Monthly Archives: April 2011
Interesting poll especially because the US and Obama are ‘leading from behind’ in Libya and don’t have a prominent role tactically. But that isn’t changing the fact that the majority of the public, according to this PPP poll, don’t support even that role:
Our most recent national poll found that only 27% of Americans supported the military intervention in Libya to 40% who were opposed and 33% who had no opinion. Democrats only narrowly stand behind the President in supporting the action in Libya, 31/28. Meanwhile Republicans (21/51) and independents (29/42) are considerably more unified in their opposition. [emphasis mine]
As I’ve mentioned many times, the group I always zero in on in any political poll are independents. They are the swing vote in this country. The 13 point difference would say that on the whole Indies are not happy with the venture. Somewhat surprisingly, Obama only enjoys very narrow support from Democrats – 3 points.
So all-in-all, Libya is a loser politically.
PPP makes an issue about American’s “not knowing” where Libya is, but still not liking it:
Libya is definitely proving to be a political loser for Obama which is interesting because only a little more than half of Americans, 58%, can actually correctly identify that it’s in northern Africa. 27% think that it’s in the Middle East, 4% think it’s in South Asia, 2% think it’s in South America, and 9% don’t offer an opinion. Voters may not be terribly informed when it comes to Libya but they know they don’t like what they’re seeing.
I take a little exception to that – Libya has and can be considered a part of the Middle East. As a commenter on their site points out, it has been considered a part of the ME for decades:
Secretary of State John Foster Dulles defined the Middle East as "the area lying between and including Libya on the west and Pakistan on the east, Syria and Iraq on the North and the Arabian peninsula to the south, plus the Sudan and Ethiopia."
So in reality 85% of those who were polled were correct. It is in N. Africa and is considered a part of the ME. As for the other 15% – public school scholars I assume.
Finally, even though Libya is unpopular, it may not be much of a game changer in terms of votes:
Libya doesn’t seem likely to be a big vote shifter next year- 52% of voters say it won’t make a difference in their decision on whether to support Obama for reelection or not. But for the voters who do say it could be a game change it’s a negative- 31% say what’s going on in Libya right now make them less likely to vote for Obama compared to only 17% who say it makes them more likely to vote for him.
Libya is one more negative to add to the pile.
As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, Obama has to do something he’s never done before – run on an actual record. Libya becomes another negative to add to that record.
An ominous sign of the times I’m afraid. A short blurb from a Texas TV station’s website:
Police say a passerby on the southbound side of Highway 77 noticed what looked like a grenade near the FM 1732 overpass and alerted authorities around 5 p.m. Sunday.
The improvised explosive device or I-E-D was disarmed by a bomb squad using a robot. No one was hurt. Parts of Highway 77 were closed for several hours.
Police are continuing to investigate.
IEDs are simply a terrorist’s tool (you can argue they’re a guerilla’s tool as well, identifying the guerilla as something other than a terrorist – but for the most part in the last two decades, the IED has been used by terrorists). Sure it can be used to attack conventional forces in a war, but it is also a means of spreading terror, intimidating locals and tying up police forces and the like. Pipe bombs are “IEDs” and have been used by domestic terrorists for decades.
The fact that the IEDs used on roads in Iraq and Afghanistan has migrated, at least in this instance, to US soil – especially in the area of Texas it was found (Mexican border about as far south in the US you can go) and with the ongoing drug war - shouldn’t come as a particular surprise. It could indicate that the “art” of IEDs is being passed around among terrorist groups. Why it was on this overpass is obviously open to speculation.
However, what isn’t open to speculation is the fact that this nation is seen to be a nation in decline, weaker than it once was and therefore more open to attack. Additionally the border is porous (well, unless you’re trying to bring in Kinder eggs) and moving IED components through it isn’t a particularly difficult task.
So what was this IED all about? Trail run? Test to see if it would be spotted (they apparently didn’t try to hide it). An attempt to ambush law enforcement? Some sort of terrorist statement? None of the above?
Unknown at this point. But it should be disturbing that an IED has been built and apparently successfully installed here. It could be the first of many.
