Cut it out, Obama

Cut it out, Obama
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Barack Obama may be an enormously relevant figure of history, and may even prove to be one of the more successful US presidents, in terms of his ability to be win election and re-election with minimal effort. He may also be a very good man, and a very moral and thoughtful human being.

But it’s becoming increasingly evident that he is neither a very skilled nor wise politician, and a thoroughly inept leader of both his political party and the larger ideological movement which it purports to represent.

As I write this, the President has just inked a bill to raise the US debt celling which can only be regarded as a complete and utter failure for “his side.” After weeks of debate, the bill is only a victory for the White House in the narrow sense at it, a) exists at all, and b) delays the next Congressional reexamination of the debt ceiling issue until 2013, after the presidential election. But on every other front, Obama and the Democrats have gained absolutely nothing — neither politically, strategically, or morally — from its passage, and have instead assented to a bill which dramatically shifts the overall American political narrative to the right.

The bill, which GOP leader John Boehner has described as containing “98% of what we wanted,” is entirely cuts-based. It trims over $900 billion from the federal budget over the next ten years by reducing allowable discretionary spending to the lowest levels since the Eisenhower administration.

And that’s pretty much it. Obama stated repeatedly that he also wanted the deal to contain some revenue increases, via tax hikes for the wealthy, but none actually made it into the final legislation. This, of course, was due to the Republicans’ extremist posturing on the matter, portraying any sort of tax increases as an all-or-nothing deal breaker. So Obama caved.

True, some Tea Party types are still upset. The bill does not contain a balanced budget amendment to the US constitution (it merely mandates a separate vote on one later), and the $900 billion cuts are a far cry from the $4 trillion figure that was being thrown around in the early days of the negotiations. All parties have likewise expressed some unease over a weird “Super Congress” provision, which mandates the creation of a six-and-six committee of Republicans and Democrats that will suggest $1.5 trillion in further budget cuts this fall. If its demands are not approved by Normal Congress, in turn, a “default” set of equally large, but more painful and less politically attractive cuts will kick in automatically.

But overall, the conservative narrative that American fiscal solvency can only be obtained by cut, cut, cutting seems pretty much entrenched. At no point did Obama and the Congressional Democrats mount a convincing counter-narrative, and they certainly had no ideological “deal breakers” of their own. Early on, the Republicans declared that they were willing to go to the brink on the debt ceiling issue — their terms would be met, or the country would be pushed into default — and the Democratic response was to gently convince them to put down the gun. When you negotiate like this, starting from the position that your opponent is far more dangerous and serious and powerful than yourself, it’s pretty hard to extract concessions.

As I note in the essay below, pretty much every major American liberal pundit has blasted President Obama in the aftermath of (and lead up to) this bill, and a new poll suggests that the majority of Democrats and liberals believe that the Democrats gave up “too much” in their drive to secure its passage. This may or may not have electoral consequences (I’m inclined to think it won’t, since liberals have nowhere else to go) but it still signals a distressingly high level of incompetence. Democratic politics, after all, is in large part about delivering the goods. After a while, if a politician repeatedly demonstrates he cannot eke out even minor victories for his side, as Obama has consistently proven unable to do in regard to the wars, taxes, Gitmo, the surveillance state, the public option, and immigration reform, you have to conclude that the man is simply not a very good politician.

That’s not an ideological statement, it’s simply a functionalist assessment. If I was a liberal, I’d be seriously looking into primary challengers.


  1. David Liao

    I'm inclined to believe that liberals and progressives are the more practical-minded on the political spectrum and that their agenda is what works, not what necessarily fits the ever moving definition of liberal ideology.

    The "trickle down" proponents in the Republican party were defeated when programs for the poor and Medicare were marked as hands off, a key Democrat point that they won. The Democrats also finally get leverage because the next key budget votes come after the election (not before) and failure on the Republican side means huge cuts for defense, something they wouldn't allow.

    I will have to lay the blame for not passing revenue increases or simply put, raising taxes on the right, at Obama's feet however. He used code words as much as the Republicans did (who called the rich "job creators), and if he had been more straight, could have used the tried and true strategy of populism early on to drum up support for raising taxes.

