And How do you Plan to Pay for That, Sir?

If you know anything about finances, there are a few basics that must be paid attention to. Among the most important is a very simple concept: Don’t spend more than you make.  Now when you have a bureaucracy as huge as the United States government, that is an amazingly difficult thing to do on the best of days.

When you spend more than you make, that is called deficit spending, it creates debt.  The Obama administration was somewhat successful in fighting the deficit. He inherited an economy that was hemorrhaging cash and jobs at a rate that was as alarming as it was dangerous.

It took some serious work, but he, along with the OMB, Ben Bernanke (Who also bears some responsibility FOR the Financial crisis of 2007-08) and legislation (Frank-Dodd and in particular the Volcker rule, among other pieces of legislation) that successfully regulated the shadow banking system (It’s not that shadowy, but the subject will get additional scrutiny in future) managed to stop the bleeding.

But with a price that will be paid for in future. The deficit will rise again later. It cannot be helped. It is a ripple effect of the amount of damage that the unregulated economy did back in 2007-08, and the trillions of dollars that bled out of the system. The Obama administration has done all they could to mitigate that, with some success.

The deficit, year on year has dropped every year he has been in office, and thanks to the efforts of everyone in and around the economy, the deficit over the next ten years will never go, if things stay on track, over 4%. Not great, but given the circumstances, not too shabby.

Enter Donald Trump.

His plan is to cut taxes, increase the size of the military, spend billions on infrastructure.

And build a wall.

Let me explain something here about this.  Cutting taxes feels good. No one likes paying taxes, especially if they don’t like government programs that pay for things people don’t like, like ANYTHING  they think of as being wasteful or going to people who don’t deserve it. Both laughable concepts, but people think these things and they must be taken into account. So yeah, lower taxes puts more money in your pocket today so you can do more today.

But it increases the bill for later. Decreasing the taxes the government needs to pay for things while increasing government services, like border security and a larger armed forces will do nothing more than make the next financial crisis, and there will be one, count on that, that much worse.

Check the Links section for the pertinent information.

I would love nothing more than to have something that approaches a secure financial future. That future was nearly terminated by unregulated excess and improper financial decisions both in the private and public sectors, in particular by  Hank Paulson, Christopher Cox, and George W. Bush. The Obama Administration did much to ameliorate the situation, but it seems that we are headed back to the same place we were at before the Democrats came in and saved the nations bacon.

Republican decision making nearly threw it, and us with it, into a fire,  and thanks to Donald Trump and out of control spending and thoughtless tax cuts seemingly will send the economy reeling back into that same economic death spiral. Trump and his plan are darkening a future that was, while not bright, clearly not as dark as it is with Republicans back in fiscal control of the nation.

Expect inflation, deficit spending, and the debt to skyrocket over the next two years. So much for a secure financial future.

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Quote of the day: I was aware that the loosening of mortgage credit terms for subprime borrowers increased financial risk. But I believed then, as now, that the benefits of broadened home ownership are worth the risk. ~Alan Greenspan, September 2007

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Hope On The Horizon?

We are nearly out of the woods after years in one of the most debilitating economic crises this nation has faced in its history.  Congress’  response to it?

Let’s do it again!

The possibility of sequestration with layoffs and furloughs for thousands of workers across this great nation will take all the effort and hard work that has gone on over the last few years and flush it down the toilet is a hard one to swallow from this group of do-nothing Republicans.  Forced to deal with that because our President, in order to get some kind of deal done back in 2011, had to make a deal with the devil, aka the House Republicans, to avert a complete disaster with the debt ceiling.

But there is some hope on the horizon.  Click here for links

A deal is still on the table, put their by the President that would avert the looming doom that is sequestration.  The deal includes the chained CPI, a hard but necessary step to take. It has smaller more palatable cuts to non-discretionary spending, with cuts in drug company payments as well as fee restructuring in a number of key areas. It also has within it a limitation in tax deductions for the wealthy that will generate well over half a trillion dollars.

Given that the alternative puts tens of thousands of people in harms way unnecessarily, I am hoping that the Republicans come t their senses and accept this deal, or perhaps some modified version of it, if this is unpalatable.

