Sure, listen to Niall Ferguson — but always ignore his bad advice

The celebrity historian sternly advises us to adopt a GOP budget, which will leave us deeper in debt

Topics: Federal Deficit, Iraq war, Republican Party, U.S. Economy, U.S. Military, Budget Showdown,

Sure, listen to Niall Ferguson -- but always ignore his bad adviceNiall Ferguson

Before the inquiring minds at the Aspen Ideas Festival go totally gaga over Niall Ferguson, perhaps they ought to know a little more about the British historian’s keen desire to punish our pampered working families, and how he would prefer to see us spend our dollars.

As a celebrity intellectual, Ferguson much prefers the broad, bold stroke to the careful detail, so it is scarcely surprising that he endorsed Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan’s “wonderful” budget template, confident that his audience in Aspen would know almost nothing about that document. For Ferguson, the most beguiling quality of Ryan’s budget must be its bias against the working and middle classes and in favor of the wealthy. But as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities revealed in a scorching review, the plan doesn’t work even on its own terms.

Summarizing the effects of Ryan’s proposals, the CBPP  found they would “would give the most affluent households a new round of very large, costly tax cuts by reducing income tax rates on high-income households; eliminating income taxes on capital gains, dividends, and interest.” People making a million dollars a year or more would actually pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than the average middle-class family.

At the same time, Ryan would “raise taxes for most middle-income families, privatize a substantial portion of Social Security, eliminate the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance, end traditional Medicare and most of Medicaid, and terminate the Children’s Health Insurance Program.” All the federal medical programs would be replaced by a voucher system whose value would deteriorate over time, leaving millions of Americans without vital medical services.

Could any plan be more wonderful than that?



Well, Ferguson’s endorsement seems to be based on the assumption that the Ryan budget would reduce annual deficits and the federal debt as well as spank our spoiled workers. On that point, he simply hasn’t done the math or consulted anybody who has, since the huge Ryan tax cuts for the rich will devour revenues and leave the Treasury in worse shape than now. According to revenue estimates by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center quoted by CBPP, Ryan’s plan “would fail to stem the rising tide of debt for years to come. The debt would continue to grow in relation to the size of the economy for at least 40 more years [my emphasis] — reaching over 175 percent of GDP by 2050 … Even by 2080, the debt would still equal about 100 percent of GDP.”

Clearly Ferguson has been hanging around too much with right-wing Republicans, who pretend to favor fiscal conservatism while pillaging the Treasury for their rich donors and pet projects. Like them, Ferguson simply adores spending federal dollars, not on national health insurance or better education or green infrastructure, but on the bloated military — or to be more specific, on imperial expansion around the world, with America acting as a new Rome promoting capitalism and democracy by force.

In short, he’s a belligerent nut. The last time American policymakers  listened to Ferguson, the United States invaded Iraq in order to bring democracy and development to the Mideast. Maybe he should have devoted his hour in Aspen to explaining why he still thinks that was such a wonderful idea.

Joe Conason is the editor in chief of NationalMemo.com. To find out more about Joe Conason, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>