  2. @Cristiona

    Nobody should be happy with this; it's a true compromise. Like one person said, "Only in DC can reducing the rate of increase be considered a cut."

  3. BostonJoe

    Another adventure in overcaptioning.

  4. Nick W.

    You don't read many political cartoons, do you?

  5. Jake

    $90billion a year for the next ten years. WOWWWWWWWWWWWWW! Please I don't see how this is a win for anyone. That is nothing compared to what the deficit is. It should of been $900billion this year alone.

  6. @ThePsudo

    John Boehner's "98% of what we wanted” is pure salesmanship, trying to make his constituents and party loyalists believe this is a Republican victory. It doesn't guarantee a balanced budget (I say this as one who opposes a constitutional amendment to that effect on constitutional originalist grounds), nor does it ensure our continued AAA credit rating, nor can he promise that the Supercongress will not increase tax revenue (which, frankly, should be increased; even Reagan believed in tax reform to close loopholes and ensure the rich and corporations are paying at their rates). As @Cristiona points out, it doesn't even ensure federal spending will be lower in the second of any two consecutive years (the proper definition of a spending cut).

    It's no victory for Democrats, congressional or executive, but it's no victory for Republicans either.

  7. Kadin

    "I say this as one who opposes a constitutional amendment to that effect on constitutional originalist grounds"

    So are you opposed to all constitutional amendments, then?

  8. @ThePsudo

    I'm very reluctant to amend the constitution. I weigh the value of the amendment against that fact. I have criticisms of the 17th Amendment (direct popular election of US Senators) and several other amendments that were proposed but never ratified, but that leaves about 24 existing constitutional amendments and one proposed amendment (DC voting rights) I generally support.

    Constitutional amendment power should be reserved for issues with very broad support and very enduring moral need. A balanced budget amendment does not have broad support (or even majority support) and would act contrary to moral need in some cases (imagine if we'd passed a constitutional balanced budget amendment just before Pearl Harbor how differently WW2 would have turned out).

  9. Tounces

    The thing about this is, this might seem like a victory in one sense, but I’d say the Republicans just heavily alienated the Independent voters, and likely even some of the more moderate Republican voters, in order to appease the extreme-far right of their base.

    The fact that they “won” so much, only shows their willingness to destroy the country in order to further their own gains, something that does not speak very well of them for the next election. It’s like winning a war by threatening nuclear attack – sure, the other side might back down, but the rest of the world is going to be condemning you. Repubs would have been perfectly happy if no deal had been passed too since they no doubt were already preparing a major campaign to blame the Dems and Obama for it, as part of their overall strategy.

    It’s good to know the Repubs were actually willing to screw us all over to protect the rich from restoring Pre-Bush tax rates…shows how extremely dangerous it is to give that party any sort of power.

  10. @ThePsudo

    The problem is the gap between tax revenue and spending. Big-spender Democrats are just as much to blame as tax-cutter Republicans. That's why neither party ever suffers very much for horrendous failures like this; they both point fingers, their partisans buy their story, and they are both equally discredited in the eyes of independents.

    Even on this issue specifically, Democrats compromised pretty much every principle except that they prevented the spending cuts from being large enough to protect the USA's credit rating – the whole point of this whole exercise. That's just as bad as Republicans' idiot opposition to tax revenue. The ineptitude here is bipartisan – both parties failed pretty spectacularly.

  11. Tounces

    “After a while, if a politician repeatedly demonstrates he cannot eke out even minor victories for his side, as Obama has consistently proven unable to do in regard to the wars, taxes, Gitmo, the surveillance state, the public option, and immigration reform, you have to conclude that the man is simply not a very good politician.”

    Keep in mind the “Tea Party” didn’t exist before this, Obama has had a far harder opponent than any prior Democratic presidents. Not only did he inherit a giant mess of a country, he inherited one of the most idiotic Republican parties in decades, and that is saying A LOT considering we just got out of the Bush years.

