57 thoughts on “Balancing The Budget

  1. Chris Gerrib

    Yes you can – by slashing Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. Since I don’t want my 90-year-old Grandma or my 70-year-old parents to have to move in with me, I think I’ll vote to raise taxes on everybody.

    1. Paul Milenkovic

      Yes, owing to the lack luster job market, you will have to move in with Mom, Dad, and Grandma . . .

    2. wodun

      Raising taxes on everyone isn’t what Obama and the Democrats are proposing and the tax increases they are proposing aren’t enough to match proposed spending increases or even cover 10% of the deficit.

    3. McGehee

      Why should I and 300,000,000 others have to pay higher taxes just so you don’t have to live with your grandmother? Selfish swine.

    4. Karl Hallowell

      Yes you can – by slashing Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

      Why raise taxes when you just solved the problem, Chris?

      Since I don’t want my 90-year-old Grandma or my 70-year-old parents to have to move in with me, I think I’ll vote to raise taxes on everybody.

      Oh right, all that free stuff you want. Greed is just so ugly.

      1. Rand Simberg Post author

        So you want to lie about what we want to do?

        Guess there’s no wonder why you won an election. With the help of the Democrat operatives with bylines.

        1. Chris Gerrib

          I didn’t lie – Paul Breed and your article both explicitly want to take away Medicare and Medicaid for seniors, as well as radically cut Social Security. That’s a fact.

          1. Jim

            it doesn’t mean that we want old people to starve, or that this would be an inevitable result

            Of course nobody is going to say they want old people to starve — the issue is what the result of these policy changes would be. The Ryan/Simberg position seems to be that you can start with a world where millions of seniors get 100% of their income from Social Security, make big changes to Social Security that save (i.e. reduce spending by) trillions of dollars, and not reduce the standard of living of poor seniors. Ditto millions of seniors in nursing homes paid for by Medicaid, getting healthcare paid for by Medicare, etc.

            Do you honestly believe that?

          2. Leland

            The Jim position is take a payroll tax holiday and don’t collect taxes to pay for social security and medicare.

            The Paul Breed position seems to be that Gerrib should take responsibility for his own family. If Gerrib refuses to take in his parents and grandparents, then their starvation is on Gerrib.

      2. McGehee

        So you would rather let your 90-year-old grandmother starve than take her in and take care of her? Selfish swine.

          1. wodun

            You keep telling us how well off you are so why can’t you help your family out?

            Pushing old people out of the family is one of the negative parts of our society.

      3. wodun

        “So you want to go back to the bad old days and let old people starve?”

        The old if you don’t agree with me then you want [insert cataclysmic alternative here] argument eh?

  2. Paul Milenkovic

    The political problem is that the optimal solution is to promote investment and job creation by keeping rates low on wealthy people while raising taxes on the rest of us to pay for the social programs that we say that we want. That, of course, is trickle down economics, which has a bad rap from Herbert Hoover owing to good political messaging from the other side.

    The problem with the Bush tax cuts is that the reductions on wealthy people were the part with the economic advantage, but taxes had to be reduced – a lot – on the rest of us to make it politically workable, and hence the shortfall in revenue (14.5 percent GNP tax collections).

    Mr. Obama wants the worst of both worlds, higher rates on wealthy people to stiffle the economy whereas keep the Bush tax cuts on the rest of us to starve the government of revenue. Or that is at least what Mr. Obama says publically what he wants.

    I had kinda sorta suggested that we go along with Mr. Obama’s plan to raise rates on higher income taxpayers and see were that gets us. The plan Mr. Romney ran on wasn’t convincing — 20% across-the-board-for-everyone tax rate reduction (20% relative to what, before or after the reversion from the Bush tax cuts?), some unspecificed entitlement “reform” (Ryan plan? Romney plan? Something else).

    Jim assures us that by the end of Mr. Obama’s 2nd term, the public will be clamoring to change the Constitution to allow a 3rd term. Does this mean the economy will come roaring back? Or will this be like Roosevelt winning a 3rd term because the Republican “brand” is damaged?

    But maybe we should give Mr. Obama (what he says he wants) — higher tax rates on the wealthy only while keeping the revenue-robbing Bush tax cuts on “the middle class”? If the Grand Strategy is to “starve the beast”, maybe this is the way to go?

