This kind of thing means whatever you want it to mean. Does Rubin want the debt/GDP ratio to start declining in 2-3 years, or does he just want us to be “working towards” that decline? And how exactly is the government meant to achieve all this? Rubin wants to see “public investment and reform in economically critical areas, such as education, healthcare costs, infrastructure, immigration and others”; he gives no corresponding list of areas which might see spending cuts. And his list of tax hikes is limited to letting the Bush tax cuts on income over $250,000 a year expire. Which is all well and good, but is hardly going to move the needle on the debt/GDP ratio.

Rubin ratchets up the unintended irony in his conclusion:

Despite substantial legislative actions over the past year and a half, there is widespread and serious concern about the willingness to work across party and ideological lines and to make the tough decisions, necessary to meet our challenges.

Well yes, Bob. But how do you expect the government to make tough decisions if you, a semi-retired technocrat with no public office at all, can’t even bring yourself to name them? It’s all well and good to talk about fiscal prudence in the abstract: the difficult thing is enacting it in reality. And you’re not being remotely constructive on that front.

(Cross-posted at Reuters.)

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Felix Salmon is an Audit contributor. He's also the finance blogger for Reuters; this post can also be found at