The deficit is a concern, to be sure. But the deficit is what it is for two obvious reasons. First, we were, and IMHO continue to be in the middle of a recession, and that means that the deficit automatically rises (a) because fewer people working means less money being paid in taxes and (b) because government expenditures automatically rise for unemployment payments and to prime the economic pump. Second, we fought three wars over the last decade (I'm including the "war on terrorism") and did not bother to raise taxes to pay for them--indeed, decided that the best thing to do was to cut taxes while fighting the three wars.

As far as I'm concerned the previous administration quite deliberately made deficits larger and larger and larger. Why? Because it has been the avowed intention of republicans at least since Reagan to reduce the size of the government--and what better way to do that than to show how irresponsible the government is in its budgeting. So Mr. Bush II's budgetary fecklessness was not what it seemed, a sort of "What me worry?" approach to government. Instead, it was a calculated attempt to make funding the government all but impossible. And that's exactly what the current crop of republican jugheads argue when they say that the government spends and spends and spends irresponsibly. They're describing the Bush approach to governing as if that approach defined the way that government functions.

So you hear all over the place that the current economic situation is proof positive that the mid-20th century idea of the "great society" is dead--usually put in terms of the death of socialism, but I don't see the great society as a socialist enterprise, so I don't use that term. But in fact what led to our economic situation is not the failure of the great society, but rather the failure of the neo-capitalism of Wall Street. We are where we are because the banks screwed up, and they screwed up because we got rid of the distinction between banking and investing, and we got rid of that distinction because the capitalist class wanted a free rein to make profits hand over fist. It's neo-capitalism because good old fashioned capitalism means investing money in the means of production, capital goods, whereas what Wall Street did (and continues to do) is invest money in paper shuffling. Maybe it'd be better to call it pseudo-capitalism.

Anyway, I absolutely do not buy into the proposition that to fix the economy we have to cut out the safety net. We do have to tame Wall Street. We do have to bring some rationality to Pentagon budgeting. We do have to prime the economic pump by investing in nation building at home, as they say. And we have to stop thinking that fixing the deficit means balancing the budget immediately. It ain't going to happen, and if we attempt to do it, the result is going to be the Great Depression of the Twenty-first Century.

By the way, the foreign aid budget is a whopping 56 billion per year--around 1% of the federal budget. And that sum includes all expenditures for the Department of State, so it's what funds all of our embassies and consulates and all of the diplomatic efforts that the nation undertakes, including for instance the deployment of forces in embassies and consulates, something to keep in mind in light of what happened in Benghazi.
MACTECH ubi dolor ibi digitus