Democrats & Liberals Archives

Want Some Invisible Tiger Repellent?

Bush is once again selling you some. He’s telling you that our economic wellbeing is dependent on making those tax cuts permanent. Let me pose a disturbing thought here: what if our invisible tiger repellent is attracting and helping the real beasts to feed on our economy?

Debt
Let's drop the polite vocabulary here: we're buying government we're not paying for, putting it on our tab. Despite all that Bush and the Republicans talk about cutting spending, it's something they're not doing. Meanwhile, we're not getting this extra government for free. Our government is selling bonds to cover this, and it's mostly foreigners buying. The first way we are paying for this debt is by promising to give that money they've paid back to them with interest. Since China and Japan are the main contributors, we're funding competitors, essentially paying them to take our jobs away. So the second way we're paying is with our jobs. Where do you think China got the capital to become such a major source of our consumer products? The third way we're paying for this is by making China a first world nation, just like us. We're essentially providing a nice tax-dollar and technology base for their future status as a rival, just as we paid the Japanese to become ours on other products. Beautiful isn't it?

Do you still think you're getting something for nothing?

Previous Mistakes.
Oh, by the way, it's not just the debt. It's how high we have to put interest rates to get people interested in buying it. According to The Best and The Brightest by David Halberstam, the running of deficit spending on Vietnam, not the expense of the war itself, is what sent our economy into a downturn. The expense, he argues, could have been covered by taxes, but then LBJ feared he might have to give up on the Great Society reforms.

The inflation and recessions of the seventies owe a lot to the something-for-nothing mentality that preceded them. Again, it is important to note that we're not getting the government we don't cover now for free. We have to pay for it with interest later.

In fact, we are paying for it, right now. Hundreds of billions of dollars come out of American taxpayer's pockets every year, to do nothing more than pay down our previous debt. This amount is comparable in size to our social security outlays and to our defense budget. Consider that: money that could pay for Homeland Defense, larger armies, or just be given back, is instead being used to pay back our investors with interest. Ironically, this means Americans are paying more for their government, and its adding to the bill we're faced with right now.

Wishful Thinking: The Beast Starves
Politicians aren't known for spontaneously doing brave things, or stupid things for that matter. We could drastically cut the budget right now, and solve all our deficit problems. Unfortunately, a working government is like a patient on the operating table. You can't just cut anywhere without risking catastrophic collapse. reductions have to be prudently done. People know this.

Politicians also know that if they cut something and something bad happens, especially to their constituents, they are going to have some problems getting re-elected, or rising farther up in public office. Which leads me to the second point. It's all nice to abstractly announce that you are going to cut spending, but the reality is, we have the government we want, to some extent. If we really didn't want it, Americans would make it plain we want reductions, correct?

Our leaders have put them and us into a bit of a quandary. We aren't really fired up about getting rid of all this government, yet we're constantly encouraged to take back our own money by these same people. The shame of it is that these people know what they're doing: They're buying votes, and we're letting them do so. Why? Because we Americans have a weakness for money. The Right-Wingers should have never worried about their dear old colleagues on the left being communists. We're as bourgeois as they are are, despite our more generous views about social programs and big government. That's how the Reagan Revolution could do all their voodoo economic without the big outcry, and why even conscientious Democrats have a hard time advocating for tax cuts.

But as our mothers and fathers told us in our earlier years, not everything good for us is necessarily all that fun, nor that sweet tasting. Sometimes we have to do things for our own good that we don't like, and which don't provide us with instant gratification. We may not be able to buy the refrigerator with our tax refund like we did in previous years, but maybe the upshot is that we won't see inflation or interest rates price us out of the market for the good models. If we do future generations the favor of paying for our government as we go, we might just see our tax burden from all that debt go down, so future generations will get the same government for less, if they want it.

Whatever your attitude about government, it only gets more expensive, the more you pay for it on credit. It is in our national interest, across the board, to pay for the government that we don't have the interest, the guts, or the foolishness to get rid of. Whatever government we choose to have, we should choose to pay for it now, and not put ourselves through hell later because of our shortsightedness.

