Defying Economic Sense the 1% now support Higher Tax Rates on their Income

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 29th, 2012

Week in Review

Now everyone is ganging up on the Republicans.  In the fiscal cliff showdown.  The Republicans want some deficit reduction coming from spending cuts.  They have modified their position to allow some higher tax rates.  But they want those spending cuts.  Which the Democrats simply refuse.  They want all deficit reduction to come from higher tax rates.  Now even the 1% are saying to tax them more.  At least, according to a new poll (see Majority of Rich Want Themselves Taxed More: Poll by Robert Frank, CNBC, posted 12/24/2012 on Yahoo! Finance).

American Express Publishing and The Harrison Group found that 67 percent of the top one percent of American earners support higher income taxes. Their support has grown since the election. This summer, 62 percent of them supported higher taxes.

Some might say the rich are hoping to tax people richer – or poorer — than themselves. The top one percent consist of people making more than $450,000 a year. But the survey clearly shows most One Percenters favor taxing themselves. More than half say that they support taxing those making $500,000 or more…

“There is an absolute willingness for the vast majority of the One Percent to take a tax increase,” said Jim Taylor, Vice Chairman Harrison Group. “What the Republicans think is not necessarily what their constituents think.”

Ask yourself this.  Why are super rich movie, television and music stars staunch supporters of the Democrat Party?  Is it because in their music studies they minored in economics?  No.  I don’t think so.  I would even go so far as to posit that they cannot differentiate between classical economics, the Austrian school of economics, the Chicago school of economics and the Keynesian school of economics.  Though they are staunch supporters of the last one.  Because the Democrats embrace Keynesian economics as it enables big government spending.  So why are super rich movie, television and music stars staunch supporters of the Democrat Party?   So they can escape the bitter attacks on wealth business owners face.

These superstars live lives like Roman Emperors.  All without having a real job.  So they have no understanding of economic fundamentals.  Or the first thing about scraping the cash together to make a payroll.  But they do know that if they support and campaign for Democrat candidates they can enjoy their obscene wealth without someone attacking them for living like Roman Emperors.  Could it be the reason why the superrich 1% are coming out in favor of higher tax rates on themselves?  Perhaps.  For there is no good economic reason to do so.

Raising taxes on them will not make a dent in the deficit.  In fact, if you added all the federal income taxes those earning $200,000 or more paid in 2010 (see Table 3.  Number of Individual Income Tax Returns, Income, Exemptions and Deductions, Tax, and Average Tax, by Size of Adjusted Gross Income, Tax Years 2001-2010) it comes to approximately $489 billion.  If you divide that number by the highest marginal tax rate (at high income levels most income is taxed at the highest marginal tax rate) that comes to about $1.397 trillion.  Which is just over the average Obama annual deficit of $1.324 trillion.  So if you confiscated 100% of all earning from those earning $200,000 or more it will pay for one year’s deficit.  So taxing the rich a few more percentage points will do NOTHING to reduce the deficit.  The deficit is just too big.  And there are just too few rich people.  No, the only way to reduce the deficit by higher taxes only is to hit the middle class with a huge tax increase.  Or you could cut spending.  Which would require no new middle class tax.  Like the Republicans want.

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The Politics of Tax Rates

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 19th, 2012

Politics 101

Cash Starved Small Businesses cannot Afford to pay a Dime more in New Taxes

America is staring at a fiscal cliff.  Thanks to the budget debt limit debate in 2011.  The US was in danger of running out of money and defaulting on their sovereign debt.  The Republicans controlled the House of Representatives.  And the House is in charge of the money.  Before increasing the debt limit the Republicans wanted to get some spending cuts to reduce the federal deficit.  The Democrats wanted to raise tax rates (letting the Bush tax cuts expire, returning to the Clinton tax rates) to reduce the deficit.  They couldn’t reach an agreement.  So they did what politicians always do when they want to run away from a problem.  Create a committee.

The so-called super-committee.  Tasked to come up with $1.2 trillion in spending cuts (over ten years) by the end of 2012.  Or else.  With the ‘or else’ being sequestration.  Automatic budget cuts in defense and entitlement spending to the tune of $1.2 trillion.  The politicians knowing how unpleasant sequestration would be were full of confidence that the super-committee would overcome hell and high water to complete their task.  Because sequestration would be so very, very unpleasant.  Of course, politicians being politicians, kept running away from that problem.  And now we’re staring into the face of sequestration.  Taxmageddon.  The fiscal cliff.  Because the Democrats want to raise taxes on everyone earning over $200,000 (single) or $250,000 (married filing jointly).  But Republicans don’t want to because that will raise taxes on the job creators.  Something that won’t make an anemic economic recovery any better.  So let’s look at the numbers and see what kind of damage we’re looking at.

President Obama’s proposal for new tax rates leaves everything at the 28% marginal rate and below the same.  He proposes increasing the 33% rate to 36%.  And the 35% rate to 39.6%.  The new rates kick in at earnings of $250,000 (all the examples here are calculated for a married couple filing jointly).  Which raises the top income band at the 28% rate.  Holding the net tax increase to only $1,115 for a small business owner with a net income of $350,000.  Which doesn’t seem that bad.  But a small business owner with a net income of $350,000 isn’t exactly rich.  Despite paying income taxes like they are rich.  For most small business owners are S corporations or LLCs.  With their net income passing through to their personal income tax return.  So if the business owner lives on enough to equal two incomes (say $75,000 X 2 = $150,000) so his or her spouse can be a stay-at-home spouse that $1,115 comes out of $107,045 ($350,000 – $92,955 – $150,000).  Which is all they can put back into the business.  To pay for new equipment (which isn’t enough for most purchases forcing them to borrow more money and go further into debt).  To repay debt.  To cover unpaid accounts receivable.  To pay for customer write-offs for an employee error on a project.  To pay for a production run that failed to meet specifications that they couldn’t sell.  To pay for inventory shrinkage (damaged, lost and stolen goods).  To pay for employee raises.  Bonuses.  To hire new employees.  Or to pay for the newly mandated Obamacare.  When you factor in all these cost issues a small business owner may face $107,045 of retained earnings is not a lot of money and leaves a very small cash cushion.  Which is why Republicans do not want to raise taxes on small business owners.

