Posts Tagged ‘national deficit’

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Why Cutting Public Funding for PBS Harms Poor Americans More than Rich

02.12.11

In an effort to cut our national deficit, House Republicans are introducing legislation to cut even more spending, this time focusing on totally ending funding for NPR and PBS.

Just for those keeping track at home, our national deficit this year is roughly $1.17 trillion. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s budget is $420 million, making it roughly .036 percent of this year’s shortfall.

Here’s the thing: we need to fix our budget. But it’s beyond insulting to give the top two percent of earners a massive tax cut that costs taxpayers $68 billion for the estate tax cut alone. Throw in another $81.5 billion for the tax cuts to families making over $250,000 and we’re looking at $149.5 billion in spending (which is one percent of the debt — or 356 times as much as what we spend on the CPB) that only benefits a tiny fraction of the population while wanting to slash funding for the programs that go to the middle- and lower-classes who make up an overwhelming majority of the population.

There are a number of reasons why the GOP is embarking on a witch hunt for NPR and PBS, one of which is that they’re making it all about ideology to rile their base, not because they’re being fiscally austere. Only someone who had no clue about budgets and numbers in general – or blinded by rhetoric – would miss the absurdity of adding $149.5 billion to the deficit at the same time as fighting to cut $420 million all while claiming to be budget hawks. It’s like taking out a massive loan on a brand-new home in Malibu and then putting your foot down on selling your 10-year-old Dodge Caravan to cut down on spending.

Speaker John Boehner and Sen. Jim DeMint both argued for cutting CPB because since our government is broke, we cannot afford to be spending money on left-wing programs that Americans don’t agree with. Surely some feel that way. But what’s so left-wing about Sesame Street? Or NOVA? Remember Wild America and Reading Rainbow? Unless learning about science, nature, and reading is left-wing all of a sudden, it’s just more of the same ideological fantasy world where Glenn Beck is a moderate and anyone else to the left of Beck is considered a radical leftist — a stance that has even extended to other popular conservative pundits. It feels like just political battle against Democrats but the only losers will be us Americans who actually value public broadcasting – regardless of our politics.

For those who defend the Republican Party vehemently against those who think that the GOP is the party for the rich, it’s hard to feel otherwise when conservative congresspeople stand firm on tax cuts for the rich while also arguing that we can do without funding for PBS. Perhaps they’ve forgotten since they’re making well over $100,000 a year as civil servants that for poorer families who have to cut costs to stay solvent in this economy don’t always have access to the plethora of channels available via cable television.

Not to say that people with cable don’t watch PBS or listen to NPR even if they have Sirius, but I remember growing up as a kid, we didn’t have enough money to splurge on cable when we already had standard TV via an antenna on the top of our house. And since my parents didn’t want us only watching crap, we watched a lot of PBS: Reading Rainbow and Square One TV were after-school mainstays for years.

We can’t just keep cutting everything that keeps a support net for underprivileged Americans while avoiding the big issues that were the true culprits in this financial fiasco. You might disagree with me on the worth of taxpayer money funding NPR and PBS, but no one can argue that their budget is a key component to our ballooning deficit. It’s barely a drop in the bucket. A fraction of a percentage of our overall debt.

Cutting this spending will not right our ship, will not come close to balancing our budget. If the rich can get massive tax breaks, the rest of us should at the very least get to keep our free TV that offers more substance than Charlie Sheen making light of alcoholism, promiscuity, and a total lack of commitment nightly in half-hour chunks.

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Obama and Republicans Compromise on Tax Cuts to Keep Everything at Status Quo

12.03.10

With Obama essentially conceding the tax cut extensions for everyone including the richest Americans, he’s given into the situation that the Republicans set up into where he’s damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

If he pushed for the tax hikes against the rich, then he’s the socialist that they claim he is; but, if he extends the tax cuts and adds $700 billion to the national deficit, then he’s the spend-happy left-winger who has no regard for the massive debt that they claim he is.

Let’s just look at the facts of the story:

QUICK RECAP:

Republicans are all for fiscal austerity when it’s for a $56.4 billion tab that affects the middle class but not when it’s a $700 billion bill for the top one-percent, wealthiest Americans.

I still don’t get how anyone can say that the GOP is the fiscally responsible party doing the bidding for the average American based on these positions they’ve taken.

Now, there will be negotiations in the final bills that are passed.  The one thing different about the tax cut extensions that will most likely end up passing would be that the GOP wants them to be permanent while the current plan would have them be temporary — probably two to three years long, at which point I’m sure we have this same argument to look forward to (unless it’s a Republican president at that point, which could be what the GOP is planning on so that they can then make them permanent at that time).  Dems are also looking to add in help for people paying back tuition and for small businesses who hire the unemployed.

These concessions by Obama haven’t gone over well with his fellow Democrats in Congress:

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said he would oppose legislation that cuts taxes for upper-income taxpayers, even if it includes an extension of unemployment benefits and the accompanying tax cuts for the poor that the administration is seeking.

I get Harkin’s frustration, but he’s doing nobody any favors by digging his feet in to combat the Republicans digging theirs in.

