Posts Tagged ‘Federal Budget’

The GOP’s Politics of Extortion

Monday, August 15th, 2011

One of the things that I thought of in the midst of all the debt ceiling BS was: what of the shoe was on the other foot?

In other words, what if Democrats held the Full Faith and Credit of the United States hostage in order to pass an unpopular bill against the will of the people? Remember, the Democrats were elected to 3/5 of the seats in both houses of the legislature and controlled the Presidency in 2008. But when they tried to enact their agenda on health care, it was “tyranny” and Republicans couldn’t wait to go to their local park carrying Obama-with-a-Hitler-moustache signs.

Now, the Republicans control 1/3 of the three institutions that make laws in the United States and they are holding the US economy hostage to force the Senate and President to bend to their will? A rough Democratic equivalent would have been if Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats didn’t take the Senate in 2006, but refused to raise the debt ceiling until the Republican Senate and President capitulated and passed a national health care law.

We know what would happen in that case: Republicans would have been screaming bloody murder, and rightfully so.

As Steve Benen points out, the Republicans have made “extortion politics” the new norm in Washington. They only control one branch of the legislature, but they have managed to force enactment of policies that they couldn’t get passed through legitimate political processes. They have manage to keep not only repeal of Bush Tax cuts for the wealthy off the table but alltax increases off the table, and they have kept the Consumer Financial Regulation Agency effectively neutered, even though none of these positions are popular with the American people. Benen’s take is worth extended quotation:

I think this is arguably one of the more important realizations to take away from the current political landscape. Republicans aren’t just radicalized, aren’t just pursuing an extreme agenda, and aren’t just allergic to compromise. The congressional GOP is also changing the very nature of governing in ways with no modern precedent.

Welcome to the normalization of extortion politics….

The traditional American model would tell Republicans to win an election. If that doesn’t work, Republicans should work with rivals to pass legislation that moves them closer to their goal. In 2011, the GOP has decided these old-school norms are of no value. Why bother with them when Republicans can force through policy changes by way of a series of hostage strategies? Why should the legislative branch use its powers through legislative action when extortion is more effective?

It’s offensive when it comes to nominees like CFPB nominee Richard Cordray, but using the full faith and credit of the United States to force through desired policy changes takes this dynamic to a very different level. And since it’s working, this will be repeated and establishes a new precedent.

Awesome.

Remind me again why these guys are the patriotic ones?

The Tea Party Downgrade

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

In a recent flurry of e-mails with my conservative uncle, we have been arguing about who is responsible for the S&P downgrade of US debt. While it should be obvious to everyone but the Fox News addled that Congressional Republicans are responsible, the back and forth with my uncle has convinced me that this apparently needs some more explanation.

First of all, let’s stipulate that the idea of a debt ceiling doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Congress and the President are responsible for appropriating money and (much to the chagrin of the Tea Baggers) borrowing money is a part of running a government. A separate debate and vote on whether the government can borrow money to spend funds that have already been approved is superfluous. Not to mention the fact that the most reactionary budget that has come out of the House of Representatives in recent memory, the Ryan Plan, assumes a deficit for this year (and indeed a deficit for over ten years). Furthermore (although the Tea Party Constitutional fetishists have been adept at ignoring it) the Constitution is pretty clear on this. Section 4 of the 14th Amendment reads:

the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for the payments of pension and bounties for service in suppressing insurrection or rebellion shall not be questioned.

In my opinion, Obama took this Constitutional arrow out of his quiver too soon. While it would set a bad precedent to just ignore a practice that has been in place for decades, he should have reserved his ability to invoke this power in the time of a crisis.

The debt ceiling has been raised 106 times since 1940 and the historical precedent is that the “out party” (who doesn’t control the presidency) votes against it as soon as they know that there are enough votes to pass it. Again, Republicans are shocked (shocked, I say!) that there might be politics in Washington DC and point to the fact that Obama and Biden both voted against it during the Bush Administration. In return, Democrats saw their Barack Obama and raised them a Ronald Reagan, who raised the debt ceiling 18 times in 8 years and in 1987, in a speech that could have been given by Barack Obama, publicly called on the Democratic Congress to stop acting irresponsibly and raise the debt ceiling. 

But this time was different. It was different because the 2010 elections brought to power a bunch of Tea Party Congresmen who cared more about their extreme policy prescriptions than they did about the fragile economic recovery of the United States. The US Government’s much vaunted “checks and balances” are basically a way to insure compromise in lawmaking. But the opposite is true as well: checks and balances also provide an easy way for one faction to grind the system to a halt by refusing to compromise. And this is exactly what the Tea Party has been intent on doing.

Just as they forced a crisis when the Bush Tax cuts were set to expire in 2010, and then again earlier this year when the remaining money from last year was to be appropriated, the Tea Party was set on using the Full Faith and Credit of the United States as a political weapon. The initial Republican plan was to tie the US Government in knots over the debt ceiling to force spending cuts, while only extending the debt ceiling for another 6 months, thereby creating another opportunity to tie the government in knots 6 months later. This is from the same people who talk about the “uncertainty” caused by Democrat’s attempts to regulate the economy or raise enough money to finance the meager social programs we have in this country. What could lead to more uncertainty than questioning whether the largest economy in the world would pay the debts it had run up?

