Tag Archives: Barack Obama

New Tax Burden: Pay For The Rich!

 

The Brookings Institution has analyzed the new tax system overhaul that Mitt Romney has proposed and concluded that it would give big tax cuts to high-income households and increase the tax burden for middle- and lower-income households

Because Romney has yet to propose an actual tax plan, the researchers modeled a revenue-neutral income tax change that incorporates some of Mr. Romney’s proposals, which include lowering marginal tax rates, eliminating both the alternative minimum tax and taxation of investment income of most taxpayers, eliminating the estate tax and repealing the additional high-income taxes passed with the Affordable Care Act.

All by themselves, these cuts to personal income and estate taxes would reduce total tax revenue by $360 billion in 2015 relative to what is expected of current policy, according to the Brookings scholars.

Mr. Romney has said that his plan will include offsets to the revenue losses from his proposed lower tax rates, although he has not specified what kinds of policies would offset those cuts (that is, how he would come up with an additional $360 billion to offset the lost $360 billion in tax revenue).

Ann thinks this is funny.

The Brookings analysis assumes that those offsets would be achieved chiefly through reducing or altogether eliminating other tax breaks — like the mortgage interest tax deduction or the child tax credit — and does not factor in spending cuts as a means to offset lost tax revenue.

But even if all possible loopholes for households earning more than $200,000 were eliminated, this group would still be a net gainer under Mr. Romney’s plan, since the marginal tax rate decreases and other changes lop off so much of its tax burden.

As a result, middle- and lower-income households — the 95 percent of the population earning less than about $200,000 annually — would have to make up the difference.

“It is not possible to design a revenue-neutral plan that does not reduce average tax burdens and the share of taxes paid by high-income taxpayers under the conditions described above, even when we try to make the plan as progressive as possible,” write the study’s authors, Samuel Brown, William Gale and Adam Looney.

If the elimination of tax breaks starts with those affecting the top earners, the authors estimate, those earning under $200,000 a year will see their cash income fall by about 1.2 percent, as shown in the chart below. The very top earners — those earning more than $1 million a year — will by contrast see their cash income rise by 4.1 percent.

This analysis assumes that base-broadening -- eliminate of tax expenditures -- occurs “starting at the top” so that tax preferences are reduced or eliminated first for high-income taxpayers in order to make the resulting plan as progressive as possible.

This analysis assumes that base-broadening — elimination of tax expenditures — occurs “starting at the top” so that tax preferences are reduced or eliminated first for high-income taxpayers to make the resulting plan as progressive as possible.

Mitt Romney looked out the window as he chatted with the traveling press corps aboard his campaign's charter plane on Monday.

And still, all of the guys in the top 2-3% make out, while the rest of us get screwed as usual. Don’t vote for Mitt. Please.

 


Chickens Come Home to Roost on the Fiscal Cliff.

Erskine Bowles says that “U.S. policymakers will fail to deal with a sharp fiscal adjustment coming at the end of the year and risk sending the country spiraling into a disastrous recession.” 

Bowles is the former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, and co-author of the Simpson-Bowles plan, which was the hard-hitting fiscal responsibility recommendations that came out of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which President Obama commissioned in February of 2010.

The committee was comprised of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans and their charter was to devise a plan to cut the deficit to 3% from 9% and they did. Congress did what they usually do with responsible thinking, and ignored the recommendations.

At the end of the year, tax breaks, including the Bush-era tax cuts, expire, while automatic spending cuts kick in. The combination of the two occurring at the same time, known as “the fiscal cliff,” could siphon $500 billion out of the economy next year alone and $7 trillion over a decade, according to some estimates.

Congress must act to adjust the timing or scope of the fiscal adjustments, but likely won’t deal with tax and spending issues in an election year, says Bowles, co-chairman, along with Alan K. Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming.

“If I had to tell you the probability, I’d say the chances are 100% that we are going over the fiscal cliff. I hate to say it, but I think that’s probably right,” Bowles tells CNBC. “We worked hard to try to get common sense to overrule politics, and that’s a tough thing in Washington, and we failed.”

Most predict that Congress won’t address the fiscal cliff until next year after elections.

Then, the White House and Congress will likely work quickly to adjust tax hikes and spending cuts though retroactively from Jan. 1. If they don’t work fast, Bowles says, the country will slide back into a recession. He assumes we are not in one now. I guess this is due to the party line in D.C., that says we are in recovery. We have no retroactive remedies left. We are out of cash.

“If they don’t turn around very quickly and fix it shortly thereafter, then I think it could be really a disaster for the country. It’s $7 trillion worth of economic events. It will have an effect of 1.5 percent decline in GDP next year. That’s enough to put us back into a real recession,” Bowles says.

“This is not only the most predictable economic crisis in history, it’s the most avoidable if we just come together and put partisanship aside and pull together.”

