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Obama’s Solution To Deficit: Spending Cuts, Tax Increases, Few Specifics, But A Clear Roadmap For 2012

The President spoke before an audience of mostly college students this afternoon and outlined his plan to attack America’s budget deficits by cutting $4 trillion over the next twelve years. The problem is, he didn’t really offer many specifics and the speech seemed more like that opening salvo of a political campaign than a call for all parties to come together and attack a serious problem before it gets worse:

WASHINGTON — President Obama called for cutting the nation’s budget deficits by $4 trillion over the next 12 years on Wednesday, countering Republican budget plans with what he said was a more balanced approach that relies in part on tax increases for the wealthy as well as on spending cuts.

In a 43-minute speech that serves as the administration’s opening bid for negotiations over the nation’s fiscal future, Mr. Obama conceded a need to cut spending, rein in the growth of entitlement programs and close tax loopholes.

But he also insisted that the government must maintain what he called investment in programs that are necessary to compete globally. And he made clear that, despite his compromise with Congressional leaders in December, he would fight Republicans to end lowered tax rates for wealthy Americans that have been in place since President George W. Bush championed them in the last decade.

“There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires,” Mr. Obama said of budget proposals put forward by Republicans in the House. “There’s nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill. And this is not a vision of the America I know.”

Mr. Obama made clear in his remarks, delivered at George Washington University, that he would oppose the Republicans’ proposals, which he said include unprecedented cuts to Medicare and could lead to millions fewer Americans with health care coverage and seniors paying thousands of dollars more. Mr. Obama offered an impassioned defense of the popular Medicare and Medicaid programs. “We are a better country because of these commitments,” he said. “I’ll go further — we would not be a great country without those commitments.”

To the likely disappointment of some of his most liberal supporters, though, Mr. Obama signaled that he agreed with Republicans about the need to cut spending.

He acknowledged that some people would oppose cutting spending now, “mostly folks in my party,” the president said. “I’m sympathetic to this view, which is one of the reasons I supported the payroll tax cuts we passed in December. It’s also why we have to use a scalpel and not a machete to reduce the deficit.

“But doing nothing on the deficit is just not an option,” he said.

One of the few areas where the President did get specific is on taxes, where he made it clear that he would not agree to once again extend the so-called “Bush tax cuts” for high income earners:

In December, I agreed to extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans because it was the only way I could prevent a tax hike on middle-class Americans. But we cannot afford $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire in our society. And I refuse to renew them again.

The President also talked about reforming the tax code, but, again, only with respect to the so-called “rich”:

Beyond that, the tax code is also loaded up with spending on things like itemized deductions. And while I agree with the goals of many of these deductions, like homeownership or charitable giving, we cannot ignore the fact that they provide millionaires an average tax break of $75,000 while doing nothing for the typical middle-class family that doesn’t itemize.

My budget calls for limiting itemized deductions for the wealthiest 2% of Americans – a reform that would reduce the deficit by $320 billion over ten years. But to reduce the deficit, I believe we should go further. That’s why I’m calling on Congress to reform our individual tax code so that it is fair and simple – so that the amount of taxes you pay isn’t determined by what kind of accountant you can afford. I believe reform should protect the middle class, promote economic growth, and build on the Fiscal Commission’s model of reducing tax expenditures so that there is enough savings to both lower rates and lower the deficit. And as I called for in the State of the Union, we should reform our corporate tax code as well, to make our businesses and our economy more competitive.

Obviously, this part of the President’s plan is not going over well with Republicans:

Fresh from a White House briefing with President Barack Obama, top Republican congressional leaders made one thing clear ahead of the president’s speech on the deficit: They won’t raise taxes and renegotiate the deal they made last year to extend Bush-era tax cuts.

“I think the president heard us loud and clear. We’re willing to resolve our differences and do something meaningful but raising taxes will not be part of it,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who attended the meeting with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

McConnell described the roughly one-hour meeting as “constructive,” saying both sides managed to “put talking points aside” to have a real debate on how to reduce spending. But Cantor said the only concrete proposal he heard from Obama Wednesday was a plan to raise taxes.

“I find that very unacceptable,” Cantor said. “We don’t believe that raising taxes is the answer here.”

As I noted earlier today, I think that the GOP is making a mistake by refusing the even talk about revenue increases as part of an comprehensive plan to attack the deficit. The President did talk about reforming the individual and corporate tax codes in his speech, and this strikes me as an area where the parties could find common ground if only the GOP would tone down its anti-tax orthodoxy.

Moreover, the President’s decision to draw a line in the sand over the issue of further extensions of the Bush tax cuts for the “rich,” is a purely political move that’s likely to work to his advantage. Polling before the December tax cut debate by CBS News, Gallup, Bloomberg, and CNN all showed broad support for the idea of allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for those earning more than $250,000 per year. This is, quite honestly, a winning issue for the President and one that he could have won on if he’d chosen to make a fight out of it back in December. Of course, the fact that he didn’t fight back then and instead backtracked on his own campaign promise to let the Bush tax cuts expire for everyone is likely to make the GOP think he’s bluffing this time around. If he’s not, though, this issue could have an interesting impact on the 2012 race.

