A Few (More Coherent) Thoughts

What prompted my post from last night was thinking about the “fiscal cliff.” I admit, it is fun to see the Obama putting the screws to Boehner. It is also fun to see all the frantic efforts to parse the meaning of the Norquist pledge. And yet, I think there is a historic opportunity here that I wonder if we’re missing.

From my perspective, the “cliff” is really more of a speed bump. If we go over it and do literally nothing, the economy will slow for a quarter or two, but ultimately it would put us on a much better road. According to CBO, if we do nothing and tax rates go back to the 2000 levels, revenues will gradually increase to about 21-22% of GDP. This is precisely where they need to be in order to make current social programs sustainable. That does not ensure budget surpluses, but it would leave deficits small and manageable. That’s the bitch about the current debate. The only reason people talk about the “need” for entitlement reform is because we’ve cut taxes so much over the past decade that the we’ve created a crisis (or at least the appearance of one).

Obama’s proposal, which ultimately keeps in place the vast majority of the tax cuts, does promise to reduce the deficit, but I fear not enough to take away its political teeth. It means that right wingers will be able to continue to fearmonger on deficits as a excuse to attack safety net programs and health care. It means that “serious centrists” will give cover to attacks on Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid. And, by the way, it also means that when interest rates do rise, that there will be a genuine squeeze on the federal budget due to interest payments. This is not “concern trolling,” it is merely noting real political dynamics.

Changing the debate requires higher taxes than even what Obama is proposing. He has all the leverage. He’s going to get what he wants here, and we’ll all enjoy seeing Boehner and the other nutters have to surrender, but we’ll have won a battle and not the war, and worse by winning the battle on problematic terms we’ll make the war harder to win.

TL;DR version: I’m calling my representatives and telling them I’d like them to do nothing at all about the fiscal cliff. Not now, not at after January 1. Going back to the 2000 rates across the board would be the best thing for our country, even though the short-term pain would genuinely be painful. But you can’t undo a decade of terrible GOP initiatives without pain unfortunately.


60 replies
  1. 1
    Michael says:

    I would agree if quarterly growth at 2.7% was disappointting, no a high water mark of late. If we were approaching full employment. If the middle class takehome pay had grown at all the last few years.

    Even if we never had the Bush tax cuts at all, taxes today would STILL be more regressive than they had been in 2000 by virtue of the increase in income inequality. I think fixing the middle class wage stagnation problem is the ultimate priority, but until we do, lowering their tax burden is one way of compensating for that reality.

  2. 2
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    How’s the hangover?

    Going back to the 2000 rates across the board would be the best thing for our country, even though the short-term pain would genuinely be painful. But you can’t undo a decade of terrible GOP initiatives without pain unfortunately.

    Maybe if the pain were distributed less among the lower and middle classes, lib/prog/whatevers would have less trouble going over the “cliff” (gawd I hate that term).

    And what specific “pain” are we talking about here?

  3. 3
    RossInDetroit, Rational Subjectivist says:

    Changing the debate requires higher taxes than even what Obama is proposing.

    Not necessarily. GDP growth has been slow. Debt is in fixed dollars. That’s a problem for the government and for households. Slightly higher inflation for a few years would totally change that situation.

    ETA: we can grow out of this slump, but that’s made more difficult by other major economies in Europe and Asia losing steam over the last year.

  4. 4
    negative 1 says:

    Not that I necessarily disagree with the post, but is now when you want a slowdown in the economy? At the end of the day jobs should be priority one, and the resulting slowdown in the economy would be bad for employment. Even a little bit is too much right IMHO

  5. 5
    Nunca el Jefe says:

    I agree with the principle of what you’re saying, but the argument will come down to incrementalists vs whatever the name is for those that argue we should fix the whole thing now(is there a word that describes those folks? It is NOT totebaggers.) it’s the single payer vs ppaca debate again.

