Cutting Jobs Instead of Bombs

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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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93 Responses

  1. Avatar Koz says:

    “Corporate welfare and agricultural subsidies are off-limits to anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist,…”

    I’m no big fan of Grover Norquist, but that’s not quite right.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Koz says:

      What Norquist said is that cutting corporate welfare is a tax hike that needs to be balanced (at least) by tax cuts. Because, as Erik says, fiscal responsibility equals tax cuts, end of story.Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Yeah, but look at:

        1. Norquist opposed cutting ethanol subsidies ‘cuz he views it (controversially) as a tax hike.

        2. He nor other conservatives have any particular love for ethanol.

        3. He lost in Congress.Report

    • Avatar Anderson in reply to Koz says:

      As much as I despise what ATR has done to the budget discussion over the last 20 years, I will give Norquist credit for speaking out on prison reform and getting out of Afghanistan: http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/01/14/grover_norquist_interview.

      That being said, his stand against even a penny of revenue from either ending the Bush- Obama tax cuts or reducing tax expenditures is batshit crazy. There is nothing conservative, reasonable, or economically sound about ATR’s crusade to shackle policymakers to an unsustainable pledge. Perhaps most disturbing was Norquist’s recent claim that “repealing ethanol subsidies was okay because he had given permission” Which Bill Clinton aptly responded to when he said, “What has this country come to when one person has to give you permission to do what’s best for the country?”Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Anderson says:

        Bill Clinton said that? With a straight face?

        Didn’t he used to be that guy?Report

        • Avatar Nuala Keenan in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          Yes, But Bill Clinton was President. Grover Norquist is a shill of the right wing Cato Institute, Koch Bros, and all the right wing think tanks that are funded by the Koch’s and Murdock. Hope the British rake him over the coals to-morrow.
          Grover has a very pronounced love/hate relationship with the Muslins and has courted them vigorously for their vote and even had George Bush entertain the Imams at the White House. How hypocritical is that. All in the name of the vote, he is willing to become a traitor, which he is doing to-day by trying to take down the government with his “No New Taxes” pledge signing for the new Tea Party hacks.Report

  2. There’s no one reason to explain all of this, but I’ll bring up what I think is one of them, and one of the most influential: empire is a Helluva drug, and like all drug addictions, it’ll cause you to give up a lot of things you claim you care about rather than quit.Report

  3. Avatar Plinko says:

    As Matt Yglesias is fond of pointing out, this is in no small part because the American military is essentially the most trusted and respected institution in the country. A lot of people like the idea of spending less on defense budgets but when push comes to shove – who do people trust and support? Those distinguished and honorable officers and our fighting men and women or those slimeball politicians? Better to attack the poor/rich, union/big business special interests that can’t garner majority support from the public.Report

    • Avatar Jazgar in reply to Plinko says:

      Not most trusted to be thrifty. $640 toilet seats?

      At least we have proof that the federal government IS creating jobs. Am I right?Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to Jazgar says:

        Government creating jobs? No. If we know anything that’s happened since President Obama took office, no.Report

        • Avatar Jazgar in reply to Koz says:

          Defense contractors, not to mention soldiers, support staff, etc; are you saying all those folks are not “employed”? Are they not receiving salaries plus benefits, supporting families, buying homes & vehicles & furniture & food? Are they not paying taxes, etc.? Do they not provide value to society by defending it from outside hostile forces?

          Please. Help me understand how these jobs are not, in fact, jobs.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to Jazgar says:

            ‘Cuz employment can go up and down.

            “Our benchmark point estimates suggest the Act created/saved 450 thousand government-sector jobs and destroyed/forestalled one million private sector jobs.”Report

            • Avatar Jazgar in reply to Koz says:

              Obviously employment can go up. Or it can go down – as it did after 3 large tax cuts under George W. Bush. Tax breaks which were supposed to, I believe, CREATE jobs?

              That doesn’t answer how military, or military contracting, jobs should not be defined as jobs. What makes them not jobs? That their salaries/benefits are paid for by tax payers?

              Wow, an ARRA study that ignores multiplier and aggregation effects. As opposed to CBO or CEA or Blinder&Zandi which calculates the effect to be $2.7 to $3.6 million jobs saved or created. A study the results of which don’t come close to any other major study looking at the exact same question – not even some that used similar methodology (Wilson 2011)? Gee, which to believe?Report

            • Avatar Ebenezer Arvigenius in reply to Koz says:

              The problem is that the uncertainties are so big that the analysis is next to useless. As the authors state:

              [quote]Speci cally, a 90% con fidence interval for government jobs gained is between approximately zero and 900 thousand and the counterpart for private HELP services jobs lost is 160 to 1378 thousand.[/quote]

              To whit: they say that according to their analysis they are pretty certain that the net gain from APA is somewhere between -1.4 million and +740.000.

              They also state that the problem was not (as you claimed) that Government can’t create jobs but that the states elected to protect public jobs (administration, schools etc.) instead of using the money to acquire private services (construction). The effect was negative because the Federal Government acted Keynesian but the states did supply side mostly negating the effect (crowding out).

              In short: not the APA was wrong, but it’s implementation. Something that Krugmann would be the first to agree to. There is simply no reasonable way to make the situation worse by adding significant additional demand. You can just perform sub-par for the money spent.Report

              • Avatar Jazgar in reply to Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

                I’ll go along with that explanation. Thanks! However I still see that as a side discussion to the main one which is why pols at least are so reluctant to cut military spending.

