Tax Cuts, Feh.

“The Bush administration has shelved a report commissioned by the Treasury that shows the US currently faces a future of chronic federal budget deficits totalling at least $44,200bn in current US dollars.

The study, the most comprehensive assessment of how the US government is at risk of being overwhelmed by the “baby boom” generation’s future healthcare and retirement costs, was commissioned by then-Treasury secretary Paul O’Neill.

But the Bush administration chose to keep the findings out of the annual budget report for fiscal year 2004, published in February, as the White House campaigned for a tax-cut package that critics claim will expand future deficits.”“US ‘faces future of chronic deficits’,” The Financial Times, 5/29/03

Look, I’m one of those people who is personally going to get more out of this tax cut than many of the rest of you (yeah, I know. Can’t figure it out, either). But at the same time, I’ve got a public library that I have to contribute books to so it has an astronomy book from the last decade, a public school that’s in an academic emergency, a state that is tearing through social services and rocket-launching the cost of its public universities because it’s running a huge deficit it’s not allowed to run, a social security system that’s going to be insolvent by the time I reach retirement age, and deficits that mean it’s highly likely my kid and her kids are going to be saddled with unfathomable debt.

I don’t want any more tax cuts. I personally don’t need any more tax cuts. If this was 1980 and the highest federal marginal tax rate took more of my take-home pay than I took home, then yes, I could see why I might want a tax cut. But it’s 2003, the highest federal marginal rate last year is 38% , and my effective federal tax rate (meaning the amount I actually pay) is less than 20%, which means the large majority of Americans pay even less than I do. Throw in my tax indebtedness to Ohio and my local government, and I’m still cruising along at about 25% of my total income.

I can afford this. And, in order to forstall crushing debt collapsing on subsequent generations, I’m perfectly happy to kick in a little more if necessary. Not a whole lot more, mind you. I want to play with my own money and I don’t want to get back to a situation where we have 70% marginal tax rates. But at the very least, I don’t see the point right now in paying less.

(Bear in mind also that being self-employed I pay quarterly and I pay my full Social Security deduction on top of the taxes above. So I pay more taxes more often than most of you. And yet I’m still saying this.)

Yes, yes, I know — more money back to the people so they can boost the economy, blah blah blah. But let’s not lie and say this most recent tax cut is about the people, okay? I mean, yes — if we really want to help the working guy, let’s slash his taxes by more than a measly one or two percentage points and a few hundred dollars and avoid giving the rich double that in percentages and of course multiples of that in dollars. Throwing the working guy pennies while the wealthy are rolling out wheelbarrows of cash isn’t my idea of a smart thing to do. Hell, even Warren Buffett thought the details of the most recent tax cut proposals were appaling. In the story referenced there, Senator Charles Grassley says that Buffett doesn’t have any appreciation for the trials of the middle class, which is (excuse the pun) rich, since Buffett was suggesting giving the middle class much more of a tax break than the budget Grassley was pushing. And anyway, when it comes to money, who should you believe: They guy who invested his way to being worth $36 billion, or the guy with the government paycheck?

There are many things I don’t like about the Republican Party, but one of the things that galls me the most is how it’s demonized taxation, and how it’s consistently run deficits since Reagan and yet manages somehow to position itself as the party of fiscal responsibility. Yes, there is a point of too much taxation, and at times in our past we’ve been there, and it was not at all a bad thing for the GOP to point that out. Good on it. Now isn’t one of those times, and even if it were, the rich would not be the people I’d focus the cuts upon. The answer to everything is not “tax cuts.”

As for raising deficits, it’s just another strategy to keep Republican financial ethos in control even when they inevitably get booted from office, since the Democrats, dim bulbs that they are, will spend most of their time in power trying to correct the damage the Republicans wrought. Republicans in my estimation spend a lot of their time exploiting the persistent Democratic position of befuddled niceness, and this is just another example. The Democrats need to have their huevoes drop into their sacs and take it to the Republicans (who, like all bullies, whine like mewling kittens when the tactics they use are used against them), but that’s another rant entirely.

To be entirely honest about it, I lump people who believe that Republicans are fiscally responsible in with the people who believe in astrology and that the Earth was created in six days, in that whatever other positive qualities they might have, they have a fundamental defect in their ability to process reality. Mind you, this does not mean I expect Democrats to be correspondingly fiscally sound. That’s a false opposition. But honestly, people. We have a three administration track record of Republicans gulping down debt like they’re dipsomaniac sorority girls at Free Margarita Night, and then calling for yet another round of tax cuts. How much more evidence do you need?

Here’s my position: Call me crazy, but I expect a certain level of government service. It’s not dizzingly high, but it’s there. I’m comfortable with funding a certain number of things I don’t necessarily agree with with my tax dollars in order to get certain services others might not agree with. I’m comfortable spending money on services I don’t need to use personally — welfare, unemployment, the military — because I think they provide for a better quality of life for my fellow citizens at large. And for all of that, I’m willing to pay a fair amount, and the emphasis here is on “fair.” I don’t want to pay more than is necessary, and I want to make sure what’s being spent is accounted for — I remember reading recently that Pentagon accountants don’t know where a trillion dollars they were given went, and that’s just no good — but for the quality of life and government services I expect, yes, I’ll pay my taxes. Happily.

The thing that Republicans have managed to do over the last couple of decades is establish, nearly solely, that taxes are a burden to us all. Well, maybe so. But they’re also an obligation, and a responsibility, and not nearly enough attention is focused on that fact. I do a reasonable amount of charity giving, because I can and because I think I ought to, but there is a whole lot I can’t do personally that the government, with its aggregate power, can. It’s a useful tool.

I like the idea that some of the money I send to my government goes to keep a library open in the little town I live in. I like the idea that somewhere in my little town, a kid who’d otherwise go hungry is eating dinner bought with food stamps that I paid for. I like the idea that a sailor on an aircraft carrier goes on shore leave with money I put in his pocket. I like the idea that people are researching diseases and robots are exploring space with money I chipped in to pay for them. As I mentioned, there are lots of things our government is doing with my money I wish it wouldn’t do, but that’s the trade-off and overall I think the balance is worth it.

All of that stuff takes money. That money comes from me. I accept the responsibility of paying that money. More of that money comes from me than from the average taxpayer. And I say, I don’t need any more tax cuts. I need a government that can pay for what I want it to do without chronically shifting the financial burden of its existence on to my kid. I’m willing to pay for that kind of government. I’m also willing to vote for it. And quite obviously, I think you should be, too.

Update: “WASHINGTON, May 28 — A last-minute revision by House and Senate leaders in the tax bill that President Bush signed today will prevent millions of minimum-wage families from receiving the increased child credit that is in the measure, say Congressional officials and outside groups… Because of the formula for calculating the credit, most families with incomes from $10,500 to $26,625 will not benefit. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal group, says those families include 11.9 million children, or one of every six children under 17.” — “Tax Law Omits Child Credit in Low-Income Brackets”, The New York Times, 5/29/03

But the dividend and capital gains taxes got decreased! Isn’t that nice. I bet all the families with incomes from $10,500 to $26,625 just can’t wait for the boost in their dividend and capital gains checks.

Second Update: I’m done a follow-up on this Whatever here, discussing in greater detail issues about Social Security/Medicare, deficits, and reader comments. Oh, go on. You’ve read this far already.

136 thoughts on “Tax Cuts, Feh.

  1. I think that this is an example of one of those ‘retro’ things. G.W. and his tax cuts give me the same cold shiver that I get when a club has a ‘retro’ night and plays the music I listened to in high school in the ’80s. I couldn’t believe that enough time had gone by for *my* music to be retro. Now I can’t believe that enough time has gone for people to not recognize Trickle-Down Reaganomics when it again rears its ugly head.

  2. Well, seeing as I live in rural Ohio, in the deeply conservative 8th District, there are 11 churches in my town of 2,000, which has one black person in it, and I’m an agnostic who has publicly declared he’s for gay marriage, affirmative action, teaching sex education and evolution in our schools AND paying taxes, no.

  3. When you put it that way, it becomes blindingly obvious that those who would have the most reasonable policies are, unfortunately, the least electable.

  4. At least as it applies to me, where I live, yes.

    Bear in mind I am not saying anything bad about the people with whom I live in my little town, all of whom are nothing but very nice people and fine neighbors. But I have just too many wacky ideas on my scorecard for this crowd.

  5. You know John, I think those pictures of your new kitty are the only thing keeping me from wishing for a nice cleansing fire upon that festering cesspool on the Potomac. Because I’m sure if those people died, their cats would be very sad.

  6. One more reason I am not a fan of Bush and his cronies.

    If you ask me, a large part of the reason these guys can get away with this, and still make the ridiculous claim that they are fiscally responsible, is because most

  7. Your premise is that “deficits are bad.” This is not always the case. In fact, when it comes to governments, a little deficit can be a good thing.

  8. People call’em tax cuts when they are actually tax RATE cuts. It’s as if JFK, Reagan and Bush permanently reduced my tax bill. Well there has not been a year where my tax bill went down.
    The notion that we all would be paying significantly more in taxes and Democrats would would pay of the defecit, fix Social Security, fix medicare and stay away from the Soviet healthcare model is daft.

  9. I don’t agree with you, but it’s refreshing to see a straightforward, well-reasoned argument against the tax cuts. You’ve pulled me a little bit closer to the anti-tax cut side, but not all the way. It would be nice, though, if people in government who collect our taxes would be forced to make the same, tough choices with spending that most families have to make. If it comes down to more money in my paycheck, or one more bridge built and named after Sen. Robert Byrd, I’ll take the money in my pocket.

  10. Let’s see. If we did not have the tax cut, the future deficits due to demographic changes that Social Security and Medicare can’t handle would be… still huge. In fact, it’s almost as if the problem lies in the pay-as-you-go entitlement programs, not the current income tax rate.

    I know you want a “certain level of government services”, so do I, but I figure $2,000,000,000,000.00 per year is in the neighborhood of plenty.

    Oh, and the effect is not supposed to be just to put money in people’s hands to spend it. The idea is more to change the effective marginal tax on investments which was in the excess of 60% pre-tax cut.

  11. So much angst and so much fun. So the Treasury says that we are going to run deficit forever. 3 years ago we were going to run surpluses. What is the big problem is not the tax cuts but the tax code.

  12. Fiscal responsibility isn’t a strong point of EITHER party. It is all part of a nice grand cycle. Democrats raise taxes, cut spending on republican initiatives and spend on democratic programs, and run up a deficit. Republicans cut taxes, cut spending on democratic initiatives of previous years and spend on republic programs.

    Nowhere is anyone cutting spending.
    Nowhere is the government activly pursuing fiscal responsibility (oh, they give it lip service, but then just pump up the pork spending some more).

    I’m not so much arguing for or against either party. I’m merely saying that the current system as it stands, with self-interested politicians in charge that have the opportunity to spend absolutely ungodly amounts of money just by adding another line to an existing bill, will NEVER be able to effectively reduce a deficit, and NEVER be capable of fiscal responsibility.

    It just won’t happen. Cynical? Perhaps, but backed up by a lifetime of observation.

  13. “I’m comfortable with funding a certain number of things I don’t necessarily agree with with my tax dollars in order to get certain services others might not agree with.”

    It’s still theft. I’m never comfortable with that.

  14. Okayt, you don’t “need” the tax cut and can afford to not take it. Congratulations. I suggest you calculate your taxes as if the cut hadn’t been enacted and send in a check for the difference. The “tax rate” is what you’re REQUIRED to pay – there’s no law that says you can’t pay more if you so choose. But keep your hands out of my wallet please. I already pay plenty.

  15. Very well put, and I pretty much agree with you. So with that out of the way, allow me please a tiny digression, or perhaps corollary.

    Some years after he had died, I became interested in my grandfather’s political philosphy, and asked my father. Grandfather had been a county administrator, the countywide equivalent of mayor, I think

    Dad said that Grandfather had been rather conservative and fiscally responsible, believing that citizens should get the government services they needed, which was not always the same as what they wanted, and that they should be paid for by honest taxation.

    What did that mean? Well, Grandfather was highly critical of Social Security, not so much the goals of the program but the way Social Security taxes were levied: sneakily. Most people have no idea how much they’re paying in S.S. taxes, because there is no S.S. April 15. Though as with income tax, these taxes are removed from your paycheck before you ever see them, there is no day in which you have to sign a Social Security return, a day when you look at a line marked “tax owed” and say, “Whoa! That much??

    Sure, you can take your paycheck stub and a calculator and figure out the total, but how many people do that? Social Security is the sneakiest of all major taxes, and I don’t think that’s accidental.

  16. First: if you want to give more of your money to the goverment, be my guest. C’mon, put your money where your mouth is. If you are not a hypocrite and a liar then you will ignore this tax cut, and send the government the same amount you would have, without it. Will you? After all you pretend to be so concerned about your library and such. Second: you say you “don’t need” a tax cut and “can afford” higher taxes. Goody for you! Aren’t you special. Does that give you the right to speak for the rest of us and take money out of our pockets? Who are you to judge what the REST of us “need” and “can afford”? Third: any tax-rate cut will give more money to “the rich” than to others. That’s how those little things called “fractions” work. To complain about it is mathematically retarded. And if you never allow this then you are guaranteeing that the tax code gets more and more “progressive” to the point of socialism. Perhaps that’s what you want? If so why not just say so.

  17. I’m sure the treasury would welcome the voluntary donation of any sum equal to your undeserved and unwanted tax cut. When can it expect to receive a check from you?

