I’ve written/ranted about this before, but I just was exposed to yet another instance of it, and wanted to bring it up once again (plus I get to recycle my graph, which I like).
From none other than the occasionally rational David Brooks comes the mantra…it goes something like this…
But I have to say, many of these great people [who do good work in useful publicly funded programs] are suffering under a misimpression. They assume that if they can only persuade enough people that their programs are producing tremendous results then they will be spared from the budget ax. They are wrong about that. The coming budget cuts have nothing to do with merit. They have to do with the inexorable logic of mathematics. Over the past decades, spending in nearly every section of the federal budget has exploded to unsustainable levels. Each year, your family’s share of the national debt increases by about $12,000.
Now I want you to do what I did. Click on this link, it goes to David Brooks myopic offering, then hit CTRL-F and type “taxes”.
“Myopic”, for those that haven’t googled it yet to make sure, means “short-sighted”. As in, it is incredibly short-sighted to claim that our current “crisis” has been driven by anything other than tax cuts. From Reagan to Bush to Bush to, sadly, Obama, by faaar our largest deficits come directly after our largest tax cuts. This has been done because it has been claimed, each and every time tax cuts were not accompanied by equal spending cuts, that the resulting “increased economic activity” would pay for the difference.
Thirty years after this ridiculous idea (the “Laffer Curve”) was put into practice, our national debt has jumped by 1,400% from 1 Trillion (roughly) in 1980 to 14 Trillion (roughly) in 2010. We do, however, have pretty low taxes, so we got that going for us. In fact, they haven’t been lower since the mid 20th century.
So we have this huge debt, driven by cutting revenue…and what does the party of “fiscal responsibility” do… force through $400,000,000,000 of tax cuts, and is now fighting amongst themselves to come up with $100,000,000,000 worth of spending cuts.
I don’t think it takes really much of a math genius to see that leaves “us” $300,000,000,000 further in the hole. That’s with Congress cutting hard and deep. Add to that the Rand Clan egging on the “let’s default on our debt/end the Fed” brigade and “our” debt may very well get very expensive to maintain. (That $300,000,000,000 they just added? Costs about $25,000,000/day in interest). It may very well get impossible to maintain.
In fact, it is impossible…if you suffer from tax myopia. If you can look at the U.S. debt, try to offer solutions, and not even mention the word “taxes”, you shouldn’t be listened to. You should be roundly mocked, if not flogged in the public square for being so damn myopic. Nothing like a public intellectual flogging to cure ideologically based short-sightedness. We need to raise taxes. We need to do it now. We need to do it on “us”.
So by now you’ve picked up on my little “quote” trick. Us, our, us, us…all in quote…all talking about the wealth/debt in the U.S. Oh…you didn’t realize they were the same thing, did you? Yea…that’s what debt is. It means you have more and you owe more. Well, not “you” per se, dear reader. A small percentage of you has most of the wealth here.
And most of the debt.
Sure, sure, folks like David Brooks can talk about how “each year, your family’s share of the national debt increases by about $12,000″, but somehow, for some reason, your family’s share of the national wealth goes up by, well, whatever you grab that year, it would seem (relative to your “neighbors” on Wall Street, but of course, ).
Just to be extremely clear here, I don’t think everyone’s wealth should go up like everyone’s debt does. I’m actually pretty fine with that whole “whatever you grab” kinda thing, with the requisite rules and regulations of a robust modern economy. My point here is how we talk about it. We socialize the debt, and privatize the profit. We do this so much we don’t even notice it. This is a mistake. In the real world, when it all falls apart, the “debt” isn’t paid by everyone. The debt is paid directly proportional to the wealth.
When you have nothing to lose, losing everything means nothing.
Which, in a long and roundabout way, bring us to the final bit of the title of this post, the Revolution part. There’s a lot of revolutioning going on right now, for reals. Good stuff, for the most post. Here’s my theory about why that stuff happens, ultimately. Yes, yes, there are always proximate causes and triggers (in this case it was seven men setting themselves on fire, the spirit of the people of the Middle East followed), but the explosive fuel of revolutions, what really drives them over the top, is *always* economics. Or more precisely, the lack thereof.
I brought this point to a very fine edge while honing my theory against a libertarian friend of mine (yes, one of those…the kind it takes ten minutes of examples to finally get them to admit that yes, there is a reason to inspect food, and yes, it is legitimate reason for gubmint to exist). In our meanderings back and forth he mentioned that one of purest reasons for a government to exist was to protect the property of its citizens. Fair enough, I said, how well does that work when half the country’s property is in the hands of 1% of its citizens? Or even just one?
What happens when half, or more than half have no legitimate need of that government. That’s when the thing turns over, that’s when it revolves.
When your citizens would rather burn in hellfire than live under your government, that’s when it revolves.
I want to finish this back wherefrom I began, that myopic fool in the top tax bracket preaching to the pandering peons while assiduously ignoring that such things like “taxes” exist…
Over the next few weeks, Republicans will try to cut discretionary spending to 2008 levels and tell their constituents they are boldly reducing the size of government. That is a mirage. Anybody who doesn’t take on entitlement spending is an enabler of big government.
Yea…take on “entitlement spending”. Take on those “promises we made”. Tear apart that “social security”. How close to Revolution, do you think, the U.S. came during the early years of the Depression? What were the promises made to avert it? How did that work out for us?
And I’m sorry, but WTF is “big government”? Is it one that can pay its debts? One that keeps its promises? Is the “big” a moral reference? Or one of stature, like the “big man of the tribe”. I thought having a government big enough to cover its costs was called “fiscal responsibility”?
Republicans now want to cut spending back to 2008 levels, when we ran huge deficits. How about taking taxes back to 2000 levels, when we had a balanced budget? And what about the population? You can’t cut that back with rhetoric, myopia, or horrid math. It’s not going back to 2008 levels. Doing less, for more, leads the country one direction. Down.
Cutting services four times less than cutting revenues, leads the debt one direction, up.
Not me, I call bullshit.
And no, I don’t think there’s near enough Americans calling bullshit at this point. Many of the current crop are completely dependent on the government for income and healthcare (Hi! Tea Party!). The only revolutions they are starting are on their rotary phone dials.
But cut out that social safety net, create a permanent underclass of “illegals”, keep the wealth pooling at the top, wait twenty years….and you’ll find a whole lot of people who realize their “share” of the national debt is many, many times their “share” of the national wealth. In other words….bullshit.
And so it revolves.