                My main criticism was that while we may respect & trust in certain respects, thrift is not one of those. Presumably, we would all agree that $4 trillion dollars would come in pretty handy used domestically rather than to prop up a former oil exec (Karzai).

                Then again, propping up oil execs is something we’re getting pretty good at as a nation.Report

            • Avatar Jazgar in reply to Koz says:

              @Koz
              If the creation of public sector jobs – as military jobs certainly are – destroys private sector jobs, (not a premise I buy into personally) are you then in favor of cutting military as part of cutting the size of government and having those dollars in the private sector instead?

              Why would you support the Republican party who seem intent on only expanding the use of taxpayer dollars for use in the military/public-sector and depriving the private sector of those resources?Report

    • Avatar Barry in reply to Plinko says:

      “Better to attack the poor/rich, union/big business special interests that can’t garner majority support from the public.”

      I’d love to be ‘attacked’ like the big business special interests are being attacked.Report

  4. Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

    None of this is really surprising. To me, anyway. Read Tainter (or watch him here – part 1 of 7: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddmQhIiVM48 ). He’s done great work to explain that this is just what complex societies choose to do when things become too complex. Or, read Jared Diamond for similar explanations.Report

    • Avatar Koz in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

      Good point. That’s why, a cuts-only deal is such a great thing if we can get it. Not only does cuts-only establish more stability the government’s books, but it also makes things simpler which is very very important.

      In an era of widespread distrust like the present, the value of more simplicity and transparency is hugely underrated.Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin in reply to Koz says:

        Well, that may be as that may be.

        Tainter’s point is that complex societies have even more complex problems and choose increasingly complex solutions. All of these societies eventually collapse, which Tainter explains:

        “Collapse is the rapid simplification of a? society.”

        The point is that complex societies don’t choose to simplify. Simplification is forced on them, eventually, in the form of collapse.

        (Though, at this point, anyone reading this is thinking “But, America is different!”)

        So long, and thanks for all the fish!Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to Koz says:

        Please note that simplicity and transparency are not the same thing. Also that there is no sign ‘stability of the government’s books’, or of such increased stability being a desirable thing.

        Any deal with preserves big business’ special deals is not transparent, nor simple, nor stable.Report

  5. Avatar North says:

    Yeah it’s pretty depressing. I’d say “Don’t blame me I voted for Hillary.” But I honestly don’t know that she would have been opposed to much of this.Report

    • Avatar patrickcahalan in reply to North says:

      My guess is that she’d have us bombing Somalia, too. Or instead.Report

    • Avatar 62across in reply to North says:

      I think the US elected the least “warmongerish” candidate available for POTUS in 2008 considering Kucinich went nowhere. Sadly, there appears to be little correlation between who is President and how much war making we get.

      There are forces we don’t get to see pushing the levers here. I honestly doubt even Ron Paul would have us further out of Iraq or Afghanistan than we are now.Report

  6. Avatar Koz says:

    The one thing that cannot be emphasized enough is that assuming we can get through the debt ceiling somehow the way out is to vote Republican.

    Or to put it another way, we need a government that’s smaller and simpler, and we need a plausible path to get there, which is a significant issue in its own right.

    We need to preserve the economic foundations of civilization, and they are very much in jeopardy right now. If we have to cut Medicare or teacher pensions to do that, it needs to be done somehow.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Koz says:

      I suggest that someone write a post on problems related to cedar chips, mention Republicans and Democrats, and see how long it takes Koz to say that the solution is to vote Republican.

      Seriously, though, his solution to the problem of cutting things that help people to fund things like the military and the war on drugs that Kain discusses is to vote for the people who, as Koz says outright in his friggin’ comment, will do more of that: the solution to losing jobs and social programs but not reducing the defense budget or the war on drugs, is to vote for the people who, again as Koz said want to cut social programs without cutting the defense budget or the war on drugs.

      I love the internet, because I just can’t meet people like Koz in the offline world.Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to Chris says:

        What exactly are you imputing to me? I said we need cuts, of any kind, now (no, make that yesterday). Demo’s won’t cut therefore the economy is in an existential crisis.Report

        • Avatar Plinko in reply to Koz says:

          Except your analysis of the situation is completely wrong. We don’t need any cuts now. We need to bring the medium/long-term balance of spending a revenues more in line, mainly driven by the relentless increase in health care costs.
          Voting Republican will do nothing to address our long-term spending on health care until they feel some kind of pressure to deal with that problem in ways that can actually garner popular support without being massive spending increases.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to Plinko says:

            No, we need cuts now and later. Spend now, cuts later doesn’t work. Why? ‘Cuz there’s wild libs and Demo’s on the loose and those animals have no credibility to make a deal to cut spending at some later date. If we had Republicans in charge things might be different.Report

            • Avatar Plinko in reply to Koz says:

              You have nothing here but ideology, so I’m not sure who you’re going to convince that doesn’t already agree with you.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Koz says:

              Let’s say you’re right, that a cuts-only strategy is the only route to fiscal sanity. Where do the Republicans propose cuts? To programs they don’t like, that’s where. Why won’t Republicans repeal the gaping loopholes in the tax code? Because they favor people and corporations who benefit from those loopholes and corporate subsidies. All this proves is that the GOP are bought and paid for.

              In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king. Red States receive more federal largesse than they put back in the coffers. If we are to starve the beast called the Federal Government, drown it in the bathtub as Norquist once said we ought to do, let it begin with some serious analysis of this disparity. For if those subsidies and largesse were removed from the equation, the state and local politicians would be hard-pressed to explain why services had to be cut. Taxes (or deficits) would only go up at the state and local level. Though they won’t admit it, the GOP does have a taste for pork. Wasn’t it Cheney who said deficits don’t matter.

