Combs Spouts Off

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Posts Tagged ‘spending’

Diminishing returns

Posted by Richard on January 9, 2016

Charles Hugh Smith has an interesting post about how the world-wide orgy of “stimulus” spending, with money created by expanding debt, is working (emphases in original):

We can summarize the official “solution” to the Global Financial Meltdown of 2008 in one line: borrow and blow trillions–of yen, yuan, dollars, euros, reals, you name it.
The goal of borrowing and blowing trillions was to re-invigorate “growth”— any kind of “growth,” no matter how wasteful, unproductive or even counter-productive it might be: wars, nation-building, ghost cities, needless MRIs, useless college diplomas, bridge to nowhere–anything the borrowed money was squandered on counts as “growth” in the Keynesian status quo.
Unsurprisingly, this strategy yields diminishing returns as the negative returns on all this debt-fueled spending piles up. While the yield on the “investment” is either negative or only fleetingly positive, the interest due on the debt is forever. That’s the source of diminishing returns in a nutshell.

Here’s one of the graphs illustrating the point, but go read the whole thing.

diminishing-returns

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Cutting gov’t spending is so easy a 6th-grader can do it

Posted by Richard on March 29, 2014

Peter Suderman at Reason Hit & Run reported:

Figuring out how to save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars on ink is so easy a sixth grader could do it. In fact, one did.

Suvir Mirchandani, a student at a Pittsburgh middle school, decided he wanted to look for ways to reduce waste at his school. So for a school science project, he measured how much ink was used …

It turned out his school district could reduce its annual ink usage by 24 percent and save $21,000 a year by switching to Garamond, a lighter font with thinner, less ink-heavy strokes.

After submitting his work to a journal for young researchers run by Harvard grad students, Mirchandani was encouraged to expand his research.

Young Mirchandani took on the more arduous task of analyzing the printer ink usage of the federal government’s General Services Administration and determined that it could cut ink costs by 30% — $136 million per year — by simply changing fonts. State governments, according to his calculations, could save an additional $234 million.

So will the Government Printing Office make a change? I wouldn’t count on it:

Gary Somerset, media and public relations manager at the Government Printing Office, describes Suvir’s work as “remarkable.” But he was noncommittal on whether the GPO would introduce changes to typeface, saying the GPO’s efforts to become more environmentally sustainable were focused on shifting content to the Web.

Sounds like Mirchandani may end up learning two lessons: With a little thought, a smart person can find simple ways for the government to save money—and the government doesn’t seem terribly interested in pursuing them.

I’m impressed by Suvir Mirchandani’s efforts. But I’m also a bit disappointed. I suspect his findings are the death knell for my crusade to have all government publications printed in Comic Sans.

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Coburn’s Wastebook: It’s a start

Posted by Richard on December 18, 2013

Back in September, Nancy Pelosi claimed there was nothing left to cut in the federal budget:

“The cupboard is bare. There’s no more cuts to make. It’s really important that people understand that,” Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, said in an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

That should have been PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year. (“If you like your health care plan, you can keep it” should have been their Lie of the Year in 2009 or 2010 when it was fresh, but back then they were busy calling Obamacare critics liars.)

If Pelosi’s claim didn’t immediately strike you as patently absurd — or if it did, but you want to get fired up by some of the evidence to the contrary — check out Sen. Tom Coburn’s 177-page “Wastebook 2013,” available for online reading or download at Scribd. (Don’t let the table of contents fool you. For some reason it’s truncated to the first 10 examples of government waste; the book catalogs 100.) It’s certainly not an exhaustive catalog of all the crap that’s still in the federal cupboard. I’m sure it could be expanded ten-fold and still not be exhaustive. But the Senator and his staff can’t spend all their time on this annual project. It’s a good start. The waste it documents totals $30 billion.

