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The Social Safety Levee

© Ed Stein

The game of chicken over raising the debt limit continues, with Republicans (and some Democrats) vowing that any vote for it will have to be accompanied by deep budget cuts, and tax increases of any kind will not be considered. If Republicans have their way, there’s only one possible outcome. The social safety net, already badly frayed by the deep recession, will have to be trimmed even further. There’s simply no way to make the deep cuts the GOP is demanding without attacking Medicare and Medicaid, health care programs for the elderly and the poor. Much of the pain could be alleviated, of course, by repealing the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, but Republicans will not hear of it. They stubbornly cling to the fiction that any tax increases (even repealing the oil depletion allowance for oil companies swimming in record profits) will deepen the recession and cost jobs. The inescapable truth, though, is that the most vulnerable among us are being asked to underwrite the increasing income inequality in America, which is already at the shameful levels seen in the Third World. This is all neatly packaged as absolutely necessary deficit reduction, but if the Grand Old Party was really serious it might ask those who can afford it the most to share a little of the pain.

My only question is, are the Republicans deliberately trying to destroy this country?



  1. Bard wrote:

    Do you even have to ask? Republicans are doing everything possible to destroy the country, blame Obama and the Dems, and take over in 2012

    Friday, May 20, 2011 at 2:52 am | Permalink
  2. *grabs the tin foil hat and puts it on*

    They’ve been not showing that they care much about the future of this country for a good while now. When they say that people will move if taxes are raised, they are being more self-revealing than logical.

    They are saying that *they* will move (including leaving the country) if taxes are raised and if they can afford it. So, are we surprised that they are creating nest eggs to afford it?

    And I say, good riddance. Anyone who is that selfish is not healthy for the society as a whole. *takes off tin foil hat*

    Friday, May 20, 2011 at 3:39 am | Permalink
  3. PatriotSGT wrote:

    I am not in favor of throwing granny off a cliff or poor children for that matter. But where is the democrats plan. I’ll put it to you this way: My mother, a life long democrat who possibly never voted for a republican said to me the other day this isn’t the party it used to be, they’ve left me. They don’t talk about managing their finances or fixing anything they just keep spending. I feel so bad for my children and grandchildren because this country may not make it on its present path. I might also add she only reads the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun, never watches FOX, will watch MSNBC or CNN occasionally, and would in the past vigorously defend Obama, and the democrat Senators and Congressman from our state. She won’t vote republican, but she’ll probably just not vote.

    Now from me, the democrats are arguing pennies, nickels and dimes to avoid the larger issues. Everyone knows that the entitlements are out of control, cannot sustain themselves and will bankrupt the country. Yet the main focus of arguement is over 4 bill year in oil subsidies and 70 billion year in tax cuts to the wealthy. What rational person thinks those 2 will save anything? What about the other 1.42 TRILLION in annual debt after tht 74 billion is added? Even Obama’s budget with 4 Trillion in reductions over 12 years that equals about 400 billion per year leaves 1 TRILLION in deficit spending annually and will add another 10 TRILLION in debt over 10 years that we cannot afford.

    Tell your representatives to stop arguing over pennies and start managing the finances. If we don’t raise the debt limit, it will only show us the actual reality of what will happen in 10 years as the only thing we can pay fo is entitlements and the interest on our debt. We’ll hve to close down everything else including our schools.

    Friday, May 20, 2011 at 5:50 am | Permalink
  4. No u wrote:

    Of course they arent trying to destroy the country…there is no point in that, but they are just materialistic fucks. They want more, more land, more money, more toys, more cars, and more women. Sadly, I’m one to think that if every American was given money and businesses like they have…they woule do the same thing, because everyone is about protecting themselves and they dont want to lose that money.

    On the debt side of things it’s a lose lose. We dont raise it and we’re screwed, if we do we look like complete assholes and enable us to just keep digging the hole. I can just invision someone digging a hole, with no way to get out and them saying…shit! The ground is harder…give me a stronger shovel!

    Or better yet…most people put stops on there bank account so they cant go too far over correct? Something about $40 over the limit. Well could you imagine you going in and finding yourself thousands of dollars over…and the bank saying…oh we figured we’d raise your stop limit to help ya out.

