The Debt Indulgence

The Wisconsin vote will be revealing for what it says about the public’s willingness to reverse course on our built-up tolerance of debt.

Comments: 189

  1. Wisconsin has nothing to do with debt. States don't run deficits.

    You are changing the subject. Wisconsin is about the balance of political power. Will big money entirely kill unions? Will employees be driven further down? How much can the richest among us get away with?

    This governor was tape recorded talking about starting a riot he could blame on his opponents, with a big money man who was to pay for the violence and lies. This is about the extreme abuse of money as power in our society. How much can they get away with? It's a test.

  2. It is indeed a "test".
    Republican Governors, such as Gov. Walker have agendas that go far beyond the concerns of their particular states.
    The agendas also go far beyond the concerns of Brooks regarding deficits, or whatever he happens to choose as the topic of the moment to belabor.

    Walker is a portent of things to come - given the centralized control of the Republican Party and its operatives dedicated to the of, by, and for their monied interests - their actual controllers.

    Walker, as is Romney, is nothing more than a front man for the existing and controlling cabal that remains in the shadowy background. Both these persons are not leaders, but simply followers.

    There is an attack on our country going on from within. One could even call it "a vast right-wing conspiracy". And it has been around for some time now.

  3. You all; do a great job; I hope you keep exposing the crooks and manipulators.

    I think I give you all a Teddy Roosevelt Cheer !!!!

  4. One could go further and state that the debate about the U.S. Federal debt has nothing to do with debt.

    The national debate is merely the customary bait and switch scare tactic used by Republicans to justify massive cuts in government spending on some things that benefit some people while shamelessly channeling a deluge of money to other things that benefit other people.

    Why else would Mr. Brooks attempt to link the Wisconsin recall--which, as you rightly point out, has NOTHING to do with debt--to the federal spending?

  5. "It will be a signal that voters are, indeed, unwilling to tolerate tough decisions to reduce debt." It will be a signal of that or it may be taken as a signal of that? What happened to the other issues so thoughtfully included, like method and partisanship and fairness in shouldering the burden of reducing budgets? Couldn't people cast their vote against Gov. Walker on these grounds, too? Or are we assuming that issues concerning the ends are always more important than issues concerning the means?

  6. Without a healthy middle class you can reduce public debt until Doomesday and you will never have a healthy society, let alone a healthy economy. The Republicans, starting with the sainted Reagan (let us pray), have been the main culprits for the massive increases in the federal deficit. Mr. Brooks wants to rewrite the laws of simple arithmetic. Scott Walker is outspending his opponent by a ratio of about 7 to 1. Where do you think the money is coming from? Most of the money is from out of state. Mr. Brooks always attempts to come across as the quiet, reserved, intellectual conservative, using his mastery of the English language to lull the unsuspecting reader into thinking how rational he sounds, how unassuming and fair minded he appears to be. What Mr. Brooks either denies or ignores, willfully or not, is the fact that sometimes the answer does not require florid prose, but rather simple common sense. Corporations do not spend millions of dollars without expecting a payback for their money. Scott Walker is attempting to break the public service unions. If he is successful, it will be another nail in the coffin for all unions, public or private, and a clear signal the middle class is on the way to extinction.

  7. Well said!
    Unfortunately, so many see the unions as being a separate side in the discussion - big business, the unions, and the little guy. They don't understand that big business wants to perpetuate this illusion (which even some union members swallow.) Once organized support of basic worker rights and a livable wage is gone - Katy bar the door on the middle class in this country.

  8. Actually, I have to disagree with you, Kevin. David Brooks has seldom demonstrated anything but sophistry in his columns. Selective history, selective facts, selective memory -- trademark, I would say. Honestly, I learn a lot about history, facts, and precedents by reading the rebuttals to his film-flam than reading the film-flam itself. That's the real reward, trust me. Sometimes I wonder why he has a column at all, for they all seem to to be nascent (and implicit) compliments to privilege. I can't be the only one that sees through his chicanery.

  9. I rarely agree with Brooks. He is frustrating to read. But the one thing we have to acknowledge is that a lot of promises were made to government employees regarding retirement and health benefits that could only be sustained in vibrant healthy economy. When that didn't turn out, the taxpayers are still stuck with the government pensions. What Brooks doesn't point out is that government workers are willing to renegotiate the health and pension benefits.

  10. This column has so many deceptive twists and turns and dead ends, it's hard to know where to start. But here goes:

    If Walker wins, it will be because he outspent his challenger nearly seven to one, thanks to his true constituents: the Koch Brothers and other billionaires. He was caught on film bragging to one billionaire donor named Diane Hendricks about using a divide and conquer technique to destroy the working class -- the stale old tactic of pitting the private sector against public employees. Hendricks herself paid zero taxes last year. Naturally.

    Voters, as shown in poll after poll, do not care about the deficit. They care about jobs. Borrowing costs are at record low levels, so for governments not to borrow, right now, to invest in programs to grow the economy would not only be stupid, it would be political malpractice. Read Paul Krugman.

    If Walker saved any money, he did so by robbing the workers to give to the rich. His claims of fiscal responsibility have been rated only "half-true" by Politifact, and they were being generous. Details here:

    http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2012/jan/29/scott-walker/...

    Finally, Walker's days in office may be numbered even if he survives the recall. David Shuster of Current TV has reported that Walker is the target of a federal probe, related to alleged malfeasance in his county executive days. There's a 50-50 chance that "Perp Walker" will be the next big TV hit.

  11. To further elaborate, the $3.6 billion deficit starting point referred to by Mr. Brooks needs clarification. It is easy to assume that this deficit is the cost of continuing existing programs into the next budget cycle. It is not. In Wisconsin it reflects the continuing cost of existing programs PLUS the wish list of spending increases that state agencies include in the budget requests they submit to the Governor.

    Wisconsin governors generally fund only a fraction of agency wish lists, but like to count them in the deficit total to make their budget balancing act seem all the more miraculous. It is also worth noting that the starting point for Gov. Walker's first budget was the requests submitted by agency heads appointed by the prior, democratic, administration-even more reason for Walker to ignore them.

    Of the $3.6 billion reported deficit, $2 billion was accounted for by the prior administration's wish lists. Walker's decisions for two agencies alone eliminated almost half this deficit. He turned the combined $746 million increase requested for K-12 education and the University of Wisconsin System into a $1 billion cut, a savings of $1.7 billion.

    The impact these cuts will have on the future quality of Wisconsin's educational system remains to be seen. Not surprisingly, Walker's ads are silent on the fallout of his budget balancing tactics.

  12. Very nice write-up and I do admire your research skills, as well as your attention to detailed facts and their well-thought-out presentation.

    As we get closer to the November election I do hope that you will cease the belaboring of President Obama on ......... just about everything. We do have a system of "checks and balances", so the real power of the President is somewhat limited. (Actually the system was designed so that this would be the case. Fie on King George III.)
    For all the obvious reasons Obama must win this election, as the Romney alternative is far too grim to contemplate.

    It is the Congress that is currently greatly dysfunctional. Also the preponderance of Republican Governors, such as Gov. Walker have agendas that go far beyond the concerns of their particular states.

    Similar detailed analysis applied to Republican candidates for the House and the Senate is a useful course of action we should all endeavor to supply at every opportunity. Congress is "where the canker gnaws".
    As the Congress goes, so goes the nation. And this can be applied to every state in the union, as well.
    Let us hope that it begins with the recall of "Perp Walker".

  13. I totally agree, Karen. And this is the latest...

    An email this morning from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin adds another perspective on Walker. It says that "Walker supporters are sending out robo-calls telling people that if they have signed a recall petition they do not need to vote." Voting is the responsibility and privilege of every citizen. This is as low as anyone can go to try to win an election.

  14. Cleverly disguising the real intents and motives behind a partisan campaigning to support the Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on his Recall vote, and by extension, the Republican party agenda along with its presidential candidate Romney, is neither a sign of intellectual honesty, nor a bold open political posturing, as David Brooks seems exhibiting by equating individual indebtedness with that of the state, subjecting both to the same remedial course For, while the individual habits of borrowing or an abhorrence to that, far from depending on the considerations of security /insecurity in life, rather shaped by the prevailing socio-cultural milieu and outside influences, it's the common public good considerations, like the security needs, imperatives of social security and development, and the obligations arising out of the past financial profligacy and indebtedness, that actually dictate the borrowing needs of state, as the US President Obama seems to be doing in the context of the Bush era financial profligacy, and the financial crisis let loose by the US corporate recklessness. Finally, since when the middle classes and the labour unions have become the special interest groups to be dealt with the Scott Walker-manner harsh measures and curbing, as being enthusiastically propagated by David Brooks? So neither the Wisconsin vote on Governor Walker, nor the November vote for Romney by no means could be treated as the American voter's choice for or against the debt.

  15. Wow, thank you, Prof. Sharma, for your insightful analysis. Also thank you for mentioning that it is usually Republican administration profligacy that increases the debt which then somehow gets blamed on Democrats. Where was the righteous conservative concern about the debt when the Bush administration was waging 2 (!) wars while continuing to cut taxes?

  16. Professor; again thank you for persistantly taking up the cause for democrac y.

    India is a Democracy and God Bless India as well as the USA.

    Please persevere with your writing for the cause of a true democracy.

    I am grateful for your comments.

    We like you extricated ourselves from the British; however we are grateful for their ideals as you are.

  17. The simple truth is that if Walker wins, we will see politicians follow the money even more slavishly than they already do. That isn't a partisan issue, its the real political challenge of the 21st century. Will self-rule devolve into rule by and for the concentration of wealth? It appears so.

  18. It is past the time; but not too late to label and expose the cronies to the plutocrats who want to rule the USA.

    In Minnesota: who are they????

    In NY;: I say Chuck Schumer. We have to do lur homework State by State. You Minnesota; Me New York.
    Do Not Give UP ; Why you will lose your shirt if you do!!!

  19. Mr. Brooks shows his ignorance again, this time about state politics. Scott Walker's "balancing" of the state budget is nothing special. He did it like every other Wisconsin Governor has done because he had to. The state Constitution requires it.

    Walker brought the budget into balance in two ways. First, he went back on his campaign promise to use Generally Accepted Accounting Principles in determining whether the budget is balanced. Instead, Walker used the much more lenient cash-flow approach to calculating the budget.

    Second, Walker balanced the budget on the back of education ($2.6 billion cut), teachers, health care ($500 million cut), and on seniors and working families who saw their taxes increase by $70 million. At the same time, Walker provided $93.8 million in corporate tax cuts to businesses that didn't need them.

    What is really at stake in Wisconsin on Tuesday is democracy. After Walker launched his ideological attacks on working people in Wisconsin, nearly 1 million Wisconsinites signed petitions to recall Walker. Walker has now spent more than $28 million, more than 70% from out of state and much of it from billionaires, trying to stay in power, yet the race with Tom Barrett is a virtual tie. On Tuesday, we will see if the people of Wisconsin can trump the out-of-state billionaires by recalling Mr. Walker and electing Barrett as Governor.

    http;//www.winningprogressive.org

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Winning-Progressive/195682780442236

  20. I was waiting for someone to comment that Walker first made the deficit much worse by giving big tax breaks to corporations, so he could justify draconion cuts to programs benefiting the general populace. Brooks certainly didn't mention it and makes a bogus argument with this column. Thank you.

  21. So public unions spending money that they gathered from teachers at gunpoint (aka, union dues) during election time is "democracy" but private businesses giving money to candidates isn't?

    And keep in mind that the NY Times is a corporation that promulgates speech, much like your much-hated Super PACS.

  22. no, he's showing his mendacity.

  23. Do you ever wonder, Mr. Brooks, why Clinton left us in surplus in 2000, and why are we now in debt,since, trillions of dollars ?

  24. Of course he doesn't. David Brooks just repeats the Republican talking points that firing teachers and otherwise cutting public budgets somehow amounts to debt reduction when it's been proven over and over that it actually increases the debt by depressing the economy further.

    Republicans love to use these vapid analogies about how a government is just like a family and when either one overspends their budget, it's a good idea to cut back on spending. If you wanted to use simplistic analogies like that, a better one would be to say that calling for budget cuts in the depths of a depression is like seeing a family in financial trouble, and telling them that they should all quit their jobs.

    The level of government spending has actually dropped dramatically recently. Brooks is confused by the fact that spending for social safety nets goes up during a period when with high unemployment, not because anyone decided to spend more money but because the programs already in place have more recipients who need their help. Even including that however, public spending is down, not up.

    The straw man nature of David Brooks' argument has to do with his acceptance of the claims that any reduction in government spending right now is actually a serious move to reduce deficits. It's not, it reduces economic activity, brings in far less tax revenue as a result, and actually increases the debt. If you want proof, just look at Europe.

  25. Hmm. The Reagan peace dividend and ensuing tech bubble? 9/11 and it's associated Homeland Security deficit spending pulled us out of the tech bubble's collapse.