              Mirabile dictu, has the GOP has suddenly developed fiscal rectitude? Or is this simply more of the Jacksonian spoils system in operation, whereby elected office is an opportunity to push the envelope of mandate and legality in pursuit of ideological objectives? Having prostituted itself to corporate special interests, I am dubious of this recent metanoia for I do not see their fruits of repentance. Unwilling or unable to find compromise with the Senate and the President, the GOP has engaged in a game of brinksmanship nobody will win.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Bp, dude, I’d like you to write something on the idea of ‘full’ employment. By that I mean that everyone, regardless of skills, knowledge, edumacation, etc has a chance/opportunity for a job right here in the good, old USof A.
                I’m no economist but I think that’s Barry’s biggest problem, he’s just killed job growth with his commie-dem policies and I think, perhaps you to, that the best thing for ALL of us’n Americans is a job; and not does that hep us, the wage taxes fill up the gummnt’s coffers.
                Do you agree or am I just playin’ a tune outta my arse?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                Unemployment is not a single thing. Take me for example. I work about nine months a year. Can’t work a whole lot more because it affects my tax picture. But I’m a contractor, that’s how it goes with us. But technically, I’m unemployed for more than a month a year, often two or three.

                Treehuggers are people who work in Carpetland, going to their cubes, putting their coversheets on the TPS reports. These are usually stupid people with pictures of cute doggies and their kids pinned to the fabric of their cubicles who believe they will work there indefinitely. They will not. When these people lose their jobs, they are fucked. These people need to go back to community college for a few years and get retrained for another job. Instead they sit on their dead asses and collect unemployment and when that runs out the Treehuggers are in Big Trouble.

                Then there are the folks out on the factory floor. Their jobs have been disappearing to Thailand. The government actually does pretty well by these people when they lose their jobs, there’s quite a bit of retraining money for them. It’s not so good getting them new manufacturing jobs, but oddly, they seem to do better than the Carpetlanders.

                Then there are the folks who do odd jobs, piecework, McDonalds and the like. They always have two jobs. There’s still plenty of work for them, if they want to do it, and they do.

                Curiously, these three groups of people have very little education of substance. They believe all sorts of ignorant things as a direct result. They dimly perceive they’re being fucked over, but they’re not sure by whom. Maybe it’s the government. Maybe it’s the Chinese takin’ their jobs. Or the Mexicans. They never quite get their fingers all the way around the bat and realize it’s the folks in the Executive Suites who do these things to them.

                But the Executives might as well be elves and ents for all that ordinary people see of them. The proles just can’t believe it’s their own management screwing them. They want to believe in their leaders, not because they understand those leaders, but because they hold out hope, however forlorn, that they will rise up that ladder or their kids will, or something of that sort. This is the Land of Opportunity, they believe. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, honey chile, no it isn’t. You’ll only get ahead when you’re a member of some support structure which will help you get along in life. Nobody does it on his own. All those Horatio Alger stories of old featured some noble rich guy who recognized the poor boy’s talents and helped him along.

                See, all this bullshit you keep spouting about Commie-Dems betrays for a sucker, Bobbo. You actually believe that shit about rags to riches, just not in the noble stranger. All this self-made man crap: you aren’t self made. Nobody is. You’ve been fed a load of hooey, thinking the Democrats are Communists. You should meet a few actual Communists. Clearly you haven’t. Oh, I know, it’s all so much arch leg-pulling and aw-shucks-ing on your part, I’m not sure you mean a word of it. Just be sure which leg you’re pulling, Bob, not the middle one, not in public anyway.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Ronald Reagan and BlaiseP, sittin’ in a tree:

                BP:” Take me for example. I work about nine months a year. Can’t work a whole lot more because it affects my tax picture.”

                “At his Hollywood height, actor Ronnie Reagan was making $400,000 per picture. With the top federal tax rate over 90 percent, Reagan used to tell his White House chief of staff Donald Regan, he always chose to “loaf” around rather than make more than two pictures a year.

                “Why should I have done a third picture, even if it was Gone with the Wind?” Regan remembers Reagan asking. “What good would it have done me?”

                But of course the cases are completely different. For, you know, obvious reasons.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Ronald Reagan’s greatest claim to fame as an actor was an attempt to teach morality to a chimpanzee. And tattle-tale to J Edgar Hoover ’bout Communists in Hollywood, which rather shows the chimp may have been teaching him morality.

                As president, he took a lot of naps and sold arms to our enemies. And lied about the whole thing.

                Well, Reagan’s gone. It’s rather like all those wicked popes that have now become saints. It was Callixtus I who announced he could forgive sins and he had many of his own which required such forgiveness. Never mind the realities of Ronald Reagan, it’s the hagiography which matters now.

                Why don’t you guys just dig up Reagan and run his rotten corpse for office? He’d be a damned sight better than any of these GOP bozos on the stump now. At least Reagan could look America in the eye and lie convincingly. The current crop can’t manage even that stunt. Perhaps they, too, learned their morals from the chimpanzees.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to BlaiseP says:

                O BlaiseP. Douchebagging Ronald Reagan was yr anticipated reply although I’d hoped y’d be more clever about it. It should have been harder to push yr buttons.

                I liked yr Seurat thing and let it pass although it was defective. The revolution will not be digitalized.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Well, you just write a better response, Tom. Ronnie Reagan taught me I couldn’t be a Republican anymore. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony: Reagan the Forgetful, who couldn’t remember a goddamn thing about Iran/Contra, would die of Alzheimer’s Disease. Roast in Hell, you avuncular old traitor, patron saint of the Willfully Stupid.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to BlaiseP says:

                BlaiseP, you argue with yrself. Those of us who give you the time of day, we notice. God bless, my friend.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Aw. That’s trajickal.