  12. @ThePsudo

    The Tea Party is fundamentally a schism in the Republican Party, a declaration that a good chunk of the Republican base doesn't trust it's own party. Especially in it's early days, it would've been easily acquired by the Democratic Party if they had shown some sign of recognition that government spending has it's faults or that they were willing to offer Tea Partiers influence in exchange for loyalty or basically any reaction besides the contempt they actually showed.

    On the debt cap thing, if Obama had tried to buy tax revenue increases with the promise of ever greater spending cuts he could have either 1) negotiated something like the deal the country actually needs (more spending cuts with a side of revenue increases), or 2) a claim to fiscal responsibility persuasive even to Tea Partiers right before an election year. He opted for 3) make a few public speeches, spam his twitter followers, and generally be uninvolved and irrelevant to the actual negotiations. Democrats' dedication to unreasonable principles is just as much at issue as Republicans'.

  13. Guest

    Out of curiosity, how long does Obama have to be in charge before the current problems are no longer Bush's?

    Then again, considering how little Obama has actually done, I guess it's safe to blame everything on the man who has been out of office for 2.5 years.

  14. Kento Ikeda

    It's not duration, it's causal relation. Two expensive wars that have destabilized a huge part of the world, and has made the an even larger portion of the world view the United States as a villain, those would not have existed unless Bush had started them, and would not continue to exist today if they had been executed well. Tax cuts far surpassing the surplus and without spending cuts further increased American debt. Obama can be blamed for not being able to end the wars, or not having the political skill to raise taxes, but he can not be held responsible for starting the things Bush started.

  15. Dave Turner

    Can Obama then be blamed for the ongoing situation in Libya that was supposed to take days?

  16. David Liao

    No one ever expected it to take days, even if Qadaffi had been somehow killed. Our involvement though has pretty much waned while the Europeans take over what meager support they're offering to the Libyans.

  17. Kento Ikeda

    Why not?

  18. @ThePsudo

    Total deficit spending under Bush, 2001-2008: $2.0 trillion ($250 billion per year)
    Total deficit spending under Obama, 2009-2011: $4.3 trillion ($1,433 trillion per year)
    War deficits are less than half of fiscal crisis spending even though they've been paid for three times as long.

  19. Kento Ikeda

    That's a really manipulative way of framing the data. If a power plant is supposed to be maintained by someone who neglects their duties, accidents rates will begin to increase as time goes on. If the successor also neglects to maintain it, accident rates still raise, making their average higher, but you can't say the successor is "more neglectful," just equally so. This is meant to point out the frame, not be a political analogy, as the problems of the past decade can not simply be explained as "neglect," and its pushing the analogy further than its fit for by trying to incorporate the senate filibuster.

    The type of statistics you are using are a kind of data summary, but we know the context, we don't need a summary. To isolate a few numbers from context doesn't add anything, it takes away.

  20. @ThePsudo

    I agree that fault is more equally distributed between the Bush and Obama administrations than those two numbers alone demonstrate. I've given deeper analysis of fault for the deficit elsewhere on this page precisely because I saw the same need for it that you see. My intent here was to show that Obama and Bush share the blame, not to precisely divvy out outline the precise proportions of blame they deserve.

  21. Iokobos

    So you are saying Obama can't adapt to new situations and adversities. I agree.

  22. @Kisai

    The Democrats gave away their leverage back in December 2010 by extending the Bush tax cuts (as the Daily Show oh so cleverly pointed out.)

    Still they (both republicans and democrats) did huge amount of damage to confidence in the USA. Some business guys are now saying 'Looks like the Swiss Franc is the new global reserve currency."

    Let's see if we end up with an 8th consecutive day of losses. All of 2011's gains have been erased.

  23. HFCS

    Actually, here's a thought about the "he didn't raise the taxes on the rich" part of the situation:

    The Bush-era tax cuts for the rich expire in 2012, and Obama will have the right to veto anything that proposes renewing them. Doesn't this put the ball in his court for an eventuality that is his to control, since the taxes will presumably be raised back to where they were (and thus being one of the new sources of income)? A co-worker of mine pointed this out to me, and admires Obama for subtly, but surely (in his opinion) playing the other side like a violin.

    Or am I missing something? I have to admit that I'm not that informed about this stuff.