More and more it is becoming clear that a college education isn’t all it was cracked up to be in terms of guaranteeing a better lifestyle. So is it worth the money and the debt? Some are wondering:
The Project On Student Debt estimates that the average college senior in 2009 graduated with $24,000 in outstanding loans. Last August, student loans surpassed credit cards as the nation’s largest single largest source of debt, edging ever closer to $1 trillion. Yet for all the moralizing about American consumer debt by both parties, no one dares call higher education a bad investment. The nearly axiomatic good of a university degree in American society has allowed a higher education bubble to expand to the point of bursting.
Since 1978, the price of tuition at US colleges has increased over 900 percent, 600 points above inflation. To put that in number in perspective, housing prices, the bubble that nearly burst the US economy, then the global one, increased only fifty points above the Consumer Price Index during those years. But while college applicants’ faith in the value of higher education has only increased, employers’ has declined. According to Richard Rothstein at The Economic Policy Institute, wages for college-educated workers outside of the inflated finance industry have stagnated or diminished. Unemployment has hit recent graduates especially hard, nearly doubling in the post-2007 recession. The result is that the most indebted generation in history is without the dependable jobs it needs to escape debt.
I was struck by the 900% increase since 1978. I’ve certainly not seen anything in particular from our college grads – as opposed to those who graduated in 1978 – that would make what they received as a degree worth 900% more than it was in ‘78, have you? And certainly nothing worth 600% above the inflation rate.
Frankly, the institutions of higher education have been scamming Americans for quite some time. And this is just my opinion, but many of the colleges and universities in this country are a bit like some college sports teams – they don’t care if you graduate, they just want you to play well for them for 3 or 4 years. Change “play” to “pay” and you describe many of the schools I’m talking about. They really don’t give a rip about graduation rates.
And of course, when you have institutions get into marginal study areas like “gender studies”, etc., then it’s no longer about education so much as it is indoctrination. Or at least that’s been my experience and the experience of many I know. And things like this only reinforce that belief. As for the tolerance for different ideas? Eh, not so much. Occurrences like this aren’t as uncommon as one might think.
The question more and more are asking then is whether higher education worth the bucks? There are plenty of studies that continue to show that college students earn more than their counterparts with a high school education – at least in gross pay. But in net pay, is it enough to justify the expense? Maybe not:
Derek Thompson explains:
Here’s the problem. The college premium isn’t consistent across all industries. Some salaries have flat-lined, while other jobs have simply disappeared thanks to off-shoring and automated technology. Meanwhile, over the same time that the wage premium has doubled, the cost of a four-year college education has more than doubled. Student loan debt is near $900 billion, more than credit card debt in this county.
College education is an effective elevator to bring workers to higher-skilled, higher-paying levels in the labor force. The question is whether the ride is efficient. Today the elevator is so prohibitively expensive that students and workers are uncertain whether the floor they’ll be dropped off justifies the cost of the ride.
That wage premium makes it questionable as to whether or not the cost of the education is worth the investment and debt. And it is likely to get worse, not better. So are we in an education bubble? And if so, when the bubble finally bursts, will a college education again justify the expense relative to the net pay they can expect to earn over and above those without such education?
Maybe in China. Because with the highest corporate tax in the world and politicians trying to find a way to raise taxes for everyone, the jobs they do find here aren’t going to be paying that well.
Yup, the more you look around, the bigger and bigger you realize the mess is. And it isn’t going to get much better anytime soon.
President Obama’s speech on April 13th was used as an opportunity to spread false information about the GOP’s budget plan authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) according to Fact Check.org. Among the deceptive claims were these:
- Obama claimed the Republicans’ "Path to Prosperity" plan would cause "up to 50 million Americans "¦ to lose their health insurance." But that worst-case figure is based in part on speculation and assumptions.
- He said the GOP plan would replace Medicare with "a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry." That’s an exaggeration. Nothing would change for those 55 and older. Those younger would get federal subsidies to buy private insurance from a Medicare exchange set up by the government.
- He said "poor children," "children with autism" and "kids with disabilities" would be left "to fend for themselves." That, too, is an exaggeration. The GOP says states would have "freedom and flexibility to tailor a Medicaid program that fits the needs of their unique populations." It doesn’t bar states from covering those children.
