The "Live Within Our Means" Hoax

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 by Richard Wolff
The President, countless Senators, Congresspersons, media representatives and even many ordinary people speak often, these days, about Washington “learning to live within our means.” Now, there is an empty phrase if ever there was one. It is dishonest, shameful and hypocritical.

First of all, where was concern about living within our means when taxes on corporations and the rich were cut especially since 2000? That was a massive, deliberate reduction of the government's "means" favoring the richest few. Back then those same folks promised wonderful economic booms they said would result. In fact, we got a terrible global economic crisis and an ever-widening gap between rich and poor in the US. Yet “living within our means” was barely heard amid the cheers for tax-cutting on business and the rich.

Second, where was that phrase heard when Washington decided to spend on an immense military (even after becoming the world’s only nuclear superpower) or to spend on very expensive wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya (now all going on at the same time)? No, then the talk was only about national security needed to save us from attacks.
Third, when the banks, insurance companies, and large corporations speculated the economy into collapse in 2007, they wanted and got trillions of dollars in Washington spending to bail them out. Where then was talk about “living within our means” as federal policy? Nowhere to be heard. Saving the economy was all the rage as Republicans and Democrats fell over one another to spend on bailouts.

Only now are the politicians concerned over “living within our means” which turns out to be the phrase to justify and rationalize cutting spending on the middle classes and the poor. How very convenient for corporations and the rich, and how totally phony.
Shame is what belongs on those who use such phrases.

Finally, the phrase nicely evades any definition of what “our means” ought to include. For example, are the immense multi-million dollar incomes and wealth of the super rich part of the “means” the government ought to live “within?” The United States has more than enough wealth to allow the state to support and help people – all the people. The problem is that the corporate and rich owners of most of that wealth deny it to the government when there is no direct profit to them. Our national problem is not insufficient means. It is rather the private property system that allows corporations and the rich to bankrupt the state and then arrange for the politicians dependent on them to preach to the rest of us the virtue of “living within our means.”

Hypocrite is the second word, after shame, that belongs to people who say such things.