  18. Whenever I hear an analysis like this, it always seems to be based on the assumption that if people have more money, they’ll waste it on whiskey and lottery tickets or something. If this is the case, (i.e. if people don’t become more charitable when they have more disposable income) then it seems like maybe we should just give up, since it really is a dog-eat-dog world. Of course I don’t believe that this is the case, so that’s at least part of the reason I think we could live with smaller government. Oh, BTW, Gary from above also has a good point about tax *rate* cuts. Inflation slowly pushes people (and by people, I also include poor people) into higher tax brackets, so a tax rate reduction now-and-then just tries to keep the tax burden constant.

  19. I crunched the numbers, accurately, I think, and have concluded that the economy will need to grow 1.75% a year in order to generate enough extra tax revenues to offset what was lost by the tax cuts. You can see my analysis here:

    http://blog.bomis.com/sid/1054252115.html

    The economy grew 1.1% in the 2001 “recession” year, 2.4% last year, and was on a pace for 1.9% first quarter this year. So the 1.75% looks easy to achieve, and the government will have just as much money to spend as before.

  20. There’s a really simple solution if you think that the tax cut is not warranted.

    Make a contribution to the government for however much you feel is not needed by you. Tell all your friends and have them return as much money as they want to the government as well. Some folk agonize over receiving a tax refund but I’ve not known a single person who ever not cashed their refund cheque or offered to pay more tax from their paycheck.

    If you think you’re undertaxed no-one is stopping you from overpaying on your own account. Just stop reaching in to everyone else’s pockets to feel good for yourself!

  21. Query: How much did the Federal government revenue (all sources) go down during the horrible Reagan years producing all those horrible deficits? Answer: It went up 99% in eight years, an imputed growth of revenue of ~9% a year. Interpretation (mine): Spending, not taxing is what drove the deficit. There was a time when the Democrats proposed new spending programs and the Republican routinely lost the political battles by being deficit hawks. They lost because they opposed attractive government programs with a derived number that is prone to error and that nobody cares about. Reagan turned that dynamic upside down by cutting taxes first. The Democrats’ problem right now is that they don’t have anything attractive to suggest besides wailing about the deficit. If the Democrats have to fight tax cuts with tax cuts right now, why don’t the Democrats suggest cutting the Social Security tax (a Moynihan suggestion) a few points which would (percentage of income-wise, the preferred Democratic way of characterizing tax cuts) preferentially help those who make less than the Social Security limit? Since those funds are not in fact saved for social security payments later, it is not as if Social Security would be hurt.

  22. I like it when people don’t read comments above their own (or do and choose to ignore them) and write the exact same thing as someone above them.

  23. Collin writes:

    “Your premise is that ‘deficits are bad.’ This is not always the case. In fact, when it comes to governments, a little deficit can be a good thing.”

    I would agree that deficits aren’t always bad, however I personally don’t see how this current deficit, or more specifically the size of it, is good. I think quite a bit of immediate economic stimulus could be achieved with a much smaller deficit package.

    To everyone who suggests I’m free to give more of my money if I so choose: Thanks for the advice, I’ll give it as much due consideration as I’m sure you did in providing it. I am torn, of course. As I’m fond of saying, one of the advantages of Republicans aways agitating for tax cuts is that I don’t necessarily want them to spend my money. But they apparently don’t need my money, since they’re happy to deficit spend and put it on my kids’ tab.

  24. To all those who claim that tax cut opponents should “give up” their share of the pending cuts:

    I’ll make a deal. I will agree to turn down my “share” of the proposed tax cut, if tax cut supporters agree to shoulder the burden for the National Debt (which the tax cut is responsible for expanding). $300 billion should cover the portion of our budget set aside to fund the interest on our national debt (currently around $6 trillion) for fiscal year 2003. Another $300 billion should do the job next year.

    Open your wallets, guys.

  25. “Republicans in my estimation spend a lot of their time exploiting the persistent Democratic position of befuddled niceness, and this is just another example.”

    I haven’t laughed this hard in years. Have you ever heard of Terry McAuliffe?

  26. And democrats don’t spend on deficit? News flash – the GOVERNMENT spends on deficit, because there is no way to stop them. They will always spend more than they have.

    My personal favorite governmental moment of all time was when the budget disagreements between Clinton and Congress reached a point where all “non-essential” governmental agencies were shut down temporarily.

    If they are non-essential – why the heck am I paying for them? I agree with everyone else – I don’t want to pay more taxes, but I also disagree with deficit spending – and rather than toss around the taxation hot potato for the next century, lets try and get a method in place for capping spending based on actual revenue – rather than allowing deficit spending to occur.

    As long as it is allowed – it will happen.

  27. Federal spending this year is going to amount to $2 TRILLION. With a “T” . . . how much is enough? Is every penny of that going to a worthy cause?

    I agree Ed up there. While I’m not exactly gushing with excitement over my tax cut, which will amount to a few more bucks in my paycheck, I’d rather have those few more bucks than “one more bridge built and named after Sen. Robert Byrd.”

  28. You idiot:

    Yes, both Republicans and Democrats are profligate spenders. But Democrats can cut spending and who’s to complain? Let Republicans try it and the “tax cuts for the rich” class envy machine kicks in. If you want fiscal responsibility, who are you going to hire–the Democrat who loves everybody and everything (except the people who pay most of the taxes)OR, the rich evil Republican who will balance the budget on the backs of the proletariat. You nutcases make no sense at all.

  29. Kevin writes:

    “I haven’t laughed this hard in years. Have you ever heard of Terry McAuliffe?”

    Sure. An absolute cuddly sweetheart he is, too.

    I’m not saying there aren’t Machiavellian Dems. Merely as a class, they’re not as good at it.

  30. I’m a big fan of tax cuts….I’ll start there. However, I think we can all agree that the problem is runaway spending, not too little or too much Treasury income. Fact is, the Congress has the pursestrings, and they have managed to spend away all the money regardless how much there was in the kitty.

    It’s called fiscal responsibility, and I don’t see it. At least I understand extra spending in this time…hell, we’re at war, and there’s a recession, but we should curtail the spending, and that in and of itself CAN be done hand-in-hand with a tax cut….which is, in my opinion, needed right NOW.

  31. If we cut the federal budget across the board by 50% today, life would go on. Cut welfare, and more people will get jobs. Cut social security and more people will save for a rainy day. Cut medicare and more people will buy insurance. Quit defending the programs a bunch of self centered “i want to get relected at any cost” politicians saddled us with. JUST CUT THE STUPID BUDGET! The budget is 2 trillion a year. With only 400 billion going to defense, the remaining 1.6 trillion, minus the interest, is largely a load of useless crap. Had we kept taxes as low as they were for our grandparents the past 40 years, the compound effect of that money left in the private sector would be astounding.

  32. Do you realize how petty 350 billion dollars is to the US economy? Its less than 1% of the total money our nation rakes in.
    And this tax cut is takeing place over a period of 10 years supposedly. Lets have some common sense hear guys.

    We got anti-war people screaming the war and occupation is gonna cost us 80 billion dollars!! -Gasp a whole .04% taken out of our juggernaught economy to help rebuild a nation of 25 million people. Oh the horror, the horror.

    Its like you walking down the street and you got a 100 bucks in your pocket…….you give 1.00 to your Son, so he can spend it on something he doesnt need. And .50 cents to the bum on the street to live off of. It really doesnt matter. You still have 98 dollars and 50 cents left.

  33. Shock writes:

    “Do you realize how petty 350 billion dollars is to the US economy? Its less than 1% of the total money our nation rakes in.”

    Yes, although unfortunately it’s added to the several trillion dollars we already have as a deficit, so our total debt is a rather impressive percentage of our total GDP. Also bear in mind that deficits are expected for our federal budgets for the forseeable future. As they say, a billion here, a billion there — sooner or later it adds up to real money.

    A brief note to all the people who say the issue is that we should be cutting the budget: I’m all for cutting out waste from the budget, and I think there are a number of programs that are worthy of trimming back. But as I’ve mentioned, there’s a certain level of programming I expect from my government, so realistically speaking there’s a point beyond which cutting doesn’t work for retaining a useful slate of governmental services. Where that point is, I don’t know, although I would suspect it’s probably higher than many budget cutters would prefer.

  34. I totally support your right to give as much money as your heart desires to your local library, your local poor family and your local government school. However, it’s immoral to steal from me- to pay for what your heart desires. The government’s only role is to protect and defend. But in modern America, I can merrily elect a politician to steal from my neighbor for my benefit. It’s too messy to have to actually break into my neighbor’s house. Politicians help keep the process “clean”.

  35. I suggest you read the excellent analysis of the study done at powerlineblog.com – “More Hysteria: This time, the budget” – to see what the study was really all about. The whole problem with chronic deficits is Social Security and Medicare. Without entitlement reform (and higher economic growth), we’re doomed. And $350 billion out of a $25 trillion federal budget over the next ten years amounts to a measly 1.4%. Even less if it’s measured against total GDP over the next ten years. Not much of a tax cut if it adds to increasing economic growth, which it should.

  36. I hope you all realize these numbers that get thrown around are quite useless. When the effect of a RATE cut is estimated, the gov’t applies the value of the previously known revenue in that taxable income band and mutliplies by the amount of the rate adjustment and says “voila” $350 Billion. Without revealing my sinister plans to boost the economy next year, I will be spending ALL of my tax cut and then some and it will go primarily into the more basic industries in my local area. The only way the tax RATE cut will cost $350 Billion over 10 years is if we all buy gold bullion from the Russians and dump it in an active volcano in Hawaii.

  37. “It’s still theft. I’m never comfortable with that.”

    If you think the government is stealing from you when it collects taxes, perhaps you should leave the country.

    Move to a country where there are no taxes. I hear those are great places to live.

  38. Scalzi,
    I think you, Sullivan, and Warren Buffett should get together and start a club for people who want higher taxes. If you are not successful in lobbying the government for higher tax rates, you can just pool your money and cut a check to the treasury. Think how warm and gooey your heart will feel then! In the meantime, don’t volunteer the rest of us to sign up with you.

  39. Nice, but Buffett is a fraud. Yes he’ll give up his tax cut, but Berkshire is suing Uncle Sam for some tax breaks Buffett thinks he is entitled to. Fuck him.

    What if 1/3 of federal expenditures would be considered pork or waste (I think it is). Would you still like your tax bill? The problem isn’t taxes, it is spending. Republicans unfortunately are just as bad as dems.

  40. The only way to cut spending in the long term is to take away the money by cutting taxes. Legislators do not have the discipline to limit their spending habits voluntarily. Granted, the spendthirfts will run a deficit for a while, but in the long run they will be forced to cut back.

    The sad fact remains, however, that the Federal government never has and never will become smaller. The only thing you can hope for is a way to slow down its growth… i.e. tax cuts.

  41. tax, tax, tax – look around, the higher the taxes the more people struggle – even in “civilized” europe college graduate can’t get a job, stay home with parents, dream of coming to america where taxes are lower (joke!) taxes are a cancer on the economy – and if government were the answer then irak, cuba and the soviets had lots of it – but then of course some people adore castro, saddam and stalin

  42. As far as that Financial Times report goes, I suggest you all read the original paper, which can be found at:

    http://specials.ft.com/spdocs/WP-Fiscal-Smetters.pdf

    Of that 44.2 trillion we will be in the hole, 7 trillion is Social Security, and 36.6 is Medicare.

    In other words, wealth redistribution to the elderly is over 98 percent of the problem.

    Please ponder that for a while.

    It isn’t military spending.
    It isn’t homeland security.
    It isn’t the war in Iraq.
    It isn’t education.
    It isn’t NASA.
    It isn’t building dams.
    It isn’t building roads.
    It isn’t corporate welfare.
    In fact, it isn’t discretionary spending at all.

    It isn’t the Bush budgets.

    And it sure as hell isn’t the tax cuts.

    It’s raw welfare. The Democratic Party sacred cow.

    Wealth redistribution is killing the nation.

    From the original paper:

    “How large must spending cuts or revenue increases be to eliminate the current $44.2 trillion FI? We estimate that to achieve fiscal sustainability, an additional 16.6 percent of annual payrolls would have to be taxed away forever beginning today. Alternatively, income tax revenues would have to be hiked permanently by another two-thirds beginning immediately. Yet another alternative would be to permanently eliminate all future federal discretionary outlays.”

    Any and all largely Republican attempts to try and fix this (privatizing Social Security, Medicare reform, etc.) have resulted in Democrats screaming and leaping for the jugular of the unfortunate politician who had the nerve to suggest that we can’t live off our seed corn forever.

    It is worth noting that even under these circumstances, many of these same Democrats are even now proposing massive additional health care entitlements. This is the budgetary equivalent of throwing an anvil to a man treading water, but God forbid anyone point this out. A normal person might think this was less than sane, unless the idea of gaining power for a few years is considered worth bankrupting America in the long run.

    You can’t keep robbing Peter to pay Paul forever, and the Democratic “higher taxes” solution of simply robbing more from Peter isn’t going to work. Socialism doesn’t work. Socialism NEVER works. European nanny states are heading down the same tube.

    You figure out what would happen to this country’s economy given a 66 percent across-the-board tax increase.

    If you want this fixed, you can’t do it by getting rid of Bush’s tax cuts. The percentage of these cuts compared to $44 trillion is almost imperceptible. You can’t do it by cutting discretionary spending either.

    What needs to be done is to figure out a way to begin to ramp back the massive wealth redistribution that is killing this country. And certainly we should not add any more new entitlements to the burden.

  43. I don’t think that some of you guys know what you are talking about, it is the type of economic lunacy displayed on this board that completely ruins economic reasoning for those of us that know what we are talking about (yes I include myself in that group).

