So You Think You Can Balance The Budget November 18, 2010Posted by gesvol in Current Events, Politics.
Tags: Bowles-Simpson plan, Budget, debt commission, deficit, New York Times, New York Times budget puzzle, you fix the budget
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The New York Times has created an interactive tool that you can play with to “balance the budget”:
The tool has pre-packaged options of both cutting spending and increasing revenue, and as you make your choices it shows how much of the deficit you have eliminated until you eliminate it all (assuming a static environment). I think it does an excellent job of demonstrating the difficulty* of the problem (and how much more difficult the problem is to solve if you choose to focus only on spending or only on revenues). While it would be really nice if we could just eliminate earmarks or pass medical malpractice reform or, if conservative bloggers are to be believed, eliminate trips by Obama that somehow exceed the daily cost of fighting a war (hint: conservative bloggers are not to be believed, see also: Fox News) that the deficit would just completely go away, that’s just not the reality of the situation. It’s going to take a whole heck of a lot of spending cuts AND a heck of lot of revenue increases to realistically have any chance of balancing the budget.
The chairs of Obama’s debt commission, Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson, recently released their own plan for balancing the budget and ultimately eliminating the debt. While I don’t care for all of their ideas (For example, I don’t care much for the idea of raising the retirement age for social security on the sole rationale of longer life expectancy. Just because you may live longer does not automatically mean that you have the ability to work at an older age. Also, even if you can work at an advanced age, it doesn’t necessarily mean employers will want to hire you.), I do think some of their ideas to merit consideration. The ideas of eliminating a good many tax deductions while also reducing the tax rate, and taxing capital gains and dividends as ordinary income are very interesting.
Let’s remember that the results from this commission are simply recommendations. It’s a starting point. It’s not binding, so there is no need to freak out over it. If nothing else, at least the subject of balancing the budget is being broached. And hopefully these discussions will demonstrate once and for all that this ain’t going to easy folks.
*I think it does a good job of demonstrating how difficult the problem is because you can’t simply select one or two things and be done. But yes, critics are right, it’s a simplification of the issue at hand. No, you can’t just give this tool to Congress and have the problem be solved. I also don’t think the New York Times was trying to say that eliminating the deficit is as easy as clicking a few boxes in what is effectively a puzzle game. Some people in the media are really anal. Sheesh!
The Tea Party Or The You Can Have Your Cake And Eat It Too Party? October 18, 2010Posted by gesvol in Current Events, Politics.
Tags: deficit, Government spending, hypocrisy, New York Times Tea Party poll, Republican, smaller government, tea party
We all know that one of the main planks of the Tea Party agenda (and thus the Republican agenda, since they are seeking to take advantage of the Tea Party wave) is to reduce the size of government so that we can eliminate the deficit and start paying off the national debt. But do they really want smaller government? Do they really even understand what that means? Polls like this recent New York Times poll are very revealing!
So 92% of Tea Party respondents said they would prefer to have a smaller government that provides fewer services. However, when asked if services such as Social Security and Medicare are worth the costs of those programs, 62% of those very same Tea Party respondents said yes. Hmm, maybe Christine O’Donnell should reconsider her ad campaign where she said she is not a witch, because it is going to take some kind of spell to cut government spending while not cutting government spending!
I see this kind of stuff in other polls too, and not just those polling the Tea Party. People say they want the size of government to be reduced. But then when you start listing government programs, people will say “yeah, let’s keep this, and that, and that”. This is why in the Republican’s “Pledge to America”, if you look at the items they say they are going to focus on to eliminate the deficit, they are only actually only considering 15% of the total budget, or about $530 billion. OK, so the deficit is $1.3 trillion and the total debt is $13 trillion. And we are going to get all that under control by focusing on reigning in the waste within a $530 billion piece of the budget? I know I just work in the actuarial field, but that math looks a little fuzzy to me (but it’s OK, we will make it up through tax cuts……..um what?).
I think people really overestimate the amount of government waste or really underestimate the size of our deficit (or probably both). To completely eliminate the deficit without raising taxes, the budget would have to be cut by roughly 35%. I agree that there is government waste, but is there really 35% of waste to be found? Of course, some people are even more clueless about our government than that. We all remember hearing about the classic “keep your government hands off my Medicare” statement. Or what about Craig T. Nelson whining on Fox News about government bailouts and then claiming nobody helped him out when he was on food stamps and welfare. Where do these folks think stuff like Medicare, food stamps, and welfare come from? I don’t know, but I would like to think it might be the something-for-nothing fairy!
Anyway, I think what people really want is big government spending and low taxes. And that’s how you get trillions of dollars into debt!
- Why The GOP Will Never Cut The Size Of Government (blogs.forbes.com)
- Is the Tea Party so different? (timesunion.com)
- Carly Fiornia Won’t Say Where She’d Cut The Federal Budget (outsidethebeltway.com)
Congratulations New Birmingham Mayor William Bell…Here, Treat Yourself To A $50M Deficit! January 31, 2010Posted by gesvol in Current Events.
Tags: Alabama, Birmingham, Birmingham Alabama, deficit, Larry Langford, William Bell
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Well Mr. Bell, it looks like your good friend Larry Langford left you a present. Despite Larry’s claims that Birmingham had the money to pay for the many projects that he was proposing, it seems that Birmingham is now staring at a massive revenue shortfall for 2010. Amazing, a one-cent tax hike does not give you an endless stream of revenue. Who knew?
That was awfully kind of Larry to leave such a large gift. Always thinking of others that guy is. Maybe that’s why he didn’t think to put over $20 million of necessities (you know, things like phone bills and utilities, unimportant stuff) into the original budget. One can only think of so much you know. And Larry had a lot on his mind. Taking bribes and covering it up can take up a lot of one’s mental capacity. But he was doing it all for the good of the city he loved (just didn’t love it enough to actually live in it)!
Obviously this is going to put the future of lot of projects, including the dome, in doubt (and please, let’s kill the committee looking into the Olympics NOW!). But maybe that’s not necessary. I have a plan! In fact, it involves the man who helped get us into this mess! Of course, that man is Larry Langford. You see, this man has a gift. It just so happens that he is the luckiest man alive (OK, lucky in gambling, not legal matters)! Over the course of 3 years, Larry won more than 500 jackpots raking in more than $1.5 million dollars in earnings! Sure, there is some jealous gambler that claims this was a fraud. But a man of Larry’s character has to be believed, right?
So this is what we have to do. First, we have to bust Larry out of jail. It’s for the greater good. Then we will have to give him a disguise. If I have learned anything from Superman, it’s that removing his glasses should suffice. Also, stay away from green glowing rocks and bald guys. But that’s neither here nor there. Next, we give him some money out of the city’s reserve. We will then send him to Vegas, where he can win some real money! It will be just like The Hangover, except everyone will still have all their teeth and will be wearing pants! When you need money, you can just win it, certainly when you are as talented as Lucky Larry! Larry should be able to win $50 million in no time. Send that money back to Birmingham and, just like that, problem solved!
Brilliant, right? Oh, and Birmingham, you’re welcome!