Let's forget about repelling the invisible tigers here, and start dealing with the real ones stalking us.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at February 12, 2006 6:15 PM
Comments
Comment #124004

I’m interested to see how conservatives respond to this excellent post. I would call myself a centrist, and this is an issue that just never seems to be fairly addressed by the Republican Party. At least Democrats will admit that Government expansion needs to be paid for. It is one of the main sticking points where the Republican Party is not being honest with the American people. How can you call yourself the party of fiscal responsibility with such non-sensensical policies, as represented by the tremendous debt growth under Reagan and the Bushes.

Posted by: Jiggidy at February 12, 2006 8:17 PM
Comment #124008

I should point out that the Government is so desperate for money that over $1 BILLION DOLLARS worth of National Parklands are being sold off in the single biggest sale since 1945.

Posted by: Aldous at February 12, 2006 8:37 PM
Comment #124012

Steven-

Very good. You ahve pointed out the falsity of our present president calling himself a conservative, at least in fiscal terms. No self-respecting conservative would ever pile such a load of debt on this country and it’s citizens. It is obscene to say the least.

Some may cry that we are at war and need the extra money. We are not at war, we are in a “police action” if anything. We can only be at war if Congress declares we are. The president can call this a “war against terror” but that doesn’t make it so.

One possible answer to an ever increasing debt would require something called political courage, a trait sadly lacking in today”s Washington. First, outlaw riders to bills that have no relation to the original bill, in other words, one subject per bill. No “earmarking”. Two, a constitutional amendment limiting terms to one 6 year term for senators and 3 2 year terms for Representatives. Third, a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget every year there is not a declared war.

There would be no “off-books” funds expended, every dollar would have to be brought to Congress for a vote. Finally, the enactment of a strict, stringent, and tough code of ethics with a one strike and you’re out penalty. The code should be written by people who know how to write simple declarative sentences without the legal ambiguities we see in many such documents.

Perhaps this could be the starting point for a discussion. Maybe?

Oh, one other thing: Eliminate every program that is not specifically mandated by the Constitution.

As a Libertarian, I look at the last as one of the most important. First of all, it would bring the states back into their proper realtionship in government, and it would save us a pot full of money.

Posted by: John Back at February 12, 2006 8:45 PM
Comment #124036

Stephen,

I don’t see a problem. I think my great-grand-kids should have to live in a dirt floor shack. After all, my grandparents lived in a dirt floor shack and their sacrifice resulted in my ability to complete college. It’s good to “crush” the middle class once in a while just to keep us in line.

I think we should all have to suffer just like the Bush’s suffered to produce the fine citizens they did. After all there’s Jeb, George, and Neil.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_Bush

Time for a nap here, I’ve almost got my 8 hours in what with eatin’ n’ sleepin’ n’ brushin’ my teef’ n’ stuff. Ya’ know I’m goin’ out fer’ a ride on my bike tomorrow. Den I got ta’ deal with all ‘dem pesky questions ‘n stuff.

I’m a thinkin, it’s about time to go Quail huntin’. Mebe’ I’ll take ol’ Dick wif’ me. But den agen he ain’t got such a gud shootin’ recurd!!!!!!!

KansasDem

Posted by: KansasDem at February 12, 2006 10:10 PM
Comment #124040

I’ve never met a liberal that thinks that taxes are to high or that there’s to many of them. The funny thing is they always want someone other than themselves to pay them.

Posted by: Ron Brown at February 12, 2006 10:20 PM
Comment #124057

ron,
oh, come on. spouting anti-liberal slogans is the refuge of the weak-minded.
i’m happy to pay more taxes, as long as people who make multiples of my income pay multiples of my taxes. how likely is that? yeah, right.
regressive taxes are on the rise, especially with the massive shift from fed to state taxation. regressive taxes are not just unfair, they are bad for the economy. the less you tax poor people, the more they will spend — that’s the definition of being poor. more spending is good, right? isn’t that the pro-consumption mantra?
it’s a simple agreement, i’ll pay taxes if you pay taxes. oh yeah, then we need to keep our govt from giving the money away in dufflebags.

