Facebook's Grand Bargain

The following is making the rounds on Facebook as a smug, “just-folks like me are so much smarter than all those idiots in Washington” piece of myth-making:

Salary of the US President. ..$400,000. Salary of retired US Presidents …$180,000. Salary of House/Senate…$174, 000. Salary of Speaker of the House…$223,500… Salary of Majority/Minority Leaders… $193,400… Average Salary of Soldier DEPLOYED IN IRAQ $38,000… I think we have found where the cuts should be made! If you agree… repost.

OK, let’s give this the benefit of the doubt by rounding up to maximize the budget-cutting magic. Let’s say that every member of Congress gets paid the presidential salary cited here of $400,000 a year. And then let’s say we could simply eliminate all those salaries.

That would total about $215 million in budget savings.

Or about 0.00006 percent of the federal budget.

I realize that’s not really the point of the silly social media spam above. That’s not really intended to offer any serious ideas about balancing the budget, only to reassure the posters and re-posters of their own virtue and superior intelligence. But if you happen to get hit with that post from someone who is also at all interested in the actual problem of the actual deficit, you might want to show them this graph, from Austin Frakt, which Ezra Klein calls “the graph all budget discussions should start with.”

Congressional and presidential salaries are not really the place to look for savings for anyone seriously interested in balancing the budget by cutting spending instead of by restoring revenue by putting the 14 million unemployed Americans back to work.

But then I don’t understand why anyone would want to try to balance the budget by cutting spending instead of by putting the unemployed back to work.

Unless they just really don’t like unemployed people.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    But then you’d get the old, “If we just cut taxes on the rich they’d have the money to hire people down at the widget factory and everybody would be employed again” nonsense.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Phil-Malthus/100000338736453 Phil Malthus

    Lots of people -dont- like unemployed people, because they assume they are lazy, shiftless, and other pseudonyms for colored. Cousin John is different, he’s just down on his luck at the moment … of course.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Lots of people -dont- like unemployed people, because they assume they are lazy, shiftless, and other synonyms for colored

    Where I live most unemployed people are white. The average middle class citizen doesn’t think much of unemployed people here either. I’m not disagreeing with the intertwining of race and class issues in the US, but elsewhere there’s plenty of disdain based on class alone.

  • Anonymous

    The emphasis on politicians’ salaries deflects attention away from massive corporate salaries that are vastly disproportionate to employee salaries, as well as the fact that these politicians were already millionaires before taking office.  If you’re looking at disproportionate concentrations of wealth, it’s not the politicians’ salaries we need to examine, it’s the vast amounts of money these politicians are helping to funnel up to the already wealthy.
     

    In the same vein, there’s also this anaphoric gem going around facebook:

    “In the U.S.A. Homeless go without eating.In the U.S.A. Elderly go without needed medicines.In the U.S.A. Mentally ill go without treatment.In the U.S.A. Troops go without proper equipment.In the U.S.A. Veterans go without benefits they were promised.Yet we donate billions to other countries before helping our own first. Have the guts to re-post this.”

    As in the example cited in Fred’s post, this meme only serves to deflect attention away from real problems and solutions.  I’m sure many of us have seen the survey that asks, “What percentage of the budget do you think goes to foreign aid?”  The median estimate was 25%, when in reality about 1% of the budget is spent on foreign aid.  Foreign aid, like politicians’ salaries, is not the issue.  Nor is Planned Parenthood, PBS, or any other right-wing hate du jour. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Phil-Malthus/100000338736453 Phil Malthus

    Yes and of that 1%, roughly half is bribes to Israel & Egypt, and 2/3 of the rest turns out to be disguised subsidies to US companies to ‘give’ their products to the supposed aid recipients. What actually gets to the poor in foreign countries is pretty derisory, for the richest country in the world.

  • Tonio

    The emphasis on politicians’ salaries deflects attention away from
    massive corporate salaries that are vastly disproportionate to employee
    salaries

    That was my first thought as well. The very wealthy in the US are dramatically undertaxed. The Facebook items that you mentioned and that Fred mentioned aren’t about proportionality in taxation. Instead, they’re about the phony populism of resentment. 

  • Green Eggs and Ham

    Historically, those that were dramatically undertaxed were called My Lord and Your Grace.

  • Lori

    The emphasis on politicians’ salaries deflects attention away from massive corporate salaries that are vastly disproportionate to employee salaries, as well as the fact that these politicians were already millionaires before taking office.  

    It also deflects attention from the fact that the real money in being a lawmaker isn’t the salary you’re paid while you’re in office. It’s in things like the perks you get from lobbyists while you’re in office and book deals with ridiculous advances. Most important of all it’s the fat money private secure job after you leave office, either lobbying your
    former colleagues or as a VP for one of the companies you helped while you were in office.

    “In the U.S.A. Homeless go without eating.In the U.S.A. Elderly go without needed medicines.In the U.S.A. Mentally ill go without treatment.In the U.S.A. Troops go without proper equipment.In the U.S.A. Veterans go without benefits they were
    promised.Yet we donate billions to other countries before helping our own first. Have the guts to re-post this.” 

    I hate this sort of stupid crap with the heat of a thousand white hot fiery suns. Cutting the foreign aid does nothing for the homeless or the elderly or the mentally ill or low paid military personnel. If we cut foreign aid the (relatively tiny) amount of money “saved” wouldn’t go to help any of those people. It would either be funneled to military contractors through increased Pentagon weapons budgets or it would be handed to the rich in the form of tax cuts.

    Anyone over the age of 20 or so who doesn’t grasp that is just being willfully ignorant.

  • 40kFanboy

    “Anyone over the age of 20 or so who doesn’t grasp that is just being willfully ignorant.”

    How is this sentence – repeated verbatim by L&J and all those like them – ever valid?

  • Lori

     How is this sentence – repeated verbatim by L&J and all those like them – ever valid? 

     

    I could go into a whole long spiel about observable reality vs personal interpretation of an ancient book of questionable province, but I think it makes more sense to simply ask if you’ve ever heard of hyperbole.  

  • Gallantrose

    In the U.S.A., homeless people go without eating. In the U.S.A., the elderly go
    without needed medicines. In the U.S.A., those who are mentally ill go without
    treatment. In the U.S.A., troops go without proper equipment. In the U.S.A., veterans go without benefits they were promised. Yet we donate billions
    to subsidize oil companies, Wall Street tycoons, and defense contractors before helping our own first. Have the guts to
    re-post this.

    FTFY

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I’m sure many of us have seen the survey that asks, “What percentage of the budget do you think goes to foreign aid?”  The median estimate was 25%, when in reality about 1% of the budget is spent on foreign aid.

    You’ve actually overshot the mark quite a bit yourself.

    The US spends 0.6% of its budget on foreign aid. The Gallup survey found that the median estimate of foreign aid spending was 25%, and the median value for what people thought it should be was 10%. So people are out not just by a lot, but by orders of magnitude.

    Rich countries agreed to increase their foreign aid spending, as part of efforts to meet the Millenium Development Goals, to 0.7% of GNI by 2015. In 2005 the US spent 0.22% of GNI on foreign aid.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the correction; I thought it 1% seemed too high, but in the course of googling I kept turning up 1 or 2%.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    No worries. Sweden spends very close to 1% (0.98 or something), and they’re miles ahead of the rest of the world. When talking about budgets, decimal points are a big deal!

  • Anonymous

    That graph is excellent, and it’s also the reason why I want to balance the budget by cutting spending. (In addition to creating jobs.) Health care spending is growing faster than any realistic estimate of US GDP growth. Even if we had full employment tomorrow, the graph in 2080 would look almost as bad as it does right now. We can’t afford to ignore the problem. We can’t indefinitely raise revenue as % of GDP. Therefore, we must cut spending.

    None of this analysis has anything to do with how I feel about unemployed people, as Fred seems to think.

  • chris the cynic

    Well, as I recall, going single payer would be the best way to get healthcare costs under control.  So you could start there.