  26. Beethy, the 'surplus' was on the annual operating account. The debt continued to rise. We needed to have Clinton+Newt in power for 20-30 years to get rid of the debt......

  27. You have potentially opened a can of gnats which will be acknowledged by writers who will selectively use their take on their facts to present their point of view to suit their political opinions. Predictable indeed and a hard sell on a nationwide basis in the prevailing political climate in an election year.

    The theme of your essay is excessive debt and, as you aptly describe it, the profound cultural shift. Fifty years ago, before credit cards became either widely used or their wide acceptance had become general they were used simply as a convenient substitute for carrying cash and had not yet become either a personal loan office or supposed private piggy bank. In the interim, the explosion of credit card debt most certainly changed the value system which we seniors were raised on. And not for the better. Add to that the demand for homes of triple the square footage of those most of us were raised in and the cultural change became embedded.

    That politicians reacted to that trend and saw no reason to desist as they loaded ear marks and political pork projects on bills, federal and state alike. The national debt will have reached $16 Trillion by the end of 2012, nearly $6 Trillion of it under the care of the current administration. Cultural change again.

    Excess has become the accepted norm at every level of society whereas personal responsibility has gone by the wayside and denigrated when it is even mentioned. That politicians are no longer held to account is sad.

  28. You know the old saying -- poor people are crazy, rich people are merely eccentric. It applies to "debt" as well. Poor people are leaches and deadbeats when they ask for more public spending on health care, minimum wage, or food assistance, while rich people are job creators and entrepreneurs when they ask for more public spending on tax cuts for themselves and reductions in economic and environmental regulation. They both cause debt but it seems the former has taken center stage in attacks by Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, and John Boehner, not to mention every major corporation CEO and Fox News. If the poor and middle class can manage to give up some of the spending they depend on why is it Walker, Ryan, Boehner, the CEOs, and Fox News absolutely will not give up one dime of the spending they depend on? I agree with Mr. Brooks that debt is a problem. We just disagree greatly on whose spending and subsequent debt is the problem, and what steps need to be taken to address the problem.

  29. Let's consider the possibility that Mr. Brooks always begins with his conclusions (ruinous debt caused by amoral poor folks who spend beyond their means) and works backwards to find justifications. This seems too often to be the case. A simpler and truer explanation is that the disparity of wealth in this country has been so great that politicians are shamelessly bought, sold and traded by immensely wealthy folk who use them to twist the law and tax code in their favor. O, the mystery of the national debt! A few moneychangers in the temple scoop up all the treasure, while producing NOTHING. and the serfs labor away at low paying jobs that barely sustain them, washing limos and shining shoes. I am the offspring of blue collar parents, a dad who went to war in 1941 and a mom who stayed home with my sister and I. They couldn't afford college for me, but with work-study, and veterans' benefits I managed to finish in 14 years. And became an educator, and joined the union, and the union was the only thing that kept the best teachers from walking away to better paying jobs. The point? Fairness is essential to democracy and a workable social order. The right wing in this country sneer that we are becoming "like Europe"> If they mean the Europe of the 17th century, they are correct.

  30. Yes Bryan, it truly is a shame that the politicians have changed. They used to be so honest and upstanding (especially the Republicans!) I also long for the simpler days when Norman Rockwell painted the canvas of our daily lives, and Mr. Smith went to Washington.

  31. People are ready to take tough choices, if they believe, they are equilibrated.
    As american politics tends to rely on grudge and foster envy and polarisation, there is no place for a common ground anymore.

  32. In other words, not so different from German politics, which in many instances feels even more polarized and ideologically driven, sometimes in defiance of all logic.

  33. David, when Republicans are ready to take on America's debt problem, they will allow Bush's 'temporary' tax cuts to expire, be willing to further shrink the American military, and agree to at least a public option, if not a full-fledged single payer healthcare system. Until then, their talk amounts to sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    I often wonder, what did the former Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe during WWII know about sacrifice and commitment to country that today's conservatives do not know? Why did the man who knew what it meant to send young American boys to die on Omaha Beach refuse to significantly lower marginal tax rates during his 8 years as President? Why did he choose to instead invest in America? Did Ike love America more than today's Tea Party conservatives? You bet he did.

    Also, given that pro-oligarchy forces in Wisconsin are outspending their opposition by 7 to 1 ratio, a vote to keep Walker tonight will amount to nothing more than the triumph of Citizens United, and the worst government that money can buy.

  34. The unfunded liability of Social Security and Medicare is together over $100T. There is no tax increase or budget cut in the military that will begin to make a dent in this issue. On the current track, the interest on the debt will within 5 years exceed DOD's budget. Government run healthcare is exemplified by Medicare, a totally broken system with $70T in unfunded liability. There are ZERO controls on cost and anybody associated with that system can instantly see the incredible waste, fraud and abuse. A government run plan will surely result in a panel of government employees deciding what care you get and rationing of care just as in the UK now.

  35. You do understand these are separate issues right?

    You can oppose the bush tax cuts, support single payer. Used to be, you could even be a Democratic politician and not be a complete shill for self-dealing government union workers.

    Like FDR. A big supporter of private sector unions, but completely unsupportive of public sector unions. There is no right to collective bargaining for government workers other than what states allow.

    BTW, your 7-1 ratio spending ratio is a complete lie as it considers only at the general election campaign budget and ignores the tens of millions of dollars unions dumped into the market during this unprecedented recall effort. And how much taxpayer time has been spent by employees working on this campaign?

    This is part of the spin being put out now in case of a loss. But the real news is that any politician can overcome such an entrenched and well funded special interests as AFSCME and the NEA.

  36. Agree 100% with all you have said.

  37. Mr. Brooks again makes tenuous arguments and false conclusions to make a biased point.
    The notion that less insecurity about health, economic well-being, and natural calamities is responsible for a greater propensity for personal and public debt is so ridiculous it does not warrant further comment. Americans willingness to increase their personal debt is due to a concerted campaign on the part of "free enterprise" so as to keep profit "growth" going. The propensity for all governments to increase public debt is due to the nature of the political beast - it is politically impossible to "take away" and politically expeditious to "give". That, for example, is the fallacy of Prof. Krugman's argument that in economic downturns the government needs to spend, because the collateral to that, that in economic boom times the government needs to save, never happens.
    As for Gov. Walker, he made a political gamble that by attacking the unions and pandering to the Tea Party extremists, rather than finding a consensus in order to make necessary cuts, he would solidify his power. That gamble has backfired and the only hope is that whoever replaces Gov. Walker will attack the state deficit problem more even-handedly. I am not a fan of public employee unions who obtain excessive advantages by what often amounts to black mail. However, to ignore offers by that union to scale back their demands, and instead outlaw the very existence of these unions, is a political power-plaw, pure and simple.

  38. I actually agree with David's idea that more personal security /could/ increase demand for debt. There are two competing effects here: consumption smoothing (more debt) and risk-aversion (less debt).

    A person who is more secure would demand less consumption smoothing and also be less risk-averse. Depending on the strength of each effect, the net result could be more debt or less debt -- it's ambiguous. So more data would be nice, but we shouldn't dismiss the idea out of hand.

  39. "because the collateral to that, that in economic boom times the government needs to save, never happens.".
    But it did happen, at the end of the Clinton era, when we had a surplus, which was then quickly eradicated by the next Republican president, who frittered it all away. I have often wondered, how things would have turned out if we had continued then to aggressively balance the budget by maintaining the prevalent tax rates and paying off our debt instead. That may even have made a dent in the nations exploding obesity problem, another sign of growing decadence.
    There is much the fall of Rome can still teach us.

  40. I agree with your comment but want to point out that you are wrong about Paul Krugman's argument "because in economic boom times the government needs to save, never happens." It did happen under Clinton.

  41. All these states talking about their economic miracle while railing against Obama shows how difficult it is to have an intelligent discussion. Of course, you can turn your budget around when the government is running up debt keeping the economy going while you cut government.

    The collective bargaining situation was dishonest when Walker took away from certain unions and protected.

  42. Mr. Brooks is contriving a false linkage with his "If Walker wins it means this...If Walker loses it means that...." Obviously because Walker is looking like a winner, and Brooks wants to associate that with the Euro-Austerity plan of the EU, which he favors for the U.S. despite the miserable results across the pond.

    Mr. Walker was an unpleasant and underhanded politician who decided to bully a subset of the population. That does not sit well with the invariably friendly and fair folks of Wisconsin. Reading much more into it than that is a stretch. And making declarations about the firm meaning of the results, as does this column, is just plain silly.

  43. Mr. Brooks begins at the wrong end. Debtors could too easily borrow because creditors had more money than they knew what to do with. Creditors lent their excess money, excess because they had no good use for it, to people who well might not be able to repay them. It took years of advertising to persuade most Americans to start using credit cards, so it is beginning at the wrong end to criticize them for going into debt. It started with those who made debt easy and attractive and modern and by no means shameful. It was good business for them, and it was mainly good for everybody, since it increased demand and enabled many jobs to be created.

    Some of this lending was abetted by the very profitable profession of making bad investments look better than they were, a profession preserved and enhanced by (purchased) government fecklessness. But that is another issue.

    If the common people had not been offered this opportunity and persuaded to take advantage of it, investors would have put their money into . . . real estate, the stock market, or collectibles, creating and popping bubbles that did little for the economy as a whole. Getting the common people to borrow meant a growing market for what they were borrowing to buy, and jobs for them supplying that market.

    There are not enough good investments to fund the retirement of everyone who wants/needs to retire, so it will not work for everyone to fund their own retirement through savings (even if they could).

  44. If the pension promises should not have been made because they were unaffordable, this implies that we cannot afford to keep retired state employees with the standard of living they had been expecting in their golden years. Many private enterprise employees do not expect this standard of living if (not when) they retire, so reducing their standard of living is not such a problem.

    Supposedly no country is going to be able to afford a secure and dignified retirement for all (even for those who worked in low-paying jobs). So instead of trying, we throw in the towel and let individuals and the market determine who lives with dignity and security, and who lives without. American exceptionalism.

    If we are going to get rid of exorbitant middle-class benefits at the expense of the public good, we should also be cutting back on exorbitant corporate and upper-class benefits. Actually, since they have been doing so well in comparison to the rest of us for the last generation, they should go first. If they set a real example, most of us will follow and do our share.

  45. 1. Allowing politicians

    2. To make multi-billion dollar promises

    3. On behalf of taxpayers/ voters 30 years in the future

    4. To the largest single donors in his campaign, highly organized special interests who hundreds of millions a year and in turn receive tens of billions in benefits.

    5. Donors who are also workers, and are able to take the unfunded pension promise to the bank today using their lien on future taxpayers.

    How does this dynamic result in anything other than massive debt and bankruptcy?

    This is why FDR opposed public sector unions. It is simply incompatible with the presumption (except among the soft-headed and completely naive) that government workers and pols are acting in the public interest.

    Public sector unions are a recent fad that picked up strength in the 1970's. Their supposed "rights" to collective bargain are just rules created by the states. Some states created very stupid rules that helped pols and unions team up against the naive taxpayer. Now these states (CA, IL, NY, NJ) are all effectively bankrupt and losing population and business with the highest tax rates in the USA.

    Yes. It will be a watershed moment if the tide of debt and political self dealing is turned back.

  46. Mr. Scott writes "Mr. Brooks begins at the wrong end. Debtors could too easily borrow because creditors had more money than they knew what to do with. Creditors lent their excess money, excess because they had no good use for it"

    Right on the, uh, money. The (.) 1% have way too much money on their hands. Let's take it away!

  47. I find it amazing that the Republicans and writers of that ilk, become deficit hawks when a Democrat is in the White House. The last three Republican presidents ran up the largest deficits since WWII and everything was peachy. Now we have a full bore depression on our hands and we have to balance the budget AND reduce the deficit? This is crazy, see 1937, president Hoover.

    Sorry, this is wrong thinking. We need the federal government to spend. Let's do reforms when we have this depression under control.

    End This Depressiong Now!

  48. Well, David is correct on some things. "Politicians found that they could buy votes with borrowed money." is as true for Republicans as well as Democrats. How else do you say pork? Further Republicans cut taxes by increasing debt and deficit, not cutting spending. Walker's budget went from deficit to surplus by a combination of kicking the can down the road avoiding responsibility, actually instituting tax hikes by calling them fee increases, and shifting the burden from state government to local government. He did not solve the problem, he merely avoided taking direct action with budget trickery. Lastly, the problem with Walker is not his direction but how he implemented his programs. He may be the most arrogant and abrasive governor in the history of Wisconsin.

  49. Tom...My husband is a teacher and is by no means overpaid however, I still find the Teachers' Union oppressive. We are forced to pay very high dues for a group that forces school districts to pay Gym Teachers on the same scale as Physics teachers.

    Even if you ignore the difference in training, competitive skill-sets and marketability between these two groups, surely you can see that a Science or Math Teacher has a much harder job and works far longer hours with grading papers, tutoring students and now onerous recording of data, data and data on a daily basis.