    One of the usual line from rich conservatives is about how these deficits will only matter because of the problem with the entitlement programs (nice name huh?). The problem is that even entitlement reform COSTS money in and of itself. It wouldn’t be at all reasonable to just say to retirees that there pensions were going to be slashed by 25%, especially since they paid into the system and planned their retirement around a certain promised figure.

    Even in the “President’s Commitee to Strengthen Social Security” reform proposal, it is said that any degree of reform (especially privitization) will cost TRILLIONS of dollars in extra revenue to make up the gap. Social Security as Pay-As-You-Go just can’t function with the looming demographic conditions facing the country. I am for privitization, but doing so will cost a lot of real money, money that is being pissed away by Bush while he slashes the future government’s ability to have any fiscal flexibility whatsoever.

    Do I need to remind you guys how much Bush has increased discretionary spending during his tenure.

    Besides that, besides the Social Security and Medicare problems, do any of you Republicans care that Bush is lying to you. Our governmentground to a halt because of the uproar from moral objections to Clinton fooling around in the Oval Office, and yet no one applies the same standard of respect or honesty to your guy. I would rather a public official who lies about his sex life than one who lies about the actual intentions of his policy.

    There is no doubt that this latest round of tax cuts will not “boost” the economy, I think Buffet covered that argument pretty well. And saying that he is suing the government over taxes has NOTHING to do with his argument. If you are going to be so crass as to say “Fuck Him” you could at least do him the respect of addressing his argument.

    If you find yourself regressing towards incoherence and hostility in defense of your position, it might be a good time to reasses your policy views.

    And I don’t think anyone would say that Sullivan is eager to raise taxes, if you have paid any attention to his posts, he has made it abundantly clear: he was once very much in favor of dividend tax cuts, but upon actually looking at the arguments and the ramifications, he changed his mind. And he is one of the most coherent and reasonable Bush-lovers…

    If you are going to attack this post, please don’t devolve to the point of name calling, sloagneering, or the other 8 year old girl stuff that is the current content of this board, have some dignity and if your stance is right that you have to get that hot and bothered, make a good well-thought out case for it. You guys sound as bad as the loony protestors a couple of months ago.

  44. > tax, tax, tax – look around, the higher the
    > taxes the more people struggle – even
    > in “civilized” europe

    Utter nonsense. Taxes are much lower in the Third World than in the States or Western Europe, and consequently the public sector is a lot smaller too.

  45. If you poll people about what the highest tax percentage take should be, there’s wide agreement on 25%. A consensus! You can though get votes by fragmenting that agreement. In particular, if you can favor a majority, the minority pays and you’re in power. That’s an instability you want to avoid setting up. For that reason, anything that makes taxes flatter is good; reducing rates on the rich towards rates on the poor (or raising rates on the poor, what the hell) is good policy.

    Here’s what you want: if you want bigger government, everybody pays for it; and that factors into the choice. Voting to tax the other guy is the road to ruin.

    Public debt isn’t private debt, by the way. All the fallicies of composition apply (“if everybody stands on their toes, everybody can see better”).

  46. John, you’ve nicely summarized my feelings about taxes, and about the “I’m not gonna pay a lot for this democracy” movement that the Republicans are trying to nurture.

    If there’s any justice in the world, your words will be preserved for future generations. It would be nice to know that, as they try to dig themselves out from under the mess we’re creating, Americans in 2050 could read your comments and think, “Hey, they weren’t *all* feckless idiots.”

  47. Perhaps if the federal government followed its Constitutional restrictions of power, we wouldn’t have a federal deficit to worry about. The powers enumerated to the federal government are quite clear in the Constitution, and yet almost every program I hear that will face cuts due to budget restrictions is a program that the federal government doesn’t have the authority to fund in the first place. How about we start buy eliminating the Departments of Education, Energy, Interior, and Transportation?

    Oh yeah, and once this country wises up and enacts a national sales tax to raise revenue, instead of the income tax ( which is constantly modified to reward or benefit certain segments of the population ), and we can eliminate not only federal expenditures on the IRS, but the wasted dollars spent in income tax preparation every year.

  48. I’m happy to see all the comments, even the ones which seem to imply I’m your basic socialist nutbag. As an author on a book about money and a writer who does a significant amount of corporate work for entities like US Trust and Oppenheimer, I find this opinion amusing to say the least.

    Quick note to everyone who considers taxes theft. I’ll quote myself here:

    “The thing that Republicans have managed to do over the last couple of decades is establish, nearly solely, that taxes are a burden to us all. Well, maybe so. But they’re also an obligation, and a responsibility, and not nearly enough attention is focused on that fact.”

    I typically find the “taxes = theft” argument at its heart to be a dolled-up version of the same rationale a child who doesn’t want to share classroom toys employs, so I don’t take it very seriously. Taxes may be too high or too low, depending on personal taste, but unless you’re happy with anarchy (and I personally am not), they’re not theft.

  49. Thanks so much, John, for an excellent piece.

    Having actually grown up in one of those socialist ‘nanny’ countries (Norway), and worked there later, I can confirm that 80% marginal tax rates are a pretty effective way to keep smart, talented people from doing an iota of extra work. You start to feel pretty stupid putting in overtime. And there goes innovation and long-term economic growth.

    But one difference that has struck me, comparing my life in the US with that of my relatives in Norway, is just how much money we as Americans spend on work-arounds, making up for the services government should be responsible for, but is failing at. Here, we may spend tens of thousands on private schools (unheard of in Norway), or hundreds of thousands on a house in an expensive neighborhood in order to get decent public schools. We end up needing multiple cars so everyone can commute (Norway has clean and efficient public transportation people actually use). We might spend huge sums on private day-care. I’m deliberately avoiding the health care, higher education, and social security issues, because in my own opinion these sit on the border as partly public, partly private goods, and socialism classically goes wrong by making private goods public. I personally have $80,000 in debt from medical school tuition, which would have been free in Norway. But that’s fine with me.

    Norwegians, and many other Europeans, may have a blind spot about incentives and capitalism. But in the US, many have a similar blind spot about the basic economic concept of a public good. Some things are simply not efficient to buy individually, with each person chipping in their extra tax refund if they feel like it. Economists usually use environmental quality and national security as examples of public goods that protect us all, whether you pay for it or not (so we must all pay for it). I’d also argue that internal security is a similar public good. The biggest intangible difference between living here and living in Norway, is that in the US we have to spend a lot of money protecting and isolating ourselves from our own people, and remediating their lack of education and basic skills. That, to me, is a higher social cost than just paying for basic services the first time around.

    Most rational people agree that a country needs a government, and therefore need some amount of tax. They also agree that excessive taxes hinder economic growth. As you say, the discussion is really about where that optimal balance lies.

  50. John,

    Sorry, but your classroom toy analogy is suspect. If it’s the classroom’s toy, then it’s NOT the child’s. Are you implying that the income I earn is not mine?

    A better analogy would be a toy that the child brought to school, not one that was public property (paid for with my tax dollars!). How do you stand on the toy that the child brought to school to play with? Is it OK then for her NOT to share?

  51. Wow, John. What a diatribe. Not that I am going to change your mind in one post, but here are a couple of questions to ponder.
    1) You can afford this stuff – well, great. I am happy for you. What about the rest of this country who DON’T want to send the rest of our hard earned money to Washington so that they can waste it? You want govt services. Great. I don’t. Realistically, most of the money that we send there gets wasted. You know it and I know it. If your local schools and library are so bad, contribute some of the money you are willing to spend on federal taxes to the local boards that need it so much.
    2) Can you honestly sit there and tell me that the federal govt ‘needs’s the money? Who is being disingenuous now? If a tax cut is ‘starving’ the govt of the funds it needs for an essential program, then an increase in spending on another program is doing the SAME THING. There is no difference between a spending increase and a tax decrease. Fiscally, they are identical. Yet I never hear one liberal complain about the rise in spending on all these so called ‘necessary programs.’
    3) Finally, John, how do you propose to get out of the rececssion that Clinton left us? Giving money to the poor will NOT do it. If you have an agenda that involves a very progressive taxation system, fine, you can believe whatever you want. But let’s not pretend that it will get us out of the recession. I am one that believes that increased incentives to produce, save, and invest will help us grow. I just happen to believe that no one has the guts in Washington to cut spending. Both sides, Dem and Rep, spend like a drunken sailor. So, my choice is, do I give them an extra 10% of my income to spend like that drunken sailor? They are going to run deficits either way, my friend. If you raise taxes (on the rich, the middle class, whomever), they are just going to spend, spend, spend even more. Can you honestly dispute this?

  52. John said: “Where that point is, I don’t know, although I would suspect it’s probably higher than many budget cutters would prefer.”

    Budget cutters? What budget cutters?

  53. Our government is in the hands of a few some implausibly greedy men who have no vision for this country beyond their own lifespans. They are shredding the economy, degrading the environment, and engaging us in nasty little wars that are going to rebound on us tenfold in the next century. Canada begins to look better every day: at least there you will be able to smoke a little grass to help you forget what a great country the USA once was.

  54. I hope you are reporting all of your tip income, spacewaitress–good name!

    And taxation to support others without my consent is theft. And your silly comment about moving away doesn’t deserve a reply.

  55. Can There Be a Decent Right?

    Glenn Reynolds finally links to a post on tax cuts and it’s a good one:I don’t want any more tax cuts. I personally don’t need any more tax cuts. If this was 1980 and the highest federal marginal tax rate…

  56. I totally agree that the GOP politicians are no less addicted to spending than their Demo rivals. Still your analysis of the Tax issue is incorrect on the whole. The “Update” at the end of your diatribe defines the flaw at the heart of your position. NO ONE in that income bracket pays ANY INCOME TAX. Your retort about divendend and cap gains reductions is either a lie or you don’t know enough to speak on the subject. Earned Income Credits is a welfare program. It transfers money from a taxpayer to a family that pays NOTHING. The only tax these low income families pay is Social Security. This bill doesn’t repeal their EI payments. They will not get more welfare. THIS IS A TAX CUT BILL.

    You have been snookered by the Progressive Income Tax. Now that only the top 50% of working citizens pays taxes and that more than 50% of the take comes from only 5% of the payers there can logically be NO INCOME TAX reform that doesn’t either benefit or punish the “Rich” much more than the rest of us. If you want to stimulate via lower taxes, which is a classic solution in a stagnant economy, this is the only way. Now that we have eliminated income taxes for the lower half of the populace they only get a break if we Raise Spending!

    Meaning full tax reform such as a flat tax would get rid of the “Eat the Rich” progressive tax altogether. The people should share the burden equally regardless of income. For pity’s sake we could put a floor at $25K w/2 kids. The public should all get the same ratio benefit or pain from public spending and taxation.

    When the same government bean counter during Bill Clinton’s admin. predicted trillions of dollars in surpluses as far as the eye could see did you believe it? I have no more respect for those dopes now then I did then. The economy will rock again in the years to come. The Boomer crisis is real but it has been there for decades. Only a radical adjustment of Social Security will fix it. It’s certainly not the GOP standing in the way of that one.

    Richard L.

  57. Alex, I’ll try to follow all your rules with regard to criticizing your post (notice I mentioned your “post” not you personally).

    “I don’t think that some of you guys know what you are talking about, it is the type of economic lunacy displayed on this board that completely ruins economic reasoning for those of us that know what we are talking about (yes I include myself in that group).”

    I have a degree in economics from a “great western university” and a CFO by day. The opinions expressed by those on this board appear to be better informed than any random segment of the general population. I not sure what “ruins economic reasoning for those of us that know what we are talking about” means. Ruining reason seems rather god-like.

    “The problem is that even entitlement reform COSTS money in and of itself. It wouldn’t be at all reasonable to just say to retirees that there pensions were going to be slashed by 25%, especially since they paid into the system and planned their retirement around a certain promised figure.

    Even in the “President’s Commitee to Strengthen Social Security” reform proposal, it is said that any degree of reform (especially privitization) will cost TRILLIONS of dollars in extra revenue to make up the gap. Social Security as Pay-As-You-Go just can’t function with the looming demographic conditions facing the country. I am for privitization, but doing so will cost a lot of real money, money that is being pissed away by Bush while he slashes the future government’s ability to have any fiscal flexibility whatsoever.”

    Take a deep breath and relax Alex. Yes it will cost Trillions of dollars, but not all at once. In 20 years what do you think annual federal spending level will be $10 trillion? $15 Trillion? The problem is financing and political will.

    “Do I need to remind you guys how much Bush has increased discretionary spending during his tenure (sic)?”

    Please do. And be sure to differentiate between Congressional Pork, the new programs put on by Clinton and the cost of the wars due to his inattention to matters of national security while chasing skirts.

    “There is no doubt that this latest round of tax cuts will not “boost” the economy, I think Buffet covered that argument pretty well. And saying that he is suing the government over taxes has NOTHING to do with his argument. If you are going to be so crass as to say “Fuck Him” you could at least do him the respect of addressing his argument.”

    Okay I went and read Big B’s WaPo piece and well, he’s wrong. Yes, Big B, the simple and humble capital allocator will be unaffected. However, owners of small business and owners of interests in other enterprises that do not function as their personal investment machine as Berkshire Hathaway does for Buffet, will most certainly benefit. Big B is the exception not the rule. The company where I work is a perfect example, the specifics of which are none of your business. However, the owners will now be able to reallocate capital from their place of business to other investments or consumption without the second round of taxation, which in the past either reduced the proceeds by 1/3 or prevented the transaction altogether.

    “If you find yourself regressing towards incoherence and hostility in defense of your position, it might be a good time to (sic) reasses your policy views.”