Calling deficits “a cancer” Bowles says the country must work to improve its fiscal health.

“If you take last year, 100 percent of the revenue that came into the country, every nickel, every single dollar that came into the country last year, was spent on our mandatory spending and interest on the debt,” Bowles says.

“Mandatory spending is principally Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. What that means is every single dollar that we spent last year on these two wars, national defense, homeland security, education, infrastructure, high value-added research, every single dollar was borrowed and half of it was borrowed from foreign countries,” Bowles adds. “That is crazy. It’s a formula for failure in any organization.”

Simpson and Bowles made recommendations to narrow deficits, though President Barack Obama and members of Congress refused to follow up on the proposals.

Now is not the time to blame, Simpson says, as the problem of too much spending is decades old.

“People will often say, How did we get here? It’s easy how we got here. We were told to bring home the bacon for the last 70 years,” Simpson says. “Go get the highway, go get me some money, go raise this, do this and do that and you got re-elected by bringing home the bacon and now the pig is dead.”

I say the fiscal cliff is affecting the economy today, by fueling worries among businesses and increasing their reluctance to hire. “The biggest fear at the moment is that Europe will unravel, but concern that policymakers may let the nation go over the fiscal cliff is mounting,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, according to CNN Money. You bet it’s mounting.

Whatever Congress decides to do will be too late, and unlike in 2008, we have no more magic bullets left to make it go down the road. The chickens are coming home to roost.


Obama vs. Romney.

This time around, there is no great black hope, no chanting, “yes, we can.”, no Black-eyed Peas reminding us that the future can be different, if we are willing to elect a reasonable man or woman to the highest office in the land.

This time around, we have seen what 3+ years of a reasonable man can do in that office, and we are deflated, depressed and disenfranchised even further than we were under eight years of the Bush presidency. How could that be even possible?

Did we really just witness 3+ years of congress doing imitations of the ultimate fighting championships, promoted to kill any legislation that Obama was behind, just because he was behind it, regardless of its impact on the American people? Really? I thought the Clinton years were brutal, but those were kindergarten neener-neener nasty compared to this. And, they even included an impeachment.

I really can’t take any more of this. Even the thought of voting for Romney is crazy. Is that what people want? Back to No future III? The Bush years revisited, but with a Republican congress? You like this quarter’s jobs report? You’ll LOVE it under Romney. You like the state of housing? Romney will give you a boner. You like the cost of health care? Romney will make it even higher. You like social programs for those who are in trouble? Forget about it. You like rich guys being protected by the government and helped to get even richer? You will be in heaven.

Do we need to be reminded that our current predicament is the result of eight years of Bush policies? Really?

Deficit spending: higher under George Bush. Military spending: higher under George Bush. National Debt: higher under George Bush. Government employment: higher under George Bush. Pace of the increase in National debt: higher under George Bush. Authorization for  the biggest government handout in history: George Bush.

When Obama took office, the first thing he got to witness was the implementation of the most poorly thought out policy dictate in American history, an $887 billion bailout of the nation’s banks. Obama didn’t get a vote in this. It just was. And, guess what? It wasn’t enough. We needed to bail them out some more. Then, the banks hunkered down and we haven’t seen them since (except when trading derivatives and disclosing over-exposures to European trading partners). Credit? HA! You want credit? You get Yogi Berra credit. You can have all you want as long as you don’t need it. If you need it, you can’t have it.

Then the housing market crashed, but banks didn’t like the way they filled out those pesky loan documents, so they sort of delayed full disclosure on their exposures. Now, we all see their exposures and nobody likes it, especially the banks. Obama said, “Shouldn’t the banks be held to some accountability if we are going to keep them afloat?”, and congress laughed. That boy clearly doesn’t understand how the game is played, does he?

He tried to close Guantanamo like he promised, but congress said, “Hell no, boy. Don’t you understand people don’t want those ‘ragheads’ in their neighborhood prisons?” as if someone actually asked anybody what they wanted? Nope – not how it’s done.

He authorized a (relatively) small bailout for the auto industry and guess what happened? The industry is stronger now than it has ever been, and they all paid their loans back well before they were due. Detroit has jobs now. People are working in the auto industry again. Did you know that? Probably not, because Obama’s message seems to get drowned out in the air waves, or nobody seems to remember how bad it was, just 3 years ago. Or, how scary.

I think, based upon looking at the polls, people don’t remember anything that happened yesterday. This country polls hugely (above 65%) in favor of every component of what is now known as Obamacare, yet when asked whether they approve of Obamacare itself, they poll negative. How can that be? Oh, that’s right. The Kardashian’s are making $40 million a year and have renewed their insane reality show for another five years. Now, it all makes sense.

Obama tries to take credit for ridding the planet of the most dangerous terrorist that ever lived and people pretty much yawn.