- He repeated a deceptive talking point that the new health care law will reduce the deficit by $1 trillion. That’s the Democrats’ own estimate over a 20-year period. The Congressional Budget Office pegged the deficit savings at $210 billion over 10 years and warned that estimates beyond a decade are "more and more uncertain."
- He falsely claimed that making the Bush tax cuts permanent would give away "$1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire." That figure — which is actually $807 billion over 10 years — refers to tax cuts for individuals earning more than $200,000 and couples earning more than $250,000, not just millionaires and billionaires.
- He said the tax burden on the wealthy is the lowest it has been in 50 years. But the most recent nonpartisan congressional analysis showed that the average federal tax rate for high-income taxpayers was lower in 1986.
You may say, “hey, those aren’t really that big of a deal – they’re not giant fibs”. Well yeah, they are – and collectively they paint a completely false picture of both the Ryan plan and the Obama plan because the way he presented each was to try to present them in such a way that you bought into the premise his falsehoods painted.
Had he just stuck with the facts, the GOP’s wouldn’t have sounded too bad and his wouldn’t have sounded very good (for instance the claim that ObamaCare will save $1 trillion assumes the “doc cut” will actually be made when there is absolutely no indication it will ever be made).
So he just made stuff up out of thin air or presented it in a highly-partisan way to make it sound much worse than it is.
We should expect better than that from the President of the US shouldn’t we?
And wasn’t he the guy who promised such “hope and change” in DC with his administration? That’s one campaign promise (among many others) that simply will never get the green checkmark in the box beside it. It is a complete and total “no-go”.
I hope everyone one had a bright and sunny Easter (or Passover)weekend and were able to enjoy it with their family and friends. It was nice to take a day off from just about everything.
Mark Steyn’s kids apparently didn’t get the opportunity to enjoy it in the way they wished. Apparently as the family tried to reenter the US from Canada, our sharp eyed border agents protected them from something that they didn’t even realize was a threat. Yes, friends, Nanny took away the kid’s “Kinder Eggs” to protect them from a potential choking hazard:
Don’t worry, it’s for their own safety. I had no idea that the United States is the only nation on the planet (well, okay, excepting North Korea and Saudi Arabia and one or two others) to ban Kinder Eggs. According to the CBP:
Kinder Chocolate Eggs are hollow milk chocolate eggs about the size of a large hen’s egg usually packaged in a colorful foil wrapper. They are a popular treat and collector’s item during holiday periods in various countries around the world, including those in Europe, South America and even Canada. A toy within the egg is contained in an oval-shaped plastic capsule. The toy requires assembly and each egg contains a different toy. Many of the toys that have been tested by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in the past were determined to present a choking hazard for young children.
And yet oddly enough generations of European and Latin American children remain unchoked. Gotta love that “even Canada”, by the way: Is that an implied threat that Kinder Egg consumption is incompatible with participation in NORAD or membership of NAFTA?
Obviously Nanny doesn’t feel that Steyn is enough of a parent to supervise his children’s consumption of this confection and the CPC, enforced by the CBP have decided no parent in the US is qualified or should be allowed to have this product. Steyn is obviously an unfit parent just for allowing the little tykes to buy the eggs, no?
And just to make you feel safer, they keep stats of how many eggs they’ve confiscated, because, you know, it’s all "for the children". Always nice to be able to tout how vigilant you’ve been with confiscating kid’s confections even while the border remains a super-highway for illegal immigrants:
The Food and Drug Administration has issued an import alert for Kinder Eggs, because they are a confectionery product with a non-nutritive object imbedded in it. As in years past, CBP, the Food and Drug Administration and CPSC work in close collaboration to ensure the safety of imported goods by examining, sampling and testing products that may present such import safety hazards. Last year, CBP officers discovered more than 25,000 of these banned chocolate eggs. More than 2,000 separate seizures were made of this product.
I assume some smart bureaucrat will at some point translate that into a claim the lives of 25,000 children have been saved, or some such nonsense. They could use that to at least justify in their own minds the unwarranted intrusion into the role of the parent, or something, right? Not that they’ve felt a need to justify that in the past (I wonder what Nanny thinks of Cracker Jacks?).
