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The Sequester, Moving Goalposts, and the 2012 Elections

2012-Election

Ezra Klein rightly disagrees with Bob Woodward:

I don’t agree with my colleague Bob Woodward, who says the Obama administration is “moving the goalposts” when they insist on a sequester replacement that includes revenues. I remember talking to both members of the Obama administration and the Republican leadership in 2011, and everyone was perfectly clear that Democrats were going to pursue tax increases in any sequester replacement, and Republicans were going to oppose tax increases in any sequester replacement. What no one knew was who would win.

“Moving the goal posts” isn’t a concept that actually makes any sense in the context of replacing the sequester. The whole point of the policy was to buy time until someone, somehow, moved the goalposts such that the sequester could be replaced.

Think back to July 2011. The problem was simple. Republicans wouldn’t agree to raise the debt ceiling without trillions of dollars in deficit reduction. Democrats wouldn’t agree to trillions of dollars in deficit reduction if it didn’t include significant tax increases. Republicans wouldn’t agree to significant tax increases. The political system was at an impasse, and in a few short days, that impasse would create a global financial crisis.

The sequester was a punt. The point was to give both sides a face-saving way to raise the debt ceiling even though the tax issue was stopping them from agreeing to a deficit deal. The hope was that sometime between the day the sequester was signed into law (Aug. 2, 2011) and the day it was set to go into effect (Jan. 1, 2013), something would…change.

There were two candidates to drive that change. The first and least likely was the supercommittee. If they came to a deal that both sides accepted, they could replace the sequester. They failed.

But Klein fundamentally misapprehends the American political system:

The second was the 2012 election. If Republicans won, then that would pretty much settle it: No tax increases. If President Obama won, then that, too, would pretty much settle it: The American people would’ve voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes.

The American people voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes.

In fact, they went even further than that. They also voted for a Senate that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes. And then they voted for a House that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes, though due to the quirks of congressional districts, they didn’t get one.

Here in DC, we can get a bit buried in Beltway minutia. The ongoing blame game over who concocted the sequester is an excellent example. But it’s worth remembering that the goalposts in American politics aren’t set in backroom deals between politicians. They’re set in elections. And in the 2012 election, the American people were very clear on where they wanted the goalposts moved to.

He’s right, of course, that Obama ran on tax increases for the rich while Romney ran on cutting taxes even further and some vague promises about closing the deficits via ending loopholes and whatnot. It’s less clear that their differences on this point was the primary decision point for the election—likeability, trust, and other factors were likely more important. But the polling showed and continues to show that they prefer Obama’s approach. Why wouldn’t they, after all? Getting someone else to foot the bill for things you want is a pretty sweet deal.

The problem, of course, is that the United States doesn’t have a parliamentary system. Voting in a president doesn’t settle policy disputes, particularly domestic policy disputes. We have, after all, a system of separation of powers. At the same time we re-elected Barack Obama, we also ratified divided government, keeping John Boehner and the Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives and allowing the Republicans to retain more than enough votes in the Senate to block Obama’s preferences.

In fairness, Democratic House candidates actually got slightly more votes than Republicans across the board, a function of both gerrymandering and the concentration of Democrats in major urban areas. But this is the system we have. The 234 House Republicans and 45 Senate Republicans weren’t put there to enact the wishes of the American people writ large but rather to serve their constituencies. And, like it or not, they were just as clear as to where they stood on the issue during their campaigns as Obama was during his.

As it happens, I think both parties are wrong on the sequester.  Obama and Congresss should simply agree not to do this stupid thing they imposed on themselves rather than engaging in an unwise austerity program while the economy remains stuck in a funk. But our elected representatives seem to be in bipartisan agreement that solving the deficit problem is more important than fixing the national economy.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. superdestroyer says:

    So is Mr, Klein (D-Washington Post) claiming that since President Obama was re-elected, there is no need for any budget cuts? Even Bill Clinton managed to cut defense spending (but did not bother to cut non-defense spending). Yet, the Democrats are claiming that a cut of less than 5% is horrible hand should not occur.

    If the Democrats are not going to ever cut any part of the government, then instead of moving the goal posts, the discussion should be on how the winners of the 2012 election (the Democrats) are going to need to raise $1 trillion dollar in additional revenue. Since the Democrats are the winners, they need to propose the tax increases necessary to cover all of the deficits of the federal government. And they need to make those proposals now and not say that some other administration and some other Congress will raise taxes in the future.

    What politics is showing is that when people get government at a 25% discount (the percentage of the deficit as a part of the total budget) that people will want more government. The only thing that will save the Republicans is if the Democrats raise taxes by $1 trillion dollar and people start paying the full cost of the government that they demand.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 27

  2. Just Me says:

    Obama already got his revenue increases. Back on January first they raised taxes on the wealthy and allowed the tax break on payroll taxes to go back up rather than voting to keep that break in place.

    Time for some cuts-however I would prefer to see them actually make cuts to specific programs and spending rather than just telling everyone to cut a certain percentage.

    That said, I would really like to see a revamping of the tax code-but congress isn’t going to do that anytime soon.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 21

  3. Tony W says:

    Any group of morons, other than the ones we elected, could solve this problem in a few days. If half the time spent hand wringing in front of the cameras were spent instead negotiating in good faith, we would be killing stupid programs like the F35 and funding our veteran’s hospitals and schools — with the right performance incentives and oversight included to assure the funding is properly used to drive the right outcomes.