    Sadly the only other option is cutting the living shit out of everything. Grant it we have a lot of programs and thats what gets us into trouble anyway, but it’s what made America great and it can work, but if you have selfish ignorant business people and leaders who kill the economy this shit happens. Maybe if people didn’t spend so much time on facebook or jerkin themselves at the mall then all the half ass pricks we call politicans couldn’t get away with the shit they say and do.

    This is definaly sounding like a george carlin rant.

    Friday, May 20, 2011 at 6:59 am | Permalink
  5. Iron Knee wrote:

    PatriotSgt, when you make statements that start like “Everyone knows that” a bell goes off that says propaganda. Where was your concern when Cheney said that “deficits don’t matter” or when Republicans strong armed Medicare part D, which wasn’t paid for? Or started two wars simultaneously? But now your mother is fed up with the Dems because they aren’t cleaning up the Republican’s mess fast enough. Well, that’s a great argument. Not.

    Friday, May 20, 2011 at 7:42 am | Permalink
  6. Mad Hatter wrote:

    I don’t know about the country as a whole but the republicans are definitely doing everything in their power to destroy the middle class. The reason I demonize Reagan is that he successfully implanted this LIE about supply side (voodoo) economics in the national psyche. I can’t believe anyone of average intelligence still falls for their crap and their SCARE tactics about the debt. Generating demand (jobs) is what will turn us around and freaking massive cuts in spending or reducing taxes on the rich will just NOT get it done. No way, no how…..

    I found this site…””…check it out. If it doesn’t cause you to change your mind about supply side then I can only conclude that you are a “hateriot”

    Friday, May 20, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink
  7. Michael wrote:

    I’ve thought about this before, and the best explanation that I can come up with is a combination of naivete, willful ignorance, and short-sightedness. I haven’t thought of a good way to really explain what I think the right-wing supply-side free market zealots are doing, but I’ve come up with a sort of parable that I think captures most of my thoughts:

    A wealthy homeowner decides that he wants to eat dinner out more often, preferably every day. To raise some cash to pay for it, he starts by selling pots and pans that he never uses. He then sells his kitchen appliances, then his dishes, etc. Once he’s done in the kitchen, he still needs more money for dinners. So he sells the books he never reads and the coffee table he doesn’t use. Then his movies and his DVD player, since he just goes to the theater after dinner anyways. He continues on this process, selling his couch, TV, and eventually his bed, until his house is empty. He does so because it has always worked in the past: By getting rid of items in his house, he has squeezed out enough extra profit to continue to pay for his meals. He simply never stopped to consider that the assets in his home were finite.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that we continue to dismantle the manufacturing sector, cut taxes, etc., because these policies have worked out pretty well for us in the past. We were able to shift a lot of low-wage jobs overseas, and replaced the jobs with higher-wage knowledge workers. Now we are learning that it is even easier to ship the knowledge jobs overseas, but we don’t seem to have anything to replace them.

    On a related note, I think a lot of it is simply a lack of understanding of the cumulative effect of small actions. I’ve had many, many conversations with people whose only understanding of economics is very rudimentary microeconomics. These people tend to hold very anti-government views and are in favor of eliminating groups like the EPA. They have never heard of externalities. They have never been introduced to some of the counterintuitive notions of macroeconomics. In short, they simply don’t think about the big picture, because they don’t see how their actions fit into the whole.

    Friday, May 20, 2011 at 8:00 am | Permalink
  8. PatriotSGT wrote:

    IK first your site wasn’t around back then, so you’ll have to take my word for it. I actually started complaining during the late Reagan/Bush 1 years, was given hope during the Republican/Clinton years, picked up complaining again during Bush 2 and I’m still doing it. Not only have the Dems not cleaned up the Repub mess, they completely ignored the mess and not only kept spending but set it on a pace to break all records. It seems their only solution is increase revenues. We can collect the entire GDP of our nation (100% tax for every person and corporation) and not solve our debt and unfunded entitlement liabilities in 5 years.
    And you want to argue over sematics, how ridiculous.