    I think you need to take your own advice. Big B using himself and Berkshire Hathaway as a parallel for all business owners and stockholders is disingenuous. Let me go check my portfolio and see which company I control 30% of……..there are none, darn. And the lawsuit does point out that there are numerous tax treatments, shelters, etc available to Big B and his company that are not available to my neighbor down the street who owns the sporting goods store in town or his receptionist. Big B can “aw shucks” all he wants, but since we all don’t have our own multi-billion dollar investment holding corporations he can’t draw those parallels. And using his receptionist as a prop was kinda tacky.

    Also your unfounded assertion at the beginning included all of the tax changes. Big B’s discussion was directed at dividends only. So using him as your foil for the entire tax package isn’t going to work.

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. I’m here ‘til Sunday, two shows daily.

  58. Steve writes:

    “Sorry, but your classroom toy analogy is suspect. If it’s the classroom’s toy, then it’s NOT the child’s. Are you implying that the income I earn is not mine?”

    Nope, and I’d agree the analogy isn’t perfect. Here’s another take: The income people earn is their own, however it’s earned in an environment that has been largely created through taxes, in ways that are both obvious (most of us are educated in public schools for at least part of our education) and subtle (for example, this here Internet, which was created in the late 60s as a way to let Defense computers keep talking to each other in case of a nuclear attack). To sit in the middle of zone of comfort, safety and well-being largely created by the use of taxes and then to complain about it being theft seems rather disingenuous.

  59. Most of the stuff that you complain about (local library, public school, state university, state social services) is actually funded by your state and your town. None of those things is going to be effected by a federal tax cut (unless you have a Representative or Senator who is especially good at diverting federal dollars to pork-barrel projects in your state, in which case I’m funding your local libary as much as you are, which is hardly fair).

    So why not spend your time lobbying for for higher taxation locally, where you have more control over both the number of tax dollars you send, and how they are spent?

  60. Richard L.:

    I’m not sure your statement that “NO ONE in that income bracket pays ANY INCOME TAX” is correct. According to the 2002 tables, in order for a low-income family to have a federal income tax debt of over $600 (the point at which they would benefit from being allowed the additional child credit), they would have to have a taxable income of only $6,000. So, if you have a family earning $26,000/year, they would have to have deductions/exemptions totalling $20,000 to “not pay any income taxes” under the former code. With two children, they would have to have a taxable income of $10,000 or more to enjoy the increased credit. Am I missing something in this analysis? I would really like to know, and feel free to email me if you don’t feel like posting it.

    I think that the numbers (income range and method of calculation) thrown out there by this tax policy group are probably selected to show the irregularity stemming from the old method of calculating the child credit in the worst possible light. But I also don’t see how it is true that families making between $10k and $26.5k are entirely free of income tax liability in the first place.

  61. “To sit in the middle of zone of comfort, safety and well-being largely created by the use of taxes and then to complain about it being theft seems rather disingenuous.”

    I get it now; if it wasn’t for this fine plantation, stretching as far as the pork can fly, I couldn’t eat!

  62. You know people, government spending boosts the economy just as much as tax breaks. Every peny returned to you to ‘boost the economy’ could be spent by the government to do the exact same thing

    So stop acting like taxes kill the economy. They don’t.

  63. If you are worried that your tax cut represents a burden on your children, you can actually do something about it. Yes of course you can always lobby to raise taxes again. But it is simpler and more effective to buy treasury bonds with the money. These carry EXACTLY the rate of interest the government pays on the debt. No, the idea is not mine. It’s David Ricardo’s

  64. cokere said “You know people, government spending boosts the economy just as much as tax breaks. Every peny returned to you to ‘boost the economy’ could be spent by the government to do the exact same thing”

    Well, comrade, then why shouldn’t we just be taxed at a 100% rate? It’s arguments like this that show how uninformed people in this country really are about how taxes and the government work.

    “To sit in the middle of zone of comfort, safety and well-being largely created by the use of taxes and then to complain about it being theft seems rather disingenuous.” Government spending didn’t create the environment in which I provide for my family; hard work of previous generations did. Why can’t people understand that the government exists and functions at the pleasure of the people, not the other way around?

  65. marcus “utter nonsense” and other friends of taxes – you just solved the third world problems – raise their taxes

  66. John,

    Your second effort is much better, however, I think we differ on what is an acceptable level of taxes. There exists the likely possibility that we may never agree on that.

    The problem is this: The government has *never*, to my recollection, cut (or even held to inflation!) the year-over-year increase in it’s spending. To say then that the government needs more of my income, and to say that I am in some way greedy when I say “Well, actually, you’ve been irresponsible with what I’ve been letting you take, and you already take to much – I’d like for you to take less, Thanks,” is in itself disingenuous. I won’t go so far as to say that it is theft. Instead, I will say that the current system and rate of taxation is bordering on it. I acknowledge that there are vital and important roles for government, but for the last few generations, people have come to expect the government to be the cure-all for any problem that they confront. This has led to a budget of staggering proportions. The only way to reign in the spending (since neither party will do it voluntarily) is to cut the source of the funding. Yes, future generations are going to pay for it, but they won’t be paying for MY intransigence or irresponsibiliy – they will be paying for the foolish and devil-may-care attitude of our current representatives, just as I am paying for those of my parents, unless congress and the President realize that the govenrment that governs best governs least, and actually brings about MEANINGFUL budgetary cuts.

    I would also state that (again, to my knowledge) there has never been an income tax cut that didn’t result in *higher* income tax revenues within 2 years. Will that trend continue? I don’t know, but there’s a real good track record that it will. Then the only “gap” between the income and the spending, and the resulting defecit, will be the government’s own fault. I refuse to pay for it.

  67. Joe writes:

    “So why not spend your time lobbying for for higher taxation locally, where you have more control over both the number of tax dollars you send, and how they are spent?”

    Heh. Well, Joe, the state of Ohio is raising taxes as it is (they just added another penny to the sales tax), and I suspect a number of other states will be doing the same thing.

    However, there are lots of things tax-wise I care about that are funded on the federal level, either because it’s in the federal purview or because it’s most efficiently handled on a national level: The military, a whole raft of scientific research, federal infrastructure (including highways), environmental and land management concerns, and even the small bits like the dreaded NEA (I’m not much for the parts where people rub themselves in chocolate and call it art, but I do like the idea of bringing dance troupes and blues musicians to out-of-the-way little communities, like, say, mine). So federal taxation is not entirely out of my purview or interest.

    Richard Laycock writes:

    “Your retort about divendend and cap gains reductions is either a lie or you don’t know enough to speak on the subject.”

    Hmmm. Well, it’s not a lie, since these *were* reduced. And you’re confusing the child tax credit discussed in the update with the Earned Income Credit. The child tax credit is (or was)fully available to every American with taxable income $110,000 (married, filing jointly) and is phased out from there. Americans making less than $10,500 don’t pay income tax, but speaking from personal experience, those making $26,000 do.

    My point with the update is that it’s interesting that when it came time to cut something out of the tax bill in order to get it under the $350 billion cap, it was decided to take it out of the pockets of the working poor, for whom that extra $400 could make a real difference, than out of the dividends and capital gains of the rich — and, since every other American family with an income between 27K and 110K gets the full child credit, it seems specifically punitive to the working poor.

    This goes to my point of we shouldn’t be pretending this tax cut is about providing actual relief for America’s working families. If it were, Bob Slob making $23k a year would have an extra $400 coming to his family doublewide. He does not.

    Steve writes:

    “Your second effort is much better, however, I think we differ on what is an acceptable level of taxes. There exists the likely possibility that we may never agree on that.”

    Yes, I would imagine that’s true. I can live with that, however, as I do think there’s lots of common ground otherwise and with differing opinions on the role of government, because there’s probably common ground at some point.

    I don’t personally expect the government to be a cure-all for everything, and I’m a big believer in justifying every penny spent — the less money we spend stupidly, the more we can spend effectively (“more” meaning “from the revenues brought in today” not “by expanding taxes”). But I do believe that those things a government can do best should be well-funded so there’s the most bang for the buck, and that, all things being equal, we have to ask ourselves why we’re asking our kids to pay for things we’re using now.

    If we’re *not* willing as a country to let go of certain things in a budget (or at least devise ways to do them more cheaply), we should be willing to pay for them now. This is the galling part of what’s going on today — we’re doing neither.

  68. John,

    you inspired me, I have related comments to your post on my blog – I just want to congratulate you on this post. It’s balanced and fair and resonates to an independent voter like myself – and the subsequent characterization of you as a closet commie provides some comic relief :)

  69. I took a few economics courses in college, and while I’d have to review my notes for the details, the basic argument I remember went like this:

    Cutting taxes has absolutely no long term effect on the economy. Any extra money given to the public will merely have to be paid back again, with interest, to finance the actual debt the government incurs by not making a corresponding cut in spending. This interest is exactly the same interest that we avoid by paying off that debt now.

    This of course ignores short term details, such as tax collection costs.

    Of course, in the real world, tax cuts do not occur in isolation. They have an actual effect on spending. The government is less likely to be able to get away with spending more with a large deficit than if they were collecting surplusses. Apparently this is true even if those surplusses are being used to pay down the debt from previous over-spending.

    So, overall, the tax cut means very little. It doesn’t make much difference whether you or your children are paying for it. What scares me is the possibility that politicians will let the problem get so bad that no one can pay for it. Letting it spiral out of control until you have to collapse the economy to compensate doesn’t seem like a good solution.

    For the record, I think that Social Security and Medicare are big parts of the problem. I would love to see these programs discontinued, because they do not appear to be sustainable. I do not see an easy way of doing that. Either you bilk my generation to pay the benefits for the last one without giving us anything in return, or you deny the last one the benefits they expected to be entitled to (and paid for during their working years). Or more likely you accept some compromise inbetween. I doubt the bread-and-circuses public the politicians pander to would accept any of those alternatives.

  70. Why don’t y’all sit back, relax and get a little perspective here?
    When we ran huge deficits during the 80s did the economy shrivel up and die? No. When Clinton raised taxes in the early nineties die the economy tank? No. Is the current round of tax cuts going to result in our children standing in breadlines or our fogies eating cat food? The smart money is on No.
    So, lets all cut the ‘this country is going to hell’ crap because it always comes back to bite you.
    Remember the Balanced budget amendment hulabaloo of the 90s, the Dems oppossed that and now the tables are turned. Dems want a balanced budget, GOPs don’t care for the time being. Funny how things like that happen when power changes hands, huh?
    Did any of y’all honestly believe during the 80s or 90s that we would run a deficit ‘forever’? Well, you were wrong. Did anyone believe we were going to run a surplus forever at the end of the nineties, or even believe that it was going to be as big and long as projected? Guess what – wrong again. So excuse me if I’m a bit skeptical regarding any assertion that the economy is in its deaththroes or if I ask you to unbunch your panties when you tell me our children will be calling us “feckless idiots” in 50 years.
    Quick, what was the #1 economic issue in 1953? Don’t know, neither do I. You know why, it doesn’t matter.
    One last point which I don’t believe anyone else has picked up on:
    John – You do use the militaries services. You may not like to admit it. You may not approve of everything they do. But we all use the services of the military each and every moment of our lives – Memorial day was Monday, did we forget already?

  71. The Wriggler writes:

    “John – You do use the militaries services. You may not like to admit it. You may not approve of everything they do. But we all use the services of the military each and every moment of our lives – Memorial day was Monday, did we forget already?”

    Given that over the course the last several months, I’ve written highly of the military, I don’t know why you’d want to suggest I wouldn’t like to admit something like that, were it true.

    Be that as it may, *I* don’t use the military, nor do most civilians, in the sense that we use, say, the Interstate Highway System. I can’t use the military, say, to invade the neighbor with the annoying dog down the road, or borrow an F-15 to help me make a crater in my front yard. The services the military provide benefit me in the abstract, and the vast majority of Americans in the aggregate, certainly, and I’m glad it does. But until the Marines are called in to save my sorry ass while I’m huddled in the corner of some third world US embassy while the natives are rioting outside, I can’t say I’ve used it personally.

  72. “If we’re *not* willing as a country to let go of certain things in a budget (or at least devise ways to do them more cheaply), we should be willing to pay for them now. This is the galling part of what’s going on today — we’re doing neither.”

    I’m not sure I agree with you on this – I’m not going to be willing to pay for something I don’t see as a necessary and vital function of government (or at least something with definable benefits that can be measured), although I agree with the sentiment here. A suggestion: the tax bill (and the one passed last year) has a sunset clause in it. Wouldn’t it be better, when instituting or continuing a program (and I mean ANY and ALL programs tha government spends on), to sunset everything? So that at lteast the expenditure could be looked at in the light of future days to see if it really was of benefit as it was intended to be? So the program didn’t just continue ad infinitum, becoming and entitlement? Just a thought.

    “I can’t use the military, say, to invade the neighbor with the annoying dog down the road, or borrow an F-15 to help me make a crater in my front yard.”

    Now there is something I’ll pay more taxes from, especially if I can dig the hole in my neighbor’s front yard! J/K

  73. If you’re so comfortable with just paying the taxes I would remind you that the goverment takes contributions. Feel free to send them whatever you think you can kick in to make yourself feel better.

    On a more serious note I am a conservative deeply disturbed by how the GOP is out-Democrating the Democrats. Just think of what this will look like when they add on a medicare drug benefit.

    The thing that ticks me off the most is that the whole deficit issue is about tax policy. The possibility of cutting costs or even reducing the rate of increase (part of the Washington definition of a cut) is not even CONSIDERED as an option. This is an indictment of both parties. Totally irresponsible.

    The rationale for tax cuts is that this is the only way there is even a chance they might cut costs. Otherwise, give them the money and they’ll sure as hell find a way to spend it.

  74. Steve writes:

    “A suggestion: the tax bill (and the one passed last year) has a sunset clause in it. Wouldn’t it be better, when instituting or continuing a program (and I mean ANY and ALL programs tha government spends on), to sunset everything?”

