Archive for the 'Deficit' Category

Get behind nothing!

Nov 20, 2011 in Deficit

Apparently future yearly deficits are contingent upon us actively choosing to continue policies that make them happen, but doing nothing erases deficits and saves us $7+ trillion in the next decade, so let’s do nothing!

Personally, I’m exceptionally skilled at doing nothing, so I support this plan, and am completely prepared for full disengagement.

-hw

Tea Party 101

Aug 09, 2011 in Crazy Tea Party People, Deficit

Borrowing money and spending to create jobs is fine if you’re building $8 billion aircraft carriers.

-hw

We may to be too late to stop the damage Republicans are trying to do to the country.

Jul 27, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Crazy Tea Party People, Deficit

America has a AAA credit rating, but because Republicans suddenly decided to play chicken with the useless formality called the debt ceiling, something that was never supposed to happen, US debt is starting to look riskier and riskier. Republicans have kept up their anti-deficit campaign to such a high volume that the world is starting to believe them in a sick self-fulfilling prophecy. Problem? Republicans value tax cuts for the wealthy more than they do fixing the deficit, and they’re dangling our economic future over the fire in order to pursue their real agenda.

Analysts with Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, the nation’s top two rating agencies, declined to be quoted on the record, indicating that even benign statements about timing and ratings decisions can rattle markets and startle investors. But earlier this month, both agencies placed the U.S. government on notice of a downgrade of at least one notch, if not more, to a AA rating. In a written statement, S&P analysts said they believed “there is an increasing risk of a substantial policy stalemate enduring beyond any near-term agreement to raise the debt ceiling.”

In other words, we aren’t even supposed to be having this conversation. A plan to solve our deficit problems, great. An ultimatum that we do it the Tea Party way or they willingly induce a recession, not so great.

America, do you still feel like these guys are looking out for you?

-hw

The Republican id speaks.

Jul 26, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Crazy Tea Party People, Deficit

And there it is, what they’re thinking:

TRUMP: Frankly the Republicans would be crazy unless they get 100% of the deal that they want right now to make any deal…If this happens, for instance if this stuff is going on prior to an election, he can’t get reelected. He possibly can’t get elected anyway…The fact is, unless the Republicans get 100% of what they want, and that may include getting rid of Obamacare, which is a total disaster, then they should not make a deal other than a minor extension which would take you before you the election which would ensure Obama doesn’t get elected, which would be a great thing.
BRIAN KILMEAD: If you look at the average American when they’re polled, it seems the President of the United States gets less of the blame than Republicans do, but you see Republicans with maximum leverage.
TRUMP: Absolutely the Republicans have the leverage. I don’t care about polls. When it comes time to default, they’re not going to remember any of the Republicans’ names. They are going to remember in history books one name, and that’s Obama. They’re not going to be talking about Boehner or anybody else. [...]

The funny thing is that Kilmeade’s main concern is that the plan might not work, not that it would be nearly treasonous and destructive.

I know I’m supposed to be nice and not toss around the Treason word and Republicans are generally nice people and their feelings are going to be oh so bruised if I point out the obvious, but the question is, is it true or not? And if it isn’t true, I need to hear some real reasons, quickly. When you hold the US economy hostage to prevent the rich from paying more in taxes, even when Democrats are conceding and compromising and bending over backwards to work with you, have you not crossed a line?

I don’t care about bullshit excuses, wayward math, and ideological babble about freedom, you don’t deliberately seek to tank the country just to get your way, especially when you’ve only got the House.

Hat tip to our awesome media for doing such a shitty job of informing the public about what’s happening and still trying to play the “both sides are at fault!” false balance game instead of practicing journalism. Yes, people are blaming Republicans more, but 58% think Obama isn’t compromising enough? As Bill Maher said, what do they want Obama to do, put on a leash too? The compromises Obama and Reid have put forth look like Reagan’s wet dreams, they’d be huge Republican victories if a pre-Tea Party Republican had proposed them.

How’s that Tea Party working out for folks? Maybe electing the people who wanted the economy to fully tank in 2008 wasn’t such a great idea?

-hw

“If Obama is for it, I’m against it,” isn’t a principle.

Jul 22, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Deficit, Politics

It seems to me that after foisting one of the worst presidents in U.S. history upon us for eight years, Republicans couldn’t accept what they did emotionally, instead resolving themselves to treat Barack Obama as if he were not just a bad candidate/president, but some kind of arch-evil Manchurian genetic freak mixture of StalinMaoHitler indoctrinated to bring Sharia law to America who had to be stopped at all costs. They’ve acted like depraved lunatics ever since it looked like he was going to win in 2008, and now we’ve gotten to the point where they’re willing to actually, actively harm the United States over the fact that they’ve rendered themselves incapable of working out any deal with him that doesn’t involve his 100% complete submission to them (they won’t fight him on, say, letting Bush tax cuts persist).

Michael Tomasky, who is starting to become my hero:

Now that’s not what Republicans go on cable television and say. But it’s quite obviously been the whole strategy since the stimulus bill: Obama gets nothing from us. And every so often, someone slips, and the truth is revealed. The other day, after the Gang of Six released its new plan, a Senate leadership aide tweeted the following to Politico’s morning Playbook, which gets read by every Washington insider: “Background guidance: The President killed any chance of its success by 1) Embracing it. 2) Hailing the fact that it increases taxes. 3) Saying it mirrors his own plan.”

Obama ran in 2008 as somebody who was basically the Great Liberal Hope, the guy who was going to be the ultimate refutation to the Bush years, and even three decades of Reaganism. Riding a huge Democratic wave in 2008, he was accordingly viewed as a huge threat to Republicans and their past dominance. He was going to bring the nation the healthcare reform it was so hungry for, rescue the cratering economy, and be charming while he did it all.