  • Lori

     That graph is excellent, and it’s also the reason why I want to balance the budget by cutting spending. (In addition to creating jobs.) Health care spending is growing faster than any realistic estimate of US GDP growth.  

     

    This would make sense if there was any realistic expectation that cutting government spending would decrease health care costs, but there’s not. It will decrease health care expenditures in the short term because millions of people will go without care. However, unless you want us to just let people die in the street expenditures will actually end up being higher when we have to deal with all the sick people who have gone too long without treatment. 

  • A. Galley

    Here’s the thing — health care *costs* are not determined by how much the government budgets for them. If you turn around tomorrow and announce that the U.S. government will only cover half of the medical expenditures it covers currently, that doesn’t mean that health-care costs are cut in half.

    It just means someone else is going to pay them, whether that’s private insurance companies (who will pass the cost on to their subscribers — either employers or individuals), or individuals paying out of pocket.

    Americans are already on the edge in terms of what they pay, themselves, for healthcare. Sickness obliterates middle-class prosperity because of the burden of costs.

    To lower the actual *cost* of health-care delivery, you need two things, neither of which are served by cutting Medicare: you need to improve the efficiency of the supply, which is a complicated discussion. And you need bargaining power — and that is where single-payer systems, of various kinds, greatly outperform U.S. Medicare on cost.

  • A. Galley

    Here’s the thing — health care *costs* are not determined by how much the government budgets for them. If you turn around tomorrow and announce that the U.S. government will only cover half of the medical expenditures it covers currently, that doesn’t mean that health-care costs are cut in half.

    It just means someone else is going to pay them, whether that’s private insurance companies (who will pass the cost on to their subscribers — either employers or individuals), or individuals paying out of pocket.

    Americans are already on the edge in terms of what they pay, themselves, for healthcare. Sickness obliterates middle-class prosperity because of the burden of costs.

    To lower the actual *cost* of health-care delivery, you need two things, neither of which are served by cutting Medicare: you need to improve the efficiency of the supply, which is a complicated discussion. And you need bargaining power — and that is where single-payer systems, of various kinds, greatly outperform U.S. Medicare on cost.

  • Anonymous

    The most effective way to cut health care costs is to simply let unhealthy people die with minimal treatment.  And personally, that’s not the kind of society I want to be part of.

    It’s sort of like saying that I’m going to balance my personal finances by simply paying only half my rent, or cutting my food budget in half.

  • Lori

     It’s sort of like saying that I’m going to balance my personal finances by simply paying only half my rent, or cutting my food budget in half.  

    It’s actually worse than this. Depending on your situation you might be able to cut your budget in half by paying only half as much rent (moving to a cheaper place that’s still adequate) or cutting your food budget in half by not eating out and buying less expensive food that’s still nutritious. That wouldn’t be true for most people, but it’s possible. 

    Cutting government spending in order to cut health care costs is more like deciding that it’s a great idea to cut your budget in half by becoming homeless and developing an eating disorder. 

  • http://scyllacat.livejournal.com Scylla Kat

    I’m sure someone smarter than I am has already called you on this, but you’re saying that instead of reforming the overinflated health care costs, you would choose to have a less healthy public?

  • Anonymous

    I’m sure someone smarter than I am has already called you on this, but you’re saying that instead of reforming the overinflated health care costs, you would choose to have a less healthy public?
    Er, no. Where did you get that idea? Reforming America’s overinflated health care costs is a spending cut, though I doubt it would have much of an effect on the healthiness of the public.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathan-Pelikan/100000903137143 Jonathan Pelikan

    It shows how you feel in the sense that you don’t care, or at least you value cutting the deficit above human beings and their welfare. Like Fred’s said, budgets are moral documents because money is power and where we choose to put our power and to what effect shows our character.

    I’m sorry, but advocating cutting spending without specifically adding that you wouldn’t want to see the spending that’s cut hurt people implies that you don’t mind, as many people don’t mind.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathan-Pelikan/100000903137143 Jonathan Pelikan

    It shows how you feel in the sense that you don’t care, or at least you value cutting the deficit above human beings and their welfare. Like Fred’s said, budgets are moral documents because money is power and where we choose to put our power and to what effect shows our character.

    I’m sorry, but advocating cutting spending without specifically adding that you wouldn’t want to see the spending that’s cut hurt people implies that you don’t mind, as many people don’t mind.

  • http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/ Andrew G.

    The first question is, why do you think you want to balance the budget?

    People arguing about how to balance it take it as being self-evident that this is a good thing… but the sectoral balances equation shows that under most practical conditions it is simply not possible; the government sector can only balance if there are sufficient net exports to cover the demand for private sector savings. If there are net imports, then the government budget can not balance or go to surplus unless the private sector has a net savings deficit – something which isn’t sustainable. (This is how the US got into surplus at the end of the Clinton years – you can find any number of articles from the period pointing out the low levels of saving.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

    LOL! I am literally, right now debating with someone on this issue. Perfect timing! I said that a good place to start would be collecting corporate taxes, which is apparently “robin-hooding”.

  • chris the cynic

    At the end of the Friday Fragments thread Ellie Murasaki and I discussed running on a platform of closing tax loopholes, returning the current top tax bracket to Clinton Era rates, adding new tax brackets above that, and fixing capital gains tax rates.
    Would you like to join the Committee to Tax the Effing Rich Already?

  • Pope Disturban V

    Would you like to join the Committee to Tax the Effing Rich Already?

    Where do I sign up?

  • Pope Disturban V

    Would you like to join the Committee to Tax the Effing Rich Already?

    Where do I sign up?

  • http://psalmsinpurgatory.com/ Theophilus

    Having just spent seven years and about $150,000 on my education, only to find myself a part time receptionist, I can say that if I had a real job I’d be doing a lot more for the economy. I’m no political or economic theorist, but I wonder if it wouldn’t be a good idea to bring back FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corpse to provide jobs and build infrastructure at the same time. 

  • Green Eggs and Ham

    The US could also export a lot less war.  44 cents out of every budget dollar is killing you economically and a whole lot of others literally.

  • http://psalmsinpurgatory.com/ Theophilus

    The trouble is that our experience piggy-backing onto WWI, and even more so the economic boom caused by the WWII war effort, has left Americans with a deeply buried and almost subconscious idea that war is profitable for the “good guy.” The American ethos requires an enemy to reach peek productivity. Now that the communists are no longer barking at the door, and since terrorism is a faceless disorganized enemy, America lacks the unifying drive of self-preservation that gave birth to much of our economic ideology over the last century.

  • Nicolae Carpathia

    The trouble is that our experience piggy-backing onto WWI, and
    even more so the economic boom caused by the WWII war effort, has left
    Americans with a deeply buried and almost subconscious idea that war is
    profitable for the “good guy.”

    I was about to mention that this might be a way to convince them that America is not really the “good guy” in this conflict, but then I remembered that these are the people who already ignore the fact that the war is at all detrimental to the economy.

  • http://psalmsinpurgatory.com/ Theophilus

    The only way our economy could profit from a war is if we were matched against a superior foe and had to bolster innovation and industry. But to do this we would have to either be attacked by China, or pick one hell of an immoral and stupid fight.

    I’m a moderate with conservative tendencies. I like free enterprise in theory. Then again communism works in theory. But it seems to me that this nation has a pendulum swing between unrestricted enterprise with all its stratification and exploitation, and FDR style restrictions bordering on socialism, where government is grown and the playing field leveled. As I study history I begin to think that maybe this is the natural heart beat of a capitalist nation and may be necessary to its survival. If so I would think that, just like after the 1890s-1920s era mega-corporations, we should swing back to FDRs way of doing things. Maybe now is the time to risk big government to reset the playing board a little. Which is to say, tax the shit out of big business and regulate them sternly.

  • Anonymous

     FDR style restrictions bordering on socialism

    In what universe does “FDR style restrictions” border on socialism?

    So much political stupidity could be avoided if people actually bothered to learn what “socialism” actually is. But then again there has been an intentional and concerted effort to occlude the meaning of socialism for decades now. Although it is always fun to challenge conservatives to provide a single example of socialism when they claim Obama/FDR/Hitler et. al. are socialists.