Taxing the Rich more will do nothing to Lower the Deficit

Then presidential candidate John McCain opposed then presidential candidate Barack Obama’s proposed tax rate increases in the 2008 campaign.  Saying it would raise taxes on 23 million small business owners.  FactCheck.org debunked this number saying the actual number is closer to 6 million.  So using their number the additional tax revenue from small businesses would equal about $6.7 billion.  Approximately 0.48% of the federal deficit.  Which will do nothing to reduce the deficit.  But it will take more money away from cash-starved small businesses.  So what about millionaires?  What’s their damage?  And how much will they reduce the deficit?

The proposed tax rates will increase a millionaire’s tax by $30,549.  According to the IRS there were about 119,810 tax returns filed by people earning a million dollars in 2010.  Meaning the proposed increase in tax rates would raise another $3.7 billion in tax revenue from those earning a million dollars.  Which is only 54.7% of the new tax revenue from small business owners generated by those same new tax rates.  And only 0.26% of the federal deficit.  Which will do nothing to reduce the deficit.  So what about richer people?  Will taxing richer people do anything to reduce the deficit?  Let’s look at the numbers for someone earning $5 million.

Someone earning $5 million will pay an additional $214,549 in taxes.  Which is a huge increase.  But according to the IRS there were only 16,574 people who earned $5 million.  Which brings the total increase in tax revenue to only $3.6 billion.  Which is a $100 million less than the millionaires.  And only 0.25% of the federal deficit.  Meaning it will do nothing to reduce the deficit.  Even though they are taking an additional $214,549 away from each person earning $5 million.  That’s a lot of money from each person that results in no significant deficit reduction.  Which is the purpose of the higher proposed tax rates.

We’re simply Spending More than our Tax Revenue can ever Hope to Pay For

Crunching these numbers further we find that the proposed higher tax rates will increase tax revenue by $38.2 billion for everyone earning a million dollars and more based on 2010 IRS tax information.  Which is only 2.7% of the federal deficit.  Which is less than the automatic increases included in baseline budgeting.  Which means these proposed tax increases won’t do anything to reduce the deficit.  In fact the deficit will still grow larger.  Thanks to baseline budgeting.

The problem is that there aren’t enough rich people to tax.  The top 10% of earners are already paying 70% of all federal income taxes.  To raise new tax revenue you have to go to the middle class.  Based on the IRS there were 44,637,653 people filing income tax returns who earned between $50,000 and $200,000.  If each of these people paid an additional $1,115 like those small business owners that would raise an additional $49.8 billion in tax revenue.  Which is 3.6% of the federal deficit.  If you increased their taxes by $2,500 that would increase tax revenue by $111.6 billion.  Or 8% of the federal deficit.  Which may actually keep the deficit from growing.  But it won’t pay it down.

To get serious deficit reduction from the rich you have to take very large sums of money from them because there are so few rich people.  And even then it’s probably not possible to raise tax revenue enough to offset the automatic spending increases included in baseline budgeting.  But it’s a different story with the middle class.  Because there are so many more people in the middle class than there are rich people.  You can keep the deficit from growing by taking a far smaller amount from each of them than you would have to take from the rich.  You could even take enough to overcome the automatic spending increases of baseline budgeting to keep the deficit from growing.  But even the middle class doesn’t have enough people in it to wipe out a $1.4 trillion deficit.  Or make a dent in the federal debt.

No.  The only way to make any significant deficit reduction is with spending cuts.  Which the Democrats are steadfast against.  Because spending is their power.  It’s why people vote for them.  Which is why they will fight for increasing tax rates to the bitter end.  And never negotiate them away.  To continue the facade that new revenue can reduce the deficit.  Even though no amount of new revenue can.  Only spending cuts can.  For our spending has long since passed the Rubicon.  We’re simply spending more than our tax revenue can ever hope to pay for.  And any further increases in tax rates only reduce economic activity.  Causing the small business owners to stand fast on expanding and hiring.  Because economic growth is rewarded with punitive taxation.  So they will grow less with every increase in tax rates.  And with every increase in tax rates tax revenues will fall.  Which will lead to a downward spiral of deficits, debt, lowered credit ratings and possible default.  But anything is better to Democrats than admitting they are wrong.

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If Taxing the Rich won’t Reduce the Deficit then it’s not Tax Reform, it’s Class Warfare

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 25th, 2011

The Rich are Paying Far More in Taxes than People like Warren Buffet’s Secretary

It’s tax reform.  It’s not tax reform.  They may not have their story straight.  But this much we know.  Obama’s Warren Buffett tax will do nothing for deficit reduction.  But it sure will fan the flames of class warfare (see WH self-contradicts, admits tax hikes arent reform by Joel Gehrke posted 9/25/2011 on The Washington Examiner).

President Obama and White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe have adopted contradictory rhetoric regarding  President Obama’s proposed tax increases, which the president has touted as “tax reform…”

Plouffe responded that “the president would like to do tax reform . . . But absent tax reform,  the president believes the right way to get our fiscal house in order is to ask the wealthy to pay their fair share.”

So according to Plouffe, raising taxes isn’t tax reform.  It’s to punish the rich.  That’s what making them ‘pay their fair share’ means.  Even though, right now, they’re paying more than their fair share.  Far more.  (More on that later.)  Obama, though, sees it differently.  And the way he sees it punishing the rich is reforming the tax code.

When two people can’t get their story street it typically means one thing.  They’re lying.  And can’t keep their stories straight.

Now, the Republicans say they’re in favor of tax reform.  Let’s go.  Let’s reform this tax code.  And let’s reform it based on a very simple principle:  Warren Buffett’s secretary should not be paying a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. It’s a simple principle.

Why not?  Warren Buffett is still paying more tax dollars.  The rich are paying far more in taxes than people like Warren Buffet’s secretary.  So why keep saying this?  Can be for only one reason.  To punish the rich.  And to show the people that you want to vote for you that you’re punishing the rich.