    The budget problem is just not that hard, and the solution to the problem is clear. As Klein notes above, the root problem is a cynical gerrymandering of congressional districts.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1

  4. superdestroyer says:

    @Tony W:

    The progressives are more right on the effects of gerrymandering that they understand. Districting blacks and Hispanics into majority-minority districts creates districts who have zero interest in controlling spending because they believe that others are doing to pay the taxes. Thus there are many districts that have zero interest on any restraint on spending or even the scope of the government. However, I doubt progressives are willing to eliminate the current CHC and CHC districts because they would moderate the Democratic Party.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 25

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    At the same time we re-elected Barack Obama, we also ratified divided government, keeping John Boehner and the Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives and allowing the Republicans to retain more than enough votes in the Senate to block Obama’s preferences.

    Who is this “we” you speak of whiteman? It sure as hell ain’t a majority of the American electorate.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 1

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    As it happens, I think both parties are wrong on the sequester. Obama and Congresss should simply agree not to do this stupid thing they imposed on themselves rather than engaging in an unwise austerity program while the economy remains stuck in a funk. But our elected representatives seem to be in bipartisan agreement that solving the deficit problem is more important than fixing the national economy.

    HEAR HEAR! Unfortunately James, you would never get elected running on such common sense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  7. Dave Schuler says:

    @Tony W:

    If half the time spent hand wringing in front of the cameras were spent instead negotiating in good faith, we would be killing stupid programs like the F35 and funding our veteran’s hospitals and schools — with the right performance incentives and oversight included to assure the funding is properly used to drive the right outcomes.

    The entire point of the sequester is hand-wringing. Our elected officials are getting exactly what they wanted—more opportunities to play to the camera.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  8. PD Shaw says:

    The 234 House Republicans and 45 Senate Republicans weren’t put there to enact the wishes of the American people writ large but rather to serve their constituencies. And, like it or not, they were just as clear as to where they stood on the issue during their campaigns as Obama was during his.

    I look at the individual members of Congress that were elected in districts in which the Presidential candidate of the opposing party won. When I did this Daily Kos had not completed the district-by-district analysis though, so I didn’t examine all the races.

    On taxes, Democrats that won in Romney districts tended to state their position as “don’t raise taxes in a weak economy” and many had voted in the Fall to extend all of the Bush tax cuts for a year. Republicans that won in Obama districts tended to describe themselves as fiscally conservative, and socially liberal, and distanced themselves from the party on social issues like homosexuality.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just Me:

    Obama already got his revenue increases.

    Do you have even half a clue how stupid it is to say this?

    Republicans already got their spending cuts back in 2011. They shouldn’t get any more.

    Yeah. It sounds just as stupid coming from me.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 30 Thumb down 1

  10. sam says:

    Dave Weigel ties the can to Bob Woodward’s tail: How Bob Woodward’s Book Debunks His Big Washington Post Op-Ed.

    Punchline:

    To argue that the White House is “moving the goal posts” when it now asks for revenue in a sequestration replacement, you have to toss out the fact that the White House always wanted revenue in the supercommittee’s sequestration replacement. This isn’t confusing unless reporters make it confusing.

    Read the whole thing,

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  11. superdestroyer says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    There has been no real spending cuts. The only thing that has happened is that the Democrats have promised to spend less in the future and some of the stimulus spending has expired. Considering that the $700 billion of stimulus spending is over, why is federal spending still at the same level is was in 2009 and 2010?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 14

  12. superdestroyer says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    What the Democrats are getting is another chance in front of the cameras to campaign against any spending cuts. What the Democrats are really pushing for is $1 trillion dollars in additional taxes to balance the budget. The only problem is that the Democrats to not want to be responsible for the taxes ans want to find a way to blame the Republicans for the increases in taxes.

    This is what politiics will look like in the next few years: The Democrats get what they want and the Republicans are blamed for any failures.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 14

  13. Davebo says:

    Back on January first they raised taxes on the wealthy and allowed the tax break on payroll taxes to go back up rather than voting to keep that break in place.

    No, they allowed the tax cuts and payroll cuts to expire as both were designed to do by Bush and Republicans.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

  14. James in LA says:

    “Getting someone else to foot the bill for things you want is a pretty sweet deal.”

    This is one of the many factors that assures the GOP is finished, as constructed. The GOP is addicted to way too many myths such as this one, and it costs them in election after election in the 21st century.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

  15. superdestroyer says:

    @James in LA:
    When the Democrats openly campaign on the issue that only the rich should pay taxes and that if taxes on the rich are higher enough, everyone else will be protected by a nordic style social safety net, there is no myth do it.

    Do I really need to link to the 100′s of progressives writers who claim that public education will improve if the schools receive more funding even though public education spending has grown much faster than inflation and population would account for but with no improvement in performance.

    You can claim that the Republicans are lousy at being fiscal conservatives but the recent recall votes in Wisconsin and initiatives in California clearly demonstrate that progressives want more spending and want higher taxes only on the rich.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 12

  16. Just Me says:

    No, they allowed the tax cuts and payroll cuts to expire as both were designed to do by Bush and Republicans.

    And this is what Obama campaigned on. He wanted to let them expire for those making 250k or more and make them permanent for everyone else (well the income portion at least he didn’t say anything about the payroll taxes).

    This was the revenue he asked for and the revenue he got-although at a higher income threshold than he wanted.

