Deficit Scare Tactics

January 24, 2013

Yeah, that Krug.  When he’s right, he’s right!

To say what should be obvious: Republicans don’t care about the deficit. They care about exploiting the deficit to pursue their goal of dismantling the social insurance system. They want a fiscal crisis; they need it; they’re enjoying it. I mean, how is “starve the beast” supposed to work? Precisely by creating a fiscal crisis, giving you an excuse to slash Social Security and Medicare.

The idea that they’re going to cheerfully accept a deal that will take the current deficit off the table as a scare story without doing major damage to the key social insurance programs, and then have a philosophical discussion about how we might change those programs over the longer term, is pure fantasy. That would amount to an admission of defeat on their part.

I Am Entitled

December 20, 2012

newwileyTime to revisit that “fiscal cliff” that everyone is blathering about.  Let’s get some clarity, and take a look at the data, the actual facts of income distribution in the USA.

The chart below, from the US Census Bureau, lays it all out.  It’s not a graph that you see much in the news, and certainly not one that politicians use:  I’m not sure which is the more significant reason for this – that they don’t want people to see the facts; that they are incapable of understanding data charts; or that they assume the public is incapable.  Well, here goes…

US income distribution 2010

click to enlarge

As you can see, the Median Household Income is about $49,500.  That’s household income, not individual income, and the average household is about four people.  You know, parents, children, the usual deal, more or less…

So half of all households in America make less than that amount, with quite a lot of people concentrated in the bottom 1/5th of the income scale.  Of course, not everyone lives in NYC where housing is extremely expensive, but most people do live in metropolitan areas, and would you want to live with your family on $49K a year, or less…assuming that you don’t live on that now?

Sooo, in the negotiations over the ‘cliff’, the Republicans are holding out to keep taxes low for people making up to $1,000,000.  Those millionaires can’t afford more annual taxes!  Obama, because he’s a sap in negotiations, or maybe for reasons even worse to contemplate, gave in, and has proposed to raise the limit from $250,000, on which he campaigned, to $400,000.  Everyone making up to $400,000 gets a tax break again.

Meanwhile, he’s caving in on entitlements, i.e. payments to people through programs they pay into under specified ‘agreements’ worked out in Congress.  No freeloaders here:  you join the system and you get a described benefit.  These payouts benefit everyone who works, but they are obviously vastly more important for the people in the bottom 3/5ths of the scale than for the other 40%.

So here’s the thing…The negotiations are about giving a benefit to the top 2%, that grey bar on the right that represents everyone making over $250K (the chart isn’t wide enough to show each increment, so they lump them together), and cutting back on benefits to everyone else And the vast majority of the people who need those benefits being cut, really need them, to…er…live, you know…

About That Fiscal Cliff…

November 29, 2012

When I was a kid, I used to play a game with myself by walking around the house with a vanity mirror held in front of me, face up.  I’d look down at the mirror and see the ceiling above me, but projected downward.  By looking at the mirror as I walked, it seemed as if I were constantly on the verge of stepping off into the void – fun!

Yep, that cliff we hear about endlessly is not the real thing: it’s a manufactured illusion.  Just yesterday, I had the misfortune to catch a sound-bite of a Republican congressman jabbering on about “unsustainable deficits,” and the need for “spending cuts to protect our bond rates.”  You could read Paul Krugman almost at random to have that notion destroyed:  the so-called bond vigilantes have been predicting Armageddon for years, and it just never happens.  And I have a folder full of clippings about the deficit and the doom that awaits us, which also never happens.  I guess the deficit is sustainable, at least for quite a while.  (Oh, we did run a surplus for a few years, but that was under Clinton, so it doesn’t count, and Bush took care of it.)

Frequently, we hear that “we just cannot afford our current entitlement programs.”    Uh…strange.  So, these programs provide valuable, even essential services and support for millions of Americans, so we just have to cut back, right?  Good health care is just too damn costly, by gosh!  We’ll make do, some of us, without it.  In the most wealthy country on the globe.  Where wealth is more concentrated among a few than ever before.  And they’d like to keep it that way.

It’s really quite simple.