  • Anonymous

     FDR style restrictions bordering on socialism

    In what universe does “FDR style restrictions” border on socialism?

    So much political stupidity could be avoided if people actually bothered to learn what “socialism” actually is. But then again there has been an intentional and concerted effort to occlude the meaning of socialism for decades now. Although it is always fun to challenge conservatives to provide a single example of socialism when they claim Obama/FDR/Hitler et. al. are socialists.

  • Green Eggs and Ham

    FDR brought in the New Deal to prevent Socialism from setting down permanent roots in America.    

    He just thought that the rich were too stupid to realize that if you make the peasants permanently hungry they tend to radicalize.

    He was a capitalist not a socialist.

    A hardass conservative could think that a robust safety net was a spectacular idea.  Because it prevents revolutions.  

  • Impulse725

    “He just thought that the rich were too stupid to realize that if you
    make the peasants permanently hungry they tend to radicalize.”

    He was certainly right about that.  (Both parts)

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    But it seems to me that this nation has a pendulum swing between unrestricted enterprise with all its stratification and exploitation, and FDR style restrictions bordering on socialism centre-left economics

    Fixed that for you.

  • http://psalmsinpurgatory.com/ Theophilus

    Thank you.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    :)

  • Becca Stareyes

    On the graph posted, I see ‘Medicare/Medicaid’, ‘Social Security’ and ‘Other Non-Interest’.  So where is the ‘Interest on National Debt’?

    Also, what’s causing the drop from now until 2010 in the ‘Other Non-Interest’? I presume it’s ‘getting out of wars we started’.  (Also, interesting that the CBO shows that revenue roughly tracks with Medicare/Medicaid, with the other two expenditures staying more or less constant.  Makes me wonder what assumptions we have going into all these models.)

  • Anonymous

    The current crop of right-wing conservative austerity waving budget cutting deficit hawks remind me of Kent the antivaxxer.  They have become invested in their beliefs and nothing will sway them.  We are doomed.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    I think you’ve got that backwards – even if the economy was booming, they’d STILL want to destroy the last remnants of FDR’s achievements, since it’s all Communism to them.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    I think you’ve got that backwards – even if the economy was booming, they’d STILL want to destroy the last remnants of FDR’s achievements, since it’s all Communism to them.

  • Anonymous

    Looks to me like they’re saying that we have to cut the salaries of our soldiers. There’s, what, 100,000 of them?  Slash that $38,000 in half, and that’s something like $1.9 billion right there.

  • Anonymous

    Looks to me like they’re saying that we have to cut the salaries of our soldiers. There’s, what, 100,000 of them?  Slash that $38,000 in half, and that’s something like $1.9 billion right there.

  • Lori

     Looks to me like they’re saying that we have to cut the salaries of our soldiers. There’s, what, 100,000 of them?  Slash that $38,000 in half, and that’s something like $1.9 billion right there.  

    This issue of scale is another thing that a lot of people either don’t, can’t or won’t grasp about federal budgets, especially when it comes to war mongering. Even low paid soldiers cost a lot when you have a lot of them. The cost curve shoots up at a scary angle when you start actually using them in combat and getting them horribly injured in large numbers. Lifelong support for wounded vets is pricey. Certainly a lot more expensive than paying Congress and the President. 

    (That does not mean that I think we shouldn’t pay soldiers or provide them with the care we promised them. Anyone who even suggests that I want to cut the budget by stiffing vets is going to earn my never ending wrath.)

  • Anonymous

    I really hate this attitude that government employees shouldn’t be fairly compensated.  A lot of people think they are just leeches who get paid money to sit around and do nothing.  And while I don’t particularly like my tax money going to people like Bachmann, it’s really no worse than the money I spend on products going to corrupt CEOs.  The president makes far less than most major athletes and works at least equally as hard.  He has earned his salary.  And teachers work for their money too.  I really just don’t understand why so many people think teachers are overpaid or that they should essentially do their work for free.  They provide a service, work as hard as people in other professions, and they deserve to be compensated for their time and effort just like anyone in any other job.

    Also take into account that most Congresspeople have been there a long time so that $174k isn’t a starting salary but most soldiers deployed in Iraq don’t have that kind of seniority.  And I would bet that the vast majority of Congresspeople have college degrees and most of the foot soldiers don’t.  In the private sector, if someone said that an entry-level worker with a high school dimploma should be paid as much as someone who has been working there for 15 years with a college degree, these very same people would scream “Communism”.  Now, I admit that there is room for improvement and I am surprised that the soldiers get paid so little for such a hazardous job.  I have looked into scientific jobs that are not directly with the military would I would go overseas for a certain number of months and I would get paid 2-3 times to compensate for the hazard an inconvenience.  Now this is all assuming that those numbers are factually accurate.  Anyway, soldiers probably should get paid more, but I refuse to be outraged at all the others being paid a fair price for their work.

  • http://lightningbug.blogspot.com lightning

    I read it a bit differently.  If anybody doesn’t get paid, it should be the top people.  I don’t expect Congresscritters to do anything that would cut their own salaries or perks.

    Also, an awful lot of politics depends on the peasants (and the media!) not being able to do simple arithmetic.

  • http://lightningbug.blogspot.com lightning

    I read it a bit differently.  If anybody doesn’t get paid, it should be the top people.  I don’t expect Congresscritters to do anything that would cut their own salaries or perks.

    Also, an awful lot of politics depends on the peasants (and the media!) not being able to do simple arithmetic.

  • Lori

     If anybody doesn’t get paid, it should be the top people.  I don’t expect Congresscritters to do anything that would cut their own salaries or perks.  

     

    If the Republicans won’t make a deal on the debt ceiling and the country can’t pay it’s bills then Congress’ salaries should be right at the top of the list of things that don’t get paid. However, cutting Congressional salaries makes no sense as a response to our overall budget problem. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathan-Pelikan/100000903137143 Jonathan Pelikan

    Linked to this article from my Facebook. Maybe we could get a counter-movement of it going. On their side, they have a dumb little memetic bit of smug, and on our side, we can refer them to a masterwork blog post by Fred Clark the Slacktivist. On the post is an image of the budgets, deficits, and unemployed Americans. The deficit is striking a menacing pose. The unemployed Americans are in a plaintive pose. This post relates to the current social debate between compassion for the people and cutting the deficit in America in 2011.

    (I think I’ve been playing too much Dwarf Fortress lately.)

  • Anonymous

    The deficit menaces with spikes made of spikes?

  • Anonymous

    I think you have, too, but I’m laughing anyway.

    Speaking of which, the work’s done for the day, and that thirty-Z-level tower isn’t gonna build its own magma-dumping siege buster…

  • https://profiles.google.com/ravanan101 Ravanan

    Not sure if I still have it, but I either have or used to have a heavily modded (most, but not all of them balanced) super sexy 31.25 embark with more Z-levels than you can shake a stick at, but in a 4X3 had an exposed volcano, river source, warm weather, flux, sand, clay, fire clay, and about 30k units of cotton candy, more than 10k of which has no risk of breaching the tube.

    Anything that can trigger traps can’t even make it through my front door. Mainly since my front door is a 30X5 hallway with every square filled with maxed out circular saws/spiked ball traps made of metals sharper than steel/denser than silver.

    I’m terrified of what 31.26 will bring though.

  • Anonymous

    I’m, uh, still playing 40d16, albeit with the new magma-safe stones backported from 31.whatever. I figure it’s only been, what, a year or a year and a half since the new version came out? — so I’ll wait about as long again for you intrepid early-adopter types to beat all the bugs out before I start playing it.

  • https://profiles.google.com/ravanan101 Ravanan

    Early adopters? The last full version update (31.19) came out 5 months ago and the next 6 versions (31.20-31.25) were all bugfixes released over the next month. It’s probably no/not much buggier than 40d at this point, and carp are no longer avatars of destruction. To my knowledge the biggest bugs are that one sub-industry is broken (you can’t make crystal glass; green and clear work fine), and that dwarfs are afraid of water even when you mod them to be amphibious. Eh, your choice though.

