Some Things Don’t Change

By James Kwak

Which of these things doesn’t belong? John Boehner: “The year 2013 should be the year we begin to solve our country’s debt problem through entitlement reform and a new tax code with fewer loopholes and lower rates.”

Can you imagine Bill Belichick (or any other football coach) saying, “This should be the year we win more games by giving up fewer yards on defense and improving our offense by reducing turnovers and gaining fewer yards per play”?

As long as Republicans persist in claiming to believe that lower tax rates will reduce deficits, nothing in Washington will change. Given their ability to deny both climate change and evolution, denying simple budgetary arithmetic is trivially easy.

21 thoughts on “Some Things Don’t Change

  1. The Promise of Small Government – Mitt Romney and the Republican Party campaigned hard on the idea of small government and keeping government spending low. Their intellectual godfather, Milton Friedman, in fact, characterized government spending as the central problem for individual freedom. If only we had less government spending, we would have more individual freedom, the economy would operate more efficiently, and life would be better. This is an interesting idea – if we can spend less on government and be better off – then of course, we should do it.
    So I went in search of small government paradises and found quite a few actually. Looking at World Bank data for government expenditures as a percent of GDP (World Bank’s Open Data), I found many governments in Africa, Asia and Latin America that routinely spend less than 20% of their GDP on government services. These are countries like Congo, Uganda and Zambia in Africa; Cambodia, Laos and Pakistan in Asia; and Guatemala, Nicaragua and Paraguay in Latin America. So there is hope for small government aficionados – they have their exemplars to point to.
    But then I noticed that small government expenditures in these countries were associated with high infant mortality, high disease rates, low literacy and high levels of crime – bummer! So how can small government devotees say that life is more free and better under a small government scheme? I recall my days of living and working in countries like these and that life was indeed good – for the elites that is. We lived in guarded compounds surrounded by high walls topped with concertino wire. Our drivers whisked us around town in armored cars with dark-tinted windows so that the abject poverty outside was obscured from our view. We dined in the best restaurants and hoped that we didn’t contract the diseases of the kitchen help. Indeed, small government is freer (of taxes that is) and better (for the elite that is).
    To borrow another Friedman expression – “there is no such thing as a free lunch”. If you want a society free of disease, crime and illiteracy, for the great majority of citizens, you have to pay for it, period. Otherwise you get a society plagued by poverty, riven by violence and insurrection and not the kind of place where most of us would want to live.
    Jesse W. Wright

  2. Yes, yes. The Republicans are Bad People. So how do we
    draw their fangs? Here’s a suggestion:
    According to long-standing precedent, a new Senate adopts its
    rules by majority vote at the beginning of each new term. This
    means that we, the American people, have a two-month window of
    opportunity to demand an amendation of the filibuster rule.

    There are some good historical reasons to support some kind of
    tactic by a substantial minority of the Senate to delay
    legislation. But there is no argument in a democracy for the
    proposition that a minority may _kill_ legislation.

    Thus, as a working compromise, I suggest that a new rule be
    adopted to the effect that upon the vote of 33 Senators(one-
    third of the Senate) a vote on any proposed bill may be delayed
    by two weeks; also that upon the vote of 40 Senators(two-fifths
    of the Senate) a vote on any proposed legislation may be delayed
    by up to six weeks. It seems that that amount of voting delay,
    offering much scope for political maneuvering, rallying of public
    opinion, etc, would serve the purpose of enabling a substantial
    minority of the Senate to temporarily put off legislation for
    further consideration.

    Finally, we know that the institution of Congress is held in
    contempt by between 85 and 90 percent of Americans. In
    particular, Americans have seen gridlock for the past two
    years, and the prospect of further gridlock for the next
    two years is surely unappealing. Now is the time — we
    have two months — to insist that this continued log-jam
    be broken.

    If you have a Democratic Senatar, CALL HER/HIM!!

    Best wishes,

    Alan McConnell, in Silver Spring MD

  3. You obviously don’t listen to Belichick press conferences or interviews. That’s about all he WILL say – he never gives up any information or talks about the mechanics of the way Patriots plan or play their games. Our politicians should be more more forthcoming.

  4. It would be great if liberal elites would actually tell the truth. We need more revenue: the idea is to remove loopholes (read: incentives to do dumb stuff) and then adjust the rates to maximize the amount of revenue. Maybe that’s up or down, but the principle should be to maximize the revenue. Blanketly saying one or the other is intellectually dishonest. One more thing, on the smaller government post…the same can be said for communist countries that spend a high percentage of GDP on government. Those countries are no longer in existence becuase no one wants that either. This way of thinking is exactly why we are going to get exactly what we voted for and quite frankly exactly what we deserve.

  5. Ned, the problem with the other choice was… ummm… we didn’t know what the hell we were voting for as the Real Mitt Romney never really did show up. If Mitt had, and been true to his original beliefs (if those could’ve ever truly been nailed down), the USA would have a new President this past week. If then, one would think that another candidate (e.g. one more to the right) would have made a difference, well, there would’ve been an even greater loss. The Common Person wants responsible government that governs for all, not just the privileged class, and works to ensure equality and equity for all of societies participants (which can be managed through fair taxation (we do need roads, schools, medical care, etc…) and adequate regulation (ensuring that we are not harming each other)). Most in society, do not need a subsidized leg up (whether that’s a loop hole, a special tax incentive, etc), but we all require the ability to play or start on a level field. Currently, the USA is not that country.

