Up To Our Eyeballs

I bring your attention to three quick articles on the debt and how to fix it, here, here, and here. The chairmen of President Obama’s bipartisan debt commission have presented a working draft that outlines the extent of the problem, and the sort of painful steps necessary to address it.

This is not, and should not be, a partisan issue, even though partisans will dislike different parts of what’s needed, for partisan purposes. But the outline is clear—drastic spending cuts and painful tax increases are in store. The fantasy that we can simply cut taxes and grow our way out of debt has been disproved long ago. The idea that there is a simple and practical and politically easy way to simply raise taxes in selected areas is a concept that cannot be sustained. The thought that spending cuts will be easy, painless, and will affect
someone else, is ridiculous.

We see here the reason why no one has wanted to give specifics. The specifics are going to hurt. And they will hurt everybody.

I’ll avoid any partisan finger-waving either at the causes for this situation, or at the reluctance to solve it. I’m sure that’ll happen in the comments section. But at least now we have one realistic outline for what it would take to address it.


About dcpetterson

D. C. Petterson is a novelist and a software consultant in Minnesota who has been writing science fiction since the age of six. He lives with his wife, two dogs, a cat, and two lizards, and insists that grandchildren are the reward for having survived teenagers. When not writing stories or software, he plays guitar, engages in political debate, and reads a lot of history and physics texts for fun.
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36 Responses to Up To Our Eyeballs

  1. Realist says:

    Can I comment?

  2. Realist says:

    Looks like it’s fixed.Anyway, I’m disappointed that Pelosi came out immediately against the proposal. It seems petty and partisan, rather than leaderlike.

  3. mclever says:

    I agree, Realist.A more “leader-like” response would have been to say something like, “We need time to give all aspects of this proposal due consideration before making any determination. Some aspects seem inordinately painful, so we may need to investigate ways to ameliorate that. The good thing is that this gives us a starting point for the discussion.”Of course, she’d have to say it in sound-byte politico speak, which I’m not very good at crafting.

  4. robert verdi says:

    I read some of what was in there, (mostly from the times) its not a bad compromise and the lowering of rates in exchange for wiping out the loopholes is similar to the tax reform of 1986. Some ideas are no brainers,like raising the age for certain entitlement programs, others I strongly disagree with like raising the gas tax, but even there sometimes you have to give a little to get a little.

  5. Bart DePalma says:

    Unfortunately, the current plan was drafted only by the commission heads and is unlikely to gain a majority vote from the commission.The tax reforms do the Reagan 97 reforms one better and get rid of all deductions. They should flatten the rates down to two and make it revenue neutral under static scoring. Even if scored static neutral, lowering rates that far would immediately create substantial economic and tax revenue growth.The SS reforms are close to what everyone knows will happen sooner or later.There needs to be far more detail on Medicare. The only way you get a leash on that program is to cap spending to the growth of tax revenues and then prioritize what you will fund under than cap.The discretionary spending must be cut deeper back to where it was back in 2000 adjusted for inflation.In any case, the GOP would be wise to take what makes sense out of the recommendations and cite them as the ideas of President Obama’s commission. That puts Obama in the Catch 22 of repudiating his own commission or accepting recommendations he would otherwise oppose.

  6. Michael Weiss says:

    Bart, you said:”There needs to be far more detail on Medicare. The only way you get a leash on that program is to cap spending to the growth of tax revenues and then prioritize what you will fund under than cap.”Seriously? Do you even understand how taxes work? You can’t tie the spending to the growth of tax revenues for two reasons.First, tax revenues are not like salaries. They are unpredictable beyond about a year or so. So budgeting based on those funds is difficult at best.Second, demand for medical services does not rise or fall in sync with the economy.Prioritization is fine, but more than that, the funding for Medicare needs to be countercyclical in nature. Excess funds during boom years need to be held in escrow to pay for shortfalls in recessionary years.”In any case, the GOP would be wise to take what makes sense out of the recommendations and cite them as the ideas of President Obama’s commission.”That’s fine, provided that “what makes sense” isn’t defined as “whatever helps Republicans and hurts Democrats.” Color me skeptical, based on recent history.

  7. Bart DePalma says:

    BD: “There needs to be far more detail on Medicare. The only way you get a leash on that program is to cap spending to the growth of tax revenues and then prioritize what you will fund under than cap.”Michael Weiss wrote: “You can’t tie the spending to the growth of tax revenues for two reasons. First, tax revenues are not like salaries. They are unpredictable beyond about a year or so. So budgeting based on those funds is difficult at best.”The CBO projects future revenues every single year for budgeting purposes. If there is any doubt, budget for no increase and then for an expansion of benefits for greater than expected revenues.Michael Weiss wrote: “Second, demand for medical services does not rise or fall in sync with the economy.”When government provides health care, your choices are sovereign default or government rationing. I am proposing rationing to avoid the worse outcome of sovereign default.Michael Weiss wrote: “Excess funds during boom years need to be held in escrow to pay for shortfalls in recessionary years.”An eminently reasonable suggestion. This suggestion is similar to Keynes plan that you raise taxes and lower spending during flush times to pay off the debt you accumulated by spending money you did not have during recessions.However, governments do not voluntarily operate that way. They only grow.