    In the absence of thinking about this idea any longer than it’s taken me to read your post and respond, I think this is a pretty interesting idea. I’ll have to think about it some more.

  75. rdc

    I read your post, and no offense, but you show almost no understanding of the federal tax code. No one starts paying taxes at $6,000. You are looking at the tax table, which measures tax rates at the Adjusted Gross Income, not total income. There are a host of other exemptions, deductions (standard or itemized) and credits that everyone must go through when they compute their taxes. Please read up on the statistics on who ACTUALLY pays taxes and who doesn’t. If you believe in a progressive tax system (and I happen to believe in one, just not as ‘progressive’ as people like John do), that’s fine. But stats are stats, and facts are facts. 50% of the taxpayers in this nation pay 96% of the income taxes.

    cokere
    So every penny that we spend the govt could spend, huh? That’s a great plan. Let’s place the entire buying power of the nation under the govt. They do EVERYTHING efficiently, don’t they? Let’s just let them decide everything to do with your money. Build a bridge in West Virginia with your money, just because Robert Byrd wants it? Great. Pay people ‘not to work’? That will get the country out of a recession. Why do people think they have the right to take what other people earn for things that are NOT needed. Govt is there to provide basic services and public goods. Not to fix EVERY problem in the country.

  76. A quick roundup

    A good post on the Left’s excuse from Katzman, a defense of statist redistribution by Armed Liberal, and a little…

  77. “I’m a big believer in justifying every penny spent — the less money we spend stupidly, the more we can spend effectively”

    John do you spend your own money “more effectively” than you spend “other people’s” money? I think most people, when they buy goods for themselves are fairly thoughtful. When people spend “other people’s money” as in business or government they tend to be not so thoughtful. Why? Human nature. My point is that is it far more effective (and more moral) to leave money in the hands of individuals who can make their own decision as to what is a “good” way to spend it then to give it to bureaucrats who, given human nature, will not squeeze the same buck so hard.
    Are there many government services that have to be run by government? Sure. But many of the charitable functions of government do not. The beauty of using private charities is that they can be held far more accountable. They also are far more flexible, responsive to change and creative than any government program can be. Boards fire corrupt and ineffective private charitable managers but government bureaucrats seem to have innumerable lives. Allowing your money to be knowingly wasted by government is itself corrupt even if you rationalize that some of it is “doing good”. Step up to the plate and find good charities on your own with your tax cut. If you aren’t willing to make that effort, fine. But don’t kid yourself that you are making much of an effort to help the less fortunate.

  78. Joe G. writes:

    “Allowing your money to be knowingly wasted by government is itself corrupt even if you rationalize that some of it is ‘doing good.’ Step up to the plate and find good charities on your own with your tax cut.”

    Well, as it happens, I do contribute to charity, rather a bit. But this is a false dichotomy. Much of what the government provides would not fall under the purview of charitable organizations, or are things that are essential on a national scale but would be difficult to fund on a local level. I don’t imagine there’d be much charitable giving for interstate highways, for example.

    Also, I don’t know that I would say the government’s expenditures are endemically corrupt. I would agree with word “inefficient,” surely, but that’s not the same thing (and it’s correctable). I did mention that the government funds things I don’t agree with, but again that’s not an issue of corruption, that’s an issue of priorities. I’m willing to accept the idea that as much as I have a clear idea of what we should spend money on in a governmental sense, there’s room for variance of opinion, and accomodation thereof.

  79. Brad:

    No offense, but you show almost no evidence of having read my post.
    I specifically addressed the amount of deductions and/or exemptions that would need to be claimed by a family making $26k a year in order to not be paying enough in taxes to take advantage of the additional credit.

    I think it is you who are lacking understanding, however, as I requested in the original post, if I am missing something in the analysis, please point it out. Telling me to “go read up on the statistics” followed by an irrelevant statistic (that 96% of taxes are paid by 50% of earners) is not helpful.

  80. Wow. So much so fast.

    John, I’m a regular here because, in general, I agree with what you say.

    And I agree now.

    As for the ‘tax = theft’ argument – that is semantics, unless one truly doesn’t think they get anything at all from the government. I mean anything. The land (taken by the govt from the native Americans), the stability, our legal system, property rights. Without those things we’d have no stock market, no enforceable contracts, no military, no security. We are like fish, unable to see the water all around us.

    I appreciate those of you who, along with stating “less taxes”, stated specifically what you would cut. So many people want no taxes, and no cuts in spending. Some people weasel around with ‘less taxes, and eliminate waste’, but to me that means ‘cut something I haven’t figured out yet’.

    This will probably be before your time, but I’d like to quote Robert A Heinlein – TANSTAAFL.

  81. “The income people earn is their own”

    If it’s mine, why do I owe part of it to the government?

    Look, I’m willing to part with some of my money simply because the situation is tolerable and I can’t see how we could do any better.

    But taxatioin is, by its nature, oppressive. The paperwork is oppressive, and the penalties for failure to pay are oppressive. You might have plenty of money, but somewhere the IRS is throwing someone out of their home. And the IRS doesn’t accept sob stories as a valid excuse for failure to pay. Not because they want to be mean, but because the mechanics of taxation dictate that you must pay or else. If you can’t, they take your property or can even put you in jail.

    We can make the oppression endured relatively consistent through due process, but there’s always going to be suffering associated with it because it is, ultimately, a form of extortion. Moreover, that suffering will always be endured by “the poor”, no matter how “progressive” we make our taxation.

    Taxation is basically protection money we pay because we’re afraid another government will be worse. Your smug assurances that you are safe from discomforts just show that you’re not living in the real world.

  82. Tripp writes:

    “This will probably be before your time, but I’d like to quote Robert A Heinlein – TANSTAAFL.”

    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Nope, not before my time at all. And considering how shamelessly I pillaged from Heinlein for my own novel, not at all inappropriate.

  83. scooby said: “Taxation is basically protection money we pay because we’re afraid another government will be worse.”

    Thanks. That’s one way to look at it.

  84. Families with incomes between $10,500 and $26,625? What kind of jobs must a mother and father be employed in to make that paltry sum? A two-year degree from any community college by one of the two parents will double that amount. In fact, any sort of desirable skill (construction, mechanic) will double that amount. What I find difficult to understand is the tax bracket from 25% and up. A single person making more than $28,401 pays 25% taxes. I earned $20k while in graduate school. That is not a lot of money. I could not afford to live in a one-bedroom apartment nor purchase new clothes, computer, stereo, tv, etc. Perhaps $28k is enough more to allow frivolous things like clothes or having a place of your own, but enough to warrant a 25% tax?
    Having received a PhD, I know earn over $70k. And yet my tax is a mere 3% higher than the person struggling to buy clothes at $28k? Further, the tax bracket tops off at 38%.
    I agree in that tax cuts are not needed, what is needed is tax restructuring. There ought to be about 5 more tax brackets above $80k (single) and the tax level of the brackets under $80k decreased significantly.
    It is an honor and a duty to fund the good work of our government, and we should not be denying that privilage to those of higher incomes. Nor should we be smothering the middle class by allowing them to take home only what they earned over 3 1/2 days of the week.

  85. A few little pieces of reality as seen from my corner of the Matrix:

    1) Look, the taxes vs. revenues stuff comes down to this – 0% tax = $0 revenues; 100% tax = $0 revenues; every other possibility gets plotted on some roughly bell-shaped curve. At some points, cutting taxes increases revenue, at others it decreases revenue… and every argument on the topic comes down to a disagreement over where we are in the curve.

    2) The budget surplus of the late 90s was a function of the economic boom, not some brilliant taxation strategy.

    3) The current budget deficit is a function of the end of the aforementioned boom, plus Sept. 11/war/Enron etc… not some idiotic taxation strategy.

    4) Projections of future deficits are made under some set of assumptions about what the economy will do for the next ten years. I can get another equally valid prediction by sacrificing a goat at the altar of Baal.

    That’s just the way I see it.

  86. “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse
    from the public treasury.
    From that moment on, the majority always votes
    for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury
    with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship.
    The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.”

    Alexander Fraaser Tytler: The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic (1776)

  87. rdc

    Forgive me if I read that wrong. But here is the data on who pays taxes.
    http://www.irs.ustreas.gov/pub/irs-soi/00in01rt.xls

    My point here is that society is essentially ‘paid for’ mostly by one segment of the population FOR the other segment of the population. While you may be for or against this, any tax ‘cut’ is always going to impact one group over another. If a tax cut benefited both groups equally, it would unfair to the ‘rich’ side, as they are the ones paying for everything in the first place.

    Let’s just face some facts. The govt is notoriously inefficient. Contrary to Scalzi’s diatribes against conservatives, it’s not that we don’t want education, roads, safe retirements, etc, it’s just that we are not convinced govt can adequately deliver these things efficiently. Look at Johnson’s Great Society. These programs have spent trillions upon trillions since 1965, and the poverty rate is almost exactly where it was then. Where has all that money gone, and what has it gotten us?

    The govt is inefficient. I am all for paying my fair share. What I don’t want is to pay MORE than my fair share so that Robert Byrd can have another bridge named after him in WV. Or so Dick Gephardt can buy health insurance for 30 million people. Speaking of which, why has not one person picked up on the fact that his ‘health plan’, at 210 billion, for 30 million people, is $7K/person. You could buy group health ins. for a LOT less per person from existing insurance companies. Why would he insist on a ‘national health care system’ that is more expensive?

    The bottom line is this: when you are for higher and higher taxes, all that money still goes somewhere. What you are changing is WHO decides where it gets spent. You are essentially saying to Suzy and John – “The govt knows better what to do with your money than you do. Other people ‘need’ it, so we are going to redistribute it to them, because we (the govt, or the Dem Party) have decided that they need it or have a more legitimate right to it than you do.’

  88. Tripp,

    Wanted to comment on something you stated. Like I stated before in my comment to rdc, I am all for paying my fair share. But when does it become ‘too much’? If you look at a graph depicting tax receipts in real dollars from 1912 – present, I daresay it would be very, very much in contango. Up, up and away.

    Why do liberals believe that ‘our system’ of legal rights, enforceable rights and contracts, etc, entitle them to tax people at over 50%? That makes no sense. Taxes are a necessary evil to fund basic societal services. What they have BECOME is a cure-all, fix-all for the world. Someone decides there is a problem that the govt MUST correct, raises taxes or spends money in that effect, and the overall tax burden goes up. Govts at all levels spend around 40% of GDP in the US. That is too high. I do not live to work, I work to live. I want to save my money so that I can have a good life, enjoy myself, pay for my kid’s education – not to give money to some faceless bureaucrat to ‘fix’ some problem that isn’t the govt’s to fix.

    Last question – In the fiscal 2000 budget (I think), the federal govt spent 1.8 trillion dollars. In 2003, the budget is 2.3 trillion dollars. Now, figure out the % increase there, and:

    1) Ask yourself if YOU and your family had a raise that big.
    2) Ask yourself why they are crying about programs being ‘cut’ if they have 500 billion in the budget more than they had before.
    3) Ask yourself, if deficits are so bad (according to them), why did they increase discretionary non-defense spending? If deficits are so bad, and a dollar cut in taxes and a dollar increased in spending are the SAME THING, why didn’t they cut spending?

  89. I’m just going to cut the Gordian Knot and make this blanket statement: There is no one more than a political Conservative who believes that there IS such a thing as a Free Lunch.

    Conservative = Mooch

    I think the basic problem is that many people find it impossible to equate the taxes they pay with the services they receive. Most of the services a (Federal, State, Local) government provides are in the background of people’s lives; those government activities that are not in the background are often personally disagreeable. (Everyone is for law enforcement; few think they deserved that speeding ticket.) Another thing at work is the thought, “Hey, no one is going to miss MY (relative) little tax pittance. So, why should I pay? It all goes to stuff I don’t generally use anyway.”

    When it comes to the “public good,” all too many people are incredibly shortsighted. This point can be illustrated by a news article I read some months back: The voters of a rural county in north-east Washington state voted to completely eliminate public funding of the county’s public libraries. (The people who got this initiative on the ballot must be some real honeys.) Without knowing another thing about this county, there is one assumption I can probably safely make: in the past elections, this county went overwhelmingly Republican.

  90. Brad:

    I emailed you so as not to spam the comments, but I think it bears pointing out in the larger discussion that neither I nor the author of the post, I think, are “for higher taxes”. In my case, it is just the opposite, as I am for lower taxes.

    I simply don’t see why you would deny the “tax cut” that is the expanded child credit to the lower spectrum of earners. They too can spend the money more prudently than the government. Since the credit is a per child static dollar amount, the argument about rate cuts benefitting those who pay more (which argument I agree with) is not applicable. Simply put $26.5 k $400 credit WHILE $10k less than $400 credit amounts to an irrational and regressive implementation of the child credit expansion.

  91. John
    You said;
    “The thing that Republicans have managed to do over the last couple of decades is establish, nearly solely, that taxes are a burden to us all. Well, maybe so. But they’re also an obligation, and a responsibility, and not nearly enough attention is focused on that fact.”
    and I agree, at least that they should be. To that end the only fair way to keep everyone inolved is to establish a flat tax. Every one pays the same rate. That way if you make ten times what I make, you pay ten times the taxes.
    This would have the added benifit of keeping everyone interested in keeping taxes as low as possible, while still maintaining services that we all agree are required.

  92. rdc writes:

    “I emailed you so as not to spam the comments, but I think it bears pointing out in the larger discussion that neither I nor the author of the post, I think, are ‘for higher taxes’.”

