I’m Betting on Grover

In the wake of their overwhelming defeat last week (at least relative to expectations a few months ago), Republicans are wondering how to improve their position in the next election. John Boehner has apparently told his caucus to “get in line” and support negotiations with the president over the “fiscal cliff” and the national debt. More shockingly, The Hill reported rumblings that Grover Norquist’s stranglehold over tax policy may be weakening, with one Democratic aide even saying, “As far as [Norquist’s] ability to sway votes, it’s gone.” Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge forbids lawmakers from voting for legislation that would either raise tax rates or increase tax revenues; if Republicans are questioning the pledge, that might pave the way for a bipartisan compromise to increase taxes.

Norquist’s response: “Nobody’s actually broken the pledge. That doesn’t keep me up at night.” He’s right not to worry. He has history on his side.

Let’s take a brief look at American political history since the 1970s, courtesy of the incomparable xkcd:

That picture shows the composition of the House of Representatives from the late 1970s to the 2010 election. (The full picture goes all the way back to 1789.) The colors indicate ideological positions as measured by DW-NOMINATE scores. Bright red is center-right, medium red is right, and dark red is far right. The major pipes feeding in from the right are net increases resulting from elections: note for example the wave elections of 1994 and 2010.

The modern conservative movement was founded on a marriage of principle and pragmatism. Back in the 1980s, Newt Gingrich realized that ideological purity could be a winning political strategy: by holding out for small government and low taxes, he attracted far-right groups that had been ignored by both parties for decades as well as rich donors who were looking for a new place to invest their money. His fundraising prowess, organizational discipline, cultivation of talk radio, and networking with grass-roots conservative groups made possible the Republican sweep of 1994. Over the next decade, the increasing influence of key conservative power brokers continued the purge of moderate Republicans and their replacement by extremists (note the disappearance of the bright red). (For the full story, see chapter 3 of White House Burning.)

But the key thing to note is what happened when the conservatives lost, notably in 2006 and 2008. One possible response would have been to realize that the party had become too extreme and tack back toward the center. We know that didn’t happen, as illustrated by the dark red influx of 2010. Between principle and pragmatism, Republicans chose principle.

Why do Republicans behave this way? There are many reasons. The funding that they need to win elections comes largely from a small number of extremely conservative power brokers such as the Koch brothers. Widespread gerrymandering means that elections are settled at the primary stage, where the power of far-right groups (Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks, etc.) places a premium on ideological purity. (For whatever reason, the trend toward the extreme has been much weaker among Democrats.)

The anti-tax platform also possesses a self-reinforcing simplicity. The vision of small government and lower taxes is clear and compelling in the abstract (even if it could be devastating in practice). The “no new taxes” pledge is trivially easy to monitor and, once broken, provides a convenient bludgeon for a primary opponent to use. It’s not a position that easily accommodates compromise.

Finally, if you take the long view, there’s no reason for conservatives to back away from their absolutist anti-tax stance. So they lose an election or two. What happens? When it comes to taxes, Democratic majorities at best hold the line against further tax cuts. After their sweep in 2008, President Obama and his congressional allies passed a couple of modest tax increases to pay for Obamacare (and one of those, the excise tax on Cadillac plans, is one that conservative economists profess to like), but also extended the Bush tax cuts and added a few more tax cuts of their own; now Obama wants to make more than 80 percent of the Bush tax cuts permanent, and last summer he offered up his own proposals for entitlement cuts. When the Republicans return to power, as they inevitably will, they can just pick up where they left off.

Sure, some Republicans will say that they don’t take orders from Grover Norquist. But for the last eighteen years, the hardline anti-tax position has been a huge winner for Republicans. Given that Democrats have shown exactly zero ability to punish them for it, I can’t see any reason why they should change their ways now.

If there is some sort of compromise in the next couple of months, it’s going to be one that Republicans can frame as a tax cut, not an out-and-out violation of the Grover pledge; one scenario is that the year ends with no deal, tax rates go up, and then Obama and the Republicans agree to cut them. Because at the end of the day, Peter Steiner is still right.

47 responses to “I’m Betting on Grover

  1. Nate Silver must have an algorithm, etc that calculates the probabilities of what the President calls a “balanced” solution. Or could this be solved with just one differential equation??