In the past two and a half years, liberals have been at times rather excessively disappointed in Obama while those on the right (I can’t really call them conservatives anymore, they’re not) have been excessively warlike towards him. In other words, a despirited home team and an utterly maniacal opposition, which gave us the 2010 election and implanted a gang of complete loons/representatives of loons who are now poised to chop the legs out from under the US/global economy because they believe that in a conflict between revenue being low and spending being high, we can only address one of the two, and that no level of compromise is acceptable. After all, would you compromise with Satan?

Liberals, progressives, Democrats, centrists, libertarians, anybody and everybody who isn’t in that 20% Republican-primary voting nutblock, need to realize that we’ve unfortunately gotten the government we deserved, and that Obama alone can’t do much more than try to mitigate the damage Republicans do to the country. Yet fake “balance” has perpetually convinced “serious” people that the loony right isn’t important, doesn’t matter, can’t really affect things, etc. But here we are, where we actually need them to take an affirmative step forward and cooperate with the Senate and the president to rescue the country from disaster, and if the scales haven’t fallen from the eyes of those who must always insist Democrats are just as much to blame, then default, here we come.

I mean, we’ve had a pretty good run at trying to avoid human fallibility, but the fate of the nation rests in a group of spectacularly fallible people. Time for empire-crumbling contingency plans…

-hw

You know, once the plane is pointed straight down it’s kind of hard to get it flying forward again.

Jul 14, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Deficit

Detecting a little nervous energy around here? This is why:

Moody’s Investors Service has placed the Aaa bond rating of the government of the United States on review for possible downgrade given the rising possibility that the statutory debt limit will not be raised on a timely basis, leading to a default on US Treasury debt obligations. On June 2, Moody’s had announced that a rating review would be likely in mid July unless there was meaningful progress in negotiations to raise the debt limit.
In conjunction with this action, Moody’s has placed on review for possible downgrade the Aaa ratings of financial institutions directly linked to the US government: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Home Loan Banks, and the Federal Farm Credit Banks. We have also placed on review for possible downgrade securities either guaranteed by, backed by collateral securities issued by, or otherwise directly linked to the US government or the affected financial institutions.

Do you know what that sound is? Reality, like a windshield to a bug. Because bugs are pretty speedy thinkers, I’m sure they still get a few bug moments to say to themselves, “Oh, that’s weird, something is moving near me. Oh, there’s nothing there, I can see all the way to the back seat! HEY, WHAT THE F-”

Seriously, the window for action is shrinking quickly. If you have a moment, this insight into the delusional cult thinking on the right, whereas they tell themselves the little sippy cup will transport them to a better place with Nordu, the god of ten thousand living planets in the mysterious eleventh dimension (a deeper layer to our reality, curled up the size of a fingernail).

Then there’s Murray Rothbard, a von Mises acolyte whose intense libertarianism led him toward the posture that taxation is theft. Indeed, his contribution to this literature was to discover that since public debt is repaid at the end of the day by taxes, i.e., by stolen money, making such payments stinks of immorality. Bartlett then cites conservative financial analyst Christopher Whalen, who told The Washington Post in 1992 of default, “If it’s good enough for Mexico and Brazil, why not us?” Now, there’s a slogan one doesn’t hear often enough from conservatives: Let’s be the new Mexico!
In our current times, there is a quote from the Cato Institute’s John Tamny, who wrote in Forbes that for Americans to be concerned about a default is “like the parent of a heroin addict fearing that his dealers will cease feeding his addiction.” And finally, yes, there is a proper evangelical angle on all this too, just in case you thought that base wasn’t covered. Gary North, an “economist” who bases much of his work on his reading of the Pentateuch, especially Deuteronomy, leads the charge here. You can read his four-volume study Inheritance and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Deuteronomy, which comes in at a bracing 1,700 pages. Or you can digest this more manageable piece, in which he avers that the United States would be a “utopia” if only a “Great Default” came along to wipe out all that debt brought on by old people, sick people, public employees, and foreigners.

If I had a nickel for every “taxation is theft” guy I’ve run into on the internet…

If you want to believe that the public debt is immoral and that taxation is theft, go right ahead and believe those things. But acting on them in a world that does not agree with you is a different matter. I can believe that driving on the left side of the road is a superior method of locomotion, but if I try it on the way in to work in the United States, I’ll be a public menace, endangering myself and my fellow citizens.

And yet here we are. Dozens of members of the United States Congress are driving on the wrong side of the road, forcing the rest of us into the ditch as they trundle on their reckless way. And the Democrats don’t know how to go to the American people and make these folks sound like the sowers of chaos they are? And the conventions of journalism require that they be given “equal weight” in analyses and discussions, and taken as seriously as the other side? We are a society in deep, deep trouble.

I think we’ve reached the point where we’re really talking about a financial 9/11 here. A group of zealots are trying to steer the planes into the frickin’ global economy. The nervous, smart ones are peeling off, but the zealots are still steering. If America can’t right itself within a matter of days, we are talking about September 2008 being a goddamn practice run.

-hw

For the good of the country…

Jul 13, 2011 in Barack Obama, Clueless Conservatives, Deficit

Lordy I hope this is true.

“Talk about arbitrary,” he said of Cantor’s figure, according to a Democratic attendee. “I am totally willing to do the hard stuff to get well above what you need and you won’t do it because you can’t put one penny of revenue on the table.”

“At least Mitch McConnell, to his credit, was willing to work for a solution,” the president added, acknowledging the proposal by the Senate Minority Leader to, essentially, give him the authority to lift the debt ceiling without passing commensurate cuts.

“I have reached the point where I say enough,” Obama concluded, according to Reuters. “Would Ronald Reagan be sitting here? I’ve reached my limit. This may bring my presidency down, but I will not yield on this.”

Please, please, please let it be true. The truth is so simple. Obama has put forth a real compromise, Republicans are demanding complete surrender. There has to be a point where sanity meets spine, and I hope so dearly that I cannot express it Obama has reached that point.

