Heartless, Clueless, Confused, and Calculating

The Senate went on recess without extending unemployment benefits, and now Republicans are arguing that this is Democrats’ fault.

How so? GOP senators say they would have voted for the unemployment extension if the money were taken out of the budget, in particular from “unused” stimulus funds, to avoid running up more debt. Odd how deficits don’t matter when there’s a Republican in the White House, but that’s the argument.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan, explained (emphasis added),

Republicans want to pay for it [unemployment extension] from taking money away from the recovery dollars. Those are dollars being used to create jobs in construction and manufacturing incentives and alternative energy. To take money from job creation to fund unemployment benefits makes no sense.

Essentially, what the GOP favors is a kind of economic cannibalism. Think of the economy as a starving person, and the Republicans are saying they’ll feed this person, but only with some of his own cooked body parts.

Republicans keep talking about “unused” stimulus funds, as if there’s a pile of money somewhere that no one knows what to do with. But my understanding is that it’s all allocated already, even if not all of the projects to which the money is allocated have gone into effect. From an editorial in the Boston Globe:

Senator Brown has said he would vote for extended unemployment assistance if money for it came from unused stimulus funds. But yesterday’s jobs report proved that the economy needs both aid for the unemployed and the ongoing boost that stimulus projects provide as they come on line. Just this week, Massachusetts received $45.4 million in stimulus money to expand broadband access in the western part of the state where some towns have virtually no high-speed Internet service. Overall, the 2009 stimulus package includes $7.2 billion to upgrade the nation’s data networks — and, at the same time, create 5,000 construction jobs.

Clearly, not all stimulus projects were shovel-ready when Congress passed the bill last year, but that is just as well, since the economy still needs the turbo-injection of an initiative like broadband expansion.

And, of course, unemployment benefits also stimulate the economy.

In his column today, Paul Krugman asks how the Senate could possibly have turned its back on the unemployed. “The answer is that we’re facing a coalition of the heartless, the clueless and the confused,” he writes.

The “heartless” are Republicans who blocked the extension as a political ploy. They somehow think blocking the benefit extension will give them an advantage in the midterm elections.

The “”clueless” are people like Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate for senator from Nevada, who says people would get off their lazy butts and get jobs once their benefits are cut off. Given that Nevada has, I believe, the highest unemployment rate of all the states, I hope Nevada voters think hard about where this woman’s head might be.

The “confused” are those who think the deficit is more dangerous to the economy than the lack of money in circulation. Krugman writes,

Helping the unemployed, by putting money in the pockets of people who badly need it, helps support consumer spending. That’s why the Congressional Budget Office rates aid to the unemployed as a highly cost-effective form of economic stimulus. And unlike, say, large infrastructure projects, aid to the unemployed creates jobs quickly — while allowing that aid to lapse, which is what is happening right now, is a recipe for even weaker job growth, not in the distant future but over the next few months.

But won’t extending unemployment benefits worsen the budget deficit? Yes, slightly — but as I and others have been arguing at length, penny-pinching in the midst of a severely depressed economy is no way to deal with our long-run budget problems. And penny-pinching at the expense of the unemployed is cruel as well as misguided.

But, Krugman adds,

So, is there any chance that these arguments will get through? Not, I fear, to Republicans: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something,” said Upton Sinclair, “when his salary” — or, in this case, his hope of retaking Congress — “depends upon his not understanding it.”

Exactly, and I’d say many Republican lawmakers are not so much confused as calculating. They want the economy to be as bad as it can get in November. They want to keep the value of labor low; that’s been one of their goals for generations now. An opportunity to strangle the economy and drive workers into greater and greater desperation must seem too good to pass up.

56 thoughts on “Heartless, Clueless, Confused, and Calculating

  1. Mark your calndars, Bastille day is coming soon – January 14th!!!
    No fireworks necessary.
    Just sharpen your guillotines.
    “Senator Nelson, you got a second? Come here. I just want to show you something, ok? Look, it’s a little headrest we constituents got for you to show our appreciation. Try it out.”
    I’d start with Ben Nelson because, allegedly, he’s a Democrat, and should know better. A ‘Ben’edict Arnold Democrat. He’d fit in Krugmans “confused” category. I’ll choose to call them ‘headless,’ for obvious reasons.
    Then we’d start on the “heartless,” that would be Republicans, who don’t understand that ‘winning’ and being on top of an ash heap is not really an accomplishment when that ash heap was once one of the greatest countries in history.
    As for the “clueless,” they won’t miss their heads when they’re lopped off, since they never used them when they were on.
    The French Revolution looks better and better to me…

    Sorry, but I’m heartily sick of this country. Of greed. Of corruption.
    Oh, and Conservatives, don’t tell me if I don’t like it, to move out. HELP me to move out!!!

  2. To take money from job creation to fund unemployment benefits makes no sense.

    Perhaps that’s why the Republicans insist in it. If Democrats go along, Republicans then blame them for the nonsensical policy.

  3. Bastille Day – January 14th?
    WTF is WRONG with ME?
    JULY 14th.
    Sheeeeeesh….

  4. What’s wrong with this picture. 1.8 percent of Americans hold $16.8 trillion of the wealth while 90 percent of the rest of us combined hold $2 trillion less. Not only is this situation obscene, it’s dangerous. Like any system severly out of balance it will collapse.

    cundgulag – A 71-year-old friend of mine if asked how he is replies that he’s in the spinning-around-the-drain phase of his life. I’ve put it on my answering machine, “I can call you back as soon as I stop spinning around my bathroom sink drain.” Only my fellow ‘spinners’ get it. Maybe you will.