Posted by: GetReal at February 12, 2006 11:08 PM
Comment #124060

“I’ve never met a liberal that thinks that taxes are to high or that there’s to many of them. The funny thing is they always want someone other than themselves to pay them.

Posted by: Ron Brown at February 12, 2006 10:20 PM”

Boloney (or Bologna) depending on where you live. Do you remember Bush 41’s “no new taxes speech”? If you think the current Bush has not raised taxes you’re simply out of touch. His tax cuts have only resulted in tax increases at the state, county, and city levels.

If you’ve paid any attention at all to the national debt you’d know that you’re leaving a huge debt to be paid by your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

Although, given Bush’s lack of coherency regarding international policy it doesn’t matter one hell of a lot.

KansasDem

Posted by: KansasDem at February 12, 2006 11:09 PM
Comment #124072
I’ve never met a liberal that thinks that taxes are to high or that there’s to many of them. The funny thing is they always want someone other than themselves to pay them.

Ron,

I think we are all for lower taxes. I have yet to meet a single person say ‘I wish I paid more in taxes!’ But, how can you lower taxes and run up such an obscene national debt? That makes no sense, dude. Who do you think is going to pay that debt back? Maybe not you and maybe not now, but someone, someday will pay higher taxes because of Bush’s spending. It’s hilarious that people think that GW lowered taxes. If he didn’t lower spending (spending is up 42% since Bush took office.), then he raised taxes on future generations. Is this what you want to pass on to your children? Are these the “compassionate” conservative values we keep hearing about?

From FactCheck.org: Misstatement of the Union

The President, speaking of being “good stewards of tax dollars,” focused on one small part of the budget and did not mention rapid growth in overall federal spending that has taken place under his tenure.

He said “we’ve reduced the growth of non-security discretionary spending,” which is true. However, that category accounts for only about 16 per cent of the whole federal budget, and it too has grown, though not as rapidly as other categories.

Bush said bills were passed last year that would actually cut this category, and that is correct. The decline is projected to be 0.5 per cent, according to figures from the Office of Management and Budget.

Overall federal spending is up 42 per cent under Bush, according to figures from the Congressional Budget Office. And CBO projects further upward pressure on spending, including rising interest rates pushing up the cost of servicing the swelling national debt, and rising medical costs and Bush’s new prescription drug benefit pushing up the cost of Medicare. (Neither item is counted in the “discretionary” category). CBO projects interest costs will increase 18 per cent in the current fiscal year, and Medicare will go up 17 per cent.

Posted by: JayJay Snowman at February 13, 2006 12:13 AM
Comment #124180

John Back-
My issue with some of the reforms you propose centers around the way the real world works in terms of language. When one says “one purpose one bill” it’s easy enough to think that this will prevent riders or things like that.

But what is one purpose? I’m sure a philosopher could point out just how vague an Idea purpose is, and how subjective too, by its very nature. More importantly, though, we have to count on human creativity to create a problem here. The corrupt would feel hemmed in, but soon the would realize, with mutual consent, that they could come up with “one purposes” that are really just creative technicalities or vague generalities. If you try to get less vague than that, politics is bound to enter as each person submit these less vague rules with their own idea of what purpose means.

Language is at the heart of the problem, and its going nowhere. Legal ambiguities and similar phenomena don’t arise because there aren’t rules against them. They arise because the human mind can creatively reinterpret whatever it wants. Witness the creative reinterpretation of putting a person indicted on Felony charges in control of appropriations.

But that ability to creatively reinterpret does not make these folks all-powerful. We can always creatively reinterpret the status of their employment and kick them out of office. What it takes is a change in attitude that values facts and making things work practically, over ideology and the fulfillment of agendas.

Additionally, we should treat politics with more than vague disdain. We don’t do ourselves much good when we decide that politics is somebody else’s problem. We only disenfranchise ourselves and give away one of our few bits of direct power we have over these people. I think the cynicism of the past few Decades has done more to enable corruption and partisanship than anything else.