    But our family is forced to pay dues to a union that ensures a long-tenured Gym Teachear will earn almost twice as much as a mid-career Science Teacher.

  50. Shane, I don't doubt it. However, my comments did not address unions, let alone seniority rules.

    If I had, it would have been from multiple viewpoints. One, my grandfather was a union leader and organizer in the very early part of the 20th century but warned his members against hubris, arrogance and outliving their usefulness. It was and is apparent that unions did not heed his advice which is now responsible for their demise. Second unions are supposedly run by their members but few members pay attention (if you are a member, speak up). Third, negotiations between unions and employers are just that, negotiations. If employers, particularly states, cave in to excessive union demands, whose fault is that? The people's elected representatives failing to do their job. If unions demand too much, they fail to be competitive in this day and age of a mobile workforce and high unemployment and outlive their usefulness. Walker's problem was he eliminated union's rights to negotiate. That automatically tells me he (as well as state and local governments) were afraid of unions and didn't have the skills to negotiate with unions or didn't do their job. Basically an act of cowardice.

  51. Shane -
    It sounds like you have fallen prey to the Republican tactic of "divide and conquer." Pit one group of workers against another group, and while they're fighting, the moneyed interests will steal both sides' money and rights to protect their economic interests.

    What difference does it make to you if a gym teacher makes the same salary as a physics teacher? If both teachers are making good enough money to exist within the middle class, what difference does it make to either one what the other earns? Paying union dues is insurance for protecting your own salary and benefits. Just because it also protects someone else should not cause you to turn against the union or give you reason to give up your bargaining rights - that will just guarantee that no one - neither the physics teacher nor the gym teacher - has the right to demand a living wage. Don't fall for the "divide and conquer" strategy of those who do not have your best economic interests at heart.

  52. I believe that on the way to cutting state employees' jobs and benefits, and busting unions, Gov. Walker also pushed for corporate tax cuts. His philosophy, like most of the Republicans these days, is that the rich should get tax breaks while the burden of reducing debt should be absorbed by the poor and the middle class. He believes it's okay to fire teachers and take away their benefits, in effect doing great harm to Wisconsin's public education system, but don't even think about raising taxes on the wealthy or corporations.

    Unfortunately, that is also the Republican's philosophy on a national scale. Just look at the Ryan budget proposal: cuts to social safety net programs and education but tax cuts for the rich. Of course that would increase income inequality, which is already at record levels. Aside from the bailouts for the banks that Bush initiated, along with unpaid-for wars and the one-time stimulus funding, the main reason budget deficits are so large is that tax revenues are low because of the Bush tax cuts. In the past, before Reagan, tax revenues were sufficient to keep deficit spending at low levels. It was Reagan and his unjustified tax cuts that started our nation on the road to large deficits and a swelling national debt. Until Obama became President in the worst of times, nearly all the national debt was run up by Republicans. Former V.P. Chaney said that "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter."

    Here's a partial solution: let the Bush tax cuts expire!

  53. The situation in Wisconsin has nothing to do with debt. Walker squandered a surplus when he took office and then engineered a debt to justify elimination of collective bargaining rights for his enemies, which as it turned out, were mostly teachers.

    Republicans didn't think debt was a problem when they started two unfunded wars; nor did Cheney when he famously said that "deficits don't matter." I'm also not convinced that Republicans are concerned about saddling future generations of children with today's debts, since they have no qualms about denying today's children affordable health insurance and well-funded schools, and want to undermine their retirement security and future access to medical care.

    Debt is the boogey man that conservatives use to frighten the uninformed. The people who are preaching the evils of debt with the most fervor are the one-percent who are not hungry, homeless, or looking for jobs. Debt is necessary to keep the country afloat while the recovery takes hold. Since interest rates are near zero, the interest on the debt is extremely low, and will not burden our children unduly. But the borrowing will ensure that the economy recovers more quickly and creates an opportunity for the debt to be repaid.

    We can't cut our way to prosperity any more than we can starve our way to full bellies. Walker knows that, and so do the people who want him recalled.

  54. Usually David Brooks is pretty perceptive. This election is not about debt. It is about preserving the middle class.
    Take just one group effected. Teachers. With the rise of teacher unions, teachers were able to become part of the middle class. No longer did teachers have to paint houses in the summer to make a living. No longer were only women and wives married to husbands with good jobs the only ones who could be teachers. A middle class job is one with decent pay, health care and a pension. It is a simple formula. When you take away one of two parts of that three legged stool, then the middle class collapses. The pensions were financed by employer contributions, teacher contributions AND wise investment of the funds to be actuarially sound. The investments went awry when the Enrons, the Lehman Brothers and Freddie and Fannie proved to be frauds. The role of Wall Street duplicity cannot be ignored.
    Walker and his buddies despise the middle class, and will do anything to keep taxes low and to avoid the necessity of helping maintain the middle class through beneficent actions. Walker doesn't care about those who do the everyday jobs of making sure that education takes place, police and fire protection are available, and that state employees are treated with respect for the work they do.

  55. I believe Walker deliberately exempted the police and fire unions. Speculation is that's because he needed their support.

  56. Except for the first clause, I agree. Mr. Brooks may or may not be perceptive, but his writings are meant to be cover , as a "moderate", for the Walker/GOP intentions, which are to destroy the middle class, repeal the New Deal, not to mention the Great Society reforms, and send us back to the Gilded Age, but with less charity. The best interpretation of Mr. Brooks' opinions, as stated here, is that they are abysmally naive, based on ignorance. That may be true, but the opinions are no less damaging if it is.

  57. Do Wisconsin's teachers have better health insurance than David Brooks?

  58. Another false choice from Mr. Brooks. If a mean spirited power broker like Walker is recalled, it does not mean the end of responsibility. It just means the end of non representational governance. Walker and his ALEC sponsored ilk like Cantor and McConnell believe that making people suffer while rewarding their handlers is a good thing.
    There are solutions out there, but it does not involve taking any more from the folks who have lost so much already. How bout the folks who have done so well over the past decades stepping up and carrying their weight?

  59. This is a mystifying column. The unions have made significant concessions over several years in Wisconsin in order to bring the state budget into to balance. Yet you have a Governor simultaneously passing tax-cuts, which cut into the budget (e.g. it's a dead-weight tax-cut where $1 cut simply adds $1 to the negative side of the balance sheet, no evidence of any dubious "Laffer" effects).

    Equally, why was it necessary to simultaneously go after collective bargaining rights, which had absolutely nothing to do with balancing the state budget? It was purely a political maneuver to designed to harm the political opposition. This fact is underscored in bold=face by the selective nature of the cuts (e.g. public unions that backed Walker didn't see cuts -- these include some of the most highly compensated public workers). Members of the public unions have clearly been willing to make sacrifices in order to bring a budget into balance, but the same cannot be said during hard-times of large businesses and the wealthy within the state when it comes to their tax cuts. Whatever happened to the notion of "shared sacrifice"?

  60. Mr. Walker and funders are Laffing all the way to the bank. For everyone else, at one time it was Bread and Circuses, but now its just Circuses.

  61. This debt monster you refer to is not because of outrageous benefits for the people of this country.

    .
    The last republican to balance a budget was Eisenhower.
    Reagan, Bush and Bush added over 300% to federal debt and it was not used to fund extravagant give aways to the working people of this country.

    It went under Reagan to recondition WW II battleships at $300 million a piece, arming Saddam Hussein to fight Iran and fund slaughter all over Central America, and train the future Taliban.

    It went to pay for the S&L debacle, Bush I's gift to the taxpayers, and his son Neil a director of a S&L, Silverado that cost taxpayers $1.4$ billion.

    The debt, under our first prep school cheerleader VietNam avoider Boy George, went to fund to insane useless wars and two even crazier occupations and tax cuts for the plutocracy, people like the cowardly Bishop Willard, prep school cheerleader VietNam draft dodger Romney.

  62. Economic Prosperity can also be fabricated through interest rates and easy credit. Since 1979 U.S employee compensation relative to the GDP of this country has been in free fall. If you ask people who are not studying statistics or involved in reporting on the economic issues, they would tell you that the 1980s were an age of growth and prosperity. They would be partly correct, the stock market gained a lot of points and the GDP grew at about 18%, but was the growth tangible? Was the growth derived from wages, which is really the only way to effect growth in an economy? No it wasn’t, wages have been declining. The increased economic activity was based on Borrowed money. So in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000′s factories hired, stores were adding workers and many people found a job The problem is, the demand the caused this economic boom wasn’t paid for. It was fabricated.
    So how does an economy grow without wage increases? Credit, Debt and Loans. Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve chair for about 2 decades created through the Fed a policy that made credit easier to obtain and effectively masked the ever dropping wages within our economy.
    Today, the chickens have come home to roost. America no longer have the real wages needed to create tangible demand. Today’s wages are going towards paying off past personal debt, leaving little disposable income to create new demand needed for the current economy to grow.

  63. Wall Street and banks crash our economy and David Brooks typically turns his attacks on workers. As he should know, if he read The New York Times, Walker attacks unions out of ideological zeal, not to balance the budget. He made no attempts to negotiate with elected representatives of public sector workers, he took away their rights and busted their unions. All this goes on while the banks get bailed out and make huge profits and Walker and his ilk slash state services to give tax cuts to the wealthy. I am sure that Wisconsin will succeed economically as Walker destroys its public higher education system. Why doesn't Brooks write about that?

    Mr. Brooks might also want to point out that every state has to balance its budget. Walker just did it on the backs of workers, the poor and the provision of basic services.

  64. "It will be a vote against any special interest that seeks to preserve exorbitant middle-class benefits at the expense of the public good."
    Translation: it will be a vote for continuing the politics of resentment and the race to the bottom.

  65. It's not about the money, it's about corruption, greed, and lying. Unfortunately, I am very afraid that the voters will NOT make a clear choice tomorrow and that we will enter a long, painful era of endless recounts, a la Florida in 2000.

  66. I am not sure that debt is the issue in Wisconsin. Certainly “debt” was, for Gov Walker, a political excuse to vilify kindergarten teachers as union thugs, curb voting rights, curb equal pay for women, pander to mining companies, pass redundant abortion laws, and to quit testing wells for harmful chemicals. If it were about debt we would all be sharing the responsibility (including the job creators) for the debt in order to maintain the quality of life and levels of education that make Wisconsin a great place to raise our families.

    If it were about Wisconsin values towards debt, all of the language in all of his new laws would not have come, verbatim, from the American Legislative Exchange Council that does not even bother to try to align its draft laws with our Wisconsin Constitution.

  67. "Exorbitant middle class benefits"? What?

    The question is whether the public good is served more by cutting taxes or paying for essential services like public education. The debt problem has been pushed down on states by the fed- and the fed is broke due to tax cuts (which led to no appreciable job growth) and unnecessary wars.

    One has to ask How brooks concludes that this situation boils down to a choice between the public good and teacher pay.

  68. A vote to keep Walker is a vote to keep a criminal in the statehouse. And this, Mr. Brooks, is the greatest piece of clap-trap you've yet produced. "Exorbitant middle-clas benefits" David? Really? Maybe you should have bounced this one off Mr. Krugmann before slipping it under your editors door, and beating feet off to whichever martini bar, or house of worship catches your fleeting fancy.

  69. We tend to think in terms of the Haves and the Have-nots. This is too simplistic and the Republicans know it. They realize that we have a class with everything, a class with some things{ jobs and retirement plans} and a class with even less and a class with nothing. Why not turn the resentment towards the class with some things and forget about the ones who have everything. Very slick idea backed up by politicians that tell us the school teachers and state workers are the bad guys. Resentment tends to go somewhere and it can be used by the Republicans to get elected--maybe?

  70. I'm afraid I don't believe you, David Brooks. I don't think this is about the economy or debt or even taxes. This is about what constitutes a constituency. The cavalier attitude of Governor Walker has demonstrated his utter disregard for the working classes of his state. He has shown himself to be devoted to and the puppet tool of the robber barons who have invaded his state.

    In the end, this election will be to determine who, exactly, We, The People are and what we are made of.

    If Governor Walker is, indeed, recalled, it will be cause the people rose up to exercise their right to elect a different kind of governor.

    If, on the other hand, the people of Wisconsin return Scott Walker to the governorship, then they must be prepared to live with the consequences.

    This is democracy in action. The best we can hope for is that this election has not been bought and paid for by outside people who don't give a hoot about Wisconsin.

    http://wifelyperson.blogspot.com/

  71. You hit the nail on the head - Brooks and his buds are trying to make the Wisconsin a referrendum about taxes, They want to convince ordinary Americans that everyone wants wha they want to enrich the few and empoverish the masses. It will backfire.

  72. The election in Wisconsin is about union-busting, pure and simple. No matter what other language you want to flower up your phony analysis, union busting is the issue, the whole issue, and the only issue. Period. End of story.

