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The New York Times - Complaints Aside, Most Face Lower Tax Burden Than in 1980
November 30, 2012 10:43 AM   Subscribe

The New York Times examines how American taxes have changed since 1980
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 (105 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
The argument then seems to suggest that for most of us, taxes have gone down. But since we have a huge deficit, then the GOP argument seems right: entitlements are in drastic need of overhauling. Or can mhy friends on the Left point out where I am off base (again).
posted by Postroad at 10:48 AM on November 30, 2012


Or, we could raise taxes back to where they used to be?
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:55 AM on November 30, 2012 [15 favorites]


But since we have a huge deficit, then the GOP argument seems right: entitlements are in drastic need of overhauling.
Or maybe taxes could go back up a little.
posted by dfan at 10:55 AM on November 30, 2012 [20 favorites]


That chart is about income taxes, but the wealthy don't pay income taxes on very much of their real income, so it's pretty misleading. The real giveaway has been in the kind of taxes the rich pay; or more precisely, don't anymore.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:56 AM on November 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


"Entitlements" might just be the ugliest word in American politics today.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:57 AM on November 30, 2012 [65 favorites]


The argument then seems to suggest that for most of us, taxes have gone down. But since we have a huge deficit, then the GOP argument seems right: entitlements are in drastic need of overhauling.
But the distribution of the tax burden has become less progressive.
posted by muddgirl at 10:58 AM on November 30, 2012 [9 favorites]


the GOP argument seems right: entitlements are in drastic need of overhauling.

Medicaid and Medicare are most of our domestic spending. If the GOP wanted to overhaul entitlements, that would be the place to do it. They don't want to overhaul entitlements. They want to get more wealth for their financial backers and are happy to fuck everyone else in the process. This is abundantly clear in their problem definition and agenda setting.
posted by clockzero at 10:58 AM on November 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


We must bring back traditional America!
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 11:00 AM on November 30, 2012 [28 favorites]


But since we have a huge deficit, then the GOP argument seems right: entitlements are in drastic need of overhauling.

It's a shame that social insurance programs were allowed to be named "entitlements", when people pay into them to receive benefits. It's like you shouldn't feel "entitled" to a salary for doing labor that enriches someone else.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:02 AM on November 30, 2012 [31 favorites]


Trees everywhere, forest still missing! Film at 11.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 11:04 AM on November 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Hard to have any of those things if you're sick, homeless, starving, persecuted or any of a number of other things the government needs to help with if that sentence has any meaning.
posted by maxwelton at 11:04 AM on November 30, 2012


"Entitlement" is actually a great term for something you are "entitled" to; it's just been turned into a dirty word by the Republicans.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:04 AM on November 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


The argument then seems to suggest that for most of us, taxes have gone down. But since we have a huge deficit, then the GOP argument seems right: entitlements are in drastic need of overhauling. Or can mhy friends on the Left point out where I am off base (again).
The question isn't math-based, it's a moral one: What should the government do?

Those on the right generally believe that the government should do very little: protect the nation, keep the peace, shape the market to the minimum extent required to ensure fair competition. Society will take care of the rest via volunteerism and charity and family and the like.
Those on the left generally believe that the government should do more: educate everyone to a certain standard, feed those who are somehow incapable of doing it themselves, and intervene more in the market to correct imbalances.

And so, very low tax rates are fine for the right, because they can make enough to provide guns to the military and jails to the police, with some left over for basic market regulation (enough to prevent what we'd all consider outright fraud, but not so much worrying about externalities). But the left needs higher tax rates, because of things like Medicare and Social Security and schools.

Taxes aren't the destination -- they're the road.
posted by Etrigan at 11:05 AM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


But since we have a huge deficit, then the GOP argument seems right: entitlements are in drastic need of overhauling.

I guess we have to link this chart at least once a day. Every count on your fingers which policies were started under Republican administrations and report back.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:05 AM on November 30, 2012 [15 favorites]


I, for one, have gotten a lot taller.
posted by maryr at 11:05 AM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh. How American TAXES have changed. Not how Americans have changed.

Oops.
posted by maryr at 11:06 AM on November 30, 2012


Agreed. I've often wondered why Democrats haven't tried to rebrand that, a la "estate tax" => "death tax".

For example, "basic dignities" has a more compulsory sound to it, e.g. "Republicans are demanding cuts to entitlements" => "Republicans are demanding cuts to basic dignities."
posted by rouftop at 11:06 AM on November 30, 2012


That chart is about income taxes

No, it's not. It's about total taxes. From the article:

According to an analysis by The New York Times, the combination of all income taxes, sales taxes and property taxes . . .
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 11:07 AM on November 30, 2012


Postroad: "The argument then seems to suggest that for most of us, taxes have gone down. But since we have a huge deficit, then the GOP argument seems right: entitlements are in drastic need of overhauling. Or can mhy friends on the Left point out where I am off base (again)."