    The argument you need to make is about why incrementalism won’t work in this case; why taxes are a different beast, politically. Then you might avoid the calls of obot vs firebagger.

  6. 6
    zach says:

    I doubt it’s worth tanking the economy for a few years in order to take debt-mongering away as a GOP tool. There’s also evidence that austerity in the face of this sort of economy actually makes the medium/long-term debt picture worse.

    What I think would be more useful would be getting the common-wisdom crowd to at least recognize that we could just go to literally any other demographically similar country in the world (in terms of poverty, age distribution, chronic health issues) and ask them how they run their national health care and/or insurance system. Pick from any of the many systems that have as good or better health outcomes for 40-60% the price and implement it here and you’ve instantly solved basically the entire medium/long-term debt problem.

    It seems really weird to talk about the necessity of raising revenue, cutting discretionary spending, or cutting healthcare/pensions when as a nation we blow about a trillion dollars a year more than needed on healthcare and know perfectly well how to stop doing so.

  7. 7
    J R in WVa says:

    Income inequality is happening because the Republicans have managed to destroy the power of the labor movement. The only way to get money from Republican corporate management is to demand it with a crowbar on the bargaining table. All the power of strikes and organizing was whittled away by the National Labor Relations Board and the Taft-Hartley Act.

    Once upon a time if you voted to walk out, the company was shut down until the workers agreed to go back to work because they got a living wage and good benefits, and the company was unable to fire their workers and hire replacements.

    Now, the company in theory cannot fire workers, but they can hire so-called temporary workers and keep the business going as usual. If they fire union activists, it takes the Republican-oriented NLRB 2 or 3 years to decide that, whoops, it WAS illegal to fire that guy for passing around union cards, 23 or 35 months after he lost his house, his car, and his life.

    Without the ability to shut down a business, unions have almost no ability to pry wage increases equivalent to productivity and profitability increases, so all that extra profit goes into the CEO and Board and their cronies.

    Americans work more hours a year and are more productive than any work force in the world. There is no reason for us to take a back seat to any country in terms of earning power, vacation time, health care, you name it.

    But until it is again illegal – in an enforceable and meaningful way! to hire replacement workers, or otherwise attack union members who are organizing or striking during labor negotiations, we won’t be able to address income inequality successfully. Every worker should have union leadership helping them manage their benefits and squeeze the bosses for real wage increases.

    The Republican propaganda teaching workers that unions just protect bad workers and take union dues for the benefit of fat-cat union bosses has been even more successful than their demonization of liberals. Without unions workers get to take the leavings of their bosses and learn to like it or fu*k off and die, sometimes literally!

  8. 8
    c u n d gulag says:

    I also think that going over ‘The Fiscal Molehill’ is the best choice.

    But, it may be inevitable anyway, no matter what the President does.

    Who is President Obama supposed to be negotiating with?
    John ‘The Not-so Great Orange Boner’?
    Mitch ‘Yertle, the Anti-gay, Gay Turtle’ McConnell?

    No one on the Republican side has any (alternate) plan, other than the one from ‘Privatizing’ Ryan? And they ran away from that as far as they could, knowing it was unsellable.

    Their “Think Tanks” are working overtime right now, but, after 30 years of being steeped in “The Laffer Curve,” what new idea can the have? The Wingnut Welfare recipients working there have never heard anything else over the years.

    The Republicans don’t stand for anything.
    They are the Know Nothing, Oppose Everything, Party.

    All they can do, is wait for President Obama and the Democrats to start to negotiate with themselves – and then POUNCE!
    And thankfully, he, and they, seem disinclined to do so.

    So, let’s go over the ‘Fiscal Molehill,’ and put the pressure on them to try to defend tax cuts for the rich, and carried interest.
    They can’t – because most of the country has seen the havoc that 30 years of this nonsense has wreaked.
    And they also remember the one bright spot in those years was the Clinton Years, when taxes were raised, and the country flourished.