Speaking of intrusion, you had better secure your WiFi network if you haven’t already – otherwise ICE’s SWAT team may be planning a visit, especially if you have a pervert for a neighbor.
But be thankful today – Nanny is on the case and Kinder Eggs shall not touch your child’s lips.
Don’t you feel so much safer and secure?
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a number of times about the reason or UN “principle” applied to Libya. Its application to Libya was purely arbitrary.
Former case in point of that particular claim was Iran – wantonly gunning down protesters in the streets. Present case in point is Syria:
FOR THE PAST five weeks, growing numbers of Syrians have been gathering in cities and towns across the country to demand political freedom — and the security forces of dictator Bashar al-Assad have been responding by opening fire on them. According to Syrian human rights groups, more than 220 people had been killed by Friday. And Friday may have been the worst day yet: According to Western news organizations, which mostly have had to gather information from outside the country, at least 75 people were gunned down in places that included the suburbs of Damascus, the city of Homs and a village near the southern town of Daraa, where the protests began.
Massacres on this scale usually prompt a strong response from Western democracies, as they should. Ambassadors are withdrawn; resolutions are introduced at the U.N. Security Council; international investigations are mounted and sanctions applied. In Syria’s case, none of this has happened. The Obama administration has denounced the violence — a presidential statement called Friday’s acts of repression “outrageous” — but otherwise remained passive. Even the ambassador it dispatched to Damascus during a congressional recess last year remains on post.
Where are the Chicki-hawks on this – Powers, Rice and Clinton? Oh, yeah, I forgot, Hillary Clinton claims that Assad is a “reformer” and that the big difference is that Assad isn’t using or threatening to use his airplanes to kill his own people. I’m sure that makes a big difference to those dead Syrian protesters.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not calling for yet another intervention anywhere. That’s not the point of this. My point is about the purely arbitrary application of a so-called “principle” or “right” the UN has invented and calls the “Right to Protect” (R2P). Apparently some protestors enjoy more rights than others to their lives.
If anyone, given what has occurred within the last 2-3 years or so, can point out the “bright line” over which a country can step and prompt the invocation of R2P, I’d be grateful.
To this point I can’t figure out what that line is. Syria figured it was 20 KIAs a day. But when they did 3x+ that, eh, no biggie. Everyone’s favorite word for use when they don’t plan on doing anything – “outrage” – was used so apparently diplomatic necessities have been served and its now time to ignore the massacres until it is again appropriate to declare the next occurrence an outrage. That’s the treatment “reformers” get, don’t you know?
And no, that’s not a new bar drink. It seems to be the unstated conclusion of a NY Times poll that measures the mood of the American people.
Granted, they’ll poll anything these days, and certainly all polls should be viewed cautiously, but they are an interesting peek into the thoughts of the American people. This particular poll and the write up indicate that perhaps a Carteresqe malaise is settling in as the citizenry appears to be losing hope about economic (and other) changes for the better. There are also some interesting comments in the story to discuss. But first some of the poll results. The lead:
Americans are more pessimistic about the nation’s economic outlook and overall direction than they have been at any time since President Obama’s first two months in office, when the country was still officially ensnared in the Great Recession, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
The significance here? Well, first it is a NYT/CBS poll saying it. Secondly it is an indication that economic fatigue may be setting in which might translate, at some point, into major political opposition to the man in charge. It is inevitable. That’s how it has worked in the past and certainly there’s no reason to suppose it won’t work the same way now. Whether it is enough to put a Republican in the White House is still very debatable, mostly because of the crop of candidates the GOP currently sports. However, despite all the hope and change rhetoric this president spouted and promised, very little in the guise of either has been evident in his first two years in office. In fact, as some on the left have said, he turned into just another president – shorthand for “he’s not what I voted for”.
That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily going to abandon their man, but it does mean their enthusiasm about him is probably far below what it was in 2008. That usually turns into a “GOTV” problem in an election year.