  5. To take money away from unspent stimulus money to spend on something more urgent makes perfect sense.

    Let’s see..you go to your banker and say you need some of the money that you’ve given him (through taxes) or your house goes under. He agrees that is very,very important and he has the money but he’s waiting to loan it to his cronies who may need it later. He’s making the decision about who is more important….if that is what the democrats are saying, then fine.

    That is what the democrats are telling those people who need UI benefits.

    • To take money away from unspent stimulus money to spend on something more urgent makes perfect sense.

      Creating jobs isn’t urgent?

      The rest of your comment makes absolutely no sense. I can’t respond to it because I can’t even imagine what your point is.

  6. felicity,
    I get it! 🙂
    My Father, who’s 84+ has long said this about “The Golden Years (add a thick Ukrainian accent):
    “The only thing ‘golden’ about it, is the ‘gold’ everyone else makes off you…”

    I’m living at home and can testify to that. He’s got a ‘same-day, walk-in, walk-out (hopefully) hernia operation scheduled for 7/9. The last two weeks, I’ve taken him to 2 different places, for 4 different appointments, and a 5th at the place he’s scheduled to have the surgery. All for heart work, one for blood. Tomorrow morning, he’s got an appointment at the VA for still more tests. He’s got MediCare, so I think every Doctor in the Mid-Hudson Valley is getting a cut of it, just because he’s got an operation scheduled. Also, I’m sure, Republicans will bring out that all of these are for protection against “Tort” and trial lawyers.
    Now, as for my mother’s health, a diabetic, and appointments…. Oy!
    Me? I ain’t got nothin’, so I could die for all anyone outside of my family could care. And well still might. I hope sooner, rather than later… I have miles to go before I’m covered by MediCare.

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  8. Great commentary MS. Barbara.
    I have an Idea to bounce off the Maha bloggers,
    Millions need work, we all need energy.
    We need to persuade a wealthy liberal to fund a program where we can generate electricity from treadmills and stationary bikes; you get paid from what you generate; for that matter, we could solve the entire immigration problem by building generating stations on the Mexico side of the border.
    Screw BP……

  9. erinyes — Great concept. love them both!! Cundgulag — Just wanted to let you know that every word you write is exactly what I am thinging and said so much better than I could ever. I have been missing cuz I had a security issue with content and could not get on any about.com sites. Finally got it cleaned out and I really missed this blog. It feels so much better to know that there are other intellitgent people out there who think like me. I am an artist and don’t really socialize here in Baton Rouge, my intellect depends on your wonderful blog Maha.
    I missed the NYT article about our dear governor, Bobby, but plan on looking it up right now. The oil crisis is no longer a crisis, it is total devastation to a way of life, but I need not tell y’all this. I mourn the loss of so many great and favorite seafood dishes.

    Glad to be back and won’t be bothering you all much since you all say it so much better than I. Just wanted to let you know that I am here reading your every word. Thanks, everyone! Oh, and Alberta, Canada is looking pretty good if we lose on Bastille Day…..Kathleen, Down the River Without a Paddle in Baton Rouge

  10. erinyes ..Good idea, but I think the obstacle would be that a person would burn more energy than they could generate.. Unless they were loaded up with frijoles.

  11. Oh, NO!
    “Dude,” you DUD, you found your way here, too?
    DooDoo, you Dud, you”re not in Kansas anymore.
    Click your heels 3 times and go back to your right wing sites: ‘There’s no place like LGF, there’s no place like LGF, there’s no place like…’
    And look, you’re back in your parent’s basement, Cheeto’s in your lap, your DUD dick in your one hand, stained hanky in the other, “BlueBoy”* on the floor – and all is right with the world!

    *Not that there’s anything wrong with having a copy of “BlueBoy” around….

    DUD, if you ever DO have a COHERENT point, maybe NOT one from Glenn, Rush, Sean, or some other FOXepratives, please DO come back.
    Until then, go home, little, little, troll…

  12. Liberals just cannot make hard choices at all. Life is a series of hard choices. Right now the democrats are saying that the UI is the MOST stimulative endeavor that can be done, but they are not willing to delay pork-barrel stimulus spending to do it.

    They just play politics with everything.

    • Dud — this is not a matter of making “hard” or “easy” choices. It’s a matter of making “intelligent” or “stupid” choices. You’ve provided absolutely no reasoning or critical thinking to back up your assertions, btw. I’d say you’re the one who’s stupid.

      So, gang, do we play with Dud a bit longer or should I twit-filter him now?

  13. DUD,
    Republicans have NO hard choices.
    They spend on tax cuts for the rich; 2 wars (now occupations); and allow deregulation that allowed the financial industry to come so close to tanking that the lower tax paying citizens had to save the wealty; and an oil industry that was so deregulated it figured, Hell, why pay the bastards off, let’s invest in coke and have the inspectors snort it off our butt-cracks, and save the rest for our exucutives?
    DUD, if you ever once in your life have an original idea, please do come back. Until then, save us from your series of “hard choices:”
    1) The choices of repeating yourself endlessly, writing the same insipid shit on multiple liberal sites,
    or,
    2) The choice of asking your Mama to use her left hand, so it feels like someone new is in your life. Or, is it your Daddy’s hand?

  14. Oh, maha, NO!
    PLEASE let us play with DUD. Liberals don’t usually like to torture small rodent’s, but I’d make an exeption in his case. (Come on, who would name themselves ‘Dude” if they were one – I guess “Studmuffin” was already used).
    DUD is the rare scientific example of a perfect idiot. Every village should be able to rent him.
    The sad thing is, I’m sure he’ll be employed as a Village Idiot, much quicker that I will be for any reasonable position.