    And if the Republicans agree to some sort of middle class tax cuts, I think the ‘Confederacy of Dunces’ that is the current Republican Party will soon start to fall apart at the seams.
    The Evangelicals and the Birchers will split off sometime in the near future. And the “Old” and Corporate money people will be scrammbling to save the party.

    Buy plenty of popcorn.
    You don’t want to be left short when the poo-poo hits the ventilator.

  9. 9
    aimai says:

    Debt mongering, as with medicare and ss attacks,will never go away for the Republicans. They have attacked medicare and ss from the outset–their attacks on the fiscal prudence of Obamacare have been ceaseless, they are destroyign the post office with a phony debt scandal. They are wedded to the notion of a no tax society with no services, no safety net, no nothing for the 99 percent but debt slavery. They will never give up any club to beat us with–Bush took a surplus and turned it into debt ffs. These people are not sincere or, to put it more bluntly: they are liars. If you take them at their word you are very, very, foolish. [edited to add: I didn’t mean this to be directed at Zach. I’m agreeing with Zach. I should have used “one” instead of “you.”]


  10. 10
    Schlemizel says:

    Thank you for laying out a clear path for returning the GOP to power again. Your ‘thoughtful’ suggestion will be taken into consideration.

    What color is the sky in your universe?

  11. 11
    Marty says:


    Exactly right. The people who talk about taking some “short term pain” in the interest of a (more) balanced budget are very often upper middle class people with steady paychecks. But if the fc triggers a softening in economic growth, it will be the lower middle class and the poor who take the hit. I didn’t vote for Obama so that I could watch that happen.

    The deficit crisis is in many ways a figment of the Republican imagination, as (1) they created most of it in the first place, and (2) interest rates are so low right now that the government borrows at no cost anyway.

  12. 12
    Maude says:

    The unemployment extension is in it. There are other things like that, but I haven’t seen them listed.

  13. 13
    General Stuck says:

    Like I said in the other thread, I agree that there is a potentially fatal income disparity in this country. And the morality, or lack thereof, for that situation, is the least bad part of it. What the income disparity boils down to is really a serious structural ‘demand’ problem, needed for a healthy free market economy. This has been the result and folly of three decades of conservative econ philosophy as policy.

    The deficit is secondary to that problem right now, imo, and others more smarter than me. And it is vital that this gross imbalance with the other key ingredient of ‘supply’ be addressed asap. Or else, the Golden Goose dies and takes the rest of us with it. We are never going to tax of stop spending enough to fix the deficit. We have to have solid sustained growth. And you need more demand for that. And the lowest taxes possible for those in middle class is vital to that demand as consumer spending fuel.

  14. 14
    WereBear says:

    And why is it that every alternative we are offered comes with the pain price tag for those of us who have already suffered so much?

    The people are finally fired up and ready to go, and you, Front Pager, want to beat on them a bit more? Not selling me on your reasoning.

    There is nothing that will shut up a wingnut.

  15. 15
    BobS says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: We on the left frequently make the mistake of letting the right create the vocabulary, for instance ‘right to life’, ‘death taxes’, ‘death panels’, etc. In this case, ‘fiscal staircase’ would have been both more accurate and less melodramatic, not particularly desirable qualities for Republicans trying to run their various grifts.

  16. 16
    RossInDetroit, Rational Subjectivist says:

    @J R in WVa:

    The Republican propaganda teaching workers that unions just protect bad workers and take union dues for the benefit of fat-cat union bosses has been even more successful than their demonization of liberals.

    Amazingly, The Right and the plutocrats won that battle. Even among people who grew up in union labor households, ‘greedy unions’ is a common opinion.
    An Econ professor explained to me in the ’70s that manufacturing businesses would succeed in marginalizing Unions. They would give in on most wage demands and invest capital in technology that reduced skilled and union labor. That’s pretty much what happened. With labor’s influence diminished, they propagandized to the next generations, their former workers’ kids that Unions were a drag on growth. It worked.

