Tag Archives: fiscal cliff

FUD for Thought

There is an obvious rationale behind the GOP’s refusal to raise taxes on the wealthy:

If they allow it to happen, and it is successful in bringing the country’s accounts into balance, the GOP goes down in history as the flat-earthers they are. As long as they can keep the question open, and stick to debunked top-down economic policies, they can wait for some other force to come to the rescue and then claim victory. Either way, their base can keep the siphon of profiteering flowing, and that = Endless Super Pac Buffet.

FWIW I find it ironic that not only is the GOP sticking to their losing platform from the 2012 electons, but they are basically asking the president to accept their positions and inflict their damage on his base. It would be funny if it wasn’t true. They talk a lot of shit about treating the 2012 Election like a war, including their cabal to strangle the political process for four years to weaken the President, but when they lose they want the victor to accept their terms. Meanwhile in the major US media, “the band played on”.

Have a Nice Day.

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The “cliff” matters, but for other reasons

Really great post by Robert Reich on FB today:

I can think of at least three cliffs that pose larger dangers to America than the fiscal one:

(1) The child poverty cliff. Between 2007 and 2011, the percentage of American school-age children living in poor households grew from 17 to 21%. Unless we focus on better schools, better health, and improved conditions for these poor kids and their families, we’ll have a significant population of undereducated and desperate adults.

(2) The baby-boomer healthcare cliff. Healthcare costs are already 18% of GDP, and between now and 2030, when 76 million boomers join the ranks of the elderly, those costs will soar unless we adopt a single-payer system that focuses on healthy outcomes rather than fee-for-services.

(3) The environmental cliff. Carbon levels in the atmosphere are increasing at a rate of 3 percent this year. Unless we adopt a carbon tax and/or cap and trade system (and get China and India to join us) we’ll be very soon at the point of no-return when ice caps irretrievably melt, sea-levels rise, and amount of available cropland in the world becomes dangerously small.

I think we should stop obsessing about the fiscal cliff and get working on these others. Do you agree?

I agree, and it also frames my distaste for the current brand of “cliffonomics” that plagues the major media coverage we are inundated with.  The biggest problem I see with the “fiscal cliff” drama is that the failure of Congress to find a solution to this issue is a bad omen for actually fixing anything of significance over the next four years. It seems that the GOP has figured that they can kick the can for another four years if they have to. That would include everything from health care and immigration to infrastructure and manufacturing.

There are much bigger issues in play than revenue and spending.  Basically the current argument is a marginal debate over which revenue and spending measures each party finds acceptable.  The debate takes place over the status-quo chessboard (maybe checkers is more apt… yep… checkers), whereas the real game should be played is in fixing the system to eliminate the source of the problem.  Massive public costs of healthcare due to a broken system are the number one savings vector, and they are being discussed in terms of weakening the already shaky net of healthcare options.  That is, to be blunt, insane.

Both sides in this dreadfully boring and childish “cliff” exercise are playing a game based on vote grubbing and base-preservation, which in the end will succeed at neither.  It is arguable that both conservative and liberal leadership have marginalized the center, and I believe it is because the center in America is rapidly asking “why can’t we have a better system, not just a rule change?” and neither party is willing to take that gamble.  What you have in Medicare and Medicaid is a proven revenue stream and a broken service delivery system.  The appropriations don’t need more than a tweak, but the delivery need a major upgrade.  That could involve means-testing, sliding scale reimbursement, cost controls, and possibly a subsidy/education system where you could get a break on say med school if you agreed to a commitment to serve.  That is tried and true policy strategy that has worked in the military for ages.  My fear is that a simple and rational pkan like that would be laughed off the table on day one because it doesn’t offer a clear political advantage.  The public benefit will never get to the discussion phase, because here in America, the public is well and truly fucked.