    Here in this whitepaper the variables and functions will be set as follows:
    G=Grover
    R=Dickhead Republican (and in this whitepaper we will assume all Republicans are dickheads, not an absolute truth, but the difference from reality does NOT throw off the numbers enough to reduce predictive merits of our equation)
    N=nonresult due to Republican dickheadedness

    G + R = N
    Grover is an A$$hole + All Republicans are dickheads= such and such result of a nonresult.

  2. It was interesting to read the article, and I ordered the book, White House Burning. I also read the “Moses H.” comment, and I wonder how immature the audience is to this blog. Is this representative? Moses sounds like an angry, vindictive, small-minded person with too much free time.

  3. If Obama and the Democrats go over the fiscal cliff in a game of chicken, couldn’t they then go to house Republicans and offer them a new tax cut plan? Would that not avoid breaking the Norquist pledge by moving the goal posts back to the Clinton era tax rates, and then they could go ahead and negotiate how best to cut tax rates and close loopholes from that starting point?

    Also, what about the idea of capping deductions? Both Romney/Ryan and Robert Reich are for some limit on how much you should be able to claim for the mortgage interest and charitable contributions deductions, so it really seems like a way forward.

  4. Glad that Speaker Boehner has more than just golf balls, and can finally stand up to his fellow Republicans about getting some stuff done! The future of the Republican Party depends on it!

  5. this comment directed @ commenter JDF
    Angry??–yes; too much free time??–probably

    Small minded and vindictive???–it’s tough to be objective looking at one’s self on those, but I’m afraid compared to your average Republican, I’m just a toddler using training wheels. I’ve been watching the archetype of vindictiveness and small-mindedness, and still haven’t mastered it like Republicans and Teabaggers.

    I promise to keep trying for you though.

  6. for JDF
    I’m also taking notes on mastery in vindictiveness from Mitch McConnell, Boehner, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham:

  7. You want to know what real vindictiveness is?? It’s a couple old, grumpy white bast*rds who just got their A$$ kicked in an election, going after a black woman, who got a Truman Scholarship at Stanford, was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford (not an easy task for someone from any background), has her Phd, served in the State Department under Madeleine Albright (one of the sharpest and best Sec. of State this country has ever had), and has recently served at the U.N. in a stellar capacity. Going after her for the deaths of 4 men who she had no connection to whatsoever, THAT is vindictiveness.

  8. If I was President Obama, I would nominate Susan Rice, and WELCOME this debate. After the 2012 elections, how many more black and female votes would the Republicans like to throw away??? Let’s see where John McCain and the redneck lawyer from South Carolina want to go with this and where they think it’s going to get them. If I was Susan Rice, I would defer all of Lindsey Graham’s embassy questions to Republican Jason Chaffetz:

  9. This from a report by Scott Lilly, of “Center for American Progress”. I lifted the last 3 paragraphs verbatim from his report:

    “But even more inexcusable are the repeated and deep cuts made to embassy security and construction. Thousands of our diplomatic personnel are serving overseas in facilities that do not come close to meeting the minimal requirements for security established by the so-called Inman commission’s report on overseas diplomatic security to President Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state more than two decades ago.
    Nor is it likely to change anytime soon. In the 2011 continuing resolution, Congress, at the insistence of the House of Representatives, slashed the president’s request for embassy security and construction and forced another cut in fiscal year 2012. Altogether Congress has eliminated $296 million from embassy security and construction in the last two years with additional cuts in other State Department security accounts.
    Sequestration required under the Budget Control Act of 2011 will take more than $100 million more out of the program in 2013 if the current Congress does not overcome the impasse over budget cuts and tax revenues by yearend. Those cuts are largely the result of the draconian and unrealistically low budget caps placed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) on all discretionary spending, falling particularly hard on the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee with responsibility for embassy security.
    This is not the kind of treatment our dedicated government servants and men and women in uniform protecting them deserve.”

    It can be read in it’s entirety here: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/budget/news/2012/09/18/38352/diplomats-national-security-and-the-house-budget/

    Also from “The Hill” journalism by Julian Pecquet:
    “Under so-called sequestration, which Ryan and many other Republicans voted for, funding for diplomatic and consular programs would be cut by about $1 billion next year, according to a Sept. 14 analysis by the White House budget office. That includes a $129 million cut to the “Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance” budget category and another $2 million cut to the “Protection of Foreign Missions and Officials” category, for a total of $131 million. The figure is expected to be roughly the same for 2014, because the sequestration cuts remain at roughly the same level throughout the decade.”
    Entire story at Link here: http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/middle-east-north-africa/260673-obama-camp-ryan-budget-would-have-cut-embassy-security

    This is what Republicans can’t seem to understand. A lot of the things government provides, like security to embassy workers is there FOR A REASON.

