…this story should assuage them. The New York Times devoted 1300 words on the front page to try to explain the administration’s strategy on the economy, and I can sum up the story with 4: “They ain’t got one.”
But others, including Gene Sperling, Mr. Obama’s chief economic adviser, say public anger over the debt ceiling debate has weakened Republicans and created an opening for bigger ideas like tax incentives for businesses that hire more workers, according to Congressional Democrats who share that view. Democrats are also pushing the White House to help homeowners facing foreclosure.
“Bigger ideas,” like futzing with the tax code to provide some temporary incentives? That‘s their big idea? Also, they want to launch the umpteenth effort to keep people living in houses they can’t afford. Fantastic.
Dan Pfeiffer, the White House director of communications, said that there was no internal debate. “The president’s first priority is to work with Republicans and Democrats to grow the economy, create jobs and reduce the deficit, but if the Republican House continues its ‘my way or the highway’ approach, he will make sure the public knows who is standing in the way and why.”
So they’ll engage in some snivelling and complaining that the other party has principles. Sounds like a winner!
Administration officials, frustrated by the intransigence of House Republicans, have increasingly concluded that the best thing Mr. Obama can do for the economy may be winning a second term, with a mandate to advance his ideas on deficit reduction, entitlement changes, housing policy and other issues.
Mr. Obama plans to spend time this weekend considering his options, advisers said. The White House expects to unveil new job-creation proposals in early September.
A mere 33 months after taking office, and not even at the end of our second Recovery Summer, and they’re already going to propose a plan! Why the rush?
Republicans contend that the Obama administration has mismanaged the nation’s recovery from the 2008 financial crisis. Mr. Obama’s political advisers are struggling to define a response, aware that their prospects may rest on persuading voters that the results of the first term matter less than the contrast between their vision for the next four years and the alternative economic ideas offered by Republicans.
Obama-Biden 2012: If You Think We’re Bad, Imagine How Awful Things Would Be Under President Satan!™
“If you’re talking about a stunt, I don’t think a stunt is what the American people are looking for,” the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters on Wednesday.
The story then proceeds to discuss such non-stunts as (I’m not making this up) creating a “Department of Jobs” or “Department of Competitiveness” and giving tax breaks to companies that hire disabled veterans.
I’ll spare you the rest, because it’s just meaningless blather that seems disconnected from reality (evidently the White House believes “paying down the debt” will be popular; what substances would the government need to legalize in order to get people high enough to believe that talking about reducing the annual deficit from 13 to 12 digits was “paying down the debt”?). Their plan boils down to the president trying to convince people of things, and we all know how well that’s worked out for them in the past. The unstated message of the story: Curtain-makers should start previewing fabrics to the Republican candidates.
Since we’re spending future people’s money, I guess it’s fair that we make deals today based on the premise that future people will cut spending. I mean, it would hardly be fair if we cut our budget in order to benefit them.
Here’s to boosting today’s debt in exchange for spending cuts 10 years down the road! Tomorrow I shall have a conference call with my liquor store and my student loan servicers to discuss a similar arrangement for myself.
They are currently insisting that we absolutely must raise taxes, so therefore Republicans should vote for tax hikes. But it was just last December (which, according to my fingers, was seven months ago) that a Congress completely controlled by Democrats passed an extension of the Bush tax cuts.
In 2008, we elected a president who promised a “net spending cut” and who swore to let the Bush tax cuts expire. He then greatly increased spending and signed an extension of the Bush tax cuts. And this is now being used as a reason for the Republicans to break their (winning) 2010 pledge of not raising taxes.
I don’t like to ascribe bad motives to others, but I think an objective analysis of the situation shows that the president is using a possible default in order to get Republicans to vote for tax cuts hikes that are so politically toxic that he wouldn’t let his party vote for them a mere 7 months ago (and after they’d already been beaten in an election).
In the opening chapter of Applied Economics, economist Thomas Sowell decries our tendency to look only at the intended goals of public policy rather than its unintended consequences:
The point here is not simply that various policies may fail to achieve their purposes. The more fundamental point is that we need to know the actual characteristics of the process set in motion — and the incentives and constraints inherent in such characteristics — rather than judging these processes by their goals. Many of the much discussed “unintended consequences” of polices and programs would have been foreseeable from the outset if these processes had been analyzed in terms of the incentives and constraints they created, instead of in terms of the desirability of the goals they proclaimed. Once we start thinking in terms of the chain of events set in motion by particular policies — and following the chain of events beyond stage one — the world begins to look very different.
Liberals are famously guilty of this kind of short-sightedness. Health insurance mandates get more people insured, but overload the medical system when thousands of new customers try to get care; generous housing incentives during a boom cycle lead to massive foreclosure rates during a bust; price controls make products affordable in the short term, but destroy markets in the long term. The road to Hell is indeed, paved with good, liberal intentions.