What have you done for us lately, I guess? Seemed like a pretty big deal when Bush was in office. Whatever.

Jobs? Obama has clearly failed to create any new ones. But, when he actually does something to try and create new ones, he gets shot down in congress. The JOBS act struggled to get out of a Democratic controlled Senate with major revisions and is now stalled out in the SEC during implementation over petty issues surrounding accreditation of lenders. Come’ on, man! Is this what you people want?

How about at least prosecuting the ‘criminal’ banks? Are you kidding me? Not one banker does any jail time, yet they all played a major part in taking down the world’s financial system as we knew it, and it will probably get much worse. Instead, his AG gets rung up on contempt of congress on some nonsensical ATF screw-up that no one cares about, least of all the guys still looking for work in their 24th month of unemployment.

I mean really. This is what congress focuses on? This is way worse than re-arranging deck chairs while the Titanic sinks.

A couple of inherited wars? Obama ended one and has begun to end the other, meanwhile avoiding the “crazies” in Iran and their brinkmanship. Silly people; they want their own nuclear bomb just like the big guys. Where do they get off? Israel? The peace process grinds along and Obama has done as much or as little to placate all sides as anyone before him, while trying to keep the Israelis in a state of reason.  But, no way is Obama a tough war president like Bush or that Romney guy, both of whom are delighted to send our young men and women into harm’s way, particularly if there is oil or other stuff we want. National security, you know.

Health care? Never mind that he risked almost all of his political capital to usher in the most revolutionary health care reform bill in history, and the people LOVED it (see above), but he also frightened the living skittles out of the insurance companies and lobbyists at the same time. How many times has your health insurance premiums gone up in the last twelve months? There is a reason for that, and yes, we are on the path to a single payer health plan … unless, of course Romney gets elected. In that case, Obamacare will be overturned (though it will be interesting to see how he actually does this) and 33 million Americans can return to having no health care, along with all of the college students now on their parent’s plans for a few more years. Pre-existing conditions? Forgetaboutit.

And then there’s the economy. Give me a break. If this election is won or lost based on the economy, Obama is history. The economy is lousy now, hasn’t improved in the slightest in the last 4 years, and is about to get really bad. The only thing we can be sure of is that we are hopelessly overexposed to Europe, the European bankers are even bigger liars than our own bankers, and when the sizzle finally hits the fan, the US banks and the US economy will be a disaster. The recent jobs report will look the same or worse for the rest of the year. Housing hasn’t budged and won’t, except to fall even further. All of that, we can be sure of.

But, the election shouldn’t be won or lost based on the economy. Generally reasonable people should conclude that no one individual, especially the president of the US, can actually do anything to alter this course, and that many complex factors must resolve themselves before any of this can begin moving in the right direction. Factors that rely on individuals at the levers of power to do things that are in the interests of the general well-being of mankind, as opposed to their own private interests.

Fixing this mess will require that the Fed and Treasury break some rules and force bankers to do truly radical things like forgiving all of the bad mortgage debt, for openers. Stop collecting bad debts. Open their credit drawers to small businesses and returning vets and people who used to have good credit. In other words, pitch in and help.

Our current situation is in many ways, reminiscent of World War II. A small group of evil men determined to wreak havoc on the rest of global society with the fiercest and most treacherous means available at their disposal. But, instead, a few good men stood tall and acted like the statesmen they were, and inspired the rest of us to carry on and fight the good fight. And, they called for immense sacrifice.

We went without – a lot of stuff – for a long time. Rules were broken and changed. There were very few sacred cows untarnished. The future of the world was on the line. And, because of all of that, the people banded together and prevailed.

This election also needs to be about statesmanship and leadership.

We face three major disasters today — the first being fallout from the financial recession of 2008 with respect to the balance sheets of consumers and government entities. The collapse of housing prices destroyed trillions in family assets. The median net worth of families in the United States dropped by 39 percent over a three year period — from $126,000 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010 – leaving family wealth back where it was in 1992, two decades before.

Second, the housing collapse led to permanent damage to our financial and banking system. Banks are not making normal loans because they still have a lot of bad debt on the books and they are uncertain about future regulatory requirements, and global financial developments. As much as I hate them, they are doing what is right for their shareholders. But, what they are doing is wrong for the world.

And third, our enormous government debt breeds uncertainty. No one has any idea how we can pay this debt down, and especially when Congress continues to do their UFC imitations and seems completely unable to function.

And, we face one huge potential disruptor – the coming financial fallout from the impending collapse of most of Europe and many of their most prestigious banking institutions. This event will create panic, banking disasters, it will plunge the economy even deeper into chaos and cause even greater job loss.

