Taxes and Obama

I mentioned that I wanted to hold off commenting on the tax legislation deal agreed to by Obama and the GOP until after it passed. Well, it passed and Obama’s going to sign it into law later today. So here are my thoughts.

1. If I were a Congressperson, I wouldn’t have voted for it, because I think it’s stupid not to raise the tax rate on the highest-income folks in the US. We need the tax revenue, and they can afford it — and by “they” I do mean “we,” since I’m one of them, which is one reason I’m rather less than impressed by the piteous mewling of my fellow well-off, and the well-off’s hand-wringing financial underlings who apparently think that the response of the highest-income among us to a relatively painless increase in their top marginal rates will be to “go Galt” or whatever.

Seriously, the obsequious toadying at the feet of the well-off, and the commensurate implication that making the well-off chip in more than the least they have had to since The Great Depression amounts to class war, just appalls me. A little class war would be vastly preferable to the poor- and the middle-class grovel-fest we have now. When the revolution finally comes and I’m up against the wall, I will not be wailing how they don’t understand, my money helped lift all the boats in the rising tide; I’ll probably be asking them what took them so goddamned long.

(Mind you, I suspect a small rise in the marginal rates of the wealthiest of Americans would help to prevent the upcoming American Proletariat Revolution better than the current plan, which appears to be to rely on Glenn Beck to tell old white people to buy gold coins and bury them in the backyard. But clearly I’m a socialist, so what do I know.)

As I mentioned earlier, what a tax deal like this means to me is that the US political class has finally admitted to itself that money isn’t real and, additionally, that there’s no real risk in the US continuing to run up its deficit, because at this point all our creditor nations would find themselves magnificently screwed if we went down, taking their economies with us. Bear in mind this belief doesn’t have to be true in order for our political class to act as if it is. But on the other hand, from inside the US at least, the world really does seem to be handling the US like a bunch of relatives silently tolerating an obnoxious drunk uncle because they all put too much money into his ponzi scheme, and they’re just hoping he can find some way to get them their money back before the whole thing goes kerplooey. So maybe it’s not a bad strategy after all.

But it sure makes me nervous and I wish it would stop. I’m not entirely opposed to being part of a generation that says, fine, we’ll clean up the mess — Generation X has long assumed it’s going to get screwed anyway, so why not take it on our terms, and so on — but we’re not at the point where such a thing is feasible. Instead we’re still at the point where the US political party that likes to pretend it’s the fiscally responsible one still apparently proceeds from the insane premise that if they just cut taxes enough, the vast majority of Americans will happily accept a government that does nothing other than point guns at some people and puts other people in prison. Sorry, guys. People actually like their Social Security and Medicare and roads and relatively safe food, etc. You should probably find a way to fund it. Raising marginal tax rates on the wealthiest Americans might be the way to go.

But, apparently, not for the next two years at least.

2. Independent of the basic stupidity of not actually attempting to raise revenue, and purely on the political calculus side of things, Obama did what Obama does — looked at the landscape, found the solution that best suited his needs and then got people to agree to it and passed it into law. He let the GOP keep its precious tax cut for the richest 2% of Americans and in return got extended unemployment benefits and additional stimulus funding. Somewhere in there he may have also wrangled GOP support for the DADT repeal and/or START ratification; we’ll find out soon.

But even without those two things, a) he got a lot done that he wanted to get done b) before Congress got much more difficult for him to deal with, c) gave up relatively little, politically speaking, to do it and d) made himself look reasonable (and reasonably “bipartisan”) doing it. Add that to the pile of things he managed to get done over the last two years, which is by any measure a large and remarkable pile, despite unified, energetic political opposition and political allies with the organizational skills of the Keystone Cops. Someone tell me again how this president is naive/fumbly/doesn’t get things done.

And before you go on about me just jerking off Obama again, allow me to reiterate: I don’t like this tax deal. This isn’t about “my side” winning a political football game. It’s about noting how a politician actually does what he’s supposed to do — get as much of what he wants to get done accomplished while giving up as little political capital as possible, and looking reasonably good while doing it. I’m not pleased with the outcome here, but I can appreciate the process of how the deal got done.

132 thoughts on “Taxes and Obama

  1. I think the whole “we’ll start a class war if we raise the tax rate on the rich by 3%” argument neatly sidesteps the fact that we’ve been IN a class war since Reagan, and the “kick the can down the road” side has been winning for most of that time, with a brief slow down during the Clinton years.

    I think Obama _vastly_ overestimates how much “looking reasonable” will accomplish in the long run, as do the Democrats in both houses.

  2. The more I contemplate the unreality of money, the more I wonder if the next BIG crisis won’t revolve around that. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the tax deal.

  3. I may not be anywhere near the top 2%, but we’re about the same age (and share a hairstyle and penchant for mock-eating our significant other’s brains), so I’m nodding right the hell along with this. I found it entertaining but disappointing that my dad (yep, an old white guy) called me a Socialist on Google Buzz the last time I quoted you.

  4. Edward Tufte would not approve of that infographic. It would be accurate if it were only 2d, but the added depth means we interpret the bubbles as 3d objects, making it misleading. It makes the apparent difference 2.2x larger than it really is. [/nitpick]

    This is a constant problem with this type of fancified infographic. (And I know it’s not your fault, it’s just good to think about these things once in a while. ;) )

  5. Being reasonable only works if the people on the other end has even the remotest intention of being reasonable, or in fact /sane/.

    At this point I wouldn’t call the GOP “Unified and energetic” so much as “gone completely batshit around the bend on psychotic hatred that no longer even pretends it has a grip on reality”… And one of the reasons the Democrats may be acting somewhat spineless is for the same reason people tend to be very careful when there’s a raving drunk tottering with a loaded automatic rifle tottering around the room rambling about how everyone’s conspiring against him and he’s going to show them all he won’t stand for it any longer…

  6. The thing about “political capital” that Obama doesn’t seem to get is that it doesn’t earn interest while it’s stuffed into the mattress. Either that, or he’s just not very interested in spending it on doing the things he told us he wanted to do.

    Someone explain to me why a Repub Administration like Dubya’s can get most of the major things it wants even during the years that Dems controlled all or part of Congress, but a Dem Administration (supposedly) has to have long drawn-out battles to get a fraction of what it (supposedly) wants from a Dem-controlled Congress. (And spare me the “compromises are necessary” BS. Duh. Actual compromises would be an improvement over what’s been happening. But taking major possibilities off the table before even sitting down — as Obama has a habit of doing — isn’t compromise, it’s capitulation.)

  7. I still don’t get how it is that not raising taxes costs the government money. Cutting the Social Security tax costs money. Spending on unemployment insurance costs money, Not raising taxes doesn’t cost money: they didn’t have that money to begin with. And if they planned on it when considering spending, well that’s bad on them not to mention irresponsible.

    I’m sorry, but in my household I don’t spend money and then try to figure out after the fact how I’m going to cover the cost. I spend based on what I can predict my income to be.

    So to my mind, the time for outrage was when we decided to spend on healthcare and “stimulus” spending, not when we don’t raise taxes to cover it.

    Having said that, I would have been just fine with Congress denying this legislation and letting a clean bill that simply put the Bush-era tax rates back in place come January.

    I am still of the hope that we will see a time where the taxpayers tell the lawmakers how much they are allowed to spend, and then Congress lives within that budget. Or something close to that.

    Next year we’ll see if we can set this boat right and then proceed along rational financial grounds.

    I’m really not looking forward to being the next Greece.

  8. Obama did what Obama does — looked at the landscape, found the solution that best suited his needs and then got people to agree to it and passed it into law.

    And apparently what best suits his needs is to give the richest 2% of Americans an order of magnitude more money than he’s giving the unemployed.

  9. Thanks for sharing John. My family is definitely not in the top bracket, but every time we have ever taken a step up we have made sure to give all we can. People who don’t have children or aren’t collecting in some way from government having a perspective of “Why should I pay for it” are so aggravating I just want to throttle them.
    Don’t people know that paying taxes pays for schools for kids who might one day be your doctor, or a part of the system when you call 911. I don’t understand how people can be OK with fighting school districts instead of combined educational efforts, or people collecting welfare checks but letting their kids and grand kids eat cans of vegetables with roaches in them.
    I respect Obama for what he has been able to do, and am angered at those who say nothing has been done. I just wish I could do more to help other than teach my children about the system and how to support it instead of letting it go to the crapper.
    My biggest fear is that by the time my kids become an active part of the system, that the system is going to resemble the wrong side of The Wall. We’ll end up loosing freedom of speech, people will vanish be it night or day, we’ll have to have papers to go from state to state, etc…you get the point.

  10. I dislike Obama (and this comment is not going to birther-land, so don’t worry) because he never takes the kinds of actions which would make the government more legitimate. Every time he signs a bill or takes an action, (or doesn’t take an action) it puts more power into the hands of the same people who got us into this mess.

    Why haven’t any bankers been arrested? Why haven’t the people who hired the “robo-signers” been arrested? Why haven’t banks been broken up into units which are not “too big to fail? Why hasn’t banking been re-regulated properly?” (That is, why haven’t we brought back Glass-Steagal?) During Bush’s term, the Office of Comptroller of the Currency issued a ruling that states couldn’t enforce their predatory lending laws? Why hasn’t Obama reversed that decision?

    Why haven’t we arrested the torturers? Why are Bush and Cheney and John Yoo and all their underlings who approved the torture or carried it out still running around freely? Why hasn’t Gitmo been closed? Why did Obama allow the prosecution of Omar Khadr, the Canadian boy who was 15 when he fought in Afghanistan against the US to continue? Khadr was tortured and subjected to an unfair trial and Obama didn’t stop it? Why hasn’t Obama stopped the use of the special “military tribunals” and bound us back to following the Geneva Conventions?

    Why are people who can’t afford it being forced to purchase medical insurance? Why didn’t Obama push for the public option?

    Why is he screwing everyone who voted for him? We need a FDR and we’ve got Herbert Hoover. I could go on for pages and pages about why I hate this man, but I’ve got stuff to do today.

  11. I still don’t get how it is that not raising taxes costs the government money. Cutting the Social Security tax costs money. Spending on unemployment insurance costs money, Not raising taxes doesn’t cost money: they didn’t have that money to begin with. And if they planned on it when considering spending, well that’s bad on them not to mention irresponsible.

    Frank complaining about the Republicans? I’ve seen everything.

  12. First, it goes without saying that Obama is a failure since he has not shown the backbone and change that he promised.

    While I am not against raising the taxes on the rich I do think the $250,000 number is very short sighted in that it does not take into account small business owners. Personally it does not touch me either way but if the limit was higher it might have had a better chance.

    Along with that though has to be reduced spending and entitlements. Earmarks and pork, something that was to go away with the “change” are just a prevalent as always.

    I just have no respect for Obama, none at all.

  13. additionally, that there’s no real risk in the US continuing to run up its deficit, because at this point all our creditor nations would find themselves magnificently screwed if we went down, taking their economies with us

    Hey, it worked for AIG. And Donald Trump, come to think of it.