The other part of the President’s speech that has implications for 2012 is the fact that he directly attacked the Paul Ryan Path To Prosperity without naming the Congressman, and instead is clearly making the bet that the American public doesn’t necessarily want to give up the Federal Government they’ve become used to:

From our first days as a nation, we have put our faith in free markets and free enterprise as the engine of America’s wealth and prosperity. More than citizens of any other country, we are rugged individualists, a self-reliant people with a healthy skepticism of too much government.

But there has always been another thread running throughout our history – a belief that we are all connected; and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation. We believe, in the words of the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, that through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves. And so we’ve built a strong military to keep us secure, and public schools and universities to educate our citizens. We’ve laid down railroads and highways to facilitate travel and commerce. We’ve supported the work of scientists and researchers whose discoveries have saved lives, unleashed repeated technological revolutions, and led to countless new jobs and entire industries. Each of us has benefitted from these investments, and we are a more prosperous country as a result.

Part of this American belief that we are all connected also expresses itself in a conviction that each one of us deserves some basic measure of security. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, hard times or bad luck, a crippling illness or a layoff, may strike any one of us. “There but for the grace of God go I,” we say to ourselves, and so we contribute to programs like Medicare and Social Security, which guarantee us health care and a measure of basic income after a lifetime of hard work; unemployment insurance, which protects us against unexpected job loss; and Medicaid, which provides care for millions of seniors in nursing homes, poor children, and those with disabilities. We’re a better country because of these commitments. I’ll go further – we would not be a great country without those commitments.

Republicans will call this “socialism,” but it’s actually just the New Deal and the Great Society, both of which have been around for at least a generation now. While I could spend several blog posts pointing out the economic inefficiencies that most of these programs have created, or their Constitutional problems, the fact of the matter is that these programs are generally accepted now, and nearly every effort to radically transform them has been rejected out of hand. President Obama is betting that the American people want these programs to stick around in largely their present form, and he’s probably right. The fact that we’re fast approaching the point where we might no longer to be able to afford this safety net we’ve all become used to ? Well that’s just an unpleasant fact that we won’t talk about right now.

What this means for 2012 is quite simple. President Obama’s speech today wasn’t really about responding to Paul Ryan. Everyone knows that Ryan’s plan isn’t going to be adopted, at least not under this Congress and President. What this is all about is laying the ground work for 2012 and what promises to be the starkest debate over the role of government in American life that we’ve seen since the 1980′s. Or at least, that’s what I’d like to hope we’ll see.

 

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Chad S says:

    Simple idea: repeal Bush tax cuts. Nothing else. We would remove a lot of the spending over the next 15 years.

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  2. G.A. Phillips says:

    The Plan:Say hope and change, blame Bush, and play golf…oh, and waste money at it….

    See, I am a prophet!

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  3. Axel Edgren says:

    Realclearpolitics and Hugh Hewitt hate it. As a human, I am compelled to like it very much.

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  4. Wayne says:

    The Speech was a joke. He said he want to cut spending but not cut spending. He gave no plan or specifics on how to do so. The closest he comes is once again cutting so call “wasteful” spending in the military. Shouldn’t wasteful spending always be cut? Of course Obama like many liberals probably thinks almost all spending on the military is wasteful.

    Now of curse he wants to try to raise revenues by raising taxes but that is not the same as spending cuts. Plus he wants to spend more than the unrealistic hope in increase in revenue that liberals think we would get.

    What is this, “we will give you specifics once we have a chance to review it”. What has Obama been doing the last 2 ½ years as President and prior to that as Senator? Maybe he has been golfing, taking vacations or campaigning. What was the whole deficit commission about if not to review the deficit? He is always kicking the can down the road. What a complete incompetent leaderless idiot.

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  5. michael reynolds says:

    The meat of it, paraphrasing, was this: The Republicans think tax cuts for rich people are so important they’ll let you or your grandma go without medical care.

    And he’s right. That is Ryan’s plan.

    Give the American people a choice between someone like me paying 4% more on the one hand, and kids with long-term health issues going untreated, and grandma being bankrupted and forced into a substandard nursing home before she dies, and guess how that comes out?

    You were right, Doug: suicidally stupid of Republicans to talk tax cuts for the well-off while we’re talking about screwing old people and children and cutting off scholarships. Boom, and Obama plants a hard one of Ryan’s manly chin, and down goes Ryan.

    Good luck to the GOP peddling that line of goods.

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  6. mantis says:

    Give the American people a choice between someone like me paying 4% more

    But only on your income over $250,000, I would note. Will you survive?

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  7. Tlaloc says:

    According to the CBO repealing the bush tax cuts would cut 3.3 trillion out of the debt, almost a third of the total debt. So just how serious are republicans about the “impending debt catastrophe”?

    …thought so.

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  8. michael reynolds says:

    mantis:

    I will somehow manage.

    Will I be happy about it? April 13 with emails from my accountant stacked in a queue is not a great time to answer that question. But I would rather have my tax rates go back up to Clinton era rates than see kids and old people and poor people go without medical care, or my country go without things we need done.

    Despite the GOP assumption that everyone who makes a good living is a greed machine indifferent to everything but their own bank account, I suspect a lot of people in the bracket would agree with me. Maybe even most.

    I know that I am the beneficiary of luck (as well as hard work) and I know that I am a member of a society and not an entirely disconnected individual. So I’ll eat the 4%. (I will bitch a little.)