We can avoid all of this, but it will require a summit like no other and leadership rarely witnessed in history. It will require that we throw away all convention and determine to start anew at whatever cost and whatever pain to those most heavily invested. I once asked the head of Levi Strauss’s Jeanswear division why they decided to stop shipping product to China and he said, “The Haas brothers don’t need any more money.” Well, I think that reasoning applies aptly to a lot of people in power today as well.

How can we stop all this?

Whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, Conservative, Liberal or Libertarian, we need to vote for a leader and a statesman. The only man running, who is capable of delivering speeches to raise the spirit and pride of the American people, who is driven by reason and not by politics, who can conjure the presence and will of Roosevelt and Churchill, Kennedy and Lincoln, and who can summon our courage and strength when we will need it most. There is only one who can bring global leaders to a summit and get them to do the hard things that must be done to put a stop to this spiral. There’s only one statesman running, and his name isn’t Mitt Romney.


A Martian Class in Presidential Politics.

Let’s just say for shits and giggles, that I have no dog in the Presidential hunt and that I think that Bush and Obama both made fine Presidents.

Let’s also say that I just dropped in from Mars and heard a bunch of people in a crowd complaining about how terrible Obama has been as President, and how he is a big government socialist, can’t create private sector jobs, is destroying the country and our future by raising our national debt to historic levels, and has created an environment where both business and Wall Street are suffering.

Then someone rushed out of the crowd and showed me these charts:

In this chart, the blue line is state government employment. The green line is local government employment. And the red line is private employment. Bush is on the left, Obama is on the right:

private sector bush obama

As you can see, under Obama, private employment snapped back much better than it did during Bush’s first year.

State and local government employment, however, fell much harder under Obama than it did under Bush.

This is of course, exactly the opposite of the big government socialist stereotype that the Obama economy is portrayed as, but hey.

And here, just for the hell of it, is the same chart but with the performance of the S&P 500 (in orange) during each period:

image

Here’s a chart with the National Debt growth in it, represented by the black line. As you can see, the national debt has grown a little bit faster under Obama, but hardly any faster than under Bush, and the trajectory is almost identical:

image

Class over.


Crowdfunding Needs To Go On The Warpath!

I cannot believe the opposition to the Crowdfunding component of the JOBS act. This is a classic case of government lifers protecting their turf.  

President Obama sent a strong message by signing the JOBS Act: This administration wants to actively participate in job creation, revive the American entrepreneurial spirit, and maximize the opportunities that modern technology can offer small business owners.

And the best part: It doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime. Just by cutting regulations, the JOBS Act energizes and modernizes an age-old formula. It’s simple: More funding for start-ups = more jobs. Kauffman Foundation’s research is clear:  All net new jobs in the last 30 years come from businesses fewer than five years old. Stimulating and enabling start-ups is the key to stimulating the job market.

The Crowdfunding opponents’ main objections? Fraud.

The SEC, along with several state securities regulators are “worried” that innocent, unsophisticated investors will be bilked by unscrupulous system gamers and scam artists. They actually equate this new frontier to the Wild West. Nothing could be further from the truth. And, by the way, this is the same SEC and state securities regulators that somehow missed Bernie Madoff, JPMorgan Chase, Lehman, AIG and Goldman-Sax, to name but a few. Are these the agencies that we want “protecting” us from predatory investors and scam artists? I think not.

Here’s a few reasons why their “concerns” are poorly grounded:

First, the SEC has another nine months in which to establish all sorts of regulations that will surely protect investors from fraudulent schemes. But, the best protection is baked right into the essence of Crowdfunding itself. That is, the crowds will ferret out any semblance of fraud and broadly report it before any investors have an opportunity to participate. The best example of this behavior can be seen by examining the recent Facebook IPO.

Within hours of the offering, millions of bloggers and reporters took to the airwaves reporting on the botched IPO, and this was “carefully” managed by people like JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and the like. Imagine how quickly that information would have been disseminated were an actual crowd participating online.

Second, we have a lot of actual Crowdfunding history to dispel the notion of fraud. Indiegogo, for example, has been around for over a year and has distributed millions of dollars every month – losing less than 1% to fraud.

Third, that tiny fraud rate is not mere coincidence. Rather, it’s based on very specific efforts. From the very start of a campaign, today’s Crowdfunding sites capture relevant information from both campaign owners and campaign funders. Online tools constantly screen funding campaigns using a fraud algorithm built on hundreds of thousands of transactions (similar to PayPal, MasterCard, and eBay).

Finally, the realities of Crowdfunding limit fraud as well – as typically the first 30-40% of funds contributed are from friends and family, providing social proof before new investors come on board. Quite understandably, strangers are reticent to fund empty campaigns. And beyond fraud, there are additional information rights and investor protections written into the JOBS Act.