Wallace pointed out to Plouffe that “the top 10 percent pay 70 percent of federal income taxes. Meanwhile, 46 percent of households pay no federal income tax at all.” Plouffe countered that “you can manipulate the statistics in any way you want,” and also said that “they are making a ton of money” while “we have inequities,” presumably in the tax code. And then Plouffe offered what would qualify as an argument for tax reform, except that Plouffe is admittedly not pushing for tax reform:

The American people are screaming out saying it’s unfair that the wealthiest, the largest corporations who can afford the best attorneys, the best accountants, take advantage of these special tax treatments that the lobbyist have, along with lawmakers, have cooked in the books here. So, the question is: how are we going to move forward as a country?

Wallace interjected, “Because 70% isn’t enough?”

For tax revenue?  Yes.  That 70% should be enough.  Perhaps too much.  But for class warfare?  No.  Because there’s a lot more money they can take from the rich.  And the more they take the more votes they gain from that 46% that doesn’t pay any federal income taxes.

It’s not that the President is Losing White Independents.  It’s just that Blacks Refuse to Give Up on Obama.

So why the class warfare?  Because it’s election time.  And when you don’t have a good record you don’t win reelections running on that record.  So you don’t.  Instead, you go class warfare.  Pit one group against the other.  Find narrow slices of the population that you can turn against your political opposition.  And, if you get enough of these slivers, you may just have a chance at reelection.  Despite your horrible record while in office (see Obama 2012 campaign’s Operation Vote focuses on ethnic minorities, core liberals by Peter Wallsten posted 9/25/2011 on The Washington Post).

President Obama’s campaign is developing an aggressive new program to expand support from ethnic minority groups and other traditional Democratic voters as his team studies an increasingly narrow path to victory in next year’s reelection effort.

The program, called “Operation Vote,” underscores how the tide has turned for Obama, whose 2008 brand was built on calls to unite “red and blue America.” Then, he presented himself as a politician who could transcend traditional partisan divisions, and many white centrists were drawn to the coalition that helped elect the country’s first black president.

The problem is that Obama is about as partisan as they come.  That’s why the tide has turned against him.  A lot of people hated George W. Bush.  And thought Obama was going to bring in the love.  Make the country as a whole link arms and sing Kumbaya.  But that hasn’t happened.

He spent more than George W. Bush.  Giving us record deficits.  And he keeps blaming his spending on the rich not paying their fair share of taxes.  The people see what’s going on, though.  They’re not blind.  It’s his spending.  Not a lack of taxes.  And all that spending hasn’t done a thing to help the economy.  The economy was, after all, far better under George W. Bush.  So they’re seeing the same old tax and spend liberal.  Not the candidate that was going to get us all to link arms and sing Kumbaya.

But not everyone is turning against this president.  The blacks haven’t turn on him.  They would have but for one reason.  He’s black.  The black community is furious with him.  But they still can’t abandon him.  As the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Maxine Waters, said in Detroit.  “If we go after the president too hard, you’re going after us. When you tell us it’s all right and you unleash us and you’re ready to have this conversation, we’re ready to have the conversation,” Waters said.

Today, the political realities of a sputtering economy, a more polarized Washington and fast-sinking presidential job approval ratings, particularly among white independents, are forcing the Obama campaign to adjust its tactics.

Operation Vote will function as a large, centralized department in the Chicago campaign office for reaching ethnic, religious and other voter groups. It will coordinate recruitment of an ethnic volunteer base and push out targeted messages online and through the media to groups such as blacks, Hispanics, Jews, women, seniors, young people, gays and Asian Americans.

It’s not that the president is losing white independents.  It’s just that blacks refuse to give up on Obama and join the exodus from him.

When you’ve been a poor president.  When your policies have made things worse.  There’s only one thing you can do.  You do everything to divide the American people.  Drive wedges.  Find reasons.  Why blacks should hate Republicans.  Why Hispanics should hate Republicans.  Why women should hate Republicans.  Why seniors should hate Republicans.  Why young people should hate Republicans.  Why gays should hate Republicans.  Why Asians should hate Republicans.

When you have failed you become what you said you weren’t.  Or stop pretending to be something you never were.  And you incite hatred.  Fan the fires of class warfare.  You pursue policies that further divide the American people.  Even if those policies hinder the economic recovery.

The campaign officials say they have not given up on wooing independents, and the 2012 presidential election will certainly involve a fierce fight for the college-educated whites and suburbanites who were more likely to back Obama in 2008 than the working-class whites who have always been more skeptical.

By ‘college-educated’ they mean ‘favorably-educated’.  Universities lean left.  Continuing the work of the public school teachers.  Both of who depend on government funding.  And growing tax rates.  So they need government to grow.  And will always vote for the party that will grow government.  And will ‘teach’ their young students to do the same.

Working-class people, on the other hand, have spent more time in the real world.  They’ve had a chance to get deprogrammed from their public school indoctrination.  That’s why it’s harder to fool the working-class.

When you’ve ‘Jimmy Cartered’ the Economy you can’t Run on your Record

It’s election season.  Little more than a year to go before the 2012 election.  So candidate Obama is back.  Running like he wasn’t the president for the last 3 years or so.  Somehow trying to explain to his most loyal base that he’s made things better than his predecessor.  George W. Bush.

But he hasn’t.  However you measure it.  GDP.  Unemployment rate.  Consumer confidence.  Whatever.  And the kicker is that the cause for the Subprime Mortgage Crisis that started under Bush wasn’t caused by Bush.  Putting people into houses they couldn’t afford was a liberal Democrat policy.  So housing wasn’t exclusive to only those who could afford a house.  Policies the Obama administration favors.  And policies that they want to implement again.  Despite having just suffered the Subprime Mortgage Crisis because of those policies.  Why?  Because it gets you more votes at election time.

So when you’ve ‘Jimmy Cartered‘ the economy you can’t run on your record.  The best you can hope for is to paint your political opponent as being everything the slivers of your most loyal base hate.  Attack the rich.  And promise more free stuff to that 46% that doesn’t pay any federal income taxes.