To close, a short list of major undertakings that have the potential to deliver jobs, GDP growth, straightline economic growth, and economic benefit:

  • Transportation infrastructure improvement project – WPA scale, bridges, roads, rail, and multi-user
  • Carbon Reduction Act with a jobs-based mechanism in addition or lieu of penalties/tax
  • Outright disincentives for offshoring capital and jobs.  Currently there is none, and we are paying the price on a national basis.
  • Dip toes into consumption-based tax, gaining a lever on the imbalance between profit and pure profit-taking that is ripping fuel out of our economy at an alarming rate.
  • STFU about immigration half-measures and put a true “move the line” system whereby immigrants can attain citizenship through normal means of work, paying taxes, lack of criminal activity, etc…

And so on.  Those issues have bigger up-front paybacks and yield larger benefits over the long haul than making seniors gap-fill for even more years before getting access to Medicaid or some other scenario where the least-able are punished for the inability of the wealthy to act responsibly.

In the words of the great Bootsy Collins: “Kirk Out”

Call it what it is

Everybody having fun with yet another round of fiscal shenanigans? I love nothing more than watching millionaires throw themselves in front of a bus to save billionaires.

First, the GOP: They are ever so thankful that their bullshit about “job creators” hasn’t been completely debunked. What they are protecting is actually “wealth extractors” but that doesn’t sound quite so defensible. See, in a fair system you would tax progressively more as income rose, possibly with a slightly different rate for investment income vs. salary income. That would create incentive for the wealthiest to keep their wealth active and circulating, you know… creating the jobs and GDP growth that the GOP can’t wrap their minds around…. as opposed to hoarding it, which is what they are doing with it now. The current argument from the GOP is between the current state of unbelievably unfair taxation, and a system that ever so slightly levels the system. And they like it that way. They likes it just fine, thanks you very much.

Next, Everyone Else: The President, Pelosi, Reed, and so on…. they are making a major mistake by engaging on the GOP’s terms. Good job on trying to cull out Social Security, since it is outside of the current scope of revenue/spending. Bad job on getting all squishy on Medicare and Medicaid when everyone knows that it is income qualification not age qualification that needs to be adjusted (just like Soc Sec). That said, they are doing a better job of giving coherent answers on their positions, while they still refuse to commit publicly on specifics. There is a reason: Just as in the presidential race, the GOP has created an unbalanced game board, where they are asking for concrete cuts to programs that they percieve as helpful to people that vote Democrat, while offering a hazy promise about maybe asking something from what they percieve as their base in return. In a reasonable world they could be ignored, but we don’t live in one of those. But call it what it is: The GOP pushing all the remaining chips from their failed policies and campaign planks to the center of the table.

In other News:
If you listen to NPR you may have caught a few whoppers last night (11/28/12): One GOP nitwit wondered aloud why they should support citizenship for people that are unlikely to vote Republican… which I applaud for at least being honest about their vote grubbing and bigotry; And another mentalist stated that “this is a bad time to be wealthy”… then joked that it is never a bad time to be wealthy, but Obama wants the rich to pay their share and that is a problem. Whew… when you start from the sub basement, you have a long way to go just to reach the sidewalk. Apparently there are people being taken seriously for thinking that the lowest tax rates in modern American history are bad for millionaires because they aren’t being given an even better deal without any debate, and that it is beyond comprehension that people you demonize won’t vote for you and additionally that stopping whipping their ass in public is out of the question. I actually wish NPR would go back to their old classical music and fact-based journalism format.

Ramblin’ Man

As a kind of penance for that rambling post where I grope for answers to Romney’s unfinished agendizing… a quick one about Fiscal Cliff Diving:

If the whole “Party of No” kabuki festival isn’t about making sure that a Democratic president doesn’t get to fix the problems left by George W Bush, then what the fudge is it about?  The whole “one term agenda” meeting back in 2009 would be funny if it wasn’t real.  What is being done by John Boehner et. al. is failing to solve problems that America desperately needs to solve, failing to improve on things America really needs to improve on, failing the American people both as individuals and collectively, and the punch line is that this cowardice has failed to make Barack Obama a one-term president.  So when you hear the GOP rhapsodize about the massive problems this country faces, please remember that we faced them back in 2008, we know who caused them, they cost the GOP the presidency, those problems are larger and more complex today, and the GOP has ensured that those problems were not and will not be constructively addressed.

Playing “pause button” until the next election is criminal, and it won’t change as long as the GOP lacks even one member with a shred of conscience.

Have a nice day.