    Tempted to make up a bumper sticker similar to those you see as a follow-up to the Rapture ones: “When you go Galt, can I have your stuff?” Of course, the problem with that is that people going Galt are all about their stuff.

  14. I’m not sure he came out looking great out of this if the deal ends up hurting his ability to operate down the line.

    The problem is both sides are becoming increasingly convinced that Obama simply will not fight, regardless of how much he wants something. This is because he pre-negotiates. He figures out what he’s likely to get out of the political game, then goes for exactly that. But in a negotiation, you’re ceding ground before you’ve even begun.

    If you’re a football coach and know that your team on average only gains 30 yards in a play, it’s prudent to plan as if you will get 30 yards. It’s less effective to tell the other coach, “Hey, I’m only gonna shoot for 30 yards here, just FYI” then try to run the play. It’s even less effective to tell your team to never run farther down the field than 30 yards, even if they have an opening. It’s even worse when your team gets used to only expecting 30 yards. Then your average drops to 25. Then you adjust expectations, pragmatically. Then you tell your team to only try for 25 yards now. Then you only get 20.

    Because sometimes you land pretty far down the field, sometimes you don’t. But if you limit yourself to your predicted gain, you’ll always fall short.

    Obama has that problem, he’s unwilling to take the risk of actually playing the game. So he settles for less, which makes people assume he’ll take even less next time. Repeat for two years. Now he can’t even negotiate to end the Bush tax-cuts, which seemed like a no-brainer when he took office.

    You can look at each individual incident and go “Well that’s all he could get, I understand” and you’d be right. But the overall pattern has been less and less return, and more and more unpopularity, for more Republican gains.

    I kinda bought these arguments during HCR, because he did get quite a bit and the public option at the time was probably a bridge too far. But now it’s becoming clear it’s a matter of diminishing returns. Look at how timid and small his proposals, even earlier this year before the midterms. Don’t even talk about DADT anymore. Cap and Trade? Forget about it. Tax cuts? Obviously we’re going to keep the estate tax repealed.

    It’s not a matter of each given incident, his entire style just leads him into ever weakening negotiating positions. Would his position have gotten weaker regardless? Sure. But I think his overall position is worse than normal, even given the economy.

    And I really don’t think it’s because the Republicans are strategic geniuses. They’re just really good and shooting for the moon, and getting halfway there. Obama shoots for Boise, Idaho. Will he get there? Probably. Why would I want to follow him there?

    Yes, yes, I’m not voting for Palin. I’m not being hyperbolic here. I’m just saying, it’s a pattern.

  15. silbey @12

    Frank complaining about the Republicans? I’ve seen everything.

    Perhaps you missed when I criticized Bush for his Medicare Drug plan and the Republican Congress that went along with it.

    Or the anysmal record of spending that Republicans started in the late 90s (only be surpassed by the Democrats since 2006).

    Fiscal discipline is not a partisan issue. When the Democrats pitced to be given control of Congress in 2006 they promised to balance the budget. And they didn’t. So you got 2010.

    And we need to keep repeating 2010 until Congress gets it.

    Regardless of who is in control.

  16. If you weren’t married I’d propose, and be happily shot down.

    With respect to deficits, this deal is further proof that no one in Washington genuinely cares about deficits as an issue that needs addressing. It is simply a blunt instrument that is handy if you need to stick it to whoever is in power (doesn’t matter, it only matters that you’re not), and is easily discarded once you’re back on top.

  17. I voted for Obama. At this point it appears it was a choice between evil and maniacal evil. if this is the best Obama can do after two years with majorities in both houses then he doesn’t deserve to be president.

    unfortunately, democrats have a history of getting shitty presidential candidates who only get elected because the voters on the right split themselves between two conservative candidates.

    democrats as a party suck. their superpower appears to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and their version of kryptonite seems to be ‘disagreement’. disagree with a democrat politician, even if its to forward the rewurection of hitler. and dems become powerless.

    and all of healthcare reform looks like its on target to be overturned by the supreme court. and because HCR didn’t have a clause that said the rest shall remain in effect if any piece is ruled unconstitutional, it mght very well be we lose all of health care reform in the next year. just in time to render Obama completely unelectable.

    which, in the grand acheme of things might be one good thing to come out of all of this. let a dem run for pres that has.some fucking priciples, and enogh backbone to actually fight the insane right wingers.

  18. And the problem, John, that I have with Obama is precisely that he cuts deals, comes to a compromise and doesn’t seem to have anything that makes him say “No, I have principles. I have beliefs and I’m going to fight for them.” Yes, he can check off a lot of accomplishments and some of those are a very good thing, e.g. the health care bill. But his tendency to compromise is going to make him a one term president because what gets people fired up and out to support someone is a person who leads.

    He could have positioned this as a populist thing – trying to make the well off join the rest of us in solving things, sad that he cannot make the Rs join him, angry that they’re so toadying to the rich that they will let the taxes of hard working Americans go up rather than compromise. But again, he caved.

    I should have voted for HIllary in the primary.

  19. Frank:

    “When the Democrats pitced to be given control of Congress in 2006 they promised to balance the budget. And they didn’t. So you got 2010.”

    Yeah, no. If the 2010 election was about any single economic issue, it was jobs, not balanced budgets. If the stimulus package had resulted in more jobs, the GOP would not be running the House in 2011, whether it added to the deficit or not. Nor was the 2006 election primarily about balanced budgets, either; it was about the war and other aspects of the economy, including very expensive gas.

    Agreed fiscal discipline is not a partisan issue, but it’s also not been a deciding issue in the elections you name.

  20. I’m sorry, but in my household I don’t spend money and then try to figure out after the fact how I’m going to cover the cost. I spend based on what I can predict my income to be.

    And that’s what we’ve been doing. The taxes were set to expire this year, and we’ve known that for 10 years. So we could predict that income. Which we will now not have.
    Because of new legislation.

    How is this not obvious?

  21. I don’t get how people think that extending the tax cuts two more years automatically means that no one cares about the deficits, ever again. I don’t like the deal, but I don’t think he gave anything away and got alot in return. There’s only so much government can handle at the best of times, and I can’t say that this is the best of times no matter where your perspective is.

    I really don’t see how picking a fight with people who don’t want to govern is going to solve anything either. Obama started out trying to work with some of the crazies on HCR, and that was probably the biggest mistake he made as they didn’t want to deal, they wanted to delay. However, I think he’s done about the best that you could expect considering how things are right now.

    The Dems got Healthcare Reform, a big stimulus bill that kept the country afloat, some financial regulation, a possible repeal of DADT and hopefully the START treaty through. America got to not have McCain as President and Palin as VP (the second is very important, IMO). I don’t see how you can claim Obama is a failure when he’s done more than Clinton did in two terms. If the economy turns around and Congress gets something done on the debt in these next two years, Obama will look alot better than anything the Republicans put out there.

  22. @23 – because if they cared about the deficit they’d do something about it now vs deferring the issue. It’s illogical to complain about a deficit, then refuse to take steps that address it. I know, I know, we’re in a recession. But, rather by definition, people making north of $200,000 aren’t being hurt by the economy.

  23. Once again the poor end up paying more in taxes (trade-off between Make Work Pay and SS withholding reduction) and the rich pay less (no tax increase and SS withholding reduction).

  24. @24: Repealing the Bush tax cuts won’t fix the deficit. The issues are the big three entitlements and defense spending. Until we figure out how to get healthcare expenses inline and stop fighting wars overseas, we won’t be able to balance the budget. We could let the Bush cuts expire and raise a VAT tax and we still wouldn’t be able to pay for it all without cuts.

    And none of those cuts were going to get through Congress no matter how much wishing you want. Touching SS/Medicare during a recession is pretty much political suicide, and the GOP would gum up any defense cuts. The way I see it, the only way you are going to get a budget fix is to start by reforming the tax code and then tying any spending cuts and new taxes to that. And this is the sort of thing the GOP can be negotiated into doing.

  25. MyName @26

    “the only way you are going to get a budget fix is to start by reforming the tax code and then tying any spending cuts and new taxes to that. And this is the sort of thing the GOP can be negotiated into doing.”

    That sounds good, but you still have to get around the fact that GOP and democrats mean very VERY different things by “tax code reform”. As always, a fundamental disagreement of core values is going to get in the way. Republicans are never going to be happy with regulation of business, progressive tax codes, or any kind of social safety net, and the democrats are never going to concede those thing.

    We’ll get a hodge-podge again, like we did this time.

  26. Scalzi @21

    If the 2010 election was about any single economic issue, it was jobs, not balanced budgets. If the stimulus package had resulted in more jobs, the GOP would not be running the House in 2011, whether it added to the deficit or not.

    Agreed. But it didn’t. And down with that went the whole premise that Keynesian economics is the way to go. Had it worked, there would have been increased revenue to the Treasury as people got back to work. So now we are going to try it the Republican’s way (assuming they actually do what they say, of course.)

    People forget, the President wants to be re-elected. He knows he absolutely will not be re-elected if unemployment rates stay as they are today. He is betting that the Republican plan will help in that. To me this is telling….

    But to say that deficits did not play an important roll in 2010 is to miss the impact of the Tea Party. True, had the stimulus worked, they may not have played the decisive roll they played, and the Republicans may not have had a decisive victory in Congress, but the deficit played a big roll in 2010.

    In 2006 the Democrats felt the need to come up with their analog of the Contract on America in which a major point was fiscal discipline. You even made mention of it in your pitch in the days before the 2006 election. So I do believe that spending was an important factor of that election as well.

    And let us not forget that one of the reasons Democrats won Congress in 2006 was because of Howard Dean’s 50 State Strategy which resulted in a large Blue Dog freshman class. The same Blue Dogs that balked at stimulus and Healthcare spending and was a major reason that even with a majorities in both houses and the Presidency, massive spending legislation only managed to squeak through Congress.

    And these are the very same Blue Dogs that many here railed against for not getting with the fiscal indiscpline program.

    So I do very much believe that government spending had an important constituency in both 2006 and 2010.

    And it has an important constituency right now as well.

    NoPublic @22

    So we could predict that income.

    Apparently not, huh.

    That’s why they say not to count your chickens….

    Oh, and while I’m at it

    Blainesgirl @10

    My biggest fear is that by the time my kids become an active part of the system, that the system is going to resemble the wrong side of The Wall. We’ll end up loosing freedom of speech, people will vanish be it night or day, we’ll have to have papers to go from state to state, etc…you get the point.

    Well the simple solution is not to give the government that much power. You keep feeding the monster and the monster will grow. Give it more power and control and it will gladly take it.

    Stop feeding the monster.

  27. “If the economy turns around and Congress gets something done on the debt in these next two years, Obama wil look alot better than anything the Republicans put out there”

    oh. my. god.

    if the tax cut hadn’t been extended that would have given the government more money for stimulus. AND would have helped reduce the deficit.

    you are right that turning the economy around and reduci.g deficit would help obamas reelection. but it appeard that obama is so focused on looking *reasonable* and *bipartisan* that he failed to notice that extendi.g the tax cuts to millionaires another two years binds his hands as to what he can do with the economy and deficit. the republicans just won a strategic move that will make it a lot easier to make obama fail and guatantee obama loses reelection.

    bu since incumbent presidents rarely step down if obama does so bad that dems are forced to run a different candidate, that might be a good thing. i don’t think i can handle two more years of obama, let alone be forced to hold my nose and vote for.him again in 2012. better to get a dem with some principles and some backbone than to have to put up with four more years of this bullshit.