When we expect to lose in our battles against corruption and waste, we’ve already given up the fight before we walk on the field. It’s this pessimism that informs the idea put forward by some that we shouldn’t break things even with tax increases or whatever because the people involved will just spend more. What I’d tell people is that these people will only spend more if they think the political risk is worth it. We should organize to make such knowing overspending the equivalent of painting a target on one’s back, if we want to prevent that. We shouldn’t declare the battle for fiscal discipline lost before we even begin to fight. We should hold our politicians accountable for their actions, not learn helplessness in the face of their deceit.

Ron Brown-
The criticism could be turned back on you, on the reverse point. Neither is effective fiscal policy. You want to starve the beast, but in fact starving it is impossible. For the Government to starve itself of funds that way, our system of treasury bonds would have to be put out of commission. If that happened, though, we’d be screwed. So, the beast has another way to feed: deficit spending. I’m sure you love your tax cuts, but they’re doing squat to really starve the beast. Instead, they are importing more expensive feed from elsewhere to satisfy its hunger.

Like I said with John above, if we really want to deal with taxes and spending we consider excessive, we have to do so with the will to win. If most people do not have the will to cut programs, and this becomes apparent, we should tell those in Washington to tax at a level sufficient to cover its expenses, and then set about the business of tying that breaking even to their political futures. It think we can both agree to punish excessive spending, if we tie tax levels to spending levels.

As I argued quite some time ago, unless you make increases in spending an out of pocket loss for the average American, It will be difficult to argue against overspending, because the average American won’t feel it directly enough.

We need a return to pay-as-you-go, whether that’s by spending cuts, or tax hikes. Once there, the strategy has the advantage of making overspending or overtaxation a deliberate, distinct act, as opposed to the vague things they are now, in this time of deficit.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 13, 2006 7:44 AM
Comment #124264

“Politicians aren’t known for spontaneously doing brave things, or stupid things for that matter. We could drastically cut the budget right now, and solve all our deficit problems. Unfortunately, a working government is like a patient on the operating table. You can’t just cut anywhere without risking catastrophic collapse. reductions have to be prudently done. People know this.”

Politicians are known for doing stupid things if they are conservatives. While it’s cool to say that cutting the budget will solve all of our deficit problems, both conservatives and mentally healthy liberals (is there really one of these?) don’t seem to have the heart, the chutzpah or the courage to do it. I am not sure why it is assumed that if one wants to cut the budget it’s likened to slashing without discrimination. I think people will know that it will hurt to get it under control. But liberals and conservatives are into pain-avoidance that borders on fetish.

You know what people know? They know that they don’t want their bloated and fat government groping them for more money. They know that throwing money around doesn’t solve problems and they want Washington to stop molesting them and lying to them.

Posted by: Bill at February 13, 2006 10:46 AM
Comment #124285
I’ve never met a liberal that thinks that taxes are to high or that there’s to many of them.

Your problem, Ron, is that you think National Defense grows on trees.

Posted by: bobo at February 13, 2006 11:46 AM
Comment #124310

I would submit that the extroardinary level of deficit spending is a calculated,strategic move to limit governments ability to expand for generations. This is music to the ears of the far right. What they can not do legislatively can be accomplished economically. Examples: How can we pay back monies owed to the SS trust fund?The real solution to solvency.: How can we ever afford national heath care?The real solution to the health care crises.
And in the mean time they are again useing fear to justify a ridiculous level of defense spending,most of which has no relevence to fighting terror.
They really believe in Maltusian/Anne Rand social Darwinism at least when they are on top.
A slim hope is that at some point a Bullmoose wing of the Reps comes to power but do not hols your breath. That would take courage.

Posted by: Bill at February 13, 2006 12:57 PM
Comment #124325

Just for clarity. The last post by Bill was mine. Seems we have another Bill here ,Welcome.