    So what revenue does Obama want now? Whose taxes is he wanting to raise and why should the GOP who still havent’ gotten any spending cuts agree?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 9

  17. mantis says:

    @Just Me:

    the GOP who still havent’ gotten any spending cuts

    You lie. But what else is new?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 3

  18. mantis says:

    @superdestroyer:

    When the Democrats openly campaign on the issue that only the rich should pay taxes

    You lie. Why is every Republican a filthy, no-good liar?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 1

  19. Tsar Nicholas says:

    And this is exactly why Klein and his new-age media brethren vociferously argued after the 2004 elections that Democrats should drop their objections to and not block W. Bush’s private accounts reformation of Social Security. After all, that’s the reform on which Bush had run and the people had spoken.

    {crickets}

    Oh, right.

    In any event, there’s a deck chairs on the Titanic component to this faux debate. And the entire subject is anachronistic, in the sense that nobody in the liberal media-academe cabal is able much less willing to phrase it properly.

    We’re in this mess because the government is too big and spends too much money. And that for decades have been the cases. It goes all the way back to the New Deal. The first cross-the-Rubicon moment was in the mid-1960′s, with LBJ’s never ending quagmire of the “war on poverty.” Our present fiscal calamity is not because taxes are not high enough. Taxes are too high and if anything should be lowered. But liberals have force fields around their brains preventing them from grasping these realities, so it’s simply not possible to have this issue framed in the correct manner.

    Ultimately whether the sequester happens as scheduled or doesn’t happen as scheduled it still won’t change the long-term realities. The left refuses to reform Medicare and Social Security. Soon those programs will implode and will take down our entire economy with them. Simultaneously the left refuses to allow the regulatory and tax reforms that would be necessary to grow the economy sufficiently and to create the sums of jobs that would be needed to avoid the incipient entitlement program-based collapse thereof. So we’re locked in a vicious death spin cycle. It won’t end well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 12

  20. Nikki says:

    Getting someone else to foot the bill for things you want is a pretty sweet deal.

    Yup. They’re called elections.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  21. Spartacus says:

    James wrote:

    But the polling showed and continues to show that they prefer Obama’s approach. Getting someone else to foot the bill for things you want is a pretty sweet deal.

    This is an extremely ignorant statement. To argue that people prefer Obama’s approach because they want someone else to pay for things they want ignores the fact that Obama favored letting the payroll tax expire, which affected every working person in this country even though most working people don’t get any direct monetary benefit from government. In fact, except for the elderly, who voted overwhelmingly for the GOP, most people don’t get any direct monetary benefits from government.

    People prefer Obama’s approach because they recognize that the most recent tax cuts overwhelmingly benefited the rich while, at the same time, greatly increased the debt. In order to lower the debt and reduce inequality the rich now need to pay more by way of having many of their tax loopholes closed.

    James also wrote:

    In fairness, Democratic House candidates actually got slightly more votes than Republicans across the board, a function of both gerrymandering and the concentration of Democrats in major urban areas.

    You’re kidding, right? As a college professor with a PhD in political science, why don’t you please explain how gerrymandering and urban areas’ preference for Democrats could possibly explain why Democratic candidates got more votes when each Congressional district throughout the entire country contains the exact same number of people?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  22. Liberty60 says:

    “Getting someone else to foot the bill for things you want is a pretty sweet deal.”

    Like getting future generations to pay for a Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, two wars, and tax giveaways to crony capitalists?

    Boy those libruls were bizzy from 2001-2006!

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 0

  23. HelloWorld! says:

    @Just Me: This fallacy needs to be put to rest. The president let some temporary tax cuts expire. If the republicans wanted them permanent then they should have made them permanent to begin with, end of story. This was also the action that contributed the most to our current situaion.

    The president did not raise taxes, tax law was already in place, period. Republicans have failed to successfully sell talking out of both sides of their mouths.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  24. MBunge says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: “And this is exactly why Klein and his new-age media brethren vociferously argued after the 2004 elections that Democrats should drop their objections to and not block W. Bush’s private accounts reformation of Social Security. After all, that’s the reform on which Bush had run and the people had spoken.”

    Can you find an example the Bush campaign running an ad about Social Security reform in 2004? Can you find an example of Bush talking about Social Security reform on the campaign trail, in the debates or during any media interviews/press conferences?

    Mike

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  25. MBunge says:

    “The 234 House Republicans and 45 Senate Republicans weren’t put there to enact the wishes of the American people writ large but rather to serve their constituencies. And, like it or not, they were just as clear as to where they stood on the issue during their campaigns as Obama was during his.”

    No, they weren’t. If they were, they wouldn’t have been loudly protesting the federal stimulus while simultaneously championing such spending in their own states and districts.

    Now, you can blame the voting public for not being able to see through such demagoguery, but that doesn’t excuse the demagogues.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  26. al-Ameda says:

    Just recently, Republicans seemed to prefer “free stuff” like 2 unfunded wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) and the Medicare Supplemental Prescription Drug Plan – all undertaken while we were cutting taxes.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  27. Russell says:

    @Spartacus:

    explain how gerrymandering and urban areas’ preference for Democrats could possibly explain why Democratic candidates got more votes when each Congressional district throughout the entire country contains the exact same number of people

    Hmmm. In 3 districts each with 100 voters one district goes 90-10 for The Democrat and the other 2 go 60-40 for the Republican. 90+40+40=170 votes for the Democrats. 10+60+60=130 votes for the Republicans. 170>130 votes for the Democrats. 2>1 elected official for the Republicans. Did you really need that private tutorial or was there some other motive for asking that question?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  28. Rafer Janders says:

    @Spartacus:

    You’re kidding, right? As a college professor with a PhD in political science, why don’t you please explain how gerrymandering and urban areas’ preference for Democrats could possibly explain why Democratic candidates got more votes when each Congressional district throughout the entire country contains the exact same number of people?

