13 Sep 2018

Image of burning money, symbolizing our nation's fiscal insanity
Fiscally sane commentators are abuzz with the stark data coming out of the latest Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report, showing our nation's dire deficit situation after 11 months of this fiscal year have passed. As has been the case for a long time, the primary problem boils down to one simple fact... Partisan Ideologues Refuse to Accept Basic Fiscal Math Every time either major party has had control of the White House and Congress, they've pushed through legislation that made the debt and deficit worse, while rejecting plans (like the Simpson-Bowles Debt Commission recommendations, or Rivlin-Domenici from the Bipartisan Policy Center) that would start lowering the debt to manageable levels that don't pose a serious threat to our economic future, and stop stealing so much from our children, their children and future generations. That's true for both major parties, but the party, and administration, currently in power is - as it has with s...

07 Aug 2011

In his usual rare form, Fareed Zakaria's monologue on the budget deficits, debt and credit rating this week cut to the heart of the issue. People are complaining up and down about the S&P downgrading our federal credit rating - which is likely to cost us hundreds of billions in increased debt payments and will damage our economy to an extent that can't be known until later, but many of them have been saying the exact same things that the S&P gave as their reasoning behind the credit downgrade. Really what it comes down to is people don't want to accept the reality of the situation that we're in. The fact of the matter is, the S&P's analysis is absolutely sound. Zakaria explains by saying that our leaders in Washington have demonstrated that our political system is broken, and that because the ideological and/or partisan zealots refuse to budge on issues that are required to be worked on if we want to start shrinking our deficits - ...

03 Aug 2011

There really aren't any political figures that look like winners coming out of the debt ceiling debacle - there are just losers, and those who look less bad. As I said in my last post on the subject, the GOP clearly won the fight over the debt ceiling, but I think it will end up costing them dearly in the next election. They won the battle much like a drunk who people will agree with just so they'll shut up. They might get their way, but nobody likes them for it. After taking a slew of House seats in last year's wave election, the GOP made the same mistake the Democrats did in 2009, and are pushing an agenda that is far too extreme for swing voters to stomach. So, in the long run, the folks on the far right, that got the vast majority of what they wanted and still didn't vote for the bill, are the people who look the most childish in all of this. They may be champions of their hard core base, but to the 80% of the American people that wanted a de...

14 May 2011

David Brooks' column from a few days ago makes a good point. We're not going to get some in depth and substantive compromise hammered out in just a few weeks - there just isn't enough time - but something more simple is possible, and could even be better in the long run. Not that we could reasonably expect the blind partisans running the two major parties to do something so logical, but if they chose to they have the power to make something like this happen: Congress won’t be able to produce specific program cuts and policy reforms in the next few weeks, but it can come up with structural rules that will obligate future Congresses to make cuts and reforms for years ahead. The important argument now is over what kind of restrictions to impose on future Congresses. (This by itself is a sign of just how far rightward the debate has shifted). Republicans and a few moderate Democrats are rallying behind a spending cap plan, co-sponsored in the Sen...

26 Apr 2011

Traveling in the UK for a few days does not make one an expert.  However, if you are listening, you might hear something vaguely familiar.    Guess what the British media is reporting this week? First, it seems the government has budget difficulties and must reduce its deficit.  Unbelievable!  How could a modern government allow its finances to get so out of balance?  The answer is not clear but the remedy is straight forward. The UK has decided to reduce teachers pensions and require teachers to pay more towards their retirement.  How draconian.  Guess what the teachers are considering? Why yes, they are talking “job action” (more simply a strike). This approach to balancing budget should sound familiar.  Governments may mean well but they routinely miss the important steps.  Just because it is more difficult to increase taxes, the government thinks it can, instead, take away salaries and benefits.  This must be universal government pro...

23 Apr 2011

Just so you know - Jack is reporting from a vacation in Scotland. - SK Things are not always what they appear to be.  Here in Scotland there is scant news of the American crisis around the deficit.  It turns out that the UK has its own budget and debt difficulties.  The one advantage of being in Scotland is to pause and think about the American political crisis without all the Washington or media 7/24 spin. Upon reflection, I had hoped that the Democratic and GOP deficit reduction plans would be much more than what they appear to be.  Silly me. The GOP “Paul Ryan” plan is bold (at least a little bit) but shameful.  It slashes discretionary spending and tackles Medicare/Medicaid.  For no apparently good reason, however, it heaps the costs of tax breaks for the wealthy upon the middle class.  It is doubly shameful because it will drive the middle class and the most vulnerable to skimp on medical care because they might not be able to afford i...

21 Apr 2011

The news just keeps getting more and more grim on our debt and deficit problems. Congress finally passed a budget compromise, but nonpartisan analysis shows they were lying and it actually saved only a few hundred million, rather than the claimed tens of billions. Our nation could see its debt grow at an even faster pace if the Democrats and Republicans don't get their heads out of the sand and do something substantive, and now even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is saying what both sides are saying about the other - and both are right about the other in some ways. The IMF released a report that said we don't have a "credible strategy" to work through our debt problems (probably because we don't) - pointing to a future where we will be forced to accept austerity measures, unlike which our nation has seen since the Great Depression. We're the only advanced nation in the world that actually increased our budget deficit this year, while ou...

19 Apr 2011

David Frum has been doing a series of post on Yuval Levin’s essay on ending the welfare state.  I have yet to read Levin’s essay so I can’t comment on it, but Frum does note that much of what was in the budget plan offered by Paul Ryan takes some of Levin’s ideas to heart.  That doesn’t set Frum’s heart ablaze and he admits that after the Great Recession there is still a need for the welfare state: Speaking only personally, I cannot take seriously the idea that the worst thing that has happened in the past three years is that government got bigger. Or that money was borrowed. Or that the number of people on food stamps and unemployment insurance and Medicaid increased. The worst thing was that tens of millions of Americans – and not only Americans – were plunged into unemployment, foreclosure, poverty. If food stamps and unemployment insurance, and Medicaid mitigated those disasters, then two cheers for food stamps, unemployment insurance, and Medi...

18 Apr 2011

The New York Times has a great piece profiling the 'Gang of Six', the group of (now much more than six) U.S. Senators that have been trying to nail out a deal that would be brought to the floor of the Senate that would put our nation on solid fiscal footing. It reads like a movie drama script, with different factions trying to forge a working relationship under fire from both external enemies, as well as and internal friendly fire. While Obama is satisfied sitting on the sidelines, these folks are weathering attacks from all around, building a compromise where both bend on some of their priorities in order to work together to save us from fiscal disaster. They realize that this disaster would harm everyone's priorities far and beyond worse than the compromises being discussed here, more like the extreme austerity measures that Ireland is facing now. Here's a taste: As Mr. Obama and Republican leaders have warred publicly over the budget, this...

11 Apr 2011

Every night it is an honored practice.  Common Sense finishes its day's work, paddles out, and join the sun as it goes to rest.  This timeless task keeps the sanity of humans in check.  The night follows, common sense rests, and the next day rises with the sun and is prepared to tackle the intractable problems of the day. This is a lonely job.  One never can be sure the sun will rise the next day.  So far, it always has.  Sometimes, however, the sun comes back alone.  Its friend “commonsense” gets lost or is left behind.  I think we are living in a period where common sense is missing. Take the current deficit discussions.  Who do you hear referencing data?  What proposals do Democrats have to eliminate the deficit and reduce the debt?  Why would Republicans propose to cut the deficit by $600 billion a year and simultaneously give millionaires a tax break with lower tax rates?  What would common sense do? Mathematically one can imagine a st...