    1. Jim

      Does this mean the economy will come roaring back?

      I don’t know about roaring, but four years of decent growth and falling unemployment would be enough for voters to prefer another four years of Obama to a Republican challenger. After all, he just won with a pretty shaky economic picture, and barring some calamity, 2016 should be more like 1984 or 1996. By the same token, Clinton would have been reelected in 2000 if he could have run. It’s a pity he couldn’t, and that Obama won’t be able to.

      1. wodun

        Term limits are a good thing. This cult of personality Democrats have for their politicians is really creepy.

        1. Jim

          If you were hiring someone for a job, wouldn’t you want the option of picking someone who’d done the job before, and done it well?

          This cult of personality Democrats have for their politicians

          It’s nothing compared to the GOP cult of Reagan. Meanwhile, Democrats are so in thrall to Bill Clinton that they passed over his wife in favor of a first-time Senator.

          1. wodun

            “If you were hiring someone for a job, wouldn’t you want the option of picking someone who’d done the job before, and done it well?”

            Not in the case of President. Term limits are a fail safe to prevent what our country was founded to get away from. And the cult of personality leads down that path, it makes it so people are so delusional they overlook reality and then claim their deity is doing a great job.

            No one treats Reagan as a demigod.

            Clinton is still revered despite sexually abusing a school intern in addition to other women.

            Then we could talk about JFK…

          2. Jim

            the cult of personality leads down that path, it makes it so people are so delusional they overlook reality

            Really? Voters are so irrational that 8 years of incumbency makes them incapable of determining whether the country is on the right course? I disagree. Voters should get to vote for the best option, even if that person has been president for two terms, and even if that person wasn’t born a US citizen. In 2000 voters knew much more about how Bill Clinton would act as President than they did about Bush or Gore; if they still preferred Clinton, the Constitution should have let him run.

            You don’t have to protect the voters from themselves — let them choose.

  3. Jim

    The last time we balanced the budget revenue was over 20% of GDP, the top income tax rate was 39.6%, and the top capital gains tax rate was 20%. Since then, the country’s demographics have shifted older, health care has become much more expensive, and we’ve taken on new national security obligations. To offer seniors and the poor the same support we did in 2000 requires more than 20% of GDP today, but our top tax rates are lower than they were in 2000 (35% and 15%).

    Of course it’s possible to balance the budget without raising tax rates: just cut Social Security, Medicare and defense. But why would you want to do that?

    1. wodun

      Entitlements like SS, Medicare, and Medicaid shouldn’t be cut for people who are on them no. Which was the Romney/Ryan position even though Democrats then and you now say they wanted to throw old people off cliffs.

      In the medium to long term, those programs need adjustments.

      The military’s budget should be around 20% and considering we have a %1t+ deficit, their budget should be lower but remain about 20%

      The military should account for about 20% of our budget and with a more sensible level of spending, their budget should shrink but remain about 20% of overall spending.

      You say we need to raise taxes and not make any cuts. But you also seem to realize that tax increases wont come close to lowering the deficit. So, how exactly do you think we get our deficits under control and do you think we can continue $1t+ deficits?

      1. Jim

        Entitlements like SS, Medicare, and Medicaid shouldn’t be cut for people who are on them no. Which was the Romney/Ryan position

        Medicaid should not be on that list — both Romney and Ryan promised steep Medicaid cuts.

        As for Social Security, Ryan wrote legislation to privatize it in the 2000s. The Ryan position on Medicare was to cut $700B, along with the Obamacare Medicare benefits (drug donut hole, free preventative services). Romney put back the $700B, kept the other cuts.

        You say we need to raise taxes and not make any cuts.

        Where do I say that?

        But you also seem to realize that tax increases wont come close to lowering the deficit.

        Tax increases will lower the deficit. We can lower it further with spending cuts.

        Obama’s proposal is for spending cuts that are larger than the tax increases. That isn’t how I’d do it (I’d have the tax increases be at least as large as the spending cuts).

        The main way to reduce the deficit as a % of GDP is to get people working. That means avoiding immediate deficit reduction. We can worry about the debt when unemployment is under 6%.