Here’s one of the more interesting paragraphs in the piece:
And slightly more Americans approve than disapprove of a proposal by Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin to change Medicare from a program that pays doctors and hospitals directly for treating older people to one in which the government helps such patients pay for private plans, though that support derived more from Republicans and independents. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll that found 65 percent opposed Mr. Ryan’s plan, suggesting results can vary based on how the question is asked.
Two points – of course it matters “how the question is asked”, which is a general comment on all polls. Most are pretty careful about how they do that – although some either purposely or inadvertently ask questions in a leading or biased way. I’m not saying that’s what happened in the WP/ABC poll, but it is certainly a reason to drill down into the details of a poll that seems to be (or should be) an outlier.
The second thing of interest is this statement about support for the Ryan Medicare plan: “ though that support derived more from Republicans and independents.” Or said another way the poll split along party lines with that all important independents apparently siding slightly with Ryan.
The poll goes into some fairly disturbing numbers for Obama supporters.
Mr. Obama’s job approval remains below a majority, with 46 percent saying they approve of his performance in office, while 45 percent do not. And support for his handling of the military campaign in Libya has fallen since last month: 39 percent approve and 45 percent disapprove. In a CBS poll in March, 50 percent approved and 29 percent disapproved.
I’d suggest that they reflect a growing frustration with what the country perceives – rightly or wrongly – as an all talk, no action administration.
For example, on the domestic front, Obama recently addressed gas prices by doing what? Saying he’ll appoint a commission to look into them. While he may be able to do little to influence gas pricing, appointing commissions has become recognized as a political method for avoiding any direct action on a subject. That leads to frustration like that which has driven down the number of those in this poll who think the economy is getting better by 13 points in one month:
Disapproval of Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy has never been broader — at 57 percent of Americans — a warning sign as he begins to set his sights on re-election in 2012. And a similar percentage disapprove of how Mr. Obama is handling the federal budget deficit, though more disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress are.
Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign against the incumbent George HW Bush stayed focused on the real interest of the American people with his internal slogan– “it’s the economy, stupid”. Ronald Reagan had his famous question for the American people when running against the incumbent Jimmy Carter – “are you better off today than you were 4 years ago?” Both illustrate the power of the economy in deciding presidential outcomes – especially against an incumbent.
The poll also points out that Republicans in Congress don’t particularly come off well. But that’s a mixed bag. While the poll seems to concentrate on the Republican held portion of Congress – the House – you can’t help feel that any overall negative rating would include perceptions of the Democratically held Senate as well. The approval rating for Congress is at 17% in this poll, slightly higher than the single digit numbers 111th and all Democratic Congress racked up.
And, as usual in almost all polls, the “desires” of the American people, when asked about what they want in terms of government size, benefits, etc. are, as the NYT says, both “conflicting and sometimes contradictory views.”
Twice as many respondents said they would prefer cuts in spending on federal programs that benefit people like them as said they would favor a rise in taxes to pay for such programs.
Yet more than 6 in 10 of those surveyed said they believed Medicare was worth the costs. And when asked specifically about Medicare, respondents said they would rather see higher taxes than see a reduction in its available medical services if they had to choose between the two.
Given the choice of cutting military, Social Security or Medicare spending as a way to reduce the overall budget, 45 percent chose military cuts, compared with those to Social Security (17 percent) or Medicare (21 percent.)
That’s one of those “how the question is asked” or in this case, the choices given. What if they’d said just Social Security or Medicare? Or Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid?
But the results, as indicated, are all over the place (oh, and apparently the tax the rich mantra has been successfully sold by the left as 70% in this poll support doing that – but don’t raise their taxes.)
My personal favorite indicator is the “direction of the country” question. A whopping 70% say it is headed in the wrong direction. That’s huge. But, it doesn’t mean the frustration is all pointed at Democrats or Obama. Congressional Republicans come in for their fair share as well.
All of the angst, anger and frustration though is focused in one area:
Frustration with the pace of economic growth has grown since, with 28 percent of respondents in a New York Times/CBS poll in late October saying the economy was getting worse, and 39 percent saying so in the latest poll.
Those are not good numbers for an incumbent president. Right now the only silver lining in the otherwise dour outlook for the Obama reelection bid in 2012 is the dearth of exciting challengers on the Republican side. There’s just no passion evident for those who are probable for that race. And that too evolves into a GOTV problem in 2012.