  17. 17
    Emjay says:

    I disagree with you, Bernard.

    Why should average Americans pay the costs of fixing the system? Productivity has surged over the last 50 years, but income and wages have stagnated for most Americans. If the median household income had kept pace with the economy since 1970, it would now be nearly $92,000, not $50,000.

    Give me my $42,000 a year raise and we can talk about increasing my taxes.

    I say let the marginal taxes on earnings over $250,000 go back to Eisenhower rates for five years, use the cash to fix our infrastructure and safety nets and then negotiate down from there. Let the wealthy see what REAL tax increases are like and then maybe they won’t squeal so loudly about returning to Clinton-era rates.

    Politically feasible? Of course not. But a great place to start. Push the window to the left for a change.

  18. 18
    JGabriel says:

    Bernard Finel @ Top:

    According to CBO, if we do nothing and tax rates go back to the 2000 levels, revenues will gradually increase to about 21-22% of GDP. This is precisely where they need to be in order to make current social programs sustainable. … I’m calling my representatives and telling them I’d like them to do nothing at all about the fiscal cliff.

    Bernard, I think you should be reading more Krugman.

    I don’t have a problem with eventually returning to the Clinton era tax rates or even higher. But right now, that would lead us back into a recession, which would lower tax revenues, and be self-defeating at present. Especially since we’re not likely to get much in the way of other stimulus from Congress, particularly in the next two years.

    So, retaining the Bush era tax rates on lower levels of income seems more prudent, for now. We can return to across-the-board Clinton era rates when the economy improves and the unemployment rate is below, let’s say, six or seven percent.


  19. 19
    cathyx says:

    So are the commenters here saying that we should meet the republicans in the middle and give in to cuts to ss and medicare for middleclass tax cuts and raising taxes on the wealthy?

  20. 20
    Mandalay says:

    @ Bernard Finel

    The only reason people talk about the “need” for entitlement reform is because we’ve cut taxes so much over the past decade that the we’ve created a crisis (or at least the appearance of one).

    Your claim is total bullshit. Republicans would always be talking about entitlement reform regardless. You don’t have to like it or agree with it, but entitlement reform (i.e. reduction or abolition) is a fundamental part of the Republican platform/philosophy regardless of the current tax cuts, or the “need” for cuts.

    I think you just write your posts as a stream of consciousness, and press “Submit” without reading the drivel you have written. You are continually guilty of sloppy thinking.

  21. 21
    AndyG says:

    I’ll give you one little taste of the damage the cliff could do. Under the proposed cuts, the NIH budget will be cut by 8%. Since 2008, the NIH budget has been essentially flat and declining in real terms. NIH funding rates are currently at historically low levels. This means that all around the US, scientists are closing their labs and leaving science. They are firing the technicians and postdoctoral fellows who work for them. They will not be training any more students to take their places. An 8% cut will not be temporary in its effect – it will be permanent, because once someone has left research for another career, we will not get them back.

    An anecdote: A colleague of mine just returned from a trip to China. Tsinghua University in China – considered their MIT – will be hiring 200 biology faculty over the next 5-10 years. China is going to double their research budget. They are starting to attract Western scientists to their universities. If this is not writing on the wall, I don’t know what is.

  22. 22
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    The problem with ‘shared sacrifice’ is that it’s usually the people least able to who are doing all the ‘sharing’ in the ‘sacrifice.’ When I see Congress taking a 25 percent gross pay cut in solidarity with all the people who will suffer from the unemployment benefit cut (as mentioned above), I might be willing to believe this bullshit about ‘shared sacrifice’ and ‘hard decisions.’

    Also, as mentioned above, wage stagnation isn’t going to miraculously add 3 percent to everyone’s paychecks to offset these tax resets. I agree that some sort of sloped rise in the taxes for middle class and lower classes would be a better approach. As for the rich, let their taxes rise now. They aren’t hurting.