    So, DUD, you might just be able to stay here and repeat the same imbecilic points you have on othe sites today – over and OVER again, you VOUVOUZELA of idiotic FOX prattle.
    DUUUUUUUUUUUUUD!!!!!
    DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD!!!!!!!!!!
    DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD!!!!!!!!!!
    You’re a DUD-DUD-ZELA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. Right now the democrats are saying that the UI is the MOST stimulative endeavor that can be done, but they are not willing to delay pork-barrel stimulus spending to do it.

    Gee, wouldn’t that be a zero net effect on stimulus spending regardless of how it was delivered? Sorta like rob Peter to pay Paul.

    I can make a hard choice.. Flush Dud! This blog isn’t big enough for two idiots, and I was here first.

  16. Right now the democrats are saying that the UI is the MOST stimulative endeavor that can be done, but they are not willing to delay pork-barrel stimulus spending to do it.

    If stimulus spending were “pork-barrel,” then unemployment insurance would in fact be the most stimulative endeavor; in other words, genius, you accidentally argued that the Democrats would be right. In your alternate universe.

    In this universe, however: 1) stimulus spending with the long-term goal of creating jobs is not equitable to unemployment insurance, which is a short-term measure intended to keep the unemployed in their homes and able to buy food; 2) the Democrats understand the difference; 3) it is you who does not.

    The real question you’ve raised is: Why the hell do you consider creating jobs to be “pork barrel” spending? Because that’s what Rush Limbaugh called it? Your thought-free commentary is just sad.

  17. Just can’t govern because they cannot make a hard decision that does not incorporate spending someone else’s money for their pet projects.

    • Just can’t govern because they cannot make a hard decision that does not incorporate spending someone else’s money for their pet projects.

      Democratic “pet project” = strengthening the American economy and the economic health of its citizens. Dud, this is what governing is.

      Republican “pet project”= reducing the worth of labor, keeping the labor force docile, dismantling consumer and environmental protection, reducing taxes on billionaires, etc., so that the rich can get richer and the poor get poorer. This is not governing, it’s exploiting, but it’s all Republicans know how to do.

      Really, gang, I think the Dud is boring. Can I nix him now?

  18. Yeah. Please do.

    Jerks like “Dud” and Boehner and Simpson and Niall Ferguson just keep repeating the same bullcrap as if it’s gospel: “The way to prosperity and employment is to reduce business taxes and minimum wage laws to spur investment.”

    Despite no evidence and all indications to the contrary, they repeat and repeat until they catapult the propaganda, and people start thinking it actually means something.

    BTW, where were “tough love” asses like “Dud” when they were throwing trillions at AIG, CitiBank and BOA for HUGE salaries and bonuses. Oh yeah, on his knees, teabagging.

    Iggy him.

  19. Maybe the GOP thinks they can regain political significance by throwing the American economy into a tailspin, but my thought is that we’ve spent over a trillion dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan and will be spending over 100 billion in Afghanistan this year alone(not to mention the price tag for Iraq). It just seems to me that that fact has to impact voters thoughts to make them think about where we are putting our priorities. Guns or butter? I don’t get it, sure there will be a lot of people who will associate their financial hardship with Obama’s administration and think that he’s the cause of their problems, but our problems stem from misdirected priorities and divisive policies all conceived by the GOP and their political allies. God help us!

  20. I’m stoked…I’m gonna get a whole hour of work this week..Yeah, I’ll be delivering eviction notices…Maybe if I drive slow I can milk my good fortune into an hour and a half of work.

  21. This blog isn’t big enough for two idiots, and I was here first.

    Swami, I may have to arm-wrestle you for that one.

    …we’ve spent over a trillion dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan and will be spending over 100 billion in Afghanistan this year alone(not to mention the price tag for Iraq)…

    This has been bothering me for a while, and I don’t recall seeing it addressed anywhere… In the past, I believe war spending has been stimulative, in general. After all, much of this spending is in equipment and salaries, which finds it’s way back to the US. Not so, apparently, with these wars? Or should I assume that we’d be in full-throated depression if the wars (and war spending) ended?

  22. Dude, drop the “hard choices” BS right now.

    Hard choices come about because stupid people already haved failed at the easy choices. Just two examples: Bush invading Iraq under false pretenses and for no good reason; the GOP-controlled Congress of the late 1990s deregulating banking and investment. These very bad choices by stupid people (whom I assume you supported, so thanks for contributing to this mess) wasted $10 billion monthly for years (still counting), devalued the dollar, crashed the financial sector, lost hundreds of thousands of jobs, lost hundreds of thousands of lives. I could go on and on.

    You’re a parrot, an unthinking parrot who’s made some REALLY bad choices and refuses to admit it, and now you want to blame it on everyone else. Choosing the short-term over the long-term is not a “hard” choice, it’s always the wrong choice. You’ll get no respect here. Plus you’re boring.

  23. Swami – If we’re spending $100 billion/year in Afghanistan and there are reportedly no more than 100 alQaeda members in Afghanistan, then we’re spending $1 billion on each one. And New York’s scheduled to lay off 5000 teachers in January because? What’s the salary of a NY teacher?

    DC seems to have forgotten that alQaeda is the group that was responsible for 9/11, the ‘reason’ we attacked, invaded and are now occupying Afghanistan. The
    Taliban, on the other hand, did nothing to the US. Their mission is to return the Islam world to the 15th century. So be it. (Frankly, Afghanistan has for all practical purposes never left the 15th century.)

