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Where It Leads


The big drive to save money is on.  I'm all for it  --  as long as we're saving it in the right places.  That would be, for example, bloated nanny state entitlements, which we have known for years we can't afford and shouldn't be handing out anyway.  (The lesson my parents taught was that you make your own way and pay your own bills. And yes, I know, I'm an anachronism).

Still, there's broad agreement, I would hope, that we'd cut back on a lot before we'd cut back on the first obligation of government, that being to secure the physical safety of the citizens and prosecute those who jeopardize it.

So much for that, at least in Topeka, Kansas.  Want to belt your wife around?  Have at it.

The cynicism of liberals is just astounding.  For how many decades have they told us we could, and should, spend without limit?  Now they say they've discovered frugality  --  only it's a frugality aimed at programs they never liked to begin with, like the police and prosecutors.  The actual cause of our impending bankruptcy  --  entitlement addiction  --  will go unaddressed while women get beaten up.

This is where it leads.  And this is only a preview. 



Or we could just not a priori exclude the possibility of paying more taxes if we've decided that we really want a strong national defense, robust law enforcement, sufficient prison space and staffing, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, other entitlements (maybe a public option on health care down the road God forbid), mass transit, decent roads, decent schools, clean streets, stringent food and drug inspection, a secure and fenced Mexican border, public libraries and so on.

Even the taxes Harry Reid now proposes (on the 0.02% of the population he most despises) wouldn't come close to paying for the public spending that goes on in this country. Not close.

We are fourteen and a-half TRILLION in debt. We are, in other words, bankrupt. The federal government borrows 40 cents of every dollar it spends. This is reckless, wildly irresponsible and directly suggestive of exactly what I called it -- an addiction.

You can't afford everything you want. Neither can I and neither can the country. Simply taxing and borrowing more and more FEEDS the spending addiction, which is the opposite of curing it. It's like a heroin addict who thinks the way to relieve his misery is just one more hit. In the short run, he's right.

In the long run, he's dead.

It simply has to stop.

When I was a child, my parents gave me an allowance. It wasn't much. In order to buy anything other than trinkets, I had to save. When I wanted something I could not yet afford, I'd ask for the seven year-old's version of a bailout. The answer was always the same: "When you've saved enough to get it, you can have it. Until then, learn to do without."

The phrase, "Learn to do without" might be the most important discipline my parents ever taught me.

It's too obvious for argument that our country has become an entitlement leviathon. We can't afford it. Time to learn to do without.

P.S. If hoodlums and thugs could learn to do without, the amount of property crime in this country would shrink to next to nothing.

Unfortunately, there is very little discipline being imposed by our over-indulgent parents today. The ability to delay gratification is one of life's most important lessons. It is in short supply in the best of families and nowhere to be found in the toxic culture of the "streets."

Hmmm. As I recall, Bill Clinton left office wirh a budget surplus. The huge budget deficit we now face is the result of three factors: (1) enormous tax cuts Bush proposed, and now continued under the Obama Administration, that we could ill afford: (2) waging two wars that the last administration didn't want to pay for; and (3) a massive recession and contraction of the economy that resulted from the ill-conceived deregulatory policies sadly embraced by both parties. make no mistake though, we moved in the right direction under Clinton and in a very wrong direction under Bush, and now everyone is struggling. Blaming liberals for the budget deficit is just historically illiterate. I agree that what the Topeka authorities have done is beyond irresponsible though. Find someplace else to cut, anyplace else--you can't drop domestic violence prosecutions.

And as for liberals allegedly counselling spending without limit, wasn't it that infamous liberal Dick Cheney who told us "deficits don't matter?"

Could you enlighten me about the logic you're using that says when a conservative speaks up for spending without limit, that means that liberals do NOT speak up for spending without limit?

This should be good.

Do you consider Bill Clinton a liberal? He cut the number of federal employees by 380,000. The fact of the matter is that from 1946 to end of year 2009, the average increase in the federal debt was 4.8 percent under a Democratic president and 8.2 percent under a Republican president.

For all of the concern I hear from the current GOP and conservatives about deficits, they seem interested only in reducing spending--solutions that raise revenue are completely off the table.