  24. jjmccullough

    The Republicans usually get what they want by tying one issue to another. Like the debt ceiling and spending cuts or a government shutdown and tax breaks. So I forsee the expiration of the Bush tax cuts being tied to some other issue which Obama will be unable to veto.

  25. Tounces

    “Out of curiosity, how long does Obama have to be in charge before the current problems are no longer Bush’s”

    Well you tell me, how long does someone have to be dead before you can say someone ELSE other than the original killer murdered them?

  26. Iokobos

    Your analogy depends on the economy being totally destroyed. Sure W may have broken its nose and bloodied it lip near the end with the help of the Democrat-heavy congress, but if anything BO doubled down and has been beating the economy down daily into a coma.

  27. David Liao

    Sorry, Bush did more than bloody the nose. The current deficit is somewhere around 12 trillion, according to most sources.

    Bush is responsible for a trillion in supplemental war spending, 3 trillion in lost revenue from the tax cuts, and another trillion in Medicare Part D, which was unfunded. You can arguably also blame his administration for not acting fast enough to deal with the economic collapse of top Wall Street firms (there were signs a year before the September 2008 stock market crash) which cost us another 3 trillion in revenue.

    Compare this to Obama's $750 billion stimulus package and still theoretical cost of universal health care (which may still save us money) and your analogy's the other way around.

  28. @ThePsudo

    $2 trillion of the national debt came from the deficits of the Bush years. $4.3 trillion came from the Obama years, even though there are fewer than half as many of them. The actual deficits that have actually occurred do not match your reasoning.


  29. David Liao

    See above. As I said, the war spending, lost revenue from tax cuts, and Medicare Part D fall squarely on Bush's shoulders and amounts to $5 trillion.

    I also noted that blaming his administration for the recession is more open to interpretation since Reagan could be blamed for starting deregulation and Clinton could be blamed for encouraging subprime loans. It was his regulators, specifically Paulson however, who denied the prospect of a looming collapse for an entire year before the September 2008 crash.

    Besides, the 2010 budget is the first one Obama had any actual control over so you can't fault the current administration for FY 2009's $1.4 trillion shortfall.

  30. @ThePsudo

    I saw above. Medicare Part D went into effect in 2006. In 2007, the deficit was less than $200 billion; at that point, both wars and all previous tax cuts and Medicare Part D all fit in the budget. Looking to causes before that is a history lesson, not an investigation of direct causes.

    The deficits and debt that are at issue are from the financial crisis and it's effect on the economy, the stimulus (both Bush's and Obama's), and the bailouts. At the very least, Obama is responsible for the $750 billion 2009 stimulus, the $1.3 trillion 2010 deficit, and this year's estimated $1.6 trillion deficit for a total of $3.7 trillion. If I add Bush's entire administration to what's left of 2009's deficit, I get $2.8 trillion — less in 8 years than Obama has done in 3. It's both of their faults, and I'd be willing to concede to "both of their faults equally," but claiming it's more Bush's fault than Obama's is a flat lie.

  31. David Liao

    I wouldn't characterize the tax cuts as "in the budget", merely lost revenue. Whether or not one is for them, the fact remains that the loss of revenue has amounted to $3 trillion since they were instituted by Bush which certainly counts for the budget deficit.

    I certainly concede that the Obama stimulus or "spending our way out" of the recession was an unimpressive attempt to copy FDR's New Deal. My argument against Bush is that he made the decision multiple times to increase spending when it was not entirely necessary or valid while Obama has not had that luxury.

  32. Pete Zaitcev

    Personally I like the tweet by @Doc_0 "Thanks to the terrifying presence of Tea Party terrorists, gov't will grow by only 70% over the next 10 years. You FIENDS.". It's ludicrous to pen editorials like the above and say that Obama "caved" when he won the continuing government growth which will in the long run inevitably strangle his political opponents by creating the new Democrat constituencies. This is a strategic victory.

  33. @ThePsudo

    To be fair, the size of government as a proportion of GDP will probably only increase about 10 points, not 70%. That's only unprecedented since Jimmy Carter, not WW2.