  24. I heard the Dems in the Senate wanted to get Byrd’s replacement in place for the next vote.

  25. So, how about Obama honoring his pledge to not spend more unless he reduces the federal budget by an equal amount somewhere else? Oh, but that would require him to keep his word! Remember “not one dime more taxes on any family making less than $250,000 a year”?. Check out this list of new taxes we are about to be hit with: http://www.atr.org/sixmonths.html?content=5171

    You said “Essentially, what the GOP favors is a kind of economic cannibalism. Think of the economy as a starving person, and the Republicans are saying they’ll feed this person, but only with some of his own cooked body parts.”

    Leaving off the histrionics, what you are really saying is “let’s feed these people and tax everyone more to pay for it – we’ll worry about how to pay for it later”. That is exactly what the proposed bill would do, kicking the can down the road, to use Obama’s expression.

    I think what the Republicans would like to do is feed these people with some of the fat stored in the federal government. The biggest growth industry in the United States is the federal government, which is ultimately ENTIRELY taxpayer funded. Let’s cut it back a bit so we can afford to help those people without making our grandkids pay for it.

    The federal government currently consumes about 40% of GDP; if we cut that back to 30% or less, we simply would not have the current economic mess. Think about it – free up 10% of GDP? If you want to cannibalize somebody, let it be the bloated federal government. Taking that much load off of individuals and businesses, and the economy would really jump!

    How about if Nancy Pelosi were to donate her peanuts and drinks budget on her air transport (documented with receipts at $50,000 per year for the last two years – actual cost of military transport much, much higher) to give a few people some unemployment benefits? How about her $15,000 per month taxpayer funded digs in California? Instead of such lack of restraint, she could set an example of restraint. But, no, not going to happen.

    Liberals seem to just want to write a check – without looking to see if they can afford what they are buying. That strategy works, but only until the checks arrive at the bank – and bounce. Which is going to happen very soon. You folks like to hammer conservatives; neither liberals nor conservatives are without blame on these things. But liberals are the ones writing all those checks, since Democrats took control of congress in 2006. Go look at the numbers!

    I’ll be interested to see if you liberals can respond to this without name calling or making slurs. I bet you can’t restrain yourself. How about a reasoned response?

    • I’ll be interested to see if you liberals can respond to this without name calling or making slurs. I bet you can’t restrain yourself. How about a reasoned response?

      You’d deserve a reasoned response if your comment weren’t such a hodgepodge of half-truths and propaganda. For example, your “new taxes” are not new taxes, but the end of some of the Bush tax cuts that are the biggest cause of the deficit you people pretend to be worried about.

      However, it’s late, and I’m tired, so I’m just going to respond to this part for now —

      You said “Essentially, what the GOP favors is a kind of economic cannibalism. Think of the economy as a starving person, and the Republicans are saying they’ll feed this person, but only with some of his own cooked body parts.”

      Leaving off the histrionics, what you are really saying is “let’s feed these people and tax everyone more to pay for it – we’ll worry about how to pay for it later”. That is exactly what the proposed bill would do, kicking the can down the road, to use Obama’s expression.

      What do you mean, “these people”? We are all “these people.” The starving man represents the entire United States economy, and if you live and work in the United States you are part of that. And if we don’t feed it, it’s going to get more and more starved. It will be “paid for” by economic growth leading to higher tax revenues. But if it continues to starve, we will all be poorer for it. That includes you.

      It’s fascinating to me that you mis-read the analogy to think the “starving person” represented just the poor and what we used to call the “underprivileged.” But I clearly said “Think of the economy as a starving person.” The same economy that keeps a roof over your head, chump.

      The situation we’re in right now is one the private sector cannot grow out of, because money is not circulating. Drop in consumer demand leads to drop in supply of goods leads to drop in jobs leads to drop in consumer demand, etc. Downward spiral. The economy needs money pumped into it before the private sector can pick up and get moving again, and that’s what the government is trying to do — get money into people’s hands so they will spend it and increase demand for goods. That’s why cutting off that money cannibalizes the economy.

      And only a rightie, or a child, would need that explained. I’m sure everyone else here knew exactly what I meant.

  26. How about if Nancy Pelosi were to donate her peanuts and drinks budget on her air transport (documented with receipts at $50,000 per year for the last two years – actual cost of military transport much, much higher) to give a few people some unemployment benefits?

    How about we close Gitmo for a savings of 1 billion dollars a year? And then we can direct our efforts to put the clamp on Pelosi’s wine bibbing and peanut binging for a total savings of $1,000,100,000.00 to give even more than a few people unemployment benefits.

  27. Popgun,
    I was hanging around at a conservative blog several weeks ago after landing on it through a link. The folks commenting there have a completely different thought process than I, so far from mine that I simply bid them farewell.

    I don’t understand the focus and vitriol directed at Nancy Pelosi.
    For some reason, conservatives seem fixated on her.
    The conservatives I know and love are all up in arms about taxes, but they LOVE all things military. ‘Kind of reminds me of my childhood in rural Florida, when the adults would mock the poor black dude who lived in a shack but owned a beautiful blue Cadillac.We seem to have no problem seting up military bases world wide, and buying arms to fight Russia and China, while our infrastructure crumbles, the kids don’t get the education they need, and the middle class circles the drain.

    I have found that conservatives will listen to an arguement if it is explained in simple mechanical terms, with no snark attached, and when they get snarky, its ok to point that out if a bit of self deprecation is employed.
    I actually enjoy debate on many issued that have become political, from welfare to Climate Change. It all boils down to money and power, and the folks who have a bunch of both want to keep it by confusing and manipulating the “small people”.
    For instance, many of my friends were all for off shore oil drilling until the BP blow out, NOW its Obama’s fault for not acting faster, and for not suspending the Jones Act ( which has nothing to do with maritime law outside coastal US).