Obama (who I would imagine you consider a liberal), proposed a package of deep spending cuts and modest tax raises as part of a grand bargain to cut the deficit during the GOP manufactured debt ceiling crisis, and the House Republicans rejected it. During a Presidential debate in August, the GOP candidates uniformly said that they would reject a package of deficit reduction that included $1 of tax increases for every $10 in spending cuts.

And as for the crisis in Topeka, if the GOP in Congress weren't rejecting aid to states and localities out of hand, perhaps the community would have the funds to bring the domestic violence prosecutions you and I both feel are so necessary.

Since you didn't answer, I'll ask again: Could you enlighten me about the logic you're using that says when a conservative speaks up for spending without limit, that means that liberals do NOT speak up for spending without limit?

Thanks so much for filling us in on what was happening in 1946. You might as well fill us in on what happened when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Barack Obama is the President of the United States. The national debt has increased by over FOUR TRILLION DOLLARS on his watch. This is in less than three years. For more than two-thirds of that time, he has a fully Democratic Congress, and instead of putting in place desperately needed curbs on entitlement spending, he added yet more of it, which even at this early date is coming apart at the seems because we can't afford it.

Does any of this concern you the least little bit?

Does Obama even approach accepting any responsibility for the financial sinkhole that's expanding astronomically on his watch? When was that? Got any quotations of his you'd care to share in which he accepts responsibility?

Does the man who claims to be a uniter do much uniting by his hateful attacks, now launched every other day, against successful (and therefore well-off) people who have done him no harm, and who pay a grossly inordinate share of taxes as things stand right now?

The problem we have is a spending and borrowing addiction, and that, therefore, is what most urgently needs to be addressed. Do you disagree? Do you think we can just keep borrowing ad infinitum? Is that how you run your finances?

Well--maybe if the GOP stepped up to accept that Grand Bargain the horrible liberal Obama proposed, we'd be better off, but that isn't going to happen now is it?

I agree that in the long term we are going to need to make alot of major changes. Over the long term we are going to have to raise revenue, alot of it, by ending the Bush tax cuts, and I mean all of them, restructuring entitlements, cutting defense drastically, not engaging in war with Iran, despite the entreaties of conservatives like those I saw in two of your other posts, curbing the growth of health care costs in ways free market fundamentalists are unlikely to be very satisfied with, and a host of other changes. Among other things, in ther long run, its entirely unsustainable to spend double on per capita health care costs what the rest of the developed world pays and yet have huge numbers of uninsured.

And if the economy doesn't get off its back in the meantime, that's going to be doubly or triply hard, so in the short term you may well have to increase debt by raising spending and lowering taxes, as McCain advisor Mark Zandi and a host of other liberal and conservative economists have proposed. I can't borrow at 0% interest, and I'm not trying to get an economy that is on its back up and running.

And since when does having people earning a million dollars a year pay the same rate as their secretaries constitute a hateful attack. Since when is raising rates to the same level as they were in the Clinton Administration constitute class warfare? perhaps you agree with hedge fund billionaire Steve Schwartzman that making him pay ordinary income tax rates on his carried interest is equivalent to the Nazis invading Poland. I don't happen to.

And the ideas I see coming from the GOP--like Paul Ryan's scheme for turning Medicare into a voucher program and lowering taxes on the wealthiest seem hare brained and cruel to me. I have represented previously wealthy individuals driven into medical bankruptcy by the lack of insurance. I can hardly imagine what will happen to senior citizens, turned loose into the individual insurance market, who have to try to purchase insurance with a voucher after they find they have cancer or diabetes.

You're a master at stepping around questions you'd prefer not to answer, but I have a few more (and some repeats) anyway.

1. Does Obama ever accept responsibility for the financial sinkhole that's expanding astronomically on his watch? When was that? Got any quotations of his you'd care to share in which he accepts responsibility?

2. Does the man who claims to be a uniter do much uniting by his hateful attacks, now launched every other day, against successful (and therefore well-off) people who have done him no harm, and who pay a grossly inordinate share of taxes as things stand right now?