    Alan Grayson for president.

  28. Our current tax system is a mess. Why? Because as the government learned during FDR’s days, the Constitution allows the government to tax people, but not to directly coerce them into doing things. So the government controls private citizen behavior via tax incentives and punitive taxes.

    I’d favor throwing out the entire system and replacing it with a 15% flat tax with an automatic $5,000 rebate as a sop to progressives, but it’d never happen due to it conceding control of the country to… nobody. Politicians can’t handle that notion, really. Even if we keep our baroque system of incentives and punishments, a flat 15% tax on every source of income (capital gains, inheritance, gifts, etc.) with a rebate makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons.

    You can’t really say that the tax cut would cost X amount of dollars, because economics is a wildly non-linear system. The Economist estimated that tax cuts for the rich translates into 2% lowered unemployment. The more people working, the more taxes get paid, and so forth. You’re right that it would probably be a net win, but it makes me want to grind my teeth every time somebody does a simple multiplication and arrives at a giant number. By this logic, we could tax everyone at a rate of 100% and solve our deficit problems immediately!

  29. Let’s not actually turn this thread into a theoretical discussion of alternative tax systems, and instead deal with the real-world tax system in front of us.

  30. What amazes me is how the Republicans could basically say “Give us what we want or we’ll throw a temper tantrum and block any thing you try to do for the next two years, even if it’s good for the country,” and still make Obama come off looking like the bad guy.

  31. mythago @14,
    Maybe the bumper sticker should be “When you go Galt and starve to death in the woods, can I have your stuff?”
    Thought that is a little wordy.

  32. Frank @28
    “And down with that went the whole premise that Keynesian economics is the way to go. ”

    Huh, Glad that’s settled. I’ll just add that to the list of disproved economic theories like “supply-side”, “Laissez-faire”, “Communism” and “the laffer curve.”

    Guess that’s all of them…

  33. @noname – I get that letting the tax cuts expire would not have fixed the deficit, but it would have helped.

    I’m more than a little fed up with people who won’t do X unless X completely fixes the issue, so I’m not sympathetic to your point which seems to be “don’t do anything unless we can entirely fix the issue.” Providing more revenue from a segment of the population that’s taxed at a historic low would help. Reducing spending will help. Having a growing economy will help. None will be The Answer, but that’s not the point anyway.

  34. I guess the fact that 47% of Americans do not pay federal income taxes doesn’t matter. The top 1% percent of wage earners pay more in federal income tax than the bottom 95%. Give me a break.

  35. Jason @32

    “Give us what we want or we’ll throw a temper tantrum and block any thing you try to do for the next two years, even if it’s good for the country,”

    That’s absurd. Democrats got alot. Not only did the Republicans drop their position that the unemployment benefits extension be paid for, they got the Social Security tax decrease.

    And they will get a repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law, and an approval of the START treaty.

    And the President does look bipartisan for a change. True, the Left doesn’t like bi-partisan, but the important (to his re-election) independents do.

  36. @ John Scalzi # 2: “Don’t you have the manual?”

    Shhhhhh….. if he doesn’t have the manual then he’s one of them. (Wait, which manual are we talking about? The one on how to start a class war or to quell one?)

    Seriously though, I agree with you 100 percent, John. I think this is a strategic move by Obama to look non-partisan and he hopes it will give him some leverage to work additional deals in the future. And I also agree that it was a bad deal to make. Like you my wife and I are in that bracket that would have had to pay more taxes if the cuts had expired.

    We weren’t looking forward to extra money being taken out of our pockets but we understood that it may be necessary to pay down the dept, keep funding two wars and maintain the solvency of millions of people who are currently relying on government programs to keep the heat on.

    My wife and I consider ourselves extremely fortunate. We come from working class backgrounds. I was one of the first in my family to go to college. We’ve been lucky and we’ve avoided some of the consequences of the economic downturn. Even when I was laid-off I was able to find a job again in less than a month with no real loss of income.

    I also come from a pretty conservative family and what’s really confused me is how the middle-class Republican’s have overwhelmingly supported the continuation of the Bush tax cuts. The only reason I could even imagine for supporting it if you’re not one of the richest three percent is that there’s this fantasy that one day they might be a three percenter and they want to ensure they get to keep that money one day…

  37. “Well the simple solution is not to give the government that much power. You keep feeding the monster and the monster will grow. Give it more power and control and it will gladly take it”

    oh. my. god. again.

    feeding the monster generally refers to giving government your tax money so they can spend it on stuff like roads, schools, and so on.

    Blainesgirl was very specific about what made the government a monster in her eyes: “We’ll end up loosing freedom of speech, people will vanish be it night or day, we’ll have to have papers to go from state to state, etc…”

    I for one don’t mind paying taxes, and I am in one of the higher brackets myself. but i oppose the loss of rights we saw under shrub, the illegal and pointless wars, the war crimes, the torture and rubber stamp military tribunals that contunue even now, the fact that the government is doing all it can to outlaw dissent, anr make it illegal to apeak the truth.

    and to be clear I didn’t FEED THE MONSTER for that to happen. i opposed it every step.of the way. I didn’t give them my rights. they took them from.me. and i resent that being reframed as if i actually FED them my rights.

    i haven’t paid attention to your political beliefs but just on that one post alone I would guess you’re a libertarian.

  38. Everyone makes typos, man. We don’t tend to judge on them (unless you make a lot of them in sequence, and then it’s, like, dude, read your comment before posting).

  39. Frank @28
    “And down with that went the whole premise that Keynesian economics is the way to go. ”

    Uhm, no. The stimulus was, at best, a halfhearted approach to Keynesian theory. The actual models said that a much larger stimulus was needed in order to accomplish much.

  40. I’ve started watching The West Wing–unemployed person with too much free time, here–and I have been stunned by the parallels between a ten-year-old TV show and the past two years of U.S. politics. Freaky.

    Personally, I hate the deal, but I get it. A very wise man once said, “the best deal is one that no-one is perfectly happy with.” That’s politics, in a nutshell.

  41. Constance:
    I recently finished watching the West Wing and I had the exact same experience. It was surreal how often what happened to be going on in a particular episode mirrored that days political news.

  42. When the revolution finally comes and I’m up against the wall, I will not be wailing how they don’t understand, my money helped lift all the boats in the rising tide; I’ll probably be asking them what took them so goddamned long.

    John, when you are up against the wall, you’ll still be being a smartarse ;-) (which is most likely the reason that they’ll be after you when the revolution comes, they’ll be after you for something droll and snarky that you said about the glorious leader, rather than your horde of tasty treats hidden in the basement)

  43. As someone in the top 1% (albeit the bottom of it (amazing how steep that curve gets)) I had hoped he had the balls to let them all expire. While nobody likes to pay more taxes, those who are making enough money to get taxed, are making enough money to get taxed. Those hit by the hard times are not making enough money to have this make a difference to their bottom line.

    Relative to health care, most Americans don’t get it; most of them don’t buy health insurance, their employers do. When I had to buy insurance for my family I could not even read the policy before I bought it. They will send you an “overview” that sounds good but after you are on board you discover all the exceptions, and they are numerous. We already have death panels; they are privately owned and charged with increasing shareholder value rather than providing quality health care.

  44. I simply adore the narrative that Obama is a failed president because he either hasn’t accomplished enough in the last two years or that he’s a failure because he continues to look towards compromise solutions. Or that he’s failed because he hasn’t radically exceeded his constitutional authority and undone or changed a bunch of laws or legislation that he didn’t pass or couldn’t prevent.

    Some folks seem to think that having a majority in both houses and the executive office means that the president can do virtually anything he wants. Perhaps they even believe that George Bush was able to do that (and while I’m far from a fan of Bush, he struggled with limits and opposition as much as any president). I’m not sure why some folks seem to think that all party members move in lockstep. It’s true that the Republicans have done this more than the Dems and done so more effectively recently…but the whole ‘Blue Dog’ thing is a clear illustration (as is the Tea Party dynamic) that parties have conflicting factions and that anything short of a clear super-majority in both houses and a sympathetic president will guarantee action (and that even then, unless congress and the POTUS are treasonous, there are limits to what thy can do without extensive legislative work and wherewithall).

  45. Greetings from the Glorious Socialist Republics of the European Union, where the countries with the largest public sectors and rates of personal income tax tend to be the best places to live. Just saying.

  46. Nice to see that just about everyone here would have been glad to vote against the bill which, for all its flaws, extends benefits for most people on unemployment benefits. Standing on principle would have done these people a huge favor, you betcha. (And before someone leaps in to say that the 99ers didn’t get anything: you’re right. That sucks. Democrats have previously introduced bills that tried to extend benefits, but for some odd reason, they didn’t get any support in Congress.)

  47. greg@29:
    bu since incumbent presidents rarely step down if obama does so bad that dems are forced to run a different candidate, that might be a good thing.
    I see this idea being discussed lately, and I’m dubious it could work. If people vote based on the economy, then if the economy is good in 2012 Obama can get reelected, and if it is bad he can’t, and any replacement Democratic candidate can’t get elected either. That’s my offhand had take on it.
    I’m not a student of presidential elections. Does this trick ever work?
    I mean how many times has a one term president had his party nominate someone else and that candidate from his party wins the election?
    For example, Lyndon Johnson doesn’t count, because his replacement Hubert Humphrey lost to Nixon.
    Looking at the list of US presidents on Wikipedia, the only possible cases I see are Rutherford B. Hayes and Calvin Coolidge. It says they both chose not to run again, but that choice might have been pushed on them by political realities. Anyone know?

  48. I’m going to make the assumption that those most benefitting from the continuation of the Bush tax cuts–those making over $250K–skew older than the general population. These are people who benefitted from the government programs financed by deficit spending over their lives–low-cost college tuition as an example–that are disappearing for the young.

    Those who are going to have to pay the price for the past couple of generations’ fiscal irresponsibility are the young, who will have least benefitted from government spending (high tuition leading to the shakles of student loans in the $10k’s, extensions in the SS retirement age and lower benefits for example(. (As an aside, we’re seeing the youth realize that in the UK, and starting to react–the riots over tuition increases were a dramatic example. I think a prediction of generational rather than class war will be more correct). And yet we have the old folks dressing up in funny costumes and shouting TEA Party slogans based on “don’t saddle my grandkids with our huge debt” while they act to do exactly that–instead of modestly reducing their standard of living to at least make a pretense of paying for the costs they have (and will continue to) incur the vote themselves yet more relief to continue to stick the bill to the next generation.