  28. Or, how about cutting back on new nuclear attack subs, aicrcaft carriers, and some of those great fighter planes that are in the works?
    Oh, I forget, we need those advanced weapons when fighting a 15th Century enemy hiding in the mountains and small villages.
    “I see a Taliban fighter laying down an IED. MAN THE TORPEDO’S!!!”

  29. How to respond… “End of Bush tax cuts”… If I’m paying more taxes tomorrow than I am paying today, that’s a tax increase, from my perspective. You’re just playing with words to make it sound better to yourself.

    The reason the private sector is stagnant at present is in part because of knowledge of the incredible debt Obama has piled on top of what Bush did. Because unlike liberals, the other 70% of us understand that somebody has to pay for that debt. Money doesn’t just get ‘pumped’ into the economy. Wealth has to be grown by business. The government is ultimately entirely funded by tax dollars. Businesses do pay taxes but pass those taxes on to consumers. So when liberals (or anybody else) spend trillions of government dollars, it comes out of our pockets. Knowledge that these increased taxes are coming causes consumers to not spend as much. Increased taxes themselves result in less cash available to spend. Vicious circle. Did you read the linked article that lays out the taxes we are about to encounter, directly because of the actions of this administration? There are twenty new or increased taxes in Obamacare alone…

    The other thing the government can do is print money. Each dollar printed in this way dilutes the value of all other dollars in circulation – the total value of currency is not changed. It is a shell game resulting in inflation.

    In essence, what you advocate is putting our future tax dollars (via international loans, upon which we must pay interest) into the economy to give it a boost. This is a trap of major proportions, and everybody but liberals recognizes it. It’s like using your Visa to pay your American Express; you can’t get away with it indefinitely.

    No disrespect intended, but the above is what it looks like to me from where I sit. Obviously you have a different opinion, and that’s fine. But please, sit down and balance your check book – and think about the implications. Or get out some monopoly money and play a little game with it, simulate what you’re trying to do – and see how it turns out. You can build a fairly complex model in this way, and it can be educational. Don’t forget to figure in the billions in interest on the international loans. Don’t base policy on wishes; PROVE that you can make your policy work, BEFORE you apply it to a real economy. Have you ever done this?

    And finally; “only a rightie, or a child”; you just couldn’t resist the name calling, could you?

    With all due respect,

    -Popgun

    • How to respond… “End of Bush tax cuts”… If I’m paying more taxes tomorrow than I am paying today, that’s a tax increase, from my perspective. You’re just playing with words to make it sound better to yourself.

      If you’ve got the guts to look, I challenge you to read what a real economist says about the cost of the Bush tax cuts. And if you won’t read, just look at a bleeping chart. Go to Econobrowser and scroll down to the COST2 Chart. See those big blue negative bars? “JGTRRA” stands for “Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003” and EGTRRA stands for “Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001.” Those are the Bush tax cuts. Together, they are the single biggest reason we’re running a budget deficit right now. The cost of the Iraq War is right behind them. Costs incurred by all of President Obama’s programs put together doesn’t even make a dent in what those tax cuts have cost us.

      These tax cut laws were written so that most provisions expired after a period of years, and that period of years is about up. It would be economic suicide for the U.S. to renew all those cuts. The Obama Administration is talking about retaining the tax cuts that go to middle-class citizens but letting the tax cuts to upper-income citizens, which is most of them, expire. But, of course, ultimately it’s Congress that will make those decisions.

      The reason the private sector is stagnant at present is in part because of knowledge of the incredible debt Obama has piled on top of what Bush did. Because unlike liberals, the other 70% of us understand that somebody has to pay for that debt.

      We liberals were complaining about the debts our children will have to pay because of the Bush tax cuts and the Iraq War for lo these many years. You’re late to the party, dude.

      Now, it has been conservative orthodoxy for years that tax cuts stimulate the economy, and under many circumstances they do. Why do they stimulate the economy? Because they allow people to keep more money, which they will turn around and spend on stuff, which creates demand and more jobs, etc. So there is nothing magic about “tax cuts” per se; it’s getting money into circulation that’s critical. And allowing the nation’s most wealthy segment to keep tax cuts that are ruinous to the budget makes no sense, because wealthy people don’t take their extra income to run to the corner store to buy new toasters.

      The theory behind “trickle down” economics is that when you allow wealthy people to keep most of their money, they invest in building new business. There’s no real-world evidence that’s actually what most of them do, however. If tax cuts for the wealthy were such a great way to keep business going, we wouldn’t be in a recession now. However, there is mountains of real-world evidence showing that putting more money into the hands of the less well off is a huge stimulus. But keep reading.

      Your notion that “government” money can’t be used to prime the pump, so to speak, and get the economy moving again runs counter to the arguments of just about every economist who is not on the payroll of the Heritage Foundation or some other think tank funded by wealthy family trusts. Tax cuts (except to the wealthy) are one way to get money into circulation, and spending projects to stimulate job growth are another way. They both result in deficits in the short term, but if they work to get the economy moving again, such programs will pay for themselves down the road. If immediate job growth were not such a screaming priority you might be able to make a case for more middle-class tax cuts, but at the moment the priority has to be given to spending that directly creates jobs.

      Now, unless you can come up with an argument other than “government is bad” and “you liberals don’t know anything,” do go away.

  30. Popgun, where the hell were you when the Bush Admin sent millions of dollars in shrink-wrapped cash to Iraq on pallets, so it was just picked up and carried off by God knows who? When millions of our tax dollars went to Halliburton for unfulfilled or incompetently-fulfilled contracts? When some of those millions went into Dick Cheney’s retirement fund?