Do the Aftermath

Romney should get specific.  Now that he has lost the election and doesn’t plan to run for President again, I think it would only be sporting of the chap to come clean about some of the questions he refused to answer during his campaign.  There are a few whoppers that I would love to see cleared up:

What tax deductions was he planning to eliminate?  [obviously I mean deductions eliminated for the middle class, since there was nothing but great news if you rake in seven-plus figures] The smart money was on scramming the mortgage interest deduction and make some kind of half-measure buy-off gesture to make it appear palatable.  It may have actually passed with enough palms greased along the way.  The reality is that millionaires could give a flying F@$& about mortgage interest, so it is a direct hit on the middle class.  What was his idea of balance?  We were never let in on the secret.  Now would be a great time.

What was his alternative to FEMA?  While he and his campaign bitched that Obama got a tailwind from Superstorm Sandy, what really happened is that it put a searchlight on His Romness and his advocacy of eliminating FEMA.  To a lesser degree it raised questions about Paul Ryan’s House Budget and its effect on disaster aid funding. With Romney suddenly and curiously silent when asked directly about his previous public statement to that effect… I wondered… What better time to put some detail on your plan than when millions of US Citizens are gripping the rails waiting for some disaster relief?  Oh?  Was it Halliburton, maybe?  Uh, sorry, wrong answer.  Thanks for playing.  Dick Cheney will hand deliver the home edition of our game to one of your trophy homes.  C.O.D. [extra credit: when he asks you to go duck hunting, say you have a family matter to attend to]

While he was remarkably specific about cutting the corporate tax rate, including actual numbers (rolling it back to 25%), and that tax rates on “job creators” should be cut, and so on… what programs of any real consequence was he planning on cutting?  Talking shit about cutting funding for PBS was just the worst kind of “red-meat to the lions” bullshit.  Kinda like telling a cancer patient “free haircut”.  As well, who the fuck heard that bluster and switched their vote to the Romney column?  Some kind of PBS-hating swing voter?  Nice job, campaign nerds.  Body-punching big bird is pure political comedy GOLD!

Since the Military and Other Stuff We Are Too Weak Minded to Know Too Much About budget is the lion’s share of the federal ledger, how in the name of Charles Montgomery Burns was he going to cut the Federal budget to 20% of GDP while increasing military spending?  The list of financial experts, politicians, wonks, non-partisan think tanks, and livestock who have figured out that Romney’s plan wouldn’t work is impressive.  It would be nice to hear from the candidate himself about what cards he was holding close to the Armani vest.

That is just a first cut, off the top of my head kinda list.  Truth is that we will never know.  The American people are left to speculate.  Radical restructuring of things like the tax code, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid [and those other things that the defenders of the rich over at Faux News call “entitlements” as long as millionaires don’t benefit from them] are a sure way to ruin one’s chances in any election (just ask a Libertarian), but once in office…. well, who knows?  George W Bush created the largest new branch of Government since the IRS, and put two or three full blown wars on his imaginary credit card (while cutting taxes), privatized huge portions of the US military, and ran the US economy into a ditch*, took more damn vacations than Brad Pitt, and the GOP still pretends that none of it happened and we were on a rocket-ride to prosperity until Obama’s inauguration.  Since then W has spent the past five years in an undisclosed location, out of sight out of mind, as they say…. The Republican Party seems to think everyone just plain fergot.  Well, not inviting your sitting two term president to the 2008 Republican national Convention was surely a kick in the nads for the most famous fake Texan since Clayton Moore.  Making it two in a row was positively catty.  Dear W, they REALLY aren’t that into you.  Note to GOP: Most People Remember Who Left That Pile Of Steaming Dogshit on the White House Foyer.

One last thought: while parsing the Republican post-mortems that clog each day’s news feed, keep in mind one very real possibility: Republicans have now spent a full decade acting as if their shit didn’t stink one bit.  Just like W’s multiple wars of corporate aggression, a decade of running on tax cuts for the rich, balanced with cuts in services for everyone else, is bound to get people’s attention eventually.  It stinks.  Loudly.  It is possible that in 2012 just enough American’s identified the source of the smell, and it could be a really tough 2014 for the GOP if they don’t take a deep whiff themselves.

*I still can’t figure out how you pump that kind of money into the hardware and personnel required to wage multiple wars and can’t find a way to benefit the national economy… unless the money was getting misspent or off-shored in a huge way. Nahhhh