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bito On November - 18 - 2010
fat cat

Buudy, Can You Spare a Dime?

First my thanks to Kalima and her Morning Blog for posting the article by Michael Tomasky “You Fix the Deficit.”

With all the talk, much of it completely misleading, on the deficit and debt, Mr. Tomasky links to three “budget calculators” that allow one to try their hand at juggling the books for the country.   To hear the politicians talk, it’s a piece of cake, right?  How many times during the mid term elections did you hear the alleged budget hawks being asked “What will you cut in the budget?”  And they fumbled around searching for an answer or mentioning cuts so tiny that they would have little to no effect on the deficit or the standby of “cut waste, fraud and abuse.”  Then we had many seeing the deficit and yelling “Fire” while holding the fire hose and at the same time screaming “don’t tax the rich” in effect not turning on the water to help squelch the blaze.  If the tax cuts were so great, why weren’t the made permanent when they were put into effect?
Oh, that’s right they were passed using that dastardly lefty procedure-reconciliation.

Taxes , another post is needed on that subject.

Back to the debt and the calculators.  I tried all three and like Mr. Tomasky, I like the one from the NY Times the best because of it’s options on both spending and revenue.  I think the difficulty of making various cuts was I held in my mind “how would this effect the livelihood of the people and how much harm or help it might bring to the country.”

A couple of examples of my thinking.

One option dealt with the pay of government workers: Cut their pay by 5%, freeze their pay or do nothing.  All three showed what the outcome  would be on the debt.
Can the clerk at the local Social Security/Medicare office handle a 5% cut, do any workers deserve a 5% cut?  Will this hurt the economy having thousands of people having 5% less disposable income?

Similar  questions on reducing the number of workers.  I pictured the children being raised, the homes and furnishings being purchased.  Does this cut reduce a chance for employment?  A quality job?

Same with raising retirement ages.  I see, and know, the hardship it would be on those that have to do physical work.  Backs, knees and other joints are asked to do chores not meant to be done day in and out.  But what of others (most ?) who spend their jobs with minimal use, abuse, of their bodies?  The budget implications are large.

You may be able to divorce yourself from the consequences and find this task easier than I did.
Give them a go and tell us how you did.

Can this country be all for everyone and no one has to pay taxes?  Roads, schools, hospitals, parks to be built.  Wars to be fought and the country to be defended.
Don’t be mad at me, but I think I just sent you to the unemployment line and slashed your benefits.

Good Luck.

While I found the lack of options maddening: The calculators:

Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget from the New York Times

“Stabilize the Debt: An Online Exercise in Hard Choices” from The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

“The CEPR Deficit Calculator” from the Center for Economic and Policy Research

How did you do?

Written by bito

Was once a handsome frog until kissed by an ugly corporate princess.----- Like a well honed knife, the internet can be a wonderful and useful tool. It can be used to prepare and serve a delicious meal or it can be used to cause harm. peace

25 Responses so far.

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  1. bitohistory says:

    Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy

    Interesting letter to the “Deficit Reduction Commission” from quite a diverse group. The members include political scientists from Cato on the right to Center for American Progress on the left, all saying that the defense budget has to be reduced for the sake of the country.
    One point from the letter.

    U.S. combat power dramatically exceeds that of any plausible combination of conventional adversaries. To cite just one example, Secretary Gates has observed that the U.S. Navy is today as capable as the next 13 navies combined, most of which are operated by our allies. We can safely save by trimming our current margin of superiority.

  2. Questinia says:

    “Okay, now where do I apply for President in 2016?”

    I KNEW IT!!

    I’d like to run your “ad” campaign. But you know I’ll need the usual. Personal chef and trainer, trailer with sauna and whirlpool, bowls of Pringles, sparkling, and a wardrobe of head-to-toe Chanel and Missoni.

    My first ad will be of you speaking as God, in the shape of Cookie-puss, declaring Maypo be the national food. In the TV spot, everybody in the audience cheering you on will be wearing Guy Fawkes masks and singing Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Pride and Joy”, which will be your campaign slogan. Naturally “he” will substitute for “she”.

    [img][/img]


    • AdLib says:

      Wow Q, you know me too damn well!!!

      The only thing is that I don’t know is which will cost more, the campaign or your perqs. But they’re both worth it!

      Since you know KO, we’ll get you to go on there on a regular basis, promoting my candidacy and my central issues:

      1. Health Care must be single-payer and the Chamber of Commerce must be that single payer.

      2. The TSA must have people of the opposite sex “patting down” passengers (or same sex where desired).

      3. Save The Fudgie-The-Whales.

      We can’t lose!