It sounds cheesy as hell to say the country needs Obama right now, but the country needs Obama right now. Hell, don’t ask me, ask the business community, freaking out as Judgment Day approaches. Democrats, Independents, and sane Republicans need to band together on this one and send a clear, explicit message to Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and Eric Cantor, that the bullshit has to stop.

-hw

Well, fer fuck’s sake.

Jul 07, 2011 in Barack Obama, Clueless Conservatives, Deficit, Disappointing Dems

White House already caving on the Fourteenth Amendment?

When there’s nothing Republicans won’t risk, and nothing Democrats will risk, where the hell do you dipshits think things will end up?

I’m done with it. We’ll see what the deal struck is, but I don’t expect to see any surprises. The Republicans have already gotten almost everything they’ve wanted, and even if they crack a bit and give in on some revenue increases (somebody better tell Mitch McConnell), it’ll still be a pittance. If Obama’s going to get a birdie out of this shit trap, then he has certainly outsmarted me at this point. While he generally tends to come out with a net positive, he has this miserable, shitty habit of giving up too much too damn soon and getting less, while sitting around wishing remorsefully that Republicans would stop being so belligerent and uncooperative.

News flash, Mr. President: They’ve hated you from the beginning, have done everything they can to stop you from having any success, and they don’t give a damn if the country goes to hell because they’re just going to point the finger at you anyway. Flashing a bit of leadership and then hiding isn’t an option right now. You’ve got to be a leader every day now, because now every day matters, more than ever.

-hw

Republican economic terrorism.

Jun 30, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Constitution, Crazy Tea Party People, Deficit, Economy

As the kids say nowadays, this.

Over at Dana’s blog the Fourteenth Amendment’s protection of the validity of the US debt has produced a sort of nervous chuckle without anybody really willing to explain how Republicans could force the US to default without violating the Constitution. Something tells me they’re feeling a bit blindsided.

But when your only goal is to do whatever hurts President Obama, even if that means tanking the economy, you gotta be careful of those blinders.

Sounds to me like Democrats just need to show a little spine to save the country and themselves.

Ah, shit. We might be screwed anyway then.

-hw

UPDATE: Fourteenth Amendment fever popping up here and here.

Ungrateful little monkeys!

Jun 29, 2011 in Deficit, Politics, Taxes

Suzanne Mettler wrote this timely and interesting article on how little people appreciate government assistance when it comes in the form of targeted tax breaks:

Growing up during the Depression, Sam Marchesi had to drop out of school after eighth grade—soon after his father died—to work and help support his mother and his seven younger siblings. When World War II began, he enlisted in the Army and served in the Pacific. Upon his return, he took advantage of the educational and training benefits of the G.I. Bill, joining the 52 percent of fifteen million returning veterans who did so. He acquired vocational training in architectural drawing and on-the-job training as an apprentice carpenter, skills that enabled him to become a successful custom builder. When I interviewed Marchesi in the late 1990s for a study of the G.I. Bill, he reflected, “I think it was a great thing that the government did, to give us this opportunity to pick up where we left off. We had to face the world. We had to make a living. Thank God the government had the doors open for us.”

The G.I. Bill’s transformative effects on the lives of men like Marchesi have become legendary, but just as striking in hindsight is the clearly visible role that government played as the source of those opportunities. In more recent decades the federal government has expanded its efforts to provide college aid to all Americans. But instead of delivering a straight benefit, like the original G.I. Bill, most of that aid has come through roundabout means, like payments to banks to provide students with loans, or loopholes in the tax code to subsidize families to save for or pay for college. Generations of Americans have now graduated with the help of these costly-though-indirect programs. Yet over the years, in conversations with my own students, I’ve noticed that, unlike Marchesi, few of them recognize that they’ve received benefits from government. It’s hard to imagine them reflecting on their HOPE Tax Credits, or their 529 and Coverdell college savings plans and saying, “Thank God the government had the door open for us.”

And it’s not just my students. In 2008, I conducted a survey to gauge the degree to which Americans who had received various government social benefits recognized them as such. Not surprisingly, most beneficiaries of the G.I. Bill who took part in the survey acknowledged that they had been given a leg up by the government. But of the respondents who made use of tax-advantaged Coverdell or 529 education savings accounts, 64 percent said they had “not used a government social program,” as did 59.6 percent of those who used HOPE and Lifelong Learning Tax Credits.

Now if the government wanted, it could simply tax and then hand checks out, and everybody would recognize that as assistance. But much like the income tax is for most folks relatively painless or even a bonus because the money is taken out before they ever see it, tax expenditures appear in people’s wallets without them realizing it was ever gone. And it leaves you with some whiny tax-obsessive bitching about how IT’S MY MONEY THE GOVERNMENT NEVER HAD A RIGHT TO IT IN THE FIRST PLACE SO IT MEANS NOTHING even though the financial effect is no different at all than cutting checks. All that ungratefulness accumulates and then you have these people acting like they did it all themselves, thus they should pay even fewer taxes…

So the government really should quit trying to be a Secret Santa and just stick its hand out, letting people know Uncle Sam is offering to help. Name the benefits. Make people see their taxes go out, then let them see the benefits roll back in. Put it all on the table. When people get a Social Security check, they have to be a very special kind of brainwashed Republican to forget who it came from.

In the meantime, Congress can close a lot of revenue gaps not by increasing taxes heavily (not that returning to Clinton-era levels is a heavy increase), but by eliminating a lot of tax expenditures that go to the upper middle class and the wealthy. It’s at least a bit more politically palatable for Republicans who know spending cuts alone won’t get the job done.

-hw

The last line of defense.

Jun 27, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Crazy Tea Party People, Deficit

Over at Dana Pico’s blog I’ve noticed that when all arguments about why we must ONLY cut spending and not increase revenue are dismantled and packed into little boxes and shipped to the Bad Idea Depot, Dana and others fall back on an excuse that rests mostly on belligerence, suspicion, and megalomania. Let me explain.