  49. I guess perspective is everything, when it comes to politics but that is nothing new.

    Government is out of money because of how it spends it, not simply because it is not taking enough money, government could take in all of our money and it still wouldn’t have enough. Look at the stimulus $800 Billion +, 0 net permanent jobs created (jobs lost), most of the money went to bailing out state and local governments, that were and still are out spending their budgets, like California. While I am not pleased with this bill, I look at the tax extension as generally a good thing; I am not for redistribution aka greed, I believe it is the road to dependency and loss of freedom.

    Why waste $554 Billion on government? Building a sustainable economy is not going to happen through government command and control economic policy (choosing winners and losers), they can’t possibly anticipate, meet, or understand the needs of our economy or even accurately predict the effects their policies will have at the micro or macro level. Government (especially state and local) needs to get its house in order because it is unsustainable; California is a perfect example of why taxing people more is not going to solve a deficit problem, lower unemployment (12.4%), or create jobs; they have some of the highest taxes in the country, their spending increased from $56 billion in 1998 to $131 billion in 2008, and they are broke.

    Leaving money in the hands of the individual is the best way to meet their micro economic needs, because the individual knows best how to spend their money best, no government could possible know better how to meet their needs. It is also the best way to stimulate and grow a sustainable economy.

  50. WizarDru, when obama ran for president he campaigned on a numbet of specific issues and when he got elected, many of those got left to the wayside.

    Bush used the States Secrets arguments in a case before the supreme court about habeus corpus. bush said the case shouldn’t go forwarf because things were just too secret to talk about it. so secret that even talking abiut what was and was not secret would reveal too much, and therefore the govt should be allowed to indefinitely detain people without trial, without access to a lawyer, without any due process at all.

    obama campaigned on transparency and rule of law.

    after he was elected, the case resumed, and the judges asked if there were any changes in strategy that the executive branch would like to make. everyone who knew anything about this court knew they were expecting obama to drop the State Secret approach to the case. the response from obamas team was, no, we don’t have any changes.

    the judges were shocked enough that they asked again. really? there isn’t anything in the current strategy you want to change? hint hint. nudge nudge.

    no, your honor. the president is fine with it just the way it is.

    that is just one example.

    the fact that obama met with health insurance companies and told them there woukd be no public option, AND AFTER THAT he spends the next several months telling the public that he wants the lublic option. not only did transparency go out the window, but he was telljng the public bald faced lies about his position. he never supported the public option. yet he’s telling us he’s fighting for it. that’s just another example.

    so I refuse to allow someone to take real priciples that obama campaigned on and failed to deliver once elected, and have it turned into some make believe “narrative”.

    I didnt make up the promises Obama campaigned on. i voted for obama based on those very promises and principles. and he has several times not only failed to deliver on those promises, but has become outright hostile to those promises and has made a point to call people who point out his failures to be the bad guy. needing drug tests. whatever.

  51. Emily @54

    I agree with you. I don’t think the nation can be in debt forever and analysts have proven that cutting taxes on the rich so they will “create jobs” is one of the least effective ways to stimulate the economy.

    They didn’t cut taxes on the rich. Keeping the tax rates where they were wasn’t meant to stimulate the economy. Cutting Social Security taxes were meant as a stimulus.

    Not raising taxes was done to not hurt the economy further.

  52. Paul, if you send me your address, i will mail you a one way ticket to yiur version of paradise. there are several real world nations that have no state to spend your tax dollars. and you can live in whatever luxury you can manage to create with your own two hands. please let me know which paradise you would like to enjoy:

    afghanistan
    somalia

    and i will send you a one way ticket, first class, to the destination of your choosing. if you know of any alternative real world destinations that are also operating without the needless expense of government, please add them to the list and I will provide a ricket to that destination instead.

    if, on the other hand, all you have are wild unproven theories with no real world examples to support them, then let me know that as well and i will send you one ticket to Neverland. i will assume you have plenty of laissez-fairy dust so you can fly yourself there by your own bootstraps.

  53. I agree wholeheartedly with your accessment of the Republicans, the rich, and our naive view of money and debt. You would think that what is going on in Europe would scare them.

    I think Obama has done amazing things to date. But he was wrong to cave here. He caved for short term relief and fed a long term monster. You suggest that maybe he also got votes for DADT and START. That’s maybe and while I support those wholeheartedly, I worry if that we need to kill our economy to do what is right. The long term of this deficit is ugly. And if it causes an economic disaster it will not be republicans who are pointed at. It will go on the President, because that is how history records it. And perhaps quite justly.

  54. I guess the fact that 47% of Americans do not pay federal income taxes doesn’t matter. The top 1% percent of wage earners pay more in federal income tax than the bottom 95%. Give me a break.

    Ah, good, I was wondering when someone would bring this argument up.

    Just how much of the nation’s wealth does that top 1% control, hmm? Compared to the percentages of taxes they pay?

    When discussing taxes, the relevant percentage is not population. It is wealth. What percentage of the nation’s wealth pays what percentage of the taxes?

  55. Wow, Question. How many people who blame Obama for soooooo many things actually know how tied his hands are. He can’t just go passing bills nilly willy. Bills have to go through several layers before he can even look at them. He may be the last in the line of what gets passed and what doesn’t get passed, but do people realize how many bills he has tried to put into place that has been shut down before he could have anything productive done? He can’t actually have a good idea and have it go through the system, hell, he can’t even sign a treaty that means the country is behind him. He can only go to other countries and tell them we are friends and I’ll try to do things but I can’t promise anything.
    I think there are Way to many people not wanting to put the blame on the people that deserve the blame. So many people in this comment thread have asked and stated that people who are wrong haven’t been arrested, well duh. Is it that hard to imagine that people who have been elected and put in places of High Authority are actually smart enough to make sure that if and when they are caught that they don’t get any more than a basic slap on the wrist. OY!
    Again, sometimes, I really wonder about people. It all seems very sad.

  56. Greg, please don’t equate the the idea of not increasing our taxes with no taxes, as this is not what I said, or even believe. As far as unproven economic theory, what I was talking about is economics 101 as it describes free market capitalism, the very same economic model that made this country a super power. It is not hard to understand why the individual is the most rational actor when talking about micro economics, they are self interested, they know what they needs are, and they best how to meet those needs. Whether or not they are capable of meeting those needs is another question. Money is a physical representation of a limited resource, mainly our time and effort, and thus can be wasted, even though they can print more of it, doing so devalues the currency, and thus requires us to exchange more and more of it, for out time and effort.

  57. I hate this tax deal. After the November elections, I posted on my blog that for the next two years, I would be satisfied with Obama and the remaining Democrats if they accomplished two things between now and the next election:

    1. Didn’t allow the Republicans to gut the health-care bill.
    2. Didn’t allow Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy to be extended.

    It’s not even January yet, and they’ve already failed at one of them.

  58. Speaking as someone who generally finds himself in disagreement with Obama, I probably would have gained a small measure of respect for him if he’d simply stood his ground on the tax cuts for the wealthy. So he was concerned about a filibuster of some tax legislation that didn’t include these tax cuts…I’d have sent every Republican in the Senate a copy of the D.C. phone book with a giant middle finger drawn on the cover (granted, it would be insane for a president to do this but this is also probably why I don’t care for most politicians). I understand the political argument but don’t you have to stand your ground at some point? Particularly when you have a majority in the House and Senate and it should be relatively easy to stand your ground? I mean for as much of a batshit crazy libertarian as I am, I probably wouldn’t have hated it so much if he had raised taxes on the wealthy given our inability to reduce spending by any appreciable amount. That would certainly come with it’s own negative effects in my view but so does continuing the Bush administration’s policy of cutting taxes and spending like crazy.

  59. Comrades! I make a motion that when the revolution happens we do not, in fact, put Scalzi against the wall and instead demand that he continue to appease us with pictures of fluffy animals.

  60. But somebody still must distribute pictures of the fluffy animals to the masses. He has demonstrated great potential in this line of work.

  61. Bah, the US tax system is so FUBARed, extending the “tax cuts” ain’t even near the top of the problems with it…

  62. I agree completely with you that the political class (inclusive of both parties) have apparently decided that spending themselves into sort of money-driven stupor is the right way to go. I was reading an old Dave Barry column compilation the other day and he says in his annual round-up of 1987 that, Congress, “in the on-going fight to reduce the deficit, passed the first $ 1 billion deficit budget.” Sound sadly familiar, although awfully cheap by today’s accounting.

    On the other hand, though, my husband and I are foster and adoptive parent of teenaged boys (those are the only kids that we will take; we’re one of two homes in our county that will). We have a small stipend from Family and Children’s Services, but it’s not really enough to clothe them properly (the kids have $100/year to spend on clothes), feed them well, and allow us to allow them to live the lives of normal teenagers (i.e. birthday cakes and presents, Christmas gifts, dues for school clubs and fees for school activities, allowance money so that they can go to the movies with their friends – you may think that those things are paid for by Family and Children’s Services, but for the most part, at least in our state, they are not). When we started fostering, my husband and I were determined that we were going to give these kids as normal a life as they could possibly have, and the cost of most of that comes out of our pockets…let’s not even talk about how much four teenaged boys can eat!

    We do it because we love the kids, and we’re glad to do it. We’ve adopted two, and three others call our place home for the purposes of the holidays and “who to contact in case of emergency.”

    We aren’t wealthy, but nor do we struggle. We have minimal debt and still live in the first home we bought. However, if the tax cuts hadn’t gone through, our extra $8,000 in taxes (approximately) would have been the money that we use to try to give our boys a chance at high school normalcy. And by that we don’t mean exceptional privilege – none of our kids have cell phones, I don’t permit video games in the house, there is one shared computer (in a public area) for homework, and I buy everything they wear on sale except maybe the boxers – just like most other parents, I’d imagine.

    The rhetoric used by the politicos has implied that only the fabulously wealthy would be impacted by a failure to extend the tax rates, but I can’t think of anyone off of the top of my head, other than our Intrepid Host, who has addressed the fact that these are cuts that impact real people in real ways. I’m not rhetoric, and neither are my boys. And as long as we have a political class in Washington that has lost sight of that, things aren’t going to get better any time soon.

  63. @61 Blainesgirl:

    Question. How many people who blame Obama for soooooo many things actually know how tied his hands are. He can’t just go passing bills nilly willy. Bills have to go through several layers before he can even look at them.

    I don’t care. Like Superchicken, he knew the job was dangerous when he took it. Getting elected and then saying “Holy crap, this is a mess. You can’t blame me for not being able to fix it” or “OMG, those bozos in Congress sure are a pain in the ass” isn’t good enough. None of that should have been a surprise. I like Obama. I think he’s vastly better than McCain would have been and I wish I could believe that he’s playing some amazing version of 5th dimensional chess that I’m too stupid to understand, but I just don’t. I think he’s out of his depth. I think that most people would be out of their depth, so it’s no discredit to him, but most people aren’t President and he is.

  64. Captain Button@51: Coolidge almost certainly could’ve run for President, and won, in 1928–by all accounts, he was just bored with the damn thing.

    Greg@19: I like Grayson, too, but he needs to move to a safer district or win a statewide office. And I’m reasonably content with Obama for a 2nd term.

    Paul, the U.S. became a superpower in part over the 1950s and 1960s, when the tax rate on the wealthiest during Eisenhower (a Republican)’s administration was 90%.

