John Boehner has a choice: he can lead the Republicans, or he can save the country. He can’t do both.
The vote on the recent budget deal showed that compromises won’t get votes from tea party Republicans. Fifty-nine Republicans voted no on the agreement, and Boehner had to team up with Democrats to get something passed. Pundits are discussing whether Boehner will move right to get a unified Republican caucus. He’ll have to if a unified Republican caucus is his goal.
But Boehner’s goal should not be keeping his party together; it should be fixing the country. Instead, of moving right to pass “Republican” bills that will get vetoed by the President, what he should do is move left and pass meaningful reform with strong bipartisan support. Boehner can team regular (non-tea party) Republicans with conservative Democrats to come up with a common sense approach to solving our fiscal problems. America is a centrist country and Boehner has a chance to create a centrist solution.
The reality is that everybody knows the logical way to solve our debt problem. We need cuts in all spending: discretionary, military and entitlements, coupled with revenue increases. The debt is too big for either spending cuts or tax increases alone to solve the problem. We also need to control health care costs, which are driving Medicare and Medicaid to such extreme levels.
So stop jerking around with politics and start solving the problem. Boehner can lead the charge, and be a hero, if he is willing to walk away from his extreme fringe. He just needs to be less of a Republican and more of an American.
By the way, there is a similar situation in the Senate, with Tom Coburn in the bipartisan gang of six fighting with legendary douchebag Grover Norquist over tax increases.
Grover Norquist: Pompous Douche
Yves Smith on the macro effects of oversized Wall Street pay.
I normally don’t love Paul Krugman, despite his Nobel Prize, since he is too strident and preachy and predictable, but this take on what really separates Right from Left in America is pretty interesting.
John Mearsheimer on American foreign policy and realpolitik.
John Cassidy on whether Wall Street adds value to society. Hint: it doesn’t. This is from the New Yorker, so it won’t be available online forever.
Law professor David Beatty compares American constitutional jurisprudence to how they do it in other countries. I’m no expert, but I found it fascinating.
Posted in Business, Politics, Pop culture, Trends
Tagged ayn rand, bonuses, Business, economics, goldman sachs, GOP, greed, Politics, republicans, Trends, wall street
Here is a new article with data showing a direct correlation between how GOP leaning a state is and how much federal money it sucks down. This follows up on my posts on this very topic.
The bipartisan deficit panel has come out with its first set of recommendations, and everyone is hopping mad. Lefties say the cuts in spending are unacceptable, and conservatives are adamant that tax revenues never go up again. Good! I have no opinion about the specific recommendations made by the panel chairmen, but I know that if both sides are pissed off then the panel must be doing something right.
Listen people…this deficit is serious business. It will bite us in the ass if we don’t fix it, and fixing it is going to require some pain on everyone’s part. We’ve been living for too long with this fantasy that government could increase spending while cutting taxes. Now the party is over, and the hung over cleanup has to begin. Headaches? Nausea? Yes, exactly.
So liberals, accept the fact that spending will be cut, and not just military spending. I hate it too, but Social Security has to be on the table. Increasing the retirement age by two years over the next 65 years? That’s really not so bad. Tying other benefits to inflation? Also not unreasonable. We need a safety net, of course, but we need to be smart about it.
And conservatives, you too are in for some pain. Face facts: spending cuts alone won’t balance the budget. We need to increase taxes. You like to claim that any tax increase will kill the economy, but the facts don’t bear that out. This chart shows that in Germany tax revenues are 40% of GDP, far more than America’s 28%. And yet Germany’s economy is doing fine, kicking our ass in exports, despite having to absorb East Germany. This chart shows that marginal tax rates for individuals are lower than ever. In fact, during America’s economic heyday, in the 50s and 60s, top marginal rates were in the 70%-90% range, far higher than today’s 35%, and yet there was still plenty of investment, of people working hard, of entrepreneurs starting businesses. All the arguments the right uses against raising taxes are belied by that glorious period of American business. Speaking of that great Happy Days era, the chart below shows that the share of taxes paid by the wealthiest citizens back then was significantly higher than it is now. Again, showing that higher taxes do not necessarily stifle economic growth.
There will be plenty of unpleasantness to go around; Democrats and Republicans will each get their share. Our legislators need to get off their high horses, stay away from the cameras and microphones and acknowledge that their pet causes are secondary to the national cause. But as either Mark Shields or David Brooks (I still can’t tell their voices apart on radio) said on the PBS NewsHour, our politicians won’t make this happen until the public forces them to. Our culture needs to accept the need for hard choices, and then push our politicians to make them.
Posted in Business, Politics
Tagged bailout, Business, congress, economics, GOP, greed, Politics, republicans, taxes, tea party
Yesterday I posted about how Alaska politicians talk a big game about wanting the federal government to leave them alone, but in reality they suck down more federal money than any other state. Having just spent a week in Alaska, I brought some photographic evidence of our biggest state’s big appetite for taxpayer money.
Here is the beginning of a beautifully built and maintained trail at the Mendenhall Glacier outside Juneau. You can see that construction of the trail, which must have employed several people to cut brush and grade the path, was paid for by the federal stimulus package. As for the big Bob Marley joint depicted on the sign….it’s unclear if federal dollars paid for that.
Trail paid for by US taxpayers
In Gustavus, a small town which is the gateway to Glacier Bay, a brand new $20 million dock is being built with federal stimulus dollars. I spoke with the owner of my hotel and with the pilot of my whale watching boat, and both said that the dock was completely unnecessary. But it was employing a whole bunch of skilled laborers, so many that they had to come in from Juneau, since Gustavus didn’t have that many construction workers.
The new dock at Gustavus
Here is a photo of all the pickups and SUVs owned by the people working on the dock. Again, these are local workers being paid with US taxpayer dollars.
Construction worker trucks
I have no problem with stimulus dollars paying people to build paths and docks; that is how a government stimulus package works. The government injects money into the system to boost employment and spending. My problem is with a state that talks about how it doesn’t believe in the stimulus or in federal help at all while it continues to take as much federal money as it can.
Posted in Business, Politics, Uncategorized
Tagged alaska, Business, GOP, Politics, Sarah Palin, stimulus package, taxation, tea party, Ted Stevens
Regular Thoughtbasket readers know how I mock the Laffer Curve, a flawed theory that tax-cutting fiends use in order to claim that reducing marginal tax rates will actually increase government revenue as it unleashes a flood of investment and entrepreneurship. See my mockery here and here, for example.
So of course I was heartened to see Michael Kinsley at The Atlantic take up the cause. Enjoy his mockery here.
I had pretty much forgotten about Sarah Palin, or started to ignore the news items about her, and I had assumed that maybe she was holed up learning about policy or facts. But then Slate runs an article trying to analyze how she might come up with some of the wacky stuff she says. I read a quote like the one below, and it’s hard to see the issue as one of policy differences:
“Oil and coal? Of course, it’s a fungible commodity and they don’t flag, you know, the molecules, where it’s going and where it’s not. … So, I believe that what Congress is going to do, also, is not to allow the export bans to such a degree that it’s Americans that get stuck to holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped here.”
I’m sorry, but regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, that makes no sense. Take Newt Gingrich: he is deeply conservative and I deeply disagree with him, but that guy could talk for a week straight and he would never say anything as idiotic as the Palin quote above. I want to be generous and assume that Palin isn’t stupid; that she just uses folksy idioms and is slightly misinformed. But I read what she says, I hear about the “refudiates” and that generosity is hard to find. Can someone help me solve this conundrum?