    Maha already pointed out your bogus “new taxes” claim. And, like Dude, you’re arguing the short-term in favor of the long-term, a failed philosophy that created the current conditions. You contributed to the mess we’re in; liberals did not. Do you understand that most people, centrists and left-leaners alike, have a lot of animosity toward your crowd? Refusing to think or face facts doesn’t help restore you to the good graces of your fellow citizens. Also like Dude, you’re just parroting the talking points of the guilty. As a parrot, of course you’d envy Nancy Pelosi’s peanuts.

  31. Uhm, Popgun, the lab where this type of economic thinking was tested was called the 1930’s and WWII.
    Like our modern crisis, the collapse of these markets was caused by Republican ideas put into action, with minimal regulation.
    Keynsian economics put people to work – no, not all, and maybe not as fast as many wanted, but it did. Despite what the screamers at FOX and the blowhards on talk radio say, that FDR extended the Depression, the national economy was growing fast, but took a step back in 1937 when FDR actually listened to the an earlier version of today’s “Catfood Commission.” Arming for WWII kicked the economy into high gear.
    And then, despite high tax rates, the US economy boomed like few others, if any, in history. With a strong middle class a result of the push down on the wealthy due to the high taxes. Read Krugmans book, “The Conscience of a Liberal,” for a better understanding.
    The ‘Reagan Revoution,’ undid a lot of good. Deregulating began to unwind safety nets. Incentives were put int place for people to take chances with investments. Remember the S&L problems, the penny stock scams?
    In the ensuing years, the rich have gotten rich, the poor poorer, and the middle class poorer. As a result if Reaganomics, we’ve also had the booms, busts, and bubbles that were minimized under mostly Democratic Presidents, and even Ike.
    It’s an ‘inconvenient truth.’ You may not like it. But it is the truth.

  32. Well, guys; you haven’t convinced me, but it’s been a good debate. Thank you for your thoughts and ideas. Oh, and thank you for mostly keeping it civil. A good clean debate makes people think; acrimonious debate doesn’t convince anyone.

    The idea of borrowing trillions of dollars to ‘inject’ into the economy strikes me as being similar to borrowing a year’s wages to pay my bills while I’m unemployed; you can only do it for a while before it collapses. It fails if your timing is a little off in getting another job, or another source of income. And then, of course, you have to pay all that interest, making it even harder to dig out.

    Having said that, you folks may be right and I may be wrong. In fact, I actually hope you are right since the present administration is betting the farm – my farm – on it.

    But I fear that I am right.

    One thing for sure, we are all going to find out together. Let’s check back in a few years and see who was right – if we still have the internet and computers and stuff… and freedom to use them.

    I wish you well. If, in a few years, I find that I was wrong, I will admit it on my own blogs. If you are wrong, I hope you are big enough to do the same. Either way, it is for sure going to be an interesting, and probably painful, ride.

    Best regards,

    -Popgun

    • But I fear that I am right.

      Since actual economists say otherwise, I’m not too concerned. Our biggest danger right now is that worrying about the deficit will hold back stimulus efforts, which (again) according to real economists (who are not being paid by wealthy family trusts to say otherwise) would be a huge mistake.

    • The idea of borrowing trillions of dollars to ‘inject’ into the economy strikes me as being similar to borrowing a year’s wages to pay my bills while I’m unemployed

      That’s a poor analogy, because just paying off bills doesn’t provide you with more income in the future. A better analogy would be borrowing money to build something that provides more income in the future, so that you can pay off the loan and make a profit. The stimulus money is an investment in people and infrastructure that should pay off eventually.

  33. Popgun – think of it this way. Spending money and investing money are not the same things. Spending money defines itself. Investing money – like in opening a(or updating an existing) business, an education… – will return itself and then some.

    Investing borrowed money to realize future gains, which most if not all economists agree is a good thing, whereas spending borrowed money from which no future gains will be realized is not a good thing.

  34. And Bush says…” After all, It’s your money”. And the morons let out with a chorus of “Yeah”, it’s our money!”.

    After all, why shouldn’t I be able to take a huge tax deduction for my $100,000. donations. Or have to pay a 55% inheritance tax on my over a million dollar estate. Even though that kind of money will never apply to me personally in a lifetime..it’s still my money and I don’t want Obama to get it because it’s my money.

  35. I never did get an answer regarding the egregious, purely-wasted debt incurred by G.W. Bush. That’s already been proven an immense mistake… and yet, no admission of “We were wrong.”

    Crocodile tears, a ticking clock, and Capt. Hook seems awfully nervous these days. I don’t believe this gambit is going to turn out well for the GOP at all, and I think we’ve seen that they already know it.

  36. joanr16 – As Joe Biden said about 7 years ago (I’m paraphrasing) “Mark my words, Republicans are hell-bent on starving the federal government as a way of getting rid of any and all social programs (many dating back to the New Deal era of FDR) and any debt or deficit incurred under their majority will be designed to do just that.” (I think of it as a vendetta, a campaign of vengence if you will.)

  37. Popgun, you said:
    I think what the Republicans would like to do is feed these people with some of the fat stored in the federal government. The biggest growth industry in the United States is the federal government, which is ultimately ENTIRELY taxpayer funded. Let’s cut it back a bit so we can afford to help those people without making our grandkids pay for it.

    What exactly does that first sentence mean? It sounds like simple thrift, a virtue, but it does not say where the fat is.

    The generalization that the government is “fat” is too vague to make the statement useful/meaningful.

    And of course the government is entirely taxpayer funded. Governments are. That is a statement of the obvious.

    Cut what “a bit”? Generalization again.

    The GOP talking points about our grandchildren paying for spending today is a little worn, isn’t it? After all, our grandparents could tell you what happened when we confused thrift with economic policy and dived deep into the really big recession.