    To clarify my own position: Nope, would prefer not to pay more than I have been paying if I can avoid it. But not exactly itchin’ for yet another tax cut while we’re running high budget deficits.

  93. In the year 2000, my family spent just over $175,800. Of this, $108,246 was taxes, and $67,577 was everything else in our lives. We provided our own, food, clothing, shelter, medical care, recreation, and every other damn thing in our lives for under $68,000 and the government spent over $108k, often to provide food, clothing, medical care etc to people who are not my family.

    In 2001, the numbers were $80,877 ton-taxes spent by my family and 94,723 spent by the government. I don’t have the exact 2002 numbers handy, but all numbers are in between the 2000 and 2001 numbers, EG, the non-tax was between $68k and 80k and the tax was between 94k and 108k.

    Note that this does not properly account for sales tax, and in fact counts sales tax as non-tax spending because I do not track sales taxes in Quicken. Every month my cell phone tax rate is over 20%, and NY State has a law that makes it illegal for Consolidated Edison to tell me how much of my electric bill is taxes. So my family actually spends a significant amount less on non-taxes and more on taxes than these numbers suggest.

    For the $68-80k per year we spend, we get a car that’s 8 years old, a 58 year old house on a lot that is 19.6 feet wide, and eat out or order in dinner less than once per month. We’ve seen 3 movies in a theatre the last two years. Living in NYC is damn expensive. No sympathy asked for. We could move, it’s our choice. But if you tell me we’re rich or living the high life I’ll consider you a moron.

    Every year we spend more on taxes than on everything else in our lives combined. And I have no pension except for what the government allows me to save after taxing me at such insane rates.

    Yet our local NYC schools suck, the libraries are never open, the City is closing firehouses, and cutting my sanitation pickup by 50%. I have no confidence that anyone will fix the crap that masquerades as government service. But if you charge me less money for the crap, well that is something I can measure and verify.

    If you don’t want your share of the tax cut, write a damn check.

  94. Gary,

    I realize this discussion is getting a bit silly, like 50 people haveing a the same conversation all at once, so I don’t even expect you to read this but anyway…

    I would first like to thank you for your adherence for my “rules” for responding. Indeed I was a little heated when I posted but if you look at some of the stuff posted above me, it makes a little more excusable in context.

    What I meant in reference to economics, is that if you look at current discussions regarding te effect of tax cuts for example, so much economic garbage was being thrown around that the Bush administration got away with saying things that resembles trickle down (which if you actually did get a degree in economics you know that empirical research has proven that we are on the left side of the Laffer curve and decreased taxes will inncrease deficits), and saying that a large governments deficit won’t affect long term interest rates. Maybe government deficit wouldn’t affect US long term rates if the country in question was a small economy but the US does have market power, not to speak of expectations as a result of these deficits.

    I didn’t mean ruining the actual reasoning, I think that was clear, I was refering to the fact that politics has manipulated the dismal science to the point where these clamis made by Republicans can go against fact, and the fact is simply called a opposing opinion rather than a fact. I am refering specifically to the voodoo economics argument that is still alive and kicking.

    I think that you probably also know that when I refered to how the tax cuts won’t help the economy, I was speaking in the short to medium term. Tax cuts will boost the economy, I agree. Buffet was speaking to the short term impact of dividend tax cuts. Yes lower taxes will allow capital to be allocted more efficently in the private sector, but that ignores the market failure with respect to public goods.

    Buffet’s point regarding the regressive effects is applicable to a larger scale, it is a model and an applicable one at that. Just because all rich people don’t own 30% of a B-H doesn’t mean they don’t hold large stakes in companies that do or will pay our dividends, and his point is that for every person that has one of these unprotected positions thy stand to gain multiple millions of dollars, and that would make this person’s marginal tax rate plummet.

    I am in favor of the “good tax cuts” that are in this bill, the New Republic has a good outline of what these are and I won’t waste anymore space on this board.

    I’m going to cut myself off because this point, this post is relevant to like 2 people at this point and this board has grown too unweildy.

  95. Brad,

    I’ll do my best to answer:

    “Why do liberals believe that ‘our system’ of legal rights, enforceable rights and contracts, etc, entitle them to tax people at over 50%? That makes no sense. Taxes are a necessary evil to fund basic societal services. What they have BECOME is a cure-all, fix-all for the world. Someone decides there is a problem that the govt MUST correct, raises taxes or spends money in that effect, and the overall tax burden goes up. Govts at all levels spend around 40% of GDP in the US. That is too high. I do not live to work, I work to live. I want to save my money so that I can have a good life, enjoy myself, pay for my kid’s education – not to give money to some faceless bureaucrat to ‘fix’ some problem that isn’t the govt’s to fix.”

    Well, I’m no liberal, at least I don’t think so. I guess I’m fairly liberal on many social issues. But I’m really conservative about money. I hate the deficit.

    So even though I can’t speak for liberals, one reason I have heard for high tax rates on the rich is because they are the ones who benefit the most from the government.

    Me, I agree with that the govt should only cover the basics, although we might argue about some of the details, I’m sure. And I don’t really see anything magical about 50%. It should be the ‘right’ amount, whatever that is.

    “Last question – In the fiscal 2000 budget (I think), the federal govt spent 1.8 trillion dollars. In 2003, the budget is 2.3 trillion dollars. Now, figure out the % increase there, and:

    1) Ask yourself if YOU and your family had a raise that big.”

    No, I can’t say I did. I think the GDP grew during that time, though. Kevin Drum has a nice chart of taxes vs GDP at: http://www.calpundit.com It looks like tax revenue as a percentage of GDP has stayed pretty constant for the past 50 years.

    “2) Ask yourself why they are crying about programs being ‘cut’ if they have 500 billion in the budget more than they had before.”

    I haven’t heard any crying. The concerns I’ve heard have been about the affects of this tax cut on the future.

    “3) Ask yourself, if deficits are so bad (according to them), why did they increase discretionary non-defense spending? If deficits are so bad, and a dollar cut in taxes and a dollar increased in spending are the SAME THING, why didn’t they cut spending?”

    Hmm, I’m not sure who the ‘them’ is. Personally, I think deficits are bad, because they can become a drag on the whole economy. They *can* be useful, temporarily.

    Anyway, from what I can see about politics, they don’t reduce spending mostly because the results would be bad – a weakened military, or destitute old people. Also, to some degree, there is pork, to get re-elected, but unfortunately, while the pork comes to big bucks, it doesn’t come to a big percentage of the budget.

  96. Serf writes:

    “We could move, it’s our choice. But if you tell me we’re rich or living the high life I’ll consider you a moron.”

    Nope, I wouldn’t consider you rich. You merely remind me why I’m of the opinion NYC is a nice place to visit, but not to live in.

  97. Serf,
    If you don’t mind my asking, how is it that you are taxed 108K/176K, or 61%?

    I’m not in your league income-wise, but even if I add up my fed, SS, state, and property tax I don’t get that high.

    And people claim Minnesota has high taxes!

  98. John wrote of the NEA as a non-essential Federal program he thinks we should all pay more taxes to support: “…I do like the idea of bringing dance troupes and blues musicians to out-of-the-way little communities, like, say, mine.”

    This remark reveals how shallow and selfish the whole “I want more taxes” line is: it is really shorthand for “I want more taxes (in aggregate paid chiefly by other people; to bring me goodies at their expense).”

    Sure John, you would be willing to pay more taxes. But you want the rest of us to pay them too, so that you can force us to buy you stuff which you can’t afford on your own (like a command performance by a big-city dance troupe in your small town).

    I could hardly have picked a better example than you did. Big dance troupes perform in big(gish) cities because there are enough ticket-buying patrons there to support them! If people who CHOOSE to live in small towns want to see a big-city dance troupe, they can visit a city, or they can offer to pay $250 for tickets that would cost $25 in a city.

    I’m not surprised that you would be willing to pay an extra, say, $1000/year in taxes, on the condition that I and everyone else does the same. We mostly live in cities. When our $35 billion (first year) is aggregated with your $1000, then paid back out in 5-figure chunks to subsidize dance performances in your one-horse town, you come out a big winner!

    (N.B.: if you think those dance troupes are getting less than your $1000 to visit your town, then you should take the tax cut and hire your own dancers.)

    At least 30% of the Federal budget goes for stuff that is morally equivalent to your dance troupes: stuff that people could and should buy for themselves, but which politicians buy with tax money and hand out to buy votes. The fact that there’s a lot of logrolling (dancers for John, bikeway subsidies for greenies in Seattle) doesn’t change the basic fact that everyone would be better off if they just bought what they wanted, rather than having the money routed through the tax system (with truly horrendous transaction costs and overhead) by selfish politicians.

  99. Mark,
    I’m curious to know what things are covered by the 30% of the federal budget that people could and should buy themselves.

  100. RC–
    You pointed out the 0%/$0~100%/$0 curve; interestingly enough, I believe one of my econ professors said that (after adjusting for growth of the economy), no tax cut had ever raised government income.

    And to the folks who think taxes are ‘theft’–it’s an interesting idea, but: what about property rights? Without a government, property rights are difficult to enforce, and when property rights go away, the question of ‘theft’ becomes pointless.

  101. So in light of the news that at a cost of $3.5 Billion in a program that has a real $800 Billion price tag, the child credit for poor people “couldn’t be squeezed in”, does anyone else feel a bit appalled at what is going on.

    Poor people actually spend more of every extra marginal dolar than rich people-fact.

    So in tax cut legislation that was proposed in order to help boost the economy, we couldn’t afford $3.5 Billion dollars to poor people, who would actually spend this money in the economy? This seems pretty awful to me.

    I guess it is probably for the best, it means that the government has more money to give back to people who it was rightfully stolen from…right guys?

    Oh yeah, Brad, your #3 question shows you have no idea what you are talking about. Here’s how it goes:

    “3) (so if we presuppose that the admin knows what it is doing, and is acting in the countries best interest) Ask yourself, if deficits are so bad (according to them), why did they increase discretionary non-defense spending? If deficits are so bad, and a dollar cut in taxes and a dollar increased in spending are the SAME THING, why didn’t they cut spending”

    I put the liberty of inserting the assertion at the begginning, otherwise the statement doesn’t make any sense.

    As for the second part, it is a lot easier to slash taxes and let Dem’s take the rap for deficits, the Republicans did this in the 90’s by hollering how they wanted a balanced budget after Republican tax cuts put the government in the deficits in the first place.

  102. Mark writes:

    “Sure John, you would be willing to pay more taxes. But you want the rest of us to pay them too, so that you can force us to buy you stuff which you can’t afford on your own (like a command performance by a big-city dance troupe in your small town).”

    Well, no. When *I* want to see a big-city dance troupe, I take what I like to call a “culture weekend” to New York City or Chicago, and I see a bunch of shows, eat a bunch of ethnic food I can’t get here (the nearest Thai food is, alas, an hour away, and I won’t eat Sushi if I’m not within 50 miles of a shoreline), and take in the museums, major league sports games and what have you. Because I *can* afford it.

    On the other hand, I think that my fellow citizens out here in the sticks, many of who do not have the same financial wherewithal or freeform schedule as I do to take a trip to New York just because they feel like it, might nevertheless enjoy and get some real benefit from exposure to cultural events. You don’t think that’s an important expenditure, and that’s fine. I do think it’s an important expenditure. And relatively economical as well — I don’t know where you’re getting your 30% figure for these sorts of “immoral” activities, but the cost of the NEA was $104 million in 2001 (the last year their annual report is available on their site), or just about the cost of a single F-22 Raptor.

    I don’t find the idea of subsidizing cultural events in the sticks sn the slightest bit selfish; I supported the idea when I lived in Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, DC, and had ready access to culture, and I believe it now that I live in someplace much, much smaller. I think it’s a good thing for our nation that lots of people have interaction with culture, and I don’t mind spending the relatively paltry sums that make it easier for them to do so. It’s also worth noting, by the way, that much of the activity of the NEA takes place in huge cities, in which many of our fellow citizens, although they “choose” to live there, could also benefit from subsidized cultural activities. I don’t mind paying for *them,* either.

    If you feel it’s immoral to subsidize culture, that’s your right. But your sense of immorality and mine are, shall we say, divergent.

  103. Can private charities take over for government programs?

    In my opinion, sometimes yes, sometimes definitively no. Private charities can be great sources of innovation in solving social problems creatively. But charities are often redundant from town to town, or state to state. In addition, people tend to want to give their money to certain attractive causes, overlooking other vital needs. Anyone who has ever tried to raise money for a university knows that donors seem to want to allocate their particular dollars to go to big, visible items, like gyms and auditoriums. Basic maintenance always goes begging.

    Many of our worst social problems are invisible to potential charitable donors, or affect a group that carries a negative stigma. Who doesn’t want to give money to cure pediatric leukemia? But how about long-term rehabilitation for homeless, schizophrenic men? Psychiatric hospitals and outpatient centers are collapsing financially, across the country. No one is picking up the slack in the private sector. It’s a low-glamour, but high-impact social issue that affects the quality of life of even those who couldn’t care less about the mentally ill. If someone can create a charitable organization to take on this burden, I’m all for it, but it hasn’t happened so far.

    I agree that for most things in life, the free market will allocate resources more efficiently than the government, and will come up with better practical solutions. But in charitable giving, there’s no true market yet that will bring supply together with demand, and the market forces that do exist are often counter-productive. Charitable giving tends to bottom out just at the time the services are needed most, as we saw over the past two years during the economic slow-down.

  104. Responding to Tripp:

    “If you don’t mind my asking, how is it that you are taxed 108K/176K, or 61%?”

