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Posts Tagged ‘budget’

I don’t understand Rand Paul. Or more specifically, I don’t understand why libertarians like Rand Paul. Actually I don’t understand why anyone likes Rand Paul. Here’s why:

Speaking in Iowa last week, Rand Paul had this to say on Obama’s marriage equality “evolution”:

“Call me cynical, but I didn’t think his views on marriage could get any gayer”

Now I’m not a libertarian, but it seems to me that the appropriate, libertarian response to the President’s support of marriage equality would be something along the lines of “I believe that, personal feeling aside, everyone should have equal marriage rights, because the constitution guarantees Americans equal protection under the law. I’m glad to see that President Obama has finally figured that out”. See, I even threw a bit of backhandedness in there to make it a bit more palatable to the base.

But that’s not what Rand Paul said. No, instead he went with “that’s gay”, which is a level of discourse that could be expected from a middle school boy, not a prominent national figure. I won’t call him cynical, but I will call him a jackass. The quote above was what made news of course, but here’s the rest of it:

“Now it did kind of bother me, though, that he used the justification for it in a biblical reference. He said the biblical Golden Rule caused him to be for gay marriage. And I’m like: What version of the Bible is he reading? It’s not the King James version. It’s not the New American Standard. It’s not the New Revised version. I don’t know what version he is getting it from. Now that doesn’t mean we have to be harsh and mean and hate people, we understand sin and if we believe it’s sin we still understand that people sin. And we understand that we are not out there preaching some sort of hateful dogma against people. But that doesn’t mean that we have to go ahead and give up our traditions. We’ve got 6,000 years of tradition. There’s a lot of stability, even beyond religion, there’s stability in the family unit. Just from an anthropological point of view, the family is really important thing. We shouldn’t just give up on it.”

Has it not fucking occured to Rand Paul that marriage equality is a pro-family position? How is telling someone they are not allowed to have a family going to promote families? Of course he may also note that there are plenty of instances throughout the history of marriage where it has changed, so saying it can’t change because it never has is just completely wrong. What Rand Paul is saying here is that family is important, provided it fits his personal idea of what a family should look like. That doesn’t sound like a very libertarian position to me.

Neither does this, from last year (emphasis in original):

I’m not for profiling people on the color of their skin, or on their religion, but I would take into account where they’ve been traveling and perhaps, you might have to indirectly take into account whether or not they’ve been going to radical political speeches by religious leaders. It wouldn’t be that they are Islamic. But if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after — they should be deported or put in prison.

Yep, that’s right folks, if you’ve been traveling to places with funny sounding names, and heard someone say something nasty about the government, then you might be a terrorist, and should be deported or jailed. The constitution be damned.

Oh, and then there’s this (emphasis mine):

Leading United States Senate candidate Rand Paul today criticized the Obama administration’s decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center and try terrorism suspects in United States Civil Courts.

“Foreign terrorists do not deserve the protections of our Constitution,” said Dr. Paul. “These thugs should stand before military tribunals and be kept off American soil. I will always fight to keep Kentucky safe and that starts with cracking down on our enemies.”

Dr. Paul believes in strong national defense and thinks military spending should be our country’s top budget priority. He has also called for a Constitutional declaration of war with Afghanistan.

Rand Paul: More War! More Military Spending! Less Due Process!

Am I just really confused on what libertarians think? Because this guy sure doesn’t sound like one to me. But the Ron Paul crowd seems to love the guy! It’s been suggested Ron Paul’s delegate strategy’s end game is to secure the VP slot for Rand Paul, or that the ultimate goal is to build a base for a Rand Paul for President bid in 2016.

I honestly don’t get it.

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Last week I expressed my frustration that the recovery has been hampered by budget cutting for over a year. The Gravel Kraken responded with an Econ 101 lesson on GDP to highlight the fact that GDP is just a number and what matters are actual economic outcomes, not just that someone spent more money this quarter:

If the number was the most important thing to look at, and it really made all the difference, our government would just borrow a whole bunch of money, spend it, thereby increasing GDP (even if they spend it digging a hole and refilling it), and therefore ending a recession!  So, as a rule, budget cuts only “slow” the “economy” on paper.  In truth, the only thing the government can do with money that everybody else can’t is spend confident it will never run out.  The only tool a government has to end a recession is sheer willpower, projecting an illusion long enough for people to develop confidence of their own and actually do productive things.