    The problem with Republicans is the trickle down theory, but I like the smaller government piece of their message. I don’t like their attack on organized labor or socia safety net programs. But here is an example of the DEM science gone wrong. In my state they had a budget deficit looming, so it was an election year and the Gov couldn’t run on raising taxes. So they asked teachers to give an extra 2% towards their retirement. The teachers union agreed, and it sounds like a happy ending with responsible people agreeing to do the right thing. And it is, on the teachers part. Problem is that money won’t go towards their pensions, its going into the general fund and will get spent on everything but teacher pensions. Now after that is used up the pensions will still be unfunded. If you can’t balance a budget in my state, no other state can be expected to do the same because we have the highest median household income in the country along with property values that have maintained during the recession. Our elected officials from both sides have done the same thing with money that was intended for medicare, social security, federal pensions, military pensions, etc. who’s going to fix it, the spend our way raise tax crew or the cut our way never raise revenue gang. Answer, neither. Because its going to take both raising revenue and cutting spending and both are going to need to be painful to fix the problems.

    Friday, May 20, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink
  9. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    “Not only have the Dems not cleaned up the Repub mess, they completely ignored the mess”

    Just so I understand, what could the Democrats have done that would, in your eyes, qualify as “cleaning up the mess.” Clearly it isn’t pushing more money into the economy because you feel like they spent outrageously already (even though plenty of economists say that the relief effort was destined to fail because it wasn’t large enough).

    So, specifically what haven’t they done which makes you say that they completely ignored it? I am very interested in your response to this question.

    Friday, May 20, 2011 at 9:42 am | Permalink
  10. Jason Ray wrote:

    IK – re PSgt comments – just because someone thinks the Democrats are wrong (about something) does not imply they think the Republicans are right. There is no question, in my mind, that the hole we’re in has been dug primarily by Republicans and that the vast majority of their rhetoric about spending controls, etc., is just that – rhetoric. PSgt isn’t saying the Republicans should be left off the hook – he’s just saying (correctly) that the Democrats haven’t presented a real plan. Or, as Lewis Black so perfectly put it, we have the Democrats – a party of No Ideas, and the Republicans, a party of Bad Ideas.

    The problem is that we have a real and inevitably catastrophic financial situation. The Republican extreme answer is to destroy the liberal programs they have always hated to fix it. The Democrat extreme answer is to destroy the defense budget and confiscate as much available wealth as possible to fix it. Most voters (and even most Congress critters) privately believe that a pragmatic, balanced approach across the board is the right answer, but neither party’s leadership is allowing that to happen and neither extreme that controls primary candidates is willing to back a candidate that supports a balanced answer. Note the beginning implosion of the Gang of Six in the Senate – Republican Coburn left the group because he can’t survive backing tax increases which are NCESSARY for a real solution.

    We have to face the fact that we are in a political civil war, and that the only way we’re going to save the country and have a bright future is to either find a single leader that can truly inspire enough on both sides to ignore the extremes, or to have the Silent Majority wake up and throw the extremists on both sides out of power. I do not have high hopes of either solution being made real, but it’s what we have to try and accomplish.

    Friday, May 20, 2011 at 10:24 am | Permalink
  11. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Hey 1032 -my handle gets dropped whenever I clear my caches, history, etc and I always forget to put it back in. To your question though, I fully except that the Republicans between 01 and 005 under Bush screwed the pooch. However, since 2006 Democrats have been in charge of congress 06-08, congress and presidency 08-10 and now control the presidency and senate. What entitlement reform have they suggested? They added HCR, but thats another entitlement that will become unfunded. They’ve proposed taxing the rich, which I’m for along with ending oil subsidies, which again I’m for. But 73 bill year in added revenue does’nt fix a 1.5 trillion deficit. You mena to tell me that in 2006 Pelosi, et al did not see the financial crisis looming? So, either they were blind and equally guilty as the Repubs, or they knew it and did nothing. Which is correct, now you tell me.
    There is blame enough for all and the sad part is no one will stand up and lead, they’ll get whacked by the extremists in both parties. Obama will not do anything until after the election. And so only the politically foolish, like Ryan, will propose anything. I guarantee no Democrat will propose anything serious (= greater then 100 bill/yr). We need to end the 3 wars first and Obama could do that tomorrow, but wait all those campaign contributing defense industry companies won’t write checks, so that won’t happen either until, again, after the election. By the way, we just reached the 60 limit for the Libyan intervention where the President is supposed to go to congress for permission to continue, but who cares about laws anyway.