But as Ricochteer Conor Friedersdorf argues over on the Atlantic, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform is a perfect example of how liberals aren’t the only culprits. While no one could possibly question Norquist’s goals, Friedersdorf offers a powerful argument against his chosen method of a no-new-taxes pledge:
What Norquist doesn’t understand or won’t admit is that deficit spending is worse than a tax increase, because you’ve got to pay for it eventually anyway, with interest. Meanwhile, you’ve created in the public mind the illusion that the level of government services they’re consuming is cheaper and less burdensome than is in fact the case. If you hold the line on taxes but not the deficit, you’re making big government more palatable.
Back in 1986, if taxes had been raised every time federal spending had increased, and voters knew that taxes would go up again every time new federal programs or spending was passed, the backlash against big government that we’re seeing now would’ve started a lot sooner, and been much more broad-based. Had that been the policy, it’s doubtful that George W. Bush would’ve passed Medicare Part D. Instead, the Baby Boomers have borrowed a bunch of money that my generation and my children’s generation is going to have to pay back. But their taxes didn’t go up. Thanks for that, Mr. Norquist. I’m not sure what to call it, but fiscal conservatism isn’t it.
I can’t find any way to disagree, though I’d be curious to hear what others on Ricochet think. Also, are there other examples of conservative stage one thinking?
Aren’t you forgetting a thing or 2? You’ve got them chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, Scott Walker has got to go” — but what do they know about Scott Walker? That he’s done something the teachers don’t like. So, maybe some day, when you do something they don’t like, some kid might start “Hey hey, ho ho, [TEACHER'S NAME] has got to go.” Today, you’re pleased to teach them “The children, united, will never be divided.” I’m picturing them repurposing that chant back in the classroom.
This confirms my long-standing observation that while you can’t dismiss a political cause because some jerk brings his kid to a rally, you can go a long way toward that when they start coordinating bringing their kids and teach them sloganeering.
Added: On reflection, I was entirely wrong to say parents shouldn’t bring their children. Bringing a child to a political rally so they can observe and learn about about our civic process is a laudable thing to do. However, the children depicted in this video are actively participating in the rally, indeed chanting “This is what democracy looks like!” in response to an adult’s call (I sure hope our democracy doesn’t look like a bunch of 3rd graders!).
Rule: Any plan that pitches itself as an effort to reduce the deficit by x amount of dollars over a ten year period is an absolute joke.
I think this is an iron clad rule. As a serious question, can anyone name me a single year since 1934 when the needs and actions of the federal government were accurately predictable 10 years earlier? Did anyone in 2001 (or 2004, or 2006 even) forsee the budget deficits of the last three years? We all griped about deficits during the Bush years, but the notion of a $1 trillion deficit (much less a $1.5 trillion deficit) was not in the realm of possibility.
I’m limiting the question to post-1934, since that’s when our modern massive federal government came to be; prior to 1934, when we actually had a small federal government, actions and outlays (except for wars) were fairly predictable. So long as we have a federal government that has unlimited purview, any budget projections beyond three years might as well be made by tarot readings and random number generation.
In todays’ Morning Jolt, Jim Geraghty has a discussion of the recently released CBO numbers , arguing, persuasively to me, that the deficit and the restructuring of government it will require is the defining issues of our day. I think he’s correct on this. The CBO numbers forecasting 13-digit deficits for at least the next two years really ought to be treated like an emergency situation. When people start quoting Job, it’s never a good sign.
Geraghty is also correct that Obama is effectively voting “present” on this matter, refusing to propose any serious solution to what is obviously a dire problem. Or, for that matter, refusing to stop adding on to the problem. Sure, some of you might say, but I don’t see Republicans proposing specific solutions either. Okay, maybe, maybe not. But Obama’s not in Congress; he spent about a billion dollars getting out of Congress and becoming president. Which is the office where the hard decisions must be made.
Here, I’ll quote Geraghty somewhat out of order, but I think this is a worthwhile analogy:
[N]o matter how dire the numbers get, Obama remains convinced we’re just one high-speed rail system away from winning the future and qualifying for the Temporal Playoffs or something…. It’s as if 9/11 occurred and President George W. Bush had responded, “yes, stopping the terrorists is important, but I was elected to enact education reform and that remains my top priority.”
That federal mandates threatened perfectly respectable health care programs insured hundreds of thousands of low-skill, low-income workers? Or;
That the only companies able to get exemptions on such mandates were those big enough to throw around their weight in Washington.
It’s a rhetorical question, as both happened thanks to the Glory and Wonder™ that is ObamaCare. Here’s hoping every single congressman who voted for that wretched bill is thrown to the dogs this November and forced to find a normal job. Too bad most of them have options besides working for small companies without McDonald’s ability to lobby their successors.
Hopefully I’m not the first to point out that the “receipt” accounts for only $3258.81 of the $5400 the hypothetical taxpayer was charged. That accounts for only 60.03% of the taxes paid. Given the biases of the people who came up with that receipt, I suspect the remaining 39.97% was spent on decidedly less sympathetic causes. What percentage of my taxes was spent on name plates for the Robert Byrd [Fill in the Blank] in West Virginia, or financing UAW retirement plans through the GM bailout? Didn’t make the list.
