Milbank Looks Forward to ‘Bleak Times’ Ahead

Dana Milbank (Washington Post, 2/13/13) has a review of the State of the Union address–and he’s not impressed:

Dana Milbank (photo by Matthew Bradley)

Dana Milbank (photo: Matthew Bradley)

Obama made clear that he is not entertaining serious spending cuts or major entitlement reforms. Republicans, in their responses, repeated that they are not budging on taxes. The hard choices will have to wait for another day….

The nation’s finances are a mess, but–what the heck?–let’s have another round.

Why do we need “serious spending cuts”? Milbank assumes the answer is so obvious that it need not be explained–everyone knows the more cuts, the better. All the serious people, anyway.

The closest thing Milbank comes to defending this idea is citing the authority of Bankrupting America, a “nonpartisan balanced-budget group” handing out Mardi Gras beads while proclaiming “show us your cuts.” (Who’s paying for those beads? “We will not be disclosing our donors,” the group’s Gretchen Hamel told Talking Points Memo3/3/10. “We want to protect the anonymity of our donors.”)

Milbank evenhandedly condemns both House Republicans for saying that revenue increases are not needed and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi for saying, “It is almost a false argument to say we have a spending problem.” Never mind that in the Fox News interview (2/10/13) he’s quoting from, she actually says, “What we do need is more revenue, and more cuts”; Milbank has his false equivalency, and he runs with it:

In reality, we eventually need both spending cuts and tax increases–and lots of them. But sacrifice will have to wait. In Washington, they’re still partying like there’s no tomorrow.

This idea that “sacrifice” is what the country needs is very appealing to corporate media pundits, especially ones like Dana Milbank who evidently might get paid up to $20,000 for giving a speech. But the reality is that austerity is the problem, not the solution; Dean Baker, probably the economist with the best track record for diagnosing what’s wrong with the U.S. economy, explains why, using actual facts and logic, in the Guardian (2/8/13).

Milbank’s column is headlined “Let the Bleak Times Roll.” It’s not clear whether he’s parodying the attitude of Obama, Pelosi et al., or if that’s a reference to his actual policy preferences–since “bleak times” are what we’ll certainly get if we adopt the politics of “sacrifice” that Milbank is calling for.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.