There are those on the other side of the aisle, most notably mr. P90x himself, Paul Ryan, who seem to think that sequestration is in some way acceptable.

I would ask him is furloughing police officers, firefighters, teachers, corrections officers, and the national guard  acceptable? I would ask him if all the pain and misery created by letting his friends in the defense industry lose money because of cuts in government spending, is that acceptable?  I would ask him if letting people suffering through no fault of their own because of being unemployed because their benefits would expire, is that acceptable?

I hope it isn’t, because America can’t take much more of this stupid decision-making on the part of the Republicans. They are leading America down a dark and ugly road towards economic disaster, and we’ve had enough of that already.  We’re done with that.

The deal that the President has laid on the table here takes into account our future in a way that is forward-looking, makes good use of our present to prepare for our future without causing too much discomfort, and shines a light on the right way to be fiscally responsible while at the same time helping those who need that help the most.

I for one could use some time off from all the histrionics that these Republicans keep creating.  Accept the deal and let us go on with our lives, please.  Thank you.

Solutions Are Not Easy

Pic of the day:  The Cow Boy, by John C.H. Grabill (1888)

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Conservative, n. A statesman enamored of existing evils, as opposed to a Liberal, who wants to replace them with others.

Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)

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There are a great many ideas that are good in this nation, but not all of them.  There are ideas that are well, just plain stupid that need to be rooted out.  It is this second group which gets my attention here. Among the less intelligent ones out there is an idea that I wish to speak on at length here.  The lie that was best asserted by Ronald Reagan, when he said “Government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem.”  or some such similar diatribe against reality.

To say that government is the problem is to put the cart before the horse, to use an old axiom.  Any “problem” government actually has (or is) should be run through a few filters before we decide to believe it or not.

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First:  “What part?”

A government that has existed for over 225 years and is both an economic and military superpower with 300,000,000 people living under it’s protection and being part of a social contract with those 300,000,000 people, and with as many moving parts as must exist to keep such a large machine running cannot by any reasonable definition be anything but imperfect.

To be so blind as to put down the entire thing without stating what specifically is wrong with it is entirely unethical.

So, to those who think that government is the problem I ask “What part?”  It can’t be the whole thing.  If it was the damn thing would have collapsed of it’s own weight before any of us were born.

I know you don’t like medicare’s costs, or social security costs,or taxes or the deficit.  Are they the problem? Let’s look.  Medicare is there as a safety net for those elder citizens (and a few other groups) who cannot pay for health care themselves.

And as such it is necessary. Now, anything that is expensive but necessary might be a problem, but not one that can be solved by pointing at it and saying it’s a problem.  Soc. Sec. is much the same, created as social insurance for those elder citizens who were then living in poverty.  Half of those over the 65 were under the poverty line when it was enacted.  And is still necessary even though the number is not what it was back then.

Taxes?  They have gone down across the board for almost everyone.  A multitude of companies paid no taxes last year.  A great number of tax shelters exist that keep money from government coffers that pay for the things this society needs to function properly.

The deficit?  A major issue, but one that has been growing since well before the first trillion dollar budget put together by Dubya, and necessarily grown by this President.  The deficit numbers that are attributed to the sitting President are inflated by the press and those who are more interested in getting rid of him rather than any real spending on his part.

What does that mean?  It means that many very expensive programs exist, but the means to pay for it seems to be disappearing.  Ever shrinking taxes mean less money to pay for all the things we actually need. So government isn’t the real problem, paying for it is.

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So, let’s say that we now know what the problem is.  Not enough money coming in while costs of necessary programs continuously rise .  Great, nothing no one wasn’t already aware of, but that’s no big deal.  Stating the obvious is sometimes necessary to make sure an understanding of it exists.  So…

“How do we solve it?”

From 2001 to the dawn of the financial crisis in 2007 I heard very little  from the right about our financial problems, except from one guy. Douglas Holtz-Eagin when he was head of the CBO.  He was the architect of the Bush tax cuts, and even he stated in 2005 that there would be a need to increase taxes to deal with the burden of deficit spending created by those tax cuts, because the deficits would be massive.