Setting the fraud concerns aside, the benefits associated with Crowdfunding are unique, and in addition to creating lots of jobs and potential wealth, the upside is huge:

1. Projects that begin through online Crowdfunding have built-in risk mitigation. That’s because the public nature of the solicitations forces transparency regarding demand for the product or service.

2. The Crowdfunding process facilitates marketing efforts even before a new company is operational. It provides an opportunity to test the message – after all, the whole process of securing funding involves social media networking, marketing, and brand-positioning.

3. The very nature of starting a business through an online platform provides exposure to potential customers that a bank loan doesn’t. It provides open access to anyone, anywhere, and is shared with like-minded friends through social media.

4. The data-collection inherent in online interactive activity provides new businesses with critical information. Brick and mortar businesses struggle to obtain data about existing customers – let alone prospects. The Crowdfunding world provides that data instantly and in volumes large enough to draw statistical conclusions.

5. Crowdfunding provides young businesses and ideas with money to launch those ideas.

6. Crowdfunding allows average Joes and Janes access to startups and opportunity to invest and become part of the next Facebook, Google or cool Indie film debuting at Sundance.

These guys (Pebble) raised $7 million in two weeks before they shut down the fundraising on KickStarter and are now making these cool smart-watches that work with iPhones and Androids. Now, of course, the very Venture Capitalists who turned them down and dying to throw money at them. In addition, they have created a development platform for smart-watch applications, which guess what, creates lots of new jobs. If this had happened after Crowdfunding for equity was lawful (next February) the investors would each own a piece of this company – now they just get a watch instead.

We are not the same society that we were in the 1930s when the Securities Act of 1933 was written into law. That act prohibited anyone worth less than $1,000,000 from investing in privately held companies. 

This is 2012. We have the Internet. We have news on a 24/7 cycle. We all use Facebook, Twitter and many of us Blog and Pin and send Instagrams. We are social networking junkies. We insist on authenticity and we love to share. The JOBS act acknowledges the changing world and is an attempt to reflect today’s realities in the world of investing and business creation.

The JOBS Act is a natural evolution of President Obama’s Startup America agenda. And perhaps nothing speaks to the value of Crowdfunding better than the successful businesses – and jobs they created – that owe their existence to the short history of Crowdfunding. Let’s all get behind this and make sure that the law, as passed is what we are going to get next February and not some crazy, restricted version that defeats the whole purpose.


Lies, Damn Lies, and Republican Lies.

Do we have a dream team here? Ready for slashed spending? Are we scared yet?

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan appear to be basing their 2012 Presidential campaign upon the theory that Obama is a tax and spend President and that his “runaway spending” policies have been responsible for the biggest deficit and the fastest growing national debt in the history of the country.

The Republican ad machine tells us that were we to re-elect him, we would be endorsing more of the same, as well as increased spending for entitlements, that would push the deficit to historic levels and cost more jobs while creating an even larger national debt.

Oddly, the actual facts tell a very different story. Compared to George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, Obama’s record in office shows that he has embraced fiscal conservatism more than any other president in recent history, with the exception of fellow Democrat Bill Clinton.

Economics Professor Mark Thoma provides a helpful chart on his blog that puts President Obama’s per capita spending into context, comparing it with the spending of every president in the last 40 years:

The data is going to be difficult for Obama’s critics, who have spent years hammering his administration for record spending and fiscal irresponsibility. The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson put it best: “Going by federal expenditures…it would seem that if Obama’s a socialist, Ronald Reagan is Karl Marx with an ICBM.”

Here’s a look at  public sector employment during the Obama Expanding Government era; the 1981, 1990 and 2001 recessions were under Reagan, Bush I and Bush II. The red line is the 2007 Obama recession:

Or, how about a look at Obama’s big-government policies in action. They should have led to a massive growth in our bureaucracy, right? Well, believe it or not, there have been 607,000 jobs lost in the public sector, largely from state and local cutbacks due to no federal aid. Here’s what that looks like:

I could go on, and there are endless charts that all say the same thing, no matter how you slice and dice the data. This guy is a conservative.

At the end of the day, it is really, truly time for the myth about Big Spender Obama to die. If anything, it is remarkable that, after the worst recession in history and a private sector implosion, the public sector expanded less under this administration than it did under Bush or Reagan. Them’s the facts.


Our National Debt.

Similar to what’s going on in Spain, Ireland and Greece,

the United States is trying to focus its budget on austerity measures rather than on growth. Growth, in the case of the U.S. means revenue growth – otherwise known as tax increases. God forbid!

The US Senate unanimously rejected President Barack Obama’s proposed 2013 budget Wednesday and shot down a series of Republican alternatives, assuring a prolonged election-year fiscal battle.

“With more than 500 members of Congress opposing his budget — and not a single one willing to support it — this president’s failures of leadership and fiscal responsibility are obvious to everyone,” Romney’s policy director Lanhee Chen said.