  34. csthom

    I wouldn't say he's less skilled at negotiation than most Democrats; I would just say most Democrats are poor negotiators. For decades, the Republicans' biggest strength has been their ability to control not only negotiations and their own caucus (I would say that controlling the Democratic caucus is like herding cats, but It may actually be harder,) but their ability to control the framing of issues in the public eye. In that regard, I do think he's better than most. Certainly not as good as Bubba or Reagan, but much better than Carter, Bush Sr or Bush Jr.

    Basically although I think he's a lousy negotiator, and not the best choice for party leadership, he's a decent face for the party because he's a fairly good speaker.

  35. Tounces

    Yeah what makes Repubs so good at negotiation is they’re mostly Narcissists and Sociopaths…so they get what they want or they make sure everyone suffers.

  36. Iokobos

    Are you trying to convince other people, or yourself?

  37. Fnord


  38. Tounces

    Only this one, is that somehow relevant?

  39. Damien RS

    “The problem is the gap between tax revenue and spending. Big-spender Democrats are just as much to blame as tax-cutter Republicans. That’s why neither party ever suffers very much for horrendous failures like this; they both point fingers, their partisans buy their story, and they are both equally discredited in the eyes of independents.”

    The gap has nothing to do with “big-spending Democrats”, and everything to do with (1) Bush tax cuts (2) tax revenues falling 10-20% because of the depression and (3) expenditures like food stamps and unemployment insurance increasing automatically because of the depression.

    People aren’t spending, people aren’t working, taxes aren’t coming in, and the government tries to keep them from starving to death. That’s the deficit.

    Plus, yeah, an inadequate stimulus package which isn’t all that big compared to the elements above.

  40. @ThePsudo

    Government spending has never shrank from 1953 (post-WW2 shrink) to 2010 (the 2010 stimulus was much smaller than the 2009 stimulus, which offset the non-stimulus spending increase). Spending has gone up an average of 7% per year from 1978 to 2011 while the GDP grew at only 3.3%. That means a bigger piece of the US economy is taken up by it's government every year, which works itself out either as bigger deficits or higher taxes or a little of both. If in 1978 spending growth were capped at economic growth, there would have been $28 trillion less spending and less deficit by now. That would eliminate the national debt twice even without calculating the eliminated interest payments.

    Even if I give you everything you want — 20% of the past 5 years' tax revenue ($2.3 trillion) plus $3 trillion in Bush tax cuts plus another $4 trillion just because I like you — that's still 1/3rd as much debt reduction as if government just spent responsibly.

    No matter what balance you strike between deficits and taxes, no matter what party you like best, whatever deal-making and negotiations are plausible or proper, spending is still the driving force behind 3 decades of federal budget problems.

  41. @ThePsudo

    By the way, it's true that food stamp usage hit a record high of 45.8 million people in May (the most recent month for which data is available). At $101 per person, that's $4.6 billion for May (0.1% of annual spending) and, if that's typical, $55.5 billion for the year (1.5% of annual spending). That's the total, not the increase from normal. That's not significant deficit spending.


  42. Ricardo Bortolon

    Most democrats accepted the necessity of some tax cuts and they're in not unpopular places. I'm pretty confident the $1.5 trillion cuts will get triggered which overwhelmingly cut from defense spending. Maybe Republicans will tie the Bush cuts to something else (I doubt it, you can't just tie that to a Flags for Orphans-type of bill) but if not and the very large defense cuts are triggered, 6 months from now the Dems can hang their hat on that.

  43. Wayne

    If democrats did a better job at actually running the country and not just running up debt with the social programs they support then there would be a lot less to worry about.

    The problem in my opinion is that social programs no longer work. Social security should not exist because people should go out of their own way to save money for when they're older. Food stamps should have a stricter limit and medicare/medicaid should be better managed. Social programs, while well intentioned, tend to aid people in lazy and irresponsible behavior (trust me, I have relatives that live off the government and certainly don't deserve it).

    The Republicans aren't helping with their tax cuts either, but people generally don't care about things that don't affect them. Tax cuts for the wealthy don't affect the common person, but the government certainly can't afford tax cuts for the common.