Conventional wisdom and history say the incumbent president on the downside of a bad economy should be easy pickings for the opposition party. Unfortunately, given the GOP field at this moment, CW and history may be in for a revision.
Regardless, the mood in the country isn’t any better now than it was in 2008 or 2010 – and there doesn’t seem to be any relief in sight for the growing frustration of the voters.
Larry Sabato has released a first look at how things appear today in reference to the 2012 Presidential election. As he says, it’s only use is to establish a “baseline” from which to watch the events and the trends over the next year plus before the election.
As it stands now, the electoral votes for the Safe, Likely and Leans numbers are 247 for Dems and 180 for Reps. Note the toss up states (111 EVs). They say a lot.
Remove the leaners and you’re at 196 D and 170 R. That, at least to me, is a much more likely place to start. The leaners and tossup states are going to be the obvious places to watch. Not including them leaves 172 EVs to be claimed. You need 270 to be elected.
So … have fun and speculate away.
It is a battle between a business’s best interests and about its fundamental right to make decisions about how it conducts its business and the government’s "right" to interfere and dictate how and where it will do its business.
In what may be the strongest signal yet of the new pro-labor orientation of the National Labor Relations Board under President Obama, the agency filed a complaint Wednesday seeking to force Boeing to bring an airplane production line back to its unionized facilities in Washington State instead of moving the work to a nonunion plant in South Carolina.
One of the reasons the South has thrived while the Rust Belt has, well, rusted, is companies have taken advantage of the “right to work” rules in most Southern states to locate there without fear of work stoppages at every turn. That would seem to be a fundamental right that any business should enjoy, the right to locate their business where they feel their best interests are served. What the government is saying is that’s not true – if you have union employees elsewhere.
In its complaint, the labor board said that Boeing’s decision to transfer a second production line for its new 787 Dreamliner passenger plane to South Carolina was motivated by an unlawful desire to retaliate against union workers for their past strikes in Washington and to discourage future strikes. The agency’s acting general counsel, Lafe Solomon, said it was illegal for companies to take actions in retaliation against workers for exercising the right to strike.
First, it’s not “retaliation” if the facts in the story are correct. Boeing has hired 2,000 more employees – union employees – at the Washington state plant since the decision was made to add a second assembly line and do it in South Carolina. So A) it’s not taking jobs away and B) the additional jobs since the decision hardly speak of “retaliation” in any sense a rational person would be able to discern.
Second, the “complaint” comes as the plant in South Carolina nears completion and 1,000 workers have been hired there.
So, given those facts, this is a crap statement (that’s technical talk):
In a statement Wednesday, Mr. Solomon said: “A worker’s right to strike is a fundamental right guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act. We also recognize the rights of employers to make business decisions based on their economic interests, but they must do so within the law.”
This is the usual duplicitous talk you get from this administration – acknowledge the right of the employer to make business decisions based on their economic decisions and then immediately deny what was just acknowledged. This too is crap":
“Boeing’s decision to build a 787 assembly line in South Carolina sent a message that Boeing workers would suffer financial harm for exercising their collective bargaining rights,” said the union’s vice president, Rich Michalski.
No, they haven’t sent such a message. What they’ve said is they have a backlog of orders and can’t afford (business interest) work stoppages every 3 years while unions negotiate a new contract. That is a legitimate concern. And they want some sort of continuity built into the productions system that accounts for that probability. No one is denying union workers their “rights” in Washington nor have any union employees been fired because of them – again, since the decision to locate in SC was made, 2,000 additional union employees have been hired there.
What’s is happening here is government has chosen to take sides and is attempting to intimidate Boeing. The side it has picked – surprise – is the union side. And it plans to use its power to attempt to force a company into doing something which is not in its best business interests, despite the lip service Solomon gives that “right”. But there’s no “hostile business climate” here, is there?
The company also said it had decided to expand in South Carolina in part to protect business continuity and to reduce the damage to its finances and reputation from future work stoppages.
And in a free country, Boeing would have every right to expect to be able to do that without interference.