  23. 23
    Schlemizel says:

    Bernie showed last night that he just drops these turds then ignores them so trying to engage him in a defense of this particularly viscus, smelly, offering is a waste of time.

    The goopers will never be happy as long as a single fragment of the New Deal exists. Compromise to them is weakness (Or better still, “date rape” according to Grover) and all they will do in response is to demand more concessions.

    If we really were to go ahead and restore all the Clinton tax rates now, at once the goopers would be running through the streets with the whole ‘tax-n-spend’ meme and tie the resulting economic down turn to the Dems like an anchor.

    Yes tax revenue will need to be raise & eventually some of that will come from middle class tax payers but to do it now in the teeth of a recession is to double the pain for no gain.

  24. 24
    General Stuck says:


    No. Just as an ideal policy for the current econ problems. It looks like no deal will happen, and all taxes go up Jan 1, or maybe after some short extension into next year, for time to bargain. But regardless, the general policy should be to keep middle class cuts in place for now. as stimulus. Obama can propose new mc tax cuts if and when the Bush ones expire.

  25. 25
    magurakurin says:

    What really needs to happen has nothing to do with taxes. Oh, taxes need to go up on the upper brackets, that is for sure. But what would do even more in my opinion is to raise the minimum wage to a $12 an hour and then fix it to inflation so that it stays at that level forever. Then, a worker at a minimum wage job can live at the poverty level for a family of four(23,000 USD) working a full time job. Yeah, that still sucks but far better than living well below the poverty level at the current rate of 7.25 an hour(15,000 USD). Companies are sitting on heaps of cash, make them fucking pay it out, not to the government, but to their workers. The workers who will then spend every fucking dime of their pay on the goods and services that the companies make. Boom. Major economic recovery.

    Wages. Are. Too. Goddamn. Low.

    that really is the problem.

    Socialism? Fuck yeah.

  26. 26
    General Stuck says:


    I do support this, comrade :)

  27. 27
    cathyx says:

    Here’s the shared sacrifice crapola that makes me irate. If taxes are raised on the wealthy, they have less money to spend, but they can still maintain their standard of living like they have been. They don’t see any change in how they go about their everyday life. If entitlements are cut on the middle and lower class, then they can’t maintain their standard of living like they have been. Serious adjustments must be made.

  28. 28
    Ben Franklin says:


    Exactly. A percentage of income to middle-classes, is far more intrusive than that on the idle rich. The choice between medication, or food is not equivalent to fewer cuban cigars or one less fifth of Louis XIII cognac.

  29. 29
    Odie Hugh Manatee says:

    @RossInDetroit, Rational Subjectivist:

    A friend my wife met through work hated working at the non-union store they worked at. She was able to transfer to a union store in the same chain (different city, same state) and in a recent phone call she told my wife that she loves the store she is working at and she’s treated much better there.

    But she hates the union and the dues.

    Now that is the definition of STUPID.

  30. 30
    Ron says:

    The “pain” will be quite significant for low to middle income earners. For people who currently are just getting by on their income, doing away with all the Bush tax cuts would do serious damage. One thing that I hope NEVER gets back in the tax code is the so-called “marriage penalty”. That’s just an issue of fundamental fairness.

  31. 31
    El Cid says:

    Of course, I could have just been returning from being with some friends where I might have had a drink or two or several bottles of wine when I read it and commented, so I’ll trust the recap.