Which means a few people knew deficit spending was a problem well before President Obama came to office.

Let’s look at the numbers.  Looking at the difference between the 2001 budget projections for 2011 and the actual 2011 numbers you will see that the problems come from many sources.

Cost of Lower tax revenue, recession of 2007/2008: $3,500,000,000,000 (3.5 trillion)

Cost of Bush tax cuts:  $1,600,000,000,000 (1.6 trillion)

Cost of Increased non-defense discretionary spending: $1,500,000,000,000 (1.5 trillion)

Cost of Iraq and Afghanistan wars: $1,400,000,000,000 (1.4 trillion)

Interest on the debt:  $1,400,000,000,000 (1.4 trillion)

Cost of Obama Stimulus: $900,000,000,000 (.9 trillion)

Which means that most of the debt was in fact built up between the years 2001 and 2008, between 80 and 90% of it in fact.

And what that means is that the person who is being blamed for it isn’t the real culprit, at least as far as the bulk of the debt is concerned.

It means that government was the problem.  In particular Republican government from 2001 to 2008 anyway.  And the policy that most who view government as the problem would put in place would be to starve the beast.  Which is to cut government spending.  Which would simply increase our debt, and our deficit.  Spending will not, and frankly cannot be cut drastically enough to actually make starving the beast work.

America, If you elect Mitt Romney, you will make government the problem again.  Right now under our sitting President it is solving the problems that it faces as best it can.  Maybe not as fast as some would like, or the way that they would like, but that can’t be helped.  Bad government is a problem, and it can be avoided.  Mitt would bring us back to bad governance.

It is a simple fact that too many tax cuts on the wealthy elite of this nation, who can actually afford to pay them, have depleted this nations finite resources to the point of nearly crippling the economy.

Lose the Bush tax cuts, increase tax revenue, fix the problem.

That simple.

You might not like that answer America, but just because it isn’t palatable doesn’t mean it isn’t the right answer.  No one said solutions are easy.  Not anyone worth listening to anyway.

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That’s it from here, America.  G’night.

If The President Said…

Pic of the day, part i: The Boating Party, by Mary Cassatt

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Free men are aware of the imperfection inherent in human affairs, and they are willing to fight and die for that which is not perfect. They know that basic human problems can have no final solutions, that our freedom, justice, equality, etc. are far from absolute, and that the good life is compounded of half measures, compromises, lesser evils, and gropings toward the perfect. The rejection of approximations and the insistence on absolutes are the manifestation of a nihilism that loathes freedom, tolerance, and equity.

Eric Hoffer, The Temper of Our Time

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I love the inherent dislogic within Mitt Romney’s rhetoric.  Mitt Romney said that the extension of  middle class tax cuts will “kill jobs.”  But then again he says everything that the President does kills jobs.

Tax cuts kill jobs?  I was under the impression that tax cuts were good things and created jobs?

Republican rule #1:  Taxes are bad.

Republican rule #2: Low taxation creates jobs.

This President has cut taxes so much I’m surprised I have to pay any at all.  Taxes being the natural enemy of Republicans, I’m surprised they hate the guy so much.  He’s doing a credible impression of a Republican with all the tax cuts he’s tossing around.

And while he’s cutting taxes, he’s proposing more tax cuts.  He’s cut taxes for small businesses 18 times.

What’s he gotta do, put on an elephant mask and scream “fuck the IRS” until Grover Norqvist’s ears bleed?

🙂

When I hear Mitt Romney say a tax cut for the middle class will kill jobs, I know what he really means.  And what Mitt means is He doesn’t care how republican this guy acts as far as taxation is concerned, he’s gonna say everything President Obama does kills jobs.

If the President said he walked his dog, dog walking would kill jobs.

If the President said he rooted for Prince Fielder during the Home Run Derby, Romney would say that rooting for Prince Fielder kills jobs

If the President said he had the best sex of his life in the White House, Romney would say fucking kills jobs.

Well…. maybe not on that last one, but Romney’d think about putting out a press release about it, just to be a dick. (to say nothing of the fact that the President wouldn’t say that, he’s not some inbred hick after all.)