The president’s budget blueprint presented in February contained some $4 trillion in deficit reductions by 2022, combining tax increases for the rich with spending caps on some agencies. But, this wasn’t enough for the Republicans. Or, more to the point, it gave the Republicans the tax increase ammunition they needed to shoot it down.

An alternative Republican plan put forward this year by Representative Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, called for balancing the budget over three decades in part by deeply cutting some social safety services and reforming entitlement programs like Medicare. This plan wasn’t enough for the Democrats, who steadfastly protect social security and so-called entitlement programs with their political lives.

Of course, neither plan garnered any serious votes.

Democratic Senator Carl Levin said the Ryan plan “does not address what budget experts of all ideological stripes tell us we must address: the need for additional revenues.”

The deadly third rail of American politics continues to be tax increases. Even the Democrats won’t explain the very simple truth about this. If we want to continue to make good on the contracts with the American worker called Social Security and Medicare, we must raise taxes, cut spending elsewhere, or increase Federal revenue. We saw how painful and difficult it was to pass a simple JOBS act which is now drowning in the SEC. We’re not going to find many other job creation or revenue opportunities elsewhere, so cutting non-entitlement spending or raising taxes, or both, seems to be the obvious answer.

Although, as those who have seen the movie, “Titanic” can attest, obvious is relative.

So, let’ see. We have a $15.7 Trillion U.S. debt, which is now over 100% of GDP and upon which we pay interest of $454 Billion every year. In other words, our INTEREST payments are over half of our entire military budget, which is the largest in the world and over 5 times that of our nearest competitor, China.

I think we can all see where this is going. My simple explanation yesterday about families that carry $30,000 in credit card debt at 30% interest taking 15 years and $110,000 to pay that off should illuminate the problem. We could just print money. Or, we could just drop the whole partisan thing and do our freaking jobs!

Budgets that fail to make tough compromises between Democrats and Republicans may please the party faithful. They won’t, however, get us out of the deep fiscal hole both parties have had a hand in digging.

Compromises need to be made between competing priorities. No one can expect to get everything they want — with the other side making all the concessions. Moreover, those compromises must involve the thorniest points of contention: health care, Social Security, and taxes. They must also add up to substantial and sustained deficit reduction, not just a temporary fix.

The prescription for deficit reduction from Bowles and Simpson (who got it right by the way), who served as co-chairmen of the president’s bipartisan fiscal commission, begins with the premise that everything must be on the table: domestic spending, defense, entitlements, and revenues.

After the November presidential election, the Obama administration and Congress will have less than two months to make crucial decisions on taxes and the budget that could seriously hinder or help the country’s economic recovery.

What do you guess will be the outcome?


High-Yellow Trash.

Now that Obama has come right out and said he supports Gay marriage, the Republican Party must be beside itself. The issues that they want to keep front and center,i.e., “Economy and Jobs under Obama’s Presidency.” have taken a back seat for at least the last couple of days and now seem destined to remain there, in the wake of related equality stories emerging everywhere.

It seems we need to discuss whether marriage has ever meant anything other than between one man and one woman. We have religious leaders reminding us that the bible has stated clearly that the definition of marriage is one man and one woman, but fail to account for the Old Testament, where it states clearly its preference for many hundreds of wives and concubines for a man and often many husbands for a woman.

It also spells out very specifically that if the man refuses to care for his wives, they are free to leave, but of course, without any compensation. Clearly, this “law” wasn’t written in California. But, to be fair, the same law applies to women who refuse to care for their men. I actually think it is a Nevada law; do not get divorced in Nevada.

I guess all of these men of the cloth have chosen their own version of the bible when it comes to specific issues. And, Romney’s church? I think his own Grandfather had a few wives and Mitt, denounced this practice as barbaric, in a separate interview, forgetting apparently that his own family … oh well.

In January, a coalition of some 40 religious leaders, encompassing several faiths, released an open letter warning of the peril of legalizing same-sex unions. And this week, as we have seen, conservatives celebrated a victory in North Carolina, where voters banned same-sex unions by a 3-1 vote. Many of these voters were African-American, who generally share strong views against same-sex marriage. Bishop Harry Jackson, the African-American founder of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, says gay marriage is not a civil rights issue, but fundamentally about redefining the institution of marriage. He thinks the president has miscalculated his clout with the black faith community, which tends to skew conservative on social issues like gay marriage.

“We are concerned that this is a bridge too far. I think it will backlash on the president,” he said.

But not all black religious leaders agree. Bishop Leonard Goin, who heads a Pentecostal congregation in Philadelphia, said in published reports that although he doesn’t support the president’s views on same-sex marriage, he doesn’t think it will give black voters cause to vote against Obama in November.