  32. 32
    Anya says:

    Fiscal cliff, bitchez!
    Geithner on State of the Union: No deal ‘without rates going up’

    CROWLEY: And they said no increase in rates. They’ve said that repeatedly.
    GEITHNER: Yes, but this is going to be – but they know this. I mean, Candy, there – there’s not going to be an agreement without rates going up. There’s not going to be…
    CROWLEY: So you’ll go off the fiscal cliff if it will – if the Republicans say, sorry, no way are we going to raise rates for the – on the wealthy. You guys are willing…
    GEITHNER: If we’re…
    CROWLEY: – to go off the fiscal cliff?
    GEITHNER: …if Republicans are not willing to let rates go back up – and we think they should go back to the Clinton levels, a time when the American economy was doing exceptionally well – then there will not be an agreement.
    CROWLEY: And you’d be willing to let that happen?
    GEITHNER: And, again, let me explain why. If – again, if – if – if they are going to force higher rates on virtually all Americans because they’re unwilling to let tax rates go up on 2 percent of Americans, then, I mean that’s the choice they’re going to have to make.
    But they’ll own the responsibility for the damage…

  33. 33
    BD of MN says:

    @RossInDetroit, Rational Subjectivist:

    Even among people who grew up in union labor households, ‘greedy unions’ is a common opinion.

    And it really doesn’t help when actual union bosses (mine, in this case) do stupid stuff like this:

    It’s hard to distill the IRB’s remarkable document, but the nickel summary includes: Suspect finders fees for construction projects, secret payments to union leaders, dealings with “sham” companies, corruption, incompetence, financial improprieties, (deep breath), conflicts of interest, patronage, a “fake benefit for a non-existent sick baby,” hundreds of thousands of dollars of unaccounted-for sports tickets and, of course, missing booze.


  34. 34
    Mandalay says:


    …raise the minimum wage to a $12 an hour and then fix it to inflation so that it stays at that level forever.

    An excellent suggestion, but rather than tie the minimum wage to inflation, why not tie it to pay raises for those in Congress?

    With the House being controlled by Republicans between 1997 and 2007 the minimum wage did not change. Meanwhile, thanks to the 1989 Ethics Reform Act (ha!) members of Congress get an automatic annual pay adjustment unless they specifically vote against it.


    If you made this stuff up nobody would believe it.

  35. 35
    Persia says:

    @negative 1: Yeah, “let the middle class and poor people suffer for the long-term political goal” isn’t really change I can get behind.

  36. 36
    NonyNony says:

    Obama’s proposal, which ultimately keeps in place the vast majority of the tax cuts, does promise to reduce the deficit, but I fear not enough to take away its political teeth.

    Given that the conservatives in this country have decided to throw away empiricism as a valid tool for measuring whether or not something works, and given that we have a journalistic class in this country that has decided (possibly at the behest of their corporate owners) that “he said/she said” reporting is the limit of what they’re allowed to do when debunking political claims about taxes and spending, I really don’t think that there IS anything that Obama can do to reduce the deficit enough to take away its political teeth.

    Congress could vote to eliminate all taxes and reduce government spending to $0, and Republicans would continue to claim that taxes were too high and government spending too wasteful. And the journalists would report it as “some say our taxes are too high”, with occasional “fact checker” who would point out that some people still pay state income and sales taxes, so tax claims aren’t really lies at all.

  37. 37
    RossInDetroit, Rational Subjectivist says:

    @BD of MN:

    Good point. I was going to add that actual corruption in some unions, which got major media play helped the plutocrats sell the idea that union bosses were all greedy thieves when actually only a few of them were.

    Luckily I have two very profound union success stories in my immediate family. Both my mother and step father, in separate instances, had their pensions spared only through the intervention of their unions when they were let go near retirement age. That made a colossal difference in their lives and gave me a powerful argument against the blanket union haters.

  38. 38
    cathyx says:

    @RossInDetroit, Rational Subjectivist: My grandparents were instrumental is starting a union for the garment workers in New York. In fact, it’s believed that my grandfather was killed by the garment industry owners when he was negotiating with them. He supposedly ‘fell’ to his death into an elevator shaft by slipping on tools on his way to meet them. No proof and all that, though.