  8. Michael Weiss says:

    Bart, you said:”The CBO projects future revenues every single year for budgeting purposes.”Of course they do, but surely you realize that it’s a sham, don’t you? Not that they deliberately misstate projections, but that the assumptions they are required to make as part of the job are inherently invalid. It’s better than nothing, I suppose, but not immensely so.”If there is any doubt, budget for no increase and then for an expansion of benefits for greater than expected revenues”Which is fine unless you’re about to hit a recession. Then you’re back in the same boat.”This suggestion is similar to Keynes plan that you raise taxes and lower spending during flush times to pay off the debt you accumulated by spending money you did not have during recessions.”Funny, that. You should have expected no less from a Keynesian such as myself.”However, governments do not voluntarily operate that way.”No, they don’t. So a Keynesian form of a balanced budget amendment is something I could get behind. The problem is that the only proposed balanced budget amendments completely ignore the need for countercyclical behavior, and thus are designed to magnify, rather than counter, economic cycles.

  9. shiloh says:

    Bartles, Bartles, Bartlesas you say it’s a draft.Let me repeat: it’s a draft.Then you say:”That puts Obama in the Catch 22 of repudiating his own commission”>After saying: “and is unlikely to gain a majority vote from the commission.”>Again reading comprehension deficit thy name is Bartles!ieif nothing is approved, there is nothing to repudiate!Let me repeat:if nothing is approved, there is nothing to repudiate!ok, by popular demand 😀 one more time :-Pif nothing is approved, there is nothing to repudiate!take care Bartles

  10. Bart DePalma says:

    BD: “If there is any doubt, budget for no increase and then for an expansion of benefits for greater than expected revenues”Michael Weiss wrote: “Which is fine unless you’re about to hit a recession. Then you’re back in the same boat.”I believe that republic cannot sustain a welfare state without muscular constitutional limits. The EU is a perfect example of what awaits us. I would suggest the Constitution be amended as follows:1) A spending cap at 20% of GDP.2) No borrowing3) A 60% supermajority of Congress or a declaration of war is necessary to exceed the limits of (1) or (2) during a fiscal year.4) A rainy day fund of up to 5% of GDP for recessions.5) No entitlements. Any government promise of a payment or service is limited to the funding appropriated that year.

  11. shortchain says:

    Of course, a similar approach to what Bart proposes is exactly what Minnesota has. Which worked pretty well for many years, until the GOP, under the leadership of Tim Pawlenty, cut taxes during an upturn in revenues. Then came the downturn — and they stubbornly refused to raise taxes again. Instead, Tiny Tim blew through the emergency fund, then spent the tobacco settlement fund (which had been intended to pay for the cost of smoking incurred by the state). After that, he started taking his little hatchet to infrastructure maintenance, to education, to the state social safety net … and then he abandoned the state to run for higher office.

  12. shortchain says:

    robert,A misleading question. What does it mean? Minnesota typically has a substantially lower unemployment rate than the nation as a whole. Had you checked, for example, you would have noticed MN: 2.8, National: 4 (2000), MN: 4.9, National: 4.7. So, relatively, the difference is about typical.Of course, that ignores the historical relative immunity of Minnesota to recessions. When other states had hard times, Minnesota used to remain relatively stable (thanks to a remarkably diverse economy).What that has to do with the future of Minnesota — which is the real question, as Pawlenty’s damage has just begun the last 4 years and will be long-lasting.

  13. Monotreme says:

    I agree, in principal, with the findings of the commission chairs. I hope the entire commission will get on board with this.Eliminating schedule A deductions and raising the age for collecting SS benefits just makes sense. I disagree about legislating spending and or taxation caps. We need look no further than California to see how that will work out. What we need is gutful, rather than gutless, members of the First Branch to implement these recommendations.

  14. Realist says:

    @Monotreme,

    What we need is gutful, rather than gutless, members of the First Branch to implement these recommendations.

    Easy for you to say. The gutful members of the First Branch get voted out of office in favor of the gutless ones. Seriously, you should know this already.

  15. robert verdi says:

    I think T Paw has been a competent governor but as matter of ideology and politics you launched a knee jerk response of attack rather then look at him from an objective perspective.