  38. Hi, Bill;

    Well, I guess I could find a list of federal programs that I feel we could do without and spend a month or two going down it marking them for you. Or you could do your own research. I know liberals generally believe in big government being the answer to everything. I personally believe in minimal government, for a number of reasons that I don’t have time or space to go into at the moment.

    I do know that whatever I say, you will rationalize it away. But elsewhere I have worked out the math (based on my own research into federal employee wage rates and my own income tax returns, as well as published data) and on average, it is fairly simple to observe that each individual hired by the government takes the entire tax load of somewhere between 8 and 12 average taxpayers, for their salaries, benefit and overhead.

    That is before the government actually DOES anything.

    Pure logic dictates that government is a drag on the economy, and more government is a bigger drag on the economy – and yet the federal government is one of our major growth industries right now, directly as a result of Obama’s policies. Yes, he declared a ‘freeze’ – right after adding huge amounts to budgets across the board. At the same time, tax revenue is dropping because of the nearly 10% unemployment, and so many businesses going under.

    I’m not against necessary government. BUT, whatever government there is, should be truly necessary. My own criteria for this is: government activity should be restricted to only those things the states need to do in concert; such as establish consistent traffic laws, maintain a national military, and handle international relations, to name a few.

    I realize you probably don’t see it that way, but this is so inherently obvious to me that it is hard for me to understand your viewpoint, if it is different. Not flinging stones, I’m being honest with you. Justify unnecessary government to me, if you can; I’d be interested in what you have to say, to see if I can understand your thinking.

    And, yes, I made a statement that the government is entirely taxpayer funded. A recent poll that I saw showed that roughly 30% of liberals don’t understand that fact. I’m glad that you do, but I did not assume that.

    You accuse me of generalization, but come on, Bill – I was making a general statement. If you want details, you can do your own research. I have.

    Look, here’s where I am at: Every damned dime the government spends ultimately comes out of my pocket, or the pocket of somebody just like me. And that is why I come down hard on Nancy Pelosi and anybody else that wastes money in the government – either party, I don’t care. Whether they waste it on useless programs or by hiring people they really don’t need – I don’t care. Nancy Pelosi is an easy target because some of the records have become public. Just consider her a stand-in for ANY federal employee that spends other people’s money like it is water. Yes, it makes me angry!

    That’s my money and your money they are spending. All I want is to get my money’s worth.

    So, feel free to criticize this post if you wish. Pick it apart. Whatever. If you are an honest person and bend even a bit of thought to it, I would bet that you will agree with me at least in principle.

    Having said that, I will respect your opinion, if you return the favor. I would be interested in any reasoned response.

    Have a nice day!

    -Popgun

    • Well, I guess I could find a list of federal programs that I feel we could do without and spend a month or two going down it marking them for you.

      I’m sure it’s the same list we’ve all heard many times. You want to get rid of all the “entitlements,” right? And we progressives think that’s fiscally foolish and could lead to bigger costs of many sorts down the road. But as we’ve all been engaged in this argument several hundred times, so let’s not go there again.

      Or you could do your own research.

      We have.

      I know liberals generally believe in big government being the answer to everything.

      That is not true. That is not true. That is not true. It’s a talking point that has been hammered into your head by the Right Wing Noise Machine, and it isn’t true.

      I think government should be as small, and as local, as practicable. The difference is not that I “believe in” big government, but that you and I disagree on what is “practicable.” Certainly, there are many activities that should be left to the private sector as much as possible, but there are many other, very necessary, activities that would not be done unless government does them. Ideally, the public and private sector support each other, even while maintaining some independence from each other. There could be no economy without government, you know, beyond a simple village bartering system. And government supports the legal and physical infrastructure needed to make business possible. But a big reason government hasn’t been working well for the past several years is that Big Corporations and interest groups have way too much influence.

      I personally believe in minimal government, for a number of reasons that I don’t have time or space to go into at the moment.

      I’m sure we’ve all heard those reasons many times already.

      Pure logic dictates that government is a drag on the economy, and more government is a bigger drag on the economy

      No, that is “pure ideology.” “Pure logic” says no such thing. Take a night course in basic economic theory someday; I don’t have time to tutor you. And if the best you can do by way of argument is just declare that your cockamamie ideas are “logical,” please get lost.

      And, yes, I made a statement that the government is entirely taxpayer funded. A recent poll that I saw showed that roughly 30% of liberals don’t understand that fact.

      And I’m sure somebody pulled that “data” out of his ass. Of course, a little sliver of federal revenue comes from things like sale of timber and various leases, and I don’t think you can call those “taxes,” so strictly speaking it could be argued that the government is not entirely taxpayer funded. However, the fact that a government receives nearly all of its revenue from taxes isn’t exactly earth-shaking news. Yet you keep repeating it as if it’s some kind of revelation.

      Look, Popcorn, I generally don’t let right wingers post comments because all they want to do is repeat the lies they’ve been told about liberalism (such as we “believe in” big government or “believe in” raising taxes) and aren’t willing to keep and open mind to hear what we really think. And you’re turning out to be just like the rest of them. Less vulgar, but just as brainwashed. And that statement about this alleged poll shows me you are just here to slander us and show off your assumed superior intelligence as you babble the same package of lies and propaganda from the rightie hive mind we’ve all heard for years and year.

      Show me a rightie who has learned to think for himself, and I’ll show you a former rightie.

      Whatever you want to say, we’ve all heard it before. Many, many times. I’m not in the mood.