    @7b2b014a9ea13334c7bcd6596b6dd5aa:disqus
    I can understand my fellow Americans obsession with cars up to a point, and certainly why we’re more obsessed with them than Europe. The contiguous 48 states have an area of roughly 7.7 million square kilometers, with a population of 310 million. Europe, excluding European Russia, is around 6 million square kilometers with a population of around 620 million. Our average population density is less than half of Europe’s. So we frequently just have more distance to go, which makes setting up public transportation systems much more difficult. With that said, yeah, we Americans fetishize car ownership even where it is actively detrimental and have some bizarre moral compunction against public transportation.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, yeah, I’m pretty much just being lazy about it, that and I’ve got most of my info on DF2010 from the wiki which seems increasingly to be both incomplete and outdated. On the other hand, I’m really curious to see if I can get my current fort to a century without ever turning on migration, so it’ll probably be a while still before I make the switch. (Dwarf Therapist helps a lot there by letting you set labors on children, which makes them useful far sooner than they’d otherwise be. Child labor? Why, no! It’s apprenticeship.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathan-Pelikan/100000903137143 Jonathan Pelikan

    Linked to this article from my Facebook. Maybe we could get a counter-movement of it going. On their side, they have a dumb little memetic bit of smug, and on our side, we can refer them to a masterwork blog post by Fred Clark the Slacktivist. On the post is an image of the budgets, deficits, and unemployed Americans. The deficit is striking a menacing pose. The unemployed Americans are in a plaintive pose. This post relates to the current social debate between compassion for the people and cutting the deficit in America in 2011.

    (I think I’ve been playing too much Dwarf Fortress lately.)

  • Anonymous

    Well, as I recall, going single payer would be the best way to get healthcare costs under control.  So you could start there.
    Sure, that sounds fine to me.

    This would make sense if there was any realistic expectation that cutting government spending would decrease health care costs, but there’s not. It will decrease health care expenditures in the short term because millions of people will go without care. However, unless you want us to just let people die in the street expenditures will actually end up being higher when we have to deal with all the sick people who have gone too long without treatment.
    If by “cutting government spending” you mean “reducing federal payment rates without any other changes”, then yes, it’s not going to be very effective. There are plenty of realistic ways to reduce health care spending dramatically without causing people to go without care. The rest of the industrialized world does this already.

    To lower the actual *cost* of health-care delivery, you need two things, neither of which are served by cutting Medicare: you need to improve the efficiency of the supply, which is a complicated discussion. And you need bargaining power — and that is where single-payer systems, of various kinds, greatly outperform U.S. Medicare on cost.
    I’m afraid I don’t see the distinction. Those reforms you mentioned sound great, and they also cut Medicare spending.

    The most effective way to cut health care costs is to simply let unhealthy people die with minimal treatment.  And personally, that’s not the kind of society I want to be part of. It’s sort of like saying that I’m going to balance my personal finances by simply paying only half my rent, or cutting my food budget in half.
    Actually, I would love to be part of a society that made it easier for people to refuse end-of-life care. Unless you meant letting all unhealthy people die, which is a strawman.

    I’m not sure where all my fellow commenters are getting the idea that by “spending cuts” I mean “throw darts at programs to eliminate” or “take off 20% across the board from everything”. I’ve never advocated any such nonsense.

  • https://profiles.google.com/ravanan101 Ravanan

    I suspect that there’s some talking past one another going on. The issue I think is largely your use of the phrase “spending cuts.” In almost every level of American political discourse, advocating such is tantamount to advocating to just stop covering people. What you seem to advocate for is, in standard political jargon, “health-care reform,” the modification of the institutions that provide health-care (insurance companies and hospitals) to reduce costs.

  • Anonymous

    That makes a lot of sense. When I hear “health care reform,” on the other hand, I hear “modify our health institutions to advance social goals,” with reducing costs as either a side benefit or entirely ignored. Since I primarily care about health care to the extent it causes us a budget problem, I talk about “spending cuts,” by whatever means end up ameliorating that problem.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Since I primarily care about health care to the extent it causes us a budget problem

    That’s interesting, because I primarily care about health care to the extent that it cares for health.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    There are plenty of realistic ways to reduce health care spending dramatically without causing people to go without care. The rest of the industrialized world does this already.

    We have a vastly less privatised health system, for a start…

    Sincerely,
    The rest of the industrialised world

  • aaronsxe

    It seems that if they don’t like unemployed people, they’d be interested in a course of action that would reduce the number of unemployed. But I suppose then it would be more of a challenge to feel superior to those people.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    This is the meme that has been going around my Facebook friends:

    The current top tax rate is 35%. In the 1950’s and 60’s, the top tax rate was 72-92%. We laid the interstate system, built the Internet, landed on the Moon, defeated Communism, our education system was the envy of the world, our middle class thrived, and our economy was unparalleled. Want it back? Tax the rich.

    I would repost it, but I would rather not get into an argument with my conservative friends.  One of them in particular is fond of making long-winded responses.  Though a lot of thought goes into her posts and I am unafraid of some polite reasoned debate, there is just too much idea in a single one of her posts to respond to it succinctly. 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    This is the meme that has been going around my Facebook friends:

    The current top tax rate is 35%. In the 1950’s and 60’s, the top tax rate was 72-92%. We laid the interstate system, built the Internet, landed on the Moon, defeated Communism, our education system was the envy of the world, our middle class thrived, and our economy was unparalleled. Want it back? Tax the rich.

    I would repost it, but I would rather not get into an argument with my conservative friends.  One of them in particular is fond of making long-winded responses.  Though a lot of thought goes into her posts and I am unafraid of some polite reasoned debate, there is just too much idea in a single one of her posts to respond to it succinctly. 

  • chris the cynic

    This is the meme that has been going around my Facebook friends:The current top tax rate is 35%. In the 1950’s and 60’s, the top tax rate was 72-92%. We laid the interstate system, built the Internet, landed on the Moon, defeated Communism, our education system was the envy of the world, our middle class thrived, and our economy was unparalleled. Want it back? Tax the rich.

    Really?  I thought that I was the only one saying that.  This was my version.  Or see the videos I posted to page three of Friday Fragments.  Probably better to skip the videos and just read though.

    By the way, probably somewhat less than half serious here, how does one create something like a facebook group or whatnot so that people could sign up to the Committee to Tax the Effing Rich Already?  Might be nice to have all our facts in one place.

  • Anonymous

    See if you can join this group.

    …uh, pretend you don’t see my name on there. *shifty eyes*

  • http://redwoodr.tumblr.com Redwood Rhiadra

    …uh, pretend you don’t see my name on there. *shifty eyes*

    That kind of crap (lack of anonymity, not “join this group” things) is exactly why I refuse to join FB.

  • Ba

    Surely if people KNEW how to get the unemployed back to work, they’d be
    doing it? I mean, it’s not like you can get the unemployed back to work
    just by wishing hard. Lots of people would like to get the unemployed
    back to work, but in the absence of consumer demand, and in particular
    international consumer demand — by which I mean ‘as long as the Chinese
    keep saving rather than spending’ — there just isn’t the capital
    inflow to pay them.

    And no, you can’t just hire them as government workers to do
    infrastructure work, because as discussed, that doesn’t balance the
    budget because you have to pay them more in salary than they get back in
    taxes.

    Even Keynesians don’t claim that a stimulus balances the budget, they
    just reckon that an unbalanced budget for a while will lead to a shorter
    recession by priming the pump, so the stimulus will be made back in the
    good times that will follow. But even if the US government raises the
    debt ceiling, they can’t continue to operate as if the US can borrow
    infinite amounts of money at negligible interest. That’s not sustainable
    — indeed, it’s part of what led to the vast global capital/investment
    imbalances (where half the world — America, Europe, etc — is in hock
    to the other half) that underlie the economic crisis.