  6. @Ned Farquar :
    So Ned, broad generalizations are unfair and intellectually dishonest, eh?
    “It would be great if liberal elites would actually tell the truth.”
    Got a mirror handy, bud?

  7. I’m a noob to all this techie tax talk, but I pay $25,000–$30,000 per year in income tax. And that’s just to the feds. State and local get another cut. Every quarter, I write a check and it pisses me off every time. All y’all should try it and see how pleasant it feels. If you like it, I have some land in Montana I’d like to sell you.

    The problem, IMO, is how poorly the money is managed. I will NEVER see a social security check from the fed, yet they confiscate 15% of my income, right off the top. If any of you think this is how it should be done, I have a large island in the Caribbean I’d like to sell you.

    Based on this chart:

    the gov’t will NEVER take less from its citizens willingly. They will never manage it better. They will eventually kill the hand that feeds them.

    Then who will they blame? Anyone but themselves.

  8. @Chris B, some of us pay a hell of allot more than you note above. Paying taxes never puts a smile on my face, but I realize that there are societal cost and those I definitely support (ya know, like, roads, education, police, fire dept, national defence, science investment, etc). I wouldn’t have the employees if it weren’t for our educational systems, nor would they be able to get to work without those roads or the local transit system. Better management should always occur, but that definitely won’t come from the incumbent parties, nor will the far left or TEA party fringe ensure appropriate representation.

  9. Chris B.,
    You being a “noob”, maybe I can be of some help. What you are not seeing amongst the ‘forest for the trees’, is that the system is failing. So, what if you were to earn $1 million a year but were required to give up 90% of that to keep from earning $0 per year? That is the way to see the forest.

    The problem with the system is that it has never actually worked without manipulations of the markets. Slavery for example was a labor market manipulation, as is the addition of about 500,000 immigrants per year since the Immigration Act of 1965 (along with the casual approach to illegal immigration); this at a time when the Triffin Dilemma made it obvious that The US would always be required to run a trade deficit so long as the reserve-currency status was adhered to. So what sense does it make to saturate the labor markets as manufacturing jobs are being eliminated? What most Americans don’t get is that it isn’t a choice between big or small government, it is instead a choice between big government or bigger government. There simply is no other way to keep enough people employed. Consequently, taxpayers should be relieved that the system has not failed yet.

  10. It seems congress is willing to continue kicking the can down the road when it comes to controlling spending. The automatic tax increases and budget cuts set to go in effect were enacted during the last budget go-around in an effort to force some real change. Now congress is looking to forestall the automatic cuts in favor of continuing to kick the can down the road. We need to go over the fiscal cliff and let things equalize instead of applying band aids to a broken system.

  11. I don’t understand how people like Chris B. can think that they will “never see a social security check from the Fed.” Do they think that the stream of revenue from the FICA tax will just disappear and no one will receive any benefits from Social Security after that? Do they think that the federal government will only pay full benefits to some retirees and cut the rest off with nothing? What kind of reasoning skills must one lack to think that Social Security benefits will not be paid if the tax is still being collected? If nothing is done at all, then it’s true that the system may not pay the projected full benefits. But it will continue to pay something.

  12. Ned Farquar, There’s a problem with your formulation: there are lots of people running around yelling, “The government that governs least, governs best!” I’m not aware of any shouting, “The government that governs most, governs best.” This is nothing more than a straw man argument designed to hide the fact that one extreme (libertarian social Darwinism) is active in our politics and the other is imaginary.

    James analogy is close but not quite right. Rather than saying “This should be the year we win more games by giving up fewer yards on defense and improving our offense by reducing turnovers and gaining fewer yards per play”, Belichick would say the Patriots will “win more games by giving up MORE yards on defense” reflecting the loss of tax revenue caused by austerity policies and the lower GDP growth they cause.

  13. Chris B.

    I think you need to take a closer look at that chart you provided the link for:

    It does not tell the story you think it does. For example, the chart shows that the federal share of GDP rose dramatically from 7% in 1902 to 20% in 1950, largely driven by the costs of WWII and the Korean War. (I assume you don’t object to funding the fight against Hitler, Tojo and the Chinese.) Thereafter, the federal share of GDP remained at or below 20% for the next 60+ years, hardly justifying your dystopian view of our future. But go ahead if it makes you feel better.