It's the military spending.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:14 AM on November 30, 2012 [23 favorites]


I wonder how many "entitlements" could be fully paid, if not increased, if we lowered the DoD's budget to be merely as much as the rest of the world put together.
posted by DU at 11:15 AM on November 30, 2012 [17 favorites]


Including "capital gains" (money earned on financial speculation and investments)? Because that's the real biggie. That used to be taxed as regular income but is now segregated into its own special category at a much lower than historical rate.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:16 AM on November 30, 2012


The only earned benefit reform I support is elimination of the payroll tax cap. And Medicare for all I guess.
posted by Gregamell at 11:18 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 : "Entitlement" is actually a great term for something you are "entitled" to; it's just been turned into a dirty word by the Republicans.


I had never heard social benefits called 'entitlements' until it was used as a dirty word, that and 'austerity' appeared about the same time. Austere people are admired; entitled people are reviled.
posted by AzraelBrown at 11:18 AM on November 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Even so, isn't it funny that the "right" keeps telling us we need to lower/keep taxes low in order to get back to our our roots and do away with all the socialism, when taxes have historically pretty much always been higher? And when even the states with the highest tax rates (like NY and California) have a long history of being the most economically productive?
posted by saulgoodman at 11:20 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had never heard social benefits called 'entitlements' until it was used as a dirty word,

There's a distinction that's ignored here, really. "Entitlements" are technically only the government spending people are literally entitled to (because they actually paid into the fund, unemployment insurance style, as with SS where your contribution determines what you take out). There's also stuff like food stamps. Those aren't entitlements, but simply spending under the constitution's "Promote the General Welfare" mandate (so, "welfare," but that's a bad word now so I won't use it).
posted by saulgoodman at 11:23 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


All they're really talking about cutting is the stuff you only get something out of if you paid at least that much into it, which is what's really perverse. They want to take people's own money from them, and convince them they want that, too.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:24 AM on November 30, 2012


saulgoodman: "Even so, isn't it funny that the "right" keeps telling us we need to lower/keep taxes low in order to get back to our our roots and do away with all the socialism, when taxes have historically pretty much always been higher? And when even the states with the highest tax rates (like NY and California) have a long history of being the most economically productive?"

It has never been about facts or history.

It's been the use of fake nostalgia for a past that never existed, along with heaps of "horse sense", in order to get low-information voters to go to the polls. People who are easily swayed by nasty narratives about poor folks, or people who speak different languages, or people who are capable of introspection and doubt.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:25 AM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Including "capital gains" (money earned on financial speculation and investments)?

Yes, the analysis includes capital gains
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:28 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


No kidding. All you have to do is read a little Twain to see how they've deceptively distorted our culture and political language to bring us to this point. Otherwise, we'd all still know that "The Left" just means whatever side currently represents the opposition to the government's position (and "The Right" just means those on the establishment's/government's side), and that neither are specific political ideologies.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:30 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


EMRJKC '94: More like "sort of," this would suggest:
Another important adjustment involved high-income households. Because the census survey did not disclose income above a certain level (to protect the privacy of wealthy individuals), The Times estimated top incomes based on the research of Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, economists known for their studies of wealth in the United States, and on published I.R.S. tables that show the overall distribution of income.

The Times also used I.R.S. tables for all taxpayers in the sample to allocate dividend income, interest income and capital gains income, and to allocate tax deductions.
Still, good to see they tried.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:32 AM on November 30, 2012


I thought that this blog post, also from the NYT, was a good companion to that infographic.
posted by Aizkolari at 11:37 AM on November 30, 2012


As the article mentions, Federal tax cuts were in part funded by payroll tax increases over the same period. Taxes on wealth may be down, but taxes on work continue to rise. Go figure.
From Michael Hudson:
"Now, right now the Social Security Administration has saved an enormous amount and—of extra, withholding from paycheques over and above what was needed to pay out Social Security. And this money was used, essentially, as tax cuts for the rich. So by taxing the wage earners more, President George Bush was able to slash—and before him Clinton, and before him his father, were able to slash tax rates for the higher tax brackets."
posted by relooreloo at 11:42 AM on November 30, 2012 [9 favorites]


Those on the right generally believe that the government should do very little: protect the nation, keep the peace, shape the market to the minimum extent required to ensure fair competition.

While that may well be the stated set of beliefs, there's a strong case to be made that the reality is far closer to "shape the market to the maximum extent required to serve their perceived best interests."
posted by ambient2 at 11:42 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Entitlement" is actually a great term for something you are "entitled" to; it's just been turned into a dirty word by the Republicans.

"Entitled" had the colloquial meaning of someone who feels the deserve something they didn't work or pay for long before this election.

I was reading a thread on another site yesterday about a guy who wanted a free out-of-warranty engine repair on his BMW and made a big stink about it, and of course people called him an entitled asshole. But there were a few responses that said "he isn't entitled! He works hard, owns a company, and wasn't asking for a handout!". I think that illustrates what the Republicans did to the word "entitled": associated it specifically with "bums who want government assistance".
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:46 AM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


But ironically, that much maligned "entitlement" label literally only applies to those social spending programs that are in no sense a hand-out (like SSN and other payroll tax-driven programs), because they require you to contribute to receive a benefit. As with "Left" and "Right," they've basically turned up into down through skillful manipulation of the language we use to discuss politics.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:54 AM on November 30, 2012


An "entitlement" is a government financial benefit to which a segment of the population has a legal right to. It includes not only Social Security and Medicare but veterans benefits, food stamps, and unemployment insurance. It's not necessarily a program that someone has paid into, although that is the case with Social Security, Medicare, etc.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 12:14 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Those on the right generally believe that the government should do very little: protect the nation, keep the peace, shape the market to the minimum extent required to ensure fair competition.