                Psst. Here’s a little secret. Pretty much everyone lives in their own little Private Idaho. They do not like to be contradicted, especially from real life where their tidy theories run slap-bang into the wall and the wheels come off their little wagons. It’s especially trajickal because I am never, ever ignored where I write, Tom.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to BlaiseP says:

                First, dude, I’m praying for you. You, my friend, are going through some serious angst/Hegelian alienation shite. Lighten up, smoke a decent cigar with a couple fingers of Maker’s Mark, get layed..something, man, you’re approaching inchorence.
                I know there’s guilt associated with your derailed progressivist/commie-dem political philosophy that will inevitably corrupt the mind, but hey, it’s never to late to get on the right path.
                So, as a fellow Christian (and, at heart, a fellow Southerner) pray then, for the joy and peace of the revelation of the Logos and keep in mind that while “One can ascend from the Cave to the light, …the ascent does not abolish the reality of the Cave.”
                Dude, I’m here to hep.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                Oh spare me that tripe, G K. I am not alienated from the world. I get to see an awful lot of it and find the world to be full of beauty. My cameras have taught me to be a good stranger, to see with more than the eye, to find goodness and kindness in other people.

                It’s a pity you can’t see any such goodness in me. Maybe it isn’t there. Maybe all these people I know and love are just putting me on. But the smiles they give me seem genuine enough.

                I’m having a table built by an Amish boy, solid red oak, seven feet long and three feet wide and exactly the right height for my girlfriend’s wrist to reach a keyboard. I’m letting him do the design. Haven’t given him a deadline, he says it will take a few weeks.

                See, I let people do excellent work. That’s my lion tamer schtick. Herding programmers and DBAs along toward a goal they’re largely defining as they go along requires faith in those people. If you have no faith in me, that’s okay. I recognize your own faithlessness: you’re utterly convinced the world is a rotten place and ought to be set to rights via some Savonarolan auto-da-fé wherein Democrats and other heretics are forced to confess we ought not help our fellow man, greedy bastards that they are, sucking at the tit of the State.

                You’re here to help? Help yourself. Take off the blinders. Politics isn’t a faith-based proposition. Politics is the art of the possible, the best we can manage given many disparate opinions. Plato’s Cave is a bad joke: if an actual person had managed to escape from the shackles, he would have freed his fellow prisoners, not proceed to lecture them on the wonders of the sunlit world.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to BlaiseP says:

                “Let’s say you’re right, that a cuts-only strategy is the only route to fiscal sanity. Where do the Republicans propose cuts?”

                We’ve proposed cuts all over the place. For the most part they’ve gone nowhere. That’s why we’re waiting on your team to come up with some cuts.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Koz says:

                It is admittedly irritating to be asked for what may have already been answered, but if the Paul Ryan plan is to be our guide to proposed cuts, all we get out of it is… let’s see… hmmm….

                Defense budget cuts. There’s one we ought to agree on, and even SecDef Gates says there’s plenty of cuts to be made. Paul Ryan made a big deal out of them in his plan, and I completely agree. I can point to waste and fraud and malfeasance all over in Gummint Contracting.

                So why can’t we get those cuts agreed on? You know as well as I do why we can’t, because it’s election season coming up and nobody wants to close down any boondoggle defense contracting work at this point in time.

                ACA is revenue neutral. Medicare is the bigger problem, but we’re not going to grow new payers to support the oldsters. There are plenty of things we could do to lower Medicare costs: bulk purchases of drugs and supplies. Why don’t we have those cuts enacted? Why did this Prescription Drug Bill go through without any bulk purchases and cost savings? Because Big Pharma and Big Healthco like things the way they are.

                In short, if Paul Ryan’s plan were taken apart at the seams and the cost savings I describe put in place, we could trim (by my estimate) 40% off Medicare alone. The Prescription Drug Bill is complete bullshit, and Bush got it passed as a political sop. That’s where tons of the money’s being wasted but that’s never brought up. Instead we get this bullshit about ACA which is revenue neutral and everyone knows it except the GOP.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to BlaiseP says:

                “You know as well as I do why we can’t, because it’s election season coming up and nobody wants to close down any boondoggle defense contracting work at this point in time.”

                No Blaise, we don’t “know” that at all. It’s one thing to attempt savvy inferences based on correlation of political forces. But you have to do it right. What you’ve written there is inside-the-beltway conventional wisdom from like ten years ago or something. We’re in a different world now.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Koz says:

                It’s good to see that’s the only point of contention. I’ll stipulate to your point about things changing in D.C. if you’ll stipulate to the points I’ve made about how we could strip waste and fraud out of the system by cost-effective purchasing schemes.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz says:

                It might not be the only point of contention but it is what jumped out at me when I read your comment.

                Indirectly, you bring up an important dynamic of the debt limit negotiations that hasn’t drawn a lot of comment, but I suspect is important and which is making me substantially pessimistic in the short term.

                There is another element working here besides just Team Red v. Team Blue. There is also the largely Demo political class, represented by President Obama which has a somewhat different interest than the the Demo base. The big entitlements, Medicare and Social Security, are programs with very little administrative cost relative to the amount of retirement checks or medical reimbursements. It’s the very top priority of the Demo base to preserve those programs in full without any reform.