    This may help–the New York Times solve-the-deficit yourself calculator (Indeed, John used it in an earlier post of his). In a time of two wars, a recession, and accepting the levels of Social Security where it is, demanding cuts in discretionary spending will hurt those who we most need to keep pumping money into the economy, and will further inflame the recession, creating a vicious cycle. You’ll notice that just with five options, all from the tax side, (return estate tax to Clinton-era levels, return investment tax to Clinton-era levels, allow Bush tax cuts to expire on those above $250K, eliminate loopholes, and bank tax)–you’ve cut the short-term deficit from $418 billion to $75 billion, and cut the long-term deficit of $1.2 trillion more than in half–and you’re not slashing unemployment benefits, or hurting Medicare, or slashing Social Security. It’s pretty much painless. If you want to deal with the deficit & debt, taxes are a big part of the equation.

  65. This may help–the New York Times solve-the-deficit yourself calculator (Indeed, John used it in an earlier post of his). In a time of two wars, a recession, and accepting the levels of Social Security where it is, demanding cuts in discretionary spending will hurt those who we most need to keep pumping money into the economy, and will further inflame the recession, creating a vicious cycle. You’ll notice that just with five options, all from the tax side, (return estate tax to Clinton-era levels, return investment tax to Clinton-era levels, allow Bush tax cuts to expire on those above $250K, eliminate loopholes, and bank tax)–you’ve cut the short-term deficit from $418 billion to $75 billion, and cut the long-term deficit of $1.2 trillion more than in half–and you’re not slashing unemployment benefits, or hurting Medicare, or slashing Social Security. It’s pretty much painless. If you want to deal with the deficit & debt, taxes are a big part of the equation.

    Well, I don’t want to get into the deficit/no-deficit mode of thinking; it kinda matters what the numbers are. That requires a bit of quantitative analysis. (Though I’m afraid far too many people simply don’t want to deal with that).

  66. Apparently it can not be pointed out often enough that senate Republicans have been filibustering every damn thing, which has meant bills this session have required a de facto 60 votes in order to pass as that’s what’s been needed just to get a floor vote. Republicans have also been abusing the hell out of other senate procedures to generally gum things up, such as requiring the nearly 2000 page omnibus spending bill be read aloud on the floor by the clerk.

  67. “This isn’t about “my side” winning a political football game. It’s about noting how a politician actually does what he’s supposed to do — get as much of what he wants to get done accomplished while giving up as little political capital as possible, and looking reasonably good while doing it. I’m not pleased with the outcome here, but I can appreciate the process of how the deal got done.”

    So what you’re saying, John, is that Obama is playing for yards gained, rather than touchdowns?

  68. I woke up this morning and realized, “Whoops they did it again”. Those wonderful people who gave you the unrestricted bailout of Wall Street, so much of which was given away in bonuses just gave half a trillion to the same people. The Republicans made their case that it was money in the hands of the wealthy that would be invested in business and result in more jobs. Why didn’t someone, anyone, suggest that along with the giveaway there should be a change in the tax laws taxing the uninvested portion of the giveaway?

    They say that neurosis is the repetition of the same behavior with the expectation of a different outcome. I think that neurosis is observing congress and expecting a different behavior.

  69. Greg M., a 90% tax rate does not create a super power not even in part, a countries place in the world both political and militarily is dependent upon its economy. For example Russia is a wealthier country than the United States when comparing the amount of raw resources that are available to them. Yet Soviet Russia failed to sustain itself as a super power during the cold war because their economy was too inefficient in distributing their limited resources, even with a 4 to 1 cost of labor advantage. The US on the other hand won out and remains the worlds lone super power, mainly because our economy (which is based off of capitalism) was much more efficient in its distribution of limited resources

  70. “our extra $8,000 in taxes ”

    Let’s put this into perspective. By my back of the envelope calculations to get a $8,000 increase in federal taxes on 3 percentage point increase in marginal rates over $57,700 and a lack of the 2 percentage point SS tax holiday under $106,800 Christy must be expecting something like a $253,000 AGI. On that Christy is trying to support two adults, two adoptive teens, and two (or three?) foster teens.

    Also, I’d like to point out that the sunset of the 3 percentage points on the marginal rate above $57,700 has been known tax law for several years.

  71. Oh, America. The only thing more bizarre than your tax system is your political system … and the only thing stranger than *that* is your healthcare system.

  72. My mom works for her county’s “free” (tax-supported) mediation center. She dislikes, but concedes the essential truth of, my definition of “compromise”: The art of making everyone think that they got screwed the least.

    Drawing parallels to the current situation is left as an exercise for the reader.

  73. @Paul: But the United States was in fact a superpower during the 90 percent tax rate. A marginal tax rate of 40 percent isn’t going to kill jobs anymore than the Bush tax cuts created them(since they didn’t).

  74. From what I have always understood and I am neither a tax expert or that great of a historian, but I have always understood the 90% tax rate to be a misleading figure, because there were so many loop holes built into this tax rate that almost no one payed 90% of their income in taxes, (its kind of crazy to assume anyone would too, could you imagine earning a million dollars and paying the government $900,000, just because?). In addition to 90% rate being a joke, when the tax rate was lowered (cut) and the loopholes eliminated tax revenue from the upper income bracket increased. This also show how greater taxes does not necessarily create greater tax revenue, and when they say it is going to cost the government 554 billion to not increase taxes, they are not actually talking about real money, but future money, money they thought they might have had, not actually money they have now.

  75. Compromise should mean that both sides have to give up something they want. I think that happened here. I’m relieved that they extended tax cuts for only 2 years. It means it could be undone when it comes up for discussion again. Because I know so many people depending on the unemployment benefits to survive, I have to agree with what Obama did. This was not something to gamble on. It’s a game of chicken and I think he held on for as long as it made sense to do so.

    Just for the record, I’ve heard nothing from either side with suggestions for what people should do when they cannot find work anywhere, can’t sell their homes and move where work might be, and THEY HAVE NO MONEY. Are we supposed to let people starve to make a point? The deficit is so large as to practically render it meaningless and yes, members of Congress WERE holding these lives hostage to make a point. That’s just wrong.

  76. (its kind of crazy to assume anyone would too, could you imagine earning a million dollars and paying the government $900,000, just because?

    Oh, brother. Someone explain the idea of “marginal rate” to him.

    but I have always understood the 90% tax rate to be a misleading figure, because there were so many loop holes built into this tax rate that almost no one payed 90% of their income in taxes

    As opposed to now?

  77. oh man, its always entertaining when the government does something unpopular in the eyes of some big demographic and all the libertarians crawl out of the woodwork and explain that in a libertarian world, this woukdnt have happened. without exolaining the full ramifications of all their political beliefs.

    i keep picturing someone complaining that their stomach hurts from eating too much greasy food and then hitler sticks his head up and explains that he is a vegetarian and you woukdnt feel the way you do if you were a member of his political party.

    but i guess that’s really nothing more than the standard move from the playbook for any opposition party. criticize the incumbent, but don’t provide solutions. republicans did this pretty well with health care reform.they criticized the dem plan, but offered no solution themselves. because they had no solution. because their basic philosophy of” every man for himself” does not allow for a government solution.

    so when some tax bill goes through that’s unpopular to a group, its always the third party voters who suddenly appear explaining how you would not have this problem at all if you had a third party government. you also likely wouldn’t have child labor laws, osha, the fda, and a whole slew of gvt orgs that most people want but would go away in a libertarian government.

    so when the libertarians show up and do the standard play of criticize without giving their own solution, i understand it. it makes sense that they do it. i just wish there was a standard counter play in the book.

    i guess Grayson found a good response when he zaid repubs health plan was don’t get sick and if you get sick die quickly.

    not sure how to translate that play to libertarian nonsense going on now. hm. lemme try:

    libertarians wouldn’t have a tax problem because they don’t need taxes since they don’t have the FDA, the FAA, health and human services, unemployment benefits, social security, or just about anything else most people would expect a first wworld government to do.

  78. Agree. The long term effects of the arms treaty outweigh the effects of a temporary extension of tax cuts for the well-off.

    I don’t know whether anyone has pointed this out yet, but the top marginal tax rates in the 40’s through the 60’s were for people making hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, adjusted for inflation that would be millions every year. We no longer have special brackets for those folks, maybe we should.

  79. What can I say except that I agree? It irked me that so many people talked about demanding that Obama essentially cut off the countries nose to spite its republican face by allowing all tax cuts to expire. I can’t fathom the impact of allowing everyone’s taxes to go up and not extending unemployment benefits would have, but I feel pretty strongly that it was have been an epically bad principled decision to make.

    I don’t like that the republicans have bullied their way into scratching the backs of the richest at the expense of the majority (including a great deal of their constituents) but I do think that Obama did what he felt he had to do to keep the economy moving along.

  80. What bothers me about the top tax cuts is that part of the justification for accepting the staggering loss of tax revenue, which has been planned for these past ten years, is that allowing these monies to be kept by the rich “will create jobs.” Really? Where are all the jobs that these tax cuts have created in the past ten years? Especially the past two years?

    There are logical disconnects on both the front- and back-ends of these top tax cuts.

    That said, Obama supported a bill that could get passed — and it did. And given the polarized politics, a bill that “everyone hates part of” is a political success. Really.

    Dr. Phil

  81. Republicans are never going to be happy with regulation of business, progressive tax codes, or any kind of social safety net, and the democrats are never going to concede those thing.

    Taking the long view of American political party history, both parties have swapped back and forth on most issues over the long haul. Why? Voters. When either of our majority parties see that a supermajority of the Americans who bother to vote support a specific law or policy, they gravitate toward being supporters of that law or policy. They must become supporters or they find themselves losing elections and thus power.

    Republicans opposed social security in the beginning. Now they may speak of privatizing Social Security investments (rather than the current Ponzi scheme of IOUs to the Social Security Trust Fund from the US Treasury Dept), but they still want the social safety net of a social security system (because we voteres want it). Before living memory Democrats opposed civil rights and intergration. Now they are all for civil rights (because we voters decided we wanted civil rights back in the sixties). Get the picture. We think we are a two party system. We are not. We have one significant political party with two branches. All that distinguises the two branches is the amount of control they wish the Federal government to hold and exercise. Democrats favor more “statist” solutions and Republicans favor more “individual” solutions. But not by much.

    I am with you John Scalzi. I wish the Bush tax cuts had expired. Any stimulative effect from those cuts have had ten long years to first occurr and then dissapate. Continuing them has absolutely no stimulative effect on the economy at present or next year. Discontinuing them will not cause a dip in the economy of any significance since so many Americans do not pay Federal Income Tax and those who do pay have the money to pay the tax. I mean think! It is a tax on income. You have to have the income to owe the tax.

    And the cut in social security payroll taxes scares me personally. I am only 8 years out from my first social security check. And after paying in since 1974 and at “double” rates since the Reagan era, those Social Security EFTs had better start coming every month.