    • choicelady says:

      Oooh -- Ques -- the Guy Fawkes people are part of “Anonymous” who really creep me out! Initiatlly they were anti-Scientologist, but a look at their old web pages was truly scary. Not only do they target ANY faith group, they are homophobic and willing to be violent about it. I know absolutely NOTHING about Scientology other than one woman I rather like who has been totally creeped out by people in Guy Fawkes masks picketing their church. Now this would possibly make sense IF Guy Fawkes had not been a Catholic radical icon of the “gunpowder plot” to restore Catholicism in England. So why would ANTI religious people adopt the mask? Anonymous has blasted several church and denominational web sites among progressive faith groups -- so where’s that coming from?

      In sum I suppose Anonymous is like an anti-abortion weirdo I once saw who stopped outside a clinic muttering to no one in particular, “I could blow it up. I could just make a bomb and blow it up -- I could do that, yeah I could blow it up.” A patient escort quietly watched him while he was muttering, and then said, after he’d walked away, “I don’t think he’s so much anti-abortion as he is pro-dynamite.”

      So I suppose the Guy Fawkes folks are the same. Never mind the illogic -- let’s just blow something up.

      Still, since I’ve seen these guys on the street, they really DO creep me out.

      • AdLib says:

        FYI: Q is referring to my use of the Guy Fawkes image from the movie “V” as a Gravatar in the past, unrelated to Anonymous.

        I do know a bit about Scientology and Anonymous.

        IMO, Scientology conforms to and behaves like a cult in the most direct definitions however, even cults can offer peace of mind and meaningful support to people. There are people I know and like who are Scientologists and are positive, good, generous people however Scientology itself is a an entity with an agenda that has woven into it, greed, paranoia and aggressive political goals.

        As to Anonymous, it’s terrible that they devolved from one of the few entities willing to stand up to, challenge and expose Scientology to this anti-religion, homophobic, almost nihilist group that has attracted disturbed individuals and horribly misguided agendas.

        Sometimes both sides of a conflict can be in the wrong even if each can make a case for the legitimacy of their positions. Unfortunately, it may be so in this case.

    • PatsyT says:

      What, no bendy straws?

  3. AdLib says:

    Okay, here’s my solution which solved the deficit both in 2015 and 2030, with a surplus of $173 billion in 2015 and nearly $200 billion in 2030:

    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/11/13/weekinreview/deficits-graphic.html?choices=dmt105q3

    The one major compromise for me is limiting Medicare growth but, in my proposed Administration, I would take advantage of the HCR provision to help states set up single-payer and redirect the huge savings to supplement Medicare growth.

    Okay, now where do I apply for President in 2016?

    • choicelady says:

      May I sign up as your campaign PR person? You ROCK!

    • kesmarn says:

      Whew…AdLib, you wielded that scalpel with a mighty hand! I have another suggestion for saving money on Medicare. (I think you’ve heard this one from me before.) CEOs and high execs of chains of nursing homes (instead of the much deplored puppy mills, I guess these would be considered people mills-- or in some cases human warehouses) would have their income/benefits capped at $1 million/year if they took a single dime from the government. There is a fellow locally who makes between $12 and $28 million a year off the the Medicare/Medicaid system with his nursing home racket. This is taxpayer money, of course, that goes — not to provide comfort, nutrition and good care to seniors — but to line the pockets of the people at the top.

    • bitohistory says:

      Very good AdLib. Man, you are mean to us rich people, and here I was thinking about hiring you after my next million. No more, buddy.

      • AdLib says:

        Ah, just say it…”class warfare”. 😉

        Yep, wealthy people paying taxes, all totaled, much less than when Reagan was in office, is an absolute outrage.

        If I was you, I’d contact the AG you bought in your state and have them file suit against my plan as being “cruel and unusual” punishment.

        • bitohistory says:

          I see I am going to have to sick Buffy on you, …you,… you commoner! 😉

          Watched part of the Senate “proceedings” today and thought I was watching an old Laural and Hardy sketch. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Grassely (R- IA) were on the floor defending the tax cuts for the rich. Bryon Dorgan (D-ND) mocked their arguments, with senatorial politeness, but he did task them to task. Will that exchange be seen anywhere? Highly doubtful.

          Why is the question never asked. “Who builds and maintains your roads, your railroads, your telecommunications that allow your ability for you to even have a system of commerce? Who defends your your airways, your seas, your trade pacts? Who educates your children, your workers, your future workers?