    But if you Americans want to get your unemployed back to work, the first
    thing you have to do is solve your trade deficit, because to create
    jobs — which is what everybody wants — you have to export. Goods or
    services, doesn’t matter, but you have to become competitive in a way
    the US at the moment just isn’t.

    Any suggests as to how to do that, Mr Slacktivist?

  • Anonymous

    And no, you can’t just hire them as government workers to do infrastructure work, because as discussed, that doesn’t balance the budget because you have to pay them more in salary than they get back in taxes.

    But it gets them off unemployment, which removes a large source of government expenditure. And it gets money moving again, which means potential small-business owners will be less nervous about becoming actual small-business owners and which means actual small-business owners will be less nervous about expanding their business, both of which mean more people getting hired.

  • Anonymous

     Wow, you really don’t understand how money works, do you?  There’s not a set amount of money to go around.  Since we aren’t arbitrarily tied gold anymore, we are essentially on a production standard.  We need to get people producing again, and that will happen if consumers are confident and start buying things.  The difference between someone on unemployment and someone with a government job is that the latter is much more willing to spend their money to pay people to start producing more.

    We have work that needs to be done and people that need work to do.  We need to borrow money from the future to get things moving and produce more wealth.

  • P J Evans

     Ba may think that money spent on space exploration is actually sent into space.

  • P J Evans

    Well, for one thing, corporations are reporting record profits, and they also aren’t hiring record numbers of people (some of them are refusing to even look at unemployed people for the jobs they’re offering). So that money is not going back into the economy in ways that benefit a lot of people. Apparently, what they aren’t paying out in dividends and executive salaries (most of which are excessive: anything over a million dollars a year is pretty much just funding egos) is sitting in their bank accounts.
    Also, when you have a corporation like Exxon reporting record profits in the US, and not paying taxes in the US on that money, you know there’s a problem with the tax system that urgently needs fixing.

  • Ba

    No,you misunderstand — deliberately? It removes a large source of government expenditure, yes, but it replaces it with an even bigger one. So the net expenditure goes up, not down. 

    ‘Getting money moving’ is the Keynesian stimulus argument, which explicitly means growing the deficit — that’s what Keynes suggested. So you can’t say you want o balance the budget using a Keynesian stimulus. A Keynesian stimulus might be a good move, but it won’t balance the budget, and the original article is about balancing the budget.So you can’tmake Keynesian stimulus arguments and claim that you’re talking about balancing the budget, because a Keynesian stimulu, while it might be the right thing to do for other reasons, will definitely mean making the budget more unbalanced. 

    Clear yet?

  • Anonymous

    Who said I was talking about balancing the budget?

  • Anonymous

    Who said I was talking about balancing the budget?

  • Ba

    ‘Borrow from the future’: again, this is the Keynesian stimulus argument, very snappily put. 

    Again, this is the exact opposite of balancing the budget. 

    ‘Who said I was talking about balancing the budget?’

    Well, the article includes the phrase ‘balancing the budget’ three times, and ‘budget savings’ and ‘federal budget’ once each, which I took as a sort of implication that it was about balancing the budget. 

    I mean, you may not have been talking about balancing the budget, but if you weren’t then I don’t understand why you’re scrawling on a page which is about an article which is about balancing the budget. 

  • Anonymous

    I’m ‘scrawling on a page […] about balancing the budget’ to say that we do not need to balance the budget. Not yet. Not while the economy’s swirling around the toilet drain. Saying we do need to balance the budget is an excuse to say we need to cut Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, which is the same as saying we want Grandma to go hungry and Cousin Teresa to go bankrupt, Cousin Ed to be homeless and Cousin Jessica to die, because Grandma depends on Social Security and Cousin Ed on Social Security Disability, and Cousin Jessica has an expensive-to-treat illness that’s fatal if untreated and Cousin Teresa can’t afford to pay for Cousin Jessica’s care without help from Medicaid.

    Eventually we will have to do something about the deficit, yes. Eventually I’ll have to pay back my student loans, too. Eventually is not now, and if we insist that eventually must be now, we suffer. Unless we’re rich, which the vast majority of us are not. I refer everyone to http://www.lcurve.org/.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7NB5FJ2VSINZPTPUGCJI6C24SU Kadia

    Ba, I took it to mean “long-term deficit reduction”. Obviously we can’t really balance the budget right now. To do that now would require drastic tax hikes (which the Republicans have ruled out) and significant spending cuts (and not just ‘no foreign aid to Haiti’ either, which neither party is serious about doing); even if Congress got it together and passed a serious balanced budget proposal, it would probably strangle any attempt at economic recovery by driving down government demand — through spending cuts — and consumer / business demand — through tax hikes.

    Balancing the budget in the short-term (ie this year) is a non-starter. However, lowering unemployment will help towards that in the long-term. Putting people to work increases demand; once people have steady jobs again, they’ll be more willing to spend and invest. Once demand picks up, businesses will be willing to produce more and hire more.

    Is it a magic bullet? No. Employers are going to be worried for a long time; they’re going to hesitate to start rehiring in case a double-dip recession prompts future layoffs and downsizing. It’s going to require political will; the Tea Party did a fantastic job changing the public focus from the unemployment rate to balancing the budget, and it’s going to take pragmatists on both sides to steer us back to the actual problem at hand. The Republicans could afford to ignore the unemployment rate and focus on ideological issues in years past; they had President Obama as political cover. But now that they’re in charge of the House, the public just might start holding them partly accountable for the fact that the unemployment rate is probably pushing 20%.

  • Kibbles

    Brad DeLong has been explaining, on a near daily basis for the last three years, why austerity and budget balancing in a deep recession like this will make budget problems worse and why adding to the deficit in the short term will balance the budget in the long term. Paul Krugman has been explaining this, and why all that fluff about ‘blah blah trade deficits blah blah USA doesn’t produce anything blah china owns us blah blah’ is wrong for going on twenty years and has written several books on those topics.

    If you’re honestly trying to discuss keynesianism and fiscal stimulus in good faith, this is a good start: http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2010/12/delong-smackdown-watch-nick-rowe-metaphysical-necessity-of-monetarism-edition.html
    Paul Krugman’s blog also has a list of stuff on the side about depression economics, liquidity traps and other things you need to know about this topic, as well as several excellent books.

    I don’t fancy rehashing the hundreds of thousands of words those two (and others) have already written on the topic, because if you’re interested they have said it much better and if you’re trolling, well, you’re not worth the effort involved.

  • Tonio

    One of the many problems with the Tea Party is not just its ignorance of macroeconomics, but also what appears to be a deliberate refusal to recognize the difference between that and microeconomics. They look at a household budget or small business budget and assume that it’s just common sense that government should operate the same way on a larger scale. I’ve read comments from a couple of old hands from the Reagan Administration that amount to, “What the hell is wrong with these people?” For me, it’s not necessarily their agenda but more their incuriosity and close-mindedness.

  • chris the cynic

    I’m pretty sure that even in a household budget it’s a good idea to borrow at a low rate now to pay for necessary repairs than it is to go broke later when things break down.  At the very least the household budget people should want infrastructure fixes.

  • Anonymous

    The household budget people should also understand loans to pay for education.

  • Anonymous

    The household budget people should also understand loans to pay for education.

  • P J Evans

    At the very least the household budget people should want infrastructure fixes.

    They ought to be encouraging ribbon-cutting and ground-breaking ceremonies for every piece of infrastructure repair and maintenance in the country. Heck, they ought to be arranging them and showing up themselves: government at work and doing good work.
    But I think they’re too busy whining about everyone else getting more cheese than they do to notice that everyone’s cheese uses the same infrastructure.

  • Anonymous

    One thing that I have noticed among very far-righties is an extreme aversion to all debt at any cost.  It’s certainly not widespread even among tea partiers, but it is something that I simply don’t understand.  For example, the Duggars claim to be completely debt free.  Plenty of other families like them will make their kids live in horrific conditions rather than get a mortgage.  To them, debt is worse than kids literally sleeping in a pile on the floor for warmth because they literally do not have working heat.