  39. 39
    Schlemizel says:

    @RossInDetroit, Rational Subjectivist:

    Simply comparing the situation for workers and the economic conditions in this country when unions were strong compared to where those things are after 40 years of attacking and destroying unions should be the only argument necessary. but reality is hard for some people.

    I have a BIL who works in a trade that is unionized but he has spent his life seeking out non-union work. He constantly complains about lower wages than others in his trade get and the lack of job security. Recently his boss has been screwing with their hours and bringing untrained people to do some of the work which has made the work more complicated. He is mad at the low wage workers & not at his bosses. I mentioned that wouldn’t happen in a union shop & he had a major melt down.

  40. 40
    RossInDetroit, Rational Subjectivist says:


    Before pension reform my grandfather worked in a non-union shop and contributed to the pension program for 22 years. Under bad management they raided the pension fund for operating capital and when the business folded there was zero left for the workers. He had to start over in his mid-40s. The next time he made good choices of employer and pension, and my grandmother is still collecting part of his pension at age 95, 37 years after he retired and 19 years after his death.

  41. 41
    Schlemizel says:

    @RossInDetroit, Rational Subjectivist:

    People here are probably tired of my telling how my pension was stolen by corporate raiders. I was a bit older than your dad when they got mine and not many jobs in my line of work offer pensions any more. I’m pretty much working until I am 70 at least.

  42. 42
    cathyx says:

    @RossInDetroit, Rational Subjectivist: These are the stories that younger people don’t know or remember, and that’s why unions are getting a bad reputation. I’m afraid that we have to go back to the working conditions of the early 1900’s before people will rise up against corporations poor behavior.

  43. 43
    Schlemizel says:


    I have come up with what I think is a novel solution for paying down the debt while cleaning up the financial disparity in this country.

    Picture a guillotine at the top of a pachinko-like structure. at the bottom is a row of numbered buckets. People would bet on which bucket the head will fall into with the winners getting half (tax free) and the other half paying down the debt. The list of corporate masters who will be the playing pieces can be assembled as we go along.

  44. 44
    LosGatosCA says:

    I don’t see much difference in this post on ‘pain for a few quarters’ and ‘shared sacrifice’ from the deficit trolls.

    Face it, the progressive/liberal community will need to fight the fiscally irresponsible conservatives on budget policy forever. The war will never be won with a set-piece battle that determines fiscal policy permanently.

    There was a time when there was a universal consensus that every child, at least every white child, was owed a reasonably good public education as a responsibility of one generation to prepare the next generation to be better. Alas, that was an illusion of permanence.

    Right now, fiscal ideological split is like the Middle East, survival from one day to the next is the only goal and unfortunately, any concessions by the Democrats are only seen as a sign of weakness by the Republicans. Likewise, any progress on the fiscal front by Democrats is only seen as an opportunity to cut taxes by Republicans.

    Like the battle between good and evil the battle of responsibility against selfish greed is a permanent fixture of the American human condition.

  45. 45
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Schlemizel: You don’t have to go into details, but I can’t help wondering why PBGC didn’t cover the pension benefits.

  46. 46
    Smiling Mortician says:

    A Few (More Coherent) Thoughts

    Not so much, really.

  47. 47
    taylormattd says:

    Please stop posting here.

  48. 48
    divF says:

    @Ben Franklin:

    Exactly. A percentage of income to middle-classes, is far more intrusive than that on the idle rich. The choice between medication, or food is not equivalent to fewer cuban cigars or one less fifth of Louis XIII cognac.

    It isn’t even that – if the wealthy bought more toys as their income increased, the broader economy might benefit. But above a certain level of income / wealth, they no longer purchase toys with their money, but the money itself becomes the toy, playing with it in various parts of the casino financial sector of the economy. This produces nothing, and at regular intervals wreaks havoc on the real economy (cf. 2008).

  49. 49
    xian says:

    @BD of MN: power corrupts. twas ever thus. but somehow only some institutions are treated as inherently corrupt.