The behavior of those on the right is deeply inconsistent with those beliefs, so either they do not really believe that or they are literally irrational.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:18 PM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Time to reread Orwell's "Politics and the English Language", eh? (For those who want to reread -- or discover -- this famous essay, previously mentioned on Metafilter, the unadorned text is here.)
posted by GrammarMoses at 12:20 PM on November 30, 2012


It's like you shouldn't feel "entitled" to a salary for doing labor that enriches someone else.

That's step 2.
posted by srboisvert at 12:21 PM on November 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's not necessarily a program that someone has paid into, although that is the case with Social Security, Medicare, etc.

Though, when entitlements are mentioned (with the usual insinuation of parasitism), aren't SS and Medicare the "big two" that we all pay into, which Republicans keep threatening to make insolvent?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:21 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


when entitlements are mentioned (with the usual insinuation of parasitism), aren't SS and Medicare the "big two" that we all pay into, which Republicans keep threatening to make insolvent?

Yeah, the way it's being used in the debt negotiations is a kind of shorthand for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, since those are the ones that cost the most.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 12:26 PM on November 30, 2012


Belleville! My hometown! Viva Belle Vegas!!!!
posted by readyfreddy at 12:26 PM on November 30, 2012


I don't the term "entitled" always had the dismissive ring it has today. They are called entitlements because one is said to be entitled to them - that is, they are things one has title to.
posted by idiopath at 12:32 PM on November 30, 2012


It's like you shouldn't feel "entitled" to a salary for doing labor that enriches someone else.

How well does the number of unpaid internships track with these other trends?
posted by Peccable at 12:38 PM on November 30, 2012


I wonder how many "entitlements" could be fully paid, if not increased, if we lowered the DoD's budget to be merely as much as the rest of the world put together.
posted by DU


It seems there should be a good argument for that - "The worse possible scenario is having to fight a war against every other country simultaneously, therefore we should peg our spending to the rest of the world combined".
posted by 445supermag at 12:44 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


DU: "I wonder how many "entitlements" could be fully paid, if not increased, if we lowered the DoD's budget to be merely as much as the rest of the world put together."

It'd certainly help, but as a liberal who supports shrinking our defense budget and making our safety net programs far more generous than they are, I also need to throw a fly in the ointment and point out that the long-run growth in the cost of healthcare (the delivery of the care, not the health insurance) is a problem that will out-pace any amount of funds we could theoretically redirect from the Pentagon within a decade or two. Social Security is fine, but Medicare and Medicaid are in trouble no matter what we do with the bloated defense budget unless we find ways to save on healthcare costs.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:52 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


It seems absurd for the USA to spend as much proportionately as it does on defense.

But wouldn't there be a significant contractionary effect from cutting that spending, though? In other words: if our current economic problem is from lack of jobs/aggregate demand and we need stimulative government spending to offset that, suppose we cut the defense budget in half and spent that all on stimulative programs. Wouldn't the effect be roughly the same? I suppose that's assuming that most of our spending on military/defense contractors is domestic, but I think that's a safe assumption to make...
posted by glhaynes at 12:59 PM on November 30, 2012


Cutting defense and using the savings to pay down the deficit would be contractionary, but the cuts would have to be phased in slowly, because it takes a long time to wind down weapons contracts, close bases, etc. This would mean the contractionary effect might be hard to see in the noise of our regular economic activity.

On the other hand, using the savings instead on more stimulative spending like repairing our decaying roads, bridges, sewer systems, etc. or to bolster safety net programs would more than offset this effect, since there's a much higher stimulus multiplier for these items.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:05 PM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Even so, isn't it funny that the "right" keeps telling us we need to lower/keep taxes low in order to get back to our our roots and do away with all the socialism, when taxes have historically pretty much always been higher?

Except taxes haven't historically pretty much always been higher. The first income tax was set to pay for the Civil War - at 3%. It was ruled unconstitutional, and that's why it took a constitutional amendment to get it back. When it was re-started, in 1913, the top tax rate was 7%. Taxes were raised again in a shockingly high jump to nearly 75% for the top bracket only to pay for World War I. Shortly after the war was over, the top tax rate was lowered to 25%. It was not raised again until after the Great Depression and FDR's extremely expensive New Deal was created - a New Deal that ultimately now consumes more than 50% of our spending.

So people who want to lower taxes and get rid of entitlement spending are not talking crazy talk - they are talking about a system that worked pretty well as long as there wasn't an enormous war on.
posted by corb at 1:06 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not necessarily a program that someone has paid into, although that is the case with Social Security, Medicare, etc.

Well, with the exception of food stamps, all of the items you list are things that require some form of contribution (veteran's benefits require military service). I think the term is deeply misleading and problematic when applied to welfare programs, but as I think everyone here acknowledges, it's the defined benefit/required contribution programs that are on the chopping block here. In other words, programs that are in no sense hand outs to anyone receiving the benefit of them.