    Friday, May 20, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink
  12. ebdoug wrote:

    I’m counting on Obama living up to his promise of letting the tax cuts expire at the end of 2012(as you said “after the election” Had we not had the tax cuts, we would have had a balanced budget by 2007. Then the Republicans might have had a chance in 2008and Bush’s war would have been paid for.
    For the record, my concern about the destruction of this country started in March 2003 when Bush went to destroy another country.

    Friday, May 20, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Permalink
  13. Jason Ray wrote:

    The fiscal crisis is solvable. It requires exactly what Obama laid out as parameters – a mixture of revenue increases, spending cuts, and program re-engineering. I wish that Obama would move beyond the parameters and get to something real, and then use his bully pulpit to get it in front of the people and stop trying to work with the Congress – which isn’t working.

    Revenue increases should come from expiring the Bush tax cuts (at a minimum on incomes over $1,000,000 per year), ending unnecessary subsidies (like Big Oil and many farm subsidies) and closing loopholes that allow wealthy companies and individuals to avoid a reasonable and fair share of taxes. Optionally it should include tax credits or deductions that help grow the economy (R&D, hiring workers in the US) combined with the opposite incentives for things that damage the US economy (like setting up in the Caymans to avoid taxes).

    Spending cuts (actual service reductions) should mostly be made by eliminating (not reducing spending on) programs that have outlived their value or (much more frequently) are duplicative. The easiest examples here in the defense budget, including the second engine for the JSF. The federal government funds many programs, but also makes many blanket grants for theoretical programs that have no details and no defined objectives – these are the things that should be examined and ended where possible. Finally, there should be spending levels tied to revenues for programs that are desirable but clearly optional – I think we should continue to provide funds for the National Endowment for the Arts, for example, but its something to ratchet down when we are in a hole and increase when we are ahead.

    Re-engineering should be performed on programs that have value to the country as a whole (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Welfare, etc.) to eliminate duplication, increase efficiency, and incentivize program participants to not need the programs in the first place. A terrific example of re-engineering is paying some welfare recipients to provide services a state would otherwise contract out, thus accomplishing two goals with one payment.

    The bi-partisan deficit commission (Simpson-Bowles) was headed in the right direction, as was the Gang of Six (now 5) but it appears that while the majority agree on this APPROACH, it is impossible to get them to agree on the details. For that reason, we either have to hire representatives that will do this (which really means ousting their leaders, since many of the representatives are already on board) or they have to negotiate an agreement that creates triggers for action (both increases and cuts) if one party’s theory doesn’t pan out. For example, it’s OK to agree to provide tax cuts to corporations to spur job growth and ultimately increase total tax revenues – but those cuts have to STOP when they are proven not to be delivering results. Pay for performance is something corporations should understand.

    What do you all think?

    Friday, May 20, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink
  14. Mad Hatter wrote:

    Hey, it just occurred to me….the Rapture is scheduled to commence tomorrow, so most of these boneheads with (R) by their names should be gone by midnight Saturday. Then the adults can take over and implement Obama’s plan so well outlined by Jason Ray above.

    Problem solved……

    Friday, May 20, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Permalink
  15. Mad Hatter wrote:

    Oh, by the way….Thank You Jesus!

    Friday, May 20, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Permalink
  16. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    Patriot: I don’t think I know what you are talking about.

    The Repubs spent like crazy on nothing of value and destroyed the economy (or, allowed the economy to be destroyed). The Democrats spent money in order to attempt to right the ship.