One of my favorite (if that’s the right word) examples of wasteful spending is the Commerce Department’s “let me Google that for you” agency (#8 on p. 16 of the Wastebook). Other government agencies and departments spend millions of dollars a year buying copies of “government-funded scientific, technical, engineering, and business-related information” and reports from Commerce’s National Technical Information Service (NTIS).  But (footnotes omitted):

Required by law to be largely self-sustaining, NTIS charges other federal agencies to access its collection of reports. However, a November 2012 review of the office by GAO uncovered that about three-quarters of the reports in the NTIS archives were available from other public sources. Specifically, “GAO estimated that approximately 621,917, or about 74 percent, of the 841,502 reports were readily available from one of the other four publicly available sources GAO searched.”
GAO explains, “The source that most often had the reports GAO was searching for was another website located at http://www.Google.com.” In addition, reports could be found on the website of the issuing federal department, the Government Printing Office’s website, or USA.gov.

Two others are worth bringing to the attention of all those hawkish conservatives and Republicans who sound like Nancy Pelosi when it comes to the Defense Department, insisting that too much has already been cut and the military cupboard is bare.

First, there’s #7 in the Wastebook (p. 14). The US is winding down operations in Afghanistan. What to do with all that expensive equipment we sent there? (footnotes omitted)

The military has decided to simply destroy more than $7 billion worth of equipment rather than sell it or ship it back home.
“We have a lot of stuff there. Inevitably, we overbought,” stated Gordon Adams, a professor at American University and former defense official in the Clinton administration. “We always do when we go to war.”
Why just not leave the excess equipment in country for use by the Afghan military? A major concern is that Afghanistan’s forces would be unable to maintain it. Moreover, there is worry the defense industry might suffer if the Pentagon unloads tons of used equipment on the market at vastly reduced prices. This should be viewed as market correction and a positive outcome of the drawdown, not a reason to send valuable equipment to the scrap heap.

Among the items to be shredded are thousands of Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, which cost half a million dollars apiece.

Then there’s #10 (p. 20), which is also vaguely Afghanistan-related (footnotes omitted):

In an era of technological advances that make the machines of war smaller and more agile, the Army spent three and a half years developing a football field-sized blimp that would provide continuous surveillance of the Afghan battlefield – called by some an “unblinking eye.”
In 2013, however, the Army closed the blimp’s eye forever when it brought the project to a halt after spending nearly $300 million. The Army sold the airship back to the contractor that was building it for just $301,000.

The unmanned blimp was supposed to be able to fly above 20,000 ft. and remain aloft for 21 days at a time, but was grossly overweight and never came close to meeting those criteria. Not to mention far behind schedule and over budget.

In addition to the cost and schedule mishaps, some noted how the blimp had an uncertain mission with the Afghan war winding down.
It was not the first airship to be grounded by the military, however.
According to Defense News, “The Defense Department has spent more than $1 billion on at least nine programs in recent years, yet the military owns just one working airship, a piloted Navy blimp called MZ-3A, which is used for research.”

There are 97 more examples, and I’ve only skimmed a bit over half of them. Some have price tags in the millions or billions, while others are “merely” one or two hundred thousand dollars. But to paraphrase the late Sen. Dirksen, a hundred thousand  here, there, and in tens of thousands of other places adds up to real money.

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Embrace the sequester

Posted by Richard on February 24, 2013

I’m disgusted by the fear-mongering about the sequester by Obama and the Socialist Democrats, and I’m even more disgusted at all the Republican politicians who are joining the hysteria. Massive cuts, my ass. Jeez, by their own fraudulent “baseline budgeting” accounting, the sequester amounts to less than 3% of federal spending. And as Sen. Rand Paul has pointed out, that’s not even a real cut, but merely a reduction in the rate of increase.

The GOP leadership ought to be declaring over and over, “Mr. President, if you and your cabinet can’t cut spending by 2.5% without closing national parks, endangering the food supply, and inconveniencing air travelers, then you’re not competent to run the federal government.” They ought to embrace the sequester as at least a decent start.

Here’s another reason to embrace the sequester: According to DNC chief Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, it will delay action on gun control. Let’s hear it for the sequester!

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Spending problem? What spending problem?

Posted by Richard on February 12, 2013

On Fox News Sunday, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who thinks that increasing unemployment benefits is the best way to grow the economy, insisted that we don’t have a spending problem, we merely have a “budget deficit problem.” In other words, the current spending level is just fine, but the federal government needs a lot more revenue. This is apparently the official Socialist Democrat position:

Pelosi’s motion was seconded by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) on NBC’s Meet the Press, where Durbin laughably explained that the sequester was “designed as a budget threat, not as a budget strategy” – and stated that the only approach to solving the budget problem was to raise taxes again.