                The rest of budget is where the political class itself is being compensated and cuts there make strategic sense except that the political class will resist it. That’s why we haven’t seen any cuts there.

                It’s very likely that the federal government can save money with better procurement procedures in defense and other areas too for that matter. But, it’s not clear how much savings there are to be had and who would get them if they were to occur. This, among other reasons, is why the GOP is unwilling to raise taxes as part of the debt limit negotiations.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Koz says:

                You are preaching to the choir, Koz. While the self-serving Political Class engages in these feudal turf wars, we shall make no progress at all.

                I sure wish some of these programs were engineered like building projects. There’s a beginning, a middle and an end, with a reprise, some analysis at the end of the project, clarifying where things went wrong. I can’t remember, I think it was the Spartans, who put all their leaders on trial at the end of their terms of office, to justify the decisions they’d made.

                At any rate, these Acronymic Demesnes of Feudal Nature become self-sustaining and self-justifying monsters. They need to be periodically torn down and re-engineered. The military does this all the time, especially USMC. It clears the decks, allows for revisions to bad policy. Nobody wants to engineer a screwup, but it happens, and usually the best route to saving that bacon is to re-engineer it from scratch, returning to first principles.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz says:

                That’s a good point, and a large part of the reason why I’m not optimistic at the moment. We’re trying to low-level reengineer something in a situation where we lack the building blocks to do it. And the time frame demands indicate a patch instead.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Koz says:

                See, I just don’t buy this Patch Theory of Gradual Improvement. Government institutes these bureaucracies as a response to some perceived need. The FBI emerged as a response to interstate crime during Prohibition. The CIA emerged as a response to the Cold War. Dept of Ed emerged as a response to all manner of tomfoolery in the school systems. The acme, or nadir, depending on your viewpoint, was Homeland Security, our response to Terrorism.

                Got a problem? Create a bureaucracy! Problem solved. We can just legislate all our problems away.

                Hoo boy.

                Congress creates and funds these monsters, it can tear them down, too. Problems change, bureaucracies can’t cope effectively, not because they don’t want to but because their mandate won’t let them. We’ve still got programs on the books at USDA dating back to 1938, one called RUS. They’ve got a whole bank hidden back in there called the Cushion of Credit, I know because I re-architected it. Get this. If you pre-pay your loan, you can park it in the Cushion of Credit and earn 5% on it, payable from General Receipts of the Treasury. There are billions of dollars parked in it.

                Shit like that is all over the place and you’d never know it until you’re waist deep in it. RUS is a huge political slush fund, a plaything, a plum for those in the know. The USDA needs to be abolished tomorrow.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz says:

                The patch part is to find something to justify an increase in the debt ceiling.Report

            • Avatar Barry in reply to Koz says:

              “Why? ‘Cuz there’s wild libs and Demo’s on the loose and those animals have no credibility to make a deal to cut spending at some later date. ”

              Clinton administration. Koz, we’re not Faux News here, nor are we the sort of Very Serious People who only deal with the current approved spin for this media cycle. We can actually cast our minds back into lived history.Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Koz says:

          Koz, here’s E.D.:

          In other words, cutting government that actually provides services to people is okay. Cutting government that expands the most violent aspects of the state or that benefits the rich and powerful is absolutely unthinkable. Cutting services to poor people is okay, but raising taxes on the rich is tyranny.

          Here’s your “solution”:

          We need to preserve the economic foundations of civilization, and they are very much in jeopardy right now. If we have to cut Medicare or teacher pensions to do that, it needs to be done somehow.

          If you don’t see what I mean in my last comment, then perhaps you really should take those blinders off for once.

          And I’m also suggesting that you are the sort of person who builds an ideology to support a party affiliation, rather than the other way around.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to Chris says:

            Yeah, that’s another thing. The part of Erik’s OP is either hyperbole or misrepresentation. It’s pretty likely that if a deal gets done it will have defense cuts in it. Whatever Erik has in mind about the violent aspects of the state or aid to the rich, whatever that is cutting it is certainly not unthinkable and will probably happen.

            In fact it’s worse than that. All the budget-type negotiations over the last year or so have made it clear that the Republicans are willing to put everything on the table and will likely acquiesce to anything the Demo’s are willing to cut. (Except federal debt payments maybe, and with this little drama going on, you could even say that’s negotiable.)

            Libya, incarceration, DEA, ethanol, these things are being funded because they are Demo priorities.Report

  7. Avatar Brandon says:

    The reason that defense can’t be cut is the same reason local school districts always cut teachers and free lunches before any administrators have to give up their official vehicles. If forced to cut, cut the most visible most painful thing you can, and then people will shut up about cutting anything. That’s why, absent a popular vote on what specific programs to cut from the federal budget, about 500 members of congress, most of the appointees from the last two administrations and Warren Buffet (because fuck that guy) should be rounded up and their organs and fluids sold on the open market to pay off as much of the debt as it will cover, to serve as a warning that people are starting to see through the cheap demagoguery that is the only current argument against cutting things like the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, and Education and the NLRB, NIDA, DEA, etc…Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Brandon says:

      If forced to cut, cut the most visible most painful thing you can

      Traditionally, the thing they cut when they wanted a school bond passed was sports. No one noticed when the school library hadn’t bought a book for five years, but God forbid there wouldn’t be a football team.Report