          Is it not now not time to come to the aid of your country, or was that just a typing exercise for you? If not now, when will you aid your country so that you may live in your largess?
          What exactly is being asked of you? You still have your off-shore shelters, your loopholes, your children’s
          trust funds that you hide your monies.

          AHHHHH!

          • AdLib says:

            I know this is not an original observation but damn, we’ve got 24/7 cable news and yet next to zero time is spent on legitimately examining policy in much depth.

            It’s all about who’s up and who’s down, the Repubs or Dems and always highlighting the GOP propaganda, whether because it’s extreme or simply because it’s provided.

            • choicelady says:

              Gosh, AdLib -- if you paid attention to POLICY, when would you get to discuss the burning issues of The Donald’s hair or Lindsay Lohan’s latest drug crazed spree? C’mon man -- get with the basic VALUES.

            • bitohistory says:

              Red Sox-3, Dodgers-5 😉

  4. choicelady says:

    In every budget year in CA some doofus, always from the right, hollers that when things get tight in your household, you “throw away the credit card and tighten your belt”. Alan Simpson of the Deficit Reduction Commission, said precisely the same thing yesterday on NPR (not yet posted on their site, BTW.) He then said that the only people reacting to their plan to create “shared sacrifice” are “whiners, snivelers, and those crying racism”.

    I have little skin in this game. Whatever happens won’t hurt me much if at all. But I DO advocate for ordinary people and those hanging by their fingernails, and I’m OUTRAGED that the “shared sacrifice” lands almost entirely on the middle class on DOWN.

    First -- the government is NOT a household. Fiscal responsibility is fine, but the point of government is to balance us all, to hold us out of harm’s way, and to protect those discarded and mowed over by the private sector. No legitimate government can exist if it does NOT do those things. It must balance the bullies and the bullied.

    Even if the government WERE to function as households do, the one thing a household does NOT do is throw its kids into the streets, turn its elders out onto ice floes, and deny basic sustenance to those who are tired and ill. Any family that did that would face legal action from the police. So why should the government be encouraged to become a criminally dysfunctional family?

    For the past 30 years or more, this nation has robbed the middle class and working people to put moolah in the pockets of the uber rich. Jacob Hacker’s book, “The Great Risk Shift” and David Cay Johnston’s “Free Lunch” have shown how we changed the tax system, regulatory codes, and labor rights, how we subsidized the offshoring of jobs, the closing of businesses even when profitable, and the abject failures of companies so looted by management that they robbed investors and communities alike.

    Now we are supposed to have “shared sacrifice” just as in WW II -- except who is “sharing”? Simply reinstating tax rates from the 1990s AND raising the SS and Medicare contribution level, cleaning up the ridiculous expenditures on private contractors who handle Medicare Advantage and eliminating totally wasteful military expenditures on equipment the military itself neither wants nor needs would END this mess. Instead -- we, the middle class and low wage to poor are expected to pony up a regressive sales tax, see cuts in benefits, lower our retirement hopes while waiting longer to get them, and the only “sacrifice” from the rich is that they might not be able to deduct the interest on their second-third-fourth-etc. houses. (Unless, of course, those are “business expenses” -- we’ll see about that…) Income tax rates are theoretically lowered by eliminating deductions -- but we will see who benefits from that since it’s not at all likely to be us.

    Nope. The poor have to suffer because the rich would find paying their fair share too “burdensome” and might not create jobs. As if personal income ever did that. Taxes ride on PROFITS not on investment incomes, and the latter for the wealthy goes to single high ticket items rather than being broadly spent.

    The vast discrepancies in wealth that have occurred over these thirty years ought to be a wake up call about who “got” and who “gave” over that period. Did one dime of that benefit the nation? I see no evidence that it did.

    In the middle of it all, we have a meme floating around that this is a “Christian” nation (not true -- it’s a nation of NO religious preference at all) so let’s go with that for a moment. Presuming that is true, then where, for the love of God, did we lose one of our key faith premises: from those to whom much is given, much is required.

    If we operated on that principle which in fact is democratic, not just faith grounded, in nature, we would NOT be having this absurd discussion. If and ONLY if the rich take not one dime in subsidies or supports, if and ONLY if investors absorb every penny of risk and bail themselves out, if and ONLY if they see labor and consumers equal in rights to themselves, and if and ONLY if they pay wages commensurate with the value working people produce -- then maybe, just maybe they will regain some validity in our nation. That is precisely how we operated in colonial days -- the rich got rich by their own responsible actions, NOT on ordinary people’s backs, and they did so by serving their communities and colonies FIRST before taking money for themselves.