    If Obama wanted to impress me during his term he would have had to ended the war in the middle east (successful or not), tried to change the tax code (simplify), supported more civil rights issues (he's barely spoken up about gay marriage), and don't some things I wouldn't have expected. Instead, all he's done is shown that he can say and do things with as little controversy as possible so hat he might get reelected.

  44. David Liao

    Social programs do work. Social Security helps MILLIONS of seniors who don't have 401(k)s or large IRAs, and with the state of the economy, many seniors who did have huge investments now have to rely on those payments now to simply live.

    Food Stamps also have a very strict limit and are stored on a card much like a credit card which means they can't be traded for drugs or sex like the anecdotal horror stories 20 years ago. Medicaid has about a maximum income cutoff of $1,000 a month in many states and its budget footprint is miniscule.

    As for Medicare, it's the same problem as Social Security. Material success has caused longer lifespans and less children per family, all of which contribute to more Medicare recipients and less people paying in; but fixing that is probably going to be a numbers game of raising payments and slashing some benefits.

    Except for Medicare, most of these programs also pay for themselves. Social Security pays for itself for almost another decade, and possibly twice as long if the retirement age is raised (except for the $3 trillion IOU the last administration took out of the fund).

  45. @ThePsudo

    David: What do you think about the idea of cutting Social Security costs by raising the eligibility age by a month every quarter until it matches life expectancy? 65 was originally chosen because it was life expectancy at the time, so it's consistent with the original intent of the program. Also, by raising the age more slowly than time passes, it ensures no one who is depending on social security is denied it for more than a small, manageable time. The savings would be very gradual over a very long period of time, but it is financial savings and it does not deny anyone the benefits to which they're entitled. Is that a reasonable plan in your view?

  46. David Liao

    I'm fine with that. Some experts have suggested lowering the maximum income for collecting Social Security contributions because while there are more contributors, there will be more collectors especially those who may not need the benefit at all.

  47. Kyle

    I've seen this presented fairly often. "Obama's smart and all but he's just not a dang good politician and keeps giving conservatives what they want!" Allow me to express the contrary – Obama is an AMAZING politician. He gets democrats voting for republican dreams every time, and despite consistently moving against their desires, I gurantee the vast majority of liberals are going to vote to re-elect him anyways.

    I don't see this as some sort of eleventh dimension chess either. He wants cuts. He's stated he wants cuts. He wants cuts to Medicare and social security and all kinds of things that Bush could never get. And because he's got a big D next to his name, he's going to get them. That's not being a bad politician. And if he seems like such a rotten liberal, then maybe the answer is that he wasn't one to begin with?

  48. @ThePsudo

    Interesting theory. But we needed $4 trillion in deficit reduction to ensure we keep our credit rating. We got perhaps as much as $2.4 trillion, all of which is merely a change what spending is planned rather than actual savings. If Obama wanted cuts and is so greatly effective at getting them, why is it we got squat?

  49. JPPMcCue

    It appears that nearly half of overall cuts are to the Pentagon budget. This is a boon for most Democrats. Nate Silver has a great article on the other reasons why the debt compromise wasn't such a bad deal for Democrats after all:

  50. Fnord

    "If the US Government was a family, they would be making $58,000 a year, they spend $75,000 a year, and are $327,000 in credit card debt. They are currently proposing BIG spending cuts to reduce spending to $72,000 a year. These are the actual proportions of the federal budget and debt, reduced to a level that we can understand." – David Ramsey

    It seems we need a structural approach to budget reform more than we need a balanced budget amendment at this point. That INCLUDES serious entitlement reform and restructuring and "flattening" the tax system so that everyone, whether day laborer or fat cat CEO, pays their fair share – no obscure loopholes or exemptions – just a very nearly uniform percentage of their annual income. There was something about approximately half of the population did not need to pay any income tax last year…

    Another budget-breaker is illegal "immigrants" – each state AND the federal government has a constitutional responsibility to ensure their fairly stolen tax dollars go only to legal residents. It's been said that 71% of these illegal invaders are only here to collect welfare and those that manage to obtain a job (whether by committing identity theft OR being hired at places where the employer 'looks the other way' as regards to immigration status) often send a fair amount of money back home – further draining our economy.