    We know this much though, if there was a bill to cut funding for John McCain’s overseas security detail, or cut funding for Lindsey Graham’s overseas security detail, or legislation to cut funding for Paul Ryan’s overseas security detail while they were traveling, each and everyone</b of the 3 bast*rds would do a n8 hours continuous congressional floor speech on how every penny was well spent.

  10. On Jeff’s point, I thought limitng the deductions would be a good start, perhaps interest on one mortgage only, but the absolute level would be difficult to set fairly, it would need to account for regional conditions with housing and other cost of living wide variances. Limiting charitable deductions might also be difficult – as a board member of a non-profit, I know how difficult fund-raising is, and limiting deductions will stifle contributions undoubtedly. Personally, I would rather have the deduction and put money to work directly in nonprofits and other charitable organizations instead of funneling it through the federal government.

  11. What about reforming Social Security and Medicare as well as lowering other spending, or at least decreasing the rate of spending increases? SS is a nice benefit but poorly financially engineered. People seem to think they’re entitled to it, but it’s really just another government spending program would could be ceased at any moment byt choice or crisis. Paying 12.4% (that is, after employee rates return to 6.2% from 4.2% on Jauary 1), on income that earns neglible real return, if any, is not a path to success. The retirement age needs to rise for sure, and funding should be managed like a pension fund instead of the intergenerational transfer of wealth model currently in place. Again, people need to understand that they do not have a magical SS “account” – it is just government spending.

  12. As for Medicare, the financial mess there is astonishing. Raising the elegibility age will not fix the problem, although that will necessarily need to be part of it. Perhaps with greater economic growth through a more competitive economy with fewer distortions and more education on personal financial responsibility (as well as health) beginning in middle school, or earlier, this situation could be corrected. On that tangent, on a greater scale, kids should be taught and encouraged that saving money, working a little extra, and planning ahead for uncertainty will benefit them, and that welfare is a safety net (and that includes unemplyment compensation). Fiscal health an contribute much to physical health.

  13. One hitch to the notion that the GOP can continue cutting taxes in the long run is that tax revenues and rates are already very low relative to much of the post-WWII period. This is part of the same problem they have in offering tax cuts as a response to cyclical down-turns. Their own view is that temporary cuts don’t work, but permanent cuts mean there is less “medicine” available to deal with each new downturn.

    If killing off government is the goal, then this weakness doesn’t matter unless they loose access to power before the job is done. Kwak’s argument requires that ever-lower tax rates don’t result in a loss of access to power – in essence, that the trend to lower taxes is sustainable and carries no political cost.

  14. Why doesn’t the liberal media and various democratic non-profits make taking down Norquist a priority? House members signing allegiance to a private citizen dictator strikes me as un-American. I’m certain there is plenty in Norquist’s past (and present) that won’t pass a scrutiny test.

  15. Republican health care provided by non-”union” shift workers…

  16. A Grover boy who openly admits to the SADISM of knowing that what they plan to do is to make INNOCENT people *suffer* – whip the slaves much?

    Especially egregious in this case is that this @$&%^**?! is the CEO of a FOR PROFIT HEALTH INSURANCE company…

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/15/aetna-ceo-mark-bertolini-fiscal-cliff-layoffs-negative-tax-rate_n_2136246.html?utm_hp_ref=business

    Not like the Deliverance Boyz are going to stop.

    We have a DUTY to stop them.

  17. Why doesn’t anyone bring up that taking Norquist’s oath is actually a violation of House members oath of office?

  18. JDF: “Moses sounds like an angry, vindictive, small-minded person with too much free time.”
    Moses- Lets force JDF to move to Kentucky, which will then be allowed to succede and let Mitch McConnell be crowned King. After he lives there awhile and is begging to immigrate back, we’ll ask him if he ‘gets it yet?’
    Trying to explain anything to this type is like the Harly Davidson saying “If you have to ask, you won’t understand”.
    He really has drunk to much of the RNC Norquist-laced kool-aid.