  82. The interesting thing about *personal* income tax rates is that when they rise, the incomes of the lowest paid wage earners (i.e. the minimum wage) also inevitably rise (ref U.S. mid-20th c., modern Sweden, et alia), and the incomes of highest paid get diverted into “tax evasion” schemes that benefit the economy and society, e.g. incorporation, charity, business development, etc. When there is no negative incentive for those who earn the most to spread it around a little, they vacation abroad more often, buy more expensive imported goods, and get fancier manicures.

    That’s not ideology, it’s just demonstrable fact. I really do not understand why it is even in debate. It’s like debating gravity, which is “just a theory,” after all: the theory of gravity has never been proven or dis-proven, but it seems to nonetheless work with such reliability that arguing the point is idiotic.

  83. I’m going to make a simple point that will piss of the majority of you: What damn business is it of you or the government how much someone makes? And what makes it OK to hit the “rich” for 30+% taxes and the not-so-rich at much less?

    Seems to me we all want to preach a good game on racial equality and sexual equality and whatnot but screw the rich. Let’s just take what we can from them, those evil bastards.

    I’m not rich. I’d like to be, one day. But the rich folks I have known have worked damn to get there and don’t deserve to be demonized for being successful. Don’t like success? Move to a socialist country. Last I heard they were paradises.

  84. Gonzo:

    “I’m going to make a simple point that will piss of the majority of you:”

    No, but it does bore me.

    Once again, let’s focus on the reality of the current tax system, not (in this case) kvetch pointlessly about one’s favorite alternate tax scheme.

  85. Someone tell me again how this president is naive/fumbly/doesn’t get things done.

    It really depends on what was supposed to get done. I think a lot of the problem was that Obama started talking like he was actually opposed to cutting the taxes over 250K. The people who are “in his corner” picked up that ball and started running down-field, to really make a terrible mixed metaphor which doesn’t illuminate anything.

    Anyway, when Obama promptly stopped caring about the fight, there were a bunch of people who were already in the fight up to their belly-buttons and felt like they were hung out to dry. The fact is, people got soaked in this compromise (I’m all metaphor mixxy today, aren’t I?), and not a single one of them has an “R” next to their name on the ballot. I doubt they’ll still be wet by the time people are voting, but it costs “political capital.” It’s possible that those people will come back to Obama because they lack other choices, but that’s a relationship damaged.

    I personally believed that if Obama were willing to be belligerent (and he doesn’t seem to be able to) he could have gotten the tax cut with one hand. “I will not sign a tax-cut bill which cuts taxes on blah blah blah.” If the Republicans believed that, then there’s absolutely no fighting stance they can take, except the balanced mutual whining, “the other side has forced taxes up on the middle class. ” Then, THEN! he proceedes to say for the 3rd? 4th? time, “I’m ready to fight…” it’s just ridiculous. His chosen metaphor for giving up was just to continue the metaphor he was using for not giving up.

    This is clumsy.

    This possibly accomplished his goals, but if so, they were goals that he carefully concealed so as to basically ensure that the political left was butt-hurt. Sorta a good reminder moment that Obama isn’t noticeably left of center, he just ran a left campaign.

  86. I personally believed that if Obama were willing to be belligerent (and he doesn’t seem to be able to) he could have gotten the tax cut with one hand. “I will not sign a tax-cut bill which cuts taxes on blah blah blah.” If the Republicans believed that, then there’s absolutely no fighting stance they can take, except the balanced mutual whining, “the other side has forced taxes up on the middle class. ”

    So, let’s play this out. Obama stands up and fights–to the cheers of us liberals everywhere. Finally, he’s showing some spine! He’s not pre-negotiating!

    The Republicans allow the tax-cuts to expire, while obstructing every other bit of business in the Senate (no DADT repeal, for example). They belligerently announce that the tax rises are the Democrats’ fault, which is echoed by Fox News ad nauseum. Then, when the new Congress comes in, the GOP put forward the Bush tax cuts again, except to make them permanent this time. They pass it with a majority in the House, and pick off enough Democratic senators (spooked by the November results and not wanting to get painted as raising taxes) to pass it in the Senate. They don’t extend unemployment benefits and they don’t add additional stimulus.

    Yeah, but Obama’s got spine! He didn’t prenegotiate!

  87. It’s pretty amazing that people don’t understand the concept of give and take. You don’t give someone something by not taking it…….

  88. Gonzo @92: It’s helpful, when commenting on a post, to either have read the actual post or to be able to fake having done so. See, if you had, you’d notice that “the rich” for whom your heart bleeds includes (for purposes of the “rich” being unfairly tasked here) a guy who does not support these taxes.

    Shut up, rich people! You don’t know what’s good for you! How dare you suggest that you don’t deserve these tax breaks!

  89. Gonzo @92 You ask what makes it okay to tax higher ranges of income at higher marginal rates. While likely you intended that as a rhetorical question requiring no answer, I should like to give you the standard answer that has been the answer since we instituted a personal income tax after amending our Constitution in 1913 to allow for one.

    In short, the next dollar earned has less utility to the earner than the previous dollar. This principal is demonstratively true. The first dollars I earn I will use to feed myself–food. For if I don’t I will starve and die. The next dollars I earn will provide a roof over my head and clothe myself–shelter and clothing. For if I don’t I could very well die from exposure even with a full stomach. The next dollars I earn will provide transportation to where I work and earn the dollars (whether bus fare, train fare, a bycycle, a cheap car and gasoline, etc.) For if I don’t, then I can’t earn my dollars, even the first few that buy food. Again I starve and die. Eventually, after the early dollars buy all my necessities to keep me alive I can start using the dollars to buy things I may want, but do not necesarily need. In my own case, that would be science fictions novels to read. And if I earn even more dollars, those wants can become really cool stuff like vacations, second homes, boats for pleasure, etc.

    Now, back to the issue of utility. The earlier dollars purchased necessities for survival–yep, that’s a whole lot of ultility (or usefulness). The last dollars are buying luxuries that have nothing to do with survival, and that’s a lot less utility.

    So what our progressive taxation system does is exempt from income taxes those earliest dollars that everyone uses to keep themselves alive. I believe 47% of Americans pay no Federal Income Tax as we are sure they are using all their earnings just to survive and not die. After the floor (see the IRS tax tables) we start taxing the next group of dollars at 10% as we are sure those dollars are being used to purchase wants but not needs. After a while doing that, we up the percentage to 15%, then later to 25%, then 28%, then 33%, and then 35%. For a single guy or gal, we only tax dollars they earn a year over $108,216 at the 35% top rate. Anyone single making that much money took care of their needs a long time ago with earlier dollars earned. They must be using those earning over $108,216 to buy stuff they want, but do not need to stay alive.

    Were we to tax every dollar everyone earns at the same flat rate, we would be doing serious harm to people not earning enough to take care of their basic needs. A flat tax on every dollar earned by everybody would be evil. We actually had a flat tax once, back in 1986 after the Reagan era tax code reform. For people in the top bracket at that time (28%) we took away all their deductions so that they wound up paying a flat 28% Federal tax on every single dollar that they earned–even their first dollar earned every year. But they earned so many dollars we knew they were up to the luxury purchasing level. But you know our Congress, they could not leave a good thing alone.

    So now you know. We do a progressive income tax system instead of a regressive system because not every dollar you earn has the same marginal utitlity to you. Those early dollars are far more valuable to you for they keep you alive. We let you keep them all, those early dollars. We just take bigger tax bites out of your later dollars earned, because they are not as valuable to you as the early ones. They buy you luxuries.

    And what do we do with your dollars that we take in taxes? Good stuff, like national defense, courts, prisons, highways, space shuttles, etc. And you know, a majority of we voters want all that good stuff. We elect politicians to tax us and buy all that good stuff spending our own money on us (for the most part, as we do send some overseas as foreign aid). In short, our tax system is based on a fact–every new dollar we earn is less valuable to us than the last dollar we earn. The lesser marginal utility of the next dollar earned is the answer to your question. You may not like the answer, but it is the answer and has been so since 1913.

  90. I was a Hillary supporter, and I think she was the partisan fighter everyone is screaming for. During the election we were told that the voters didn’t want that, that she was too divisive, that they wanted someone not so “polarizing” (because obviously the Republicans are rational people who didn’t mean to be crazy) blah, blah, blah. Except that clearly, they did want someone like that. They just didn’t want a woman.

    No, this isn’t a told you so moment. By the time I voted for him, I believed Obama had proved himself much more. (Yes, thanks to a hard fought primary. If Hillary had caved, I wouldn’t have been allowed to see that.)

    I have some quibbles with Obama. I don’t like this tax cut either. You shouldn’t let the other side control the great lie. I think he doesn’t start high enough in his negotiations (something he lectured Hillary against doing) but he is far from incompetent or ineffective. And let us not forget, he’s had a lot on his plate. Nothing will be done truly well, because there is too much to be done.

    I ask his supporters to not make it so obvious please that you were just making up reasons not to vote for a woman. You said you wanted someone exactly like him. You got him. So don’t worry, be happy.

    If you were as rabid in support of him now as you were then, the Republicans would be a lot more willing to compromise. Your lack of support weakens him.

  91. I ask his supporters to not make it so obvious please that you were just making up reasons not to vote for a woman

    It would be nice not to assume you know why other people voted the way they did.

  92. They pass it with a majority in the House, and pick off enough Democratic senators (spooked by the November results and not wanting to get painted as raising taxes) to pass it in the Senate. They don’t extend unemployment benefits and they don’t add additional stimulus.

    And why would Obama sign that bill? Because he’s inherently spineless?

    Does Fox News actually matter?
    Which of these things is louder:
    A: Republicans saying, “Obama caused these tax increases” on Fox News for hours at a time
    B: Obama saying, “Republicans caused these tax increases” in a 15 seconds blip on the evening news.

    You think a veto is a more politically painful act than a filibuster? It might be true (I obviously don’t think so) but if it is, it’s a really sad statement about the U.S. Senate. Now, I should point out that this is a filibuster which would have no excuses. The President says, “You will not get your way until I’m not president.” (unless 17 senators is what you meant by “enough”).

    Finally, maybe you haven’t noticed, but “The Tea Party” stopped being about taxes a couple years ago. The major losses by Democrats were not about taxes, and any Democrat who allows Republicans to tell them they were should be slapped.

  93. @Narcissa:

    I actually didn’t like Hillary for Prez not because she’s a woman, but because

    1) The Republicans have a deep irrational hated for her, which (I thought) would make things worse, and
    2) She seemed to project an attitude of “I deserve to be President”, and
    3) I didn’t want to have dueling Presidential dynasties – don’t want Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton.

    By assuming anyone who doesn’t like her is necessarily sexist, then you show yourself to be sexist. Think about that.

  94. And why would Obama sign that bill?

    Because he would be under severe political pressure to do so, especially with 2012 now appearing ahead.

    Does Fox News actually matter?
    Which of these things is louder:
    A: Republicans saying, “Obama caused these tax increases” on Fox News for hours at a time
    B: Obama saying, “Republicans caused these tax increases” in a 15 seconds blip on the evening news.

    Uh, A. This has been another in Easy Answers To Easy Questions.

    You think a veto is a more politically painful act than a filibuster?