  73. David:
    There's a very smart man by the name of Krugman and he writes a superb column that appears the same page as your silly articles. However, when Professor Krugman writes about Economics he does so as an expert on the subject as well as a Nobel prize-winner.
    You really should read his column and learn something about the subject rather than mindlessly shilling for your masters at the RNC.Or pick a subject you know something about; like sports perhaps, or maybe origami.

  74. And Krugman is not a shill for Obama?

  75. I'd love to see Krugman run a business, making a profit and meeting a payroll. His expertise is academic and the wishful thinking has been shown (as seen now in Europe) to be a great way to destroy economies.

  76. Debt has become the screen the GOP hides its plans to sell all public stakes in the State and National economy. With the end of public service unions it can get on with the business of selling off any public utility and from thence all public institutions and parks. The GOP will not rest until its friends (benefactors) have the authority to charge you every time you flush your toilet or water your lawn. Mr Brooks and his patrons will not rest until the return of the company store and indentured servitude.
    An examination of the debt will display to one and all that since Reagan there has been a huge transfer of wealth from what was an expanding and affluent middle class to a small coterie of extremely wealthy masters of the universe.
    Until the former chair of Haliburton is delivered to the Hague those that control the political process (Judicial as well) will continue to foment war and misery to further their lust for power. When Wall Street barons are more concerned with posting bail than government bailouts and big oil executive show respect for the people's elected representatives only then should we accept austerity for the vast majority of we the people. Debt is simply an excuse to transfer money from the many to the few.

  77. I'm sure that the causal factors you cite for the acceptance of debt levels by the people that our parents would never have tolerated (in their lives or their society) indeed contributed to this sense that debt, even at these outrageous levels, isn't all bad.

    I 'd suggest that you miss the prime contributing factor: only 49% of our people pay federal income taxes. When the sky-high marginal income tax rates that obtained until they started to abate were in full force, about 85% of our people paid federal income taxes. Today, people vote themselves entitlements without being affected by the consequences of those votes: higher taxes on those who pay taxes, and larger deficits when the entitlements aren't covered by the taxes. Multiple years' deficits = debt.

    Yet, once we create these constituencies that enjoy benefits from debt but pay no price for it (debt-service is paid by taxpayers), it is extremely hard to wean them from those benefits.

    But we're headed for a fiscal catastrophe, because the increasingly small percentage of our people that shoulder a greater and greater proportion of society's expenses are rebelling at this tyranny -- yes, it's tyranny to suffer those who bear no consequences to vote themselves more and more, knowing that someone else will pay for it. There will be no additional taxes permitted on those who already pay.

    So, how do we service this gargantuan debt projected to get so much larger so soon? Learn Greek and go blackmail the Europeans?

  78. Richard, if people made enough money they would pay taxes. That said, it was revealed that because of a business loophole a billionaire contributor in WI paid no income tax for 2011. Am pretty sure a lot of rich people are doing the same thing so count them out of your 45%.

    And lose the picture, it is offensive and beyond juvenile.

  79. Except that income taxes paid by individuals account for less than half of the revenue that supports the federal budget and the ''entitlements'' to which you refer are largely financed by payroll taxes that virtually all working and middle class people pay.

    Our social insurance programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, are largely primarily financed by payroll taxes, which, as a proportion of federal revenue, have increased markedly since the budget was last balanced, while the proportion supported by income taxes declined.

    The federal trust funds financed by payroll taxes have been in surplus for decades, and can remain so indefinitely with some modest changes to Social Security and more serious attention to Medicare (please, no more shouting about ''death panels'' and ''pulling the plug on grandma.'')

    When the federal budget was last balanced, before the Bush tax cuts and spending spree, total federal of revenues were 20% of GDP.

    Throughout President Obama's term, federal revenues have been in the 15% of GDP range, which you call ''tyranny.''

    Returning federal revenues to 20% of GDP would cut the 2012 deficit by more than half, putting it only slightly about the average 3% of GDP level that CBO has calculated for the past 40 years. We would still have, as we do today, the smallest public sector of any advanced nation but Japan.

    It is not a popular uprising to soak the rich that has caused our problems, but our debt drunk Wall Street ''wizards.''

  80. They don't pay a federal tax because the corporations or coffee shop does not pay over minimum wages and the tax code deems them in the poverty level and no federal taxes are required from them. They do pay federal fees in their bills, sales tax, property taxes, state taxes.

    We have a revenue problem, the tax loopholes and low tax rates has reduced the revenues coming in.

    Very true we are heading for a catastrophe because of the small percentage of people that don't pay their proportion of taxes on their revenue. When so many people are out of work and under employed, they don't pay taxes. This will be a constant problem until jobs are brought back to our shores.

    This greed and transfer of wealth that has been going on worldwide has brought the economies of the world to the edge of a cliff. People are protesting around the world .

    No nation or nations can exist when it becomes to top heavy. These people are increasingly owning all the wealth. It did not work in the cradle of civilization (Greece) many centuries ago, or Rome, or Britain. These dynasty family names are still around in Britain and have pull in US, they are using their soft power to take all the money and power back.

    History tells us that these dynasty families banksters and corporate conglomerates do this every 80 years and then we the people take back our economies. Can we do it again.

    It is harder since a semi intelligent guy like Luettgen has drank their koolaide that the likes of Brook

  81. "A vote to keep Walker won’t be an antiunion vote. It will be a vote against any special interest that seeks to preserve exorbitant middle-class benefits at the expense of the public good."

    Two comments:

    1: From all that I have read, Walker's top priority is smashing public sector unions in his state;
    2: If debt is such a big problem, Mr. Brooks should be supporting higher taxes on the richest Americans. Actually, what our corporatist-conservatives are concerned about is not the deficit (which they have been largely responsible for creating) but getting taxes on the rich down to zero.

  82. Yes, and Walker's creative accounting in his state, immediately giving tax breaks to corporate doners.

    This election will tells us that money matters and the more you got the more free speech you have.

    David your arrogance is over whelming.

  83. If Walker wins, the loudest message it will send is that state elections can be bought by outsiders with a tsunami of money that drowns out the opposition and corrupts the democratic process. It will scream to wealthy conservatives to invest whole hog in swing states this fall because the payoff will be huge and inevitable.

    I picture Justice Alito offendedly gesturing "No!" when President Obama predicted this very outcome in the State of the Union. Thanks for assurance, Sam.

    Brace yourself, folks. A Walker victory will be the just the first of an onslaught of fatal blows to our democracy.

  84. So democrats and unions from all over the country have not poured millions into the recall?

  85. Remember, Fascism, the unholy alliance between Government, Corporate Interests and Religion. We are entering the final episode of a democratic form of Government. Is Civil War possible, maybe not but watch out for Civil Unrest as the population of this country finally wakes up to what the Republicans have in mind. Remember the Sixties.

  86. The election in Wisconsin is meaningless. It will only show us who is more motivated to vote - those lapping from the government trough or those who fill the trough. As for meaningful change or an insight into November's election, dream on.

  87. Public sector workers are taxpayers too, Joe. The point with Walker is that even after the unions offered wage and benefit concessions, Walker still pulled the plug on the public sector. Doesn't anybody remember his "Koch phone call" or his "divide and conquer" statements?

    Since Reagan started the whole mess the middle class has been trained to feel superior to the poor. Well guess what folks, there's another tier above you that feels the same way about the middle class and they are using tools like Scott Walker to bring you down.

    I hold out no hope that Walker will be defeated today. We were told at my place of work that challenging the company's policies could be cause for termination. When some of my colleagues, Walker supporters all, expressed their outrage at this I attempted to inform them that this is what collective bargaining is all about and was told I was so very wrong and this had nothing to do with it.

    I fear for my state.

  88. "It all goes back to the increase in the tolerance for debt."

    No, it all goes back to tolerance of lack of sound and humane distribution of wealth. When will the Republicans feel they have it all?Not just most of the wealth, but all of the wealth?
    Unions have long stood as a wedge against the wealthy taking advantage of the working and middle class people. If this wedge is gone, God help us, because the Republicans including Romney will be relentless in destroying life's little, and I do mean little, safety nets. So along with unions will go medicare, medicaid, medical programs for the poor and indigent and of course the middle class.
    Why folks don't see this is way beyond me.
    And as for businesses--if there is no one has a job, or money to buy products and merchandise, what then? What are the business owners going to do when ordinary people can't afford to buy their products?

    So those of you voting Republican, I suggest you take out your Republican gun and shoot yourself in your Republican foot now and get used to the pain, because there is a lot more pain coming down the track if they take over the White House.

  89. Please, the biggest welfare program in this country is the tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations. They are lapping from the trough BIG time.

  90. A win by Scott Walker will signify that our elections have become auctions with billionaires like the Koch brothers winning the prize - the ability to put politicians in office who will legislate their agendas - voter suppression, raising taxes on the middle class and working poor while cutting them even more for the wealthy, an end to any hope of universal health care, poverty for the next generation of senior citizens, plundering our environment and the complete privatization of public education. Mr. Walker spent 29 million dollars defending himself while Mr. Barrett only managed to raise 4 million dollars to take on Walker. It also disproves the Republican meme that unions are the biggest spenders in elections: it's overwhelmingly Republican millionaires and billionaires.

    The message it will sent to Americans if Walker wins is that "one man, one vote" means nothing - our elections can very easily be bought. I am surprised that you support a Walker victory, Mr. Brooks, given that it will empower unelected billionaires to spend even more money in their quest to control our government and our nation, united in their goals to further enrich themselves and confiscate the last of our resources and wealth. Reducing our debt is an important goal but you surely must realize that destroying the middle class and the poor is not the way to do it.

  91. Thank you. This Republican agenda scares me for the future of my middle class family and friends. Some have lost homes, some have low paying jobs without benefits... I just DO NOT UNDERSTAND how they do not see how their agenda will diminish even more the quality of life for the future of our people and country - unless they do not care about anything other than keeping and expanding what they have at the expense of keeping us 'second class citizens' in our rightful place.
    I am not a religious person but - what would Jesus do? - leave an ill person to die on the steps of a hospital because his insurance ran out? Aren't religious beliefs behind a lot of the Tea Party agenda?
    This entire fiasco beginning with the Tea Party, the ultra rich directing our elections and future makes me anxious and angry.

  92. I guess you're right, considering that Obama massively outspent McCain and won his auction for the presidency. Or does it not work both ways?

    Relatedly, if elections can be bought, why wouldn't you vote for Barrett? Are you just especially high priced? Have you ever encountered someone who changed their minds because of a political advertisement?

  93. "Every generation has an incentive to borrow money from the future to spend on itself. But, until ours, no generation of Americans has done it to the same extent."

    Sorry Mr. Brooks, but it isn't too smart to base your article on a statement that's out and out wrong. As a % of the GDP, the debt around 1940 was much greater, and that was at a time when top tier income tax rates were much higher than they are now. Our current debt puts the burden on future generations mainly because we coddle our wealthy as they haven't been coddled in close to a century.

    No amount of spending cuts will make the debt smaller if we keep our people unemployed and underemployed. Conversely, if people were put back to work on a grand recovery program to renew our decaying infrastructure and public services, they would spend their income and become the REAL creators of other jobs, out tax base would grow and would bring the deficit down just as it has after other recessions big and small. As your colleague Dr. Krugman says, one person's spending - whether on the private or public sector - is another one's income.

    Repeat after me: you can't cut your way to prosperity.

  94. "No amount of spending cuts will make the debt smaller "

    Krugmanesque nonsense. Making the debt smaller means eliminating the budget deficit - i.e., the amount we spend, that we don't have. All budget deficits, public or private, can, by definition be solved by spending less.

  95. Repeat after me.... You can't TAX your way to prosperity

  96. The public service employees would spend their money largely, as will all others, on foreign manufactured goods. This represents an outflow of monies rather than spreading of wealth within the US.

    You are correct in part...you can't cut your way to prosperity, however, you cannot create prosperity by spending tax monies to support people who do not contribute to the country's wealth. We cannot attain balance in our country's finances until our currency is devalued to a labor efficiency adjusted value commensurate with world average.

  97. I hate to break this to you, Mr. Brooks, but whether Scott Walker is recalled or allowed to continue his “obnoxious” methods has nothing whatever to do with how people feel about deficits. It is all about who is better at marketing their message.

    If you recall, when Clinton left the White House, there was a surplus and it could have been used to pay off some of the debt. G. W. Bush managed to” market” his efforts to cut taxes by saying he’s giving "the people their money back." There was no mention of paying off “the people’s debt.” Not only that, he managed to increase the deficit by entering into two wars. Yet his marketing team managed to get him reelected. For you to pretend that keeping Walker in Wisconsin is the seminal event that would demonstrate people's commitment to deficit reduction is pure poppycock.

    Now that a Democrat is in the White House, the deficit, whether it is in Wisconsin or the country as a whole, is portrayed as Armageddon, especially by the GOP. It is as if ALL the deficits accumulated under the big, bad “tax-and-spend” Democrats and the “borrow and spend” Republicans had nothing whatever to do with it. It is precisely this idiotic posturing and incessant marketing that turn decent people off from the sordid enterprise called “elections.” The result is there for all to see: election of halfwits and dimwits who continue their posturing and marketing to continue to remain part of the very government that they claim to loathe.