  19. The President in the absence of GOP cooperation needs to commit to a strategy that lets all the Bush un-wise tax cuts to expire, and then deal from a position of strength in the new year, when a cudgel called mid-term elections becomes available.

    By the way, %&(#_#&@& Grover.

  20. I largely agree with Bond that the tax cuts approved by Bush and Obama should be allowed to expire to help close the deficit, but they should also ensure that more people pay taxes (a minimum amount should be established for adults) and reduce spending gradually so that the debt can be paid down to a more stable level. With fewer wasteful government programs and economic distortions, people will make wiser decisions.

  21. The makeup of the House of Representatives clearly does not reflect the popular opinion of the U.S. citizenship. I determined how the Presidential vote would have turned out if everyone who was eligible to vote voted; i.e. there was 100% turnout. (The actual turnout was 57.4%. 124 million people voted, and 92 million chose not to vote.) In August 2012 Suffolk University polled the population who was “unlikely” to vote. It turns out that this group would have supported Obama vs Romney by a 2.4 to 1 margin. If there had been a 100% turnout, Obama’s plurality would have increased from 3.5 million to 27.3 million (note that 36% of “unlikely” voters say they would have supported a third party candidate or were undecided). Obama’s percent margin would have increased from 2.8% to 12.7%. The last president to win by that large a margin was Reagan, when he defeated Mondale. If the House reflected the same sentiment, the Democrats would control the House by a 250 to 185 margin. http://alturl.com/9mzfo

  22. JDK, both Friedrick Hayek and Milton Friedman argued for a basic/minimum income, or negative income tax in Friedman’s case, as a means to replace all other welfare programs which distort behaviour and choice and to provide a floor from which no one would be allowed to fall and above which you would be free to engage in free enterprise.

    You’re arguing for every adult to pay tax? How would that work for SS recipients or military families actively serving overseas? Adult students engaging in a career change? The simplest way to tax would be a national sales tax as a means to pay for a negative income tax or basic income, akin to what conservatives propose for the FairTax except not merely to pay the tax on basic goods but to pay for the basic goods themselves.

    My understanding is that the mortgage interest deduction is only for your primary residence, but that doesn’t stop someone from living in a mansion with a massive mortgage and having the government essentially paying the interest on your loan. Obviously limiting the charitable deduction would be opposed by a multitude of lobbying groups that depend on people giving them pretax money, but you have to accept that by allowing you to do so, the federal government is in effect paying for part of that donation in the form of a tax expenditure. Romney is quite generous in that he gives more than the ten percent of his income that the church expects, but I’m not convinced that the government should necessarily be engaging in either picking and choosing which non profits are worthy of a tax deduction or in subsidizing them alongside private trusts which are used as tax shelters by those wanting to limit their tax liability.

  23. Oh, and IMHO, the way forward for shoring up medicare would be to let those aged 50-67 buy into the program with revenues used to pay for their care and those older. Similarly, get rid of the $106k limit on income subject to FICA taxes to save social security. Heck, with a GAI, you essentially have a means-tested social security system for all ages, plus you wouldn’t need unemployment benefits to last longer than 3 months with private insurance providing income protection for beyond that point and the phase out for the negative income tax being high enough to make it worthwhile to take a minimum wage job without making less money than sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring.

    Simply raising the retirement age wouldn’t save all that much since the expensive healthcare generally comes later in life.

  24. I’m Moses Herzog here. Weird post from Mr. Kwak because this is the definition of fascism. The extreme right of the gop are racialist biggoted, predatorclass spaniels as is obvious from the predatorclass shaitans the fund their nefarious machinations and untoward activities.

    Liberals, progressives, and theleft in general need to move to the fringes. They need to fight and show courage and standup against wanton abuse and systemic evil. The left, democrats, and Obama must fight and defeat the shaitans and fascist in the gop for the good of the nation, for the United States of America!!!

    Those fringes comprise the 99%, the poor and middleclass. The gop in its current panjandrum is the party of, for, and by the predatorclass exclusively. Sure the pander to religious fundamentalist, and ignorant psychopaths in redneck Amerika, but the gop policies are ALL about enriching and shielding the predatorclass – the 1%.