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  9. hey norm says:

    Again…If Ryan’s plan to abolish Medicare is so great why are we waiting ten years to do it? Why not now? Anyone have a serious answer?
    Wayne (above) says something about kicking the can down the road. Why is Ryan running up the debt for ten years before closing down Medicare? And how is that not kicking the can down the road?

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  10. Eric Florack says:

    The meat of it, paraphrasing, was this: The Republicans think tax cuts for rich people are so important they’ll let you or your grandma go without medical care.

    And he’s right. That is Ryan’s plan.

    And you yell “fear mongering”? PLease.
    Look, Gang, the So-called “Rich” are already shouldering around 90% of the tax burden. So, Obama overspends on an order of scale, and his response isn’t to cut spending, but to go further in his redistributionist wet-dreams? His reax is to cut into funds that would have been used to fund an economic recovery?

    Yeah, that’ll work, huh?

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  11. Hey Norm says:

    Eric…
    The wealthy do not shoulder 90% of the tax burden. The fact that you think that shows why there cannot be a serious conversation about the budget.

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  12. Andyman says:

    @Eric,

    How is it that when rich people spend money, it funds an economic recovery, but when governments (read: the contractors and citizens that the gov’t disburses it to) spend money, it just gets wasted? I don’t think there are two types of aggregate demand based on how conservatively pure the source of the cash is.

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  13. Hey Norm says:

    Oh yeah….and the lions share of the debt is due to the previous administration. Pull out two unpaid for wars, the Medicare expansion that wasn’t paid for, and tax cuts to the wealthy without offsetting spending cuts, and the interest on all that borrowemoneyman, and what do you have left of the debt?

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  14. Hey Norm says:

    Borrowemoneyman? Auto correct cracks me up…

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  15. Rock says:

    “Give the American people a choice between someone like me paying 4% more …”

    I think that you can write a check to The Treasury of the United States for 4% more or any amount you think will make you feel better about not paying enough. Anyone who believes they don’t pay enough taxes may do so any time. The Treasury may even accept money orders for anonymous payments for all I know. Try it. Mail it to them and after they cash your check, do you think they will call you and ask why you donated the money? Will they thank you? Will they return it? I don’t think so.

    This after I sent in my tax return this morning. Sigh.

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  16. michael reynolds says:

    I’m always struck by the resentment people like Eric feel on my behalf. I say I’m fine paying, he’s outraged.

    I mean, really, what kind of mind is that?

    Maybe Eric can come with me next time I go out to eat and he can berate the waiters on my behalf. “Reynolds can’t pay $18 for a piece of fish! That’s an outrage!”

    What is with these people? Working class guys just desperate to make sure I keep my 4% (actually 2% by the time it all shakes out.) Acting like their world is going to disintegrate if I pony up another ten grand or whatever. Do they not get that 10 grand is far less painful to me than the thousands coming from some sick old fart in a nursing home?

    I mean, at least the sheer greed heads like Drew have some basis for emotional involvement. It’s his money. I may think he’s a jerk, but at least he’s not a vicarious jerk.

    What a sick, twisted, bizarre mindset. “F**k my sick grandmother, I need to make sure Reynolds holds onto every penny.”

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  17. michael reynolds says:

    Rock:

    And did you actually pay anything in actual income tax? Or are you like Eric, who I guarantee you does not?

    I think that you can write a check to The Treasury of the United States for 4% more or any amount you think will make you feel better about not paying enough.

    Right. Because guilt is the only possible motivation. It couldn’t be that I love my country and want to help her prosper. Or that I care about my fellow Americans. Or that I’m grateful to have landed in a position where I can make a nice living and feel an obligation to help others less lucky than myself.

    It would have to be misplaced guilt.

    Wow.

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  18. Steve Verdon says:

    I’m always struck by the resentment people like Eric feel on my behalf. I say I’m fine paying, he’s outraged.

    Do you pay extra now? If not, then perhaps you aren’t so fine with it.

    It couldn’t be that I love my country and want to help her prosper. Or that I care about my fellow Americans. Or that I’m grateful to have landed in a position where I can make a nice living and feel an obligation to help others less lucky than myself.

    Then pay extra. Go ahead, do it now. Get out your check book and send them some more money. Why must you be compelled to do these things if they are what you truly want to do?

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  19. john personna says:

    You can quote “rich” as many times as you want … well I suppose it will fool some of the people.

    The bottom line really is that the Bush Tax cuts were a stimulus idea, and one that failed. They did not pay for themselves. They are therefore not justified. Pretty simple. No need for scare-quotes.

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  20. Steve Verdon says:

    Right. Because guilt is the only possible motivation. It couldn’t be that I love my country and want to help her prosper. Or that I care about my fellow Americans. Or that I’m grateful to have landed in a position where I can make a nice living and feel an obligation to help others less lucky than myself.

    So….if doing something makes you feel better it is because of guilt. I mean after all, what you’ve written here indicates that paying extra in taxes would make you feel better.

    And don’t get me wrong, I’m in favor of letting the Bush tax cuts expire for those making over $250,000. I’m just curious as to why you are not paying extra already if you feel it really is your fair share and it is the right thing to do.

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  21. john personna says:

    (Maybe I have too simple, too Nordic, too Lutheran, an idea about debt. We have debts. Let’s pay them. Let’s do a simple progressive tax program, and all do our part. And sure, cut spending going forward. That’s how you make sure this doesn’t happen again.