The bottom line, says Tony Evans of Oak Cliff Bible Church in Dallas, is that the fight over gay marriage goes much deeper than equal rights or political maneuvering. It’s about the fundamental building blocks of the country.

I wonder whether he, like so many of his Southern brethren are referring to the similar fundamental building blocks illustrated so vividly in the history of his region’s racial past. Maybe this passage from James Lee Burke’s Half of Paradise would be a good reminder of some fundamental building blocks that his ancestors used to build the South as we know it today. The same South that just overwhelmingly passed a constitutional ban on Gay Marriage.

                 “Who are you running against?” J.P. Said.

                “Jacob Arceneaux from New Orleans,” Lathrop said. “He’s French and he’s Catholic, and he’ll take most of the parishes in the southern part of the state unless we swing them              over.”

                “How are you going to do that?”

               “Nigger politics,” Virdo Hunnicut said. “Arceneaux has a reputation as a nigger lover. He hasn’t tried to stop the nigger kids from getting in the white schools, and it’s going to hurt him.”

                “We’re running on the segregation ticket,” Lathrop said. “We’re going to show these people in southern Louisiana what will happen when Arceneaux gets in office. Their children will be mixing with the colored children, and pretty soon they won’t be able to tell one from another. The future generations will be one race of high-yellow trash.”

 

There are some of those fundamental building blocks for you. High-yellow trash. This is the actual genesis of the anti-gay-marriage vote, for those of you having trouble understanding how this can happen in a country where 50% of those polled support gay marriage. Fear and ignorance are just as frightening today as they were back in 1957. It’s the same board, just different players. But, we make progress. Sort-of.


Get Over IT!

NC votes on constitutional ban on gay marriage today.

Why in God’s name (good place to start) are we having a National Debate over Gay Marriage?

Today, the great state of North Carolina may become the next state to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman. Right. DEFINING marriage as some state that can only exist between a man and a woman. No man and dog, no woman and woman, no dog and dog (although that would really piss off my Basenjis who think they are already married), but yes, only between a man and a woman.

So, starting with the God thing, a constitutional amendment that essentially defines who may love another is really not in keeping with Christian or Buddhist or Muslim (even) values. Biblical? YES! Of course. Same book that is big on an eye for an eye, and incest and sodomy. No surprise there, but Christian? Not so much. I just don’t see God showing up at the voting booths in North Carolina today and pulling the lever for a constitutional amendment that keeps people from loving each other. I don’t see God showing up at the voting booths in North Carolina at all today, but that’s another story.

North Carolina was one of a few southern states to adopt and prosecute the “feeble-minded” under the science umbrella of eugenics which was finally outlawed in 1979 (along with the invention of cell phones, the Walkman and roller-blades), and as recently as 2011 we’re still debating recompense for the remaining families of those put to death under the aegis of eugenics. Otherwise, a really nice state with some gorgeous golf courses and the home of a former Senator and candidate for the Presidency, presently on trial for fraud, who had lots in common with Jay McInerney, and it wasn’t good wine.

So, I believe in God and I believe in Bill Maher and Barak Obama. Of the three, only Barak is a) willing to visit the state, and b) unwilling to say out loud that he supports Gay Marriage.

But, to paraphrase a Greg Allman line, North Carolina don’t need ya’ around anyhow, ‘cause they have lots of supporters of the amendment, who have responded with marches, television ads and speeches, including one by Jay Bakker, son of late televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker and the Rev. Billy Graham, who though dead,  was featured in full-page newspaper ads backing the amendment.

Yeah! That’s right, by God! And, people like this Italian-Jew bitch from New York ain’t helping matters by pushing it in your face. This Lady-Gaga, or whatever … making every homo think that this world belongs to them. Or, wait. Was that Madonna? Or, no … David Bowie, I think. Or, that faggot Bob Dylan … or, maybe it was Elvis?

Obama has said for the past year and a half that his personal views on the matter are “evolving.” His election-year vagueness on gay marriage is now coming under fresh scrutiny of course.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan broke ranks with the White House on Monday (there he is, letting Obama go for the rebound … faggot!), stating his unequivocal support for same-sex marriage one day after Vice President Joe Biden said he is “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex married couples getting the same rights at heterosexual married couples, which is not quite the same as supporting gay marriage, but you know Joe. Obama will also be the only person at tonight’s George Clooney dinner who hasn’t said openly that he supports gay marriage, but everyone who will vote for him knows he does, so it is OK.

Well, if that is OK, then don’t all the people who aren’t going to vote for him also know that he is a gay-lover? I mean, you can’t not vote for the guy twice can you?

This whole debate is much ado about nothing, isn’t it? Unless you happen to be gay, I suppose. I mean don’t all reasonable people agree that the government has no business making laws governing the marital or relationship choices people make, or how many babies they choose to have, or how many French fries or pizzas they consume, or what sort of sex they practice in their bedrooms, or which God they fear or worship, or which movies they see, or baseball teams they root for? Huh?