  98. RK has it in a nutshell:

    “tax-and-spend” Democrats and the “borrow and spend” Republicans had nothing whatever to do with it. It is precisely this idiotic posturing and incessant marketing that turn decent people off from the sordid enterprise called “elections.”

    This is so discouraging, but Bravo RK.

  99. RK, well said.
    "The result is there for all to see: election of halfwits and dimwits who continue their posturing and marketing to continue to remain part of the very government that they claim to loathe."

  100. I just wish the Democrats were better at marketing, especially the Obama administration. How the Democrats have let the Republicans get away with this is beyond me.

  101. “A vote to keep Walker…will be a vote against any special interest that seeks to preserve exorbitant middle-class benefits at the expense of the public good.”

    “The past decade was the worst for the U.S. economy in modern times. It was, according to a wide range of data, a ‘lost decade for American workers.’ Middle-income households made less in 2008, when adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1999—and the number is sure to have declined further during a difficult 2009.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/01/AR201001...

    We must stop the race to the bottom. German automakers are quite profitable despite the fact that worker wages and benefits averaged $67.14 in 2007, while compensation for American autoworkers averaged $33.77.

    “The German example goes ‘against all mainstream wisdom of the neo-liberals. We have strong unions, we have strong social security systems, we have high wages. So, if I believed what the neo-liberals are arguing, we would have to be bankrupt, but apparently this is not the case. Despite high wages…despite our possibility to influence companies, the economy is working well in Germany.’” http://www.remappingdebate.org/article/tale-two-systems

    Scott Walker and his millionaire backers want to bring the country back to the 1920s when we had an economic and political system which was controlled by big money interests, workers lacked a safety net, and anti-worker legislation prevailed. Can you say banana republic?

  102. You are so right.

  103. Fan and faved, you said it well. Mr. Brooks how dare you blame this on public workers. Your pitting workers against workers but this has been a systematic strategy of your party for over 30 years. Once the corporations started cutting wages, laying off people, off shoring with subsidies from us taxpayers. I doubt there is not a agency in our government that has not been raided and money stolen by the greedy me, me, me people.

    "Exorbitant middle class benefits" I bet you could not even write that with a straight face? CEO's/Banksters/Managers making millions an hour and a teacher, firefighter, police office making $60,000 - $100,000 a year and getting health benefits and a pension. Yes, that is a decent living wage and putting away for retirement.

    if your party would of address the cost of healthcare and the for profit insurance and healthcare industry since you destroyed Hilliary's efforts in 1994.then did nothing until dems got a chance in 2008 and then you cried and shout dems are trying to rush it through. How disingenuous!!

    Your arrogance knows no bounds.

  104. Scott Walker started a trend. Even governors in blue states are trying to rein in pension costs in response to growing health care costs and unfunded liabilities. The question is do unions want to be partners or adversaries.

  105. Where Unions have been confronted by Governors that simply laid out reality and asked them to accept it they have generally chosen to become partners. Collective bargaining doesn't mean the union gets everything it wants, and even in most states that allow such negotiation public unions can't go on strike in any event. Any public official with an ounce of leadership ability could have won the required labour concessions, however Walker's goal had nothing to do with costs, but instead to remove public unions as a political actor in the state to leave his corporate benefactors to enact whatever special interest legislation they want unopposed.

  106. The public unions in Wisconsin bowed to Scott Walker's demands to cut salaries and scale back pensions at the very beginning of negotiations to lessen state debt levels. But Walker did not accept their concessions and instead moved to destroy the unions entirely. He negotiated in bad faith and has made it clear since then that his ultimate goal is to do away with all unions, not just public unions, in Wisconsin and make it a right-to-work state. Those of us who already live in right-to-work states knows what that means: lower wages and an end to job security.

  107. Um, the unions agreed to significant reductions for the sake of balancing the budget. That would place them squarely in the cooperative partners column.

    Eliminating collective bargaining rights is an attempt to take them out of the process completely.

  108. While living beyond the means of support has become the American standard, it is unsound and eventually backfires.
    Sooner or later, Americans will learn what had always been the obvious in less exuberant times.

  109. The issue with Walker is not the Wisconsin economy, it is the deliberate attempt to destroy the public unions. It is was done in bad faith and if allowed to stand it will accomplish one of the main goals of the right wing, the complete annihiliation of the union movement in this country. That is why such incredible amount of money from corporations is being channeled to Walker's campaign. The unions have often been guilty of overreach, but they have also been the driving force behind many essential reforms. The country will not benefit from their demise, nor would all the non-unionized workers who are unaware of how much their status depended on what unions fought to obtain for their members.

  110. Make no mistake about it. This is about the mandatory deduction of union dues from paychecks. Without this slush fund, unions will not be able to pour huge sums of money into the democrats coffers.

  111. There was a time when the most pro-union politicians in America could not conceive of "public unions," because collective bargaining against the public interest was considered just short of treason. If making them pay their fair share, and allowing people the freedom to choose not to be a member is "destroying" them, then I say destroy away.

  112. Sadly, Unions have been guilty of demanding ever more compensation without any particular offer of increased productivity...often causing reduced productivity as unneeded workers cannot be terminated. The unions were an important part of improved workplace environs and other workplace problems. Their problems have stemmed from increasing resistance to increased productivity and political pressure to reduce employment flexibility relative to product need.

    Increasing recalcitrance in union behavior will, in the end, result in lost jobs and thus decreasing union influence on political issues. Something for union bosses to consider!

  113. We went through a hateful and ugly time here in Wisconsin. Teachers were demonized and even referred to as thugs. Laws were hastily shoved down our throats without negotiations and with a complete lack of respect for opposing views. The burden fell on those who were ill equipped to deal with it. And all of this was for the sake of saving non-public employees like me a measly $200 per year (My Republican mayor compensated for the reduced funds by increasing fees and cutting services. So, in reality I didn’t save anything).
    Normally I’m opposed to recalls, but Walker and the Republican legislators abused their majority status. Even if Tom Barrett loses, perhaps Walker et al will have learned a lesson in humility and civility. Ah, who am I kidding?!

  114. It's not debt that concerned Americans from Roosevelt to Obama. It's the investment in America that concerned them. They bought into the New Deal and the Great Society as a public investment. And those investment paid off big time. Those investment made our country great.

    The GOP debt crisis manufacturers want you to believe America is not a country worth investing in anymore. They view public investment has bad, not good. Cut taxes is their pledge. They don't want to make America better. They want to make us mediocre at best.

    Regardless of what the GOP says America is worth investment.

  115. Of all the outrageous, misinformed nonsense in this column, perhaps the most ridiculous is the assertion that " a vote to keep Walker won't be an anti-union vote. It will be a vote against special interests..."
    Scott Walker's 2010 election was largely financed by the virulantly anti-union Koch brothers, who are not even residents of Wisconsin. Upon becoming governor, with no discussion, he and his rubber stamp Tea Party Republican legislature immediately destroyed public employee collective bargaining rights which had been in effect for a half century. As recently as last week the Milwaukee journal reported that another billionaire Walker supporter, Dianne Hendricks from Beloit, had been videotaped discussing future anti-union strategy ("divide and conquor") with Walker through the mechanism of the budget balancing bill- the same flim-flam used by Walker in his 2011 destruction of public employee bargaining rights. Though the wealthiest woman in Wisconsin, Hendricks paid no Wisconsin income tax in 2010, according to the article. She did do well enough to contribute $500,000 to the Walker campaign, and wanted to talk to Walker about making Wisconsin a "right to work" state.

  116. What is horribly interesting about Brooks commentary is what's missing. What he failed to mention is Walker's corporate backers who's nefarious self-interests are being served by the destruction of workers unions.

    Walker's backers include the infamous Koch Brothers, and others such as Diane Hendricks who gave $500,000 to get Walker elected yet her company paid not a dime in state income taxes, not a thin dime to the state.... so under Walker only the working and poor people will pay taxes and he will continue to have lot of money to purchase divisive and deceptive campaign ads.

    Welcome to the new America where some pundits lie by deception and others by omission and wealthy corporate sponsors ensure that their needs are the only ones met and working and middle class America are of no consequence.

  117. This article is dubious and disingenuous. Mr Brooks is entitle to his opinion but not to his facts. He can spin the current fiscal crisis all he want, but the bottom line is this: Republican got us into this mess. Regan and Bush Jr are the biggest spender of all, alas National Debt increase by significant margin under their watch.

    The more you hear Republican Party argue for smaller government, the reverse is what they do when they are elected. Republican Party vis-a-vis David Brook sold us Reganomics, trickle down economics, and upward income re-distribution (alas tax cut for the wealthy), but where has it gotten us so far? Huge National Debt!

    As an Independent, I just don't find Republican Party credible on debt reduction let alone surrogate like David Brook. In the last three years alone, I have heard socialism label thrown around whenever Obama propose tax increase on people making $250K above, however, when Republican propose upward income redistribution they call it "capitalism."

    For the record, I am neither a big fan of the Union nor Democratic Party laundry lists , however, I believe "corporations" are not people. I also believe every citizens should pay their fair share, including so called "people" (aka Corporation). I long for the day the party of Lincoln will become credible again... when it actually practice what it preaches... until then, David's argument sound hollow.

  118. Much of what you write, Mr. Brooks, is true. We do have to get our fiscal house in order. However, as you say, Scott Walker went about it in a one-sided manner. He didn't even campaign on ending collective bargaining. That came as a surprise to everyone. The manner in which the whole thing played out felt coercive and harsh, and it created deep divisions that don't help people move forward constructively.

    If Scott Walker is recalled, it may be that many voters believe, as I do, that we need to get our fiscal house in order but now is not the time to eliminate jobs and pay teachers less as class sizes increase. Now is not the time to have the burden fall disproportionately on people who don't have that much money in the first place, when those who have more wealth don't also pay more to reduce debt. Now is not the time to be ruthlessly divisive and add to the unemployment rolls.

    If Scott Walker is not recalled, I don't think the outcome of the race is as interpretable as you indicate. Republican contributions have far outpaced those for the Democratic candidate, and successful recalls are extraordinarily rare.

    I wish I knew who made all those political contributions. Somehow, I doubt most of them were made by people or businesses that are eager or willing to chip in, themselves, to reduce the debt.

  119. if walker really wanted to make a tough choice he would have raised taxes. Instead he went after the teachers and public workers who are the backbone of the economy.if you want to know why unemployment is so high look at where the jobs are being lost. mainly from the public sector. there is a very good case to be made about shared costs and sacrifice something my parents lived through and that most politicians are afraid to ask since they have been bought by the rich.

    as far as Europe's problems thats another story and its different for every country but mostly it works in Europe. Look at the nordic countries, but you really do not want to address success stories you would rather lump Greece and Spain as the poster boys for too much spending. greece problems are like California's people want services but will not pay for them. Spain was bankrupted by the banks on a fake housing market much like in the US.
    oh and we are in our forth bubble you forgot the Reagan years and stock market crash of '87 and how he left the country in a bigger deficit than Carter. Reagan set the stage for Union busting so Scott Walker could exist. the unions today are like the jews in 1930s germany.

  120. In reply to cgehner and the "fallacy of Prof. Krugman's arguments" that governments never save in good times. Well, during the final Clinton years US debt was reduced substantially. There is also the example of New Zealand and Australian governments who reduced debt over the decade prior to 2008. These countries have been able to maintain government spending post 2008 without the catastrophic austerity measures of Europe. Australia has not even been in recession. These are only examples I happen to know about. Krugman's arguments are correct and they can be and are followed by responsible governments.

  121. Two questions: Do Americans have the guts to resist the plastic card? An entire generation has been raised on credt card. When kids start college, their mail boxes are flooded with invitation to low interest credit cards. Can we reverse this trend in this era of amazon and eBay Internet shopping?

    Do Americans have the courage to revolt? Occupy Wall Street showed us they can, but it can as easily fizzle because big money also buys power.

    Mr Walker might be courageous but he tackled deficit with a mean ness and malice that only created further divisions in the state, in the unions and public sector employees. Surely there is a "gentler" kinder way to make changes? If this happened in Greece or the UK, there would be riots and tear gassing?

  122. This is one of David Brooks' most disappointing opinion pieces. I am a Democrat who enjoys reading his work. We as a country from top to bottom need to reduce our spending- maybe better when we are stabilized from the current world recession. Walker represents the worst of Trojan horses... and for Brooks to suggest that he represents an awakening of a fiscally responsible political movement is disappointing. It is no small point that Walker cut taxes for his party (generally) and cut spending on Democratic policies to reach his deficit reduction goals. Balanced reductions by a politician are called for. David Brooks should not look to a right wing minion to be his standard bearer for a new fiscal responsibility.