    But … deciding not to buy a new car next year doesn’t exactly cancel your payments on the old car.)

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  22. john personna says:

    BTW, that David Johnston piece had an interesting factoid about Alabama:

    In Alabama, the tax burden on the poor is more than twice that of the top 1 percent. The one-fifth of Alabama families making less than $13,000 pay almost 11 percent of their income in state and local taxes, compared with less than 4 percent for those who make $229,000 or more.

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  23. john personna says:

    This is a good one too:

    Between 2000 and 2008, corporate profits rose by 12% while corporate income taxes fell by 8%. Without any change in the corporate income-tax rate.

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  24. Steve Verdon says:

    The bottom line really is that the Bush Tax cuts were a stimulus idea, and one that failed. They did not pay for themselves.

    Cutting taxes to stimulate the economy and paying for themselves are two different criteria.

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  25. michael reynolds says:

    Verdon:

    You know that’s a dumb response. It’s beneath you.

    We have a country here. And a civilization. And we are not simply individuals unconnected to our country and our civilization.

    We contribute. And we prosper in part because we contribute. For it to work we need everyone to pitch in. It’s a group project, which means a snide, “You pay for it,” is beside the point. It’s just libertarian juvenalia.

    Do we want a country? Do we want a civilization? Then we give some things up to have them. I don’t get to drive as fast as I would like, and I don’t get to pee on the sidewalk, and I have to pay some money. In exchange I get the United States, and western civilization. I like the United States, and I like western civilization, so rather than whine about it or seethe with resentment, I step up like a grown-up and pay the bills.

    I would love to see a poll of people who actually pay income taxes, and in particular those who would be in the top bracket. I really doubt they’re as dead-set against the idea of going back to 39.6% as you are. Most people who make a good living recognize their obligations, and understand that they are lucky. It’s wrong to assume that we’re all cramped, narrow, bitter scrooges who spend our time hating sick old people for taking our money.

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  26. michael reynolds says:

    as dead-set against the idea of going back to 39.6%

    My bad. Did not see your specific remark on the Bush tax cuts.

    The rest stands.

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  27. Steve Verdon says:

    BTW, that David Johnston piece had an interesting factoid about Alabama:….

    Yes, when state, local and federal burdens are all added up the U.S. system is quite regressive. However, it isn’t clear to me that the solution is to simply tax the upper brackets more. Yes, the upper brackets probably should have their taxes raised, but that still leaves the burden in place on the poor. That poor guy in Alabama is not going to feel better knowing that the guy making $229,000 is paying more.

    Now before the libertarians and Republicans start squealing like stuck pigs…we have to raise taxes or at least increase tax revenues. And before the Democrats/progressives get too smug we have to cut spending. We simply cannot keep going the way we have been in terms of spending and taxes.

    All that being said I despise the way Obama tends to approach the issue. He favors all this targeted crap that makes it nearly impossible for people to get an idea of their tax burden prior to seeing said burden. My position is that simplifying the tax code would likely remove a number of inefficiencies and free up resources that could be productive and add to the “economic pie” vs. all the targeted tax credits, reductions, increases, etc.

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  28. john personna says:

    @verdon:

    Cutting taxes to stimulate the economy and paying for themselves are two different criteria.

    They can be, or they can be bundled, as those tax cuts for growth and revenue were.

    See, what’s really interesting about this paragraph:

    Now before the libertarians and Republicans start squealing like stuck pigs…we have to raise taxes or at least increase tax revenues. And before the Democrats/progressives get too smug we have to cut spending. We simply cannot keep going the way we have been in terms of spending and taxes.

    … is that Dems aren’t really making the straw man argument that we needn’t cut spending.

    … on the other hand the Republicans really are opposing all tax increases.

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  29. john personna says:

    The thing that is really amazing about this argument, at the meta-level, is that it is so asymmetrical.

    The Republicans are trapped in some past world, thinking that they are arguing against ancient or fictionalized Democrats, ones that won’t talk spending cuts.

    This even as the Democratic President proposes a plan that is more spending cut than tax increase.

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  30. Steve Verdon says:

    You know that’s a dumb response. It’s beneath you.

    We have a country here. And a civilization. And we are not simply individuals unconnected to our country and our civilization.

    Bullshit. We have both, a country and in it are individuals. Are they completely independent of each other? No. But you do have choice. You have failed to exercise it in a way consistent with your rhetoric. Why? You talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk, as they say. Sit your butt down, write out a check to the U.S. Dept. of Treasury for $5,000 and when it clears your bank put up the image of the cancelled check.

    We contribute. And we prosper in part because we contribute. For it to work we need everyone to pitch in. It’s a group project, which means a snide, “You pay for it,” is beside the point. It’s just libertarian juvenalia.

    Okay, my questions went right past you. I’m not saying you or anybody else should not contribute or that taxes should be zero. What I’m asking is the following:

    1. The statutory amount is $x.
    2. You feel that paying over and above $x is okay and a good thing.
    3. So why don’t you pay over and above $x?

    This is not to be interpreted at all as: If you are unwilling to pay over and above $x your tax burden should be zero. Nor is it in anyway a justification for $x in taxes. It is asking why you don’t pay what you consider to be your fair share if you think what you are currently paying is below this “fair share” amount.