    Assume a state population of nine people, five of whom are Democrats and four Republicans, divided into three electoral districts of three people each. The state legislature draws the lines so that District A has three Democrats and Districts B and C have two Republicans and one Democrat each.

    Overall, Democrats outnumber Republicans five to four in the state. However, due to the way that Democrats are packed into District A, we wind up with Democrats winning only District A 3-0 while Republicans win Districts B and C 2-1, resulting in the state being represented by two Republicans and only one Democrat even though Democrats got more votes total.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  29. Jeremy R says:

    As it happens, I think both parties are wrong on the sequester. Obama and Congresss should simply agree not to do this stupid thing they imposed on themselves rather than engaging in an unwise austerity program while the economy remains stuck in a funk.

    Don’t you think that’s actually the Dems preferred outcome? They wanted a clean debt ceiling increase, and it’s the GOP that created this destructive new rule — equal deficit reduction to debt ceiling increases. That’s what’s driving the current impasse, as the GOP is still insisting on following that “Boehner Rule,” so the sequester can only be replaced by the savings they feel they are still ‘owed’ from their reckless 2011 debt ceiling crisis.

    If the GOP was willing to write off the whole thing the Dems would go along with that, but of course they’re not even close to willing. The best that can be hoped for, and it’s admittedly unlikely, is for the GOP to allow another punt on the deadline, which again the Dems would happily back. The only thing the Dems likely won’t allow is a punt on or a removal off just the Defense part of the Sequester, as obviously all you achieve by doing that is both the sequester hitting their discretionary spending priorities, and a shift in the burden of future cuts, the GOP will attempt to force, also to discretionary spending.

    But again, the reason what you suggest isn’t going to happen has nothing to do with intransigence on both sides. The issue is the so called “Boehner Rule,” and the GOP’s absolute unwillingness to back away from that ledge.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  30. Spartacus says:

    @Russell:

    170>130 votes for the Democrats. 2>1 elected official for the Republicans. Did you really need that private tutorial or was there some other motive for asking that question?

    So let me see if I understand your impotent effort to try to demonstrate that I’m dull and you are brilliant.

    James says that the only reason Dems got more votes than the GOP is because of gerrymandering and the concentration of Democrats in urban areas. I then asked James to explain how gerrymandering and/or urban areas’ preference for Democrats is the CAUSE of Dems getting more votes. You, having no doubt just received your Mensa membership card, decide you’ll weigh in and prove to me how it’s possible that the aggregate number of Dem votes could exceed the aggregate number of GOP votes. Of course, because your Mensa card is a fake, you don’t realize that both James and I (and everyone else with IQ above the hydra level) already realize that in all elections one party will almost invariably get more aggregate votes than the other party. We’re discussing WHY one party got more aggregate votes. James apparently believes it’s because gerrymandering means fewer Republicans are entitled to vote and/or people in suburban and rural areas are not entitled to vote like people in urban areas are. This is an astonishing thing for a college professor with a PhD in political science to believe.

    You, however, believe that the REASON why Dems got more aggregate votes than the GOP is that if you add up all the votes received by Democratic candidates that number will be larger than the total of votes received by all GOP candidates. That’s a brilliant explanation.

    James’ belief on this topic is silly enough. We certainly don’t need you making a fool of yourself. Run along now to get a glass of milk and leave this conversation to the adults.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  31. wr says:

    @James in LA: ““Getting someone else to foot the bill for things you want is a pretty sweet deal.”

    This is one of the many factors that assures the GOP is finished, as constructed.”

    The notion that the citizens of the United States coming together to devote a percentage of their individual resources to the common good of the nation is just “getting someone else to foot the bill for things you want” is the most destructive of right wing beliefs, and will lead to the ruination of the country. It’s the kind of slop one expects to hear from SuperDope and Tsar Idiot — not from an intelligant, educated man like Joyner.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  32. Spartacus says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Rafer, read again what James wrote. He said that Dem candidates got more votes than GOP candidates because of gerrymandering and urban areas. It’s true that Dems got more votes than GOPers, but not because of the reasons James cited. Dems got more votes because the number of people who went to the polls and voted for Dems was greater than the number of people who went to the polls and voted for GOPers. All voters in all areas of the country count only as a single vote irrespective of whether they cast their votes in an urban, suburban or rural area. Each votes counts only as a single vote and every person has an equal right to cast a vote.

    Gerrymandering and the composition of urban areas do not explain why, in the aggregate across the country, Dems got more votes than GOPers. Instead, gerrymandering and concentration of Dems in urban areas explain why Dems don’t control the House notwithstanding the fact that Dems received a larger aggregate number of votes than Republicans.

    Dems got more votes because the number of people who voted and agree with their positions is greater than the number of people who voted and agree with GOP positions. It’s got nothing to do with where any individual voter is located.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  33. Russell says:

    @Spartacus: it seems that I was not the only person who misunderstood your poorly worded question. Thanks for making it clear that you are incapable of civil discourse so I can start ignoring you, though. Since my help isn’t welcome in your world I guess I’ll just leave it to you to figure out how gerrymandering could possibly create districts that are drawn to result in exactly the kind of districts that are packed with Democrats while other districts are safely but not so completely Republican that my example relies on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  34. Just Me says:

    I am trying to figure out why people think rural people shouldn’t be able to have somebody in congress to represent their viewpoints, Why don’t we just eliminate the right to vote for all rural dwellers and let the cities decide?

    This fallacy needs to be put to rest. The president let some temporary tax cuts expire. If the republicans wanted them permanent then they should have made them permanent to begin with, end of story. This was also the action that contributed the most to our current situaion.