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Debt Ceiling Deal Light on Cuts and Sets Stage for Future Taxes

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 1st, 2011

$2.4 Trillion Debt Ceiling Deal may spend $96.68 for each Dollar Cut

Everyone seems to hate the budget deal to raise the debt ceiling.  Conservatives are saying they’ve been screwed.  Liberals are saying they’ve been screwed.  Interesting.  So exactly what did they agree to in order to hike the debt ceiling $2.4 trillion?  Which, incidentally, is the largest increase in history (see Small spending cuts to have little economic impact by Christopher S. Rugaber, Associated Press, posted 8/1/2011 on Yahoo! News).

Discretionary spending, which excludes Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, would be cut by only $7 billion in 2012 and $3 billion in 2013, according a summary by Senate Democrats. That’s a tiny fraction of the nation’s $14 trillion economy…

The independent Congressional Budget Office offered its own analysis Monday. It said the agreement would reduce government spending by $25 billion next year. That’s compared to current law, which factors in a projected increase in spending.

The first phase of cuts would reduce spending by $917 billion over 10 years. A congressional committee would decide on a second phase of cuts totaling $1.5 trillion.

Whoever’s numbers you believe one thing is sure.  That’s not a lot of cuts.  The cuts are dwarfed by the amount of new spending the $2.4 trillion debt ceiling increase will give.  In fact, if you use the high $25 billion number, one could say these cuts are negligible.  For if they spend that $2.4 trillion next year, the cuts will only be 1.03% of the new spending.  Or an additional $96.68 spent for each dollar cut.  Now, granted, my math skills may be outdated, but I think if you spend more than you cut while you already have a $1.6 trillion deficit, I don’t think you’re going to reduce the deficit.  But that’s just me using arithmetic.

$7 Billion is a little shy of the $4 Trillion in cuts S&P said would prevent Credit Downgrade

And this is what was important.  Deficit reduction.  To stop spending money we don’t have.  So the debt doesn’t rise so high that it threatens the full faith and credit of the United States.  As S&P warned would happen if we don’t make some serious spending cuts (see FreedomWorks Opposes Budget Control Act of 2011 by Jacqueline Bodnar posted 8/1/2011 on FreedomWorks).

“The deal has few immediate cuts totaling one half of one percent of the budget, with most savings coming in the later part of the decade,” commented Matt Kibbe, President of FreedomWorks. “How can we be serious about reducing the debt limit when we are not even talking about cutting programs like AmeriCorps and agricultural subsidies? This is not the serious reform Tea Partiers demanded last November.”

Standard & Poor’s has stated that anything less than $4 trillion in cuts will lead to an inevitable downgrade from the United States’ current AAA credit rating. “The ‘Cut, Cap, Balance Act’ is the only option on the table that would preserve the nation’s AAA credit rating and secure our long-term economic future,” added Kibbe. “

So S&P will downgrade the full faith and credit of the United States despite this deal.  So it doesn’t appear that the Republicans got much for that additional $2.4 trillion of spending.  So it would appear that the Democrats screwed the Republicans.  But that sure isn’t how some see it.

Ruthlessly dictating Terms to the Opposition is Okay as long as Liberals are doing the Dictating

In fact, some are spitting mad (see The President Surrenders by Paul Krugman posted 7/31/2011 on The New York Times).

For the deal itself, given the available information, is a disaster, and not just for President Obama and his party. It will damage an already depressed economy; it will probably make America’s long-run deficit problem worse, not better; and most important, by demonstrating that raw extortion works and carries no political cost, it will take America a long way down the road to banana-republic status.

Come on, Paul, tell us how you really feel.

And then there are the reported terms of the deal, which amount to an abject surrender on the part of the president. First, there will be big spending cuts, with no increase in revenue. Then a panel will make recommendations for further deficit reduction — and if these recommendations aren’t accepted, there will be more spending cuts…

And even now, the Obama administration could have resorted to legal maneuvering to sidestep the debt ceiling, using any of several options. In ordinary circumstances, this might have been an extreme step. But faced with the reality of what is happening, namely raw extortion on the part of a party that, after all, only controls one house of Congress, it would have been totally justifiable…

In the long run, however, Democrats won’t be the only losers. What Republicans have just gotten away with calls our whole system of government into question. After all, how can American democracy work if whichever party is most prepared to be ruthless, to threaten the nation’s economic security, gets to dictate policy? And the answer is, maybe it can’t.

I don’t recall any such concern about the Democratic process that rammed Obamacare through the Congress along strictly party lines.  As bad as it is, the current deal was bipartisan.  Which is more than you can say about what Pelosi, Reid and Obama did with their health care bill.  Even the polls showed the people didn’t want it.  And many who voted for it paid the ultimate price at the next election. 

Apparently, ruthlessly dictating terms to the opposition is okay as long as liberals are doing the dictating.  In fact, liberals would be fine with doing away with the Democratic process if they held full power.  Let’s just hope they don’t resort to any legal maneuvering to make that happen.

The Sneaky Little Bastards are going to Escape those Spending Cuts and get their Tax Hikes

Liberals aren’t idiots.  They are very pragmatic.  And they’re liars and sneaks.  I think all this protesting is just smoke to make all the Tea Party Republicans think they’ve come out as winners in this deal.  Just take a closer look at the deal.  Negligible spending cuts up front.  A panel to determine future spending cuts (probably more heavily weighted on cuts that matter like out of control health care spending).  And a trigger for when that panel fails.  Which will make half of those future spending cuts come from defense.

And it gets better.  As this last round of negotiations has shown agreeing on spending cuts is next to impossible.  Even with the trigger those Medicare spending cuts are not likely to happen.  And with Obama just getting another $2.4 trillion to spend, that deficit isn’t going to get any smaller.  In fact, it’ll only get bigger.  Which means, of course, they will have no choice but to talk about revenue again (i.e., new taxes).  Say goodbye to the Bush tax cuts.  For they will let them expire next time.  Also, Obamacare kicks in after the 2012 election.  As do all those new taxes to pay for it.  More taxes upon more taxes.  Which is a lot of new taxes.