  50. 50
    xian says:

    @NonyNony: remember that when we went into nominal surplus that cheap-suit hustler Greenspan worried about the danger of paying down the debt (!) and gave Bush and spineless Dems cover to loot the social welfare nest egg and pay off the wealthy with the loot, guaranteeing that debts and deficits would survive for right-wing demagoguery.

  51. 51
    xian says:

    @Schlemizel: why does he seek out non-union work? brainwashing?

  52. 52
    xian says:

    @RossInDetroit, Rational Subjectivist: why don’t people go to jail for looting pensions? it sems like the “bust out” is the Republican signature move, from Greenspan’s raid on the social welfare surplus to Bush’s attempt to privatize social security to Ryan’s budget to Romney’s entire business career, etc.

  53. 53

    From my perspective, the “cliff” is really more of a speed bump.

    Must be so nice to have tenure.

  54. 54
    Schlemizel says:


    Because unions are evil! Yes, he is dumber than a bag of hammers.

  55. 55
    Schlemizel says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Not sure what PBCG is, sorry. Whatever they did was all nicely legal. They “converted” the defined benefit into a defined contribution with them having total control of the money (a little less than $1000/year I worked there) and they pay the lowest Fed rate of return. I can’t ouch it till I’m 65 so its pulling in less than 1% a year – thats a cheap loan to these bastards

  56. 56
    👽 Martin says:

    TL;DR version: I’m calling my representatives and telling them I’d like them to do nothing at all about the fiscal cliff.

    Regarding the Bush tax cuts – I agree. Regarding all of the other elements of the cliff, I can’t agree. Part of the cliff is the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule. Part of it are the automatic cuts to Medicare as part of sequestration. Part of it is the defense spending (which I like, just not in this form – it’s too abrupt). Part of it is the AMT extension. Part of it are the temporary payroll tax cuts. There’s a lot of different parts there.

    I think if I could choose, I’d have them do the MPFS, but only at the rate of inflation – no higher. Let the temporary payroll tax cut expire. Extend the <$250K Bush tax cuts for only one year. Extend AMT (setting it below median income is stupid).

    And on the sequestration items, agree to take 25% of those cuts each quarter (it was supposed to be a punishment for nothing happening, and nothing happened) and tie them to a permanent solution to AMT and MPFS and overall tax reform.

  57. 57
    Liberty60 says:

    I missed most of last night’s thread about ending the snark so I will post this here.

    I think we need to study how the conservative movement acheived victory in the 80’s.
    They didn’t just spend their time snarking about Jimmy Carter, or even the Democrats.
    They spent their time curbstomping liberalism itself, and systematically attacking the very foundations of the New Deal, in theory and practice.

    So the very word “liberal” became a shameful thing, and the concept of a professional cadre of civil servants and governmental managers became despised.

    So for the past 30 years we have watched Democrats struggling to convince everyone how “conservative” they are, and boasting about how our candidate “is not a politician, but a businessman”.

    We have embraced the rightwing framing of being tough on crime, tough on the poors, rewarding the wealthy as Job Creators.

    If all we were doing was snarking on Mitt Romney I would agree it is overdone.
    But liberalism is still actually fragile- we don’t have a solid grip on the minds and imaginations of the working class; we need to cement the idea of conservatism as being a fraud shell game perpetrated on them by the 1%.

    We need to make it so that future politicians try to outdo each other by starting their stump speeches with “I’m as liberal as they come, but…” or proudly say that our candidate “has a decade of experience in government”.

    Only when Republicans become the moon party to our sun can we slow our attacks on conservatism.

  58. 58
    Ted & Hellen says:


    Please stop posting here.


    Bernard causing discomfiting irregularities in your echo chamber?

  59. 59
    AxelFoley says:

    @Ted & Hellen:

    LOL, you would defend him, jackass.

  60. 60
    Ted & Hellen says:


    and you would attack me for doing so, douche breath.

    Your point?

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