    The 176k figure is my family total spending, not income. We did manage to save some money. Our AGI that year (which was a high for us since it was the last year my wife worked) was $264k, which puts our tax that year at about 40% of income. The rough tax breakdown:
    Fed Income 68K (alone equal to our family spending)
    State Income 17.5k
    City Income 10k
    SoSec 8k
    Medicare 4k
    Real Estate 2k

  105. Mark and his Dance-Troops are Selfish:

    Here’s the deal, some people have the belief that fine arts are essential to human development. Having fine arts available in small towns isn’t just a benefit to the people in those towns, it’s a benefit to the United States, and quite possibly the world.

    Cultural archeologists judge civilizations on their education and art. I, for one, don’t think that’s foolish. Spreading art, is spreading humanity. Farmer’s children didn’t exactly choose to live away from cities where their schools could expose them to art.

    Because I just woke up, and I can’t concentrate very well (but am not sharp enough to come back and write this later) to education, it’s important to note that it’s not only the measure by which we are judged against other cultures, it’s also a positive externality good. The more educated the populace is in general, the fewer headaches people have trying to get people to stop smoking, or stop drinking, or put on their seat-belts, or stop shooting each other.

    I don’t, currently, believe that education is the solve-all for our culture. +Education != +Economic Welfare. I have a degree from a respected 4 year institution, and I’m struggling to find full-time work that I’m capable of. So, educate the poor and they become educated poor. The point is that educated poor are less likely to hold up liquor stores than uneducated poor, even if the levels of poverty are precisely the same.

  106. Just a quick “Chime in” with Kristen about how private charities are often short-sighted, and only the “good looking” causes get sufficient support.

    In ecology the thing is called the “Fuzzy Factor.” Basically, people want to contribute to the most emotionally charged things, rather than those that contribute most to public welfare. Saving Jaguars gets more support than saving beetles.

    The problem is that the government isn’t massively more attuned to good more than appearances. Just because the EPA says something very vital is endangered doesn’t mean there’s going to be a large coservation effort in Congress. And if the HUD says there’s an education problem in Harlem and a transportation problem in Manhattan…

  107. Alex,

    Alas, but it seems you are the one that doesn’t know what he is talking about.

    First of all, there are 2 sides to the budget. Tax receipts, and govt expenditures. They are mutually exclusive in that one does not necessarily depend on another. Blaming tax rates for deficits all by themselves ignores the fact that you choose to spend the money that you do.

    From 1980-1990, federal expenditures (in total) more than doubled. Yet spending increasted by MORE than 100%. If they would have simply limited themselves to a modest % increase each year, the budget would have been balanced. Yet they didn’t. Why? The Democrats controlled both houses of Congress almost the entire decade, including the House the entire decade. Yet you blame it on the Republicans exclusively? Is that disingenuous? All spending bills come from Congress. If the Dems didn’t sign off on them, they couldn’t have passed.

    The bottom line is this: the deficit is the difference between recepits and expenditures. If you are running a deficit, and you cut taxes by $1.00, you increase the deficit by $1.00. If you increase spending by $1.00, you increase the deficit (again) by $1.00. They have the same net economic effect.

    It is intellectually dishonest to blame the deficits on one side or another. Both parties are to blame. Yet the Dems seem to exclusively focus on the tax rate to blame the deficit. If any of the Dem politicians cared a whit about the deficit (they don’t), they would cease spending and spending and spending. Alas, they need an ‘issue’, so they pump up the deficit even more with this ‘aid to the states’ crap.

    Also, in regards to your other point, if you don’t see the difference between an economy at full output (in economic terms) running a deficit and one in a recession running a deficit, YOU are the one who doesn’t understand economics. When an economy is at full output, it’s not going to increase growth that much more each quarter without running inflationary risk. When an economy is at less than full output (recession), deficits are often called for in order to keep it moving back toward growth.

  108. rdc

    Can’t say I would argue against the child credit. However, I will say that this is a ‘tax cut’, not an aid program. I am for transparency in legislation. Don’t paint a welfare child tax credit for someone who doesn’t pay taxes as a tax cut. It’s not. He doesn’t pay taxes. So it is not a ‘cut’. It’s a grant, or an aid program.

    Alabama Al

    Your comment is spoken as if from someone who takes more from the till than you pay. Conservatives are not mooches, in fact I daresay if you looked at the economic effect of the 2 parties, conservatives probably pay FAR MORE in taxes than liberals.

    We simply refuse to believe that hogwash that the liberals try to convince everyone. Governments are not the most efficient way to do everything. Yes, we all want law enforcement. Yes we all want roads and national defense. But why must govt do EVERYTHING? Why must govt be involved in national healthcare, as many liberals insist on? Why must all retirement for millions of Americans run through the federal govt? I certainly am not counting on SS or Medicare. I am planning for myself, because I know I will be screwed by the politicians when I come for my small little pittance in 30 years.

    So your derogatory comment about conservatives being ‘mooches’ is laughable. 50% of the population pay next to nothing in income taxes. THEY are the mooches. I don’t expect them to pay a high percentage of their meager salaries to the govt to pay for useless govt programs. But for God’s sake, don’t act like they have some God given right to everyone else’s money just BECAUSE they’re poor.

    Let’s all face it, the Democratic Party has figured out how to buy votes the most efficiently. Promise the poor (who pay no taxes) all these programs, and fund it off the taxes of the rich, since they are small in number.

  109. rdc

    Can’t say I would argue against the child credit. However, I will say that this is a ‘tax cut’, not an aid program. I am for transparency in legislation. Don’t paint a welfare child tax credit for someone who doesn’t pay taxes as a tax cut. It’s not. He doesn’t pay taxes. So it is not a ‘cut’. It’s a grant, or an aid program.

    Alabama Al

    Your comment is spoken as if from someone who takes more from the till than you pay. Conservatives are not mooches, in fact I daresay if you looked at the economic effect of the 2 parties, conservatives probably pay FAR MORE in taxes than liberals.

    We simply refuse to believe that hogwash that the liberals try to convince everyone. Governments are not the most efficient way to do everything. Yes, we all want law enforcement. Yes we all want roads and national defense. But why must govt do EVERYTHING? Why must govt be involved in national healthcare, as many liberals insist on? Why must all retirement for millions of Americans run through the federal govt? I certainly am not counting on SS or Medicare. I am planning for myself, because I know I will be screwed by the politicians when I come for my small little pittance in 30 years.

    So your derogatory comment about conservatives being ‘mooches’ is laughable. 50% of the population pay next to nothing in income taxes. THEY are the mooches. I don’t expect them to pay a high percentage of their meager salaries to the govt to pay for useless govt programs. But for God’s sake, don’t act like they have some God given right to everyone else’s money just BECAUSE they’re poor.

    Let’s all face it, the Democratic Party has figured out how to buy votes the most efficiently. Promise the poor (who pay no taxes) all these programs, and fund it off the taxes of the rich, since they are small in number.

  110. The quote from Alexander Tyler above says it all, this is where we are at. This is the heart of the discussion.

    I don’t have time to go back and find the quotes but every single one of you who says, “But I like government programs because I benefit, I get to go to the theatre (or get whatever) – YOU are the problem. YOU are the one voting for more government spending because you figure you get more for it than you put in. Pure Greed.

    You want something for nothing. All the rest is just so much rationalization. You figure you get a benefit more than what you, yourself contribute. Which means someone else contributed more than they get in return. That’s ok just along as it’s not you, right??!

    You are socialists, that’s all. Everyday I see the same arguments over and over, and this is all it is. Justifying socialism.

    Yeah, horror of horrors, I said it. That is the real issue, Capitalism VS Socialism.

    See, the invisible argument here is arguing the ‘amount’ of the income tax and government programs, not the fact that the income tax itself was an immoral trick to get us exactly where we are.

    The Question is Begged in assuming we should have an income tax at all; that social security and welfare and medicare and medicaid and NPR and NEA and government sponsored needle exchange programs, and free condoms, and title IX, and faith based initiatives, and AIDS for Africa funding, and foreign aid, and rapid transit subsidies and on and on and on and on, are all ‘good’ things, that morally justify stealing from some to benefit others.

    Well it doesn’t.

    Originally it was a fraction on just the top 1% of income earners. The original class envy, eat the rich proposal. Now it has resulted in a system that is on the brink of bankrupting the country.

    The purpose of the Federal government is to provide a national defense. A court system to try criminals who violate the rights of others, and to adjudicate contracts. And to provide the infrastructure to facilitate free enterprise that benefits everyone equally, i.e., roads, bridges, dams, etc. (yeah, i know the Libertarian argument that these should be private, there is much to argue that view is correct) And to protect the public health, trash, sewage treatment, epidemic tracking, because again, all benefit equally. This is the true meaning of ‘promote the general welfare.’

    But that is where it ends.

    When you start having the government become all things to all people, it destroys the one thing that makes it all possible, Capitalism. Which is what is happening today. We are witnessing the slow death of Capitalism.

    Yeah, the Republicans are just as guilty of overspending as the Democrats, that just goes to show you how far the Socialist mindset has permeated this country. It is ubiquitous.

    Thus the arguments are not whether or not, but how much is too much.

    Well, it is all ‘too much.’ And the deficits we have been running up, the size of the ballooning of the national debt, are symptoms that:

    IT ISN’T WORKING !!!!!

    Anybody tracking here? Anyone understand that the budget deficit problem is PROOF that the Socialist Utopia paradigm is out of control and isn’t working, doesn’t work? How many examples do you idiots need before you see the plain truth? How far are you willing to dig the hole before you admit that Socialist Idealism is driving this nation to bankruptcy? Hmmmmm?

    We are in one heap big pile of trouble people.

    Not one of you, “I know more economics than you do” people here have mentioned the real culprit in the changing fortunes of the annual deficit. The changing fortunes of the economy aren’t due to Reagan’s tax cuts, Bush I’s tax increase, Clinton’s increases and cuts, or Bush II’s tax cuts. If you, (or many of our leaders) really knew economics you’d know it is due to just one entity:

    The Federal Reserve Bank; and its management of the money supply. Money dumped into the economy by lower interest rates causes a boom, money absorbed by high rates causes a retraction. Go back and track it from the time Paul Volker was appointed until now, you’ll see this is perfectly true. Interest rates are about a low as they can go so Greenspan is stuck. Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac rates are still dropping, so housing is still in a boom. When everyone who can refinance has refied, watch out !!! No other method to pump up the money supply, and WHAMMO !!!

    That the path Greenspan is following is doomed can be seen in the fact that it is exactly the same path followed by the Japanese, who are in a long running deflationary decession.

    And where did the idea of the Federal Reserve come from?

    5. Centralization of credit in the hands of the state by means of a national bank with state capital (fiat money) and an exclusive monopoly.

    And then, the central argument here:

    2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

    From The Communist Manifesto – Karl Marx.

    This is the altar you bow at Socialists. This is where we are going. As far-seeing as Marx was, he couldn’t have seen another element that was perfect for his manifesto so I will add it:

    11. Universal Health Care.

    As a Democrat or even Republican, you may have been fooled by the lofty goals of Socialist Utopianism. Many who think they are just being kind or moral are in fact being fooled by literally generations of people mouthing this evil over and over and over again. I hear it and read it many times every day, and I can tell many of these people are fooled, or just fools.

    I am not fooled. I also know many know exactly what they are doing, know full well this is what they are doing. They hate it when some one names what they are doing and shows all their cards, as I am doing here. Watch the hate speech that follows to see what I mean.

    We either recognize this for what it is, fight it, change it, repeal it, refute it, end it – or we are witnessing the sunset of the Grand Experiment in Freedom that makes this the great country it is.

    Just as Tyler said.

  111. “RC–
    You pointed out the 0%/$0~100%/$0 curve; interestingly enough, I believe one of my econ professors said that (after adjusting for growth of the economy), no tax cut had ever raised government income.”

    I don’t get it. The growth of the economy raises government income… that’s like saying “after adjusting for the increased income, no tax cut has ever raised income” – ain’t it?

    Obviously, the question is whether a given tax cut will generate enough growth to pay for itself, all other things being equal.

    Somebdy else wrote: “(which if you actually did get a degree in economics you know that empirical research has proven that we are on the left side of the Laffer curve and decreased taxes will inncrease deficits)”

    I’d truly appreciate some citations on this. I’m skeptical, to say the least, but my degree is in Geekery, Computer, not Geekery, Economic. I’d gladly be educated on the topic.

    Didn’t the numbers show that Reagan’s tax cuts increased gov’t revenues? I’ll have to look that up…

  112. 1. I didn’t write that NEA was immoral (go look). I do think it is foolish.

    2. I won’t say it would be as easy to trim 30% from the Federal budget as it would be to cut NEA, because people have already come to rely on Federal programs like Medicare ($217 bn in 2001). It would take time to wean them off. However, that doesn’t mean the programs they rely on are proper. Heck, even shutting down NEA would require a couple of years, until all the outstanding grants had expired. To fix the whole Federal budget would take, oh, 25 years (and would require some related reforms, like eliminating rent control laws that raise housing costs to low-wage workers). I do think some things (like agriculture subsidies, $24 bn) could be pruned more quickly, say 5 years.

    If you look at
    http://w3.access.gpo.gov/usbudget/fy2003/pdf/spec.pdf
    you will see the Federal budget apart from interest payments was a little under $1.8 trillion in 2001. A cursory run through the major categories (see Table 26-1) gives me $527 billion in cuts just by eliminating energy development, commerce, agriculture, mass-transit, shipping, railroad, heating, childcare, block-grant social services, and housing subsidies; employment/training (CETA==graft) programs; plus much education spending (27.3 bn), much Federal unemployment assistance (32 bn), the EITC (26 bn, see note below), Medicaid (129 bn), and Medicare (217 bn).