President Obama himself agreed with that perspective in his weekly online address. The budget sequester he signed off on – the sequester proposal he insisted upon – is now the Republicans’ fault. Obama claims that if the sequester goes through, “firefighters and food inspectors” will bear the brunt of the cuts, as well as cancer research and people with disabilities. It’s the usual liberal demagogic approach to any problem: world to end tomorrow, minorities hit hardest.

Obama’s solution: tax increases. Again. “Congress should pass a similar set of balanced cuts and close more tax loopholes until they can find a way to replace the sequester with a smarter, longer-term solution,” said Obama.

Of course, Obama has been on this “not a spending problem” kick for months. He infamously informed House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) that there is no spending problem back during the fiscal cliff debate.

This morning on CNBC, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer joined the “no spending problem” chorus and, when pressed on the issue, yelled “Bush!”:

“Sir, does the country have a spending problem?” Caruso-Cabrera asked.

“Does the country have a – the country has a paying-for problem,” Hoyer replied. “We haven’t paid for what we’ve bought.”

“Are we promising too much?” Caruso-Cabrera pressed.

“Absolutely,” Hoyer agreed. “If we don’t pay, we shouldn’t buy.”

“How is that different from a spending problem?” She followed up.

“We spent a lot of money when George Bush was President of the United States,” Hoyer replied.

At a press briefing, Hoyer reinforced the “we need more revenue” message:

“It’s not a question of a spending problem. Nobody has a spending problem if they have the resources to pay for what they spend. No family, if they can afford what it buys, has a spending problem. The problem becomes when you spend, buy and don’t pay,” the Maryland Democrat told reporters at a pen-and-pad briefing Tuesday.

Deficits, on the other hand, “are destabilizing to the economy and dangerous for future generations and rob generations,” he added. “When they say we have a spending problem — we have a paying problem.”

Expect to hear the word “invest” on multiple occasions during tonight’s SOTU speech. That’s the President’s code for “spend more, not less.”

The Socialist Democrats aren’t satisfied with a federal budget that’s almost 25% of GDP. They’re shooting for 30%, 40%, … I suspect that to the Socialist Democrats, the lowest acceptable level of federal spending is always more than whatever the current level is.

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Eating our seed corn

Posted by Richard on March 31, 2012

The economic recovery isn’t going well in a number of respects, according to Reason’s Tim Cavanaugh. Americans are earning less (after taxes and inflation) and spending more. So borrowing has increased and saving has collapsed. The cheerleaders for the Obama administration and the Bernanke Fed at CNN think this is good news.

Of course it is. Any farmer will tell you that the way to ensure bigger harvests in the future is to eat some of your seed corn.

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1000 days without a budget

Posted by Richard on January 24, 2012

Tea Party Patriots reminds us that as of today, the U.S. Senate has failed to perform one of its primary functions for nearly three full years (emphasis in original):

Today marks the 1000th day that the US Senate has failed to pass a budget. Budgets are something that most Americans encounter, whether in their homes, in their jobs, in their businesses, or in their community groups, etc.

The purpose of a budget is to lay out a guideline for revenues and expenditures, so that one can have a forecast of the year to come.

It is no wonder our elected officials can’t seem to balance the budget and get our fiscal house in order. There is no budget; no guide to even point them in the right direction. In fact, they can’t find the “BOLDNESS” to cut even $1 from the federal budget!

In an economic environment where many Americans are out of work, losing their jobs, and struggling to find jobs, it is unacceptable that the members of the US Senate have been allowed to go on without completing a basic function of their jobs for nearly 3 years!

Call your Senator today. Tell them that Washington spending is out of control and must be cut. Tell them to take the first step and pass a budget.

Because of the baseline budgeting scam, Senate Democrats’ refusal to pass a budget lets spending grow on autopilot. The spendthrifts (of both parties) can claim they’re “holding the line” on spending if their continuing resolutions appropriate funds at somewhere near the “current level” — which is automagically about 7-8% higher each year.

Go to Tea Party Patriots to look up your senators’ phone numbers. Then give them a call and let their staff know that you’re on to their sleazy little game.

