Writing in today’s New York Times, Jennifer Steinhauer explains the politics of the debt melodrama: the parties are “jousting over the moral high ground on imposing austerity, with seemingly none of the political or practical motivations that have historically driven legislation.” Leaving aside the fact that half of one party (the Dems) have happily embraced the premises of the other—and also leaving aside the fact that the “high ground,” moral or otherwise, hasn’t much in evidence during this idiotic fight—Steinhauer is inadvertently onto something.
Over the centuries, the period after the bursting of a bubble has often been time of self-reproach, a time of self-questioning and even self-flagellation. Those have notably been absent in the U.S. during the post-bubble periods of the early 1990s and early 2000s. Now we’re apparently getting some of it, but it’s looking like the austerity party plans to punish people other than those who profited during the bubble. Will Goldman Sachs partners be taxed to repair the damage? Heavens no: the victims of this program of moral renovation through austerity will be such notorious high livers as the poor, the chronically ill, and graduate students. Moral renovation is always more fun when you’re prescribing it for the other guy.
Oh, and apparently this is only the beginning. The austerity party is already pushing for more.