The excuse is, roughly, “If Democrats succeed in raising taxes, they’ll just spend the money!”

Now, let’s look at the ways this is all the things I described it as and more. Perhaps most importantly, Dana and the Republicans don’t seem to realize something: They aren’t in complete control of the government. They have the House, not the Senate, and not the White House. Yet notice something funny about these debt ceiling “negotiations”? Yep, every Republican is dead set that there will be no tax increase. Sound like a compromise to you? Republicans get everything, Democrats get nothing (deficit doesn’t get fixed)? In Republicanland, that is exactly their definition of compromise. Any fair American must reject this approach.

Let’s look at the flipside: If we cut spending, Republicans will just cut taxes more and we’ll be in more deficit trouble. Is that true? Well, considering the Bush tax cuts are the biggest single contributor to our deficit problems today, and that they were enacted at a time when we were just starting to get ahead of our deficit problems, I’d say it’s a very real risk. In other words, since it just bloody happened and we’re still paying the price, I’d say the inverse of Dana’s statement is far more true.

Another point: Right now, there’s not much room for more spending. Our deficit has grown so large and we have such problems ahead keeping Medicare in the black that it’s unlikely we’ll see any new programs soon, and that’s a shame as one thing we could spend on would be more jobs programs, but Republicans are dead set against that. Dana doubts Democrat sincerity about wanting government to be solvent, but Dana also wanted Dick “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter” Cheney as president in 2008. The historical record suggests that Republicans tend to be most foolhardy when it comes to deficit spending, not Democrats. Democrats want government to be solvent and functional so that it can be robust and ready when problems arise. We could have been so much better prepared to handle the crash of 2008 had we not already been neck deep in Bush credit card spending. So the realistic order of events is we cut spending sensibly, raise revenue, pay down the debt, and then where there’s extra money and good use for it, we spend.

Finally, this is barring a concrete solution now over prejudicial insults. Whereas Democrats are trying to meet Republicans in the middle in a fiscally smart manner, Republicans are threatening to let the US default on its debts and bring on an economic Dark Ages that will make 2008 look like a boom. Yet Republicans have no ground on which to stand to claim to be more fiscally responsible than Democrats, and if one insists on being completely fair, both parties have sinned. It’s nice that Dana doesn’t trust Democrats, but why should anybody trust Republicans? It’s supposed to be a bipartisan negotiation, so bite the bullet, give the other guy some of what he wants, and get some of what you want.

Failure to do so will only underscore Republican irresponsibility, and the country will soon see that the price of the 2010 amnesiac vote returning Republicans to power has been to ensure at every step we will make things worse than they could have been. If Republicans can’t grow up, and do so quickly before the US gets downgraded further, they’ll prove what I’ve been saying along, that Republicans have played the part of arsonists jeering the Democrat firefighters for not putting out the fire, meanwhile they’re still running around spraying lighter fluid and calling it holy water.

-hw

Paying less in taxes excuses paying more out of pocket?

Jun 13, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Deficit, Health Care

Andrew Sullivan and his readers have been speculating about the precise moment where America became a decadent nation. The Lewinsky impeachment hubbub, Bush vs. Gore, torture legalized, etc. have all popped up. Let me nominate one, as much as I was happy with the result: “Read my lips: No new taxes.”

Now Bush I got rightly cornholed for getting caught violating a very explicit campaign promise. Except two things: He shouldn’t have made such an irresponsible promise, and the anger directed at him over lying to the public was transmutated into a dogmatic commandment on the far right that spread throughout the entire Republican party that taxes must never be raised, and whenever possible should be lowered ever further.

Today? Massive deficit spending because our political establishment has lost all will to adjust tax rates in any direction but down, while demand for government services remains the same or larger.

Republicans dogma constructs this as some kind of moral failure, where poor scumsuckers siphon off the wealthy heroes of capitalism to provide for them. All increased spending is intrinsically bad, while all lowered taxes are intrinsically good. Moral certitude has replaced accounting.

Yet health care spending is something nobody can get away from, and so it makes no sense to make a moral distinction between health care paid for with taxes vs. health care paid for with private dollars. Almost everybody, even the well off, pays for their healthcare out of a collective insurance program, whether private or public. The question is, which is a better use of the money?

The idea of Medicare as a money-saving program may seem hard to grasp. After all, hasn’t Medicare spending risen dramatically over time? Yes, it has: adjusting for overall inflation, Medicare spending per beneficiary rose more than 400 percent from 1969 to 2009.

But inflation-adjusted premiums on private health insurance rose more than 700 percent over the same period. So while it’s true that Medicare has done an inadequate job of controlling costs, the private sector has done much worse. And if we deny Medicare to 65- and 66-year-olds, we’ll be forcing them to get private insurance — if they can — that will cost much more than it would have cost to provide the same coverage through Medicare.

By the way, we have direct evidence about the higher costs of private insurance via the Medicare Advantage program, which allows Medicare beneficiaries to get their coverage through the private sector. This was supposed to save money; in fact, the program costs taxpayers substantially more per beneficiary than traditional Medicare.

Krugman nods to Bruce Bartlett, who notes that Americans have lower taxes but most of the benefit is really due to health insurance costs being handled privately. The article contains a lot of numbers, but this stood out:

The impact on the tax burden can be dramatic if one views family allowances as negative taxes. For example, in Luxembourg, an average married worker with two children pays a nominal income tax rate of 16.5 percent (including state and local income taxes), while an American in the same situation would pay 5.2 percent. But once family allowances are subtracted from the Luxembourg worker’s income-tax payment, the effective tax rate falls to just nine-tenths of 1 percent.

More importantly, almost every other country has some form of national health insurance that covers, on average, 72 percent of all health costs. The comparable figure in the United States is 46.5 percent, and almost all of that is accounted for by Medicare and Medicaid, which largely benefit the elderly and the poor.