  8. Avatar Anderson says:

    I still maintain that the Simpson-Bowles report is the fairest plan for long-term deficit reduction released yet, given the political reality that neither side is going to see their ideal vision fulfilled in the messy art of democratic decision making. It cuts across the board, especially hitting defense and ag subsidies, while still holding investments in R&D, key regulatory agencies, and infrastructure, it builds off HCR to change the way health care is paid for, it raises revenues, and it adjusts long-term entitlements without resorting to a crippling of the safety net ala Paul Ryan. Most importantly, in light of today’s shitty job report and other weak economic news, it focuses on back-loading spending cuts, rather than slashing immediately through non-defense discretionary spending. I also like the Rivlin plan that calls for an initial payroll tax cut on the employer and employee to give the economy short-term stimulus to match the medium-term deficit reduction. These plans really show the priorities that E.D. describes (chains first, then crutches) while not being wishy-washy about the reality that our deficit needs to come under 3% of GDP in the next 10-15 years….Although, all sense of normal political reality is lost when one party abandons half of the ledger book.Report

    • Avatar Koz in reply to Anderson says:

      “I still maintain that the Simpson-Bowles report is the fairest plan for long-term deficit reduction released yet, given the political reality that neither side is going to see their ideal vision fulfilled in the messy art of democratic decision making.”

      That’s certainly reasonable to think. The reason why the Simpson-Bowles commission went nowhere is ‘cuz the Demo’s repudiated it.

      If they didn’t repudiate it, it wouldn’t have been passed into law but Team Red and Team Blue might have been able to negotiate something in good faith.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Koz says:

        Joe Biden is offering what right-wing think tanks were saying was the right thing to do last year. Only one side isn’t negotiating in good faith and it ain’t the Democrats.Report

      • Avatar Anderson in reply to Koz says:

        You must be kidding me? Dick Durbin, one of the top liberals in the Senate, voted for this proposal and Paul Ryan (Paul freakin’ Ryan!) voted against it, saying that it relied too much on taxes (I think it was 3 or 4 dollars cut for every dollar of revenue) and went in the “wrong direction” on health care (and by wrong direction, he means it preserves Medicare). The total vote tally for legislators was three Repubs/ Dems for, and three Repubs/ Dems against. Sounds pretty bipartisan to me.Report

        • Avatar Koz in reply to Anderson says:

          No. Paul Ryan had reservations. Nancy Pelosi and the Demo’s feral braintrust (DeLong, Krugman, et al) repudiated it wholesale.

          It wasn’t Team Red who started talking about catfood commissions.Report

        • Avatar Elias Isquith in reply to Anderson says:

          The Vice President of the United States of America who was tasked by the President of the United States of America to represent the White House in budget negotiations — yes; Biden doesn’t speak for anyone important.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to Elias Isquith says:

            Private jets, oh really? What rank demagoguery.

            What was in this “deal” except the depreciation schedule for private jets and who was committed to it? Is there anything that leads you to believe that President Obama or the Demos in the Senate (or House) were onboard with anything.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Koz says:

        Oh team red was for Simpson-Bowles? That must be why Ryan voted against it.Report

        • Avatar Koz in reply to North says:

          See above.

          And, it’s not like the D’s had to have Simpson-Bowles to cut spending either. There’s been plenty of other chances, most especially the CR negotiations.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to Koz says:

            It’s not like the R’s need to have zero revenue increases to cut spending either. As Frum, Bartlett, Mcardle and Brooks have observed recently the current behavior by the R’s is not in keeping with a party primarily concerned with reducing spending; it’s in keeping with a party only concerned about keeping revenues down.Report

  9. Avatar Koz says:

    “It’s not like the R’s need to have zero revenue increases to cut spending either.”

    Oh yes we do. And the reason why is because Team Blue made it that way. The GOP has been talking in public about the debt ceiling since before the election. It’s cut a deal to hold the line on taxes in the lame duck. We’ve been working for spending cuts in the CR and debt ceiling and nobody’s said anything about tax increases. Then, three weeks or whatever before a bond default, they want tax increases. Oh geez.

    We need trust, we need clarity, we need simplicity. We can hope that spending cuts and a debt ceiling increase will materialize to actual spending cuts. Spending cuts, tax increases, and a debt limit increase is a big fog and it’s anyone’s guess what that adds up to.

    Look, I’ve read McArdle and Brooks and I’m very sympathetic to that point of view. I very much fear that the some of the more isolated Tea Party types are driving the GOP off a Christine O’Donnell style cliff. Some people suspect that I’ve been less than evenhanded in my treatment of the Republicans v. the Demo’s but it’s not so and if anyone wants me to write more about this I will.

    But in the big picture, it still doesn’t matter. Debt limit or no debt limit, the political class has to cut expenditures and has to do it in a way that other parties can see and believe it. And that, as I wrote before, is a significant issue in its own right.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Koz says:

      Oh come on now, the debt limit increase has traditionally been a clean up or down vote so suddenly the GOP suddenly starts stacking spending cuts onto it? Okay, that’s irregular and somewhat crazy but they have the power to do it so Obama gives in and agrees to play ball there way and merely asked for some modest revenue increases as a nod to, ya know, the fact that team Blue controls the Senate and the executive. Heck, he didn’t even ask for flat out increases in taxes, just eliminations in distortion creating corporate welfare. What is the ratio up to now? Seven to one cuts to revenue increases? 1994’s GOP would have though the Prez was out of his mind if he’d offered that. A GOP that cared primarily about spending cuts would grab that deal with both hands, rip off their clothes and do a victory dance in the streets. Hell, if you follow any far or even center left groups that focus on the politics of the issue the fear isn’t that the GOP will refuse the deal; the fear there is that the GOP will take it, frankly it’s beyond me why they don’t.

