A fine mess


“Right now would not be the time to balance the budget.”

That’s the kind of economic analysis that usually goes in one ear and out the other. And it did today, until I saw who said it to the New York Times: Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Consider that just over a week ago, she was throwing up her hands because neither Barack Obama nor John McCain would name a single sacrifice he would ask of Americans to help the country through the coming — or already here — recession. “They don’t make any of the tough choices,” she said. “Not even close.”

But now, MacGuineas is advocating worrying about a balanced budget… later. The message seems to be that right now a balanced federal budget is not a responsible one.

Start spending.

And that’s OK with Ben Bernanke, the architect of the Wall St. bailout package. Bernanke told the House Budget Committee the country’s economic weakness could last for a while and it was the right time for Congress to consider a new package, something along the lines of the rebate checks we got — and spent — earlier this year. President Bush gave it lukewarm approval without flat-out rejecting the idea.

“This is a fine mess,” Oliver Hardy used to say. Up until fairly recently, we were supposed to be concerned about the debt we’re leaving our children. Now, kids, you’re on your own. We gave you the Internet. What more do you want from us?

If you only had two choices: A harder struggle now, but a budget deficit that would be less crushing to the next generation or an easier economic time of it now, causing a harder struggle for the next generation, which would you choose?