The sneaky little bastards are going to escape those spending cuts.  And get their tax hikes.  The Great Recession will linger on.  Or fall into full blown depression.  So it’s really clear who the winners and losers are in this debate.  The Ivy League liberal ruling elite are the winners.  And the American people are the losers.  As their country is transformed into a third world banana-republic.  Where the ruling elite at the top live very well.  And everyone else is poor and oppressed.  

Viva la Revolucion, El presidente.  Viva la Revolucion.

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The Debt Limit Debacle goes on, Obama and the Democrats unable to Govern Responsibly like Responsible State Governors

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 17th, 2011

An Explosion of Government Spending will require an Explosion of New Taxes, Borrowing and/or Printing

Blah, blah, blah.  And the budget debate goes on.  It is interesting that it is the Republicans that are being intransigent.  They’re the reason why there is no deal.  But the Democrats aren’t intransigent when they’re being intransigent.  Funny how that works.  Well now there’s a fallback plan.  In case the Republicans refuse to compromise and agree to all of the Democrat’s terms.  Here it is (see Five questions on the debt-ceiling debate posted 7/15/2011 on The Washington Post).

The third, and increasingly likely, option is a fallback proposed by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.). Congress would allow Obama to raise the debt limit in three increments totaling $2.5 trillion. It would also vote on resolutions disapproving of the debt increases, letting Republicans formally blame the increases on Obama.

To get House Republicans behind the deal, McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are revising it to include $1.5 trillion in cuts to government agencies and a new bipartisan committee to produce a framework for long-term debt reduction. Obama signalled Friday that he could live with the McConnell-Reid fallback.

So they will agree to disagree and let Obama do what is ‘best’ for the country.  And let him have full blame for doing it.  It’s a trap.  So when the nation implodes under unsustainable debt and a destroyed economy, the Republicans can point at Obama and say, “He did it.”  The Republicans may win the battle.  But they will lose the war.

A new bipartisan committee?  Didn’t we already do this?  The president’s own bipartisan committee of Erskine Bowles and former-Sen. Alan Simpson already did this.  And Obama promptly ignored their recommendations.  Then Joe Biden gave it a whirl.  And failed.  Then the president sat in meetings himself.  And failed. 

Another committee?  Why?  It’s just going to fail, too.  They need to cut government spending.  They know it.  All of these bipartisan committees know it.  Even the Chi-Coms know it.  But Obama and the Democrats just aren’t going to do it.  They’ll just keep wasting time with these meetings until they can get the Republicans to cave.  Because that’s their idea of compromise.

A “grand bargain” would mean settling for smaller tax increases on the wealthy than if Obama simply let the George W. Bush-era tax cuts expire at the end of 2012. And it could impede the economic recovery by ratcheting back government spending, thus reducing demand.

A bargain implies two competing viewpoints reconciled to best satisfy both sides.  It doesn’t work well when the Democrats simply reject the Republican’s views in toto.  And hold on to failed, dogmatic Keynesian economic policies.  For if government spending worked there would be no recession.  Or a budget debate to raise the debt limit. 

This pervasive view that these Keynesian policies are accepted as the only viable policies by the Democrats is the reason why we’re in the mess we’re in.  It appears that no amount of empirical evidence discrediting Keynesian economics will ever dissuade the Democrats from their reckless spending ways.  Thickheaded, stubborn and imbued with an air of all-knowing condescension and infallibility, they will let the country crash and burn before ever considering the idea that maybe they aren’t as brilliant as they think they are.

But as Obama sees it, the debt-ceiling crisis has offered an opportunity to fulfill his grand if nebulous campaign promise to get serious about attacking the nation’s fundamental problems. Being able to campaign on a major debt deal could outweigh giving up the chance to attack Republicans over Medicare. Settling now for a smaller tax increase on the wealthy would spare Obama a divisive fight over the Bush tax cuts. And getting the nation’s fiscal house in order could make it easier to win support for spending on education, research and infrastructure in a second term.

As for the economy, Obama seems to have adopted, at least to some degree, the Republican theory that businesses will invest more if they see Washington getting a handle on the debt. And a 10-year debt deal could be arranged so that few of the cuts went into effect immediately — there could even be some upfront stimulus included in the deal.

More spending?!?  You’re going to get your fiscal house in order (i.e., reduce the deficit) by spending more?  Well there’s only one way of doing that then, isn’t there?  With massive new taxes.  And not just on the wealthy.  These are going to have to reach deep into the middle class.  Because Obama has increased the deficit by a trillion dollars.  He’s the king of deficit spending.  He’s taken deficit spending to uncharted heights.  And it will take trillions in new taxes to reduce his deficits.  And this is the problem.  He is spending too much.

The Reagan Revolution was animated by “supply side” theory, but Ronald Reagan himself presided over several tax increases after his initial big cuts of 1981. He escaped GOP opprobrium, but George H.W. Bush caught his party’s ire when he signed a 1990 deficit-reduction deal with higher taxes. George W. Bush passed two big tax cuts, which nonpartisan budget experts now say were a major factor in today’s deficits.

Those ‘budget experts’ are no doubt Big Government Keynesian economists who love stroking their egos by advising governments on macroeconomics.  Talk to an Austrian School economist and you will hear a far different story.  And one that better stacks up against history.

Reagan made a deal with Tip O’Neil and the Democrats to cut $3 dollars of spending for every new $1 in taxes.  Of course, the Democrats lied.  They never honored their spending cuts promise.  Still his tax rate cuts nearly doubled tax receipts.  So tax rate cuts can and have increased tax revenue.  It was the out of control spending of Tip and company that gave Reagan those $200 billion deficits.  Chump change by Obama’s deficit standards. 

Bill Clinton fell ass-backwards into an economic boom thanks to the irrational exuberance of the dot-com bubble.  Money from capital gains tax from all those exercised stock options poured into federal coffers.  Then the bubble popped.  And George W. Bush started his presidency with the dot-com recession.  So, in response to the recession, Bush cut taxes in 2001 and 2003 to stimulate the economy.  In 2003 federal tax receipts were $1.782 trillion.  In 2008 they increased to $2.524 trillion.  That’s an increase of $742 billion.  Or an increase of 41.6%. 