Average American workers must pay for health care out of their pockets, or through their employers in the form of lower wages. Europeans prefer to pay higher taxes and get government health care for every resident in return.

Conservatives universally believe that whenever the government provides a service it will be vastly more costly than if the private sector does so. This is why they support the plan offered by Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin and chairman of the House Budget Committee, to essentially privatize Medicare. Conservatives believe competition will drive down health costs for the elderly.

But O.E.C.D. data show that Americans pay vastly more for health care than the residents of any other major country. In 2008, we paid 16 percent of G.D.P. in total health care costs, public and private combined. The people with the next heaviest health care burden were the French, who paid 11.2 percent of G.D.P. Indeed, at 7.4 percent of G.D.P., the governmental share of health spending in the United States is about the same as total health care costs in many other countries, including (as a percentage of G.D.P.) Luxembourg (6.8 percent), Israel (7.8 percent), Japan (8.1 percent), Britain (8.4 percent) and Norway (8.5 percent).

Indeed, the American experience in the last decade is best summed up as: Hey, nice tax cut! Hey, my health care costs doubled! Hey, I got fired and have a crappy job with no health insurance!

Americans are paying through the nose for health care. Why should they be happy to pay more in premiums than they would in taxes? Or pay the ultimate price by not being able to afford health care at all?

Are taxes inherently evil? Of course not. You’re either getting your money’s worth or you’re not, and few people have the luxury of feeling better about paying more just because it’s going to Aetna and not Uncle Sam.

-hw

Trusty handybits.

Jun 09, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Crazy Tea Party People, Deficit

Great compilation here:

Here, then, are 10 Inconvenient Truths About the Debt Ceiling:

1. Republican Leaders Agree U.S. Default Would Be a “Financial Disaster”
2. Ronald Reagan Tripled the National Debt
3. George W. Bush Doubled the National Debt
4. Republicans Voted Seven Times to Raise Debt Ceiling for President Bush
5. Federal Taxes Are Now at a 60 Year Low
6. Bush Tax Cuts Didn’t Pay for Themselves or Spur “Job Creators”
7. Ryan Budget Delivers Another Tax Cut Windfall for Wealthy
8. Ryan Budget Will Require Raising Debt Ceiling – Repeatedly
9. Tax Cuts Drive the Next Decade of Debt
10. $3 Trillion Tab for Unfunded Wars Remains Unpaid

Click through for the details. It’s pretty frustrating trying to have deficit debates with Republicans when they simply refuse to acknowledge the basic realities and fundamentals of the problem. They got their spin, and they don’t want to unlearn it, even if the good of the country depends on it.

-hw

America willing to pay for the government it wants?

May 13, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Deficit

Or maybe just realizing that talking about cutting spending without raising taxes to reduce the deficit is like talking about not paying on your car loan while refusing to take a better paying job to balance the checkbook. Grown-ups know better:

* A May 11 Ipsos/Reuters poll found that three-fifths of people favor raising taxes to reduce the deficit.
* A May 4 Quinnipiac University poll found that 69 percent of people, including 49 percent of Republicans, support raising taxes on those households making more than $250,000.
* An April 29 Gallup poll found that only 20 percent of people say the deficit must be reduced only with spending cuts; 76 percent say that taxes should play a role.
* An April 20 Washington Post/ABC News poll found that by a 2-to-1 margin people favor a combination of higher taxes and spending cuts over spending cuts alone to reduce the deficit. It also found that 72 percent of people favor raising taxes on the rich to reduce the deficit and this is far and away the most popular deficit reduction measure.
* An April 18 McClatchy/Marist poll found that voters support higher taxes on the rich to reduce the deficit by a 2-to-1 margin, including 45 percent of self-identified Tea Party members.

Republicans are working hard to enforce their no-tax-increase-ever orthodoxy, but there are signs that the dam is beginning to break. On April 7, former Reagan budget director Dave Stockman said, “It is simply unrealistic to say that raising revenue isn’t part of the solution. It’s a measure of how far off the deep end Republicans have gone with this religious catechism about taxes.”

You can’t keep telling people that we’re in a budget crisis and that we have to all be adults, but BTW TAX CUTS ARE OFF THE TABLE I SAID!!!

-HW!!!

Throw’em in the clink and smelt the key.

Apr 15, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Deficit, Drugs

Hey, budget hawks, turns out all that bullshit about throwing ever more Americans behind bars, usually over the insane Drug War on America that we can never seem to find the will to truly end, costs us something dearly. But hey, we better bust up some teachers’ unions…

Not all the money spent on incarceration was wasted, but the Pew study makes it clear that we’re now beyond the point of diminishing returns. Even as the prison population has ballooned, the study states that only about a third of the drop in crime is attributable to incarceration, and notably, 19 of the states in the study that cut their prison populations also experienced a drop in crime. The recidivism rate alone doesn’t always tell the whole story, since some policies can make it look like states have developed effective policies for preventing people from reoffending when they’re really just incarcerating more people who are less likely to recidivate.

And…

…the point here is that when ex-offenders don’t recidivate, that means they’re more likely to get jobs and be parents to their children. There is a serious negative cumulative impact created by ex-offenders being unable to find licit employment and lead productive lives, one that has a drastic effect on the poor communities in which their populations tend to be concentrated. So states have a public safety and fiscal interest in getting this right, but there’s more at stake here than just money.

Of course, the Drug War, while usually acceded to by cowardly Democrats, is and always has been driven by the very people who are so vehement about Big Government Spending. Well, seems to me that letting the government break the bank throwing people in jail for preferring kicks besides booze violates every tenet of such a belief system, but this would be, again, giving them some actual credit for meaning anything they say.

-hw

Getting a pig to whistle Dixie.