      Your basic problem is that you don’t see the interconnection of things. All you see is that the government is taking money away from you to give to somebody else. You are blind to the bigger picture. You don’t see the countless ways you are being benefited, even if indirectly, by the programs you complain about, and how it would hurt you, sooner or later, if some aspect of our population or infrastructure or environment were allowed to rot.

      I never support a government program just because it would help somebody. I support a government program when I see it will benefit the entire United States of America in some way. Including you. If, for example, a stimulus program gets the economy fired up again, that benefits you. Even if none of the tax money is given to you directly, the program still benefits you. And if the economy continues to slide into the toilet, that hurts you. We’re all in this together. Don’t you see that? Are you really that blind?

      Don’t bother answering. Good bye.

  39. “I know liberals generally believe in big government being the answer to everything”

    Hey Popgun take your prepackaged FAUX news dimwitted teabagger talking points and shove them up your ass. How is anyone suppose to take anything you say seriously when you start your comment with such an obvious wing-nut talking point. Have an original thought and post it otherwise your wasting your time, I see a twit filter soon in your future.

  40. Two things:

    1. Maha, your comment is why most of us are here. We see things as integrated.
    2. As soon as he was called to account for the substance behind his statements, Popgun decided it was my job to defend them for him. As if.

  41. I think popgun is still wet behind the ears…anybody whose been out there and surviving( basic) knows that you can’t live on unemployment..it just slows the rate toward destitution.

  42. Pingback: The Mahablog

  43. This was my favorite line:
    “government activity should be restricted to only those things the states need to do in concert; such as establish consistent traffic laws, maintain a national military, and handle international relations, to name a few.”
    What would this country need international relations for, I wonder? All the US would be is one huge interstate, with off ramps, all policed by the military. From what, and to what end? What foreign nation would want to deal with a country devoted only to roads, and protecting those roads.
    To be fair, he did say, “to name a few.” I guess I’ll have to wonder forever what those other ‘Randian’ few things would be. “Popgun” is done shooting his blanks here…

  44. I’m a few days late to this particular party, but I think I can construct the “reasoned response” Popgun seeks. First, however, I would like to ask him why he doesn’t post a link to his blog(s), where he presumably explains the facts of life to liberals and other head-in-the-sand types.

    Government is not a “drag” on the economy. It is a component of the economy, and an important one. Without some regulation–if only things like contract law and enforcement of rules against fraud and theft–no free market can function. To the extent that it does, it relies on agreements about the rules, and some authority must exist to keep those in line who flout them. Try playing Monopoly with a child who does not understand the rules and simply takes money from the bank at will. It is a pointless exercise.

    Government performs many other important economic functions. Besides the provision of obvious public goods which no free market will ever provide efficiently (police, defense, roads, bridges), government prevents the hoarding of wealth by the powerful and lucky. This keeps money moving by placing a minimum amount of it in the hands of people who must spend it now. Maha is right to point out that no evidence shows that wealthy people create businesses because they have more money. Most businesses start because someone sees a need and wants to become wealthy. To be sure, investors provide the money to facilitate this, but it is not clear that this works better with a small number of super-wealthy lenders than it does with a broad swath of the population each contributing small amounts. Government facilitates this as well by helping the poor show their preferences.

    The goal should not be to minimize government as a matter of principle because of an ideological belief that government is always and everywhere inefficient. We should endeavor to figure out which things government can do more efficiently than markets and set it about these tasks. Among these are the obvious defense and policing, but others, like health care and safety nets, spring immediately to mind. If we belief that a minimum standard of living, and indeed life itself, comes with membership in our exclusive club, we should demand that government make these things happen.

    And one more thing: our current crisis does not arise from popular fear that taxes must soon rise because of deficits, and they therefore must save in preparation for paying them. We have two problems right now, one systemic and one cyclical. The system-wide disparity between the wealthy and the poor, and the shrinking of the middle class, puts too much wealth in the hands of people who never spend any appreciable amount of it on stuff. Too many of our citizens simply lack the resources necessary to reach a standard of living which keeps demand high. And the cyclical downturn in housing markets, combined with widespread reliance on consumer debt, has further shrunk the middle class and left too many people with nothing, exacerbating the gap between the rich and poor. Demand is low because people have no money, and they hoard what they have to pay the Visa Man, not predicted future taxes. The fix for this is to put money in the hands of workers, and since the Mighty Free Market has not efficiently done this over the last 20 years, it makes sense for government to step in.

  45. R. Stantons Scott,
    Would it also not stand to reason that GOD FORBID!, a tax increase at this time spur economic growth?
    Right now, in a stagnant, to potentially deflationary, economy, where the wealthy are incented to sit on their ‘ass’ets, rather than invest them, a 3 to 7% increase might motivate them to get the money moving.
    When you realize that the money you have lying around will be taxed at a higher level, wouldn’t a higher tax on the Galt’s make them want to try to make more by creating jobs, where ‘your’ taxes are passed onto the the workers when they pay their taxes and you get the profits from expansion?
    This seems like such a basic point, that maybe I’m terribly wrong. But, weren’t the high taxes from the ’30’s to the early ’80’s largely responsible for that growth? People paying 90% (realistically, a lot lower) of their income in taxes were incented to go out and create more to do more and get more. Today, who would try to invest tax cuts into a stagnant economy by expansion, and creating jobs, where there is great risk, when you can sit around and make a comfortable living off of what you have? And then, when the economy improves, maybe start to move your ‘ass’et’s.
    Tax the rich! Hell, it’s worked before – and the example is the period of our nations greatest economic growth. We know the alternative doesn’t work. That’s been proven over the last 3+ decades.
    Let’s give ‘Tax the Rich” another chance! Hell, they may find they like it more than the alternative, which is ‘Eat the Rich!”

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