      Err, far be it for me to say so but I think the locals have gone past “suspecting” you of less than even hand treatment of the respective parties. Heck, even Tom gently suggested that your blanket denunciations of liberals might be a bit much. I don’t think it’s that huge a deal, the League probably benefits from your contribution; heck I half wish we had a left wing version of you here though on the other hand I believe in the Star Trek universe that’d result in the League either blowing up in an antimatter/matter reaction or forming a warp bubble and blasting off for Alpha Centauri and then where the hell would I go to get my Jaybird, ED, Jason, BP et all fixes (or have a Singaporean correct my spelling)?!Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to North says:

        “Oh come on now, the debt limit increase has traditionally been a clean up or down vote so suddenly the GOP suddenly starts stacking spending cuts onto it?”

        No, North. The debt ceiling has always been a political football. The majority has to get it done, the minority always tries to attach policy or program changes to it.

        President Obama could have insisted on a clean debt ceiling increase. A number of liberals (I’m thinking of Jonathan Chait in particular) urged him to do this. If he would have done this, he’d would have emphasized his commitment to all the expenditures in his FY11 budget. But Team Blue didn’t want to do that, in order to persuade gullible liberals and moderates such as yourself that he really did want to lower expenditures. Well great, we want to lower expenditures too. Figure out what you want to cut.

        That’s why Erik’s comment above was so disappointing. (Frankly you don’t see as much of it any more ‘cuz it’s pretty clearly not credible.) If Team Blue comes out and says, ok, we don’t want to fund block grants for prison construction, ethanol, federal narcotics enforcement, Libya and we want a drawdown in Afghanistan starting in six weeks to last for 30 months. Team Red says, fine, done, what else you got? I don’t think you, or Erik or very many other libs for that matter have really internalized how much credit you owe the GOP for giving Team Blue pretty much a total quasi-line item veto over all expenditures. Anything that’s being funded now is a Demo priority.

        “Heck, he didn’t even ask for flat out increases in taxes, just eliminations in distortion creating corporate welfare. What is the ratio up to now? Seven to one cuts to revenue increases?”

        Why do you think you know that, what’s in this deal? I asked Elias, he didn’t answer. Are you going to do any better? The press has published a couple of unsourced numbers. President Obama demagogued some business about corporate planes, and AFAIK that’s all that’s on the record so far.

        And this is from a person who’d take the deal if it’s anything like we’ve been led to believe. But only ‘cuz debt ceiling business is a rabid dog and if he’s not put down I’ve got no idea who he’s going to bite. I have a suspicion he’s gonna bite me.Report

        • Avatar Elias Isquith in reply to Koz says:

          No, North. The debt ceiling has always been a political football. The majority has to get it done, the minority always tries to attach policy or program changes to it.

          Pretty sure this isn’t true.

          ETA: What I think I know I know from what I’ve read. Obama et al don’t take my calls anymore, so you’ll have to accept that that’s the best I can do.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to Elias Isquith says:

            Ok, well what have you read then? And from the things that you have read, what do you believe the major Team Blue players have committed to?

            Everything I’ve seen has one or two numbers without any explanation. I haven’t seen anything about program changes before the negotiations broke down.Report

            • Avatar Elias Isquith in reply to Koz says:

              No one’s committed to anything, Koz, because there’s no deal. What I’ve read — from the Times and the Post, mainly — indicates that the White House is willing to cut medicare, medicaid and even social security. I mean, you can say they’re only saying they will, and that’s legitimate, I guess, if not exactly reasonable.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Elias Isquith says:

                “No one’s committed to anything, Koz, because there’s no deal.”

                No. If you a legit arms-length negotiator, you’re committed to some extent to your proposals during a negotiation. Pres wants us to believe that the negotiations broke down because of GOP intransigence wrt private jets. But he never tells us exactly what proposal the GOP supposedly turned down.

                Our team has been doing an Irish jig all over third rails for three months at least while your team has been trying to turn on the electricity. We get one bit of random demagoguery about corporate planes and you want us to believe there was a real opportunity to get a deal.

                This is why there is a lack of trust between Team Red and Team Blue, and why we’re in the debt ceiling box right now.Report

              • Avatar Jazgar in reply to Koz says:

                “Our team has been doing an Irish jig all over third rails for three months at least while your team has been trying to turn on the electricity.”

                One might argue that attempting to gut the opposition’s holy cows hardly counts as “negotiation”. Quite the opposite. Do we really need to go over the whole your-side-gives-our-side-gives definition of negotiation?Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Jazgar says:

                What exactly are Team Blue’s holy cows? We’re never told. Presumably they something less than every dollar of the budget. At least Team Blue wants Middle America to believe that for the sake of maintaining credibility on expenditures. If that’s really right, then Team Blue should pick out what they don’t want to assume political accountability for and cut that.

                Btw, at the moment there’s something of an intramural battle within Team Blue, specifically between the Administration and the base. As Elias has mentioned this has to do with an overall strategy toward expenditures but it has filtered down to short term tactics in an important way.

                According to some reports, the President is insisting on a big deal, presumably including entitlements. This is largely to support the President’s reelection (it also helps various government employees). If there was a smaller deal, the same issue would come up again before Election Day.

                I’m actually with the Demo base on this one. I’m actually hoping that entitlements aren’t cut this go round. First of all, I don’t want the pols to cut a backroom deal without Americans having the chance to evaluate it themselves. More practically, it strains the political system and deal or not it might not pass. If it’s $4-5 T of cuts, including entitlements, and no tax hikes, the Demo base will simply puke it. They’d be much more comfortable with $1 T of cuts in random crap (and no tax hikes), and then we start the whole thing over again in six months. But that will hurt the President’s reelection and for the moment he’s threatening veto. Frankly I don’t think the veto threat has much credibility. He’ll be assuming responsibility for default after his own SecTreas has been banging the drum for six months or whatever.Report

              • Avatar Jazgar in reply to Koz says:

                Holy cows: Medicare, Social Security, the social safety net, etc. In short, the third rails your team has been jigging all over.