According to this article farm subsidies aren't entitlement programs, and yet, like any other public spending program, anyone who meets the criteria for eligibility is "entitled" to receive the subsidy (in keeping with the broader definition of entitlement as payment anyone is entitled to receive by virtue of meeting eligibility requirements). It's pretty clear to me the term is being broadly abused in our political dialogue in order to fool the public into letting their own contributions to these programs be swindled away from them.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:06 PM on November 30, 2012


I say this as a liberal. We need to stop pretending that Social Security and Medicare are things people are entitled to because they pay into them. This is nothing other than Ponzi scheming. If you "pay into" these programs, you may qualify for the benefits, but what you "pay in" is obviously not necessarily what you get back. To sell these as self-sustaining programs where you pay in and become "entitled" is a sham. The accounting isn't structured that way, and I can't help but think that many on the left perpetuate this notion for political expediency.

This is our social safety net. Both in function and purpose, I, we don't pay into them to get the benefits. We pay into them so our grandma doesn't end up sick as shit living under an overpass in a cardboard box. There's no guarantee that I will have the same benefit when I'm her age, and I accept that. That will depend on future generations and how much they are willing to contribute to the safety and welfare of the less fortunate or abled.
posted by drpynchon at 1:07 PM on November 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


tony has it right. As much as I would like DoD expenditures to be comparable to the rest of the "developed" world (as % of GDP, our expenditures are not that high, however as % of government expenditure, it's huge), health care expenses will eventually eat us alive. It's the same issue that is showing up in the private sector as the cost of health benefits is eating more and more of company labor budgets (paying people who earn their money as salary, not in other forms of compensation).

We can stabilize things a bit by cutting back on our budget (thought experiment- would the UN be better at its goals of bringing peace and prosperity to the world if the US had to work through it?) but that is a temporary solution. As a temporary solution, it might allows us to create a permanent solution, but it should be recognized as a ten-twenty year holding pattern, not an ultimate solution (then again, who looks more than a year or two down the road these days).

To play devil's advocate for a moment, the US should continue it's enormous military expenditure, or at least plan to increase back up to current size by 2030ish, as global warming really starts to kick the crap out of our environment. It will allow the US to seize newly arable land and protect dwindling resources. (Also, to annex Canada, repel and invasion of Alaska by China and construct giant underground vaults to house and save a good percentage of the population in the event of a nuclear war.) Right now, military expenditures are superfluous. However, in the medium term, they may be dead necessary in order to preserve the inflated, hyper-consumptive lifestyle we currently enjoy.

on preview, to corb - Keep in mind that the income tax is what allowed prohibition to take effect. I do not know if the lack of a need of tax dollars from alcohol sales was part of the prohibition plan, but it is tied up in it.
posted by Hactar at 1:09 PM on November 30, 2012


So people who want to lower taxes and get rid of entitlement spending are not talking crazy talk - they are talking about a system that worked pretty well as long as there wasn't an enormous war on.

Well, if they're not aware that there is currently an enormous war on, then they simply are crazy. Or if they are aware, and they are arguing to continue said war but lower taxes anyway, they are also talking crazy talk.

I'm curious: are there any Republicans who are arguing for lower defense spending to go with their tax cuts?
posted by jacalata at 1:09 PM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


corb: Going back to the civil war era is silly (and I say that even after having recently learned some of my own ancestors helped bring that war about and had a big stake in it). For most of recent history, the tax rates have been significantly higher.

I say this as a liberal. We need to stop pretending that Social Security and Medicare are things people are entitled to because they pay into them. This is nothing other than Ponzi scheming. If you "pay into" these programs, you may qualify for the benefits, but what you "pay in" is obviously not necessarily what you get back.

Yeah right, you get back much less, when actuarial tables are taken into account. Why do you think we keep pushing the retirement age back?
posted by saulgoodman at 1:10 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


To sell these as self-sustaining programs where you pay in and become "entitled" is a sham. The accounting isn't structured that way, and I can't help but think that many on the left perpetuate this notion for political expediency.

Look, I'm not doing anything for political expediency. My point is simply that a program that only pays out to people that contribute to it is in no sense a handout. It's just not.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:12 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Entitlements are things that people are owed. The current debt situation exists because the government used a deficit to fund tax cuts and two wars, with massive amounts going to the rich in tax cuts and to the war profiteers through military spending. Interest on the debt then transfers more of this money to banks and investors. Fixing it by cutting "entitlements" means that this debt has effectively been used to steal money owed to working and poor people, and shift it to the rich, war profiteers and banks and investors.

Austerity is theft. There is nothing else to it; austerity uses the national debt to siphon money from poor and working people and give it to the rich and large banks. It's a form of class warfare, and people should fight back against it as such.
posted by graymouser at 1:17 PM on November 30, 2012 [16 favorites]


Well, if they're not aware that there is currently an enormous war on, then they simply are crazy. Or if they are aware, and they are arguing to continue said war but lower taxes anyway, they are also talking crazy talk.