3. How is it that it's only off in the future by-and-by that we have to cut back, but today we'll spend, spend, spend? The reason we constantly overspend is not that JUST THIS ONE TIME we need to stimulate the economy; the reason, as you could not possibly help knowing, is that we're addicted to spending. You cannot look over the past 50 years and draw any other conclusion.

4. Given that, don't you realize that being for more spending now is the equivalent of saying that the way to cure an addict's pain is to give him another hit? Is that the right way to deal with addiction? Or is it just the gutless, and fast, route to death?

5. The only time I remember in the last 20 years when we ran a surplus was in the last six years of Clinton's administration. Did you know that it's not the executive branch that sets spending levels, but the legislative branch? Could you tell me which party controlled the legislative branch during those six years?

6. Do you think it's a healthy thing for the country that half the population pays no federal income taxes, and is carried only by the other half, and particular the top ten percent, who pay a wildly disproportionate share? When half the country doesn't pay income tax, what stake do they have in controlling spending?

7. So you don't want to engage in a war with Iran. Who does? But what's your suggestion when Iran makes war on us? Ignore it? Let them kill our people (and/or foreign diplomats on our soil) at will? Impose the seventh -- or is it the seventy-seventh? -- round of feckless "sanctions" that have had zilch effect on Iran's behavior? (Actually, I'm wrong about that. They have affected Iran's behavior. They have emboldened it, by showing that we aren't serious about forcing them to act like a civilized country). Think you can bluff them with "talks" when they know full well you're too weak and afraid to do anything BUT talk? When has that ever worked?

8. What specific evidence do you have that anything we've done has slowed Iran's development of The Bomb? Do you propose to just let them build it? And what effects will that have? A Mideast nuclear arms race? Wanna guess how that winds up? Maybe the second Holocaust -- except one that takes five minutes instead of five years? Would you risk that if you were head of Israel?

9. When you say you want to "curb health care costs" in ways free marketeers would dislike, what specifically are you talking about? Government (i.e., political) health care rationing? Death panels?

10. Do you not understand that when you "raise revenue" (your euphemism for confiscatory taxation of productive people), the only thing that happens is that you drain it from the wealth-producing sector to shift it over to become the plaything of the political sector? And that the political sector produces zero wealth? Are you really so naive as to think that you'll have a more prosperous country by taking money away from the people who produce prosperity?

This is alot of questions, so forgive me if I answer it in several responses:

1. Has Obama taken responsibility for the deficit sinkhole we find ourselves in? I don't know. The more critical question is whether he is responsible for it, and interestingly, the question actually is NO. James Fallows printed a graph that showed where the longterm deficit would be without the unpaid for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush era taxcuts, TARP first instituted under Bush and economic downturn and the answer is, there wouldn't be one. The stimulus is almost a non-factor in the equation.

2, 6, 10. I know stockbrokers may cry real tears at our mean old President and how hateful he is when he calls for them to pay Clinton era tax rates, but the basic premise of your claim that the wealthy are overpaying their fair share of taxes is quite ludicrous. As the following graph shows, the total taxes paid by each income group are quite similar to their share of total income. what is remarkable is how little progressivity there is in total taxes in this country. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2010/04/do_the_poor_really_pay_no_taxe.html. Long term, of course, we can't afford to have taxes at their lowest level since 1958. http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/taxes/2011-05-05-tax-cut-record-low_n.htm i deny that the Clinton era rates were confiscatory or so burdensome that they would actually make Bill O'Reilly and his ilk "Go Galt" as he recently threatened to do.

3-5. Giveaways during fat times are frankly inexcusable. That's why Alan Greenspan's talk in 2001 about the horrors of having a budget surplus was so inexcusable: the funds should have been used to pay down the deficit, not to give away tax breaks to people who didn't need them. http://blogs.wsj.com/marketbeat/2011/09/13/same-alan-greenspan-who-warned-against-budget-surplus-now-warns-about-deficit/ Al Gore's re-inventing government program and the Clinton tax hikes contributed significantly to the balanced budget. I'm not enough of an expert, and neither are you, to say what part is attributable to the executive and what part is attributable to Congress in the overall factors that led to the budget deficit, particularly since a booming economy played a large role in the surpluses as well. I do know that two unpaid for wars, Medicare Part D and the Bush tax cuts contributed mightily to our current deficits though. However, the government actually does need to respond to crises as they occur, even crises that effect the unemployed and contracting the economy during a downturn is pure folly. It is equivalent to tell an obese man in bed after suffering a heart attack that he better get up and exercise right now.