So, no, the Bush tax cuts did not cause the deficit.  It was TARP (caused by the Democrat’s poor oversight of, and profiting from, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and their great subprime mortgage scam).  Obama’s stimulus.  And Obamacare.  An explosion of federal spending that will require an explosion of federal taxes, borrowing and/or printing to pay for.  No, this isn’t George W. Bush’s deficit.  This is Obama’s deficit.

A Shortage of Health Care Workers in Canada?

And speaking of national health care, let’s take a look at how well it is working in Canada (see Interactive Billboards: Bringing Billboards To Life by Misty Belardo posted 4/24/2011 on Bit Rebels).

An example of a great interactive campaign is this interactive billboard placed at bus stops. The campaign’s objective was to raise awareness about careers in public service. The challenge for the ad agency was to create enough interest in people so that they might seriously consider pursuing a career in public health. The big idea was to give people the feeling that they are capable of saving a life.

The billboard consisted of a huge interactive screen that illustrated a patient dying (as morbid as that may be). When a passerby pushed the hand marks on the sign, the electrocardiogram beeped, indicating that the man came back to life. Right at that moment a message read “Choose a career in public health, visit SaveLives.com.” It would be interesting to find out how many people interacted with the billboard, and even more importantly, how many of those registered and inquired about that career. Usually for campaigns like this it takes a couple months to find out the results.

The ad is apparently to attract health care workers in the province of Québec, Canada.  Which means they must have a shortage of health care workers.  And must be rationing care.  For that is an expensive way to advertise.  And you don’t do that unless the need is critical.  Whereas in America, it is one of the few growing sectors of employment.  Until the government takes it over under Obamacare, that is.  Then the Americans, too, no doubt, will be advertising to get more people to work in the bloated bureaucracy that American health care will become.

And it’s going to be bad in America.  The debate over raising the debt limit so they can pay their current bills?  Those bills don’t even include the explosive costs of Obamacare.  Those costly benefits are yet to kick in.  When they do there will be a whole lot more people covered by the same amount of health care workers, thus creating a shortage of them.  Which will require the rationing of limited health care resources.  (Unless the government finds an extra trillion dollars in some old coat in the closet.)  And then Obamacare will limp along like Medicare.  Chronically in the red.  And forever threatening to cut providers’ pay.

The State Governors know how to Govern

Part of Obama’s grand plan is to pass a lot of costs along to the states.  Because they can.  And states have to bite the bullet and absorb these costs.  Because they can’t pass them onto anyone else.  Or print money.  We call them unfunded mandates.  State governors call them bull [deleted expletive].

You see, states don’t have the options of the federal government.  They can’t be forever silly and irresponsible.  They can’t bluster in hyperbole, thump their chests with pride for a job not done and then just kick the can down the road.  They have to do what Obama and the Democrats in Washington won’t do.  Govern (see For governors, a personal toll from budget battles by Dan Balz posted 7/16/2011 on The Washington Post).

Talk to state executives gathered here at the summer meeting of the National Governors Association and it quickly becomes clear that the budget fights this year have not just left political scars, but some personal ones as well. As Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) put it, “I’ve just come through a session in which I made rotten decisions.”

In Gregoire’s view, those decisions weren’t bad because they failed to solve the state’s budgetary problems or left her budget hopelessly out of balance. To the contrary, Gregoire oversaw cuts of more than $4 billion that balanced her biennial budget.

Like many governors, Gregoire cut pay for state workers, reformed the state pension system, asked state employees to pay more for health care and retirement, eliminated cost-of-living increases for some retired state employees and revamped the state’s worker compensation system.

She cut education spending and raised college tuition.

Now that’s governing.  Doing the right thing no matter how much it pains you.  This is the way it’s supposed to be.  Politics just isn’t a game, a path to riches and a fat pension.  It’s doing what’s best for the people you govern.  Even when it goes against your own personal philosophy.

We’ve come a long way from the Intent of the Founding Fathers

It’s just more of the same from Washington.  And this is what Thomas Jefferson feared.  And why he hated Alexander Hamilton so.  Permanent government debt is a dangerous thing.  It can give you an out of control federal behemoth.  Intruding ever more on our individual liberties to feed it’s appetite for ever more revenue.  Which is what Washington is today.

Jefferson cut federal spending so much he could hardly defend American shipping.  Today the federal government collects in taxes enough to pay for one Apollo moon program each month and it still isn’t enough. 

We’ve come a long way from the intent of the Founding Fathers.  Lucky for them they didn’t live to see what we’ve done to their beloved republic.

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The State of the Union Address Ignores the 800 Pound Gorilla in the Room: Old People.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 26th, 2011

Old People:  God Love them but they’re Killing Us

The State of the Union Address was very similar to the one last year.  And a lot of Obama’s campaign speeches.  He still wants to invest (i.e., spend).  Even though record spending to date hasn’t helped anything.  We have record debt.  And deficits.  The nation is broke.  And yet he still wants to spend.  I mean, ‘invest’.

But we can’t ‘invest’ anymore.  We don’t have the money.  We can’t borrow anymore.  Or print anymore.  Without creating problems we can’t walk away from.  We have to reduce the deficit.  For real.  Can’t just talk about it.  And we can’t keep raising taxes.  Because that would stall the economic recovery.  If there was any economic recovery to stall.  No, we can’t indulge in these fantasies anymore (see How Obama’s speech muddied the budget debate by Robert J. Samuelson posted 1/27/2011 on The Washington Post).

What we got were empty platitudes. We won’t be “buried under a mountain of debt,” Obama declared. Heck, we’re already buried. We will “win the future.” Not by deluding ourselves, we won’t. Americans think deficits are someone else’s problem that can be cured by taxing the rich (say liberals) or ending wasteful spending (conservatives). Obama indulged these fantasies.