Mitt Romney kills jobs by going to the same old tired line all the damn time.  Mitt, you cheap fuck, hire a writer.

Or not… I don’t mind making fun of you, Mitt.

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Pic of the day, part ii:  Lilacs in a Window, by Mary Cassatt

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Modern man is weighed down more by the burden of responsibility than by the burden of sin. We think him more a savior who shoulders our responsibilities than him who shoulders our sins. If instead of making decisions we have but to obey and do our duty, we feel it as a sort of salvation.

Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind, and Other Aphorisms

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That’s it from here, America. G’night.

On First Reading

Pic of the day:  Bennington Battle flag

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Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression. In our Governments, the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from the acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents.

James Madison, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 1788

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I am in the process of reading the supreme courts ruling in the case National Federation of Independent Business v Sibelius.  I have to tell you it is an interesting read.  And not without twists and turns.  I can see why CNN and Fox were quick to say that the law was being overturned.  Much of the beginning statement was reasoning for the individual mandate to be overturned.  And the reasons were soundly thought out and reasonable.

Curious I should say that, seeing how I am very much for this law, personally.  I was much in line with Chief Justice Roberts rationale against using the commerce clause and the necessary and proper clause to constitutionally validate the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, once I read it.

The rationale against the law when looked at from these arguments is entirely reasonable.  I personally think he is right because in light of those arguments, it is a creation of power above and beyond the mandate of congress.  These two instances (commerce, and necessary &  proper) are both there to protect already enumerated powers, laws that already exist.  The health care law overstepped those bounds and created powers that did not exist before, and because of that the Chief justice shot those arguments down.

But the taxation argument saved the Patient protection and Affordable care act.  Despite the fact that the law calls the penalty for not getting health insurance a “penalty” and not a tax, the court said that they would simply look at the penalty as a tax, because the law is enacted in such a way that the penalty is actually paid like a tax, and is in fact collected by the IRS, and, according to the court, “the payment is not so high that there is really no choice but to buy health insurance.”

And payment is not intended to induce the purchase of health insurance, and there are no negative legal consequences to not buying health insurance.

Says so right in the writ of certiorari.  It’s on page four.  Click here to read the entire thing.

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The one thing I have not seen is the actual amount one would have to pay should one not have health insurance.  I have heard from some fearful right wingers that there will be jail time for those who do not buy health insurance.  Which is just plain silly. There will be no jail time for anyone not according to the law that I read, and that law is the same one that Justice Roberts signed off on.

Partially.

He did say that stripping states that do not comply with the law of their medicare benefits was “Dragooning.”

Can’t say that I disagree as far as that goes, but it doesn’t go far enough.  The states that simply turn their backs on the people who would be helped by this law won’t agree with Justice Roberts here.  And neither do I.  There are abuses that the state can heap upon the individual, just as the federal government can, and this was meant as a protection from the states “dragooning” the citizens of those states who turned their backs on this law, against the will of the electorate and would make them suffer with sub-standard medical coverage.

I would much rather see a state government made to suffer some harm than to see it’s citizens health unnecessarily compromised due to purposeful disregard of a federal law that does not impinge on my freedom, which this does not.  Mind you complete loss of their medicare coverage was a bit much. Some other penalty could have been brought to bear that would have stood the constitutional test.  The law would have survived untouched if not for that major misstep by congress.

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Pic of the day:  Mademoiselle Marcelle Lender by, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

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A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

James Madison, in a letter to W.T. Barry, 1822

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That’s about it from here, America.  G’night.

A Few Basic Questions for Mitt Romney Regarding His Tax Plans

Pic of the day: Haneton Triptych, center panel

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Schisms do not originate in a love of truth, which is a source of courtesy and gentleness, but rather in an inordinate desire for supremacy… In fact, the real disturbers of the peace are those who, in a free state, seek to curtail the liberty of judgment which they are unable to tyrannize over.

Baruch Spinoza

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It’s official, Mitt Romney is the nominee of the Republican party for President of the United States of America. It became official a few hours ago when Mr. Romney won the Texas primary. Congratulations Mitt!

