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A spade is a spade of course of course

Via Jonathan Chait comes this very sad tale of three Republican lawmakers who just wanted a hug:

The three Republican congressmen saw it as a rare ray of sunshine in Washington’s stormy budget battle: an invitation from the White House to hear President Obama lay out his ideas for taming the national debt.

They expected a peace offering, a gesture of goodwill aimed at smoothing a path toward compromise. But soon after taking their seats at George Washington University on Wednesday, they found themselves under fire for plotting “a fundamentally different America” from the one most Americans know and love.

You see, on the one hand Republicans propose massive tax cuts for the rich and a dismemberment of the major healthcare entitlements and this is considered brave and non-partisan. On the other hand, Obama proposes raising taxes on the rich, and calling a spade a spade and this is wildly –  disgracefully – partisan.

I for one am really worried about the hurt feelings of Paul Ryan and his colleagues. How can we get the economy back on track if Obama is mean to the Republicans?

Oh, also too, Ryan was for the debt before he was against it

Last but not least, as we all know, Donald Trump has taken the lead by taking birtherism mainstream. My theory: he’s actually a stealth-liberal determined to undo the Republican party from within.

 








No budget for old white men

Speaking of herds of cats:

In a chaotic scene characterized by shouting more typical of the British parliament, the Republican Study Committee’s (RSC) alternative to Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) 2012 budget went down in a 119-136 vote.

It was gaveled shut only after Democratic leaders started pushing members to switch their “no” votes to “present,” in order to force a face-off between conservatives and the Republican leadership. A total of 176 lawmakers voted “present.”

That’s from the Hill.

To illustrate just how dishonest the Republican budgets really are, read Jason Kuznicki’s “Return to Normalcy” budget:

It’s got four basic parts:

  1. Return to Clinton-era rates of taxation, or at least something like them. As Ezra Klein has noted, this is very likely to happen in any event, because we’d need sixty Senate votes to extend the Bush tax cuts. We’ll just let them expire. As we’ll soon see, our Senators will be busy enough elsewhere.
  2. Remove the cap on the Social Security payroll tax. Yes, that means raising taxes. Yes, on the rich. Someone call the Koch brothers!
  3. Cap Medicare spending at GDP plus 1%. This is a doozy, I know. Can we do it? We’ll probably have to, like it or not, in any balanced budget plan.
  4. Reduce military spending to 1990s levels. In other words, bring the troops home. From everywhere. Let the force shrink by attrition. Cut spending on new weapons systems. Tell the world — much of it industrialized and friendly — that they will have to pay for their own defense, because we can’t afford it anymore. We’ve been doing way more than our fair share for way, way too long, and they can hardly say otherwise.

More or less, the plan would look like this.

This is similar to John’s do-nothing budget, or the do-nothing budgets of Annie Lowrey or David Leonhardt, or my budget. All these budgets have one thing in common: the end of the Bush tax cuts. To help illustrate where that will put us in the Big Scheme of Things, a chart!

bushtaxcuts

Surely letting the cuts expire will lead to America becoming Somalia. A much more Serious idea would be to let the poor and elderly fend for themselves and get rid of all these pesky healthcare entitlements.








Actual seriousness about the deficit

David Leonhardt has an excellent column on the deficit. In it, he suggests that if Congress simply did nothing we would be on a firmer fiscal footing than if we adopted the Ryan budget. With an economic recovery underway, he argues, Obama should refuse to extend the Bush tax cuts when they expire at the end of 2012. If Republicans stick to their all-or-nothing guns and refuse to extend the cuts only for those making $250,000 or less, all the cuts would expire going into 2013.

This change, by itself, would solve about 75 percent of the deficit problem over the next five years. The rest could come from spending cuts, both for social programs and the military.

Over the longer term — 20 years — letting all of the Bush cuts lapse would close only about 40 percent of the budget gap. But 40 percent is a great start. No one is seriously suggesting that all deficit reduction should come from higher taxes. Much of it will have to come from slowing the growth rate of medical spending, which is the main cause of the long-term deficit.