If deficits stemmed mainly from the recession, this wouldn’t matter. They would shrink as the economy recovered; tax collections would rise and spending (on unemployment insurance, food stamps) would fall. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. In fiscal 2010, the deficit – the gap between government spending and revenue – was $1.3 trillion. Of that, about $725 billion was a “structural” deficit, says Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics. That is, it would exist even if the economy were at full employment (5.75 percent by Zandi’s estimate).

Ouch.  Even Reagan’s tax cuts of the Eighties couldn’t fix this.  There’s a problem on the spending side.  A huge problem.  We have to address this problem.  If we don’t, nothing we do on the revenue side will amount to a hill of beans.

The real issue isn’t the deficit. It’s the exploding spending on the elderly – for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – which automatically expands the size of government. If we ended deficits with tax increases, we would simply exchange one problem (high deficits) for another (high taxes). Either would weaken the economy, and sharply higher taxes would represent an undesirable transfer to retirees from younger taxpayers.

And there it is.  Old people.  God love them but they’re killing us. 

So How do we Reduce the Deficit and Care for the Elderly?

Old people are killing us.  There’s no getting around that.  But we just can’t abandon them in their retirement.  But we have to do something with Social Security and Medicare before they bankrupt the country.

The first thing we need to do is the easiest thing.  Repeal Obamacare.  If we don’t, it’s just going to be Medicare writ large.  We haven’t suckered anyone into dependence yet.  So just end it.  Before we do.  This will eliminate a future problem.  So we can address the current ones.

Defined benefit pension plans are a thing of the past.  They’re chronically underfunded.  And mismanaged.  Just look at our biggest cities.  Those public sector pension plans are bankrupting them.  Meanwhile, most businesses have moved away from them.  Instead, they use 401(k) plans.  Or other plans where the employee is in charge.  Not the employer.  Best thing about these?  They’re portable.  You contribute.  And the money is yours.  No matter how long you work at a company.  The government needs to move in this direction.  They need to make a transition from a defined benefit pension plan (i.e., Social Security) to a personal retirement plan (i.e., a 401(k), an IRA, etc.).  The oldest people will be more in the Social Security system as we know it.  The younger people will be in a personal retirement plan.  And don’t start bitching about the risk of putting our retirement money into the stock market.  First of all, stocks are cyclical.  They usually climb after they fall.  Second, Social Security is going belly up.  Once it does, you ain’t getting anything out of it anyway.  So it’s a moot point.  At least with the stock market, we have a chance to retire.

The government has to get out of health care.  It’s a very complex thing.  And the most unqualified people shouldn’t run complex things.  Like pensions, we need to put people in charge of their health care.  We need to transition to private health insurance.  And remove the obstacles in the health insurance industry (restriction of competing across state lines, tort reform, etc.).  We have to move away from Medicare.  People need to buy their own private health insurance policies.  The oldest people in the system can get vouchers to help them.  The younger ones just need to learn NOW that they will have to take care of themselves.  The best thing about this?  Your health insurance will be portable.  You’ll never have to work again at a place you hate because of their health insurance benefit.  You can do whatever the hell you want to.  Because you will be paying for your own health insurance.  And you’ll take the same insurance with you no matter how many times you change your job.  Your days of bitching about a change in your prescription coverage will be over.  Because you will be getting exactly what you choose to buy.

Now, doing the above is going to cost.  Because there is no such thing as a Social Security trust fund.  Or Medicare insurance.  It’s all pay as you go.  Today’s taxes pay for today’s beneficiaries.  So when the young transfer out of the existing systems, there will be a huge funding shortfall for these systems.  We will have to borrow to cover this transition period.  But we will have to show that this borrowing is a temporary thing.  So that our creditors won’t fear that we’ll be dancing with default.  And how do we do that?  By making huge tax cuts. And by making sweeping rollbacks in regulation.  You make the United States so business friendly that jobs come running back to this country.  Because business owners will see that if you want to be profitable in business, you have to locate your business in the United States.  Sure, there will be some revenue shortfalls in the beginning of the transition.  But in the long run, the economic expansion will shower Washington in tax revenue.  Even at lower tax rates.  And because businesses are being so profitable, they’ll be bidding up labor rates to get the best employees.  Because they’ll have to.  You see, in a bustling economy with portable retirement and health insurance plans, no one will have to work where they don’t want to.  Everybody wins.  Employers.  Employees.  Even government.  Because they will finally escape the huge costs of Social Security and Medicare.

Getting back to the Founding Fathers

So there you have it.  A simple and doable plan.  In bullet form, the plan is:

  • Repeal Obamacare
  • Privatize Social Security
  • Privatize Medicare
  • Cut taxes and rollback regulation
  • Live happily ever after

Simple.  And the transition pains will hurt far less than bankruptcy.  Of course, there is a downside to this simple plan.  At least for Big Government liberals.  Because this plan gives us limited government.  Like the Founding Fathers wanted.  Which isn’t all that bad for liberals.  Because in this plan they’ll lose their jobs in a booming economy where there will be other jobs available for them.  Unlike being laid off when the Great Recession turns into another Great Depression.

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President Obama’s Bipartisan Commission’s Useless Report on Deficit Reduction

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 14th, 2010

Deficit Reduction:  Increase Taxes, Molest Our Women and Have Old People Hurry Up and Die

President Obama’s bipartisan commission has issued their report on deficit reduction.  A lot of unpleasant things in it.  But, then again, what do you expect from a commission/blue ribbon panel?  Politicians lie and kiss a lot of ass to get elected.  And they’re not going to throw that all away acting like they got a pair.  So they hide behind commissions and blue ribbon panels and say, hey, it isn’t me that wants to raise your taxes and cut your benefits.  It’s these guys.  These commission folks.  And they get a report that will meet with certain opposition and die in committee.  But they can say they tried.  And that’s how you do politics when you got no balls.

You know, Sara Palin probably could have done a better job.  She’s hunted bear.  She’s got balls.  Figuratively, of course.  That’s what you need to do the tough stuff.  Guts.  Pity Barack Obama is no Sarah Palin.