In an economy constrained by a lack of demand, which ours most certainly is, and given that real interest rates are currently negative, I think that borrowing a whole bunch of money and spending it is exactly what the government needs to do! Now spending on digging and refilling a hole is of course silly, but we just so happen to have an infrastructure in vast need of repair, and we have a bunch of unemployed people sitting around not doing much. We could pay them to dig and refill a hole, but that’s not very useful. Repairing critical infrastructure is.

As for the “rule” that budget cuts only slow the economy on paper, that’s just ridiculous. Lets say that 11 million people get laid off from the private sector this year. That would mean 11 million people would stop (or slow down significantly) buying things. It would mean 11 million fewer customers at businesses. It would mean a lot of businesses shutting down, along with the companies whose core business was supplying them. Now lets say that those 11 million lucky duckies were federal employees, and they get laid off because Paul Ryan eliminated their jobs as part of “deficit reduction” measures, also known as budget cuts. The effect would be exactly the same, 11 million fewer customers at businesses, etc. Of course those newly jobless folks can take solace in the fact that their loss was only on paper. Perhaps they can eat the paper for dinner! It seems like this is some machination of the idea that government employees are not real people when it comes to the economy. But of course they are. They sit at real desks with real computers and they use real office supplies, all of which were purchased from companies in the private sector, produced using raw materials supplied by other companies, and shipped by guys in trucks working for still other companies. On their lunch breaks they go to real restaurants and on their way home they stop at real stores or go to real bars for happy hour. In other words, the government, and government employees, participate in the economy. If they have less money, they will not participate as much. That results in a weakened economy.

The Gravel Kraken also said this:

While the government has the capacity to add value, the fact that it spends money is little evidence of value added.  All voluntary private transactions represent value by definition because both parties saw it fit to proceed with the transaction and benefited.  When government spends there is only one voluntary party, so we do not have the assurance that there is actually value.  Also, government needs to spend money in areas that do not translate directly into production.  If the government doubles spending on its police, all of that spending is added to GDP, but does that make people better off?  It could, but it doesn’t have to.  If your town, tomorrow, doubled its police force, it would boost its GDP.  Has your economy improved?  I would be suspicious.

I agree that the government simply spending money is no guarantee of value. For example, government spending money on keeping capital gains taxes low is far less valuable to the country than spending it on critical infrastructure. I’m not entirely sure what it means that when government spends there is only one voluntary party. If the government wants to contract Lockheed Martin to build a bunch of jet fighters, Lockheed Martin could turn down the contract. They do not, because building a bunch of jet fighters is a lucrative enterprise. Similarly, if the government wants to hire you to inspect pharmaceutical plants or look out for tax evaders, you have every right to not take the job. Each of these is a voluntary transaction. The government needs or wants to do something, they are willing to spend the money required to do that thing, and you and your good buddies at Lockheed Martin are willing to take their money.

And by the way, I would be ecstatic if my town doubled its police force tomorrow. I am confident that doing so would be economically beneficial.

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Paul Ryan is a Very Serious Person. Last year, he released his Very Serious budget that did little more than eliminate medicare. The public reaction? Agree with him or not, he should be praised for his Very Serious attempt at deficit reduction. But it wasn’t serious at all! And today, we have another Very Serious Budget. What does it say?

Well, for starters, defense spending. It’s awesome. We should never, ever, ever cut it. Taxes? Not so awesome, cut them. Medicare? Ditto. So how then can we balance the budget? Well, by cutting domestic spending by about 80%. So Serious!

On taxes, Ryan Very Seriously promises us “pro-growth tax reform”. It’s pro-growth! Yay! So how will he do that? Eliminate some deductions! Which ones? We don’t know. Ryan has been praised for making hard choices, but he hasn’t made any choices at all! Actually telling people, honestly, that you intend to cut their favorite deductions or benefits is one thing. Just saying “pro-growth” a lot is entirely another. The details matter, and the Very Serious Ryan doesn’t have any.