    If you are saying that the “Repub mess” is the spending, and that Democrats haven’t addressed the spending, then that is somewhat correct because spending was required to get us out of the hole. By addressing the spending outright, the economy would have been completely destroyed. And by not spending enough, the economic recovery has lagged.

    I thought by “Repub mess” you meant the recession. Either way, to say that the Democrats have “completely ignored” it is disingenuous at best.

    I have no problem with blaming Democrats for all sorts of things. Pandering to Republicans instead of making a stand. Not absolutely crucifying Wall Street and the banks. Obama failing on several key campaign promises regarding the wars, terrorism, and homeland security. And I don’t particularly care about blaming Republicans (except when people try to pretend like the mess is somehow the fault of Democrats back to Clinton or even Carter). I do have an issue with saying that Democrats “completely ignored” the problem, no matter which problem you are talking about.

    Jason, I like most of your ideas, especially the idea of movable spending caps on programs that are non-critical. However, I truly believe that the opportunity to implement this is gone. The Republicans will never vote for these initiatives if presented by a Democratic majority. And the Republicans would never present these initiatives if they had a majority. They would either (most likely in my opinion) not give a damn about cutting spending, or go with the standard tax cuts to the rich/service cuts for the poor strategy that they have somehow fooled 40-50% of the country into believing.

    The D’s spent too long trying to pander to a Republican audience which was never going to go along with them anyway. It was like watching Charlie Brown missing the football over and over again, but still getting back up and giving it another shot.

    Friday, May 20, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Permalink
  17. PatriotSGT wrote:

    1032 – I don’t think we are that far apart on our thinking, my original main point was that leading up to the bottom falling out and when things began to ease no Dems even proposed a plan. None voiced concern until the repubs made it an election issue. I’d like to think that if the Dem Reps are as smart as people say they should have pre-empted the repubs, taken the lead, proposed a path to financial solvency. Instead, they waited on the republicans who then stood up and lead, whether we agree with their philosophy or not. What I’d of liked to see them do was last year in the spring propose a longterm plan to reduce the debt, restore balance to the budget. They never even tried to pass a budget. Trust me when I say it’s madening to me to hear the right wing mouths keep repeating no tax increases, but if they were silent we’d hear nothing from across the isle.
    Jason, I also like your proposals and thinking. Theres plenty of fat in all the budgets and indeed DOD. I’d also like to see TSA eliminated. Put it back on the airports to manage their security and just station 10-20 DHS supervisors at each port to insure compliance. That would eliminate 8 billion a year right there. Simplify the tax code while your at it and eliminate 75% of the IRS, that would knock another 5-8 billion off the tab. The dept of education can go the same route, leave that to the states and fund a think tank only, shave another 10 billion. Just a few ideas.

    Friday, May 20, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Permalink
  18. JC for pennies wrote:

    Commenting on article and PatriotsGT’s statement. What about defense spending for perpetual war around the globe, George Orwell (or Bush)-style? Both parties seem culpable. Since the rich seem to get off on paying much for this (they don’t even fight in it) even though this war is essentially fought in their interest, I have an idea. Let the rich pay for the ENTIRE defense budget. Right now there are at least four “conflicts” that this country is involved in. They foot the bill for all this then they don’t have to pay a penny more. And if they don’t like it, well, the troops just don’t show up. “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came?” Sounds righteous to me!

    Monday, May 23, 2011 at 3:55 am | Permalink
  19. No u wrote:

    Have you ever considered opening a real forum IK? You can put the link up with Home and About. It’ll let discussions like this last longer, instead of ending when they fall down the page.

    If you need help I can help you with zetaboards

    Tuesday, May 24, 2011 at 8:02 am | Permalink
  20. PatriotSGT wrote:

    JC for pennies – I agree on the war around the world. It’s time to come home and take care of our business here. Obama could issue that order today. Lets put our treasure to work here on our domestic issues.

    Tuesday, May 24, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Permalink
  21. Iron Knee wrote:

    No U, you mean like the FORUM link right at the top of the main page?

    Tuesday, May 24, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Permalink
  22. Grover Norquist wrote:

    “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

    Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Permalink
  23. No u wrote:

    hahahaa I’m stupid…

    Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Permalink