Tag Archives: obama

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”

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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.

Shocked?

I can’t be shocked that Mitt Romney got his clock cleaned in the electoral college.  If there is a bright side for the GOP is could be that they ran a Mormon with a severely moderate track record, who had to contort himself into a right-wing zealot, while still trying to appeal to moderates, but not be a moderate.  Romney’s Mormonism wouldn’t come into play here, except that it was less than a month before the election when Billy Graham agreed to remove Mormonism from his church’s list of cults.  For a party that considers the religious right to be its wholly-owned property, that is kind of a big deal.

See Ya.  Wouldn't Want to Be Ya.

Thank you, America. You just made my wife Ann the happiest woman in Massachusetts, I mean, after Elizabeth Warren… obviously.

There was the issue of “who is Romney”, or maybe “which Romney are they asking me to vote for, again?” Romney couldn’t be the Romney that ran for and won the Massachusetts Governor’s seat.  That much was immediately apparent.  His “moderation” was moderate in the way that Rachel Maddow is “moderately lesbian”.  He also couldn’t be a conventional moderate Republican, because the GOP is running out of ice floes to push their moderates out to sea on.  And he couldn’t be a blatant right-wing champion because it would mean having to explain every one of the massive slate of whiplash-inducing position reversals as a whole, instead of being able to dismiss them piecemeal.

He did, however, do everyone a favor by explaining the official GOP position on the “47 percenters” for us.  You don’t make that kind of statement to $50k per plate Republican high-roller donors without a little help.  You do it with your campaign team at your right hand.  If he did make this long statement “off the cuff”, it makes any of Sarah Palin’s “going rogue” moments look like a Judy Blume book.  So if you see him on the street, thank him for clearing that up.  If you don’t want to click the link and see Limbaugh’s bloated mug peering back at you, I’ll save you the click:

“Romney, he [Limbaugh] said, had promoted “traditional” values of hard work, which had been rejected: “In a country of children where the option is Santa Claus or work, what wins?” 

Ah yes, the old “those people don’t want to work for a living” rouse.  Really?  I don’t know for sure because I live in Connecticut, and maybe we are so punch drunk from high taxes we don’t notice, but nowhere on my IRS forms does it ask my party affiliation and give me fabulous prizes if I check “Demon-Crat”.  We all pay the same fucking taxes.  Adherents of neither party are more or less likely to need or avail themselves of Local, State, or Federal aid if they need it.  Republicans are not graciously throwing in an extra $2000 with their tax bill and telling the IRS to “keep the change”.  The ass-backwards-ness of Limbaugh railing against this shadow demographic while he demands first world accommodations without the tax bill to show for it, well, that’s just Rush.

If there is a bias (and the bias is nowhere near as large as it is made out to be in the popular media) it is that Democrats and Independents seem more likely to acknowledge that giving tax breaks to corporations and the super-wealthy does not create jobs and does not get magically balanced out by… well, you never get an answer to where that money is supposed to come from.  The top 1%, and as far as I can tell, the top 10%, haven’t payed lower tax rates in over 100 years.  Ditto for corporations.  The fabled “job creators”, aka mid-sized and small businesses, are justifiably pissed off that they have not gotten in on as much of this fabulous tax cut action as the mega-wealthy.  And since the mega-wealthy would rather not level the playing field by paying their share, you have an outcry for lower taxes on midsized operations and the less-than-tycoon class.  And if those guys are getting breaks, why are Joe-Twelvepack and Joe-E-Microbrew and Giuseppe-Chianti paying 35% to Uncle Sucker?  In a mystifying coincidence, Local, State, and Federal tax receipts are at an all-time low, creating record shortfalls, and forcing cuts in non-essentials and luxury items like health care, services to the children and the elderly, arts education, parks, transit options, etc…

If you just noticed that the drastic cuts in the tax rates for high-earners and corporations are coincidental with decreased tax receipts, and that the people who cut the taxes now want to cut services depended on by individuals that didn’t get the tax break, all while telling the people who’s taxes they actually did cut that they won’t cut services that high-earners and corporations need… well, an angel just drank a Red Bull.  You also just figured out which way the class-war billiard table actually slopes.  Have a cookie.

If you are really out in la-la land, you might be concerned that much of American Infrastructure is showing its age, and there is no money to do anything about it.  Each year things like bridge repair, railway upgrades, electrical grid modernization, next-generation transit infrastructure, and a host of other things we totally take for granted, get ignored and put into the “luxury” bin.  As long as Americans are sold on the idea that they deserve ultra-low taxes, and only communists build high-speed rail networks and bike lanes, nothing will ever happen about this.  You don’t have to squint too hard to see what kind of mess you get into if you wait until an interstate highway bridge fails before you recognize the need to build a new one. Or you could scroll up, look at the picture of Romney, and thank your deity of choice that Halliburton isn’t the new FEMA or Fed-DOT.

So no. I’m not shocked by the outcome of the 2012 Presidential Election.  I was too busy being shocked by how many pressing issues were taken completely out of the election year dialogue.  I was shocked that the two-party system is so entrenched that the candidates are not required to debate each other, or even answer the questions posed to them in the fake debates.  I am always shocked that nobody seems to notice or care in any kind of measurable number.  I was shocked that the so-called Fiscal Cliff* was put in dry-dock until immediately after the election was decided.  I could have been shocked that the only place you could see an interview with presidential candidate Gary Johnson, who was a Republican Governor that chose his own Libertarian** ice floe, was OUTSIDE Magazine… I was too busy laughing at the irony.

For my own part, this is the last time I will vote for a member of either major party in a voting booth.  I chose a candidate who might make a few decisions I agree with, over one who would have immediately made many decisions I find morally abhorrent.  That’s no way to participate in a democracy.

*Fiscal Cliff: where each of the two major partys get what they want but has to give the other party what they want in order to get it.  also see: Congressional Circle Jerk

**Libertarian: American slang for “willfully ignorant, in a wonky way”