Quotations from Alice Rivlin
By David Henderson
My last post was about Sidney Winter’s talk at the Naval Postgraduate School on Monday. This is about Alice Rivlin, the co-presenter. The format she and her husband, Sidney Winter, tried was to model a productive discussion between a “liberal,” [in the 20th century meaning of that word] and a conservative. She played the conservative and he the liberal. I wasn’t sure at times whether she was playing or saying things she believed. In Q&A, she clearly, based on her passion, clarity, and body language, was saying things she believed and so that’s what I’ll focus on.
I’ll mention two things, though, that she said while playing a conservative that seemed to reflect her actual views.
1. In arguing with Sidney Winter, who wants a large well-funded military because if it’s small, “we” can’t intervene in other countries, Alice Rivlin said, “Aren’t we a little bit tempted to use it [the military] if we have it?” One could argue that this is a watered-down version of the late Senator Robert Taft’s conservatism, but it’s not what is generally thought of as conservative today. It did seem to reflect her actual view, but I’m not sure.
2. The current budget mess (high deficit with the failure to get long-term spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security under control), “can’t be blamed on either party.”
It can’t? Both parties have contributed to it, with FDR and LBJ, both Democrats, being the major contributors. FDR pushed for and implemented Social Security. LBJ pushed for and implemented Medicare and Medicaid. I remember Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, saying her 2008 run for the Presidential nomination, that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid were Democratic accomplishments. Is Alice saying she’s wrong?
Possibly, Alice is taking a very short-run view here, in which case she’s right if she means that you can’t blame one party: you should blame both.
Someone in the audience asked her if she thought we would end up muddling through for the next 20 years. Her answer:
“I don’t think we’ve got 20 years; I’m not sure we have 5. Can we afford to wait another 5 years? I don’t think so. If we didn’t raise the debt ceiling and we actually defaulted, we’d have a hell of a crisis.”
Shortly after that, she said:
“If the Tea Party is strengthened in the next election, we might have a default.”