Mar 17, 2011 in Barack Obama, Clueless Conservatives, Deficit

As time passes and the GOP’s best idea for the deficit is throw red meat at their base and hope it’ll keep them satisfied while trillions continue to accumulate. And people are starting to notice that after the Republicans get done with Planned Parenthood, NPR, teachers, and big infrastructure projects that would bring money to states and create actual long-term growth are turned down…I mean, I just want to keep going on, but the point is that after all is said and done, the GOP isn’t any closer to serious budget reform.

In the poll, 21% of Americans said they believed Congressional Republicans had a better approach to the deficit than did President Obama, while 20% felt the reverse. In addition, 52% said there wasn’t much difference between Obama and the GOP House.

That’s a sharp reversal from last November, when 35% said the GOP had better plan, compared to 24% who said Obama knew best how to deal with the deficit. And while Democrats haven’t soured much more on the GOP’s capability — not very many were so hot on Republicans to begin with — the poll shows Republicans and independents turning away from the GOP in huge numbers.

So is Obama that confident he can call their bluff? Is he actually ready to come in with a plan that will outdo them next year in time to win the election? I’m not confident. But handing the baton to the GOP to demonstrate to the public what a pile of shit they’ve been talking since 2008 is smart and necessary. He signs whatever they come up with anyway, so if they slash the deficit, they did it with Obama!

By doing little and putting the onus on the Republicans who trash-talked their way into office, Obama also illustrates to the public how truly complicated and unpleasant reducing the deficit can be if you immediately rule out denting the military or taxing the rich at historically normal levels.

Worst case scenario, however: Obama has actually bought into GOP rhetoric and is truly just as bad as them, content to try waiting out deficit troubles after making some big promises to capture his second term. Some liberals would say, “Duh!” but I rate it at about 20% probability.

Then again we’re letting ourselves get sucked into another Middle East conflict, so let me bump that up to 35% probability. Naturally, the cost implications ne’er appeared on the lips of any Republican I’ve heard clamoring for war, but feel free to correct me. Please.

-hw

Double-take.

Feb 05, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Deficit

I just used this link, but by Jove you’ve absolutely got to give it a second look. Quick question: How much would anything the Tea Party said make sense if Republicans stopped labeling the 2009 budget as Obama’s?

Strangely, CATO, the actual libertarian guys, were pointing out the inanity all along:

What about the so-called stimulus, they will ask, with its $787 billion price tag? Or the omnibus fiscal-year 2009 appropriations bill? And how about Cash for Clunkers and Obama’s expansion of the children’s health insurance program? Didn’t these all boost spending in 2009?

The answer is yes. But these boondoggles amounted to just a tiny percentage of FY2009 spending — about $140 billion out of a $3.5 trillion budget — as the pie chart nearby illustrates.

I always wonder why reality offers so many opportunities for people with loose regard for the truth to fudge the facts. It’s just so obvious, yet so subtle. Just like the crash. I mean, Bush walked out of office handing Obama an economy in freefall and a massive deficit, and the GOP has just painlessly and guiltlessly labeled it all Obama’s doing. Call the Bush budget Obama’s budget, call the Bush recession Obama’s recession, and keep saying it over and over again. They certainly got rewarded for the constant lying, so what’s going to get them to stop?

-hw

Chris Christie, Democrat-eater.

Feb 05, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Deficit

Supposedly one of the sharper tools in the GOP shed, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, heard that Illinois cranked up its taxes through the roof so he pulled a stunt worthy of James O’Keefe, traveling to Illinois (on taxpayer dollars?) for this pitch (hat tip to Atrios):

Christie, along with governors in Indiana and Wisconsin, has been trying to pry jobs from Illinois after Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed a record 67 percent tax increase Jan. 12.

Illinois raised its flat personal income tax rate to 5 percent from 3 percent, but that is below New Jersey’s graduated rates for taxable incomes above $40,000, Quinn’s press secretary, Brie Callahan, said in an interview last week. And while the Illinois corporate rate is increasing to 7 percent from 4.8 percent, that is still below New Jersey’s 9 percent rate, she said.

“We, of course, welcome Gov. Christie and we welcome him spending New Jersey dollars on the Illinois economy,” Callahan said Friday.

Illinois faced a shortfall of at least $13 billion in the 2011 budget year.

What are the Republicans shaving off the budget for next year, $70 billion? Even a hundred billion? Let’s be nice and say so. Not much of a dent in a trillion-plus deficit, is it? Yet according to each and every Republican Obama is responsible along for the huge deficits of the past two years (even Bush’s 2009 budget, with its $1.2 trillion deficit). So it’s plain to see that Republican talk on spending is always, always superficial and insufficient to address our challenges. Yet when one state buckles down and tells citizens they’re going to have to pony up to pay for the government they democratically chose, this Republican Christie can’t wait to try pulling a stunt to punish their act of responsibility. And, yet, like most Republican stunts, it is composed of pure fail. Imagine dragging your $3 hot dogs over to the next stand because you heard they doubled their prices…to $2.50.

Meanwhile, Christie nixed a Jersey/New York tunnel that would have put a lot of his citizens to work and brought much-needed infrastructure to the region, forcing 45 extra minutes of commuting onto the citizens driving economic productivity.

Senator Frank Lautenberg issued a statement today that read, in part: “The Governor was given a deal from the federal government on Sunday that put no extra imposition on the state of New Jersey for its obligation to the ARC Tunnel project, and the Governor refused it. It was clear from the beginning that Governor Christie planned to kill the ARC Tunnel no matter what… This is a tragic day in New Jersey’s history. Two weeks ago, Governor Christie made the biggest public policy blunder in New Jersey’s history. Today he repeated it… The Governor has put politics before performance, and it is the people of New Jersey who will pay the high price.”

Politics over performance? That’s GOP dogma, purely expressed.

-hw

That was easy.

Jan 05, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Deficit

How are Republicans going to balance the budget? By using disappearing ink in the books.

Republicans’ deficit reduction platform, which may have helped catapult them into the majority, is about to run headlong into a hard reality: Many of their key policy goals will increase the deficit dramatically.