Republican support for the war is actually not nearly as monolithic as people think. There's actually quite a few Republicans that have argued for ending the war.
posted by corb at 1:22 PM on November 30, 2012


drpynchon: "The accounting isn't structured that way, and I can't help but think that many on the left perpetuate this notion for political expediency."

I think you're arguing against a straw man. The only ponzi scheme rhetoric I hear is from the right in an attempt to turn different age cohorts against each other to win elections.

Liberals talk about the safety net programs exactly as you do. There's no guarantee expressed or implied that you'll get out exactly what you put in. The "entitlement" is not for any individual being entitled to their exact amount of benefits, but for every individual being entitled to get benefits if they meet the requirements for those benefits (being old for Social Security, old and sick for Medicare, poor and sick for Medicaid.) Please cite a prominent example of liberals who've talked about these programs in the manner you suggest.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:23 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


corb: " Republican support for the war is actually not nearly as monolithic as people think. There's actually quite a few Republicans that have argued for ending the war."

Non-sequitur. jacalata asked if they support lower defense spending, not ending the unpopular war.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:26 PM on November 30, 2012


There's actually quite a few Republicans that have argued for ending the war.

Arguing for the end of a war is not equivalent to arguing for lower defense spending.
posted by muddgirl at 1:28 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is this super cool New Yorker article from, like two weeks ago, about the history of taxes. And the interesting historical relationship between tax aversion and slavery. Fascinating read.
posted by angrycat at 1:28 PM on November 30, 2012


Also, the New Yorker article is also fascinating in terms of how liberals have fucked people over by dividing Medicare/SSD/unemployment benefits from food stamps/ADC/Medicaid. Good job, war on poverty.
posted by angrycat at 1:31 PM on November 30, 2012


So people who want to lower taxes and get rid of entitlement spending are not talking crazy talk - they are talking about a system that worked pretty well as long as there wasn't an enormous war on.

A system that makes you poor if you're old or sick, and just lets you die if you're poor, does not "work[] pretty well."
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:34 PM on November 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Also, the New Yorker article is also fascinating in terms of how liberals have fucked people over by dividing Medicare/SSD/unemployment benefits from food stamps/ADC/Medicaid. Good job, war on poverty.

The article is paywalled, so I'd appreciate more detail on this division you speak of.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:34 PM on November 30, 2012


Postroad: The argument then seems to suggest that for most of us, taxes have gone down. But since we have a huge deficit, then the GOP argument seems right: entitlements are in drastic need of overhauling. Or can mhy friends on the Left point out where I am off base (again).
So, let's add up the problems with your assumptions:

1. "Entitlements" implies someone is entitled to them. That's like saying "rights need overhauling".

2. Deficits were mainly caused by tax cuts, military spending on Bush' bullshit war, and TARP and related bailouts, not by entitlements. If the GOP caused the problem by doing X, why is their proposed solution "Keep on doing X, but don't do Y!"?

3. The deficit and the recovery from the Great Recession are not unrelated issues, but the GOP behaves as if they were. No discussion of the deficit makes any sense without addressing what deficit reduction would to our recovery. However, those effects are never discussed, as the TARP bailouts (which, BTW, was a GOP idea) are considered key to our recovery by most economists and politicians of both sides.

So, my question to you is: Why is the GOP pretending to want to reduce the deficit, while having caused most of it, and continue to advocate for the policies that increase it?

If the GOP leadership were to say, "You know what? Golly, that 2nd Iraq War was a collossal mistake, and we had the chance to reign in risky bank ventures but didn't, which was another collossal mistake*, and then the housing bubble happened, again while we did nothing." - THEN I'd be interested in what they have to say.

Until then, they're in a fantasy world where uteruses pick & choose which sperm meet the egg based on penile friendliness, Mitt Romney was waaaay ahead until about 9PM ET on election day, and Gawd Ahmighty drowned dinosaurs in The Flood about 4:34pm on a Thursday.

*Yes, the Dems under Clinton started the issue. It was a bad idea. But you know what? The Dems actually admit it was a bad idea! I'm interested in the opinions of people who learn from mistakes.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:40 PM on November 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


From the New Yorker article "Tax Time" from their 11/26 issue

The Kennedy-Johnson tax cut of 1964 was sold as part of a policy package that would turn the poor "from tax eaters to taxpayers."

Michelmore argues that sixties liberals, by making this distinction -- calling recipients of some kinds of federal assistance (Medicare, veterans' benefits, farm subsidies) tax payers and the recipients of other kinds of social programs (Aid to Families with Dependent Children and Medicaid) tax eaters -- essentially doomed liberalism. The architescts of the War on Poverty, like the New Dealers before them, never defended a broad-based progressive income tax as a public good, in everone's interest. Nor did they refer to Social Security, health care, and unemployment insurance as "welfare."

posted by angrycat at 1:41 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


So of course liberals are to blame for saying things the wrong way again, eh?
posted by saulgoodman at 1:45 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks, angrycat. Michelmore's theory definitely seems plausible, especially when you look at how Reagan's "welfare queens" and "young bucks eating T-bone steaks" narratives helped him win election, and how Clinton ran on "ending welfare as we know it."
posted by tonycpsu at 1:45 PM on November 30, 2012


The problem with that argument is that the Republican party has done such an effective job of vilifying the term "Welfare"--never mind the contributions based programs--that it would only make it that much easier for them to eliminate SS and Medicaid if people considered them "welfare." Hell, Clinton eliminated much of our welfare system because the language around welfare programs had become so unpopular.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:49 PM on November 30, 2012


Nor did they refer to Social Security, health care, and unemployment insurance as "welfare."