    Progressive endured and suffered the terrible consequences of eight years of deceptive fascist bushgov rule and there was no serious talk of secession. This is the immature and partisan conjuring of the fascist in the far right conservative movement and the ignorant dimwits in wingnut redneck Amerika.

    There has never been a wider divide between rich and poor – thehaves and thehavenots in American history. More Americans live below the poverty line in the history of America.

    Norquist and Saudi and fascist wingnut, redneck gop backers can pimp and brute these feed the rich and rob the poor fictions and myths to their cold hard hearts content – but we are talking about fascism here JDF!!! Fascism – look up the term compare with the gop, grover, redneck Amerika policies and practices and get back to me.

    And get this straight – many American will not stand idle, or silent, or peaceful in the face of the grotesque abuse and wanton evil. In a world where there are no laws – there are no laws for anyone predatorclass biiiiaaatches!!!

  25. Well, Senator John McCain wants us all to know how “upset” he is over Benghazi, and he’s going to “hold people accountable”. Apparently attending meetings of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee isn’t a necessary part of Senator McCain and Lindsey Graham’s magical witch hunting tour. Andrew Rosenthal of NYT breaks it down and I lift his words verbatim here:

    “Slate pointed out that Mr. McCain’s absence is a problem because Senate rules preclude other Senators from talking to him about the closed hearing. I’m not sure anyone is going to follow that rule, but it just underscores the risk that Mr. McCain is taking of looking buffoonish over the Benghazi killings.
    Or, I should say, looking buffoonish again, because the whole thing is a reminder of how in 2008 he ‘suspended’ his campaign against Barack Obama and dashed off to Washington during the financial meltdown. All he did was cry ‘emergency’ and make everyone realize that no one in Washington, including in his own party, really cared what he had to say about the crisis.
    Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky also missed the closed meeting on Benghazi, but managed to find the time for a TV interview in which he said he had big questions about what happened. ‘I don’t know enough of the details,’ he said.”

    http://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/15/john-mccains-scheduling-error/

    McCain then had your average 9 year old’s style baby tantrum because a reporter had the “nerve” to ask him why he had missed the Briefing:

    http://gawker.com/5961030/john-mccain-explodes-after-cnn-reporter-asks-him-why-he-didnt-attend-benghazi-briefing-who-the-hell-are-you

    Slate later showed that the fat old bitter whimpering baby (that’s McCain, for all you Teabagger Party members reading over this the 4th time for comprehension difficulties) had missed the Benghazi Briefing because of a “scheduling error”. Well, you know, all in a days work for the Admiral’s little baby boy.

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2012/11/15/mccain_missed_private_benghazi_hearing_because_of_scheduling_error.html

  26. The danger here, as we have seen in every other bust for a century or more, is that we can only suspend and bet on the laws of economics for so long. And in general we are only good at considering immediate consequences, while being very, very bad at considering later consequences. As 19th century French economist Frédéric Bastiat observed, “The bad economist pursues a small present good, which will be followed by a great evil to come, while the true economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil.”

  27. Here is audio from BabyBoy McCain crying because someone dared to ask BabyBoy McCain a question. Things are tough for the Admiral’s baby now that Daddy can’t protect him.

    http://cnn.com/video/?/video/bestoftv/2012/11/15/exp-tsr-bash-mccain.cnn

  28. SS recipients are not categorically pour and would also be subject to some minimum income tax under such a scenario. In fact, I know many several SS recipients who enjoy very nice life styles. SS is not a welfare program, it is a safety net. Neither are military categorically pour, know many as well. At the extreme, if unable to pay, there could be some sort of liability for it or community service program credits. The point is that we should all contribute to the funding of this country’s government. Creating programs by some and requiring others to pay for it is a red flag, a disaster waiting to happen.

    As for SS and medicare, simply raising the age absolutely will not be the whole solution, but they necessarily would be part of it. SS is a mirage of an supplemental income program that is so poorly managed, it is laughable – Ponzi scheme is an understatement. Medicare is simply a disaster. We should hope that future generations will learn how to live healthier and plan for their retirement healthcare.

    The VAT is an attractive idea, but I would be hesitant to permit our fiscally irresponsible government to deploy another tax mechanism without comprehensive planning on lower spending to reduce the structural deficit and phasing out the income tax,

  29. Love this. Ever the cool calm voice of sanity, Mr Kwak; Love your stuff on Naked Capitalism too…

  30. I spent many years as a senior Senate staffer and in a presidential appointment at Treasury during the Clinton administration, and FWIW, something along these lines is what I think Obama is up to.