To get around this fact, they’ve included measures in their new rules package to exempt some of their biggest legislative priorities from deficit consideration. Among the exceptions, which the House is likely to consider in the 112th Congress, are the health care repeal bill (scheduled for a vote a week from Wednesday), the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, an AMT patch, extending the estate tax, and more…The health care law, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will reduce the deficit by $143 billion through the end of the decade, and more so in the decade after that. Thus, repealing the law will blow a similarly sized hole in the deficit.

Republicans wave this off.

Of course, Very Serious People still aren’t sure if the Republicans are serious about the deficit or not. Because it’s so difficult to tell whether or not a party that believes in only cutting taxes, never raising them, is serious about paying the bills.

-hw

It’s hilarious that it’s even a question.

Jan 03, 2011 in Deficit, Journamalism

Washington Post starting to taste reality?

Are House Republicans serious about dealing with the deficit?

When was it established that they were ever serious?

Now they’ve used their political clout from the legendary victory of 2010 to blow a trillion dollar hole in the deficit and have proudly announced their intention to completely de-link tax cuts from deficit calculations.

Y’know, Wal-Mart lowers their prices because it gets more butts in the store. When the government effectively lowers its prices, and says you can have all this wonderful infrastructure and aid, not to mention the world’s largest military complex (in order to play global chess) for less, people will get their butts in that government store. By telling people that if they want a program, they’re going to have to pay taxes for it, I’m being responsible. By telling people they don’t have to pay taxes for anything, and they swear to get around to making some cuts in the future, the Republicans pulled off quite a con job in 2010.

If it appears they weren’t able to foresee a single thing past Election Day, your eyes aren’t lying.

That said, I expect the press to spend the next two years still asking themselves this question. There are narratives to consider, you know.

-hw

I balanced the budget.

Nov 15, 2010 in Deficit, Economy

Here’s my take: 69% tax increases, 31% spending cuts.

It’s kind of reassuring knowing that with some relatively modest tweaks the deficit situation is solvable. Of course, we live in a political environment where Republicans gleefully campaign promising explicit tax cuts and vague spending cuts, telling voters they can have something for nothing. My position is that most spending programs can be altered but are essentially popular and desired by the public, and thus should be paid for. It’s something for something, and it balances out, doesn’t it? Don’t believe me, go look for yourself.

-hw

UPDATE: This is a good look at the kind of things missing from the calculator.

What we’re up against.

Oct 09, 2010 in Deficit, Economy, Politics

Some Republicans are claiming they’d be open to defense cuts, but how far will they go? Bruce Bartlett tackles the usual wingers like Bill Kristol who have come out against defense cuts:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, originally appointed to his position by George W. Bush, has taken the lead on finding $100 billion in savings over the next five years. But the magnitude of our budgetary problems requires much deeper cuts. And as a recent Congressional Budget Office briefing makes clear, deep cuts are impossible without scaling back our defense commitments.

As the painful process of deficit reduction moves forward next year, many conservatives are going to scream that our national security is being fatally undermined. They will need to be reminded that excessive national debt also undermines our national security — especially when much of it is owned by foreigners like the Chinese. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently warned:

Our rising debt level poses a national security threat, and it poses a national security threat in two ways. It undermines our capacity to act in our own interests and it does constrain us where constraint may be undesirable. And it also sends a message of weakness internationally … It is very troubling to me that we are losing the ability not only to chart our own destiny, but to have the leverage that comes from this enormously effective economic engine that has powered American values and interests over so many years.

Is it good strategy to mortgage the earnings of future generations to keep a widespread standing army in 2010? To go broke maintaining a Cold War-fighting machine in a guerrilla war?

Anyway, go read the whole article. Reading an actual conservative take down the radical posers of the GOP is too sweet.

-hw

The Republicans never mean what they say on the deficit.

Sep 26, 2010 in Clueless Conservatives, Crazy Tea Party People, Deficit, Disappointing Dems

Bruce Bartlett describes what the cheap, “MORE tax cuts now, unspecified minor spending cuts later!” Pledge to America GOP “plan” illustrates:

Today, Republicans believe that deficits are nothing more than something to ignore when they are in power and to bludgeon Democrats with when they are out of power.

It’s important to remember that the deficit was just something the Republicans latched onto the second they were facing the prospect of being out of power. When they lost the elections of 2006 and 2008, they were at the tail end of six years of nearly uninterrupted Republican rule and the verdict was in. They had nothing. No plan for the future, no explanations for their failures, just anger. Whatever they could harness that anger to was good enough. George W. left behind a $1.3 projected deficit? Blame it on Obama, return to blathering about budget-busting tax cuts and vague spending cuts. The Republicans added the Tea Party moniker to rebrand, promised that they really meant it this time, and proceeded to bash Obama for two years without regard for the facts. Now their biggest priority is scaring the Democrats into passing along $3 trillion in tax cuts by declaring total war to win an extra $700 billion for the country’s wealthiest citizens. They were all about the deficit, until they got that tax cut candy waved in front of their nose.

If the next six years actually saw Democratic rule by a party that wasn’t constantly terrified of what people like Glenn Beck say, we’d be on the way back to fiscal recovery. As it is, even if Democrats survive this election relatively intact, they’ll only be more scared. I mean, if you can’t have a victory like 2008 and work up your courage, a close call is going to make you braver?

This country may be entering some kind of paradigm where the party out of power always has the drive, because things are constantly turning into shit. Of course, we’re still dealing with the fallout from GOP rule, but capitalism, the climate, and our resources have combined forces to launch the U.S. on a downward trajectory that we won’t soon escape. If Democrats in power can’t face that fundamental fact and fight for their solutions, then they’re going to get bounced in favor of Republican magical thinking. See, Republicans don’t have any solutions, but they don’t care. They’re just worried about winning elections, so they get their soundbite and go full steam.

The Democrats are in fact the only ones who can be trusted on the deficit, historically and presently. Every one of them can take the deficit issue and shove it right up Republican arses this Fall. We’ll see how many do.

