Small progress on the editorial page

We always feel obligated to comment on the excitable macroeconomic views of State Journal editorial page editor, Scott Milfred. We feel obligated because the topic is inherently important, it’s subject to a LOT of blarney, and Milfred is mostly always adding to the blarney. Today is no exception.

However, he’s showing slight improvement. Let’s try to encourage that.

Milfred’s main point is both true and small.

Apparently, in his State of the Union speech (we didn’t watch) the President made a statement to the effect that America would have more money for things like roads and bridges now that troops are home from Iraq and drawing down in Afghanistan.  Milfred pounces on that foolishness like an angry tabby cat, correctly observing that it’s not a windfall of new money; it’s a reduction in borrowing.

Why, that sounds like yet another misstatement by yet another government official. Color us dismayed. We join with Milfred in rebuking President Obama for that whole sentence or paragraph, or whatever it was.

Moving on.

What we do like in today’s editorial is that it shows evidence of actually remembering where our debt comes from. It comes, partly, from two wars, long ones, which no one was asked to bear a tax to pay for.  Although  the editorial begins with inexplicable quotation marks around the words “unpaid for,” it does go on to clearly acknowledge that the wars were, obviously, unpaid for.  No quotation marks.

Small as it is, we see this as a teensy bit of progress in the Milfred discussion of debt. It’s factual. It’s something that actually happened. We had a budget surplus 12 years ago (it can be done) — but a relentless Republican drive to cut taxes, two unfunded wars, and unfunded Medicare drug benefit, and then a mysterious financial collapse for which no one (well, no one important) is to blame all added together, almost mathematically, to increase our borrowing.

The usual line of illogic from editor Milfred proceeds directly to a call for cutbacks in Medicare, Social Security or the generalized bugaboo of “entitlements”… as opposed to a cutback in tax-cutting, wars, unfunded programs, and unregulated Wall Street excess (namely the policies that drove us directly from a surplus at the start of the Bush II presidency to big deficits by the middle of his term).

But none of the usual line was presented today. Instead there was an actual acknowledgement of one source of our federal debt.

It’s a start.