    I would love to see a poll of people who actually pay income taxes, and in particular those who would be in the top bracket. I really doubt they’re as dead-set against the idea of going back to 39.6% as you are.

    WTFATYA? I’ve already indicated in this thread, other threads and in posts on this website that we probably should let the top bracket return to its pre-Bush levels for those making over $250,000. I’m not dead set against raising that top bracket. Nevermind, I see your follow up post.

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  31. Steve Verdon says:

    … is that Dems aren’t really making the straw man argument that we needn’t cut spending.

    … on the other hand the Republicans really are opposing all tax increases.

    Really, perhaps you’ll point me to the comments where people are agreeing that Medicare spending needs to be brought under control. I’m looking I don’t see them. Help me out here.

    In fact, I remember in other threads where several commenters like tom p and IIRC Hey Norm made comments about how the richest country in the world should be able to pay for the health care needs of the elderly and young. I take that as implying not only are we not spending enough but we probably should spend more according to them. Maybe that interpretation is wrong.

    The Republicans are trapped in some past world, thinking that they are arguing against ancient or fictionalized Democrats, ones that won’t talk spending cuts.

    Show me the spending cuts you speak of.

    This even as the Democratic President proposes a plan that is more spending cut than tax increase.

    You know, comments remind me of a concept in game theory called “cheap talk’. Basically talk is cheap. Until I see some specifics on cutting Medicare costs I’m going to attribute it to cheap talk. And not some pie in the sky legislation that Congress will latter side step, but something that will actually…you know…reduce Medicare costs.

    [Please make sure to read that last link.]

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  32. Ben says:

    Steve, that’s a completely ridiculous argument you’re making there to Michael and you know it. One person paying extra will not make an iota of difference in ensuring that medicare, medicaid and social security are secure long-term. He is saying people in his bracket should collectively pay more to help accomplish those things, which very well may actually do something to help secure those programs.

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  33. john personna says:

    @Verdon, I think all of your questions are answered in this Zero Hedge summary

    I swear Steve, your actual position is closer to the Presidents than the House Republicans, but you are arguing against it … out of habit?

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  34. john personna says:

    The current headline at CNN is Obama lays out plan for cutting Medicare, Medicaid

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  35. Steve Verdon says:

    Steve, that’s a completely ridiculous argument you’re making there to Michael and you know it. One person paying extra will not make an iota of difference in ensuring that medicare, medicaid and social security are secure long-term.

    Ben,

    Perhaps you haven’t been watching discussions between me and Michael. In the past he’s noted the irrationality of man, used moral arguments (as he is now), etc. However, his actions don’t line up with his rhetoric? Why? Is it due to free riding and such…that is a rather…rational position to take.

    JP,

    In about an hour, the Teleprompter in Chief will once again address a nation on the topic of the exploding US deficit, which he can only hope has the attention span of an HFT algorithm, and has forgotten his proclamations on the same issue from early 2009.

    I think that pretty much sums it up, the speech is political pablum. Until it is backed up by proposed legislation it is still cheap talk, in my book.

    I swear Steve, your actual position is closer to the Presidents than the House Republicans, but you are arguing against it … out of habit?

    I don’t think he’ll follow through. Hence he is not “sharing” my position…he is merely borrowing it when it is politically convenient.

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  36. Steve Verdon says:

    JP, slow down your computer is likely to catch fire you are googling so fiercely!

    BTW, not impressed with the throw anything against the wall technique.

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  37. john personna says:

    I think that pretty much sums it up, the speech is political pablum. Until it is backed up by proposed legislation it is still cheap talk, in my book.

    Wait, isn’t this the old “I forget what the Executive branch does” dodge?

    I don’t think he’ll follow through. Hence he is not “sharing” my position…he is merely borrowing it when it is politically convenient.

    How would you expect him to follow through? He can put out a proposal for the Legislative branch, and we can support it.

    Why would you not, if you are so much on the same page?

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  38. john personna says:

    JP, slow down your computer is likely to catch fire you are googling so fiercely!

    I am the goose and Google Reader force-feeds me.

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  39. john personna says:

    heh, I returned to my Reader tab and this is what it fed me: link

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  40. sam says:

    @Steve

    ” Until I see some specifics on cutting Medicare costs I’m going to attribute it to cheap talk. ”

    Would deepsixing Medicare Advantage in the ACA count? The Republicans — well, the Republicans — certainly think it’s a cut. (If that’s a cut, what is Ryan’s plan?)

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  41. Steve Verdon says:

    Please, JP we all know that the President can have tremendous influence over legislation, which is why we call them the “Bush Tax cuts” vs. calling them by whatever Congress person(s) first sponsored the legislation.

    How would you expect him to follow through? He can put out a proposal for the Legislative branch, and we can support it.

    Why would you not, if you are so much on the same page?

    Yes he can do that. The question is will he and will it be something that is meaningful and not something that will get undone once it becomes problematic much like the reductions in Medicare payments to doctors. That one has been avoided for years by Congress. It is a meaningless attempt to reign in costs.

    In short, its cheap talk. Right now it means nothing. There is no commitment to the goals of the speech.

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  42. john personna says:

    Didn’t the “Bush Tax Cuts” start just this way?

    And then didn’t’ they win support inside and outside congress?

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  43. john personna says:

    Really bizarre psychology here, Steve.