One thing that is dramatically hidden in that graph is the employer’s share of FICA taxes, which is 7.65% on top of the 7.65% the employee pays. So for every dollar of Social Security and Medicare taxes shown on that receipt, there’s another dollar that the employer is paying on that employee’s behalf that, absent the tax, would largely have gone to that employee. So even though that employee thinks he’s only paying $5400 in taxes, there’s another $2611.71 that he’s not aware of. If he’s self-employed, he pays it all himself: a self-employed person using those same tax figures would have paid $8011.71, 23.46% of his income.
And, of course, showing the taxes for someone who makes $34,140 looks much more sympathetic than the numbers of someone earning higher amounts. As income increases, larger percentages of it are taxed at increasingly high rates. And FICA taxes stop after $106,800 in income. A single man making the dread $250,000 per year would only pay FICA on less than half that amount, but most of his income would be taxed at or above 28%. He would have paid $68,873.50 in income taxes, and only $8,170.20 in FICA taxes. $77,043.70 in total taxes, with only 10.6% of that going toward FICA. That man’s contribution toward foreign aid and the Smithsonian would have looked considerably less sympathetic. Those numbers would start to get ridiculous as one approached the highest echelons of income; for individuals making $10,000,000 or more, I reckon the amount they “gave” to the NIH would, if given to a private college, have resulted at least in a library wing with their name on it.
Personally, I’m glad I don’t get a receipt for my taxes, otherwise vast periods of my life would be spent contemplating the bottles of Scotch I could have purchased with the part of my income that was wasted on Head Start and Amtrak.
John Derbyshire has a long running bit of advice: get a government job. Eric Cantor (R-VA) has a website for people who are “fed up with the culture of spending in Washington.” It might seem tough for a conservative to rail about civil service reform and say something new, but Andrew Ferguson has done so, with a typical Ferguson twist at the end:
Even so, we shouldn’t forget the demagoguery in the Republican campaign against federal pay, especially when it’s waged on grounds of frugality and budget discipline. While not quite as negligible as foreign aid and “earmarks”—two other targets of the phony deficit hawk—the federal payroll amounts to much less than 10 percent of the government’s budget, and firing every federal worker tomorrow would still leave a deficit next year of roughly $1 trillion, except nobody would be around to count it.
There’s an irony to go along with the demagoguery. One reason the difference between federal and private pay widened at an accelerated pace in the last decade was the Bush administration’s decision to contract out many lower-paying government functions to private business. With fewer low salaries, the average federal salary rose. Another reason was the administration’s vast expansion of antiterror activities, giving the federal government an insatiable appetite for college graduates—raising the average federal salary again. The federal pay premium is in part a consequence of privatization and a strong national defense.
If the issue of federal pay does take off, surely somebody, somewhere, sooner or later, will make the obvious point. Republican politicians were in charge of the entire federal workforce when compensation went into the stratosphere and federal employees began living a life beyond the reach of the average citizens who pay their salaries. Eric Cantor will want to explain that to all those “fed-up Americans.”
How, outside of moving to New Jersey, can I vote for this man?
I remember in the primary last year certain conservatives tried to paint Christie as the squish Republican because of social issues. Now that he seems to be on a perpetual Tell It As It Is tour, I believe that, though the man may well way 350 pounds, there is not one ounce of squish on him.
This post from Chuck DeVore (who, now that he is no longer seeking votes does not need to restrain from insulting Californians) breaks down states by whom they voted for in 2008, and then their per capita state debt totals.
Those with a right-wing presumption will not be at all surprised to be told that the 12 most indebted states voted for Obama. Indeed, those 12 states also voted for Kerry and Gore. And 7 of the 8 states with the lowest debt totals voted for McCain (and Bush, twice). Indeed, the 13 states with the lowest debt were part of Bush’s victory in the halcyon days of 2004 (when a mere 12 digit deficit made Democrats pretend to care about spending).
The average debt for the 22 McCain states was $749 per capita. Obama only gained the support of 6 states that had debt limits below that amount, and of those, 4 had voted for Bush at least once.
Of course, there’s no conclusions to be drawn from this. When our president and the Congress controlled by his party sends tens of billions of dollars to bail out profligate state governments, you’d be nothing more than a partisan hack to infer that he was doing so in order to pay back his supporters. I’d say “Tsk tsk” and shake my head at you if you noticed that the average per capita debt of the Obama states is greater than the per capita debt of any McCain state, and concluded that there was anything partisan about federal handouts to the states. Hell, I’d probably call you a racist.
I’ve just noticed one of those “This road construction brought to you by Porkulus” road signs near my house. Except that there is no road construction nearby. And in the three years I’ve lived here, there has been no road construction nearby. The road is very nice – broad and smooth – but I reckon that’s from a repaving project in the not too distant past. I guess there aren’t federal funds for “This smooth road brought to you by the Bush administration” signs these days.