Posted by: Bill S at February 13, 2006 1:20 PM
Comment #124341

Jay Jay
This is why we need to start electing fisical conservitives to office. We need folks that not only will cut the defecit spend out but won’t raise taxes unnecessarly.
I’m not going to say that we can get out of the debt we’re in with out raising taxes. At least as long as our current crop of politicans are in office. In fact as long they are in ofice we won’t even begin to cut spending.
In order for this country to get out of debt and maintain a balanced budget it’s going to take a whole heap more than just raising taxes. We’re going to have to cut spending, and not just on defense either, we have to do it across the board. Most social programs are either going to have to be either cut way back or ended.
We need to cut spending in the following areas.
1.PORK - Cut it out all togeather.
2.DEFENSE - Cut the waste, not the quality of the equipment.
3.WELFARE - If they’re able to work make them.
4.GOVERNMENT PAYROLL - We don’t need 25 people sitting around while 1 or 2 are doing all the work.
5.SUBSIDIES - Both corporate and farm. End them.
I’m sure there are plenty of other areas that spending can be cut in. I just don’t have time to list them all right now.
The problem is our curent crop of DC nut cases won’t address these problems. That’s why the ALL need to be replaced.
Until they are and we have politicans that are fisicaly conseritive that wiil address these problems I’m afraid that we’ll ALL have to bit the bullet and pay highr taxes.

Posted by: Ron Brown at February 13, 2006 1:54 PM
Comment #124443

Bill-
The trick of all this is that people are thinking about this in political minefield terms, one move ahead. They’re not thinking that perhaps they could, if they were prepared to justify it, blow up a few of the landmines beforehand, and improve things.

Fear, as one Sci-Fi Book has it, is the mind-killer. We cannot just address the problems of fiscal responsibility through politically safe moves. We’re pass that point now.

Ron Brown-
In the meantime, what do we do? If you can’t get the spending cuts through, you have to settle things up through tax increases if you want to break even.

The question here is whether your goal here is keeping taxes low, or debt. As my post relates, if we take care of our debts better, we will have taxes we can throw off, since we’re paying for our deficit spending regardless of what happens. The question is, are you willing to give up low taxes now to ensure them later?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 13, 2006 5:25 PM
Comment #124479

Stephen,

I applaud your article in defense of a balanced budget. I think Democrats have a platform on which they can make some serious hay in the coming elections if they were to build around it.

However, I would like to see the same tough-mindedness in reducing spending that we are applying to increasing revenues. To try to balance the budget on only one side has proven time and again a loser.

In the early 70’s, Carter and the Democratic Congress proved that spending and taxing doesn’t work. But in the 80’s, Reagan and the Republican Congress and Democratic Congresses proved that spending and cutting taxes is even worse. The same is true today.

In the 90’s, Clinton and the Republican Congress got to a balanced budget with serious spending cuts in the military and entitlements and a nice fat revenue growth from a lot of people becoming millionaires in the stock market.

Since we won’t soon transfer nearly as much wealth in the stock market as we did in the 90’s revenue growth will have to come from taxes. But we’ll have to work even harder on the spending side this time as well.

I suspect that to make this happen, we will have to decide the branches of government among the parties again. We need some checks on spending that only comes when either Congress is not willing to pass spending bills or the President is willing to veto them. Without that threat, we will continue to see spending outpace revenues no matter how much we give them.

Posted by: Rob at February 13, 2006 6:38 PM
Comment #124484

I promised myself I would not do this but I just can not help it: You can not blame Cheny for shooting his hunting buddy. He had faulty intelligence.

Posted by: BillS at February 13, 2006 6:50 PM
Comment #124620

Stephen
I don’t think we have any choise in the matter. We’re going to be stuck with higher taxes until we get the budget balanced and get the debt paid down. If we don’t do both all the taxes in the world aren’t going to do a bit of good.

Posted by: Ron Brown at February 14, 2006 12:09 AM
Comment #124621

Bill
His intelligence wasn’t faulty. He aint got any.

Posted by: Ron Brown at February 14, 2006 12:11 AM
Comment #124646
This is why we need to start electing fisical conservitives to office.

Ron,

I am all for fiscal conservatives, it is the social conservative part they usually bring with them that I have a problem with. Truth be told, I am probably closer to the Libertarian ideology than the Democrat ideology, although I think the Libertarians take the fiscal conservatism a little too much to an extreme.

Posted by: JayJay Snowman at February 14, 2006 1:34 AM
Comment #124744

Ron Brown-
There we are in agreement. I think the trouble is, many politicians want to have it both ways.