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Dr. Doom educates Congress

Posted by Richard on September 20, 2011

Peter Schiff (a.k.a. Dr. Doom), who predicted the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the collapse of the housing bubble and auto industry, has wrapped up his testimony before the House Subcommittee on Government Reform and Stimulus Oversight. I strongly urge you to watch this 22-minute video of some of the highlights of his testimony last week. If you’re familiar with Austrian economics or Frederic Bastiat, some of what he says may ring a bell.


[YouTube link]

Schiff is the CEO of Euro Pacific Capital and the son of famed tax protestor Irwin Schiff. He has a blog* and an internet radio show, and is a frequent guest on cable news shows. I really like this Schiff quote, which channels Bastiat:

You can always see the jobs that government creates. What you don’t see are the jobs that they destroy.

Ryan Swift has a nice post about Schiff’s testimony, along with a couple of alternative video excerpts of his testimony (there’s a fair amount of overlap with the video above, which I found at Zero Hedge).

There’s a compelling 5-minute reason.tv interview with Schiff here.

* This post originally linked to an unofficial blog that’s not Peter Schiff’s. Thanks to Anthony Nelson of SchiffGold.com, I’ve corrected the link so that it points to Peter Schiff’s actual blog.

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More shovel-ready spending

Posted by Richard on September 9, 2011

I got home just a bit ago from a wonderful Stock Show sponsors dinner, which beat the heck out of watching the President's jobs infomercial. On the way back, I heard the bottom-line on the radio: another $450 billion for all the stuff that he spent $800 billion on already — infrastructure, teachers, high-speed trains — only to enventually admit that "those shovel-ready jobs weren't so shovel-ready." But this time, it'll work. Really!

Vodkapundit's drunk-blogging of the event provided more detail, and certainly more entertainment than the actual speech. Obama promised that all those new shovels-full of spending would be paid for. Stephen summarized how: 

4:23PM It will be paid for by future, unspecified spending cuts, that the GOP congress will have to come up with.

4:24PM And it will be paid for by tax increases “on the wealthiest Americans.”

So he's going to create jobs with more of the same profligate spending that has utterly failed to create jobs, and he's going to pay for it by penalizing the people who could, if unshackled, really create jobs.

And those unspecified spending cuts that the House Republicans are expected to come up with? I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that, during the election campaign, the Dems will berate the Republicans endlessly over every dime of those spending cuts, trotting out the geezers eating dog food, the children with no shoes, the lepers who can't afford their medicine, etc., etc., etc. 

Aw, to hell with politics. There's a football game on. 

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“Not part of the deal”

Posted by Richard on August 9, 2011

Jimmy Kimmel, commenting on Monday's precipitous stock market plunge:

For years, we've been told that our kids and grandkids would have to pay for our out-of-control spending. Now we're being told that we have to pay for it?? That was not part of the deal!

There's a lot of painful truth in that joke. In response to concerns about the long-run consequences of his economic policy recommendations, Lord Keynes famously sneered, "In the long run, we are all dead." The long run has arrived. And we're not dead yet.

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The baseline budgeting scam

Posted by Richard on August 5, 2011

A new CNN/Gallup poll shows most Americans disapprove of the debt ceiling deal, and CNN claims it's because of the process. Nonsense. It's the substance. An earlier CNN poll found that 2/3 of Americans favored the much tougher Cut, Cap and Balance Act, including a majority of every single demographic surveyed, even liberals.

Most Americans recognize a failure to honestly address the spending and debt crisis when they see it. If they knew just how the baseline budgeting scam works, they'd be even more disgusted by this sham "debt control" deal, which will increase the federal debt by at least $7 trillion (that's $7,000 billion) in the next 10 years. And that's assuming some pretty rosy projections for economic growth. 

Baseline budgeting proponents began with a seemingly reasonable suggestion: "Instead of starting each budgeting process from scratch [zero-based budgeting], why don't we use the previous budget as our starting point and make adjustments from there?" Then they added, "Of course, we'll need to adjust the previous budget numbers to account for inflation, population growth, increased demand for services, and a big fat dollop of 'What the heck, we can get away with it!' to create the baseline for next year." And they've been getting away with it for years.