    Tax bills must originate in the House, and the House is the big lift here. Obama is positioning the House GOP to either continue their anti-middle class obstructionism in the full light of their election defeat or accept a package that is restricted to extending the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, raising the debt limit, and maybe restoring some funding for highly popular non-entitlement programs before the end of the current Congress and the start of the “fiscal ski slope”.

    To sell this approach, he is rallying CEOs to support a quick resolution, and he’ll campaign for this package across the country to focus attention on GOP obstructionism. He’ll be looking to bring intense pressure on the GOP members required to reach a bare House majority, and Boehner will quietly give these members a pass in order to escape the trap they’re in, preserve the seats of these members, and protect his majority in 2014.

    Meanwhile, Reid and company will be preparing to reform the filibuster rule early next year, sending a clear signal to McConnell and Co. that if they delay the bill until the next Congress, they’ll have to filibuster it in full view of the public instead of the chicksh*t invisible tactics they’ve relied upon in recent years.

    If this strategy doesn’t work, early next year, Obama will turn to the reconciliation process, which is exempt from the supermajority requirement in the Senate, to move this package.

    As for other aspects of the Great Compromise of 2011, Obama will be urging bipartisan cooperation to fashion a long term solution to the debt problem through tax and entitlement reform. These issues are too complex to resolve before a debt limit bill must be enacted and before the tax increases and spending cuts begin to bite the economy. Better to keep the economy rolling by ensuring that consumers continue to have money in their pockets by extending the middle class tax cuts now.

    This approach puts the GOP in a hell of a dilemma. They don’t want to lose the bargain chits represented by middle class tax cuts and raising the debt limit without getting major concessions in return. But the political fallout of continued obstructionism is likely to be worse.

    The best strategy available to the GOP is delay and distraction. Hmmm. distraction. Patreaus, Benghazi, Rice?

  31. @JDF, “….SS recipients are not categorically pour and would also be subject to some minimum income tax under such a scenario. In fact, I know many several SS recipients who enjoy very nice life styles….”

    So you are proposing a plan to tax them so that they no longer have a “nice” life style?

    More misery for others = More $$$$ for ME ME ME?

    Putting 2.08 TRILLION back in the SS kitty ain’t gonna happen according to the 480 people who *own* it now so make everyone else put the SS check back in to the kitty until their nice life style is gone? Then give them a voucher for “community service” like…? – well, what kind of community service is there that needs to be done without being plugged in to a bigger picture economic current? Have an example? Who pays for the Depends?

    BTW, it is Poor, not pour.

  32. @pubictex, “…The best strategy available to the GOP is delay and distraction. Hmmm. distraction. Patreaus, Benghazi, Rice?…”

    C’mon – that’s not engrossing enough after Sandy…

    It’s the Gaza invasion now.

    WAR WAR WAR best way to ensure the $$$$ keeps flowing in the proper channels…forever and ever….perpetual war….

  33. ‘(For whatever reason, the trend toward the extreme has been much weaker among Democrats.)’

    Right, Al Sharpton, Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters et al. are the souls of moderation.

  34. Mr. Sullivan,

    Anecdote in the face of overwhelming evidence (look at that graphic again) is one step removed from pseudoscience. I encourage you and your brethren to keep thinking this way. It’ll give those of us how think we live in a fact-based reality a better shot at winning more elections.

  35. My spelling error, I apologize. The vast majority of SS recipients are not poor, and they will not be poor with a minimum tax. In fact, SS benefits are already taxable, and there would hardly be an impact; most recipients have other income as well.

    Community service could be performed in lieu of paying a minimum tax by choice, administered at a local level. What a neat idea.

    Thankfully, most Americans are not poor. Let’s help make the remainder more prosperous,

  36. I must have interpreted the news conference differently. I heard Reid say he moved up the deadline to one week past Thanksgiving. If no agreement was reached by then, it is stagecoach over the cliff and eternal debating. Then I heard Nancy agree, and add some gibberish, before handing the torch to Mcconell, who said everyone would do their best to please everybody, but Boehner. Its a cliff hanger for certain, and i’m down to my last oxen.