So what’s in this report that’s got everyone talking?  More taxes.  And spending cuts (see Fiscal Panel Chiefs Eye $1 Tril Tax Hike, $1.5 Tril Outlay Cut by Jed Graham, Investor’s Business Daily, posted 11/10/2010). 

  • Raise taxes by a cumulative $1 trillion through 2020.
  • Cut discretionary spending by nearly $1.5 trillion over the decade.
  • Raise Social Security’s retirement age to 69 and beyond.
  • Trim cost-of-living increases for current retirees and disabled beneficiaries.
  • Apply a 15-cent gas tax.
  • Cut $500 billion from Medicare and other federal health programs over 10 years.

Well, we know higher taxes don’t stimulate the economy.  So, to pay down the deficit we are going to prolong the recession.  Swell.  Well, at least old people won’t have to worry much.  They’ll be put out of their misery with the ‘hurry up and die’ provisions included.  Less money to live on.  And less health care so they will hurry up and die before reaching 69.  And, if they do, not only does the government not have to pay them their Social Security benefits, but they can keep all that money the newly deceased paid into the system (the deceased’s Social Security benefits don’t go to their heirs which explains why government is so opposed to private 401(k)s – those contributions can be bequeathed to surviving heirs).  And the cuts in discretionary spending?

They proposed cutting annual discretionary spending by $200 billion, half from defense and half from nondefense.

Ah, yes, the ubiquitous defense cuts.  Gotta have defense cuts.  But you know what?  I don’t think they’re going to sit well after this holiday season.  The fondling of our wives, mothers and daughters in our airports.  Strangers looking at semi-naked images of them.  It’s not right.  Is this the price of safety?  The molestation of our wives, mothers and daughters?  I think not.  There are other ways.  And I’m not talking about the apology tour.  And before all you peaceniks start blaming this on America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, remember this.  We weren’t in those countries before 9/11/2001. It’s better to violate 3-4 enemy combatants a year (say by water-boarding) than having all our women and children molested whenever they fly.  And if it takes a great big fat defense budget to do this, so be it.  Let’s have someone else suffer the fear and humiliation for a change.

Republicans and Democrats Disagree.  Centrists See a Way to Lie to Independents.

So what are others saying?  Well, The New York Times notes there ain’t a chance in hell of it being enacted as-is (see the Op-Ed A Deficit of Respect by Tobin Harshaw posted 11/13/2010 on The New York Times).

“Among Democrats, liberals are in near revolt against the White House over the issue, even as substantive and political forces push Mr. Obama to attack chronic deficits in a serious way,” reports The Times’s Jackie Calmes. “At the same time, Republicans face intense pressure from their conservative base and the Tea Party movement to reject any deal that includes tax increases, leaving their leaders with little room to maneuver in any negotiation and at risk of being blamed by voters for not doing their part.”

And The Washington Post dittos that (see Analysis: Deficit panel pushes Dems, GOP by Andrew Taylor and Charles Babington, The Associated Press, posted 11/12/2010 on The Washington Post).

Their plan – mixing painful cuts to Social Security and Medicare with big tax increases – has no chance of enactment as written, certainly not as a whole.

But they also point out warring sides could reach compromise.

On the other hand, a 1982 Social Security commission chaired by Alan Greenspan came up with a plan for solvency that earned the blessing of President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Thomas O’Neill, D-Mass. It passed Congress easily and generated almost three decades of program surpluses.

Then again, President Obama is no Ronald Reagan.  Reagan listened to the people.  He communicated with the people.  Unlike Obama.  Who’s detached and aloof.  He pushed his agenda against the will of the people.  For him, it’s all about him.  And there are some Democrats who like him as much as he likes himself.  They look at this report and see not what’s best for the country. But what’s best for Barack Obama (see Deficit Directive Tracks GOP Aims by John D. McKinnon and Laura Meckler posted 11/13/2010 on the Wall Street Journal).

Centrist Democrats are encouraging the president to embrace bipartisan ideas for deficit reduction, even if these are unpopular with the party’s liberal wing. They say that among other benefits, that would help Mr. Obama regain credibility with independent voters he will need to win re-election in 2012. Independents backed him in 2008 but shifted to the GOP this year.

A fight with liberals might even be politically helpful, said Jon Cowan, president of Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank. “If you’re looking at re-election, your No. 1 imperative has got to be winning back the center of the electorate,” he said.

It’s nice to know where some people’s priorities are.

Gridlock Can Reduce the Deficit.  So Can Repealing Obamacare.

Of course, all this bipartisan rancor can be a good thing (see Deficit report favors ‘do-nothing Congress’ by David Sands posted 11/11/2010 on The Washington Times).

The report’s scariest deficit scenario relies on a Congressional Budget Office projection that under what it calls “current policy,” the U.S. government’s debt will soar from the current 60 percent of GDP to 100 percent of GDP by 2023 and to twice the country’s annual economic output by the year 2035.

Current policy?  What’s that?

But “current policy” as defined by CBO does — in the sometimes upside-down world of Washington — require action. It assumes that Congress will pass and President Obama will sign a continuation of at least some of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts set to expire; that lawmakers will once again vote to ease the bite of the alternative minimum tax (AMT); that Congress will block a scheduled increase in estate tax rates; and that the government will continue to pass so-called “doc fixes” to shield physicians from mandated cuts in the payments they get under Medicare.

And all that means what?

But if none of those actions are taken — what the CBO calls the “current law” baseline — the deficit numbers look considerably brighter.

In layman terms, we haven’t spent a lot of this money yet.  If Republicans and Democrats simply agree to disagree and give us gridlock, actual deficits won’t be as high as projected.  Yes, there will be pain for some.  But the hole we’ll dig for ourselves won’t be as deep.

And this is really the frustrating part of this whole debate.  These are projections.  They haven’t spent the money yet.  So don’t.  Just don’t spend the damn money.  Repealing Obamacare should be a no-brainer.  That trillion dollar abomination hasn’t given anyone anything yet.  So kill it.  Now.  Before it becomes another entitlement like Social Security.  Come on.  Do the right thing.  And legislate like you got a pair.

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