    But even among more moderate mainstream people, I see this attitude that debt is always a necessary evil rather than a wise investment.  It’s like they can’t tell the difference between impulse shopping for jewelry on a credit card that you can never pay off and wise debt that helps you earn or save money over the long-term, or even to simply meet your basic needs during hard times.  And I just don’t understand why some people have this simplistic view of debt.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    I’m far from being a “rightie”, but I do have an aversion to being in debt. I sucked it up and dealt when I bought my house, but I’m aware of it as a source of anxiety.

    I also don’t much like being a creditor. I do make loans to friends, when I’m in a position to do so, but I pretty much always do so with the attitude that it’s money I can afford to lose if they flake out on me.

    I’m not sure if that’s the same thing you’re talking about, as I don’t actually have the belief that being in debt is a bad thing. I’m also twitchy around insects, despite having no moral objection to their existence. In general, aversion != moral judgment.

    I suspect it’s hard for outside observers to tell the difference between aversion and moral judgment, though. Come to that, some people seem to have a hard time telling the difference in their own heads.

  • Anonymous

    I specifically said that there’s a difference between types of debt.  You can have an aversion to spending on a whim on a credit card for things that you can never pay off, and still use debt reasonably.  What really baffles me is when people think that being in debt is worse than your kids going hungry.

  • Hawker Hurricane

    “One thing that I have noticed among very far-righties is an extreme aversion to all debt at any cost.”
     
    I’ve noticed is this extreme aversion to all debt only applies when the President’s name ends with a (D).  Otherwise, they do not give a shit.  Where were these guys when Bush the Lesser ran up the credit card with two wars and a massive tax cut on the people who needed it least? ‘Oh, we were complaining then, too’… but not where anyone could hear them.

  • Tonio

    Where were these guys when Bush the Lesser ran up the credit card with
    two wars and a massive tax cut on the people who needed it least?

    Reminds me of this anecdote supplied by Molly Ivins. Look for the paragraph that begins with “Spending on the military doesn’t increase the deficit.”

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Banancat, I suspect your observation is a reflection on the moral value much of our society has put on money. If you have money, it shows you have good character. If you don’t have money, you’re morally weak. Going into debt shows that you have less money than you need, so it’s a sign of moral failure. I’m sure Calvin’s to blame, somehow.

    What I don’t understand in your post is the suggestion that people who choose not to go into mortgage debt are in a poorer financial state in the short term. I’ve never lived in a time or place where mortgage repayments cost less than rent. So what I find incongruous is people who put themselves under severe finanical stress in order to buy a house.

  • Anonymous

    One thing that I have noticed among very far-righties is an extreme aversion to all debt at any cost.  It’s certainly not widespread even among tea partiers, but it is something that I simply don’t understand.  For example, the Duggars claim to be completely debt free.  Plenty of other families like them will make their kids live in horrific conditions rather than get a mortgage.  To them, debt is worse than kids literally sleeping in a pile on the floor for warmth because they literally do not have working heat.

    But even among more moderate mainstream people, I see this attitude that debt is always a necessary evil rather than a wise investment.  It’s like they can’t tell the difference between impulse shopping for jewelry on a credit card that you can never pay off and wise debt that helps you earn or save money over the long-term, or even to simply meet your basic needs during hard times.  And I just don’t understand why some people have this simplistic view of debt.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RSSWOG677DW2Y6PC3OIJ4E7W3M Anonymous W

    Robryt:  Medical costs ARE NOT the cause of the budget deficit. Please find a way to understand that.

    Two wars paid for with borrowing and two tax cut bills which gave almost all the benefits to the top 1-2% of the population…. they are the cause of the deficit.

    Having millions of people out of work and not paying regular taxes (believe me, even though we pay income taxes on the unemployment benefits, they don’t compare in amounts at all) also contributes to the deficit.  If I got a job tomorrow — after being out of work for 32 months and 20 of the months with not benefits — I’d be able to pay taxes.  I always was happy to pay my taxes because they are price of civilization.  

  • Anonymous

    That’s not really intended to offer any serious ideas about balancing the budget, only to reassure the posters and re-posters of their own virtue and superior intelligence. 

    I thought it was to say that budget cuts should not be made on the backs of our soldiers.  Of course, I saw it first on a soldier’s status…

  • Anonymous

    We can cut military spending without cutting soldiers’ salaries. Easily. Just stop building planes the military doesn’t want and end the contracts with Halliburton et al.

  • chris the cynic

    By the way, if anyone wants to be my friend on Facebook … I’m almost never on Facebook and I never know what to do with it, but if you want me to be your friend anyway just ask (and tell me who you are.)

  • chris the cynic

    So, um, as you might have guessed from Ellie Murasaki’s post, now it is possible join Committee to Tax the Effing Rich Already thanks to someone who is not me.

    Aside to Ellie Murasaki: if you keep on being more useful than me then I fear you will get the place at the top of the ticket before we even flip the coin.

    Turning back to everyone: Mother Jones kind of makes it feel like I have nothing useful to contribute.

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    Running for office was my second suggestion, if my idea of starting the First Bank of Slacktivist was shot down. Ellie, Chris – I’d campaign for either of you, although I cannot legally vote in the US.

  • Reidman8

    Yeah soldiers deserve better pay, more respect and opportunities, but doesn’t any president, even the crappiest ones, deserve all they get for holding the highest office in the land? I say they do and I respect them for achieving the position. The risk is high, the job is hard and people are always pissing and moaning about everything they do or say; plus, afterwards they’ll never again be able to have a drink like a regular guy at the corner bar. Less than half a million a year for a handful of people is a small price to pay. Now CEOs, that’s a different story, I think our military fathers and brothers should be paid like those guys are, maybe then we’d think better about going to war. What we should do is tax corporations and their jet-setting, priveledged uber- class and bring in some real revenue to pay for the debt. It is our debt, after all, and theirs too. Maybe the Bankers that rip us off constantly so they can get rich, maybe they should start pushing real wheel-barrows around that don’t have our cash in them. Maybe American businesses could start producing goods that are made here in this country, instead of buying cheap-ass China goods and selling it all back to us at inflated prices so we can in turn dump it all in our landfills. That would be far better than making a bunch of idiots even less competent by paying them less than their jobs are worth. After all, one has to be just the right kind of elephant / ass to do the work they do. They deserve everything they get for the shit that comes out of their mouths! Instead of arguing over this crap-spam we should be laughing.

  • Tonio

    What we should do is tax corporations and their jet-setting, privileged
    uber- class and bring in some real revenue to pay for the debt.

    Thomas Frank has elaborated on a phenomenon I’ve observed – many conservatives who aren’t wealthy think of that “privileged uber-class” not as CEOs or shareholders but as lefty entertainment celebrities. Granted, the latter make more visible targets, but the former tend to be far wealthier.

  • Guest-again

    ‘That’s interesting, because I primarily care about health care to the extent that it cares for health.’
    Well, that is because you and I live in places where not only is the health care system ‘socialist,’ but also significantly cheaper. Germany tends to battle Switzerland for the world’s second most expensive health care system, but either of the two spend 1/3 less on health care per citizen in terms of GDP than the U.S.

    ‘We have a vastly less privatised health system, for a start…’
    Germany’s health care system is completely private, in the sense that all doctors are privately employed while all hospitals are privately run (if one includes in that definition the same style of hospital ownership/management seen in the U.S. – charitable institutions, for example, or municipal ones). What Germany essentially lacks is a health insurance industry devoted to earning profits to distribute to shareholders.

    There is more than one model of a fairly well-off industrial society providing more than adequate health care to all its members. There is, however, one glaring model of a fairly well-off industrial society spending immense amounts of wealth in providing utterly inadequate health care to many members of society – and that one is practiced in the USA.

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    The thing is, household=/ national government. There are good reasons for households to avoid debt (ideology is, perhaps, not one of them). As you move the levels of complication – to corporations, cities, states, nations – the burden of debt is less onerous. It is the nature of larger organizations to be in debt – it is the purpose of governments to be in debt. 

  • Lori

     It is the nature of larger organizations to be in debt – it is the purpose of governments to be in debt.  