    And of course the "Great Society" programs deserve a hard look – especially in the light that they tend to encourage dependence on the government more than just looking at it as a "hand up" to help people get back on their feet after a personal economic catastrophe.

    And in regards to the socialist bent of our Great Leader – here are a couple good quotes from two famous people:

    "…Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people's money…" – Margaret Thatcher

    "Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery." – Winston Churchill

    Yes I'm a Republican and proud of it, but I do NOT fit the characterizations being slung about here and actually %&%&ing resent you all for that.

  51. @ThePsudo

    Be calm. I'm a Republican, too. (and a Dave Ramsey fan!) There are plenty of folks on your same side around here.

    Would you be okay with a plan where every $2 cut from Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare also cuts $1 cut from Defense and adds $1 to tax revenue? If we cut $1 trillion from the deficit that way, we'd have a balanced budget again. In Dave Ramsey terms, that would lower spending to $60,000 and raise income to $63,000.

  52. David Liao

    "It's been said that 71% of these illegal invaders are only here to collect welfare and those that manage to obtain a job (whether by committing identity theft OR being hired at places where the employer 'looks the other way' as regards to immigration status) often send a fair amount of money back home – further draining our economy. "

    Come again?

  53. @ThePsudo

    He's saying 71% of illegal aliens are unhelpful, if not harmful, to the US economy either because they rely on government programs to survive, or because the proceeds of their illegal employment is sent back to their nation of origin as remittance.

    Remittances do remove tens of billions of dollars a year from the US economy, but some (most?) of that is from legal workers.

    There are often stories from illegal immigration Meccas like Los Angeles estimating the cost of welfare for illegal aliens on their budgets and economies. The link below claims the cost "far exceeds $1 billion a year" in LA County.

    I'm not particularly confident in any of these specific figures, but it is something that really happens and really does cost the US economy some money. I don't know that it's enough money to matter compared to the vast abyss of national debt, though.

    And I don't mind remittances – I like remittances better than foreign aid because of it's more intimate, personally charitable nature. When you send aid to a country, you can't always be sure it gets past the officials and ruling class and to the needy. When you send aid directly to your own family you can be more sure.

  54. David Liao

    Remittances certainly do help, and in many ways, they reduce illegal immigration because conditions "at home" improve. They're also the reason why Guangdong Province in China was in a much better position to modernize with less of the abject poverty and human rights violations further north, because Chinese-Americans (mostly from that province until the 90's) provided both a monetary and cultural edge more secluded and xenophobic parts of China lacked.

    Illegal immigrants may take public funds but they're still typically employed and still pay sales tax, even payroll taxes in some cases. What's more, it can certainly be argued that they're filling a market need and that attempting to regulate illegal immigration is attempting to regulate the free market – the lack of jobs for undocumented immigrants has had a bigger impact than all the xenophobia and immigration laws.

  55. @ThePsudo

    I do have a problem with illegal immigration, but because I believe in loyalty to the law. We need to get people to the right side of the law so it and they can properly serve each other. To me, that means opening up legal immigration in a dramatic way so that there's no reason for the law abiding to evade proper channels. Then law enforcement can focus on cross-border smuggling and human trafficking and MS-13, stuff like that. That's a better kind of border security.

  56. Kyle

    Here's the big flaw with your entire post:

    The government is not a family.

    Government spending does not work the same way as family spending.

    Save us your speech about bootstraps and "government dependence." That's not how economics works, and quoting Thatcher who brought in a new era of unemployment, or Churchill who is popular for and only for his actions during the World War, doesn't help.

  57. @ThePsudo

    Then enlighten us. What's the difference?

    I know government revenue works differently. Families are typically paid through mutually voluntary transactions. Government is paid via fiat and third party intrusion into others' transactions.

    I also know government spending has grown at twice the rate as GDP for a handful of decades. How many families can say that?

  58. Kyle

    Because IT'S A GOVERNMENT rather then a single family.

    Really? You're having troubles identifying this?

    But hey, I'm feeling generous, so here we go.