  123. Our forefathers did not just hate debt; they were very intolerant of those who created it. However, they also hated politicians who were dishonest and inept at solving the country's problems. It appears that the only change has been the great increases in debts and inept politicians. Only this time the consequences will be much worse, if we survive.

  124. Your very first sentence is a misstatement. It is simply incorrect.

    Then you follow on with another set of opinions pulled out of thin air as though they were also facts we need to know. Then you use a flurry of logic to insert a current Republican talking point as your random conclusion.

    This is the basic architecture of a Brooks Think Piece.

    The Greatest Generation is one example of one that borrowed. They funded a war and recovery from a depression. And after that was was over, funded education for that generation. It was all paid with taxes of up to 90% for the wealthiest. And it paid off handsomely in the most glorious example of a rich, successful democracy the planet had ever seen.

    This time it's gathering the troops to save Walker's sorry behind. I hope you don't succeed, and I hope it becomes wakeup call for the rest of the country about the treasonous damage your party are doing to this once great nation.

  125. Oh David, this is about so much more than balancing a budget. I'm surprised you don't know that. It is about deception of the highest order, collusion at the highest ranks of government, huge infustions of money for Walker's campaign by those he benefits with his generousity to the wealthy. This is about an "Eagle Scout" that can't even look a camera in the eye when he declares "I am a straight shooter." He is also a bomb dropper, a divide and conquerer. This man is a disaster to all that good government stands for. And as for balancing the budget - he did it exactly in the way his predicessors did it - suffling funds, deferring payments, using accounting methods he criticized them for. Come on! All governors balance the budget. But in the past the cost of doing so was shared. With Walker only his rich out-of-state buddies share - not the burden, but the benefits of his policy.

    You need to recognize that there is a qualitative difference in the morality of our Republican candidates today compared to those of the past. This new breed is sold out to the Koch Brothers and their ilk.

  126. If we pay down the debt, then the big holders of debt - banks, insurance companies, foreign nations, pension funds, etc. -- will be forced to invest it in the economy. Why should the US taxpayer providing a safe harbor for the wealth of the world? US national debt reduction would be a great stimulus package.

  127. As Larry Summers argues so pervasively in today's Washington Post, the U.S. government ought to be taking advantage of today's extremely low interest rates (at some durations, adjusted for future inflation, interest rates that are actually negative) to borrow much MORE money, putting it to work in all kinds of investments, infrastructure needs, etc. This will actually not cost us money but make us money. That, and staying out of foolish wars, will steady the ship and allow us to address the social needs we deem important. Brooks has mis-characterized the problem.

  128. You need to have a serious talk with your colleague Paul Krugman to completely understand the economic absurdity of such drastic cuts in spending during a time when the national economy is suffering. Even if one acknowledges the challenges of mounting long term debt, the 'lesson' for the nation is not to follow the disasters we are currently witnessing in Europe with their austerity policies. The better way to deal with debt is to grow the economy, collect the taxes and plan accordingly.

  129. We all know that people like cuts provided that others pay for them. Since the hide being skinned comes only from one body, what the Wisconsin vote will prove is that people are comfortable with other people paying the bill. It would have been a better test of voters' agreement that cuts should be made, if a wider segment of the population had contributed to the cuts. So expect all the dairy, corn farmers and other recipients of government subsidies to show their patriotism by voting for the Walker cuts.l

  130. When was the insane idea that workers that work for the taxpayers of this country could organize and design a way to "extort" money in the form of unionization from the very people they are supposed to serve and work for? Public workers whether teachers, cops or firemen don't work for Dupont or Ford, they work for "us". The day these workers turned on the very people they work for through "mob force" was the day they became the enemy of the people, promising pie in the sky benefits to these now "special" citizens. Well your party is over, and it's about time. Reading a book on the police officer Drew Petterson I came across his pension amount which was nearly $6000 a month, and you people wonder why this nation is broke. It's no wonder to me as the greed of public service worker unions destroyed the budgets of the majorityof states through promise made which we never attainable to buy votes from fools. Those days are over.

  131. If we accept Brooks's assumption that the current population is stealing from the next generation then the next step should be getting some of the money back.

    Debt financed spending for things like education and infrastructure are investments in the future. But most of our borrowing is for the basic day to day services of government so today's and yesterday's population have been getting much more in services than they've paid for.

    If we don't want increased taxes to decrease demand then we should tax those least likely to spend the money. Dead people for example.

    I'm looking forward to a future Brooks's column about increasing the estate tax.

  132. Brooks squirms to find ways to support Walker in Wisconsin. Any Republican politician who includes debt reduction in his rants can have Brooks' support no matter what else he promotes, including limitations on civil liberties. Brooks might as well say "Extremism in support of Debt Reduction is a Virtue!"
    He doesn't seem to remember that it was capitalism, which he worships, that promoted increased debt to our society. Now he calls it over indulgence. He is against a Consumer Protection Agency that would help consumers avoid debt over indulgence.
    Brook is trying to put lipstick on GOP pigs.

  133. As a member of a Union and the Republican Party, I understand and am grateful for many of the benefits that Union membership provides. I understand the value of collective bargaining to a certain extent, but i also understand we work for the tax payers and not some rich tycoon. We hurt the taxpayers with our demands and then stonewall public institutions into paying out. Imagine you were forced as a democrat to give up a chunk of your weekly paycheck to pay for Republican backed causes and groups. How happy would you be about that? I think the dues are some of the most undemocratic aspects of Unions. Now the collective bargaining as not been stripped totally in WI, it's just that the government (Therefor the taxpayers) have the right to set the salary and cut down on benefits. They set a benchmark that the union's collectively accept or not.

  134. Wow, you missed the point of this election completely. The national media has missed the point too. I live in Wisconsin and I think I have a little more insight here.

    This isn't about some of us not wanting to make the tough decisions on debt. The unions and teachers signaled early on that they were willing to give in on the spending issues. We liberals were tired of the unions not paying into their health care, and were open to restructuring of their contracts. Walker could have gotten all he wanted from the unions and except for a few disgruntled union workers, the capitol would not have seen the protests it did.

    But Walker didn't want to work with the opposition. He never has worked with the Democrats, and never wants to. He's in the mold of the Tea Party faithful--it's his way because he knows better (people who see the world in black and white don't see nuance, like we liberals do). He also saw the chance to tear apart the unions because they back the Democrats. So he grabbed at the opportunity--all in the name of budget balancing.

    And don't say this is an indicator for the Fall election. Walker is leading in the polls here because his opponent does not present a strong alternative. (I like Barrett because he's a practical man who runs Milwaukee efficiently and without an ideology. Those type of people don't get elected in this era.) And Obama is leading in the polls here too--with a stronger lead than Walker has.

  135. "Every generation has an incentive to borrow money from the future to spend on itself. But, until ours, no generation of Americans has done it to the same extent. Why?"

    Bush tax cuts. Bush's unpaid for prescription drug benefits. Bush's two unpaid for wars in the Middle East. Norquist and his Republican acolytes wouldn't allow us to do the honest thing, so we had no other choice than to borrow the money.

    End of discussion.

  136. "A vote to keep Walker won’t be an antiunion vote. It will be a vote against any special interest that seeks to preserve exorbitant middle-class benefits at the expense of the public good."

    Really? Not antiunion? That's a good one--maybe not against unions of special business interests or big donors (oh yes, those PACs too). And there's something almost grammatically wrong with the pairing of "exorbitant" and "middle-class." Isn't the point about the middle class that they are in the middle? That aspiring to be part of a (modern, as opposed to the 19th century bourgeoisie) middle class means wanting comfort and security, but NOT exorbitant advantages, NOT a society that is so economically polarized, NOT myriad subsidies and tax breaks for corporations, banks and the wealthy on the back of basic services, education and public safety. But I forgot... comfort (as opposed to outrageous wealth) and security (as opposed to forcing the expense of unregulated, irrational risks on the public) are now considered obscene, dangerous, unacceptable concepts. Maybe it's time to go back to school David, for some basic courses teaching logic, writing, current events, statistics... surely you could take advantage of your state university? But do it soon, since you can't count on in-state tuition subsidies if Walker and other governors like him get to keep going.

  137. This was a stretch too far. Your analysis has nothing to do with what happened in Wisconsin - a political move to silence public employee unions, the last vestiges of unionism in the US, and the ability of working class people to influence elections. Debt was the cover, but the target was the right of workers to bargain collectively and to pool their resources to resist the domination of our political dialogue by billionaire's and corporations. Your column was a depressing rationalization for advancing the cause of plutocrats while crushing democratic institutions. Shame on you!

  138. The emphasis on debt is a red herring and as a 'clue' it's clueless. You need to read your Nobel laureate-colleague's writings on this. Simply stated, during a depression (yes, we are in a depression; no, the .01% are not feeling it,) the focus needs to be on jobs and growth. During times of prosperity, you can focus on reducing the debt.

    Business needs sales. People need jobs to buy from businesses. Get it? Now is not the time for states or the federal government to try to reduce debt. The federal government needs to focus on jobs and growth through creating jobs so sales go up, business prospers, state and federal tax revenues increase and we are on the way to recovery.

    One of the things the federal government should be doing right now is funneling funds to the states so they can re-hire their laid of workers. Bail out the people and the states, not Wall Street blood suckers who are doing us no good. We're in a depression Brooks. Get a clue.

  139. In 1980 the debt ratio was about 30% of gdp (lowest in 45 years), but approaching $1 Trillion, Reagan campaigned that we cannot continue to have such high debt. Reagan feft office at $3.2 trilion and 45% Hippocrasy became the rule.

    The message, with top tier rates cut in half, is we stopped paying for our country. Wealthy believe they have earnned their wealth alone and are bigger than the country or society as a whole. Once you make over $1M, and you feel 50% is too high a tax you obviously don't understand the infrastructure that allowed you make that money. The last time we have seen such arrogance (ok the 1890's) was the medieval ages.

  140. I believe today is the pension reform vote in San Diego and San Jose. Imagine a police officer retiring at age 50 or 55 with a 90% pension that they can start drawing the day they retire. One story had one officer collecting a $95,000 per year pension!

    In San Jose the pension obligation eats up 20% of the city budget so they have had layoffs and cutbacks in service. And that cost will continue to grow unabated.

    In not too many more years taxpayers will all be saying, "We cannot afford this."

  141. I think the recall will be damaging either way- if Walker stays it will be a signal that normal people cannot organize and ahve a say in the political process. If he loses and the recall is successful the republicans will take on an ideology of victimhood (even more so) and demonize their opponents.
    The workers came to the table and agreed to what Walker asked of them- so long as their bargaining rights were maintained. Walker is not interested in keeping the debt down he is only interested in desroying his political adversaries.
    We can work to get our collective debt down to a more manageable level. We can even eliminate it if we want to do so. But it will take compromise and sacrifice from every level and segment of our society. Cutting pay and benefits for working class Americans to (not even) pay for further tax cuts is insulting. Even you, David Brooks, shoudl be insulted at the bait and switch going on. People who rely on paychecks, not dividends or investment income, are not going to like it when they take a hit, a tax cut is enacted, and the debt continues to rise. But that is what is going to happen.
    You apologize for the GOP every day- but who will apologize for you? Walker is not a good guy and his actions have poisoned the entire debt reduction process.

  142. As a Wisconsinite, I must weigh in:
    1) As David said, Walker's "method was obnoxious", and goes against the "we're all in this together" approach that is the only way out of our economic mess. He protected the unions that endorsed him (police and firefighters), while going after the ones that didn't; he made NO distinction based on "richness of benefits" or anything else--it was "you're with me or against me". Shades of Richard Nixon.
    2) "It will be a vote against any special interest that seeks to preserve exorbitant middle-class benefits at the expense of the public good", David says. No, my vote against Walker is a vote "against any special interest that seeks to preserve exorbitant 1%er benefits at the expense of the public good". Please be aware that over 2/3 of Scott Walker's contributions in this race have come from outside Wisconsin, and I believe over 50% in amounts of over $1000, which most people in Wisconsin cannot afford. He is fighting for the moneyed interests, not the people of Wisconsin.
    Employment has been at best stagnant in Wisconsin...this is what the Republicans promise everyone. If Walker wins, watch out, America!

  143. Wow, David you really missed the point. Let's be clear about some facts here. The unions were willing to compromise and give up some of their hard earned benefits. Please let us not forget that the people who were sacrificing were hard working middle class Americans who earned their money and benefits with hard work. There was no need to end collective bargaining to obtain some of the goals. His exclusion of certain unions from this draconian measure was nothing but politically motivated, a divide and conquer strategy.

    Now let's look at the results - Wisconsin, last in job creation on the country. How many people are not working because of Walker, how many teachers, nurses, and other hard working public employee's - many.

    Voter ID laws - totally unnecessary - an attempt to cull the herd on Walker's part, there was not voter fraud problem. So Walker solved a problem that did not exist and how many people will not be able to vote because of him. Many, too many, to solve an non-existent problem.

