by an equal amount of spending cuts or raised taxes. In the five months since vowing no new spending based on debt, the United States Senate has also voted for $400 billion in new spending that was added to the federal debt. Right now the Senate is debating adding another $80 billion or so in new spending based on borrowing.

Slimmer wallets, richer lives?

June 2, 2010

For at least a generation, commentators have declared that Americans buy too much and borrow too much, chaining themselves on a stressful treadmill of work-and-spend. Wouldn’t it be nice, this thinking went, if we learned to buy a little less and save a little more. Maybe then we’d be happy.