This doesn't make any sense to me at all. People still broadly perceive all of those programs as "Welfare" now. How would it have helped if "liberals" had been more vigorously calling them that, too?
posted by saulgoodman at 1:52 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


The accounting isn't structured that way

In programming, end users shouldn't need to care about the internal programming logic that makes a component of software function a certain way. That's not the user's business. What matters is inputs and outputs. Making sure the component returns the expected outputs given a set of inputs is the programmer's job, not the user's.

Similarly, it's not our responsibility as the consumers of public services to concern ourselves with the accounting structures of public programs; that's what we send leaders to Washington to work out.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:57 PM on November 30, 2012


Read the comments section on the NY Times link too. The writers answer many questions and comments.
posted by Rashomon at 2:00 PM on November 30, 2012


saulgoodman: "This doesn't make any sense to me at all. People still broadly perceive all of those programs as "Welfare" now. How would it have helped if "liberals" had been more vigorously calling them that, too?"

Maybe I read it wrong, but I'm interpreting it as saying that they categorized some safety net programs as bad (e.g. AFDC, Medicaid) and some other safety net programs as good (Social Security, Medicare, unemployment.) So saying that they didn't put those "good" programs in the "welfare" box means that they were trying to increase the separation by keeping those good programs from being given the "welfare" label with its negative connotation.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:03 PM on November 30, 2012


Similarly, it's not our responsibility as the consumers of public services to concern ourselves with the accounting structures of public programs

As consumers, probably not. As actively participating citizens, it most definitely is.
posted by clearly at 2:10 PM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


health care expenses will eventually eat us alive

Every time I hear this on MeFi, I ask the same question, but I have yet to hear a good answer. Why hasn't this happened to other countries that provide better care and better outcomes to their people for less money per capita? It's only going to eat us alive if we continue our insane insurance system, which we probably will, so hey. Let's not pretend it's a historical inevitability, though.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:16 PM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Somewhere there "tradition" became not an issue of respecting the wisdom of the past or recognizing it's easy for the government to do harm but challenging to do good, or understanding that swiftness in change can cause great social upheaval, but about exclusion and economic elitism.

I don't like paying taxes for stuff I may never use. On the other hand, I'm pretty happy to see fire trucks come to my house if I need them or, cognizant of how fire may spread, my neighbors house.

The war thing - Eisenhower was the guy that beat the new deal machines. He was Joe Republican in every sense. The first guy to appoint a batman in the White House (I was Kaiser Bill's Batman, true story *cough*). No liberal, in the modern sense.

And yet in his 'military industrial complex' speech one of the things he said was: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed...The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities..."

So I have no idea what the hell GOP stands for now. They seem to love the troops the way someone wants to love a whore.

What surprises me is that people who are so pro-gun can be so pro-inequity. As though you could be safe from predation by some billionaire who raids your company and lays you off.
I suppose we could be pro-active and shoot someone. But that's the way the French Revolution went and I always liked what Burke had to say about it (in addition to not liking the wholesale slaughter by mobs):
"Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom."
posted by Smedleyman at 2:20 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sure, but that horse already left the barn. As voters, we didn't choose to convert social security surpluses into Treasury debt, the way we currently do it. It's not supposed to be our job to micromanage governance, but only to set the priorities and broader policy goals. Our elected leaders have failed us here. Period.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:21 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


adamdschneider: " Every time I hear this on MeFi, I ask the same question, but I have yet to hear a good answer. Why hasn't this happened to other countries that provide better care and better outcomes to their people for less money per capita? It's only going to eat us alive if we continue our insane insurance system, which we probably will, so hey. Let's not pretend it's a historical inevitability, though."

Oh, yeah, it's not inevitable at all. The steps that other countries have taken with their more socialized systems would help us get our expenses down and our outcomes improved. But this means making tough decisions about what kind of care the state will pay for, how long it will pay for it, etc. This gets you into discussions of "death panels" and so forth, but it's the truth -- at some point, our society can't be held responsible for paying tens of thousands for an extra month or two of survival with zero quality of life.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:22 PM on November 30, 2012


(Sorry. That was for clearly up there.)
posted by saulgoodman at 2:22 PM on November 30, 2012


Oh, obesity is a big factor in our healthcare costs as well.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:22 PM on November 30, 2012


(cough! cough! BS! the poor quality of our medical professionals and their profit motives is a much bigger factor, IMO.)
posted by saulgoodman at 2:24 PM on November 30, 2012


So, to sum it all up: You don't deserve it, you're too stupid to understand the math, and you're fat.

That's the argument for "entitlement reform" in a nutshell.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:26 PM on November 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, if they're not aware that there is currently an enormous war on, then they simply are crazy.