    But he campaigned on this letting them expire as his tax increase.

    What other tax increase was Obama proposing during the election?

    Obama got his tax increase on the wealthy. Now he wants to increase taxes more, but isn’t willing to agree to cuts other than those that are military related (and while I think there are cuts that can be made in the military budget, the main increase in spending is coming from entitlements which need to be dealt with at some point-there are only so many rich people to tax).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 10

  35. Spartacus says:

    @Russell:

    it seems that I was not the only person who misunderstood your poorly worded question.

    The question is not poorly worded, you simply didn’t understand it, jumped to a stupid conclusion and then thought it would be a cute idea to make a snide remark about giving me a “private tutorial.”

    I’ll just leave it to you to figure out how gerrymandering could possibly create districts that are drawn to result in exactly the kind of districts that are packed with Democrats while other districts are safely but not so completely Republican that my example relies on.

    That is not what James is arguing and it is not what I counter-argued. You’re lost and either don’t realize it or are too proud to change course.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  36. Rafer Janders says:

    @wr:

    The notion that the citizens of the United States coming together to devote a percentage of their individual resources to the common good of the nation is just “getting someone else to foot the bill for things you want” is the most destructive of right wing beliefs, and will lead to the ruination of the country. It’s the kind of slop one expects to hear from SuperDope and Tsar Idiot — not from an intelligant, educated man like Joyner.

    And, in fact, we ALL have to have someone else foot the bill for things we want, because none of us on our own are wealthy enough to afford everything we want. I’m well off, but I don’t think I could afford to pay for the entire budget of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, or the FBI and CIA, or the NIH, or the FDA, or the federal highway system, or air traffic control, etc. without getting other people to chip in.

    Because that’s, you know, how society works.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  37. Rafer Janders says:

    @Spartacus:

    Rafer, read again what James wrote. He said that Dem candidates got more votes than GOP candidates because of gerrymandering and urban areas. It’s true that Dems got more votes than GOPers, but not because of the reasons James cited.

    I think he phrased it poorly. I don’t think he meant that Democrats got more votes DIRECTLY BECAUSE of gerrymandering and urban areas, but that Democrats got more votes overall but received less Congressional seats because of gerrymandering and overrepresentation in urban areas. At least that’s how I read what he wrote; I assumed it was just slightly clumsy writing on his part.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  38. Rafer Janders says:

    @Just Me:

    I am trying to figure out why people think rural people shouldn’t be able to have somebody in congress to represent their viewpoints,

    Umm, they do, you moron. Rural people are, in fact, vastly over-represented in Congress.

    There are more people who live in my neighborhood in NYC than live in the entire state of Wyoming, for example, but I and the other 20 million people in New York State get the same amount of Senators as the 500,000 people in Wyoming. Each rural Wyoming voter gets 40 times the representation in the US Senate as a New Yorker does, proportionally.

    In fact, you add up all the rural voters in the ten states of Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Nebraska, Montana, Vermont, Maine, Wyoming and Alaska, and you still get less people than live in New York State. Yet New York voters get only two Senators while those states get 20 Senators total.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  39. Drew says:

    Mr. Klein, like most of the commenters here, have no concept of leadership vs free-beer political pandering. Its as if this is all a football game. Thank god he’s not a drug and alcohol counselor or he’d be writing faux learned pieces about how the drunks in detox correctly voted for free vodka to be paid for by the rich.

    The commenters here also seem to be clueless about the lack of efficasy of continual QE facilitated government spending as witnessed by our recent few years and, oh, say, Japan. QE is starting to have diminishing effects and the temporary wealth effects in driving certain high beta asset classes like public equities and housing, such as it is, are going to be a bitter pill to swallow for Everyman pretty soon. Welcome to the pain savers and the unemployed are experiencing, apologists for drunken spenders and borrowers.

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  40. James Joyner says:

    @Spartacus: “I’m going to pay for this by raising taxes on the top 2%” is pretty appealing to most of the bottom 98%. That’s not complicated.

    And it’s pretty obvious that the other paragraph is pointing out that, while the Republicans control the House, they do so despite getting fewer votes than Democrats nationwide. That disparity is a function of both Republican gerrymandering and a concentration of Democrats in small geographic areas, which facilitates said gerrymandering.

    @Rafer Janders: Sure. The purpose of taxes is to fund things collectively by pooling resources. I’m talking specifically about the notion of raising taxes on the wealthy as the principal solution for paying for things.

    @Liberty60: A different issue, and one I’ve talked about in other posts. The Republican consensus from 1981-2010 was to finance programs, especially defense, via borrowing. So, yes, this kicks it off to a different “somebody else” — future generations.

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  41. Spartacus says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    At least that’s how I read what he wrote; I assumed it was just slightly clumsy writing on his part.

    That’s not a crazy assumption, but given the fact that James continues to support the GOP it’s entirely possible that he believes that more people voted for the Dems not because they recognize the GOP is wrong on virtually every single public policy issue, but because of some crazy flukes like gerrymandering or the composition of urban areas.

    I would have been more inclined to believe that his statement was merely the result of clumsy writing if he also wasn’t a diehard supporter of the GOP and, consequently, likely to think that Dems couldn’t have won more votes because they have better ideas.

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  42. wr says:

    @James Joyner: ““I’m going to pay for this by raising taxes on the top 2%” is pretty appealing to most of the bottom 98%. That’s not complicated.”

    In California, it turned out that it was also pretty appealing to a lot of the top 2%. Because some of them actually realized that one more dollar in their bank account will have zero marginal value, while that same dollar put to improving roads or schools or hospitals — or yes, even the lives of some poorer people — can actually help safeguard or even improve the lives they live.