I'll respond to Iran and health care tomorrow.

7-8 As for Iran, I can say something for the very first time: "I agree with Federalist on this." As he responded to you, there are no good options on this, just less bad ones, and bith the Bush and Obama administrations have chose the less bad option: multi-lateral sanctions and diplomacy over the kind of disastrous "preventive war" we waged in Iraq. There were plenty of good voices on this from the Republican side before the last invasion: Richard Armitage and Brent Scowcroft come to mind. Its a shame we didn't listen to them before we incurred thousands of dead and tens of thousands of dead US servicemen, tens of thousands of Iraqi dead and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis displaced and over a trillion dollars in costs. With reference to this deficit discussion, you'll find that a trillion here, a trillion there, pretty soon you are talking about real money! War with Iran, a country that is much larger in terms of size, population and geographical and political influence, would make the Iraq war look like Sunday in the Park with George.

9. Finally, as for health care costs, well I hope that Atul Gawande is right, and that the myriad number of efforts at cost containment in the Affordable Care Act really do reign in prices, provided that the efforts of conservatives to reverse it judicially or legislatively don't succeed. http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2010/04/05/100405taco_talk_gawande
If they don't work though, we have a genuine crisis in health care costs in this country, not just in govenment health care costs, but in health care costs generally, which will only worsen as the baby boomers retire. And just shifting the rising costs to individuals, as Paul Ryan has proposed in a bill the GOP controlled House passed, is totally unworkable. We really can't afford to pay double per capita what the rest of the developed world does in exchange for worse health care outcomes and tens of millions of uninisured, many because they just can't afford it. So yes, if the ACA doesn't contain costs, we will need a single payer system, no matter how much the health insurance company, pharmaceutical companies and conservatives on this country howl about it.

Just one for now (it's midnight in the East).

"Has Obama taken responsibility for the deficit sinkhole we find ourselves in? I don't know."

Of course you know; you're claiming ignorance because you don't like the truthful answer but are too honest (and too smart) to lie about it.

Not one time has this President, who had Congress all his way for 2/3 of the time he's been there, taken responsibility for the hellacious mess he's made of things. As I was saying (and as you tiptoe past), the national debt has grown by more than FOUR TRILLION while Dear Leader has been in office. Unemployment is up very significantly since he became President and has stayed up for longer than at any time since the Great Depression. He says there's growth, but all you have to do is look around you to know it's a lie.

Obama thinks he can campaign (at public expense and on the million-dollar bus) and drum up support for Stimulus II (or is it III?) by his hateful -- that's H-A-T-E-F-U-L -- attacks on the wealthy for their sins -- sins in his envy-driven world, anyway -- of making a lot of money and paying their legal, and quite hefty, taxes on it.

What a complete joke, and a dishonest one at that. One problem is that it's just vastly unseemly for the President of the United States to single out one extremely small group that has done nothing wrong, and plenty right, for his venom. Is this your version of being a "uniter?" But the main problem is that he inveigles the public to think that the real problem is THE BOOGEY MAN -- the BOOGEY MAN RICH PEOPLE, that is.

Government by Boogey Man demagoguery is unworthy and dangerous, as I'm quite sure you know. What's next? Kristallnacht?

He does the Boogey Man routine while soft-peddling what really needs to be done, to wit, a massive scaling back of the overpromised and underfunded welfare state entitlements that will eat us alive. It's all well and good for people of Obama's left wing ideology to think that Limitless Government Largesse Can Take Care of Everybody Because That Would Be Nice. But wealth is not produced by such "thoughts," nor by airheaded, meaningless slogans like "Hope and Change." It is produced by work and taking charge of and responsibility for one's own life.

Still, I suppose, it all makes sense in an Occupy Wall Street kind of way. Why should Obama expect anyone to take responsibility for his behavior when he, Dear Leader, won't take a lick of responsibility for his?

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