Er, um, sorry to be out of touch with the news, or whatever, but what on earth are you talking about? There's a bunch of bullshit going on with drones in Yemen, and a bunch of fussy who knows what still buzzing away in Afghanistan, and there's more bullshit with drones in Pakistan, but none of that even adds up to the level of a medium-sized war like Iraq or Vietnam, much less an enormous war like WWII or the Civil War.

So what is it you are talking about?
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:26 PM on November 30, 2012


saulgoodman: There are multiple causes. I'd argue that GPs get paid too little, specialists get paid too much, and we rely too much on nurse practitioners / physicians assistants. But obesity does contribute, as does our poor distribution of funds toward the most effective treatments. Those are the points I was trying to make.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:26 PM on November 30, 2012


Numbers?
posted by adamdschneider at 2:40 PM on November 30, 2012


Warren Buffett who apparently knows something about business(?) on a minimum tax for the wealthy.

Austerity is theft. There is nothing else to it; austerity uses the national debt to siphon money from poor and working people and give it to the rich and large banks

I have no idea what Austerity is. It's been explained to me a dozen times. I've read articles on it. Reference pieces. I've looked at it in operations. I have no clue WTF kind of animal it is.
I'll make the disclaimer that I'm not a business...ologist ... but I'm well educated and well read and, importantly, I understand basic math. So I have to conclude, with you, that it's jargon people use as a smokescreen to perpetrate a fraud.

Pension cuts are completely beyond me. It looks like a bounced check on a contract. Work for us and in 20-30 years when you're old and can't get up the stairs we'll give you money so you don't die. No, wait, Psyche we don't have the money.

Of course, here in the U.S. we did that from day one to Revolutionary War veterans. Pension programs were "aristocratic and vice-ridden institutions that undermined civic virtue" in fear of a lazy pensioner class.
The more things change...
posted by Smedleyman at 2:49 PM on November 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


adamschneider: Numbers?

Sure, here are some numbers.
Wasteful procedures:

Wasteful medicine costs the health care system an estimated $700 billion each year, and each unnecessary procedure comes with its own set of health risks.
...
Today, the nine speciality groups that represent more than 375,000 physicians unveiled their recommendations: 45 procedures that, given certain circumstances, doctors should not perform. The American Academy of Family Physicians says its members should not do scans for lower back pain unless certain red flags are present. The radiologists came out against imaging for uncomplicated headaches. The cardiologists want to stop cardiac imaging for low-risk patients.

The goal, now, is to get patients and doctors comfortable with following the new set of recommendations. Cassel hopes to allay both the political and personal concerns that often arise in discussions of changing how medical treatment works.
Healthcare spending at end of life:

The federal government estimates that 70 percent of health-care expenditures are spent on the elderly, 80 percent of that in the last month of life -- and often for aggressive, life-sustaining care that is futile. Think what America could do if it invested that $140 billion a year in other arenas. By comparison, the 2012 budget request for the National Institutes of Health, the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world, is $31 billion.
Obesity:

According to a newly peer-reviewed study out of Cornell University, 20.6 percent of the health care costs in the U.S. is caused by obesity. That turns out to be $190.2 billion, in 2005 dollars...
posted by tonycpsu at 2:52 PM on November 30, 2012


The AMT is handily sucking away more than the tax break gave for upper middle class earners in blue states with high state taxes. Tax rate arguments are a complete joke to most of those people - in fact if you raise taxes they will probably net more income as the AMT takes less away.
posted by docpops at 4:28 PM on November 30, 2012


Mars Saxman: you must have been skipping the news for a long time to have missed this one (I believe Iraq, Afghanistan etc are all included in it).
posted by jacalata at 5:58 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's only going to eat us alive if we continue our insane insurance system

There is no good evidence to suggest that the US insurance system is a principal driver of e high cost of medicine in the US. And, in fact, its a counterintuitive suggestion: it is entirely in the insurers' interest to see health care costs decline (the less we pay for healthcare, the less they have to pay out--it's like suggesting that car insurers are deliberately driving up both the frequency of accidents and the cost of car repair).

People in the US tend to blame health insurers for all the woes of the US medical system because the insurer is the institution they most often have a direct monetary relationship with (and the institution most likely to confront them with a refusal to pay for a given desired service). But it's really a case of blaming the messenger. It's not the insurers giving you unnecessary procedures and unnecessary tests; it's not the insurers spending vast sums of money to make old people's last months of life a living hell of heroic procedures that do nothing to extend a life that anyone would call meaningful etc. etc. We'd have a much more productive discussion about reducing healthcare spending in this country if we could get away from venting frustration at the mostly irrelevant insurance companies.
posted by yoink at 6:23 PM on November 30, 2012


Actually, yoink, there are studies offering good evidence that the US insurance system is driving up health care costs.