  37. @JDF – You are wrong about the “vast majority” of Americans not being “poor”. It’s 46.2 million people, while 480 people are worth a collective total of 2.08 TRILLION. MILLIONS more were shoved into poverty over the past decade to pay for WAR WAR WAR. It was systemic genocide of certain populations and nothing you brown nosing wonks can say will make a freekin’ difference because the 46.2 MILLION are not visiting this website. They will eventually visit YOU in person. Especially the ones SHOVED into poverty over the past decade. And you DEFINITELY were WHINING about their decent lifestyle! Mind your own #&%*&(*^( business. What is WRONG WITH YOU that you cluck cluck in disapproval of MIDDLE CLASS comfort? Who elected YOU to enforce a taxation scheme that takes away their comfort? NO ONE. If one of the 480 want to rip off more skin, from here on in they will have to do it mano et mano, you delusional wonk.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in_the_United_States

    And what is “community service”? I can’t think of a single function of LABOR in a prosperous MIDDLE CLASS civilization that is outside the need for currency (getting paid a DECENT WAGE) to conduct the BASIC NEEDS commerce part of “community”. There is no such thing as “community service”. Charity for 46.2 MILLION people is RIDICULOUS. ANd you’ll NEVER see one of the 480 do “community service” like you are talking about. Their idea of “community service” is snatching sex slaves from poor communites – globally.

    It didn’t work for “Blanche” to “depend on the kindness of strangers” in the play a “Street Car Named Desire” because there ARE no “kind strangers” in capitalism. And the gene pool in USA includes a LOT of Deliverance Boyz – “well, hell, Blanche, that ain’t rape…”. And that ain’t “torture”. And that ain’t in the contract…need I go on about what “ain’t REAL”?

    Just curious – how much are you paid for that brown nose? Is it worth losing your sense of smell?

  38. @Annie – I don’t usually respond to individuals, but I like you, so I will. The U.S. population is about 300 million. With your 46.2 million in “poverty” that means 253.8 million are not in poverty, which proves my point (the latter amount easily represents a “vast majority”).

    Community service is common in my community, and I hope it increases in yours.

  39. I believe that what the chart shows is the swing of a pendulum, and it’s gone as far as it can go to the right. The pendulum will start swinging to the left, if it hasn’t started already. That’s the nature of our system. If you extended the chart back 120 years instead of 30, you’d see the cycle.

    So Norquist will fade into well-deserved obscurity. The neocons are nearly irrelevant, and soon they will be totally irrelevant.

  40. Wow! JDF, you’ve provided a very civil response considering the provocation.

    I haven’t run the numbers based on 2012 estimates, but JDF’s numbers look about right. But there’s a caveat: almost 60% of all Americans will spend at least one year of their adult life living in poverty. When you consider that the federal poverty level is extraordinarily low ($23,000 for a family of four, for god’s sake), the actual number who will live in what most of us would consider poverty is certainly much higher.

  41. The pendulum swing you’re describing (if that’s what it is) is not a natural cycle but the result of the blood, sweat and tears of many people who believe deeply in the American promise–or on the other side, the patient application of money, propaganda, a simpleminded ideology, and intimidation by the few (see Invisible Hands by Kim Phillips-Fein).

  42. Still hoping for ONE EXAMPLE of the economic benefits of “community service” in a system where 480 people *own* 2.08 TRILLION….

    In a well-ordered CULTURE and economic system, the only time so-called “community service” comes into play is when people marshal all their remaining resources to help those impacted by an “act of God” event. But even that “service” is done in the context of re-establishing the order that existed before the event – it is not *permanent*.

    Nothing like an *act of god* event to flush out what lurked beneath. Even Chris Christy – gov of nj – found himself confronted with *fellow americans* from the Federal Government who were “..not doing their job…” Good.

    Shocking, ain’t it, Gov.? They rode into town after the wave to ROB the place with their tin badge “disaster” credentials….get it now…?

    BURN The Patriot Act….

  43. New Orleans never recovered. Only thing that happened after that event was the set up of the scheme in the “housing markets” to not pay out the insurance money to people who suffered the losses.

  44. Off topic, sorry

    Here’s a story that should make every Doctor in America shit and piss in his pants simultaneously, while catching a round of golf after their latest “necessary” early afternoon C-section. Make sure to click on the video after the jump:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/25/russell-dohner-5-dollar-doctor-visit_n_1624497.html