    This is not the way to solve a problem, this is not shared sacrifice. This is placing blame for a problem on hard working middle class people and punishing them. This is not good governance. I hope Walker gets fired today, because he deserves to be fired.

  144. With thinking like Mr Brooks's, is it any wonder that our economy remains mired in the swamp of the Great TskTsk?

    "It all goes back to the increase in the tolerance for debt." Does it? A home mortgage (debt), it means two things: 1. That some portion of what I pay to live in a house will eventually accrue to me; in the early years, most of the payment goes to the lender as interest. 2. That someone (actually, a whole class of someones) has excess cash not needed to pay for groceries, and is willing to "use" that accrumulation of *someone's* added value to earn yet more money.

    Not room here for extended discussion of "money," "added value," and other *economic* concepts, so suffice it to say that in past 30 years, an extraordinary portion of economy's added value has accrued to a v. small portion of the pop., which then facilitates the economy's functioning by "spending" that money--as loans! IF we always had to wait for *savings* to buy, say, an iPad, rather than pay over time via credit, what would that do to sales of iPads, and to the incomes of those who designed it and who write apps? Of course, if ordinary people kept a greater portion of their added value at the start, eg earned more, less credit would be needed.

    The "debt burden" is another way of referring to the consolidation of wealth. It drives economic activity we all depend upon. Consumer debt (ie non-investment loans) is another vehicle driving concentration of wealth ... NOT a Puritanical morality play!

  145. Unlike Brooks I don't see Democrats and Repulicans arguing about how quickly to bring down the deficit. To the extent that they are arguing about the deficit at all, it is about how to go about bringing down the deficit. Brook sounds like President Obama, when he writes, "one bedrock principle should be: We are all in ths together." The principle can hardly be bedrock if it can be ignored by a governor in taking an action for which there were alternatives, if the action is then supported by the electorate. It's fairly certain that if Walker survives the recall vote he will be an immediate hero of the national party and his victory will be touted as a rejection of Obama's call for "shared sacrifice."

  146. This approach to assessing the consequences of the recall election seems completely wrong to me. Mr. Brooks acknowledges the "obnoxious" way in which Governor approached implementing his deficit reduction agenda. Isn't it possible that a vote against Governor Walker is as much a a vote against hisapproach to governing as it is a vote against deficit reduction in general? I may support reforms that improve the financial condition of state governments, but I don't support the style of governing Governor Walker has pursued. It's divisive and has pitted residents of Wisconsin against each other. That's all wrong and if I lived in Wisconsin I would enthusiastically vote against Governor Walker.

    I find it frustrating for Mr. Brooks to acknowledge the serious difficulties associated with Walker's approach to governing, but his unwillingness to acknowledge that it could affect voters' decision to vote against Governor Walker in the recall election. His column draws the wrong conclusions about the choices involved in the election.

  147. David Brooks neatly sums up what "deficit reduction" means to conservatives: higher taxes on the middle class and free money to rich people. That's been the overriding goal of Walker: give as much free money to corporate interests as quickly and in as great an amount as possible. I'm sure Brooks would agree that it's time we all sacrificed and paid more in taxes, so the truly needy, corporations and rich people, can get more free money redistributed upwards from the middle class.

  148. Mr. Brooks, you should have a tutorial from your fellow columnist, Paul Krugman, on economics and recession recovery. The six trillion dollars of the National Debt that you assign to the Obama presidency is, according to the CBPP analysis of CBO statistics, 90% due to Bush policies: unfunded tax cuts, unfunded wars, and the economic downturn. The gift that keeps on taking.

    Our debt since Reagan has been primarily the work of Republicans. During the 20 years of Republican presidencies, federal spending was increased by 6.88%, yet, by only 3.09% during the eleven years of Democratic presidencies.

    Why should anyone believe that Republican policy will be any different under any Republican? Romney budget appears to add an additional ten trillion dollars to our debt! Walker has taken civility out of government service and his slashing benefits for the middle class and denigration of government don't constitute a sustainable model.

  149. Mr. Brooks is correct. Governor Walker had the right idea but went about it the wrong way in only going after areas cherished by Democratic groups. It is like the House of Representatives right now wanting to reduce the deficit on the backs of the poor and needy. A measure of a good nation is how it takes care of its elderly, its young and its disadvantaged. I agree when the President indicated sacrifice needs to be shared. Tax Reform, Entitlement reform, Spending Reform and Prudent investments all need to be on the table.

  150. David posits a most hopeful consequence of a Walker win as if a "can't we all just get together" frame of mind is somehow afoot and just waiting for the right nurturing.
    An alternative and altogether more likely outcome would be a confirmation of the strategy and goals of the likes of Koch money and ALEC subversion of the legislative process to eradicate any vestige of Democratic ideals. In other words it would confirm full-on, no compromise political confrontation. The worst and most damaging political atmosphere in our lifetimes may well be just around the corner.

  151. Just making sure I follow you, voting for Scott Walker is not a vote against unions, but voting against Walker is voting against trying to avoid a fiscal catastrophe in the United States?

    Because we no longer vote for how politicians should accomplish their goals, we are just supposed to treat Republicans vs. Democrats as a choice between "low taxes and low spending and hard choices or high taxes, wasteful spending, and driving the country off a cliff."

    This is Ed Schultz/Neil Cavuto level partisan analysis.

  152. The children of the "greatest generation" fell pretty far from the tree. The baby boomers (both Republicans and Democrats) burdened their children with an unsustainable amount of debt leaving them little ability to make needed investments in education, infrastructure, etc. (let alone a rainy day fund).

    Forget the partisan bickering - this is a generational issue.

    No parent would choose to do this to their own child - it's pathetic that the collective group did not feel the same.

  153. First, it doesn't "all go back to an increasing tolerance for debt:".
    Demographics is also a significant cause, along with a more competitive global economy. Don't reduce complex social phenomenon to purely individual traits. Remember, you are our putative pundit sociologist.

    Your admission that Walkers' debt targets have all been to enhance Republican power is a pretty good sign his true goal is that, and not to control debt. I agree Wisconsin has to make some tough choices, but the dismissal of Walker, if it happens, does not in itself mean that Wisconsin has turned its' back on making those choices, it just means the voters don't like the choices Walker is making. Whether the voters will endorse tough choices remains to be seen after Walker is recalled. It is a valid concern.

  154. I am a Democrat and I also believe in the need for a balanced plan that reduces debt while building an economy that creates jobs for those that need them. I was an officer in a major company followed by nine years of teaching in high school. I have seen executive excesses as well as union excesses. The pendulum has swung back and forth through the years until the last few decades. When did we forget you can't have guns and butter? When did the rich become the 'I'm entitled to more' group? When did the wealthy make the majority of the population whipping boys? We have a situation that has been caused by those who were our patrician class that was supposed to "manage" our economy for the betterment of our society. If you think that executives taking ten times as much money as they did in the eighties because there is nobody to challenge them is good for America, then I feel sorry for you. The philosophy of the Republican Party is one that will not correct our problem. Walker is a politician catering to a philosophy built on control at any cost. Walker's party is the party of divide and conquer. The end doesn't justify the means if you do not have honesty and integrity. The election in Wisconsin, if Walker wins, will show how serious our problems are.

  155. As usual, the Winning Progressive hits the nail on the head. Scott Walker is not about reducing debt or balancing the budget (he had to do that by law), he is about union busting and obliterating the major contributor to the Democratic party, which no longer can match plutocrats after Citizens United. Walker did not campaign on his reactionary agenda against the middle class and for the Koch brothers, he simply pulled a political Pearl Harbor after he was elected. The man has no principles and in fact may be criminally liable or his past actions as a county executive. While Brooks offers the usual caveats about the jerk he endorses, in the end he always endorses the jerk if he or she is a Republican who is anti-middle class, anti-union, anti-education, and pro-rich.

  156. Brooks out there in lala land again. If you cut taxes first then you have to cut the budget. Wisconsin, like most states, has to have a balanced budget.

    Going after the public sector unions was an explicit plan. Cut the power of working people and the organizations that represent them. Gives those who already have power even more power.

    School districts have to choose between health care for employees and education for students? Students are better off if teachers are paid less and have to pay more for health insurance? Very strange mental world Brooks is living in even to suggest such a false "trade off."

    And what was the interest of the Koch brothers - who are not residents of Wisconsin - in supporting Walker?

    A good columnist should also be a good reporter, starting with facts and not making them up.

    Brooks is either naive or utterly disingenuous. Either way this column is a low point in Brooks' work.

  157. If Walker is re-elected it will be further signal that elections can be swung when out-of-state spending is $7-$1 for the incumbent.

    But if Democracy is what matters -- and to some vested interests it may actually not when all is said and done -- then the fact it takes 7 to 1 to win by a hair, now that, that will be signal.

    Also, Wisconsin has to balance its budget by law. So its in no way a referendum on debt, is it.

    It is a referendum on giving tax breaks to businesses that didn't function as "job creators" and scrounging a one-time, shady accounting trick surplus, and by firing decent, working people while raising their taxes.

  158. Mr. Brooks , I think you did not listen to the testimony of Governor before congress. He admitted that getting rid of collective bargaining had nothing to do with trying to balance the budget. it had to do with getting rid of any power that workers have with the multinational corporations.
    This is about Citizens United, the ruling by five conservative Justices on the Supreme court, that says democracy is for sale to highest bidder. Wisconsin can become the only state north of the Mason Dixon line to become a member of the confederacy that is controlled by Republicans; a right to work for less state with low wages and no benefits. The conservative working class are the ones that have decimated the middle class, they have become the foot soldiers for the rich and the corporate world.

  159. "A vote to keep Walker won’t be an antiunion vote."
    This will come as a surprise to Mr. Walker and the Koch brothers who have been more than casual about their demonization of and opposition to public employee unions.

    Mr. Brooks, he Wisconsin election is a referendum on America's willingness to blame selected public servants -- a group, by and large, that works harder for less money and makes more important contributions to society than, say, right-wing pundits -- for the economic damage inflicted upon it by the people and institutions that control the bulk of the nation's wealth.

    You may be surprised to learn that public school teachers and public hospital nurses do not control the nation's wealth.

  160. "but if he (Walker) is recalled that will send a broader message... It will remove any hope this country might have of avoiding a fiscal catastrophe." Mr Brooks, that is a statement of an astounding falsehood and demagoguery. It will be rather a hopeful resurrection of an electorate that refuses to be bullied and bamboozled by the 1% to believe their (and your) royalist view of what is in the public good. Mr Walker has not made tough choices for my state to balance our budget, he has deceptively stripped unions of bargaining power and squeezed the educational segment of our state to sprinkle additional economic largesse on the 1%. Wisconsin will balance its budget with or without Mr Walker.

  161. It's not the pensioners fault that the Unions were able to get outsized and foolishly structured pensions. Nor is it the unions overall. The polititians didn't stand up to the growth of union leadership that asked for and then received ridiculous pension and stupid work rule provisions. The polititians said yes to stuipid things to get votes.

    Unions stop management from doing outrageous things. Unfortunately Management and public unions have , in effect, colluded to allow agreements to be made that were never viable.

    We ned to curb Union excesses, but without Unions , and their threat of organization, we will have even more "robber baron" like behavior from companies or governments.

    We need some rationale balance not no-union or all-union.

  162. I must take issue with the premise that past generations were averse to debt because they lacked modern technologies. You actually came closer to the crux of the matter when you noted that credit has become so much easier to obtain. It may be the case that tighter credit was more responsible for earlier generations being more frugal.

    As for the Wisconsin recall, there is an economic side to the recall election, but as a Wisconsin resident, the politics seem to trump the fiscal issues. Yes, the campaigns have been all about budgets and jobs, but most of the electorate picked sides long ago, leaving only a scant 5% undecided.

  163. Friedman's wrong on this one. The Wisconsin recall election in my mind is about whether the public will tolerate a bully, a politician who believes in running roughshod over those he can. We have a similar governor in Ohio: John Kasich, who backed off some of his roughshod legislating when the public balked.

    I want the country out of debt, just as I want my wife and I to stay out of debt. I want debt diminished and extinguished in this country through cooperation of government, professional organizations, unions, and citizenry.

    The Wisconsin vote is not about our willingness as Americans to welcome more debt. It is about the way we are to treat each other in this country. It's about not tolerating arrogance and insensitivity.

    TSR

  164. First, let us get our facts straight.  "No generation has (gotten us this much into debt)"???  That is just totally false.  WWII debt to GDP was massively higher.  However, the fact that we had large demand after the war, allowed us to grow out of the debt.

    The "debt" in this nation, is money owed by those who wish to consume, to those who are already consuming all they wish to consume.  (The idea that we owe this money on net from foreign creditors, is largely false - most is owed to other Americans).

    Total spending = total income. (That is an economic fact, not a slogan).

    No overall increase in spending = No overall increase in income.

    With shrinking demand, businesses will contract, not expand.  Can you imagine a business meeting where attendees argue against hiring when they need workers because they lack "confidence" in "government"?  That is crazy.   So is the reverse.