We have no problem invading other countries and blowing people up, combatants and innocent woman and children alike, destroying their homes and animals in the defense of our access to their oil, but when it comes to allowing two members of the same sex to join in matrimony, we amend the constitution to prevent it? We pass laws to limit the purchase of handguns to one per month per family, but a woman can’t marry another woman? The same country that allows the sale and unlimited consumption of 100 proof alcohol, but punishes the sale and consumption of a gram of Marijuana with long jail sentences, debates the passage of a law allowing men to marry other men? Notice anything out of place here?

The media tells us that one fault line that could determine the result is generational. Older voters, who tend to be more reliable voters, are expected to back the amendment. State House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican from a Charlotte suburb, said even if the amendment is passed, it will be reversed as today’s young adults’ age. “It’s a generational issue,” Tillis told a student group at North Carolina State University in March about the amendment he supports. “If it passes, I think it will be repealed within 20 years.” So, hell, what is everyone worried about? We all know it will be repealed. Its ONLY 20 years!

Those who oppose changing the traditional definition of marriage to include gays and lesbians said the amendment is the only chance average people have to weigh in.

“In other states, judges have redefined marriage, without a vote of the people. That’s happened in California, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts,” said Tami Fitzgerald, who heads the pro-amendment group Vote FOR Marriage NC. “The origin of marriage is from God, and I think most people in our state know that.” I’m sure they do Tami, I’m sure they do.


Gas Prices. Who’s Your Daddy?

If you listened to Romney’s stump speeches, you would think he is the “people’s” champion for lower gas prices.

Who ARE these people?

His supporters like “Drill-baby” McCain, have been trying to convince us for years that the simplest and fastest way to lower gas prices is to drill everywhere we can fit an oil rig in the U.S. His message is that Obama is a weak leader, influenced only by his elite, leftist, Harvard-educated friends, and that left to his devices, we will continue to kiss environmentalist behinds and keep the price of gas in the $4-5/gallon range forever.

Because after all, $5 gas is no sweat to Obama and his friends. McCain and Romney are only looking out for you, the little guy.

It turns out that high gas prices aren’t actually a problem for Romney either. They are in fact a a boon to his political fortunes.

Using the little guy’s pain at the pump for political purposes, is not the only way he and McCain et al, benefit from high gas prices. Big oil interests are among his most reliable and significant supporters — and when gas prices are high, so are their profits.

These record profits give oil executives even more cash than usual to spend on advancing their political agenda — and that begins with electing Romney. In fact, Big Oil executives pledged more than $200 million to aid Romney’s campaign, and to defeat Obama.

The quid pro quo? Big oil gets to keep its billions in special tax breaks every year. So not only does the little guy pay once – at the pump – but he gets to pay twice through his income taxes, some of which goes to subsidize an industry where the top 5 companies earned $137 billion in profits last year!

In keeping with a time-honored tradition, Big-oil has managed to get Harold Hamm, a billionaire oil executive appointed as Romney’s top energy adviser. This is the same Harold Hamm who declared in 2009 that cheap oil would be a “disaster,” and that “clean energy is a magical fantasy”.

Romney actually gets passionate about oil and gas prices. At a recent town hall meeting, he responded to a question about high gas prices by asserting that efforts to reduce the billions in tax breaks for big oil companies are “dangerous”, and described Paul Ryan’s budget which protects the oil subsidies while eliminating clean energy investments as a “bold and exciting effort.” This was followed by a Fox News debate in which he said that oil and gas executives tell him they had it “a whole lot better” under fellow oilman George W. Bush. You think?

It gets better. Instead of tapping American ingenuity to make our cars go farther on a gallon of gas, Romney has continually blasted improved fuel-efficiency standards — including the higher standards that Bush signed into law as president. He has declared that U.S. clean energy sources — like wind and solar power — are not “real energy,” and that burgeoning green technologies are nothing more than “expensive fads.” He thumbed his nose at the U.S. auto industry by mocking Chevy’s hybrid electric Volt as “an idea whose time has not come.”

Looks pretty cool to me!

Romney’s mutual admiration relationship with Big Oil comes down to this: Oil company executives see high gas prices as an opportunity to profit financially. Romney sees that high gas prices represent an opportunity to profit politically.

Rachel Maddow had an interesting chart on her “Chart Imitates Life” segment last night which depicted the relationship between income inequality and political partisanship in Congress as two lines almost hugging each other from the 1940’s until now.

    

The next time you slide your credit card into that gas pump, give a thought to that chart and to Romney’s true sympathies. He may want to bet you $10,000 that gas won’t go to $5/gallon this year. If Obama’s ahead in the polls, take it!

 


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