    You are saying you support the ideas, but you have to oppose them, because they haven’t gotten “real” in … what, 5 hours since the speech?

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  44. Barb Hartwell says:

    I loved the speech today and I believe if everything he says could be passed it would be wonderful, but I am afraid this has come a little too late. If the Bush tax cut were repealed before the republicans took over the congress we would not have this problem. I wish Obama would get more involved with the American people that have nobody to stand up for them as much as the republicans who have so many influential friends that put us down. I know he does not like this tit for tat politics but I was very disappointed he never said anything about Wisconsin and how the democrats really got shafted there.

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  45. Obama’s Solution to Deficits: An Oxymoron

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  46. Oh, I see that some people just can’t let go of “the Bush tax cuts.” Sorry, they are the Obama tax cuts now. The Bush tax cuts came with an expiration date, kind of like everything Obama promises.

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  47. Drew says:

    I think Obama picked the perfect audience for his speech: mush brained college students. The supporters here appear to have progressed little beyond.

    For my entire life I have heard nothing from the left but that the right wants to poison children, throw grandma out in the snow and make old people eat dog food. The left, of course, will fix all this but for want of another tax dollar.

    In reality, during that same period, we have had massive increases in actual government spending, and devastating looming spending burdens – to the point of bankrupting the country. Meanwhile, the total government tax burden has increased, and tax incidence has grown increasingly on fewer, to the point of backlash. And the left – despite claims for 50 years that they would fix all these social ills if for another program- continue to invoke them, and have jack squat to show for their proposed solutions.

    Lastly, when faced with – what? – 1.5% reduction in spending, go apoplectic with claims of cancer desires and the usual mindless starve the poor drivel.

    Its a failed, and perhaps catsrophically so, strategy.

    But I have a prediction. The rich will make out better than the poor and middle class in the coming bug-on-a-windshield result. Why? They always do. That’s why they are rich. The poor and middle class looking to government are fools.

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  48. jwest says:

    Hopefully, our next president will call for shared sacrifice in tax policy to help with the debt.

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  49. sam says:

    “But I have a prediction. The rich will make out better than the poor and middle class in the coming bug-on-a-windshield result. Why? They always do. That’s why they are rich. The poor and middle class looking to government are fools.”

    ————

    “Marie, what’s all that noise out there?”

    “I don’t know, Drouis. A crowd of raggedy-looking people, poor or middle-class from the cheap clothes and shoes. Something about bread. I think.”

    “Well, have the guards go out and tell them to pipe down. I’m going to need all my strength today to finish supervising the wine bottle label dusting in the cellar. And have the royal pants-putter-oner come in here. I can’t dress myself, you know.”

    “Drouis, the Minister of the Inferior is here. He says it’s urgent.”

    “Ah, damn. Well, send him in. He can put my pants on.”

    “Your Galtness, the situation in the streets is getting critical. The lower classes are arming themselves with Facebook and Twitter accounts. And you know how that turned out in Egypt. They are angry about the rich never seeming to have enough money.”

    “Why, whatever is the problem? Why are they pissed? Don’t they worship wealth and power and good looks? Why are they revolting? — politically I mean. They’re revolting naturally, but then, hey, that’s why they’re not rich and powerful and good-looking, right? Watch that zipper and the royal member.”

    “Your Superiorness, the masses are disturbed that the plus mostest of the wealth of the state has gotten into the hands of a small percentage of the population.”

    “But that’s the natural order of things. Even when the merde hits the fan, the rich make out better than the poor and the middle class. They always do. That’s why they are rich, non?”

    “Ah, but of course, Your Bettermess. However, Le Comte Ryan’s recent proposal to finance further tax relief for the wealthy by decrapper sur the middle class and poor’s health care…well, that seems to be causing some problems… ”

    “You hear that, Marie? The ungrateful wretches. Are they not aware of the sacrifices the wealthy make? The money spent on maintaining several houses? The cars? The lobbyists? The tax lawyers? The neverending diddling of the legislature. The…oh, why go on. They’ll never understand the pressures the wealthy are under.”

    “Well, Drouis, we should do something. How about I have cook send down some left-over cake from dog’s birthday party?”

    “Great idea, Marie. That might show them we’re feeling their pain. Or trying to as much as we can given that they are way down there — and we are way up here. Any idea what that thing is they’re building in the square? The thing with the shiny blade-looking gizmo?”

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  50. john personna says:

    Charles, Steve asked about the Bush Tax cuts in context of their passage. I don’t think Obama had a role in that. He did help extend them, which was bad, but now he wants them to expire again, which is good.

    They had another name, you know.

    They were the “temporary tax cuts.”

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  51. john personna says:

    Wow, taxes have really shifted from corporations to individuals, haven’t they?

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  52. jwest says:

    John,

    With the senate changing hands in 2012 and a new president, we can move the Fair Tax plan and totally eliminate corporate taxes. That will do more to increase revenue to the government than anything else on the table today.

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  53. sam says:

    “With the senate changing hands in 2012 and a new president, we can move the Fair Tax plan and totally eliminate corporate taxes. That will do more to increase revenue to the government than anything else on the table today.”

    Code Blue. Crash Cart to room Jwest.

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  54. john personna says:

    jwest,

    I kind of hate to say it, but this is one of those moments that define us as Americans, or party partisans.