Now all you have to do is convince a plurality of Americans that voting for you is the right thing to do. And like any member of the two major parties in this country, you already have about 45% of the nation already in your pocket simply by being the nominee of one of those parties. Each party, without the slightest bit of help get about 45% of the populace to vote for them.

But that last 10 percent of the nation that is left over, I tell you brother, they are not easy people to convince of anything.

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I am at this moment reading Mr. Romney’s website and will, when finished give a detailed account of exactly what he says about foreign policy and taxation and Social Security and a host of other issues.

I have read his tax plan. On the surface it is nice but there are questions I have. They may be answered by other things in other places on the site that I have yet to get to. The questions are as follows:

How do you plan to make up for the shortfall created by the 10% across the board cut in the corporate tax rate. Government has not shrunk in size in our lifetimes, whether a Republican or a Democrat was in office. To make that drastic a cut in taxes must surely be made up for with an opposite and equal level of cuts in Government spending or increases in taxation elsewhere. Will you cut Social Security? Defense? Medicare? There isn’t enough discretionary spending out there that could be cut to make up for the shortfall, so I’m curious to see who will get hit with the budget axe.

The other tax cuts you propose beg the same question.

There is no word in the tax section about the Bush tax cuts. I was curious to see what exactly he has to say about the Bush Tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of this year. Those tax cuts have cost us trillions of dollars and not helped create job growth as they were supposed to. Will he extend the Bush tax cuts or will he raise the tax rate on the rich by 4%?

How can he justify the statement that the President has “exploded the size of government” when the size of government has actually risen more slowly under President Obama than any other President in the last 60 years?

There will be much more on Mitt Romney in the coming weeks and months, as his candidacy merits much scrutiny.

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That’s it from here, America. G’night.

Death And Taxes

Pic of the day:  Saint Jerome by Leonardo Da Vinci

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Strange—is it not?—that of the myriads who
Before us passed the door of Darkness through,
Not one returns to tell us of the road
Which to discover we must travel too.

Omar Khayyam, Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

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Sudan dropped bombs on South Sudanese troops who were withdrawing from the field, and also bombed a market in the capital of Unity state, Bentiu.  South Sudan has said that the bombing of the market is tantamount to a declaration of war.  Sudan has denied that they bombed the area.  The U.N. has condemned the bombing of the Market, and has called on Sudan to cease all hostilities against it’s neighbor to the south.

No one else has warplanes in the area, so Sudan’s claim that they had nothing to do with the bombing is at once bewilderingly stupid and laughable.  There has been fighting along the border for some time now, so it’s kinda funny to think that they would try to lie about this.  It’s not like warplanes would have just magically appeared in the sky above Bentiu to bomb that market.  It’s not like there’s been hostilities between South Sudan and Uganda or the Congo or some other country in the area.

Mind you the South is not sinless here.  They invaded the North and took an oilfield, and only left after criticism by the U.N., and near complete destruction of the oilfield, according to a worker from there.  The South has been an aggressor on a number of occasions.  But that does not mean that the North can indiscriminately bomb civilians in the South.  But this is war and is unfortunately to be expected.

I said it yesterday, and I’ll say it again today.  It’ll get worse before it gets better.  And with South Sudan having no air defenses or air force to speak of, they are at the mercy of the Sudanese.  Bloody mess, that’s what it’s gonna end up being before it all shakes out.

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In other news, Social Security’s long range financial health is beginning to worsen.  In large part due to the fact that SocSec taxes are as low as they are.  Low taxes are not always the greatest thing in the world, and here is your proof.  If we increase the amount of money we pay all of us into the fund, then we all can benefit, and we will all be better off.

If things continue to go as they are going right now, the fund will run out of money in 2033.  Which is nice seeing how I will become eligible to go on SocSec in 2033.  Good to know that all the money I have thrown into the fund will have done exactly nothing for me should things continue the way they are going now.

How to fix this? Increase SocSec taxes.  Make everyone pay, including millionaires and billionaires.  Hell even thousandaires. The FICA tax is a regressive tax, and that needs to stop.  Making it either a flat tax or a progressive tax with no ceiling is one very powerful way to inject life into the system.

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That’s about it from here, America.  G’night.