  14. It’s all in the language and message. We all want efficient government and for oligarchs and everyone to play fair, abide by the ruleoflaw, and pay their respective fair share in taxes. The gop panjandrum in its current incarnation is biggoted, racist, misogynist, and hates and ruthlessly undermines poor and middleclass Americans. There’s no arguing this ugly and horrific truth no matter how much pretty platitudes are pimped and bruted by gop mouthpieces and politicians on TV. The gop is the party of and obedient spaniels to the predatorclass – the 1%. No amount of pimping and bruting of socalled conservative values can mask or alter this terrible truth! The predatorclass has enjoyed and profited in otherworldly ways from the governments largess, shielding, and systemic advancement for 30 years. It’s way past time for the predatorclass to be put back in the keep and pay their fair share. Regardless of the cowardly whining and crying – they’ll be fine. Very little will change. Maybe one less Lear Jet, or Yaught, or Villa, but the predatorclass lifestyle will NOT be affected one but by paying more in taxes. Conversely – America’s poor and middleclass will benefit hugely in tangible ways when the predatorclass is forced to pay their fair share and abide by the ruleoflaw!

    Socalled “smallgovernment’ is a wingnut predatorclass concocted gospel according fiction and myth. These hypocrites whine and cry like fiveyearolds for small government when the issue is providing basic healthcare for our old fellow Americans or our children or with to much overdue infrastructure investment or veteran support, or education – but when it comes to unnecessary bloodily costly warsofchoice and private contractor industrial complexes spying on Americans with due process or just cause – the these same shaitans and hypocritical brood of hobgoblins screech like harpies to fund big huge massive gargantuan government to combat imaginary or fictionalized evildoers. Monstrous hypocrites.

    We all want efficient and just equal, fair and honorable government – but get this wingnut predatorclass biiiiiaaaatches – it will never be small. It’s mathematically impossible you nazi liars and hypocrites. Small government is a mathematical impossibility in the 21st Century fascists!!!! Get that through your thick dim greedy nazi skulls. We all need government working efficiently and beholden to the ruleoflaw to survive. Sure – you sociopathic psychopathic monsters and shaitans from s small government that you alone control, – but the rest of us exist also – we also have basic needs and wants – and we will not sit idle while you rape and pillage the economy and devour our children’s future for your otherworldly profits. There will be s reckoning and a balancing predatorclass biiiiiaaaatches! And there will be blood !!!

  15. Forgive the double post, but my IPhone corrects in ways I do NOT intend. I meant to say:
    ( Socalled “smallgovernment’ is a wingnut predatorclass concocted gospel according {to fox} fiction and myth. These hypocrites whine and cry like fiveyearolds for small government when the issue is providing basic healthcare for our old fellow Americans or our children or with the way to much overdue infrastructure investment or veteran support, or education –
    but when it comes to unnecessary bloodily
    costly warsofchoice and private contractor
    industrial complexes spying on Americans
    with{OUT} due process or just cause – the
    these same shaitans and hypocritical brood of
    hobgoblins screech like harpies to fund big
    huge massive gargantuan government to combat imaginary or fictionalized evildoers.
    Monstrous hypocrites!!!)

  16. 480 people are worth a collective total of 2.08 TRILLION $$$$s.


    And this is the result of FIAT money issued through fractional reserve banking. That is NOT a “christian nation”.

    “….This cleansing of the temple discloses the Master’s attitude toward commercializing the practices of religion as well as his detestation of all forms of unfairness and profiteering at the expense of the poor and the unlearned. This episode also demonstrates that Jesus DID NOT LOOK WITH APPROVAL upon the refusal to employ FORCE to protect the majority of any human being against the unfair and enslaving practices of UNJUST MINORITIES who may be able to entrench themselves behind political, financial, or ecclesiastical power. Shrewd, wicked, and designing men are NOT to be permitted to organize themselves for the exploitation and oppression of those who, BECAUSE OF THEIR IDEALISM, are not disposed to resort to force for self-protection or for the furtherance of their laudable life projects…”

    Freedom of RELIGION, Tony. We’re not even ALLOWED to discuss whether a war is JUST or not!

    Define POVERTY in the CONTEXT of a fiat $$$$, issued through fractional reserve banking, system created from the bowels of some psychotic man’s INFINITE and willful capacity to CREATE POVERTY for others to feed his own EGO.

    When a life form stops changing, it dies.

    480 people having 2.08 TRILLION is sclerotic. It ends in a stroke or heart attack….

    People have the RIGHT to defend themselves.

    Even 20 years ago, there would have been ZERO tolerance for the kind of behaviour being exhibited these days by the PREDATOR class that TRULY CONSIDERS THEMSELVES ABOVE THE LAW! This report is NOT a one-off event. It’s so rampant in the greater NYC area that everyone has witnessed this kind of ABUSE somewhere in the “public square”, so to speak. Finally got reported but we have ALL SEEN THESE BEEMER A_HOLES DO THIS – I saw it at the toll booth on the Jersey Parkway, in a restaurant in Summit NJ, in a parking garage at the Mall – and a dude who’s nickname is “Rat” said that his mother hires people like you to clean her toilet – you’re nothing and nobody…THIS is their CULTURE. Get it? Say something back and you’re on THEIR bs “anti” whatever list. It’s INCONCEIVABLE what persecution and discimination they have gotten away with as they get to accuse YOU of being anti-wha’ever.

    There are MILLIONS of us in the Middle Class who are NOT “poor” because we are “unlearned” and too “idealistic” to employ JUST FORCE. We have a freekin’ DUTY to put a stop to this crap.

    A DUTY to stop it.

    What part of DUTY-to-stop-it don’t people understand?!

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