    If a Democratic President proposes things that Republicans are normally/nominally for, but they oppose them, in preparation for the next election, they fail as Americans.

    Are you telling me you oppose cutting spending, reforming Medicare, and reducing the deficit now … because you hope that some un-named Republican will win some day and carry a “Fair Tax?”

    Seriously?

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  55. john personna says:

    It is really funny when you think about it. The President says to the conservatives “I agree with you, we need huge spending cuts (and yes, some tax increases)” but the conservatives say “no, we run away. we don’t want those spending cuts from you.

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  56. jwest says:

    John,

    I’m for every budget reduction we can get. The problem isn’t that the government doesn’t take in enough money, it simply spends too much.

    The real ideological fight is going to be what the purpose of taxes is. Conservatives believe taxes are a shared payment to fund the proper functions of government. Liberals believe that taxes are a way to penalize the achievers in society and a way to redistribute assets to achieve a socialist utopia.

    If a person believes that taxes are a way to fund the government, the Fair Tax plan is the best way to increase revenues. What liberals don’t like about it is that it doesn’t have a mechanism to target specific groups for punishment of success.

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  57. sam says:

    “Liberals believe that taxes are a way to penalize the achievers in society and a way to redistribute assets to achieve a socialist utopia.”

    Oh yeah. Name two.

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  58. john personna says:

    jwest,

    Did you follow the link to Ritholtz’ page, on corporate vs individual taxes?

    Or, more importantly, see this page which shows how total government revenues (fed,state,local) have fallen, as a percentage of GDP, since the 90′s.

    How the hell is it “fact based” to say that falling revenues are not the problem?

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  59. jwest says:

    John, Sam,

    So what you’re advocating is a constantly growing portion of the GDP be confiscated for government, with no point at which it levels out?

    Here’s a simple test to see where someone stands on the issue. Imagine that a government geologist discovers a rich vein of unobtainium on federal land. This new mineral produces safe, clean energy and the entire world wants it. Sales by the government to other countries produces income equal to double today’s federal revenue and will for hundreds of years.

    Would you support the elimination of all taxes, now that those revenues are not needed?

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  60. john personna says:

    jwest, i must lolz

    what’s the opposite of “confiscated?”

    when the government spends money to say protect you from the terrorists, what’s that called?

    you poor guy, you’ve taken refuge in meaningless hyperbole. the government confiscates my taxes, and then saves my life. they are so mean!

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  61. john personna says:

    fwiw, i think government spending is going to be more or less population and demographic based, and taxation is going to be not justified, but limited by gdp.

    as more people age, and the working population falls, we need more spending. if the dgp allows it, then that’s where we get the money.

    don’t be a shill for the hedge fund managers who pay no taxes.

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  62. jwest says:

    John,

    The term “confiscated” denotes a process where something is taken against the will of person who owns it. Taxes are taken through force of law, by an entity that has the power to imprison those who don’t comply.

    I noticed you didn’t answer the hypothetical. It’s really a pretty simple scenario, so where do you stand?

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  63. john personna says:

    So what do you call all that military spending that you have no control over? Got a word as inflammatory as “confiscated”? Or what about the freeways I’m going to drive on later today. They were built, in good part, by federal general funds, confiscated.

    Your hypothetical doesn’t interest me because we aren’t some oil rich nation, like Libya, able to give everyone a car, a gift on marriage, charge one cent for gas and one cent for bread.

    We have harder choices.

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  64. sam says:

    @jwest:

    “So what you’re advocating is a constantly growing portion of the GDP be confiscated for government, with no point at which it levels out?”

    How did you get that from my (elliptical) observation that your method of argument is wild accusation? Which you only confirmed by asking the above question.

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  65. jwest says:

    John,

    It’s easy to solve problems once everyone agrees on what the goals are. The answers become obvious.

    If the goal is fund the federal government in order to build roads, provide a social safety net, defend the country (which I and most conservatives believe could be done with less money) and those other functions for which we all band together for the common good, then we can move forward and come up with a plan.

    If the goal is to make a society that is more equal in outcome, no accommodation will ever be reached.

    My hypothetical doesn’t interest you because by answering honestly, you would expose yourself as someone who doesn’t really care about the funding of the government, but who cares deeply that other people have more than you do.

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  66. wr says:

    jwest — No one’s going to bother with your latest in an endless string of dumb hypotheticals because they have nothing to do with the real world and are so obviously set up to be gotchas that a blind pig wouldn’t fall into them.

    Get your head out of the comic book and talk about the real world.

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  67. john personna says:

    jwest, i’m a dot-com guy.

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  68. jwest says:

    Wr,

    I’m just trying to show you and others through simple, easily understandable examples of why it’s so hard for liberals and conservatives to come to agreements on taxes.

    Conservatives want to fund the government with taxes, liberals want to reduce the wealth of others who produce more than them.

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  69. jwest says:

    John,

    “..i’m a dot-com guy.”

    John, I’m sorry. I didn’t know things were that bad.

    Whatever the outcome of the tax and budget talks, I’m certain that the social safety net will be preserved. If not, just let me know and I’ll help you out any way I can.

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  70. reid says:

    So, is jwest just trolling? The arguments are ridiculous, but it’s hard to distinguish far-right debating technique and beliefs and trolling sometimes.

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  71. anjin-san says:

    “..i’m a dot-com guy.”

    John, I’m sorry. I didn’t know things were that bad.

