Follow up to letsgetitdone's post on Ezra Klein
So much of what I see in the MSM is the construction of narratives whose purpose is to direct our attention away from what is really going on, where the real problems are, and what real solutions might look like. A vital tool in this is the false metric. One of my favorites is the U-3 measure of unemployment which is currently 9.6%. Real un- and under employment is more than twice that. So just by making the U-3 the centerpiece of your narrative, you have already cut the problem in half. Then throw in a "natural" unemployment rate of 5% and you have cut the problem in half again. Add in a couple more percent to cover more structural "those jobs are never coming back" unemployment and you have reduced the problem from 20% to about 2.5%, an eight-fold decrease. Suddenly, a problem which should be a national emergency becomes a problem our elites can live with and do nothing about.
The debt to GDP ratio is another of these meaningless numbers that for the purposes of building a narrative and pushing an agenda become the measure of the problem, real or imagined, being addressed. It's a little like a contractor saying that he's going to have to take out the back wall of your house because you have a widget problem as shown by the high reading he's getting on his wallybopper meter.
Klein's piece is dopey from any number of perspectives. The real problem is not public but private debt, and that is a function of the extreme wealth inequality in the country. Also while Klein posits growth as a solution, he doesn't actually say how that is likely to happen with the economy teetering on the edge of depression. And then there are all the other things letsgetitdone points out. It is all a frightful mishmash, replacing one strawman (taxes vs. cuts) with another (these vs. growth).
As Stiglitz and others have pointed out, GDP is not a very good measure of how your country and your economy are doing. GDP in our country, for example, went up even as we were becoming a kleptocracy, even as wages remained stagnant for 30 years. So how is using a number derived from it, the debt to GDP ratio, going to be any more legitimate? And then to misapply it as Klein does... but that is the nature of a politically generated narrative. It embeds itself in a frame, a background, that assumes all kinds of dubious and false premises are givens. This is why it is so hard and time consuming to deconstruct such narratives because you have to go back to first principles. You can't just say this part is wrong or silly because in doing so you tacitly legitimize much of the other crap of which it is composed.
So while we to criticize it have to take it completely apart, all Klein has to do is add just another bell and whistle to the contraption. He doesn't even have to say how his contribution can even be added on or how it will work. (Narratives don't have to be factual or logical. They only need to sound plausible.) He just throws it out there and it becomes another element of the narrative.