It would be to the advantage of the left, in addition to our social welfare sensibilities to have one of running government programs efficiently. I think in the wake of Katrina we should start putting forward reforms to improve different programs. The idea is not merely saving money, though, but seeing that the best benefits come of the system as it is.

It would be to the advantage of the Right not to continue sending two messages, one of Small Government and Fiscal Responsibility, and the other of the porkbarrel and the neverending government credit card. The average Republican out there has made the mistake of thinking that all those excesses that occured before their party took over were characteristic of liberals. What they didn’t realize is that the true picture coming from that wasn’t of your average liberals idea of government, but instead of the average complacent, entrenched majority’s idea of it.

It’s all a question of what the primary motivational forces are in organizations. Around those motivations, you will see your government’s actions coalesce.

I think getting good government will be doable, but difficult. We have got to change the way we think of power in this country, and stop treating ourselves as if we’re unable to do anything in the face of our government. Corruption and other failings in those in power will never be completely cured. That’s human nature, and if we beat ourselves up because we try and fail to get good government, we’ll be doing ourselves a disfavor. We need to realize that moral excellence in government, however big or small you want it, is a persistent issue requiring persistent attention.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 14, 2006 8:08 AM
Comment #124866

Jay Jay
I reckon there is where we’ll have to disagree. I believe that fisical conservitism and social conservitism go hand in hand.
There are social programs that are needed. But those that are socialy liberal want so many,and so big of ones, that it wold be almost imposible to balance the budget. Much less get out of debt.

Stephen
We cann’t ever stop trying to improve our government. When we do we end up with the situation we have now. Or worse.
These problems have been building over the last 3 or 4 decades. I blame both sides of the isle for them. Neither side has tried to truly cut spending.
Washington’s idea of spending cuts are….
We spent $144,000,000 on this item last year.
This year let’s spend $250,000,000.
No, lets spend $200,000,000.
We just cut spending by $50,000,000.
Good us.
I’m like the old lady in the Wndys commericals serveral years ago that wanted to know “Where’s the beef”. Where’s the cuts?

Posted by: Ron Brown at February 14, 2006 12:53 PM
Comment #124901

Ron,

I apologize; perhaps the term social liberalism was not the correct term. What I meant was that I believe that people should be allowed to live their lives as they see fit, without government intervention. The problems that I have with the Conservative Party are all social in nature. They want to run government based on their personal religious beliefs, while dismissing the beliefs of those they govern. I am pro-marriage equality, pro-choice, I support the 1st amendment right to freedom of religion and the 2nd amendment right to keep and bear arms. To me they all go together— the absence of government intervention in private life. However, as a compassionate society that benefits from the general welfare of its citizens as a whole, I do believe that the government should run some welfare programs. The problem with today’s programs is not that they exist, it is that they are wasteful and not utilized in a way to promote the welfare of the individual. I know it is a cliche, but IMO, the “teach a man to fish” philosophy is the key to fixing entitlement programs.

Posted by: JayJay Snowman at February 14, 2006 1:47 PM
Comment #124968

People talking about lower taxes keep talking about the federal government, when it is primarily the local governments, with their sales taxes, and property taxes, which are the most problematic for most people.

Posted by: ray ohrealy at February 14, 2006 2:56 PM
Comment #125429

Jay Jay
That’s the problem with the welfare programs we have in place. They don’t teach a man to fish. They teach dependantcy on Government. And the majority on these programs are more than willing to depend on Government.
I’m not for Government interferance in personal lives. There are thing’s that are just wrong and shouldn’t be practiced. Should Government tell folks not to do these things? That will be debated until the end of time. However the less Government interfers with the lives of it’s citizens the better. I think it was Ben Franklin, I’m not completly sure, that said “The Government that governs least, governs best.
The problem is our politicans talk small Government but practice big government. This is something the voters need to fix.

Posted by: Ron Brown at February 15, 2006 12:05 PM
Comment #336613

Ron Brown, judging by your spelling and grammar, your opinions come from ignorance. Take some classes, get some education. Read some books.

Posted by: J. Dodson at February 14, 2012 3:53 PM
Post a comment