    Yes. Compare the number of vetoes to the number of filibusters.

    The President says, “You will not get your way until I’m not president.”

    ‘You will not get your tax cuts until I’m not President.’ There’s a message Obama wants to campaign on!

    God love us liberals; we get major swathes of our agenda passed, and we’re so busy having a circular firing squad, we don’t even notice it.

  95. gonzo, did you seriously just equate the enslavement of people based on their skin color with a progressive tax table?

    i dont know where you live, but if you see a diner that says “poor only, screw you rich bastards” i would like to see a photo. otherwise, i believe you’re just making up some crazy notion that somehow rich people are powerless victims of all the ruling class poor people.

    to put it more directly, pics or it didnt happen.

  96. Silbey, I am not sure if you think there is anything Obama has done that can be subject to what you would certify as ‘legitimate’ criticism or if you would indeed anything short of active cheerleading Obama as ‘circular firing squad’.

    given that your position isnt clear, i find myself drifting toward the latter assumption.

    feel free to correct me by responding with some signifiicant criticism of Obamas presidency thus far. some poosibilities might be the continuation of the state secrets defense to stop all lawsuits by people tortured by America, military tribunals, failure to close gitmo, negotiating away the public option with insuarance companies then spending the next several months telling the american public that he wants a public option, the secret war in Yemen, continuing predator attacks in pakistan even though 80% of those attacks kill civilians. this is just off the top of my head. a small amount of research could find more.

  97. am not sure if you think there is anything Obama has done that can be subject to what you would certify as ‘legitimate’ criticism or if you would indeed anything short of active cheerleading Obama as ‘circular firing squad’.

    There are a number of things for which I would criticize Obama. The civil rights issues you (mis)spell out are among them. But I recognize the reality: saddled with an obdurate opposition and a fractious coalition, Obama had a tough challenge and he handled it pretty well. His reward from some on the left has been cries of outrage and betrayal and little recognition of the situation.

    I know it’s a much more appealing narrative to feel persecuted when the messiness of the real world intrudes. I’m sorry that you’re not feeling comfortable, you’re just going to have to learn to deal with reality. Buck up: if you do, you’ll separate yourself from the Bushies who thought they could make their own.

  98. Reality is I criticize my representatives when they dont represent me.
    the day i become a subject and have to cheerlead my politicians and compliment them on how beautiful their new clothes are, is the day i i consider the tradeoffs between fighting and leaving

    as long as we claim to be some semblance of a representative democracy, then my job is to praise what i support, and dissent against anything i disagree with. i do not criticize any less just because of the political label of the politician being criticized. i ffind it annoying when the behavior of bush is deplorable and the behavior of obama doing the exact same thing is turned into consider the

  99. The biggest problem our country has right now is allowing people to vote for something that doesn’t materially affect them. “Raise taxes on wealthy?” Sure! It doesn’t affect me, so let’s spend someone else’s money. If the only way you can solve financial issues is to “tax someone else” then we are just postponing disaster.

  100. andy, right, no one should be able to tell you how much taxes you should pay. you should donate what you feel is right. and who am i to say rape is wrong if i have never been raped. and I shouldnt be allowed to oppose a war unless i am fighting in it. and where do i get off saying the government needs a warrant unless they are pounding down my door.

    really. what was I thinking.

    in news related to the Obama Apologists subthread: net neutrality, a campaign promise by Obama, is dead.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jason-rosenbaum/breaking-fcc-breaks-obama_b_799844.html

    but we shouldnt criticize, I know. just sit back and shake our heads at how much more complicated government is compared to what it was when Obama was just a presidential candidate. oh, those crazy days.

  101. Sorry Greg — that wasn’t what I was saying. John’s original statement of “We need the tax revenue, and they can afford it” is so disturbing that I want to scream. It would have been more honest to say “We want the tax revenue, and they can afford it”. Everyone wants something for free — all I am saying is that raising taxes on someone else is the easy way out.

  102. different words, same argument.

    if “raising taxes on someone else” is wrong, then no one can tell you to pay taxes.

    the crux of your argument is that poor people have absolutely no moral grounds to say how much taxes rich people should pay. people in the $150,000 to $180,000 should be allowed to decide amongst themselves how much they should have to pay. that is the logical conclunsion of your argument. if poor people cant tell rich people how much to pay, then who does? the only people left to decide are rich people. you have eliminated all other possibilities.

    wouldnt it be awesome to be the richest man in america and tell everyone that you are auch an important engine of the economy that yiu arent going to pay taxes and insist no one has the motal authority to compel you to pay more?

    wait, thats pretty much what just happened with the tax cut for millionaires.

    but yeah, that was exactly what you were saying. po people have no moral standing to say how much taxes the rich people should pay.

    so who is left to decide taxes for the rich?

    well to quote the master logician, oncr you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

    you eliminated all po people. all that remains is rich people.

    or are you calling Spock a liar?

  103. Greg — there is probably a middle ground somewhere here. Something like this: 1) Raise everyone’s tax liability by (say) 10% across the board, then 2) Raise additional taxes on a progressive scale (i.e. tax the wealthy).

    Every person I have ever met supports “tax the wealthy” specifically because “it doesn’t affect them”. Make a painful tax increase like what I mentioned above, and you will see that people would rather cut government spending instead.

  104. your “principle” has no middle ground inherent in it. po people have no moral right to raise taxes on the rich. doesnt matter what the taxes pay for. it can apply to anything. which means it is convenient because you can bring it out anytime you disagree with any tax hike, n o matter what. it is unfalsifiable. there is no situation of tax increases that you cant bring it out as an excuse.

    as far as whether everyone you’ve met wants to raise taxes solely because it doesnt affect them, you met me and thats not why i suppprt it.

    i think the tax table is skewed to favor the rich given the current economic circumstances. i think they can afford it more than the poor right now.

    unless you think the ratio of taxes between rich and poor is set at the perfect spot and never needs changing, you have to have more sophisticated economic principles than “you always have to raise everyones taxes”

    but what seems clear is that you arent guided by any priciple that tries to balance the rich and the poor and the economy together as a whole. you want the rule to be ‘you have to raise everyones taxes’ not because thats how you think the economy would be helped, but as you say because it would be painful for everyone and because you think that pain would get everyone to follow youre ultimate goal: instead of raising everyones taxes, everyone would be compelled to support a reduction in government spending.

    regardless of what benefit that spending might produce.

    i will wager you are a libertarian, or some third party alternative to libertarian. because nowhere in anything you wrote do you mention any belief in the fairly standard economic doctrine that the way to recover from an economic depression is to have the government stimulate the economy. also nowhere in you posts is amything resembling an acknowledgement that, yes, having the government pay for this or that is the bezt way to get tthat thing done.

    the onky principle you have really forwarded is that the poor mooch off the rich because the poor doesnt have to pay for as much and that the government is spending too much.

  105. Greg — We seem to be on opposite sides of the spectrum. You seem hung up on poor people have a moral right to demand rich people pay for their every need. I on the other hand would rather make it really hard for government to take dollars from all citizens — regardless of their net worth.

    It would be interesting to figure out where some middle ground is for useful discussion. It would also be useful to save John’s forum for other people and move this discussion offline.

  106. there is no middle ground if one end of the spectrum defines taxes as “poor people demanding that the rich pay for their every need.”

    my god, the level of unreality in that statement really boggles my mind.

    the only “middle” ground to that would be something like “and rich people decide to throw the pathetic underlings a few scraps”.

    cause we all know being poor and having the rich pay for our every need through taxes is just the fucking bomb. god, i wish i was that poor. that would be awesome. i would have a new car, house on the beach, and an hdtv in every room, all paid for by forcing rich people to pay taxes for it. welfare queens driving cadilacs and eating caviar are pretty muchh all I see in the realy poor parts of town where i live. those lucky bastards.

    so, uh, yeah not a lot of middle ground between total fantasy that is complete right wing propaganda and any position grounded in the real world.

  107. tell you what, Andy, you tell me under what circumstance would po people be morally justified in demanding rich folk pay more for something through taxes.

    something specific. concrete.

    and then explain how the reason it is morally justified doesnt boil down to “the rich agreed” or “becuse you say its ok”

    schools? fire department? roads? police? military?

    because it seems like the only thing you havent done is come out and said your actual position in direct terms: i.e. that a progressive tax table is immoral and the only just tax system would be a flat tax.

    or do you support a progressive tax? and if so, how do you figure out the morally alowed rates? everyone choses the rate for their tax bracket? or does everyone have a say in what everyone else pays? or is it simply “you will know it when you see it”.

    wait. maybe i am missing the larger truth here. you wouldnt happen to be one of those crazy people who thinks the government has no right to tax people at all, are you? the guys who think that the constitution forbids income tax? I read about these truly insane people. but i have never actualy met one.

    is income tax imoral?
    if not is progressive income tax immoral?
    if not in a representational democracy, is it immoral to allow poor people to have a say in how much tax rich people pay?

  108. i suppose. i am not entirely sure how to have a conversatiin with someone about the rightness or wrongness of the latest tax legislation if i get the sinking feeling they think taxes, as a concept, is immoral.

    part of me is thinking, dont make assumptions. verify. maybe i misunderstood.

    but i guess the crazier someones philosophy is, the less likely they are to just come out and say, why yes I think the 16th ammendment didnt follow proper procedures for passage and is therefore is invalid. the world is flat. climate change is a lie. buy gold and bury it in your backyard.

    and yet part of me keeps thinking, a person couldnt really be this crazy, could they?

    i should take the pattern of what is consistently unsaid as just as telling as what is said. but part of me says, no, you dont really mean this, do you? i need to learn how to turn down that skepticism. i have no idea how.

  109. Greg — I am sorry to hear that you can find no middle ground to discuss.

    My understanding is that in 2009, about 47% of the households in the US pay no federal income tax

    My original point which started this conversation — “The biggest problem our country has right now is allowing people to vote for something that doesn’t materially affect them” — is not a correct statement. “Allowing” was a poor choice of words, and I know better.

    Absolutely the United States Government has the legal right to tax anyone using whatever scheme they need. Our representative democracy absolutely grants a voice to all people on where taxes are collected, and from whom. With 47% of the people not materially affected by income tax — therein lies the problem.

  110. Andy: “47% of the households in the US pay no federal income tax”

    Wow. Nice link. 71 million Americans will not pay federal income tax.

    Also, completely context free.

    Here’s some context for you:
    37 million americans live AT OR BELOW THE POVERTY LEVEL.

    Simple question for you: Should people living at or below the poverty level pay significant taxes?

    You have managed to avoid every direct question thrown your way and instead responded by repeating your propaganda. I am no longer *skeptical* about your position. (re: #121). You have made your position abundantly clear by what you refuse to give straight answers to.

    Anyone who blames the countries problems on all the people living below the poverty level is not someone I have any interest in finding middle ground with. The problem isn’t that these people don’t pay taxes. The problem is poeple like you thinking they have no moral right (Oh, sure, *legal* right because we’re a “democracy”, but NO MORAL RIGHT. yet another one fo the direct questions you refused to answer.) to get help from the government via taxes paid by other people.