But to be fair, not in the way most people probably mean. For-profit insurers definitely do take an extra cut we could do without, too, though that's not what's driving up the cost of services. Plain old greed's doing that, I suspect. And I agree the specialists get paid too much and GPs probably don't get paid enough and definitely don't seem to do enough to really help with medical problems; they seem to just function like a kind of super-expensive referral agent for specialists these days. Also, tonycpsu, I'm sure obesity does contribute, as do poor stress management, bad driving, and a lot of other random actual health problems we could choose to focus on, but I think the obesity thing is often just used as cultural warfare ammunition, and it's not a problem with the health care system itself, so it seems out of scope to me.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:45 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


saulgoodman: "Also, tonycpsu, I'm sure obesity does contribute, as do poor stress management, bad driving, and a lot of other random actual health problems we could choose to focus on, but I think the obesity thing is often just used as cultural warfare ammunition, and it's not a problem with the health care system itself, so it seems out of scope to me."

I agree that it's used for cultural warfare, but that doesn't make it any less true. I also think your summary of my argument ("So, to sum it all up: You don't deserve it, you're too stupid to understand the math, and you're fat") is extremely unfair. The question was about why other countries have better healthcare outcomes per capita, and I listed some of the reasons, of which obesity is one. I don't even know where you're going with "you don't deserve it", and I certainly didn't make any statement about people not understanding the math.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:08 PM on November 30, 2012


So, my question to you is: Why is the GOP pretending to want to reduce the deficit, while having caused most of it, and continue to advocate for the policies that increase it?

Because the GOP leadership lies about stuff. They might not be doing it on purpose, but the end result is that they say incorrect things to win elections and shift public opinion toward their goals: ending social safety nets they don't like.
posted by gjc at 7:19 PM on November 30, 2012


I apologize for the unfair characterization, tonycpsu. You're absolutely right. I think I let the cultural background noise around this subject keep me from giving you a fair hearing, and you're right to call me on that. I do think it's a fair way to lampoon the arguments as I've heard others make them, but it wasn't fair of me to pin that characterization on you.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:51 PM on November 30, 2012


Regarding the contractionary effect of cutting defense spending, defense spending is contractionary when compared to entitlements. The more money goes from the bottom to the top, the less circulates. The poor spend a vastly larger percentage of their income than the rich. If you fear contractionary effects of government budget decisions, then the priority will have to be on stopping the increase in income disparity.
posted by idiopath at 4:56 AM on December 1, 2012


idiopath: "Regarding the contractionary effect of cutting defense spending, defense spending is contractionary when compared to entitlements."

Yeah, but even the comparatively wasteful defense spending is a better use of money than paying down the deficit right now, which makes this whole Fix the Debt / Simpson-Bowles horseshit infuriating.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:33 AM on December 1, 2012


Or can mhy friends on the Left point out where I am off base (again).

You don't drive around with the damn left turn signal blinking the whole time you are on the road.
posted by y2karl at 12:56 PM on December 1, 2012


Yeah, but even the comparatively wasteful defense spending is a better use of money than paying down the deficit right now

Not if one shares my hypothesis that you're much more likely to foolishly use a military you spend a lot of money on than one you do not. We should cut as much military spending as possible both for the long term budget and so that we stop murdering people.
posted by Justinian at 2:35 PM on December 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Justinian: "Not if one shares my hypothesis that you're much more likely to foolishly use a military you spend a lot of money on than one you do not. We should cut as much military spending as possible both for the long term budget and so that we stop murdering people."

That's the core thesis of Rachel Maddow's Drift (if you build it, we will find a way to use it) and you certainly won't get any argument from me. I'd sooner use the money to pay off the debt, give it to the CEOs of every Fortune 500 company, or light it on fire than use it to make our military larger right now.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:19 AM on December 2, 2012


Actually, yoink, there are studies offering good evidence that the US insurance system is driving up health care costs.

Your link is describing how insurers are getting screwed by the market power of hospitals and the fact that most people in the US do not buy their own health insurance. It is not saying that health insurance is a principle driver of health costs in the US.
posted by yoink at 7:29 AM on December 2, 2012


Look closer, yoink. It does find what you claim, sure, but it also finds that although insurance companies should have the market power to bring certain costs down, they aren't using it.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:55 PM on December 2, 2012


But I agree with your gist: the underlying driver of the problem is not just the insurers.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:01 PM on December 2, 2012


Arguing for the end of a war is not equivalent to arguing for lower defense spending.

It actually really is; in part because larger defense spending is harder to argue against while we're in a war. "This is for Our Boys", when "Our Boys" don't see a dime of it and their pay and care is still terrible. "Our Boys In Danger" is used as an excuse for buying more wasteful and ridiculous programs. The war spends billions that is, hands-down, defense spending, and that they wouldn't have to spend if there wasn't a war on. Right now the DoD is just handing out buckets of cash to every contractor that comes calling, and it's really important to rein that shit in.
posted by corb at 5:16 AM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


corb: ""Our Boys In Danger" is used as an excuse for buying more wasteful and ridiculous programs."

Except that one party explicitly campaigned on defense cuts, even while our boys (and girls) are overseas, while the other party ran on a platform of pegging defense spending at 4% of GDP whether we're in a war or not. So your contention that the GOP has any interest in defense cuts holds no water.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:28 AM on December 3, 2012


It's Official: Austerity Economics Doesn't Work
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:12 AM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


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