The result of this process is that the starting point for each new federal budget — the baseline, which by bipartisan ruling class consensus represents "no spending increase" — is about 7-8% higher than the previous year's spending. Fiscal year 2011 spending is going to be about $3,800 billion. So, under baseline budgeting, if FY 2012 spending increases only to $4,066 billion, that's no increase at all! "Look how fiscally responsible we are! We held spending to the current level!" 

Of course, a 7% annual increase means the budget will double in 10 years to about $7,600 billion. But the baseline budgeters call that a 10-year spending freeze!

So let's put this "historic" Congressional compromise into perspective. They've agreed to $900 billion in "cuts" over 10 years, and their bipartisan committee is supposed to come up with $1,500 billion more in "cuts" this fall. If they really do (and Obama, Reid, et al, are already clamoring for the $1,500 billion to be mostly "revenue enhancements," i.e., tax increases), then the 2022 budget will be "cut" from its $7,600 billion baseline to a mere $5,200 billion. 

That's a 37% increase over 2011. They call that a massive cut. The establishment, ruling class Republicans are congratulating themselves for this monumental achievement. They're telling the Tea Party that they've won, that they've "changed the terms of the debate" and "turned things around."

Um, no. They've slowed the rate at which we're approaching the apocalypse. They've bought themselves another year or two (and maybe helped Obama buy another term) before the US turns into Greece. They've once again kicked the can down the road. And a significant proportion of the American people — far more than ever before — recognize this deal as the irresponsible charade that it is.

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Happy Tax Day?

Posted by Richard on April 19, 2011

Tax Day is an unpleasant event for some of us, irrelevant for many, and a happy occasion for others. Nearly half of all households (45% this year, down from 47% last year) pay no income taxes.

About 40% of households profit from the income tax system. The earned income credit and other "refundable" tax credits far exceed what little they owe in taxes, so the government sends them a check for everything they had withheld and a bunch extra — a Happy Tax Day!

Today, more than a third of what's called "salaries and wages" is actually government transfer payments, a.k.a. handouts. Meanwhile, the more productive members of society are paying a far larger share of income taxes than their share of income. The top 10% of income earners, who receive 45% of the total adjusted gross income, pay 70% of all income taxes.

Still, our Socialist Democrat in Chief and his leftist friends continue to scream "tax the rich!" The Wall Street Journal pointed out what nonsense it is to claim we can put our financial house in order by making the rich pay, in the President's words, "a little more": 

Consider the Internal Revenue Service's income tax statistics for 2008, the latest year for which data are available. The top 1% of taxpayers—those with salaries, dividends and capital gains roughly above about $380,000—paid 38% of taxes. But assume that tax policy confiscated all the taxable income of all the "millionaires and billionaires" Mr. Obama singled out. That yields merely about $938 billion, which is sand on the beach amid the $4 trillion White House budget, a $1.65 trillion deficit, and spending at 25% as a share of the economy, a post-World War II record.

If the IRS confiscated 100% of the income of everyone earning more than $100,000 a year, it wouldn't cover the Obama budget. And it's not like you can keep coming back and taking 100% of someone's income year after year. They wise up. 

They can preach class warfare and chant "tax the rich" all they want — the only way to balance the federal budget at today's insanely high level (26% of GDP) is to stick it to the middle class. That's where the bulk of the people are, and thus where the bulk of the money is. 

The Heritage Foundation figured out how much tax rates would have to go up to balance the budget without cutting spending. And they did it assuming there were no other tax law changes, so the relative share of revenue from each tax bracket remained the same:

To collect the additional revenue necessary to close the 2010 deficit, income tax rates would have to have been considerably higher than their current levels. Without altering other aspects of the tax code, if Congress collected the extra revenue by simply hiking each income bracket based on its portion of current tax collections, every tax rate would need to more than double.

For a family of four earning $50,000 that takes the standard deduction, its current tax bill of $766 would increase by almost $4,000. A similar family of four that earned $75,000 a year would see its tax liability of $4,500 increase by over $9,000 a year. If the same family earned $100,000, it would pay more than $15,600 above the $8,800 it actually paid in 2010.

The top rate in this scenario would be 85 percent. A top rate at that level would grind economic activity to a halt. Businesses would stop investing and creating new jobs because the tax-diminished returns would not be worth the risk. Many workers would cut back the hours they spend on the job. The end result would be a poorer nation with a bleaker future.

