Temper tantrums in the age of austerity

Indignation takes different forms in different places. In Europe it’s directed against cuts in public spending. In the United States it’s directed against tax hikes, which are anathema to the Tea Party.

What all the Indignant have in common is the refusal to address squarely the problem that nearly all Western countries face. That problem is that the welfare systems that evolved in the mid-20th century are unaffordable under the demographic and economic circumstances of the 21st century. The financial crisis has merely exacerbated what was already a severe structural crisis of public finance, boosting deficits while slowing growth…

In a rational world, electorates would recognize the need both to reduce entitlements and to increase revenue. But indignation isn’t rational. The Tea Party position is that the deficit should be reduced without any increase in revenue, even the elimination of tax breaks and loopholes that all serious economists now define as “tax expenditures” (because they essentially give revenue away to lucky special interests). At the same time, many Tea Party supporters appear reluctant to accept that cuts would apply to their own entitlements as well as everyone else’s.