So after all of this political theater, I predict:

  • Tax cuts extended for everyone

  • Unemployment benefits extended for another year

  • GOP continues to blame Democrats for being spend-happy liberals

  • Debt and deficit keeps ballooning out of control because no one in either party will take the political heat associated with the anger and negativity that will come from all sides when the drastic cuts and tax hikes that are necessary to balance the budget need to be made

Pretty much status quo.

Photo courtesy of snty-tact via Wikipedia Creative Commons.

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Republicans and Democrats Both to Blame for Expiration of Unemployment Benefits

12.01.10

For being the party all about the “real” Americans, it strikes me as odd that they’d be more worried about tax cuts that affect the top 1% of Americans who are doing just fine financially rather than look out for the middle class nearly 10% who are unemployed and have been for up to two years.

But, that’s just what the Republicans are doing: focusing on the things that make for good soundbites.

Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell:

“I think the one thing we clearly agreed on is that first, that we ought to resolve what the tax rates are going to be for the American people beginning next year.”

Clearly more important than making sure that 2 million unemployed Americans can make ends meet in the aftermath of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.  Remember that if the tax cuts expire, they go back to the rates that they were in the 1990s: not exactly a crushing time of economic repression.

It’s not all the Republicans’ fault, though.  The Democrats continue their ineptitude:

When asked why Democrats didn’t bring [unemployment insurance extension] up on the Senate floor, [Senator Dick] Durbin said they didn’t have the votes.

“It needs to be part of a package to attract Republican votes, and we found the last time around, I think, we had two Republican votes — that wouldn’t be enough,” he said.

Seriously?  You’re the party that is supposed to truly be for the middle class.  You have a majority in the Senate (and not just during this lame duck session; you retained control into the next Congress, too!).  And you still can’t get the votes?  No wonder your compatriots in the House lost so many seats.co

Rep. Scott Brown (R) added his two cents, which sounds like they could have come from just about anyone on the right side of the political divide:

“Make no mistake, I agree that they need help, but I look at it as: Are we going to do it from the bank account, or are we going to put it on the credit card?”

It’s all the rage these days to point at the debt and deficit as an excuse to do nothing. But, the questions we should be asking and that our representatives should be as well are these:

  1. What happens if we don’t extend UI benefits?
  2. What are the alternatives if we don’t?

These 2 million Americans aren’t just going to magically find work simply because they aren’t getting their $400 a week safety net anymore.  The jobs aren’t there — private sector jobs went up by 93,000 last month, which is great news and shows that we’re adding more and more jobs each month; but, it’s a fraction of the 2 million needed to help those currently in distress.  If they lose their benefits, they can’t pay rent, buy groceries, fill their cars with gas, buy modest gifts for their kids during the holidays, or pay their utilities.  You know: contributing to our consumer-based economy. Not only will those millions out of work feel the impact, so too will local businesses.

Again, these aren’t people who are just living off the government’s dime and coasting through life.  These are people who had jobs.  Most were making quite a bit more than what they’re getting now in unemployment checks.  This isn’t welfare; it’s a temporary extension of the unemployment benefits (for which these people paid into the system) to prop up the millions of Americans who fell on hard times during the Great Recession — many through no fault of their own.  These people aren’t lazy or lacking incentive to find jobs — trust me: I’ve known people in this situation and they were depressed that they hadn’t yet found work after so long.

When America shed 8 million jobs and has only regained 3 million — do the math.  To leave this people hanging out to dry would be a travesty both morally and financially.

Which brings me to my second question: if we don’t do this, then what’s the alternative?

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Bank of China Credit Card: America’s Love/Hate Relationship with Borrowing and Spending

10.22.10

Why is it such a huge, vital, cut-all-spending-now situation with regard to our nation’s economic woes?

I get it: being in debt is bad. You end up paying a fortune for something because of all the interest that you then owe to your lender. (Trust me: I have credit cards, I know how it works.)

And there’s a lot of talk about how we’re “running up the credit card” with regard to the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the bailouts, and TARP. But it’s not really on a credit card. Right? We don’t have creditors actually knocking down the doors of the Capitol Building.

I’m being snarky here on purpose because people (myself included) talk about the debt as if we know to whom this debt is owed — China, right?  My point is that the way our government spends money it doesn’t have is different from how you or I spend money we don’t have. And the repercussions are different.  I don’t imagine that Hu Jintao is on the phone every month calling up President Obama saying, “Yo, Barry, you didn’t make the minimum payment last month of $233,588,838.35.  Do you know when you’ll be able to pay that?”

Also – we’re in a society that is based on borrowing. The reason our economy is still sluggish is because there isn’t much lending going on to small businesses (some banks being very tight with their lending practices and people not wanting to borrow money to expand/start their businesses at this point in time), therefore not many new hires.  (Well, it’s a reason.)

But, it’s rather bipolar to want the economy to get going through increased spending and borrowing while at the same time blaming spending and borrowing as the reason why we’re in this whole mess to begin with.  So spending and borrowing is both good and bad — but right now, all we hear about how bad it is to spend, how bad it is to keep borrowing.  No wonder the economy is still moving at a snail’s pace!

I have no answers.  I’m merely positing issues that I’m seeing and issues that I’m dealing with in my head.  I would love some clarity on the economics of this because that’s one subject on which I’m not very knowledgeable.