Today's 10% bracket would jump to 24%, the 15% bracket would become 37%, and the 25% bracket would need to be 61%. I don't know about you, but I'd make sure I never entered that 61% bracket. 

Then, just for grins, Heritage calculated what it would take to balance the budget at today's level if Obama kept his promise of not increasing income taxes on anyone earning under $250,000:

If, instead of raising taxes at all income levels, Congress collected it from just those making $250,000 or more per year, their rates would have to rise to levels that are not even possible. The top two rates would need to rise to 132 percent and 142 percent.

Of course, it is impossible to tax at a rate over 100 percent. Doing so would require confiscating savings, investment, or even other assets. Moreover, as a practical matter, it is impossible to get even close to 100 percent and still raise revenue because businesses, workers, and investors would simply stop producing, working, and investing as the government came close to confiscating almost every additional dollar they earned. Much of their economic activity would be driven underground.

As a practical matter, it's impossible to raise middle-class tax rates to 61% in a country with such widespread gun ownership. And a good thing, too.

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Tons of debt

Posted by Richard on April 16, 2011

The brilliant satirist Iowahawk has created a video that offers a unique perspective on the American government's debt and spending levels. It's at the same time entertaining and quite sobering. Please watch. And hit the Like button at the YouTube link. 


[Iowahawk link]
[YouTube link]

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America’s message to GOP: don’t cave!

Posted by Richard on April 7, 2011

The President’s meeting with John Boehner and Harry Reid ended a short time ago with no agreement, but all three claimed they were getting closer to averting a government shutdown. That concerns me, because if past history is any indication, getting closer to an agreement means the Republicans are giving ground.

Before they indulge in their natural inclination to cave and compromise, I hope Boehner and the GOP leadership take a deep breath and consider some recent poll results. For instance, this Rasmussen poll released Tuesday (emphasis added):

In the ongoing budget-cutting debate in Washington, some congressional Democrats have accused their Republican opponents of being held captive by the Tea Party movement, but voters like the Tea Party more than Congress.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 48% of Likely U.S. Voters say when it comes to the major issues facing the country, their views are closer to the average Tea Party member as opposed to the average member of Congress.  Just 22% say their views are closest to those of the average congressman. Even more (30%) aren’t sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

This shows little change from a survey in late March of last year.

Forty-nine percent (49%) of voters think the Tea Party movement is good for the country, consistent with findings since May 2010. Twenty-six percent (26%) disagree and say the grassroots, small government movement is bad for America. Sixteen percent (16%) say neither.

Or this one from last Friday (emphasis added):

A majority of voters are fine with a partial shutdown of the federal government if that’s what it takes to get deeper cuts in federal government spending.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 57% of Likely U.S. Voters think making deeper spending cuts in the federal budget for 2011 is more important than avoiding a partial government shutdown. Thirty-one percent (31%) disagree and say avoiding a shutdown is more important. Twelve percent (12%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Or this Fox News poll from today (emphasis added):

American voters would rather shut down the government than raise the debt limit, even though most believe a shutdown would have a dramatic effect on everyday Americans.

A Fox News poll released Wednesday asked voters to imagine being a lawmaker in Washington who had to decide whether to increase the debt ceiling. The poll found 62 percent would vote against raising it — even at the risk of shutting down the government.

About one-in-four voters (26 percent) would raise the limit to allow the government to spend more.

Or this Tarrance Group poll from a couple of days ago (underlines in original):

Voters have turned the corner and have made clear their support for deep cuts to the budget. Nearly three quarters of voters (73%) say it is very important that the budget include “significant” spending cuts.  When it comes to $100 billion in cuts, only 23% say this percentage is too high, while a majority (63%) says $100 billion is too low (34%) or about right (29%). This is virtually unchanged from February, when 21% said $60 billion was too high, and a majority (67%) said the figure was too low (36%) or about right (31%).
Supporting $100 billion in cuts would result in a net positive political impact for members of Congress.  A majority (55%) are more likely to support their member of Congress if he or she supports these cuts, while only 24% are less likely.  This is also similar to February, when 52% were more likely to re-elect their member if he or she supports $61 billion in cuts.…

When presented with three arguments about raising the debt ceiling, less than a quarter of voters most agree with the argument that the debt ceiling needs to be raised in order to avoid things like a shutdown and Social Security checks not being mailed.  In fact, a plurality chooses to NOT raise the debt ceiling at all:

30%:  Some people say that Congress should only raise the debt ceiling if it can also guarantee real, significant spending cuts starting this year.  We will never balance the budget until we drastically cut the amount of money we spend.

