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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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8 Responses

  1. Avatar John Schwenkler
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    says:

    I haven’t followed the discussion in the comments, but isn’t it the longer-term deficits that are the real sticking-point? You can appeal to wars, bailouts, the stimulus package, etc. to explain the 2009 and 2010 numbers, and Bush et al absolutely vdeserve a fair share of the blame there. But it’s the steadily-increasing deficits post-2012 – the “structural” ones, as von puts it – that are really terrifying. Borrowing money in a pinch is one thing, but you’re bound for insolvency if you do nothing at all to, you know, pay it back.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to John Schwenkler
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      says:

      Certainly, John. My quibble is with the misrepresentation. How would these charts look if the actual numbers were being represented. At least Obama is including the wars in his budgets, even though they definitely contribute to the size of those budgets.

      I don’t like these huge federal budgets either, but I also wonder if this is the way budgets look when facing a balance-sheet recession that could very well last years. Then again – as you say – the long-term is pretty absurdly high. I think it’s time to do a few things: 1st, cut military spending (as Freddie has noted often enough) by around 10%. 2nd, seriously scale back a number of federal programs so that there’s room for sensible federal spending. 3rd, implement a federal sales tax. We need to pay for this borrowing. I don’t want to see income taxes go up too much. A small sales tax would be an amazing source of revenue. 4th, start shifting government back to local and state hands in whatever areas possible. There is a place for the federal government, but not for every damn thing we do.

      Oh why bother with a list? There’s so much that needs to be done it’s hard to get it all down on paper. Suffice to say, I am also very bothered by the massive deficits, but I’m not sure what the alternatives are given the mess we’re in….Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to E.D. Kain
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        says:

        I don’t think there’ s a misrepresentation issue here at all. First, von is pretty clear that he’s not blaming this year’s deficit solely on Obama, and that the bigger concern is the long-term problem. Second, it’s also pretty clear that the pre-2009 numbers include everything, wars included. The 2009 numbers are about 1.3 trillion more; given the amount that’s been spent in FY2009 on bailouts, stimulus packages, etc., this should sound about right.

        Finally, a 10% military cut is not remotely enough to make a dent in this problem. That budget accounts for more than half of spending, yes, but it’s still “only” about $800 billion, so a 10% cut only gets you a tiny part of the way there. You need at least a 25% cut to even begin to make an impact. Also, an income tax increase would be far preferable to a sales tax – sales taxes are inherently regressive, so the burden for that would fall disproportionately on the poor.Report

        • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Mark Thompson
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          says:

          Whoops. That should read “half of discretionary spending,” not “half of spending.”Report

        • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Mark Thompson
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          says:

          Fair enough, Mark. I think I’d be up for a scaled draw down of the military budget. Give us 10% now and work from there (since there simply isn’t a way in hell we’d get a quarter cut). Re: the sales tax, I think it should obviously be exempt from necessities (food and the like) and it should be very small. I’d take a payroll tax increase too across the board. Again, this all needs to be paid for some way or other. The one preference, to me, in a sales tax is that I can choose whether or not to buy something (and thus save money on taxes) whereas if it’s taken directly from my check, well, it’s just gone….Report

  2. Avatar von
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    says:

    Certainly, John. My quibble is with the misrepresentation. How would these charts look if the actual numbers were being represented. At least Obama is including the wars in his budgets, even though they definitely contribute to the size of those budgets.

    What makes you think that the supplementals aren’t included in the historical CBO reports?

    Now, I agree if your point is that putting spending in a supplemental makes it more difficult to project future expenses. The CBO rightly complained about that when Bush did it, and I agree with the CBO. But, here, you accuse me (and the CBO) of ignoring old dollars. That’s a fundamentally different matter.

    If you can provide some evidence that the CBO hasn’t accounted for the supplementals in its backward-looking assessment, I’ll provide an update making that clear. (It wouldn’t disturb the primary point.) But I don’t see it.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to von
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      says:

      Alright maybe I’m reading this wrong – I can admit that this might be the case, so I’ll go over it again. Quite frankly, I’m distressed by all of this. The budget is out of this world. But the underlying fact is that Bush laid this cement. No way would we have a President with this kind of license to spend (for one thing) if Bush hadn’t done such a remarkably lousy job.

      So to clarify – the Bush numbers in the above graph – those include the spending for the two wars? I was under the impression that those show the Bush admin budget (which did not include those numbers) and if that’s the case, then I read this wrong.

      …and, one final thing, but I think it’s important to note that all of this out-of-control spending comes down to a too-powerful presidency in the hands of Bush and now Obama, along with a mostly inept Congress. Fiscal sanity is never present when one party is too much in control and when one branch of government is far, far too much in control…Report

  3. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto
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    says:

    I think it might be more useful to look at what percentage of the deficiet is a result of Bush era policies, e.g Medicare Plan D, wars, tax cuts, TARP, whatever else. How much also is non-discretionary spending? Basically: Just how much of those deficits are from Obama’s own initiatives?

    What would these numbers look like if for example we went with an extrapolation of favored policies of Bush, et. al. such as making tax cuts permanent, permanently repealing the estate tax, etc.

    Wouldn’t we see an enormous increase even above and beyond the CBO’s present increases?Report

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