Leonhardt admits there are better ways to raise taxes and reform the tax code, and I agree, but closing popular loopholes is politically difficult. We should also consider making the income tax more progressive by increasing brackets at the top, and making corporate and capital gains taxes progressive. Eventually, in order to make our revenue more recession-proof, we should also consider something along the lines of a national sales tax or a VAT.

But again, 75% of the current deficit problem is solved simply by ending the Bush tax cuts. Bringing down defense spending to pre-Bush levels solves most of the remaining 25%. The ACA begins to address the fundamental flaws in healthcare spending (though by no means does it go all the way…yet.) Why isn’t this considered a Very Serious proposal?

I think it’s because pundits and politicians like drama. Ryan’s plan is dramatic. It’s also horrible and cruel. But it’s just so easy to replace words like “cruel” with words like “bold” when you are insulated from the cruelty.








The Ryan Budget

Over at American Times I have an alternative to the Paul Ryan ‘path to prosperity’ budget (and mine is shorter so that’s better – really all laws should be written as blog posts because long laws are inherently Evil). Basically, I find the whole notion of privatizing Medicare absurd – especially given how completely screwed up our current healthcare system is. And the dismantling of Medicaid tells you exactly the sort of priorities the Republicans have – cuts to the poor, tax cuts to the rich. Rinse, repeat.

I write this as someone fairly sympathetic to the idea of market-based solutions for healthcare. The problem with Ryan’s Medicare plan is that it assumes vouchers are a magic bullet. They aren’t. And we all know what states will do with ‘block-grants’ for Medicaid.

Anyways, like I said, I have an alternative and it’s pretty straightforward. I don’t even screw the poor in the process, and for that matter, I don’t really even soak the rich. We could do both, but we don’t have to.








Numbers don’t lie, people lie

Paul Ryan told NPR’s “All Things Considered” that the Obama budget included $8.7 trillion dollars in new spending. Jamelle Bouie shows how Ryan – the fiscal darling of the right – is cooking the books to come up with this startling figure.

That Ryan is considered a serious voice of fiscal conservatism on the right tells us two things: one, the bar for seriousness (and honesty) has come way down over the years; and two, Republicans really, truly don’t care about deficits. As Eric Martin notes:

In reality, this new-found urgency around deficits and debt is, for many GOP stalwarts, a means to assail entitlement programs that have been targets since their inception, as well as an opportunity to weaken public sector unions and otherwise gut the relatively tiny discretionary spending component of our budget.  As a bonus, the constant carping about spending during Democratic administrations reinforces advantageous – if erroneous – political narratives.

Ryan, of course, helped pass the extremely expensive Medicare Part D, TARP, and supported extending the Bush tax cuts even though they vastly increase the deficit. Whatever the merits of these programs, it’s just absurd for Ryan to maintain the pretense of being a fiscally responsible Republican.

Meanwhile, in Ryan’s home state, protests continue as Governor Walker wages all-out class warfare on the Evil Public Sector workers – unless you happen to be a public safety worker. Similar moves are being made around the country.  And Ryan, of course, is backing Governor Walker:

“It’s not asking a lot, it’s still about half of what private sector pensions do and health care packages do. So he’s basically saying, I want you public workers to pay half of what our private sector counterparts are, and he’s getting, you know, riots,” remarked Ryan.

“It’s like Cairo has moved to Madison these days,” he said, adding that “people should be able to express their way, but we’ve got to get this deficit and debt under control in Madison, if we want to have a good business climate and job creation in Wisconsin.”

See, it’s all about the deficit. We have to demonize somebody, after all, in order to maintain this illusion. At least Ryan cut Beck to the quick tying this back to Cairo. Now all he needs are some chalkboards and puppets to show us how very serious he really, truly is.

Update.

Turns out there’s not even a budget crisis in Wisconsin.