    I left Social Security alone, as well as most Federal welfare programs (TANF, SSI, etc) even though they too are bogus. I’m sure I could find the rest of my 30% in there (or in the FAA by privatizing ATC, and so-forth).

    I actually think that we should subsidize medical care *on a means-tested basis* with tax money, but under a very different overall system (for one thing, eliminating employment-based insurance).

    You may think my EITC cut unreasonable, because a cabal of left-wing redistributionists and right-wing business-welfare advocates constantly assure the public that EITC is somehow a “good” subsidy. In fact, it is a scam. It subsidizes low wage *businesses* by allowing those businesses to pay their workers less. (See the fascinating note about the antecedents of this scam 200 years ago in England by George Boyer
    http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/Boyerpoorlaws.html
    ). If there were no EITC, some people couldn’t “afford” their low-wage jobs. So their employers would necessarily raise wages, and (more importantly), the market would reallocate resources accordingly (I once read–sorry, no reference–that a noticeable percentage of EITC payments went to food (ag and prepared-food) workers. In other words, the EITC is subsidizing McDonalds. This results in the oversupply of hamburgers, but since the gov’t subsidy is globally inefficient, we pay more (in aggregate) for those burgers than we would if we just bought them at an unsubsidized price.)

    In fact, if you really want to subsidize wages for low-paid workers, a minimum wage would work better. Minimum wages have many flaws, but at least they diffuse the costs fairly evenly through society. What say we offset the loss of EITC by cutting FICA taxes on low-wage workers?

    3. About dance performances: I personalized my argument, which was probably a mistake, since John can afford to go to the big city to watch professionals dance. However, unless you think that providing entertainment (however “cultural” you assert it to be) to people is really a job for the Federal government, my point stands: taxing people to pay for others’ entertainment (especially when those others can at least see and hear the material on satellite TV for $40/month *anywhere* in the lower 48, though they miss out on the smell of artistic sweat) is selfish. Furthermore, the selfishness inheres whether or not you would be happy to pay the taxes while living in, or having easy (for you) access to the city. You want to take *other people’s money,* which they could *otherwise* spend on *exactly the “cultural” experiences they want* to pay for “cultural” entertainment *you prefer.* Since we saw some fond references to Robert A. Heinlein earlier, go look up Jubal Harshaw’s speech (to Ben Caxton, I think) on the subject of government-supported art in “Stranger In A Strange Land.”

  113. I maintain that art expenditures are a fundamental part of education expenditures. As it is, I know the libertarians don’t think the federal government should be involved in education. I however disagree, and through this comment, I disagree semi-publically.

  114. I was content to let the conversation just ebb & flow without my input until Brad said, “The Democrats controlled both houses of Congress almost the entire decade, including the House the entire decade. Yet you blame it on the Republicans exclusively?”.

    Ummmm, no. And no.

    Republicans took control of both houses of Congress in January 1995 — remember the Republican Revolution? The Contract with America? The one that promised “…within the first 100 days of the 104th Congress…” “THE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT: A balanced budget/tax limitation amendment and a legislative line-item veto to restore fiscal responsibility to an out-of-control Congress, requiring them to live under the same budget constraints as families and businesses.”

    By no stretch of the imagination are Democrats blameless for the current fiscal situation, but Republicans now control the Presidency, Senate and House. Without the Presidency in 1994 they couldn’t deliver the Fiscal Responsibility Act (did it ever even get to Clinton?), but they do now, and they’re not even trying. Instead, the CBO predicts structural deficits for *years*.

    Republicans are supposed to be the fiscally responsible ones — they’ve got their best chance in a generation to prove it, look how they’re doing… Ugh.

  115. What I dont understand is the implicit assumption that companies are in some way better than the government. I think history has shown that companies exist to make a profit, and as such can do some pretty nasty/immoral things. Enron/Worldcom are kinda the tip of that iceberg, but it goes further than that.

    Companies have the restriction that they must operate under some kind of reasonable budget, but even this can be thwarted by poorly spent investment capitol (RE: .Com era), and a subsequent declaration of chapter 11 and exodos of executives to the Cayman Islands.

    So I dont really see a panacea here. Companies controlling schools will still try to maximise profits, and I dont entirely have the faith in free market captialism that I did a few years ago. And the only solution to that is heavy government oversight and establishment of standards, and at that point, where have you gotten? De facto government control, or optomising of curriculums for the standard tests at the expense of the students actual education.

    I think the better long term solution is reform and transparency in the government. Is there any place where documentation on spending per department can be aqquired for the entire federal government? Would such a document be so huge as to prevent anyone from ever actually wading through it? It might serve to expose the more egregrious abuses of tax money..

  116. In 2000, 29,350 people in the United States killed themselves, and yet, I don’t feel the need to end my life.

    Your argument that since you don’t mind paying more taxes, I shouldn’t mind, either is crap.

    At least we know where you stand on the “If all your friends jumped off a bridge” question. Or, rather, if you jumped off a bridge, you would want all of your friends to jump with you. Idiot.

  117. “Or, rather, if you jumped off a bridge, you would want all of your friends to jump with you.”

    Well, no. More accurately that I’d like all my friends, who use the bridge along with me, to chip in a reasonable amount to maintain it, so it doesn’t fall into the river and we all suffer.

    However, if *you’d* like to jump off the bridge, please be my guest.

  118. Universal health care is literally _evil_?
    Taxation is literally _theft_?

    Is this moralizing language the agent that transforms people into radicals immune to common sense and unable to compromise?

    How can we defuse this kind of thinking, so as to allow a reasoned discussion of how much (or how little) tax to pay and what to use it for?

  119. Rich,
    Like you I’ve noticed that some of the discussion actually turns into a religious argument. For example, Don above build a nice strawman about liberals and their ‘socialist’ ideas, and then crusades against them.

    It is taken as a matter of faith that socialism is evil, business is ALWAYS more efficient than government, and most people get NOTHING back from their taxes.

    I never argue over faith. I have faith in my life, concerning Christ, but I admit it is based on no rational reason. I don’t try to argue people into it, and I won’t like people trying to argue me out of it.

  120. Scalzi

    Just a question: Why do you keep equating conservatives’ wanting to pay less taxes with paying NO taxes? How come you are making our position out to be “Since you don’t want to spend 50% or more in taxes, you obviously don’t want to pay ANY taxes and you obviously want all bridges to fall down, roads to fail, everyone to die penniless in the street, etc?”

    Conservatives believe the govt to do certain tasks. Roads, bridges, national defense, all fall under that role. Certain other things do NOT fall under that role. Is that really so difficult to understand? I’m sorry if I believe that NPR and NEA are wastes of money. As a post above enumerated, it exists to supply something (media content) to people at subsidized prices. Explain exactly to me how ME paying more in taxes so John and Suzy in some out of the way place can get subsidized entertainment is good? Why don’t John and Suzy pay for it themselves?

    You really need to get off the high horse of telling us what we ‘believe’. If you want a reasoned, rational debate, fine, let’s have it. But it’s stupid for you to tell us that

    “Well, no. More accurately that I’d like all my friends, who use the bridge along with me, to chip in a reasonable amount to maintain it, so it doesn’t fall into the river and we all suffer.”

    – which implies we would LOVE to see that bridge fall down.

  121. Brad writes:

    “Just a question: Why do you keep equating conservatives’ wanting to pay less taxes with paying NO taxes?”

    I don’t. But I think you want to pay fewer taxes than is optimal for what most Americans want from their government, and mortgage the cost of the government out to the next generation. I find this unethical.

    Brad also writes:

    “Explain exactly to me how ME paying more in taxes so John and Suzy in some out of the way place can get subsidized entertainment is good?”

    Someone else up in the comment thread actually responded to this rather eloquently, so I suggest you head upsteam and find the post.

    Brad additionally writes:

    “You really need to get off the high horse of telling us what we ‘believe’.”

    Well, Brad, I’m working off what I see the conservatives doing. If you want to convince me you wouldn’t love to see the bridge torn down, pony up to pay for the cost of the bridge.

  122. Brad unintentionally makes your point John. He completely ignores that you stated (and also very eloquently I may add)that there is a trade off. Brad (and other conservatives) seem to believe that the government should be there to pay for the things that he and only he believes it should. It never ceases to amaze me how most everyone draws their personal lines of right and wrong, moral and immoral, etc, and expects everyone else to adhere to that line of thinking. I gotta say that I’m with you.

  123. Sorry, didn’t check the posting for a while. Several responses to do:

    Jennie:

    Read the post. I was talking about the 80’s, not the 90’s. The Dems controlled the House the entire decade. Until the Rep Revolution in 1994, they had controlled it for 40 years.

    Darren:

    Uh, yeah. I do think the govt should be there to pay for the things I think it should. You think the govt should be there to pay for the things YOU think it should. How are we different? We both have a view on what govt is there for. We differ where we place that line. You talk in your post as it ‘amazes’ you how everyone draws their personal lines of right and wrong, yet you are doing THE SAME THING. Pot kettle black.

    John:

    Again, I still didn’t catch why I should pay for entertainment in out of the way places. Point me to an ‘eloquent’ one, I didn’t see it. It is NOT an education expenditure, it that was the one you pointed to. And as for your other comment, you’re not working off what you see them doing. You are working off your partisan viewpoint, which is understandable. We’re all mostly partisans at this site. I don’t see conservatives talking about cutting funding for roads and bridges. I do see them talking against the overal redistribution of income. By the way, that was a really stupid comment, ‘Pony up for the cost of the bridge’. That kind of means you are saying, “All right conservatives, either waste hundreds of billions of dollars a year on whatever pie-in-the-sky programs we can come up with, or it means you are against roads, bridges, and all education”. Sorry, I fail to see how being against the NEA means I don’t want to pay for a bridge in my community.

  124. Sorry, didn’t check the posting for a while. Several responses to do:

    Jennie:

    Read the post. I was talking about the 80’s, not the 90’s. The Dems controlled the House the entire decade. Until the Rep Revolution in 1994, they had controlled it for 40 years.

    Darren:

    Uh, yeah. I do think the govt should be there to pay for the things I think it should. You think the govt should be there to pay for the things YOU think it should. How are we different? We both have a view on what govt is there for. We differ where we place that line. You talk in your post as it ‘amazes’ you how everyone draws their personal lines of right and wrong, yet you are doing THE SAME THING. Pot kettle black.

    John:

    Again, I still didn’t catch why I should pay for entertainment in out of the way places. Point me to an ‘eloquent’ one, I didn’t see it. It is NOT an education expenditure, it that was the one you pointed to. And as for your other comment, you’re not working off what you see them doing. You are working off your partisan viewpoint, which is understandable. We’re all mostly partisans at this site. I don’t see conservatives talking about cutting funding for roads and bridges. I do see them talking against the overal redistribution of income. By the way, that was a really stupid comment, ‘Pony up for the cost of the bridge’. That kind of means you are saying, “All right conservatives, either waste hundreds of billions of dollars a year on whatever pie-in-the-sky programs we can come up with, or it means you are against roads, bridges, and all education”. Sorry, I fail to see how being against the NEA means I don’t want to pay for a bridge in my community.

    Is anyone else having trouble posting

  125. Sorry I double posted that one. But when I refreshed this afternoon, I didn’t see it and re-posted it. This time it came up double.

  126. Brad writes:
    “Uh, yeah. I do think the govt should be there to pay for the things I think it should. You think the govt should be there to pay for the things YOU think it should. How are we different? We both have a view on what govt is there for. We differ where we place that line. You talk in your post as it ‘amazes’ you how everyone draws their personal lines of right and wrong, yet you are doing THE SAME THING. Pot kettle black.”

    I don’t think I’m “The Pot Calling The Kettle Black” at all Brad. How did you extrapolate from my post that I am a line drawer? I disagree with you on that point especially. We are different, but not for the reasons you think. I don’t get the feeling from you (based on your comments about art funded to small communities and forgive me if I’m wrong) that you are willing to compromise. I see you seething that one penny of your hard earned dollars would go so that a 7 year old who’s father was laid off can go to a play or concert that he or she may otherwise have never been enriched by. You seem to think that your way is “The Way” and everyone else challenge your way to their own detriment. I feel that I compromise well. There are things that the government pays for that you agree with and I’m willing to let those slide for the greater good even though I may disagree. I know my way isn’t the only way.

  127. darren:

    How do you extrapolate that I am a line drawer? Take a little perspective here. From figures that I have seen on the tax cuts Bush has enacted, they will amount to about 7% of govt revenue over 10 years, and they are scheduled to END at the end of 10 years. Contrast that with Clinton’s tax increases, which certainly weren’t scheduled to go back to the ‘way things were’, they were scheduled to be permanent.

    I am not ‘seething’ that one penny of my taxes will go to a play or show. I am a little upset that I can spend thousands and thousands in taxes, the govt is still in the red, and it plans to spend more and more every year on what I consider to be useless stuff. If we had 10 trillion extra bucks, sure, spend it on whatever you damn well want. But when my paycheck comes in and I am spending more than I earn, I have to cut somewhere. Why shouldn’t the govt have to?

    If you really care about the deficit, you should be just as upset about the spending increases as the tax cuts.

  128. What is with all of the children who ask why you don’t just send more to the IRS voluntarily?

    Has a logic switch blown in their brains?

    There’s nothing fundamentally inconsistent with having a preference for greater public funding of public goods, without volunteering to take it on unilaterally.

    That’s pretty much the premise of the tax system isn’t it, i.e. that if we all just paid as much tax as we wanted to, the system would collapse since human nature would lead to massive “free rider” problems.

    Instead we’re stuck with arguing with each other over fair amounts of taxation, but pretending that someone who thinks that tax rates are too low should voluntarily raise them on himself only is childish and illogical IMHO.

    Best.

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