    That “boom” you just heard was the sound of heads exploding all over the internet :)

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    Indeed. I get the same reaction from my students when I assert this.

    Another head asplody idea – government cannot spend money on itself. If a government agency buys, say, new cars for its members, they have to buy them from someone, and, if the members of the agency change, the cars stay with the agency…

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    The thing is, household=/ national government. There are good reasons for households to avoid debt (ideology is, perhaps, not one of them). As you move the levels of complication – to corporations, cities, states, nations – the burden of debt is less onerous. It is the nature of larger organizations to be in debt – it is the purpose of governments to be in debt. 

  • Guest-again

    ‘And I just don’t understand why some people have this simplistic view of debt.’
    Like most Germans? They have this view that debt reduces the amount of money one has – that interest isn’t free – while essentially removing one of the simple barriers to living beyond your means – that is, you can only spend the money you have.

    What is more interesting is the utter lack of sympathy one finds in Germany for anyone who goes into debt and then can’t pay – people will demand cash when dealing with you, period.

    The problem in many of these discussions is that debt when dealing with individuals tends to be a matter of people earning money from those willing to go into debt (the American education boom is a fine example of this), while debt in terms of investment is rarely something which concerns individuals (the idea of going into debt to buy a house as an ‘investment’ is not really correct. Can it be a store of value, at least as land? Yes. Source of rental income – certainly a classic way to wealth, as history demonstrates).

    I could go on, but won’t – sufffice it say, an aversion to debt can be found in many places, not just in a certain subgroup in the U.S.

    Much like how few places are as addicted to cars as the U.S. – broad social choices have been made, and by this point, most Americans have difficulty conceiving of what it is like to live without a car. Debt, like the car, channels society into certain directions.

  • Reidman8

    While there is an aversion to indebtedness, there’s no end to the number of people by whom credit and the extension of credit, is demanded. At both macro- and micro- economic levels this debt to credit ratio serves as both a wall of defense and a determination of power. In the U.S., increasing numbers of disenfranchised middle to upper level class members are now thoroughly pissed off that the center is moving away from them, and that their power structure is being threatened. With their own creditors knocking at their doors, what do they do? They attempt to sway national policy in their favor by frantically diving into their bankrupted fiscal ideology and accessing their dangerous moral compasses for the benefit of the childlike rest of us. More to the point, it is no longer a mere perception, it’s a nationally recognized fact that this once mighty country is not the powerhouse that it once was back in the day and much of issue has to do with our economic debt. It’s rightly frightening, not only to this class and their kingpins, but to a majority of Americans.  Instead of embracing progressive measures that would perhaps save the social fabric, the post-Reagan conservatives and Tea Party regulars are more likely to throw a plastic cover over the couch, splash some paint over the signs that display an ever-more moderate center. They prefer “…the phony populism of resentment”, as Tonio put it, to the reality of debt-reduction and saving face. With their hands straight down the drawers of the plutocracy that now has a stranglehold on the country’s heart and minds, (as well as its pocketbook), social media has put a broad level of hawkish insecurity on display, while the right-wing has shown exactly who’s pulling who’s business.

  • http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/ Andrew G.

    it’s a nationally recognized fact that this once mighty country is not
    the powerhouse that it once was back in the day and much of issue has to
    do with our economic debt

    National recognition doesn’t make something a fact.

    Blaming economic problems on the national ‘debt’ is foolish and reveals a fundamental failure to understand what that debt is. In a sovereign-currency country, the ‘national debt’ is nothing more nor less than the net SAVINGS of all entities that have saved money in financial instruments denominated in that currency. (Any time you see someone talking about the national debt on a per-capita basis you know that the speaker is, whether innocently or not, a fraud – because the intent of presenting the figure that way is to make it appear as though the national debt is something that the population owes, when in fact from the viewpoint of the private sector it is an asset.)

    There is however an important connection between the government budget deficit (and hence the change in the ‘national debt’) and a country’s position as an importer or exporter. The sectoral balances equation makes this clear; the equation can be written in many forms but this is one of them:

    (T – G) + (S – I) = (X – M)

    where:

    T = tax revenue, G = government spending, hence (T – G) = government budget balance (surplus is positive)

    S = private sector saving, I = private sector investment spending, (S – I) = private sector balance (net saving surplus is positive)

    X = exports, M = imports, (X – M) = current account balance (net exports are positive)

    This makes it clear that if an economy shifts in the direction of higher imports, then if the domestic private sector behaviour remains unchanged, the government budget deficit MUST increase simply to balance the books. If this does not happen, then the private sector numbers will shift instead, in the direction of greater net private borrowing. (The sectoral balances equation is a matter of accountancy, not economic theory – it can’t be violated unless someone is adding up the numbers wrong, just as a balance sheet must actually balance.)

    (I use the term ‘national debt’ out of convenience to represent the total sum over time of the government budget deficit. The actual issuing of government bonds is an irrelevance that serves little purpose except to direct additional funds to the well-off in the form of interest payments.)

  • http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/ Andrew G.

    it’s a nationally recognized fact that this once mighty country is not
    the powerhouse that it once was back in the day and much of issue has to
    do with our economic debt

    National recognition doesn’t make something a fact.

    Blaming economic problems on the national ‘debt’ is foolish and reveals a fundamental failure to understand what that debt is. In a sovereign-currency country, the ‘national debt’ is nothing more nor less than the net SAVINGS of all entities that have saved money in financial instruments denominated in that currency. (Any time you see someone talking about the national debt on a per-capita basis you know that the speaker is, whether innocently or not, a fraud – because the intent of presenting the figure that way is to make it appear as though the national debt is something that the population owes, when in fact from the viewpoint of the private sector it is an asset.)

    There is however an important connection between the government budget deficit (and hence the change in the ‘national debt’) and a country’s position as an importer or exporter. The sectoral balances equation makes this clear; the equation can be written in many forms but this is one of them:

    (T – G) + (S – I) = (X – M)

    where:

    T = tax revenue, G = government spending, hence (T – G) = government budget balance (surplus is positive)

    S = private sector saving, I = private sector investment spending, (S – I) = private sector balance (net saving surplus is positive)

    X = exports, M = imports, (X – M) = current account balance (net exports are positive)

    This makes it clear that if an economy shifts in the direction of higher imports, then if the domestic private sector behaviour remains unchanged, the government budget deficit MUST increase simply to balance the books. If this does not happen, then the private sector numbers will shift instead, in the direction of greater net private borrowing. (The sectoral balances equation is a matter of accountancy, not economic theory – it can’t be violated unless someone is adding up the numbers wrong, just as a balance sheet must actually balance.)

    (I use the term ‘national debt’ out of convenience to represent the total sum over time of the government budget deficit. The actual issuing of government bonds is an irrelevance that serves little purpose except to direct additional funds to the well-off in the form of interest payments.)

  • http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/ Andrew G.

    it’s a nationally recognized fact that this once mighty country is not
    the powerhouse that it once was back in the day and much of issue has to
    do with our economic debt

    National recognition doesn’t make something a fact.

    Blaming economic problems on the national ‘debt’ is foolish and reveals a fundamental failure to understand what that debt is. In a sovereign-currency country, the ‘national debt’ is nothing more nor less than the net SAVINGS of all entities that have saved money in financial instruments denominated in that currency. (Any time you see someone talking about the national debt on a per-capita basis you know that the speaker is, whether innocently or not, a fraud – because the intent of presenting the figure that way is to make it appear as though the national debt is something that the population owes, when in fact from the viewpoint of the private sector it is an asset.)

    There is however an important connection between the government budget deficit (and hence the change in the ‘national debt’) and a country’s position as an importer or exporter. The sectoral balances equation makes this clear; the equation can be written in many forms but this is one of them:

    (T – G) + (S – I) = (X – M)

    where:

    T = tax revenue, G = government spending, hence (T – G) = government budget balance (surplus is positive)

    S = private sector saving, I = private sector investment spending, (S – I) = private sector balance (net saving surplus is positive)

    X = exports, M = imports, (X – M) = current account balance (net exports are positive)

    This makes it clear that if an economy shifts in the direction of higher imports, then if the domestic private sector behaviour remains unchanged, the government budget deficit MUST increase simply to balance the books. If this does not happen, then the private sector numbers will shift instead, in the direction of greater net private borrowing. (The sectoral balances equation is a matter of accountancy, not economic theory – it can’t be violated unless someone is adding up the numbers wrong, just as a balance sheet must actually balance.)