While I’ll be the first to acknowledge that “government handouts” are bad and at a all time high, this is more of a sensational few paragraphs than real. It speaks to the general confusion among the mass of American voters concerning what they do and don’t want cut when it comes to “entitlements”:
Households received $2.3 trillion in some kind of government support in 2010. That includes expanded unemployment benefits, as well as payments for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and stimulus spending, among other things.
But that’s more than the $2.2 trillion households paid in taxes, an amount that has slumped largely due to the recession, according to an analysis by the Fiscal Times.
Also, an estimated 59% of the 308.7 million Americans in this country get at least one federal benefit, according to the Census Bureau, based on 2009 data. An estimated 46.5 million get Social Security; 42.6 million get Medicare; 42.4 million get Medicaid; 36.1 million get food stamps; 12.4 million get housing subsidies; and 3.2 million get Veterans’ benefits.
And the handouts from the government have been growing. Government cash handouts account for a whopping 79% of household growth since 2007, even as household tax payments–for things like the income and payroll tax, among other taxes–have fallen by $312 billion.
That is a tough feeding trough to take away from voters.
Uh, we’re into a bit of apples and oranges territory here. Most who have paid into them all their working lives do not see Social Security and Medicare as a “handout”. Same with veterans who signed a contract and worked for relatively low wages for the benefits service in the military would bring. They see SS and Medicare as a “paid benefit” and those going to veterans as an “earned benefit” or contractual obligation.
Medicaid, food stamps and housing subsidies, however, are handouts. And the case can be made that so are “extended” unemployment benefits as well.
That said, the obvious problem doesn’t change – we’re paying out more than we take in by 100 billion dollars. But we’ve been doing that for decades overall – thus the yearly deficit and the huge debt.
There are a number of ways to change that but in general they are: A) cut spending, B) raise taxes, C) a combination of both.
There are advocates for each of those courses of action. Generally Republicans favor course A. Democrats favor course B but would probably live with course C if the cuts weren’t too deep and the rich got nailed in the tax regime.
One of the reasons I support course A first is the amount in revenue we currently have coming in the door. It is plenty. It is also in the 19-21% of the GDP range which seems to be the historic range above which we collect taxes. Regardless of the marginal tax rates, we never take in more in taxes than this range. The reason, I would assume, is there’s a point at which those being taxed begin to take action to legally avoid taxation. And in a capitalist system, there are those who studiously comb the tax regulations for loopholes and then sell them to those who have a growing tax liability. Thus the historic percentage. People are only willing to part with so much of their earned money to government.
That brings us to why course B is unpopular. Most citizens of the US innately agree that government gets plenty of revenue. And that means most also feel that the problem isn’t revenue, but instead profligate spending. The reason that most are not open to new taxes is they feel government gets plenty now, but, more importantly, that it spends it for any number of things it has no business involving itself in.
So what’s the answer?
Course A first and foremost. Show us (the citizenry) that you’re seriously committed to cutting spending and all that entails (trim government size, scope and reach). Take action now to do what is necessary to put “entitlements” on a sustainable footing. I think it is clear that their elimination is not something which is in the cards at this point, but there is much that can be done to make them viable. And yes, that may mean privatizing portions of them.
Then and only then, when the citizenry is convinced government has been reduced to an appropriate size and all the spending that can be wrung from it has been wrung from it will they finally be open to the possibility of increasing revenue – but again, only if they see it as necessary.
I’m not sure why the left doesn’t get this. Maybe it is just me, but this seems as clear as the nose on your face – it is spending which has gotten us in this mess, not “lower taxes”. The fact that spending has outstripped revenue is not the fault of tax payers. The fact that government is in areas never envisioned by the Constitution or founders is not the fault of the taxpayers. The fact that Congress and various presidents have mortgaged the future of our republic and billed our grandchildren and their children is not the fault of the taxpayer.
So why must the taxpayer foot the bill?
That’s the ideological fight we face. It has to be made clear that we’re not willing to give them more until there’s real and huge progress in reducing spending and with that a commensurate reduction in the size of government.
Without that, “no new taxes” is as valid an argument as any out there and Republicans shouldn’t cave on that principle regardless of the pressure to do so.