    So don’t feed me this nonsense about “middle ground” between your position and mine. I am not one of those knuckleheaded democrats who will bend over backwards to appear bipartisan and try to find middle ground between (1) balancing services with taxes and (2) setting poor people on fire. You want to set poor people on fire, you do it without any “compromise” from me. I don’t know when exactly “bipartisan” came to mean “halfway between me and bat shit insanity”, but I’m not buying that definition. And I’m not falling for any attempt by you to spin this into “Oh, I am so sorry you are unable to find any middle ground. Look how reasonable I am trying to meet you halfway”. Nope. Not buying it. You cannot set HALF the poor people on fire with my approval.That is not middle ground. Half insane is still insane.

    71 million people didn’t pay federal taxes. 37 million live at or below the poverty level. Many, I am sure, live just above the poverty level.

    And what I want to hear from you, Andy, is whether or not you think it ETHICALLY MORAL (not legal, not political, not procedural), but ethically moral, to sit there and say those poeple below the poverty level should carry their own weight and pay significant goddamn taxes.

    If you don’t think they should pay taxes, why the hell did you bring it up?
    If you DO think they should pay taxes, then I want to hear you state it directly.

    Andy: People below the poverty line should pay taxes. And it is MORALLY WRONG for people below the poverty line to NOT pay taxes.

    But hey, you haven’t answered a single direct question yet, why break a perfect record.

    If you’re going to set poor people on fire, you’re just going to have to do it without me meeting you “halfway”.

  111. Andy, before you directly answer Greg’s question on the ethics of poor people paying taxes try reading (again I hope) my post at #98 above which explains why we have had a system since 1913 where people at the lowest income levels do not pay taxes. From the very beginning of our Federal Income Tax system we voters through our elected Congress and Presidents have recognized that while our poorest citizens have a moral and ethical obligation to pay taxes, we think collectively that they should not so that they can use all their earnings for their basic necessities of life. And that is our collective moral position. For a tax system that taxes everyone at the same rate, rich and poor, would simply be a great evil. Just my two cents (again).

  112. So Andy kept spouting talking points and kept running into walls of facts that contradicted what he said. he then tried so.e facts of his own that supported his position, but only if looked at without other facts that put his numbers in perspective. now that the facts show the context of his position would make Ebenezer Scrooge proud, Andy has submerged and is running silent.

    When something like that happened, I used to think the person had a change of heart but couldnt fess up to it so suddenly. But for some reason, when it happens now, I assume the person holds fast to their dogma in the face of facts to the contrary, and they’ve moved on to find an audience that believes the samr dogmas.

    And the problem is that I cant tell if I am getting realistic or cynical.

  113. My biggest problem with Greg’s point of view is that taxes are not a moral issue, they are a legal issue. No one pays taxes because they are morally obligated to do so — they pay taxes because they are legally required to do so.

    Should the poorest of poor people pay taxes? Probably not — that would be like squeezing juice from a rock. Can the people who are taking more from the system then they are putting in contribute in other ways? Absolutely. Long term benefits can be countered by services rendered for example.

    My original point is that people who have no vested interest in paying taxes will always want more taxes, more services. None of Greg’s posts have addressed that.

    So to answer directly to Greg’s question: Taxes should be paid by everyone who is able, either in money or services.

    My personal opinion is that short term financial help should be available for those going through hardship, but it should get progressively harder and harder for people to stay on the government teat long term. An example of this would be unemployment insurance. People lose their jobs through circumstances often beyond their control, and it is counter productive for these people to transition immediately to poverty and lose their house, etc. I absolutely support a system where there is a short term safety net helping people get through these tough times. Where I would like to draw the line is when people are on unemployment for (say) over a year. Yes, isn’t it sad that people have been unable to get a job after that long — but at some point you have to get your own financial situation in check, and move in with your parents (Queue Greg frothing at the mouth on that. It was an example only). I have seen so much abuse of government handouts that it makes me sick. I know personally a number of people who know the system and abuse it — they are off on vacation and getting money from the government. Make it really hard to get public assistance, and put hard timelines on how long you can get it for and I will be much more likely to support programs that give money to people that need it. Right now I will reject out-of-hand any taxes that are not 100% required for the functional running of our government until waste, fraud, and abuse are addressed. I will instead give money to my local schools, church, and Red Cross because I believe they can do a better job.

    At some point, I am willing to let people fail. Call me “immoral” if you will, but my generosity only goes so far.

  114. > My biggest problem with Greg’s point of view is that taxes are not a moral issue, they are a legal issue.

    It takes an extremist libertarian to argue that there is no moral basis behind the law. That its all about what the “mob” forces on everyone else. Either you are arguing that the law is without any moral basis, and are suffereing from severe libertarian delusionism, or you’re arguing that the law is without moral basis, but didn’t mean it.

    And I’m pretty sure you mean it.

    “Should the poorest of poor people pay taxes? Probably not — that would be like squeezing juice from a rock.”

    I ask “should the poor…” and you answer as if I’d asked “can the poor…”. Once again, failing to answer a direct question. But I”m used to it by now. Should points to morality. C

    “Long term benefits can be countered by services rendered for example”

    I am looking at the date and chuckling. There is absolutely no better time of year to hear someone ask in all seriousness: Are there no workhouses?

    “Can the people who are taking more from the system then they are putting in contribute in other ways? ”

    Ah, right. Because that is the final moral principle, right? We can NEVER ALLOW even one individual to take out more than they put in. Right? That’s morality, isn’t it?

    Well, it’s the libertarian version of morality. and the TeaBagger version of morality. Can’t let someone GET AWAY WITH THAT.

    Everyone has to pay for their roads somehow. If not in cash/taxes, then by God, we’re going to make them sweat it out of them in the workhouses or make them lay roads themselves.

  115. “My original point is that people who have no vested interest in paying taxes will always want more taxes, more services. None of Greg’s posts have addressed that.”

    Actually, they did. You remember when you proved how so many lazy bastards are running around not paying any taxes and then I pointed out that probably half of those poeple live below the poverty level?

    Notice how you never replied with “Oh, goodness, I guess I was wrong” even though the one and only “fact” you provided turned out to be useless spin.

    So, what I want to hear from you is this: I, Andy, understand that most of the people I thought “have no vested interest in paying taxes” are actually people who live at or near the poverty level.

    Because you keep talking about a demographic that doesn’t exist. “70 million” you said. Oh, sure, but half those poeple live below the poverty line. So, now what? Do we make them pay taxes so they go hungry? Do we force them to work to pay for whatever services you think they’re getting that they shouldn’t? Put them in the workhouses? Make them slaves? Saying “benefits can be countered by services rendered” is a cowards way of avoiding the ugly details that your philosophy would enforce on all those individuals. WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE THEM DO?

    So, you keep saying that “people who have no vested interest in paying taxes will always want more taxes”, and you keep tryign to say that none of my posts address that. But my posts keep addressing it every time. The truth is this boogeyman you keep waving around of millions of people living fat off the taxes of someone else, that boogeyman doesn’t exist. Being at or below the poverty level means, by defintion, that you are not LIVING FAT AND LARGE OFF OF SOMEONE ELSES TAXES.

    You tried to back up this fairy tale by saying 70 million people don’t pay taxes, look at all those people at the government trough. But I pointed out those people are BELOW THE POVERTY LEVEL, which means they aint living large. Whatever services they’re getting individually, aint much.

    ” I have seen so much abuse of government handouts that it makes me sick.”

    Highly unlikely. Given you’re “70 million” pseudo-fact, I would say its much more likely that you IMAGINED so much abuse of government handouts that it makes you sick. Given that you were completely unwilling to acknowlege that your 70 million pseudo fact was a pseudo fact would suggest your imagination is strong enough to hide inconvenient facts and justify them away.

  116. “Right now I will reject out-of-hand any taxes that are not 100% required for the functional running of our government until waste, fraud, and abuse are addressed.”

    Ah, something specific for a change. OK, Andy, you remember those 40 million or so people living at or below the poverty line? I will assume that they are not “100% required for the functional running of our government”. Would that be correct?

    What I want to hear from you is this: “I, Andy, oppose giving any tax money to people living below the poverty level for any reason whatsoever.”

    Saying you oppose taxes that aren’t 100% for the functionality of government is again a cowards way of avoiding the full implications of what you’re proposing. If taxes only pay for government functions, then the government should do NOTHING for people living in poverty, people who are homeless, who are unemployed, who don’t have food, who don’t have a place to live, who are, well, livingin in POVERTY.

    So, here’s your chance, Andy, don’t just state the mealy mouthed version of what you want. Come right out and say it:

    No government help for the homeless, for those who can’t afford to put food on the table. Not a dime.

    “At some point, I am willing to let people fail. Call me “immoral” if you will, but my generosity only goes so far.”

    Oh, Andy. Labels are irrelvant. All I want is to hear you stand proud in your position and stop beating around the bush about it. Just say “no help for the poor, the homeless, the hungry”.

    You were willing to admit they can’t pay taxes. And you were willing to state that you thought they should “work” for any benefites they get (though the specific details were somewhat lacking). And now you’ve said in a rather round about way that the only taxes you support are taxes that pay for the direct functioning of government. But it seems to me that in your heart of hearts, deep down in your soul, is a more self-expressed version of yourself, yearning to be free, to speak his mind freely, to be heard by one and all, wanting nothing more than to speak its truth and let that truth be heard throughout the land: No government assisstance for people below the poverty level. Not a dime of your taxes should pay to help the poor.

    Isn’t that really your version of what’s moral? Not legal, but moral. Because you only pay taxes because you’re forced to, right? Well, if you’re going to pay taxes, why not at least speak the truth as to how you feel about it?
    Or, at the very least, admit that the “70 million” number was actually a pseudofact that proved nothing.

  117. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_budget?wasRedirected=true

    wikipedia has a couple of cool graphics above. the first one shows where the us budget is spent. defense, social security, and medicare account for what looks like about 60 percent of the budget. I am not exactly sure where thoselazy bastards you keep talking about where they are sucking at the government teat, but if its in that chart it is a small fraction of the entire federal budget.

    but boogeymen like that generally behave like UFO’s. some.true believers swear they saw an alien spaceship,and nothing will disprove it to them.

    Tell me, Andy, in what pie wedge of that graphic is hiding these teat suckers you keep talking about?

  118. “We need the tax revenue, and they can afford it”

    What do “we” need the tax revenue for again?

    Oh yeah to stimulate the economy pay off Fanny and Freddy’s debt and fight a couple of wars…..

    Yeah I think I would rather let the rich people keep it. They will kill less people and be better at creating jobs with it then the government has been.

    By the way it is not the richest people….it is the top earners. the richest are either smart enough to not pay taxes or simply sit on their yacht decks until it is a good time to hire people and invest.

    Another by the way. For the past 60 years the top rate for income taxes has been high it has been low it has been all over the place. Income tax revenue on the other hand has been steady at about 18% of GDP.

    When you see a flat line like that in a phenomena it usually tells you something. In this case it tells you the only way to increase revenue is by growing GDP. Raising taxes will only hurt GDP growth.

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