22%:  Other people say that Congress must act to raise the debt ceiling regardless of whether it includes spending cuts, or else the United States government will shut down and will default on its obligations, such as not being able to make Social Security checks and salaries for police and teachers.

 42%:  Still other people say that we should NOT raise the debt ceiling even if spending cuts are made because the nation must eliminate the trillion dollar debt we face instead of adding to it.

The message to the GOP leadership is clear. The American people (at least those most likely to vote) have recognized the utter seriousness of this nation’s fiscal crisis and want bold action, even if it involves temporary pain. The Democrats are in complete denial, whistling past the graveyard. If the GOP wants to be taken seriously as the party willing to address our fiscal problems seriously, they must resist the urge to compromise, wheel, and deal. Stand firm for once, you bastards!

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It’s called the stupid party for a reason

Posted by Richard on March 31, 2011

The Republicans have been pushing for $61 billion in spending cuts for FY2011 (significantly less than the $100 billion they promised before the election), and the Democrats have been denouncing even that modest cut as "draconian" and "extreme."

You'd think this would be a challenge the GOP would be eager to take on. If you have even a modicum of communication skills and public relations savvy, how hard can it be to ridicule the absurd argument that cutting $61 billion — 1.6% — out of a budget of $3,700 billion is "draconian" and "extreme"? It barely puts a tiny dent in the $1,600 billion deficit. Do they really fear that the average American can't grasp that point?

Let's put the federal fiscal crisis into comparable (approximate) household numbers that people can relate to: Let's say your household income is about $42,000 ($3500/month). But you're spending about $74,000 ($6167/month). And you're putting the $32,000 difference on your credit cards (on which you already owe over $300,000). Would cutting your spending by less than $100 a month really be "draconian"? Does it even seriously address the terrible financial situation you're in?

To me, this seems like an argument that's a slam-dunk win, especially in the political climate that gave us the Tea Party movement and resulting electoral tsunami of last November. And yet, the Republican leadership seems terrified of taking a hard stand and drawing a line in the sand. According to the Washington Post, they're ready to cave — settling for $30 billion in cuts and giving up on defunding anything — and Dan Mitchell isn't pleased: 

Yesterday, I analyzed how the GOP should fight the budget battle, but I may have made a big mistake. I assumed the Republican leadership actually wanted to do the right thing. I thought they learned the right lessons from the disastrous Bush years, and that the GOP no longer would be handmaidens for big government. And I naively assumed that the Republican leadership would not betray the base and stab the Tea Party in the back.

I thought the GOP leadership would fight and get a decent deal rather than unilaterally surrender. If the Washington Post report is true and Republicans act like the French army, it will discourage the base and cause a rift with the Tea Party. So it’s dumb politics and dumb policy.

And that display of cowardice by House Republican leaders follows on the heels of the report that Senate Republicans are going to agree to support a debt limit increase if the Democrats merely allow a symbolic vote on a balanced budget amendment. No, Democrats don't have to support it — they just have to allow a vote, which the Republicans are guaranteed to lose. A repeat of a vote they've already had (and lost), a vote that they could force by parliamentary means in any case. In other words, they're giving up their biggest leverage in return for … nothing.

Stupid party seems like such a mild and inadequate term.

There are a few shiny gems amidst the steaming pile of cow-flop that is the GOP. Sen. Marco Rubio won't vote for a debt limit increase unless it comes with a whole bunch of serious conditions: 

"Raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure." So said then-Sen. Obama in 2006, when he voted against raising the debt ceiling by less than $800 billion to a new limit of $8.965 trillion. As America's debt now approaches its current $14.29 trillion limit, we are witnessing leadership failure of epic proportions.

I will vote to defeat an increase in the debt limit unless it is the last one we ever authorize and is accompanied by a plan for fundamental tax reform, an overhaul of our regulatory structure, a cut to discretionary spending, a balanced-budget amendment, and reforms to save Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Bravo. Read the whole thing

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