                Never told.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Koz says:

                We need huge cuts!

                The president is proposing huge cuts.

                The we need cuts that aren’t that huge!Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Koz says:

                Except, Koz, that Obama will have to veto nothing unless the deal is agreed to before hand. The Senate would simply not pass it if it isn’t agreed to by both parties. Once the bills are being passed and Obama is in a position to sign all the negotiations will have already been concluded and agreed upon.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz says:

                “The president is proposing huge cuts.”

                The President can’t deliver on those, haven’t you been following your own team?Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz says:

                North, the intramural Team Blue politics are a little complicated. The President needs some amount of acquiescence from the Congressional leadership but he’s still in the lead for Team Blue. It will be very embarrassing for all parties if the President makes a deal and the Dems revolt. It will be bad for the Congressional Dems if something passes over the opposition of a majority of the Demo caucus. Outside the beltway there is some space in Middle America to be isolated to the left of the President but not very much. On the other hand it will be horrific for the President (and bad for other parties) if the Dems revolt actually blocks a deal that the Pres makes. This is somewhat plausible ‘cuz the vote to raise the debt ceiling has to have a two thirds majority in the House and there are expected to be Republican defections (though that might be finesseable if necessary). Then there is also the President’s need to not have to confront this again till after the election.

                Again, I’m not optimistic.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Koz says:

                From what I’m reading, the Democrats are only dug in on Medicare/Medicaid and ACA. Boehner has just cut his 4 trillion down to 2 trillion, which shows some good faith on his part. It will be easier to resect 2 trillion than 4 trillion from the budget.

                The key is getting this through the Senate: if the GOP can go back home and say they didn’t raise taxes and the Dems can say they stood firm on entitlements, I’m pretty sure a compromise can be reached. I still maintain we could achieve huge cost savings on Medicare if we go the bulk purchase route, Walmart-ization of the medical commodities.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz says:

                “Boehner has just cut his 4 trillion down to 2 trillion, which shows some good faith on his part.”

                Well good for him. Maybe that move was a necessary condition but it wasn’t a sufficient one. The hard move isn’t $4 T to $2 T but $500 B to zero on the revenue side. Frankly the $2 T number can go lower if it has to. The revenue number can be done (and in the end will be done I suspect) but three different parts of Team Blue aren’t going to like it.

                The Pres won’t like it ‘cuz he’ll have to go through the wringer again before Election Day. The political class won’t like it ‘cuz the smaller the number the less likely you’re cutting entitlements therefore the more likely you’re cutting something that compensates the political class itself. The base won’t like it ‘cuz they hate Republicans and they don’t want to create the perception that the Republicans won something (they care about that much more than they care about whatever policy changes take place).

                In the end I expect this to happen ‘cuz it’s still doable and something has to be done.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Koz says:

                I’m glad Boehner has finally started to show some inklings of sense on the issue. He realized, it seems to me, that he was losing the message war on the big cuts front. The public saw Obama compromising and getting nothing in return from the GOP. I’m utterly delighted that they’ve decided to blink.
                Now we’ll see what the exact parameters of the deal and we’ll see if it’s any good. I don’t blame the Dem caucus for threatening to revolt; Obama has demonstrated an utter lack of backbone in his term of office so it’s no wonder his party has decided to put some in for him. With any luck all this theatrics will result in some mutually agreed upon cuts and loophole closings and some good will end up being done.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to Koz says:

                I’m glad you think this way. As I mentioned before, my fear as that we’ll get close to an expenditures only/zero-revenue deal, and your side will get cold feet, either the Pres or the base.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Koz says:

                Well it’ll depend on how much is being proposed to be cut and where obviously. It’d have to be severely imbalanced for the party to revolt seeing as they’re amply aware that doing so would be electoral suicide.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to Koz says:

              If the statements about that Obama et all were offering were straight up false then the GOP would be shrieking to high heavens that he was lying about it to the media. That they haven’t been is a pretty good indicator that what O says he’s been offering has been what he’s said he’s been offering.Report

        • Avatar Barry in reply to Koz says:

          Koz July 8, 2011 at 11:00 pm

          “Oh come on now, the debt limit increase has traditionally been a clean up or down vote so suddenly the GOP suddenly starts stacking spending cuts onto it?”
          Koz: ” No, North. The debt ceiling has always been a political football. The majority has to get it done, the minority always tries to attach policy or program changes to it.”

          Koz, Congress has routinely increased it, with nothing but minor wrangling. You’re just lying here.Report

  10. Avatar Art Deco says:

    none of them can bring themselves to discuss defense cuts or curtailing spending on the drug war, prisons, and other bottomless pits where the only return on tax dollars is misery.

    Some of us of an age to recall the mundane business of life in ordinary neighborhoods in inner cities ca. 1979 might take exception to the notion that prisons – indispensable components of law enforcement – bring ‘nothing but misery’.

    While we are at it, one might note that the central government’s budget for civil police, prisons, and courts amounted to about $70 bn in the fiscal year most recently concluded, or around 2% of all federal expenditure. And law enforcement, unlike medical care, is not something readily provided by commercial enterprises, guild enterprises, or philanthropies.Report