    Until we return to the fundamental idea that the wealthy have an obligation to us all, and that we have rights not just privileges, we will perpetuate massive inequality. In 1973 Barnet and Muller wrote a scarily predictive book, “Global Reach” with a chapter that chilled my soul, “The Latinamericanization of the United States”. That is precisely what is happening -- has happened -- and we and only we can stop it. If the American populace permits itself to be hornswoggled into believing their safety lies in their inequality, then we are doomed.

    • AdLib says:

      If the American populace permits itself to be hornswoggled into believing their safety lies in their inequality, then we are doomed.

      What a powerful and precise assessment on where we are as a nation!

      In the Orwellian doublespeak of modern America, class warfare that transfers wealth from 98% of Americans to the wealthiest is “free market” capitalism that creates jobs. And trying to halt or reverse this obscene and inequitable transfer of wealth is “class warfare”.

      The MSM plays a huge role in deceiving the public and promoting the propaganda of the wealthy.

      If Americans had anywhere near a clear view of how their wealth and standard of living have been robbed from them by the top 2% in this nation, there would be such a clear and overwhelming movement in this nation to set this nation back on the right track.

      It wouldn’t be like the small, mindlessly angry and partisan Tea Party but a broad, non-partisan American movement.

      With such forces as Fox News out there, serving the wealthy class and deliberately manipulating people away from this recognition (deflecting blame to Obama for the recession and job loss that resulted?!), it would seem a daunting task to ever get this divided nation to come together over their shared and authentic interests.

      But…it must be a goal.

    • bitohistory says:

      C’Lady, I find it difficult to reply to you except to say “Bravo, Hallelujah ” and yell out “Can I hear an AMEN!!”

      Why does the Simpson-Bowles plan sound familiar? Little “trickle on, voodoo, deja vu all over again, economics?” If this proposal is passed what exactly get implemented first? First cut the social funding and safety nets, well, we can’t really cut the DOD, we have wars to fight (quiz: why does the US have 12 carrier groups, and no other country have more than 2?), reducing taxes will amount to a lobbying food fight-except C’Lady--representing the poor and middle class, won’t get invited--resulting in every loophole, deduction, and hidey-hole for the top 2% will remain.

      I remember the ballyhooed “Reagan taxcuts quite well. All the journeymen carpenters received their checks at break-time. We looked and compared trying to find our big tax break. The so called tax-cut, combined with the raise in payroll tax, my big bonus was 0.1000. One dime divided by 40 hours! Believe me, we went out and split a bottle of Coke that Friday.

      Yet the 98% get accused of “class war” language, while we are being led onwards down to the path to poverty.

    • kesmarn says:

      A beautiful, powerful comment, c’lady. It makes me want to print it out and post it all over the city and the internet.

      I tried one of the “balance-the-budget-yourself” sites (the NYT one) that Kalima and b’ito suggested via the Tomasky article. Before I had even read your comment, I entered the same types of changes you mentioned: raising the income contribution threshold on SS/ Medicare, slashing budgets for unneeded military equipment, and taxing the wealthy. Using those measures only, the budget was balanced for 2015. I’ll admit, I still had a shortfall for 2030, but I think that could be addressed by measures like cutting farm subsidies for industrial mega-farms, but not smaller family farms (not an option on the NYT form — it was eliminate them all or nothing).

      C-SPAN is on in the background here at home, and I notice that the House bill to extend unemployment compensation has been defeated.

      Meanwhile the ultra wealthy panic at the prospect of being taxed a few thousand more (of their billions of) dollars. “Have you no decency, gentlemen?” comes to mind.

      • choicelady says:

        Thank you bito and kes -- I got deflected from answering when you said, kes, the unemployment extension was defeated. I went into a major fury and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening looking it up and trying to wrap my mind around it all. I actually heard someone say -- well, how would we PAY for it? NO ONE asks that of the tax cuts -- and in fact the GOOPERS say they don’t HAVE to be paid for.

        I have never been this angry, not even Watergate, not even under Clinton -- this behavior is beyond horrible.

        Anyone got a place to see in Canada? I lived there one summer. I’m willing to go back permanently. Willing even to learn French.

        In 1972 Susan St. James gave a talk at a fund raiser for McGovern. She talked at length about her new baby girl -- the problems with her pregnancy, the hard delivery, etc. etc. while all of us wondered WHERE WAS she going with this? Then she finished -- “Now, I did not go through all of that just to have her spend the first four years of her life under Richard Nixon!” The room went UP -- and that’s exactly how I feel now. I want to retire in the next decade, and I’ll be damned if I want to spend those “golden years” under these rubes, boobs, and crooks. Canada -- here I come.


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