        1. wodun

          “just cut Social Security, Medicare and defense. But why would you want to do that?”

          Thread after thread you argue against making any cuts and argue for expanding spending. So what would you cut?

          “Obama’s proposal is for spending cuts that are larger than the tax increases.”

          Obama isn’t proposing any net cuts in spending. He is arguing that the war in Iraq was waged by borrowing from China and saying now the war is over we can take that money and give it to his friends companies. For any one thing Obama wants to cut, he wants to spend that $ on something else.

          “The main way to reduce the deficit as a % of GDP is to get people working.”

          That would be great but the current administrations policies have been slowing the “recovery”. A lower unemployment rate wont provide the tax revenue to cover all the spending increases especially if most of the workforce finds themselves working less than 30 hours a week.

          “That means avoiding immediate deficit reduction. We can worry about the debt when unemployment is under 6%.”

          There is something fundamentally wrong with an economy or economic theory that relies on the government spending drastically more than it takes in just to tread water. It isn’t sustainable.

          Interest rates are low but they pile up. If things keep up, interest payments will soon be as much as defense spending or social security.

          I doubt Obama will want to make any spending cuts when the employment rate is under 6%.

          1. Leland

            Thread after thread you argue against making any cuts and argue for expanding spending. So what would you cut?

            Jim refuses to answer. Instead, he does support a payroll tax holiday, the same tax that funds Social Security and Medicare.

          2. Jim

            So what would you cut?

            Lots of things. I’d let Medicare negotiate drug prices. I’d cut defense, homeland security, ethanol and other farm subsidies. I’d means-test Social Security benefits.

            Obama isn’t proposing any net cuts in spending

            He offered Boehner trillion dollar entitlement cuts; Boehner passed.

  4. Paul Breed

    Chris you started the discussion with YOUR parents and grandma…
    Then you when called on it you tried to switch it to some amorphous “Old people” I won’t let you get away with that switch….

    If you combine your two statements I think you just said unless someone else pays for them you would let YOUR Parants and Grandma starve.

    Reading between the lines what your really asking for is for the rich to support your personal lifestyle so you have to make no sacrifices to fulfill your responsibility to your parents..etc…

    You basically want free stuff…. grow up.

    1. Chris Gerrib

      I’ll TRY to pay for my parents and grandparents. Considering my Mom just had her hip replaced again and my 90-year-old grandmother was in the hospital twice last week, I don’t actually know if I CAN pay for them.

          1. wodun

            Thankfully Obama raised taxes on those jerkholes that make replacement hips. That should get prices lower.

  5. rednecktech

    You want to increase revenue? Simple, quit paying people to not work, and rationalize regulations so that businesses can make a taxable profit.

    For bonus points, teach people math.

  6. Paul Breed

    There is another subtle point in Chris’s response. Health care… as we develop more and more sophisticated health care we willr each the point where society is mathematically unable to pay for the best possible care for every one. We need to have an honest discussion about how we want to do the rationing, from a societal stand point how many resources should be put into improving the quality of the 90yr old with a broken hip, so in some ways Chris is right I’m advocating throwing grandma under a bus, its just that what Chris does not realize is that what he advocates requires that we also throw people under the bus and we aren’t really having an honest discussion about who we throw under the bus.

    As an aside…
    If you assumed that all behavior was static (IE when you tax it does not change behavior) and then taxed 100% of income over 250K at 100% then we still would a deficit, its the spending not the revenue.

    1. Jim

      then taxed 100% of income over 250K at 100% then we still would a deficit

      It isn’t an all-or-nothing issue. Cutting Medicaid (much less PBS) won’t eliminate the deficit either, but that doesn’t stop the GOP from insisting that we do so.

      Raising rates on income past $250K will raise revenue and reduce the deficit.

      its the spending not the revenue

      To state the mathematically obvious: the deficit isn’t either one, it’s the difference between the two.

      To state the politically obvious: We just had an election between a candidate who said we should address the deficit through spending cuts only, and one who said we should cut spending and raise revenue. The latter candidate won.

        1. Jim

          If you want to do more than indulge in name-calling, back up your assertion.