  16. Monotreme says:

    An article to add to D.C.’s collection of articles above:http://money.cnn.com/2010/11/11/news/economy/commission_top_10/index.htmSome of the specific cuts recommended by the commission chairs are outlined.

  17. shrinkers says:

    Robert –Pawlenty has done a great deal of damage to Minnesota. All the things that made Minnesota a good place to live and work have been cut back — parks, health care, education, etc, etc. Naturally, he’s taking his show on the road. He wants to screw up the nation as badly as he screwed Minnesota.

  18. shrinkers says:

    Here’s a gift for Bart :http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101111/ap_on_go_co/us_ap_poll_gop_agenda“When it comes to the health care law Obama signed in March, just 39 percent back the GOP effort to repeal it or scale it back. Fifty-eight percent would rather make even more changes in the health care system or leave the measure alone.”SO, BART, since 58% of the public wants to keep the PPACA and/or continue to enhance it — and only 39% want to repeal it — ARE YOU NOW IN FAVOR OF KEEPING THE HEALTH CARE LAW? Or do you still want to repeal it, despite IGNORING THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE?Here’s you chance to be consistent, or to be a blatant hypocrite.

  19. Jean says:

    Robert,re: I think T Paw has been a competent governor but as matter of ideology and politics you launched a knee jerk response of attack rather then look at him from an objective perspective.Robert, do you live in Minnesota and have experienced the past few years under Pawlenty? Shrinkers, shortchain and I live in MN and have. Pawlenty has done a HUGE amount of damage in and to MN, and what he has done is one of the main reasons MN Republican governor teaper hopeful Tom Emmer was a bridge-too-far for the majority of Minnesotans. Tom Emmer is Tim Pawlenty on steroids and worse, someone with real teavangelical social wedge issue beliefs, unlike Tim Pawlenty’s fake social conservative pandering, which Pawlenty conveniently came to espouse only once he decided to make a run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

  20. Jean says:

    shortchain,Don’t forget that Tiny Tim, in the name of his “no new taxes” mantra, instead raised every possible fee he could remotely find in the state and raised those fees in lieu of raising taxes. Thus he could maintain the facade that he had not “raised taxes”. True, but he raised the cost of everything else.The result was that raising fees negatively impacted middle-class Minnesotans as well as increasing property taxes and far more than a simple tax increase would have.

  21. Bart DePalma says:

    shrinkers:Yours is the first poll I have seen where Indis favor Obamacare. Can you say outlier or more likely garbage poll?

  22. shrinkers says:

    @Bart DePalma”Yours is the first poll I have seen where Indis favor PPACA. Can you say outlier or more likely garbage poll?”You avoided the question. As usual.So, your response is to dismiss evidence you don’t like. It’s not “my” poll. It is AP GfK.At least address the question. If this is NOT an outlier, will you change your stance, in order to FOLLOW THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE?I bet you do not have the strength of your own convictions.

  23. Bart DePalma says:

    Realist:

    C’mon now. The reason I buried the Edison exit poll results in a endnote with a lengthy explanation why it was unreliable is because…it is unreliable. You relied upon the unreliable poll and purposefully ignored the post election polls run by firms on both sides of the ideological divide – Ras (right) and Kaiser (left) – which arrived at nearly identical findings and the regression model designed by a Huff Post/Pollster contributor that pegged the election result because you were trying to spin the unmistakable message of the 2010 election.

  24. Realist says:

    Actually, Bart, I didn’t use the Ras numbers because the link you provided didn’t contain any data. I’m not going to pay him just to validate your methods.

    It took me longer to get through the Kaiser reports, which were lengthy. The Kaiser poll does show more people wanting to repeal PPACA than wanting to keep it.

    So why is Kaiser not an outlier, while AP-GFK is an outlier?