    Mr. Brooks needs to read Dean Baker at cepr.net, or Paul Krugman in this very paper.

    Teacher pay is not exorbitant. For the level of education, teachers are underpaid.

    The money given to corporations to bring jobs, at the expense of taxpayers, is extortion money to get scarce jobs - a race to the bottom possible due to lack of demand.

    A vote for Scott Walker is many things, including a vote for a strong Second Amendment.  But it is indeed a vote against Unions, and therefore against the working class wage, and indeed a strong U.S. economy.

  165. Brooks conveniently forgets that most the debt comes from Bush's wars, Bush's tax cuts, Bush's prescription drub company giveaway, and Republican corporate welfare in general, plus a bloated military that outspend the rest of the world combined. So why is money spent on the common good and future investment considered wasteful by the likes of Brooks but oiling the wheels of greed and exploitation is simply ignored?

    By the way, the Wisconsin Governor stole mortgage relief money to help finance break for his wealthy benefactors.

  166. Governor Walker's surplus is a cash basis mirage. Outstanding obligations beyond Wisonsin's current fiscal year will continue to overwhelm revenues. Remember a brief news story just last month, that the federal government showed a surplus in April? Nobody paid much attention, and rightly so because it was a cash basis phenomenon occurring due to income tax collections at filing time.

    Sure thing, debt -both personal and governmental- has become a serious problem; but please, let's have no more hurrahs for Gov. Walker's book-cooking. In fact, his application to HHS for relief from Medicaid obligations showed a significant ongoing deficit in Wisconsin. Can't have it both ways, unless you think cash and accrual basis accounting produce the same results. They don't.

  167. Brooks, like most republican mouth pieces, is trying to use the financial crisis to role back everything from social security to medicare and medicaid. We are not in a debt crisis, we are in a recession. if social welfare programs are the problem, how come Germany, with some of the most extensive social benefits in the world, is doing fine. The US deficit, created either by Republican's or by Obama trying to dig us out of a Republican created recession, is not the cause of our problems, it is the result. The recession was created by deregulated wall street gambling but suddenly we've morphed that into blaming teacher's pensions for our troubles. It seems anyone can be blamed except for those who finance the kind of conservative think tanks that finance people like David Brooks.

  168. In fact the vote in Wisconsin is about special interests: millions of dollars have flowed into this state from wealthy individuals who have a national agenda that goes way beyond indebtedness vs fiscal responsibility. Women's issues, our natural resources and health care have all been subject to Scott Walker's slash and burn style. It isn't respectful politics or governing and our democracy will suffer as a result of the national agenda of these narrow minded politicians and deep pockets.

  169. The root problem is the allocation of resources and how resources are generated.
    Government, generally, is soley concerned with election and reelection. They can't say no to the voters or special interest groups. They are not leaders.
    They avoid dealing with "writing on the wall" problems until they become a crisis.
    When I think about the amount of money we spend on "defense" and how many children we could educate, how many industries we could incubate, how much basic research we could do with these funds, I am saddened.
    This should be our country's economic engine.

  170. Please stop saying that Scott Walker allowed schools to save money by making public employers pay more money towards their health insurance and retirement. This is not true. He followed this action by cutting funding to public schools. If this was actually a principled argument about needing to increase educational spending while holding down deficits, then the action may have been warranted. This was strictly a matter of punishing your political rivals. If Walker wins, it will be because he was able to raise obscene amounts of money because the flawed Citizens United ruling. Look where Walker's money is coming from: out of state wealthy business people. The recall petition was about democracy. This election is about crony capitalism.

  171. The first paragraphs are correct. However, we are currently in debt because of an antiquated tax structure that rewards zygotes for their choice of parents. Admittedly, as much as 15% of welfare recipients are parasites, but their bite of the national dollar is a tiny fraction of the mouthful devoured by the top 15% of income recipients, many of whom have never done anything useful for the country that is their home. Inherited wealth is no guarantee of responsible citizenship; responsible citizenship derives from responsible parenting, and we have fewer of those parents at the top than in the middle and at the bottom. A few years ago I saw a teenaged child from a local prep school pull out her credit card wallet, and a cascade of credit cards reached to the floor. She didn't live in the same world as the teenager who was behind the cash register, and neither could blame themselves for that discrepancy.

  172. Ah David -- hit the mark again boyo. Stirring that predictable hornets from the nest, urging on the banshees, prodding the faithful readers to grab their pitchforks and torches and swarm into the night.

    Scott Walker, as an unseemly hero of fiscal integrity and precursor to some kind of national debt epiphany -- that's certainly laying it on in truly glacial proportions.

    The Wisconsin deficit donnybrook became one more way to put down the meager middle, but what really peaked the ire of the common man and women was the arrogance, and the my-way-or the-highway bluster.

    Now those in Wisconsin have a recall in which the culprit who brought the whole mess on in order to enhance Republican state control is being financed to an obscene degree by out of state big money.

    Mirror mirror on the wall who is the most despicable of all?

  173. What Brooks is missing here is that Walker is simply implementing the back end of the "Starve the Beast" strategy that Republicans have been prosecuting since the Reagan years in order to reduce the size of government. This strategy was brilliantly executed under the Bush 43 administration by the combination of tax reductions and increases in government spending.
    Brooks dithers around a set of false choices in this article. It's as simple as this: if you believe in deregulation and reducing and the size of government, Walker's your man. If you feel that government has an important role to play in providing equal opportunity to all, and that the wealthiest should pay their fair share, then Walker's one of the bad guys.

  174. Had Gov. Walker announced his plan deficit/budget balancing plan before being elected, it is likely that he would have been defeated. Additionally, one must also ask why it has become necessary to fill his coffers with so much outside money if voters within his own state are so thrilled with his solution to their debt problems. I doubt that voters like his methods all that much. People looking on from the sidelines tend to view things through rose colored glasses, especially politicians who have somehow convinced themselves that a budgets can always be balanced without a sufficent revenue stream.

  175. It does matter that Gov. Walker used the crises as a pretext to implement the morally repugnant conservative Republican agenda of redistributing wealth to the wealthy by convincing the middle class that they have something to gain from these policies.

    Dogma is rarely good policy but, as long as the public is mislead by politicians who are more interested in their party or their political futures than the country, we will continue to suffer the consequences of confusing the two.

    We do need to reduce debt - everyone has gotten the memo - but how does matter.

  176. If Walker loses in Wisconsin and Obama somehow is able to deny his pitiful record and win another term, we might as well resign ourselves to perpetual large scale debt and unemployment at current or higher levels. There is no way small and medium size businesses will start-up and grow under those circumstances. They are already under severe threat from Obamacare, and a repudiation of Walker's attempt to get government spending under control will send a clear message that fiscal sanity has left the building. No reasonable entrepreneur would start or expand a business under those conditions.

  177. There are too many things wrong with this piece by Brooks. Too many errors of fact and insufficient critical thought combine to render the piece less than useful. Mr. Brooks should ask, no beg, Dr. Krugman for some guidance and ,at the least, look at the real data concerning the structural components of national debt and the actual effects of austerity, taxation, and the role of the middle class in sustaining and a vibrant democracy. Or take a short cut and look at Europe.

  178. "In this country, the federal government has borrowed more than $6 trillion in the last four years alone, trying to counteract the effects of the last two bubbles."

    David, you're leaving out that much of that $6 billion also went to fight two wars that were unfunded.

    Also, it seems as if you forget that this country was on the path to reverse a culture of indebtedness. It was the Clinton years, when the the tax rate was at a reasonable level. The economy grew, budgets were balanced and our debt was predicted to be eradicated.

    But then, the Republican controlled Congress and GOP president aka the "Deficits Don't Matter Gang" blew it up.

    Why should we trust them again?

  179. It's too bad we don't have to explain our votes, perhaps pollsters could then see that a vote against Walker is not a vote for endless debt. Lets not simply glorify a budget surplus, the Democrats could do that just as easily as the Republicans, by removing all business subsides, removing all the Bush tax cuts and cutting the military budget in half. How pleased would the Repubicans be with that proposal. Shared sacrifice should be standard for movement forward.

  180. Oh please. The unions had already given Walker everything he wanted (reduced pension and health care benefits), which reduced Wisconsin's debt. When Walker busted the unions and destroy their ability to bargain collectively, he went overboard. He did that to destroy Democrats' political competitiveness. Wallker deserves to go b/c he is an extremist. This has nothing to do with debt and everything to do with Walker's attempt to destroy the opposing party if given the chance.

  181. "It will be a signal that voters are, indeed, unwilling to tolerate tough decisions to reduce debt."
    You think so, David? It could mean instead that voters have stopped believing Republican "leaders" who act like protecting the privileges of the rich is an all purpose remedy for any and all economic and social ills.
    Walker's program as reported was all about hunkering down economically, and forcing Democrats to bear the burden. If he's ousted it will be a signal that voters want the country to rev up, not hunker down, and that voters want the privileged to contribute their fair share to the effort.

  182. "Reagan proved deficits don't' matter".
    -Dick Cheney.
    The era of indebtedness will require a stimulus package that inspires growth generating jobs and tax revenues that can then dispense with our deficit. That's it.

    Keeping the deficit down will require not electing a Frat boy who needs to start wars and insists on cutting taxes during an economic downturn at the same time.
    As the t-shirt adorning a grizzled middle aged man at Lorimer St. proclaimed one beautiful Saturday morning in 2010:
    'It ain't rocket surgery'.

  183. I had to incur massive educational debt, in order to attend the same school that Mitt Romney got to attend on his father's dime. Tell me: what moral failing does this indicate on my part? Should I be criticized for lacking some sort of protestant aversion to debt, just because I am not from a wealthy family and could afford to study only by borrowing? Or perhaps the issue is that I should have known my place--children of families of modest means are 'irresponsible' if they choose to attend the elite universities that their richer peers regard as a birth-right?

  184. There you go again David. These are the facts: we are in debt because we gave huge tax cuts to the rich, we're waging two unnecessary wars and we're in the midst of a depression caused by private sector greed. How to bring down the deficit and the debt? Raise taxes on the rich to the levels under Clinton (which were historically low), end the wars and re-regulate the financial industry. Oh wait. Doing those things which are based on evidence would prove once and for all that the so-called benefits of low taxes and small government are republican fantasy. Can't have that now, can we.

  185. I see no evidence of politicians "buying votes with borrowed money." What are you talking about? There is no private alternative to Medicare. Social Security is self-sustaining (when Republicans don't try to undermine it).

    What I see, for 30 years, it politicians (mostly Republicans, but increasingly Democrats) selling tax cuts & contracts to corporations and the wealthy, driving up public debt. If you want to conflate private & public debt as a moral issue, you should look at stagnating wages for the 99%, & at the centrality of consumerism in our lives. These things are also driven by corruption and deregulation, & by the Republican ideology of equating the market with morality.

    It is beyond belief that you could call Walker's attack as only incidentally partisan. From Reagan to the present Republicans ahve used deficit and/or debt hysteria to attack things they dislike. When it comes to cutting taxes on the wealthy, rewarding "donors," throwing money at the military-industrial complex, they reach for the checkbook.

  186. "Walker’s method was obnoxious, but if he is recalled that will send a broader message, with effects far beyond Wisconsin. It will be a signal that voters are, indeed, unwilling to tolerate tough decisions to reduce debt. In Washington and in state capitals, it will confirm the view that voters don’t really care about red ink. It will remove any hope this country might have of avoiding a fiscal catastrophe."

    How can you write this and not see how flawed your logic is? It will signal that voters are unwilling to accept severely one-sided cuts that are said to be in the name of austerity but are in fact a part of a political agenda that serves an underlying ideology. Your in-a-perfect-world argument really doesn't cut it here.

  187. It appears that Mr. Brooks views education ($2.6 billion cut), teachers, health care ($500 million cut), seniors, working families, and unions as Democrat.

    Walker's provided $93 .8 million in corporate tax cuts for businesses that didn't need them was the Republican part of his budget plan.

    It's clear where Mr. Brooks' sympathies lie, and it isn't going to solve any of our huge problems.

  188. Good article Davis and I believe in general Americans understand all this debt is bad, and therefore we are unsure what lies ahead. With that said, we are now under the direction of Central BAnkers and their Keynesian theory. God help us it works as they print money stuff it in BAnks in hopes it will be lent out and spur growth therefore create taxes. There never is much serious dialogue whether the Social Democratic Welfare STate Model is sustainable or not. The left cannot even bare the thought of reviewing the model. Economist are equally divided as they work with charts and graphs in a rear view mirror.

  189. Mr Brooks lives in a dream world where Republicans are, in fact, anti-debt....or he is deliberately misleading his readers.

    Remember, it was Mr. Greenspan who recoiled in horror at government surpluses and supported the Bush tax cuts to increase federal debt. Mr Walker walked down the same road with his corporate tax cuts and has increased Wisconsin's exposure to debt.

    Republicans actually want a weak, debt-hobbled government, even when they tell themselves, and their readers, otherwise.