    First, when families are tightening their belts, the federal government is the one institution that can actually help the economy—and these belt-tightening families—by loosening its belt and running a deficit. This is because government spending can increase social services networks and job creation.

    At the same time, the opposite is also true – when families loosen their belt, the government should (gradually and carefully) tighten theirs. Deficit spending needs to decline when the private economy climbs back up to it's feet.

    This is *basic* macroeconomics, here. Government spending doesn't take place in a store. It takes place within a national economy, which is like a machine with many moving parts. Part of the government's job is to spend in a smart way that keeps the machine moving and functioning smoothly.

    If we spent $400 or $500 billion in the next two years on rebuilding our infrastructure, it wouldn't be "lost" money the way that the cost of a new 70-inch television would be "lost" to an American household. This money would be used to hire people and purchase raw materials. The people who were hired would no longer need financial assistance like unemployment, food stamps, or poverty assistance. And they would use their income to buy things, which would increase employment even more by creating jobs for people who provide the things they would buy… including televisions.

    All of these newly-employed people would pay taxes, creating more government revenue. And as the economy grew it would develop its own momentum, eventually reaching a point where the extra spending wasn't needed and further cuts could be considered. The "family" analogy doesn't work at all.

    People use the "family budget" analogy because we're supposed to respect the image of a thrifty, self-disciplined homestead. But consider this household: One son's a hedge fund manager who's taken most of the family income for himself and isn't even paying rent on his room. The other kids are struggling to pay the bills because the rich one's not pulling his weight. Hedge Fund Boy's living like a king, but money's so tight for everyone else that Mom and Dad have decided to feed Grandma less and turn her heater off for the winter. And Grandma built the house!

    But when anybody suggests they're not treating Grandma right, they sneer and say "What do you want us to do? Buy her some food and put it on a credit card?"

  59. bayan

    Thanks for bringing this subtle but important difference up; I’ve added a note to the beginning of the post, accordingly.

  60. Virgil

    Actually there's something here people are overlooking.

    Our House of Representatives is the closest thing that we have to multiparty politics. Our members organize themselves into different party caucuses that more or less have different ideologies.

    The reason I mention this is that it helps explain the politics of the past few years. I know that we do not seem to have a left wing system by the standards of most of the world since we have no Socialist party per se, but for the purposes of this comparison lets oversimplify and say that Liberals want to spend more, Conservatives less, and Moderates are happy with the current system.

  61. Virgil

    Neither party was originally all that ideological and was more regionally based. Democrats were the party of the South, Republicans the North, and a few swing states in Pennsylvania and Ohio generally held the balance of power. With the rise of the New Deal the Democrats became the Liberal party, but the dominant Southern wing did not want to go in for more spending after 1938. As a result a specifically liberal caucus was created called the Democratic Study Committee. A counterpart was made for conservatives in the 1970s. The DSC took over the majority of the House Democrats in the 1950's, and after the 1958 election it became the largest caucus on the Hill. The result was that from 1958 on, the Democrats became a Liberal party. This helps to explain the Great Society of the 1960's.

  62. Virgil

    Republicans remained largely unorganized, and so were in the spending sense, made up of moderates. In this sense from 1958-2008 we had a Liberal and a Moderate party…with disagreements largely over the rate of growth. The Reagan administration was an exception. The RSC remained small all throughout the 80's. The 1994 election did bump up the number close to 100, and during the 90's much of the Republican leadership came from the RSC but they were always moderated by their caucus.

    Enter the 2008 elections. The big-government, neo-conservative types got knocked off, and the RSC emerged with more seats. Those Democrats that got elected in 2006 and 2008 were often more moderate so as to win in more conservative districts. When 2010 came Democrats were knocked off more or less indiscriminately and the 87 new Republicans were, pretty much to a man, RSC or Tea Party types. The result is a somewhat less Liberal caucus on fiscal issues and the rise of a Conservative Republican party. This changes the negotiation positions. In short, it may well not be Obama at all…its the makeup of Congress.

  63. Virigil

    And JJ I've got to give you credit. You talk about primary challenges about a week before some liberals in this country actually start talking about how they would vote for Hillary if they had to do it over again.

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