    You seem to have signed on to the Republican assumption that rich people should want to accumulate as much as they possibly can, then hide behind big walls with multiple security guards. But there are actually wealthy people out there who don’t want to live in a third-world hellhole, even if it means they get to be on top. Some rich people believe it’s better to be extremely wealthy is a functioning society than astonishingly wealthy in a non-functioning one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  43. Spartacus says:

    @James Joyner:

    “I’m going to pay for this by raising taxes on the top 2%” is pretty appealing to most of the bottom 98%. That’s not complicated.

    This statement certainly isn’t very complicated, but the rational for preferring Obama’s approach over Romney’s approach is much more complex or nuanced than this simple statement implies. People prefer Obama’s approach not because it raises taxes on the richest 2%, but because it is more effective at producing broad-based economic gains than the GOP approach. We have ample data and anecdotal evidence on this issue. Your assumption that voters are completely ignorant of the efficacy of each approach is completely unfounded.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  44. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m talking specifically about the notion of raising taxes on the wealthy as the principal solution for paying for things.

    You mean, paying for things by taxing the people who have the money to pay for things, as opposed to taxing the people who don’t have money to pay for things?

    The rich HAVE ALL THE MONEY. That’s why we need to tax them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  45. john personna says:

    @James Joyner:

    “I’m going to pay for this by raising taxes on the top 2%” is pretty appealing to most of the bottom 98%. That’s not complicated.

    Clinton’s “it’s math” convention speech was all about pressing through those slogans to workable budgets.

    … I think you are backing up to slogans again, where perhaps you feel safer.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  46. john personna says:

    (It’s the old “if we only change this one thing, it won’t solve the problem on its own, therefore this change cannot be part of a comprehensive solution” illogic.)

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  47. anjin-san says:

    @ James

    Getting someone else to foot the bill for things you want is a pretty sweet deal.

    You mean like most of us in here foot the bill for your veterans benefits?

    Do Republicans honesty buy into their myth that they are rugged individualists making their own way through the world, and it is always nebulous “others” who do the taking?

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  48. anjin-san says:

    @ Drew

    concept of leadership

    This is coming from someone who’s comments consist largely of sneering and blow job chatter?

    Unlike a lot of people in here, I think you are who you say you are. It follows that you have a lot to offer to the discussion. But you never do.

    Why is that?

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  49. superdestroyer says:

    @wr:

    And what percentage of their gross income to Democrats contribute for the common good and what percentage do the Republicans. When Democrats are getting about 1/3 of their votes from blacks and Hispanics, it should be clear that a large percentage of the Democratic Party voting block pays little of their income to support the common good.

    Do you really think that the party of single mothers is not thinking about government goodies paid for by others.

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  50. anjin-san says:

    Do you really think that the party of single mothers

    You are absolutely right. There are no Republicans on public assistance in all those red states that people like me support. Thanks for sharing.

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  51. Andre Kenji says:

    @Just Me:

    So what revenue does Obama want now? Whose taxes is he wanting to raise and why should the GOP who still havent’ gotten any spending cuts agree?

    Because taxes are not raised because politicians want, but because there is spending that must be paid. Something like 75% of the Federal Budget goes to Medicare, Social Security and Defense. Unless you are going to slash spending on these things you are not going to cut spending, and curbing the budget to manageable levels without raising taxes would require draconian cuts for these programs.

    A good idea would be to limit spending on Medicare, but that´s politically very difficult after all that demagoguery about Death Panels and rationing from the Republicans.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  52. superdestroyer says:

    @anjin-san:

    As progressives should easily understand, it is the percentage of voters in the demographic groups. High school drop outs are the most likely Democratic voters in the U.S. The districts where Romney did not get a single vote are some of the poorest and least white districts in the U.S. Do you really think they pay 25% in taxes from their income.

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  53. anjin-san says:

    @ Super

    High school drop outs are the most likely Democratic voters

    I’m a high school dropout. Also a 10%er. I pay a lot of taxes.

    How much money do you make? Most of the right wing uber-capitalists in here never want to talk about what they do for a living. Why is that?

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  54. al-Ameda says:

    @anjin-san:

    You are absolutely right. There are no Republicans on public assistance in all those red states that people like me support. Thanks for sharing.

    Why is it that California gets back about 80 cents for every dollar it sends to Washington, while states like Mississippi get back for more than they pay in – yet states like Mississippi are the ones who complain the most about federal taxation?

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  55. Pharoah Narim says:

    And here I was thinking the party of single mothers was down at the local strip club. Silly me….

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  56. An Interested Party says:

    The Republican consensus from 1981-2010 was to finance programs, especially defense, via borrowing.

    Ohhhh…so they have finally had their “come to Jesus” moment? After all these years they suddenly want to be fiscal hawks? Where is their detailed budget naming the specific cuts they want to balance the budget? And will they remain fiscal hawks if a Republican were to return to the White House? History doesn’t seem to answer that question favorably…

    Meanwhile, superdestroyer continues to push the fantasy that all or most of the “deadbeats” in this country are the black and brown people while all or most white people are just taxed, taxed, taxed…while I’m sure such nonsense sells well at places like Stormfront, it doesn’t go over too well here…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  57. george says:

    The problem, of course, is that the United States doesn’t have a parliamentary system. Voting in a president doesn’t settle policy disputes, particularly domestic policy disputes.