  25. Bart DePalma says:

    From the chapter in my book about the election:”The evidence also indicates that voters wished to punish Democrats who voted for Obama policies. Two weeks before the election, majorities of likely voters told the Rasmussen poll that their own representative does not deserve reelection if he or she voted for the health care law (50% to 43%), the stimulus (50% to 41%) and especially the bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler (53% to 36%).548 After the election, multiple polls discovered that Obamacare was a signature target of voter ire. 56% to 59% of voters wanted to repeal some or all of Obamacare, with nearly half expressing a strong desire to do so.549 Voters favoring repeal made up a full 80% of the ballots electing Republicans across the country.550 As of 2010, Obamacare was arguably the most electorally toxic legislation in modern polling history.The “throw the bums out” feeling expressed in the pre-election Rasmussen polling carried over into the actual voting. Eric McGhee, a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California specializing in congressional elections, modeled the effect of a Democrat incumbent’s “yes” votes for the Obamacare, stimulus, cap and trade, and TARP bills on their 2010 vote totals. McGhee’s model almost exactly predicted the number of House seats the GOP gained in 2010 and noted that Democrat incumbents in swing districts lost an average of 4% of the vote for every “yes” vote they cast. The model further suggested that, despite the bad economy, the Democrats could have narrowly retained their house majority if every Democrat in a swing district had voted “no” on everything.551Endnotes548 “Most Voters Oppose the Reelection of Anyone Who Voted for the Health Care Law, Auto Bailouts, Stimulus Plan,” RasmussenReports.com (October 20, 2010). http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/october_2010/most_voters_oppose_the_reelection_of_anyone_who_voted_for_the_health_care_law_auto_bailouts_stimulus_plan549 “Election Night 2010: Exit Poll Results,” RasmussenReports.com (November 2, 2010). http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/elections/election_2010/election_night/election_night_2010_exit_poll_results“Kaiser Health Tracking Poll – November 2010,” Kaiser Family Foundation (November 9, 2010). http://www.kff.org/kaiserpolls/8120.cfIn contrast, a plurality of 48% of voters interviewed leaving polling stations thought that Obamacare should be repealed. Gary Langer, “Exit Polls: Economy, Voter Anger Drive Republican Victory,” ABC News… I note this figure for comparison purposes only… Statistician Nate Silver provides “Ten Reasons Why You Should Ignore Exit Polls” at his blog 532.com…550 “Kaiser Health Tracking Poll”551 Eric McGhee, “Did Controversial Roll Call Votes Doom the Democrats?” The Monkey Cage blog (November 4, 2010). http://www.themonkeycage.org/2010/11/did_controversial_roll_call_vo.html

  26. Bart DePalma says:

    The end of the Kaiser link got cut off. Here is the full link550 “Kaiser Health Tracking Poll – November 2010,” Kaiser Family Foundation (November 9, 2010). http://www.kff.org/kaiserpolls/8120.cfm

  27. Realist says:

    @Bart,I’m disappointed, though not surprised, to see that you are writing a Republican spin book, rather than a true analysis of the issues.The conclusions you draw do not line up well with the supporting data you provide.

  28. shrinkers says:

    Bart: 1) You’re still avoiding my question.2) You’re still quoting Rasmussen, who has been proven to be both biased and inaccurate.3) You’re still avoiding my question.4) As you know, a lot of the opposition to PPACA came from the left, from people who wanted it to go FARTHER, and who are unblikely to want it repealed.5) And finally, you’re still avoiding my question.

  29. Realist says:

    Actually, shrinkers, he’s only avoiding one part of your question. Let me show you what I mean:”a plurality of 48% of voters interviewed leaving polling stations thought that Obamacare should be repealed.”This is from Bart. If you look at the results of that very poll, then you’ll notice that MORE respondents said it should be kept the same or expanded.So, Bart, I’ll ask you the same question shrinkers did. Based on the poll YOU supplied, do you support following the will of the people, in NOT repealing the PPACA?

  30. shiloh says:

    Bartles, why are you continually trying to “sell” your as yet unfinished piece of socialism fiction/fantasy (((about your 24/7 obsession w/Barack Hussein Obama))) at 538 ?!?Just wonderin'”We” weren’t impressed (2) years ago and nothing has changed …Maybe try redstate, freeperville etc.solo estoy diciendo

  31. Bart DePalma says:

    Realist:Spin? I provided all the applicable facts, and even historically inaccurate polling for comparison in the end notes. Nearly every sentence in those two paragraphs is endnoted with source material. FWIW, I have spent months researching the subject matter of this book and have well over 500 end notes so far.Spin is your sole citation to exit polling which Nate himself said was next to useless because, among other errors, it undercounts conservatives – who in this case overwhelmingly want to repeal Obamacare..Spin is AP’s combining those who wish to repeal parts of the law with those who wish to keep it as is. The problem with the general partial repeal question is that the elements folks want repealed are necessary to fund the bill (individual mandate & $500 billion in Medicare cuts) or make up 80% of the bill (allowing folks to keep the insurance they have). If the GOP House enacts bills addressing just those three items, Obamacare is virtually repealed.

  32. Realist says:

    Hey, I didn’t supply that exit poll. YOU did. You used it as supporting evidence for your book, and yet when I use it it becomes spin? Seriously?Spin is pretending that a plurality equates to a majority, which is what you did. Do you really believe that if people couldn’t get the PPACA extended, they’d want it repealed? Leaving it alone is the fallback position. You know that’s true, because it’s your fallback position as well.

  33. shiloh says:

    Again Bart re: your piece of socialism fantasy/fiction. Please leave out the chapters about your time at 538 as it would just confuse 😛 your winger audience!solo estoy diciendo

  34. There’s certainly a great deal to find out about this issue.
    I like all the points you’ve made.

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