    Job growth in web publishing was 5.5% last year.

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  72. john personna says:

    “John, I’m sorry. I didn’t know things were that bad.”

    ;-) One of those times when saying more would be saying too much.

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  73. jwest says:

    Reid,

    The debating techniques the far right uses, such as the use of hypotheticals, are designed to distill concepts down to their essence. By doing this, we get to the heart of the problem instead of arguing peripheral issues that don’t really matter.

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  74. jwest says:

    John,

    I was making a joke. On behalf of all conservatives, we applaud your success.

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  75. reid says:

    jwest, seems to me like just a tool to obfuscate the debate and get in some digs at evil liberals that only exist in your mind.

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  76. sam says:

    @jwest

    HUA: ” liberals want to reduce the wealth of others who produce more than them.”

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  77. [...] Doug Mataconis: The President spoke before an audience of mostly college students this afternoon and outlined his plan to attack America’s budget deficits by cutting $4 trillion over the next twelve years. The problem is, he didn’t really offer many specifics and the speech seemed more like that opening salvo of a political campaign than a call for all parties to come together and attack a serious problem before it gets worse…. [...]

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  78. sam says:

    “The debating techniques the far right uses, such as the use of hypotheticals, are designed to distill concepts down to their essence. ”

    Ah, bullshit. Marks of a weak mind is what you mean.

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  79. jwest says:

    Sam,

    If that statement wasn’t true, all the liberals on this thread would have immediately answered my hypothetical by saying “Sure, if the government was collecting twice what it needs now by selling this mineral, there would be no need to take money from any business or person”.

    But they didn’t, did they?

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  80. wr says:

    jwest — Because it’s a waste of time to argue with a fanatic about some science fiction scenario he’s designed to prove he’s right about evil liberals. If you want to believe this proves you’re right, knock yourself out. But all you’re doing is proving that the only thing that matters to you is that people pay attention to you. Which means you fit the classic definition of a troll.

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  81. jwest says:

    Wr,

    Why is it that you and other liberals have such a hard time admitting that you want to use the tax system to bring about social (read economic) justice (read equality)?

    Show some intellectual honesty by taking a position and explaining why you believe in it.

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  82. Steve Verdon says:

    Really bizarre psychology here, Steve.

    The only bizarre psychology is your ability to hold contradictory positions. On one hand you want to try the “Congress proposes and passes legislation, it isn’t the President’s job” card. Then you note that Bush proposed legislation (through friendly members of Congress) and gets it passed. Okay, so I acknowledge that you totally capitulated on that point and collapsed faster than a house of cards in a hurricane.

    Second, proposing tax cuts vs. making hard decisions that are going to be extremely unpopular with the voters like reducing Medicare/Medicaid are entirely different. To pretend they are the same is to display of level of disconnect from reality that is truly remarkable.

    Are you really making the case that because Bush proposed tax cuts that and that the required legislation was passed that cutting Medicare/Medicaid will be just as easy?

    You are saying you support the ideas, but you have to oppose them, because they haven’t gotten “real” in … what, 5 hours since the speech?

    To bad for you this is simply not true.

    It would really be nice if you debated me vs. the Steve Verdon in your head.

    Or let me put it this way for you:

    Raising taxes on those making $250,000/year and reducing costs for Medicare and Medicaid are good things to do from the perspective of fiscal policy. I would welcome such a policy. I don’t think Obama will do this. I think he may raise taxes, but the cost reductions will not happen. As such its half-assed policy. Perhaps is better than totally “assed” policy, but probably not by much.

    The 5 hours thing is Bravo Sierra. My problem is that politicians regularly engage in meaningless rhetoric. They’ll even pass legislation that they’ll later gut. Obama has been following quite nicely in that tradition. In short, I stopped believing the magic pony of “good government” a long, long time ago.

    Now, of course if Obama can get some legislation introduced and pushes for it that really will reduce costs and can’t easily be undone in a year or more down the road. Why then I’d be really damned impressed. Right now, it is the same old Bravo Sierra we always get.

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  83. Steve Verdon says:

    So what do you call all that military spending that you have no control over? Got a word as inflammatory as “confiscated”? Or what about the freeways I’m going to drive on later today. They were built, in good part, by federal general funds, confiscated.

    Your hypothetical doesn’t interest me because we aren’t some oil rich nation, like Libya, able to give everyone a car, a gift on marriage, charge one cent for gas and one cent for bread.

    We have harder choices.

    Military spending and freeways are public goods and a public good subject to congestion. Voluntary provision is typical sub-optimal. The dominant method of financing is to confiscate the resources necessary to supply them. People are not voluntarily giving the resources for if they were the voluntary provision outcome would not be sub-optimal.

    I don’t see how this is in any way outlandish or wrong.

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  84. Monica says:

    Check out this video of David Remnick on President Obama (1/11): http://f4a.tv/ggEP0d

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  85. anjin-san says:

    Military spending and freeways are public good

    Well, I know people who have become very, very rich off of them. Not sure that that is a public good. Of course it’s pretty groovy if you are the one getting rich.

    If you make millions (billions?) off of defense contracts that are not really critical to national defense, is that a public good?

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  86. Steve Verdon says:

    Well, I know people who have become very, very rich off of them. Not sure that that is a public good

    Your ignorance is showing.

    (Hint: try google)

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