By BEN WHITE and TARINI PARTI | 4/28/13 2:29 PM EDT
Call them the debt crisis dissenters.
The two parties are miles apart on how to cut the deficit and national debt: Republicans want to slash spending even more. Democrats want to raise revenue.
And then there are the other Democrats — the ones who reject the entire premise of the current high-stakes fiscal fight. There’s no short-term deficit problem, they say, and there isn’t even an urgent debt crisis that requires immediate attention. This group could make it even harder for President Barack Obama to strike a grand bargain because they increasingly see no immediate need for either new spending cuts or significantly more revenue, both of which they say could further slow the economy.
These Democrats and their intellectual allies once occupied the political fringes, pushed aside by more moderate members who supported both immediate spending cuts and long-term entitlement reforms along with higher taxes.
But aided by a pile of recent data suggesting the deficit is already shrinking significantly and current spending cuts are slowing the economy, more Democrats such as Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen are coming around to the point of view that fiscal austerity, in all its forms, is more the problem than the solution.
This group got a huge boost this month with the very public demolition of a sacred text of the austerity movement, the 2010 paper by a pair of Harvard professors arguing that once debt exceeds 90 percent of a country’s gross domestic product, it crushes economic growth.
Turns out that’s not what the research really showed. The original findings were skewed by a spreadsheet error, among other mistakes, and it’s helping shift the manner in which even middle-of-the-road Democrats talk about debt and deficits.
“Trying to just land on the debt too quickly would really harm the economy; I’m convinced of that,” Kaine, hardly a wild-eyed liberal, said in an interview. “Jobs and growth should be No. 1. Economic growth is the best anti-deficit strategy.”
And the intellectual shift away from austerity is not just coming from the left.
The conservative American Enterprise Institute issued a paper last week saying Congress has already achieved enough deficit reduction for now. Other organizations not typically associated with free-spending liberalism, including the International Monetary Fund and Goldman Sachs, have cautioned that the austerity movement — which favors rapid reduction of national debt — may be worsening Europe’s economic problems and slowing down the U.S. recovery, as well.
“American fiscal austerity has been moderate and probably, at the current pace of deficit reduction of about $300 billion per year over the next half decade, has proceeded far enough for now,” AEI scholar John Makin wrote last week.
To read entire story, click here.