          Here’s Romney in the first debate, on whether he’d increase revenue:

          The second area, taxation, we agree, we ought to bring the tax rates down. And I do, both for corporations and for individuals. But in order for us not to lose revenue, have the government run out of money, I also lower deductions and credits and exemptions, so that we keep taking in the same money when you also account for growth.

          The only way to reduce the deficit while “taking in the same money” is to cut spending.

          1. Jim

            Read what he said: “the same money when you account for growth”. He was (unrealistically) counting on growth to make up for his rate cuts, not to increase revenue. His deficit reduction plan was all spending cuts. He, like all the other GOP candidates, said he wouldn’t accept a deal that had even 10% as much deficit reduction from tax hikes as from spending cuts.

      1. Karl Hallowell

        Cutting Medicaid (much less PBS) won’t eliminate the deficit either, but that doesn’t stop the GOP from insisting that we do so.

        We’ll have to cut other things. The thing about raising taxes, is that we’ll have to cut spending as well anyway. At least, if you’re cutting Medicaid, you’re making a big step towards addressing the real problem.

        1. Jim

          For any given deficit target, raising taxes reduces the amount of spending you have to cut. Letting the top rates go back to their pre-Bush levels raises something like $80B a year. That’s $80B/year that you don’t have to cut from Medicaid. That’s hundreds of thousands of poor seniors who don’t get denied nursing home care.

          1. wodun

            Cutting NPR would mean we cut less from Medicare. That is one good reason and another is that government has no business funding the Democrat party’s propaganda wing.

  7. Paul Breed

    We are over the cliff, any plan that does not get the deficit to ZERO is only arguing about the speed of the train crash.

    Its mathematically impossible to lower the deficit to zero without significant cuts in spending.

    1. Jim

      We do not need to reduce the deficit to zero. We should figure out a plan to (gradually) get it down to 2-3% of GDP; at that point our debt burden will be manageable indefinitely (because our economy usually grows about 2-3%).

    2. Jim

      And no, it isn’t mathematically impossible to lower the deficit to zero without spending cuts. You just need to start collecting 24% of GDP in taxes (since our spending is about 24% of GDP). That may be politically impossible, but it’s certainly economically and mathematically possible — lots of countries do it.

      1. wodun

        Not by taxing the rich. Maybe by increasing the taxes where most of the money is, the middle class. Everyone should pay some taxes so that they have a vested interest in how DC wastes our money.

          1. wodun

            Yes but you are only refering to payroll taxes which in theory they get some return back later. If everyone had to pay a little to cover things that did not have a personal paynack, they would be more concerned about how DC spends their money.

  8. Josh Reiter

    There’s also that Baseline Reform Act that the House passed back in February that has never been sent over to the Senate. Our deficits began to go out of control when the Congressional Budget Act was passed in ’74 and gave Congress the power protect pet projects from Presidential impound. It also set the framework for automatic increases to budget items regardless of the economic environment and actual department/agency needs. And it lets Congress act like they are being oh so frugal when they say they are cutting spending but really just reducing the automatic spending increases from 10% to 9%. And it contributes to waste with the classic example of government tearing up roads to just rebuild them again so as to keep their budgets up and therefore get a larger increase the next year. Set the baselines back to zero and you’ll actually have Congress critters doing their actual job rather than idly sitting around coming with new ways to control our lives.

  9. Paul Breed

    Jim 24% of GDP??? all government spending is 40%!
    All government spending is over 40% of GDP!!!!!

    So that means non government is 60% of GDP.

    So in order for that 60% to pay for the 40% then it must be taxed at 66% AVERAGE.

    A 2% OF gdp deficit and thus only need to pay for 38% of GDP as tax then the tax rate lowers to an easy 63.3% WOO Ha!

    Also since out population is ageing with the Baby boomers going past the demographic spending peak the odds of getting real 2% GDP growth after inflation are close to zero.

    Real growth after inflation has been zero or even negative for awhile.

    Presently we have the highest corporate taxes in the industrialized world.

    Current revenue does not even pay for “Mandatory” spending and itnerest on the debt, so if we set the Defense, and all other discretionary spending to zero we still have a deficit.

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