    Oddly enough, as anyone who lives in one can tell you, voting in a government in a parliamentary system doesn’t settle policy disputes either. In fact, the winning party’s platform typically has at best only a passing resemblance to the policy they will actually pass, and not only because politicians tend to say whatever they believe will get them elected – most party’s in parliamentary systems have MP’s from quite divergent regions and backgrounds, who end up fighting each other almost as much as they fight the opposing parties. Especially since the prime minister can be replaced from within by the party, and so has to watch internal party politics closely.

    However, unlike the American system, the fighting tends to be done more behind doors than in the open.

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  58. Mr. Replica says:

    Paul Ryan on Sequestration.

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  59. superdestroyer says:

    @anjin-san:

    first, my family income is in the top 2%. However, that one high school drop out makes a lot of money does not offset the fact that high school drop outs have the highest unemployment rates, are more likely to be in prison, have low family incomes (on average), and vote for Democrats at an over 70% rate. Of course, it is hard to tease out what is caused just by being a high school drop out versus being a single mother, being non-white, or having a criminal record.

    What is amazing is that the poor have a higher fertility rate than the upper middle class. The Democrats actually support the differences in the fertility rate because children born to poor people will become automatic Democratic Party voters in the future.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  60. superdestroyer says:

    @An Interested Party:

    That one of the many reasons that the Republican Party is irrelevant to politics and that federal spending is growing as a percentage of GDP is the Bush II administrations desire to increase debt and increase federal spending.

    The lessons that conservatives should take away from the all of the Bush Administrations is that deficit spending, targeted tax breaks, and growing federal spending just creates more automatic Democratic Party voters who really like the high spending, the high taxes for others, and do not care about the quality of government services delivered.

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  61. anjin-san says:

    first, my family income is in the top 2%

    What does that mean? Rich parents? Trust fund? I am more interested in knowing if you, personally, are a maker or a taker. Frankly, you don’t sound like you are terribly bright, and it’s a bit difficult to see you as someone making a mid six figure income.

    It’s been my experience with haves, which is extensive, that while they may be annoyed with what they see as an entitlement class, they do not tend to rant obsessively about it, as they are busy enjoying the lifestyle and/or the workload that goes with being among the elite. It’s far more common for entitlement ranters to be embittered losers who need to place the blame for their lot in life on someone other than themselves.

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  62. Drew says:

    @anjin-san:

    Nonsensical bloviating. Try again, zero.

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  63. superdestroyer says:

    @anjin-san:

    Can progressives ever give up nitpicking. My household income is in the national top 2%. I hope you will can use Google and look up what that means. when people are talking about the top 1%, it is defined as household (family income).

    Of course, progressives seem to forget that one of the reasons that household (family income) has been going down is that fewer people are married and thus, fewer household are combing incomes.

    I find that people who complain about the government are those who actually have to deal with the government or deal with those who depend upon the government. The haves usually care less because they never have to deal with the underclasses: private schools, exclusive neighborhoods, exclusive shops makes it very easy to avoid the takers. However, having a job like law enforcement or ER nurse makes it very hard to avoid the takers.

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  64. Drew says:

    @anjin-san:

    Your knee jerk response, jealousy dripping from it…….speaks volumes.

    Stop whining on some internet site and go achieve economic success, you loser. Stop talking empty crap; go do it.

    It takes brains, balls and perserverence. I haven’t seen anything like that from you. You are just a garden variety internet whining bitch.

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  65. Pharoah Narim says:

    @Super Deplorable: Why do you keep making claims that are easily observed to be false? The bible belt has the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and therefore high concentrations of single mothers. They’ve been voting GOP for 50 years and taking money from states where people..you know…make money. Why aren’t these states voting democrat as your worldview says they should?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  66. anjin-san says:

    @ Drew

    Sad, even by your standards.

    While I am certainly not rich, i do ok. I own two homes in the bay area, and I paid cash for one of them. Most of the my clients are 1%ers, and I have a number of clients who have won Grammy awards, recorded multi platinum albums, and so on. In other words, quite a few people who can hire anyone they want to have hired me. Since I did not start on a career path until I was in my mid thirties, I think I have achieved a modicum of success.

    Go back to your drinking & dick chat. It appears to be all you have.

    I have known a lot of highly successful people who were pretty pathetic in most other aspects of their lives, they spend a lot of time on sneers – are you really one of them? I would like to think there is more to you.

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  67. anjin-san says:

    @ super

    In other words, someone is carrying you. Got it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  68. An Interested Party says:

    The Democrats actually support the differences in the fertility rate because children born to poor people will become automatic Democratic Party voters in the future.

    I though the Democrats were part of the Party of Death and for abortions on demand? You guys really need to do a better job of coordinating your talking points…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  69. superdestroyer says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    But are the people who vote GOP in the red states the same people who are having children out of wedlock as a teenager. You do realize that around 80% of black children born in 2012 were born to single mothers. You should also remember that blacks bove around 95% for Democrats,

    In reality, being a single mother or being the child of a single mother has a very high correlation with being an automatic Democratic Party voters.

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  70. superdestroyer says:

    @anjin-san:

    Once again, why do progressives believe that nitpick and snark is all they need. If you cannot understand household income and family income then how can you understand anything about the economy.

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  71. Stan says:

    @superdestroyer: The national economy is not like household economy because decreasing household spending does not affect household income. If I stop indulging in electronic gadgets and my wife stops buying art, our household net worth will increase over time. But if I own a clothing store my profits may well go down if I save money by decreasing the number of clerks below the level needed to provide good service to our customers, and they’ll go down even more if there’s a hole in the store’s roof and I save money by not fixing it. The key word here is feedback. Think about it.