So, can we please stop pretending that we care about deficits? We have them because not having them would mean cuts to programs people like. That, in turn, means electoral defeat. Politicians don’t cut the deficit because if they did, we would kick them out. We have deficits because we don’t want to choose one program over another. We have deficits because we want them, and yet we expect our politicians to play this Very Serious game year after year, because we pretend that we care about deficits. But we get the government that we want.

So let’s all just stop bullshitting each other, shall we? We distract ourselves with these budget fights, but they obscure the very real issues we should be dealing with instead.

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I shamelessly stole this chart from TPM. It shows the net changes in government spending during the first terms of Bush Jr. and Sr., Obama, Clinton, and Reagan.

Yes, the republicans all increased government spending significantly more than the democrats did.

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The Laurens County GOP in South Carolina has come out with a handy little pledge you have to sign before appearing on their ballot. According to The Clinton Chronicle, to run as a republican in this particular county, one must:

  1. Be 100% opposed to abortion
  2. Be 100% opposed to gun control of any kind
  3. Support balanced state and federal budgets
  4. Support abstinence before marriage
  5. Practice abstinence before marriage
  6. Not be homosexual
  7. Not support equal rights for homosexuals in any way
  8. Not view pornography
  9. Have “A compassionate and moral approach to Teen Pregnancy”
  10. Have “A commitment to Peace Through Strength in Foreign Policy”
  11. Have “A high regard for Unites States Sovereignty”

Now to be fair, the SC State GOP has since said that this kind of pledge is illegal, but let’s unpack these a bit.

Numbers 1 and 2 seem pretty standard fare for GOPers, as does 3, although how effective a county level politician will be in a fight for a balanced federal budget is unclear.

Numbers 4 through 8 are your standard Christianist party line, Rick Santorum would be proud. Although it should be noted that if you ban anyone who has had sex before marriage or viewed pornography, you will find that your candidate pool is rather limited.

I’m not entirely sure what number 9 means, but I think its republican for anti-abortion, which was covered in number 1.

Number 10 basically means “America, Fuck Yeah!”, as I suspect does 11.

Snarkiness aside, though, there actually is some real policy information between the lines of boilerplate. Number 10 would imply increased military spending, which would have to be offset via spending cuts or increased revenue to satisfy the requirements of number 3. I think its pretty obvious that revenue increases won’t factor into the equation, so spending cuts it is!

None of this is surprising information, to be sure, but I thought it was worth pointing out. I think it is also worth pointing out, as I did previously, that 40% of SC’s state budget comes from the federal government.

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Image via ThinkProgress

If you were even remotely in the proximity of the internets today, you probably heard a lot of chatter about Mitt Romney’s speech on the economy in Detroit. The picture above is from that event. Not exactly a full house.

Romney’s campaign has faced criticism about their choice of venue, and coverage of the empty seats has dominated today’s news.

As usual, the focus is on optics, not content. But the real reason to criticize Romney today? Take it away, Ezra Klein:

When Romney said he “wasn’t concerned about the very poor,” he wasn’t kidding. He’s using the policies they depend on most as a piggy bank for tax cuts…

What Romney is essentially proposing to do is finance a massive tax cut by cutting Medicaid, food stamps, housing subsidies and job training. In other words, the neediest Americans — and, to a lesser degree, federal workers — will be financing a massive tax cut…

In 2000, George W. Bush ran for president saying “I don’t think they ought to be balancing their budget on the backs of the poor.” In 2012, amidst a much worse economy, Romney is running for president saying exactly the opposite.

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Priorities

Today, congressional republicans indicated that they would approve an extension of the payroll tax cut without corresponding spending cuts to offset the cost. In other words, they have agreed to increase the debt. In doing so, they rejected the democrats proposal to offset the cost by increasing taxes on millionaires.

This is a clear demonstration of their priorities. When faced with the choice of increasing the debt or increasing taxes on the wealthy, they chose debt. It’s been abundantly clear that republicans were not actually concerned by the debt for some time now, but today’s news should count as further proof.

Keep this in mind, as it is the proper frame through which to view all of the pearl clutching that is kicking into high gear over the president’s budget proposal.

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