    (I use the term ‘national debt’ out of convenience to represent the total sum over time of the government budget deficit. The actual issuing of government bonds is an irrelevance that serves little purpose except to direct additional funds to the well-off in the form of interest payments.)

  • Guest-again

    ‘and still use debt reasonably’
    I do understand that debt has different attributes. However, a large number of older Germans would vehemently disagree that debt can ever be used reasonably. Debt is simply paying more, not less – that is what interest is all about. Saving is paying less, not more – again, that is what interest is all about

    Much the same way that buying high quality products that may cost twice as much as the cheapest version is a way to save money, if the high quality product lasts 3 times as long. This is considered self-evident in Germany, and is one (of several, mainly related to labor laws) reasons Walmart lost an estimated cool billion before pulling out of the German market entirely.

    I was simply trying to point out that not everyone rejecting debt is on the American fringes, but instead are part of a long cultural tradition in a country which tends to be noted for its industry producing high quality products – with an unemployment rate that may be as much as half of that found in the U.S. Germans didn’t borrow from their future to rebuild their economy- they worked hard in the present, and saved for the future.

    I’m not sure the U.S. is capable of that any longer. Instead, we continue to talk about using future promises to handle today’s challenges. One could, in a way, call this escapism.

    Which has nothing to do with actually repairing crumbling infrastructure, stopping three wars/occupation, or fundamentally changing how we live. Notice that only one of those three has anything to do with using debt in a constructive – and it is by far and away the most trivial aspect? Repairing the roads of suburbia simply ensure that we keep driving, while fighting the wars for oil (two out of three of them, right now) that Carter predicted were inevitable in a generation, before we elected a B-movie actor to play the role of president.

    We have already borrowed about as much from the future as we can – the future is now. Check out this link – http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/ – for another example of how something that wasn’t supposed to happen until later is happening right now.

     

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Germans didn’t borrow from their future to rebuild their economy- they worked hard in the present, and saved for the future.  I’m not sure the U.S. is capable of that any longer. Instead, we continue to talk about using future promises to handle today’s challenges. One could, in a way, call this escapism.

    I think that it might have something to do with the way the U.S. election cycle tends to run.  For example, during the Clinton administration, there was a budget surplus.  The smart thing to do would be to use that surplus to hedge against debt, paying off current debt or saving it away for when the country has need of such funds.  But that did not happen, because fiscial conservatives saw the fact the country was taking in more money than it was spending and said “The government has more money than it absolutely need!  Cut taxes!”  And when Bush got into office, that is exactly what happened. 

    Any time the U.S. does manage to get itself ahead, someone is going to complain that it is being irresponsible, and the thing will get dragged back down. 

  • Anonymous

    Household budget tip from Republicans:  Quit your job to save on gas money!

    Seriously, these people don’t need to control the government finances, they probably can’t even balance their checkbooks.

  • Kogo

    *“just-folks like me are so much smarter than all those idiots in Washington”*

    Is there some evidence I’ve missed out there that the 535 members of Congress, 9 Supreme Court justices, President and Vice President, and vast swathes of our nation’s huge and ever-expanding security apparatus are *not* stupid, cruel and vain? Because I’m not seeing it.

    I’m more than willing to agree that Washington *employs* some smart people. But they tend to work at great remove from the levers of power. They’re funded not by the General Services Administration but rather by the NSF, NIH, DOE, Smithsonian, Park Service, CPB and similar.

    But no, I don’t believe that anything the 3 constitutional branches of our government have done in the past 10-40 years merits anything less than 80-90% salary cuts for poor performance and gross immorality. Given than more than one single civilian was killed needlessly and more than one single penny was wasted during our stupid wars on Iraq, Afghanistan, Drugs and Cities, I think I’ll take that .00006 budget reduction, thank you.

  • Kogo

    I also have to say that I’m not kindly disposed toward foreign aid right now, no matter how tiny. Not after listening to this guy on NPR:

    http://www.npr.org/2011/07/13/137825943/haqqani-discusses-troubled-pakistani-u-s-relations

    The sheer SMARM of the guy, lecturing America on how we simply *must* give millions and billions to Pakistan’s army and they have to do nothing in return forever and ever amen made me hate him and his country.

    Add that into a series of books I’ve recently read on the ineffectuality–and, indeed, the often genuinely malignant effect–of international aid (heck even aid to JAPAN after the earthquake ended up going awry: we replaced fishing boats and it turned out by giving each person a boat, we disrupted local small-town economies based on some people having boats and other people having trucks to haul the fish and thus everyone having a distinct, non-competing role) and no, I’m against aid. Aid does NOT “buy us friendship” in the world. We’ve been giving aid to Afghanistan since the early 1950’s (yes, really: this is *literally* the 9th attempt of USAID to build up the local infrastructure in the town of Marja over the past 65 years).

    Like the most-recent report from Afghanistan said, terrorists generally do not attack because there isn’t a good local well or school. And people generally don’t *not* attack when there is one. Good infrastructure–roads, wells, schools, clinics–are great. But they’re either the effect of a peaceful society rather than it’s cause, or they’re just a dissociative factor altogether.

    Too, our emphasis both in our own country and abroad has been to “rebuild [blank]” where “blank” is always a *place*, not a specific person or group of persons. “We’re going to rebuild New Orleans” or “We’re going to rebuild Afghanistan.”

    Except that that *always* means giving money to contractors and not to the people themselves. What if we gave the money to the *people* of New Orleans, even if that meant they were going to leave and never come back?

    Alternatively, what if we just gave Afghan women and girls U.S. passports, a ticket to JFK, $10,000 and a Pashto-English dictionary? We’d save tens of billions of dollars, years of time and thousands of lives, that’s what. But that would run counter to our stated aim to “rebuild Afghanistan” (fuck the actual Afghans, I guess), so no dice.

    [Last 5 paragraphs = kudos to Edwin Glaeser “Triumph of the City”
    http://www.amazon.com/Triumph-City-Greatest-Invention-Healthier/dp/159420277X%5D

  • Kogo

    Sorry to keep serial-posting but one refinement to what I said:

    *Except that that *always* means giving money to contractors and not to
    the people themselves. What if we gave the money to the *people* of New
    Orleans, even if that meant they were going to leave and never come
    back*

    Btw, by “give the money to the people of New Orleans”, I mean that quite literally: Write each Nawliner a check. NOT give it to “neighborhood groups” or such, but very directly say, “Here is money with which to rebuild your life as you very personally see fit. Stay. Leave. You decide.”

  • Lori

     “Spending on the military doesn’t increase the deficit.”  

     

    This is totally true. Spending on the military goes back into the economy and circulates and there’s a trickle down effect. Money spent on other government programs does not do this. Because once it’s done it’s work of limiting freedom and strangling business it is set on fire. 

    (It think it’s difficult for people who weren’t around during the Reagan years to fully grasp just how ridiculous he was in nearly every respect.)  

  • Cissa

    I DO think that all these people should have the same sort of health “care” that is the minimum for anyone in their districts, as their paid option.

    And if they want better… well, then, they can buy it individually just like they require of everyone else.

  • Anonymous

    This is totally true. Spending on the military goes back into the economy and circulates and there’s a trickle down effect. Money spent on other government programs does not do this. Because once it’s done it’s work of limiting freedom and strangling business it is set on fire. (It think it’s difficult for people who weren’t around during the Reagan years to fully grasp just how ridiculous he was in nearly every respect.)

    I especially love the guys who say the New Deal didn’t help end the Great Depression – that was all just World War II.

    Because apparently spending out of a deficit only works if the money goes towards killing people.


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