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  72. anjin-san says:

    Once again, why do progressives believe that nitpick

    Given the amount of time you spend going on about “takers”, it is not out of line to wonder if you, personally, are a maker or not. It’s a question you don’t seem to want to answer. A high household income is impressive only if you play a significant part in creating it. Right now, you sound like an unemployed twentysomething living with his well to do parents. Personally, I am more impressed by a hard working waitress who is a single mother.

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  73. Pharoah Narim says:

    @SuperDisturbed: Feel better now that you got it off your chest how uncivilized those evil blacks are? I expected better of you seeing that all that black human capital is making someone rich by sitting in jail rather than being home raising their famlies. All they had to give up was the blue collar light manufacturing jobs they depended on to raise their families that got shiped overseas. Who knew a rugged individualist like yourself would heap judgement on people that do whatever it takes to put food on the table before taking Gov’t handouts. Maybe they deserve more credit from the likes of you.

    At any rate–insert in pipe; smoke

    http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/acrossstates/Rankings.aspx?loct=2&by=v&order=d&ind=7&dtm=258&tf=133

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  74. Rob in CT says:

    I’d just like to point something out:

    What politics is showing is that when people get government at a 25% discount (the percentage of the deficit as a part of the total budget) that people will want more government. The only thing that will save the Republicans is if the Democrats raise taxes by $1 trillion dollar and people start paying the full cost of the government that they demand

    Let us assume for a moment that this is all true (I actually think it’s partly true). Which Party was it that introduced the “two Santas” theory of governing? You know, the party that decided it would cut taxes, boost spending and reap the political benefits? And, having done it once, decided to do it again, quite recently? [Jeopardy Theme Music]

    Hint: it’s the same party that likes to laud the Reagan years as a “boom,” carefully avoiding talking about the deficits & debt during that period, whilst simultaneously downplaying the 90s boom during Clinton’s time (he got lucky/it was a bubble) that coincided with higher taxes and reduced spending (yes, due in part to the GOP congress). Elephant mascot. Ring any bells?

    To the extent America has been eating a borrowed lunch, it started in the 80s (and was repeated, with diminished returns, in the Aughts). Morning in America!

    This happens to be a bad time to *suddenly* balance the budget (Super’s $1T tax increase), but we really do need to get a handle on the budget. Austerity is coming, whether it’s now or a little later (I’d prefer both, with the austerity being mild but consistent) because while we can deal with ~100% debt to GDP, I’m not so sure about 200% or 300%. The result of austerity is a reduction in economic growth/apparent prosperity in the near term (versus what it would be w/o the austerity – counterfactuals are hard sometimes).

    So, once again: those who want austerity now must face this and argue in favor nonetheless (“yes, it will hurt some but 10 years from now it’ll pay off”). It’s not the easiest argument to make, but I think it can be done. Trouble is you need some credibility to sell it. Credibility that “fiscal conservatives” don’t have.

    Note that this is not the same question as “who takes the hit?” which is the real issue the parties are fighting over. Who takes the hit? That’s what all the screaming is about.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  75. Rob in CT says:

    I wonder… the following is just a sketch of a thought regarding “entitlement” spending:

    If we take spending and index it to population served, and then require zero increase above that, what happens?

    So if medicare pays out $X per beneficiary in 2013, and we mandate that it pays the same $X (no inflation adjustment, just pop served) for 2014, 2015, and so on… what’s the result? Ditto SS. Ditto medicaid.

    With the graying of the population, this would still result in increased spending. How much, though, in comparison to the baseline? I wonder.

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  76. Ben Wolf says:

    @Rob in CT:

    So, once again: those who want austerity now must face this and argue in favor nonetheless (“yes, it will hurt some but 10 years from now it’ll pay off”).

    Austerity never pays off. The concept of expansionary contraction is a ideologically driven myth. There is no “payoff” down the road, nor can anyone even model such a payoff except to appeal to such bogey-men as market confidence.

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  77. Rob in CT says:

    Ben,

    That’s only true if one believes that governmental debt can never be a problem, right?

    It seems to me that the payoff for austerity is a lighter future governmental debt load and thus lower debt service payments. Unless one believes that austerity now actually results in more government debt (which I think is possibly true if you trigger a recession, because tax receipts will fall and more people will draw on the safety net).

    I agree that arguing that there will be stronger economic growth down the road because of “confidence” is silly. Slightly higher growth because of slightly lower taxes (or increased government spending) because of lower debt service payments though? Is that so crazy? I don’t think it is.

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  78. Pharoah Narim says:

    @Rob in CT: IMO Gov’t a debt is a problem depending on who holds the debt–if the debt it held by citizens–its not much of a problem as there is no threat of capital outflows to your economy. This is how Japan is able to avoid all the dire predictions the Chicago school has been forecasting for years. Japanese entities own their debt in the mid 90th percentile.

    If Congress was serious about a bandaid fix, it would be to cap foreign debt at 10 percent. We are currently at about 30% which exposes us to a worst case scenario of massive outflows by foreign entities. Ohterwise, Gov’t debt acts as a ebb and flow of capital between local entities. Its like a husband or wife “owing” each money.

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  79. Rob in CT says:

    Or generations owing each other money, as the case may be…

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  80. LeRoy Matthews says:

    Study my Letter on Diana@Philosophyinaction.com. (Search: Crazy Inbox)

    The so-called “federal government” is not only BANKRUPT, It’s Head- Over- Heels In Debt, & Operating Way In The Red, & It Has A Huge, & Increasing, Budget Deficit. There’s virtually zero $ for anything whatsoever.

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