-hw

The Pledge to America is a horrific flop.

Sep 23, 2010 in Clueless Conservatives, Deficit, Economy

I told ya for two years they were crazy and had no good policies. Somehow they got backed into providing specifics (*gasp*) and now that we can see them, we can safely laugh. The Republicans are charlatans, especially about the deficit, and the Pledge is a budget-buster, plain and simple.

Fortunately, it takes 60 votes to get anything done in the Senate nowadays, right? The Republicans taught us that. Whatever Democrats don’t like, we’ll filibuster, just like Republicans did. Until they want to disarm the filibuster, why should Democrats get beat over the head with a stick for two years and not pick up a stick to fight back with? Two years of pure Obstructionism, in its most concentrated form, has destroyed the normal expectations. We don’t have a fair partner in the Senate. Just Machiavellians.

So what part of the pledge can get past the 60 vote barrier and a presidential veto (presuming Obama doesn’t just cave into everything, a possibility)? I’m sure something truly popular could get 60 votes. After all, Democrats did it for Health Care.

Watch the folks over at CPST run into a brick wall on the Pledge here. It’s crickets right now after a brief volley, but perhaps the thread will draw some rightwinger martyrs ready to yammer about Obama being teh Commie.

-hw

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Postcards From the Pledge
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

If you keep writing nicely, you’re bound to get somewhere.

Sep 21, 2010 in Deficit

Michael Kinsley, who can be quite dense at times trying to search for something interesting to say, lets a few golden nuggets drop while discussing the burden the Baby Boomers are leaving for current and future generations and what to do about it:

The idea of my tax is to produce a lot of money that can then be used to pay off, or at least buy down, society’s debts. If we could collect just 20 percent of the alleged $41 trillion about to pass through two generations, that would be more than $8 trillion.

Critics of the estate tax like to say that it amounts to taxing the same income twice: once when it’s earned and again when you die. This is wrong, for the most part. People who leave estates of more than $1 million didn’t earn this amount through wages. Most of their fortunes consist of “unrealized capital gains”: property (paintings, houses, shares of stock, entire companies) that has become more valuable. As long as they don’t sell it, they pay no income tax. And there are plenty of other loopholes to provide untaxed spending money. Most of the people who would be affected by what we might as well call the Boomer Tax actually did pay taxes when they earned their money originally, because the loopholes and special rates don’t apply to plain old wages. They really will be paying twice, but that’s the idea. That’s what you do because you didn’t have to fight in World War II.

The point is to get the Boomers to really do something big to say they sacrificed for their country and the future. Undoubtedly, this will be a very difficult proposition, because they’re Boomers. It’s all about them, baby. And, of course, if you suggest end-of-life counseling as a measure of sanity-

One final thought: as we learned during the health-care debate, citizens of other advanced countries live longer than Americans, while spending far less per person on health care. How can that be? Well, it’s partly that they don’t try to save people through heroic, expensive, long-shot efforts, most of which fail. You’ve seen the figures: for example, last year Medicare spent $50 billion on the last two months of life. Trouble is, we don’t know when we’re two months from the end.

-then you have people start talking about death panels and Nazi euthanasia programs and God, because we might consider some restraint in dumping billions upon billions into the mindless pursuit for just a few more days or weeks of life. Okay, drain the Treasury if you like, but at least let me have the right to choose not to.

Kinsley has some other good notions, such as the fact that Social Security is supposed to keep old folks out of cruel poverty, not provide a return on an investment. We dole out so many checks to those who have provided for their retirement years, and such was never the purpose, and cap yearly payments.

Nevertheless, all is for naught. The Boomers will retire, ask us to pony up, and make sure they don’t have to foot the bill. “How’s that deficit we left you comin’ along?” may become the most popular question grandparents ask their grandchildren, even after their grown. And many will do it voting Republican and bitching about government spending.

-hw

A moment of actual conservative thinking.

Sep 21, 2010 in Deficit, Economy

Christopher Buckley:

I worked at the White House in the early Reagan administration, at a time when the deficit rocket really started to take off. The problem was that Reagan had promised to a) cut taxes and b) increase defense spending. You remember: supply side? Candidate George H.W. Bush called it “voodoo economics,” his argument being that you couldn’t cut the deficit without cutting non-defense spending. Mr. Bush stopped calling it that round about January 20, 1981. Reagan then cut taxes, increased defense spending, and didn’t cut entitlement spending. Oops.

As the deficits began mount–though they were mere trifles, pittances compared with the Mt. Everest variety with us today–I meekly raised my little voice and said, “But I thought we Republicans were supposed to be the ‘Daddy Party’–the responsible ones. The designated driver-party.”

The answer, rendered most succinctly, 20 years later by Vice President Dick Cheney, himself part of a Republican administration that managed to double the national debt in eight years, was: “Deficits don’t matter.” P.S. Go f— yourself.

And if we face a debt crisis, it’s just a good chance to slash entitlements and stop making Americans so lazy in Republican eyes. Not really the most responsible way to handle things, is it? They started instituting their philosophy thirty years ago and now everybody living today and their descendants will be left with the burden of our exorbitant conceits (such as trillion dollar wars of widespread slaughter to avenge the loss of 3000).

I think that we might as well face reality: we’re going to have to cut spending and raise taxes. (Good luck with that, America.)

And we’re left with cowardly Democrats and corrupt Republicans gleefully willing to take political power by promising people they won’t have to pay for our mistakes.

There can be no redemption for this nation without pain. It’s up to the people to demand honest politicians who will tell them they can’t have everything for nothing, and that certain bills simply must be paid. And the people who ran up the tab so high shouldn’t be lecturing us about fiscal sanity.

Entitlement reform has to come packaged with massive defense spending cuts and tax increases. Anybody else telling you different is selling a get-rich-quick scheme. And you ain’t the one getting rich.

-hw