As if that wasn’t enough, the Republicans added the demand that not only did the deficit have to be cut, it had to be cut without raising taxes at a time where taxes are lower than they have been in 60 years.

Faced with this extraordinary economic extortion, Obama called the Republicans’ bluff. He unilaterally put the two most popular social programs in the country on the table and began to push for a deal that would cut the deficit $3-4 trillion over the next 10 years. The catch was that the Republicans would have to agree to tax increases in order to get these cuts. To be sure, this was political gamesmanship too, but it was about time. Obama has been pummeled by Republican political gamesmanship for the past 3 years, and in this case, the right political position also happened to be the right position for the country (not to mention supported by over 2/3 of the American people).

Republicans counter that Obama wasn’t serious about deficit reduction since he never submitted a detailed proposal, but (for better or worse) that’s the same thing he did during the Health Care debate and no one can question his commitment to that policy after witnessing his determination to push it through. Ultimately, Obama was expecting the usual rules to apply here: The Republican House comes out with something reactionary, the Senate moderates it, cooler heads prevail and the President signs the compromise. That is how the system is supposed to work.

But the Tea Partiers aren’t interested in how the system works. They insisted on getting 95% of what they wanted and were ready to risk the position of United States as the economic leader in the world to get that 95%. Ultimately, the deal that was struck produced a lower deficit reduction than S&P said would be necessary to avoid a downgrade and put in place an unwieldy process where a super committee is charged with finding the savings. If they don’t materialize, automatic cuts in domestic and military spending will be enacted.

While this deal took the immediate threat of a default off the table, it provided less debt reduction than S&P had said it would take as a meaningful down-payment on the debt and provided yet another choke point for the Republicans to hold the country hostage to their extreme demands.

My conservative uncle makes the argument that the downgrade was caused by President Obama’s lack of seriousness when it came to tackling the debt, but that ignores the fact that the debt is a long term problem and that the only thing that made the debt problem a “debt crisis”  was the threat of the Republicans not to raise the debt ceiling and their insistence that any deficit reduction not include any additional “revenues,” no matter how small and insignificant they were.

But don’t take my word for it. Read S&P’s statement that accompanied the downgrade (italics added):

The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policy making becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy. Despite this year’s wide-ranging debate, in our view, the differences between political parties have proven to be extraordinarily difficult to bridge, and, as we see it, the resulting agreement fell well short of the comprehensive fiscal consolidation program that some proponents had envisaged until quite recently. Republicans and Democrats have only been able to agree to relatively modest savings on discretionary spending while delegating to the Select Committee decisions on more comprehensive measures. It appears that for now, new revenues have dropped down on the menu of policy options. In addition, the plan envisions only minor policy changes on Medicare and little change in other entitlements, the containment of which we and most other independent observers regard as key to long-term fiscal sustainability.

In other words, if debt ceiling and threat of default weren’t used as “political bargaining chips” or if  the “Grand Bargain” of $3-4 trillion in debt reduction from spending cuts and new revenues that Obama was pushing for  was agreed to, the downgrade wouldn’t have happened.

In the aftermath of the downgrade, many attacked the S&P, noting that they and other ratings agencies that graded risky derivatives as AAA were in large part responsible for the economic crash that we are currently in. While this is clearly true, Reuters financial blogger Felix Salmon points out that, in this case, S&P was really just doing it’s job:

Any student of sovereign default knows that it is born of precisely the kind of failures of governance that we saw during the debt-ceiling debate. That is why the US cannot hold a triple-A rating from S&P: the chance of having a dysfunctional Congress in future is 100%, and a dysfunctional Congress, armed with a statutory debt ceiling, is an extremely dangerous thing, and very far from risk-free…We saw the values of Congress during the debt-ceiling debate, including various members of the House who said with genuine sincerity that they’d actually welcome a default. In that context, S&P’s judgment is hard to fault.

Indeed.

The Debt Negotiations in 6 1/2 Minutes

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

This pretty much sums it up.

How Obama Outfoxed Republicans on Debt Ceiling

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

 


More than a little dramatic, but a great summary of how the Republicans underestimated Obama and how he outmaneuvered them on the debt ceiling.

If there was any doubt that these guys aren’t serious about deficit reduction, there shouldn’t be any more. They only want to cut the deficit if they can get tax cuts as well. The president put $4 trillion in deficit reduction on the table and the Republicans turned it down because they didn’t want to increase taxes on the top 2%. 

Laughable.

Wednesday update here.

Jon Stewart Explains the Ryan Plan

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

The Daily Show – Ryan’s Private Savings – Path to Prosperity
Tags: Daily Show Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,The Daily Show on Facebook

If you have more than a few minutes, here is the intro.

You Balance the Budget

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Here’s The New York Time’s Interactive Budget Balancer.

This is from before the 2010 budget deal,  and doesn’t include all of the current proposals, but it’s a great way to test your assumptions about the federal budget.

Keep Medicare and Social Security at current levels and see how much you need to increase taxes and cut defense in order to pay for it. Rollback the Bush tax cuts for only the rich (as Obama is proposing) and see how much additional cutting you need to do to maintain a balanced budget in 2030. Exempt Social Security, Medicare, Defense and tax increases (as many Republicans have advocated) and see how impossible it becomes.

“Starve The Beast” Unmasked

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Here’s Lawrence O’ Donnell with analysis on Obama’s Wednesday speech.


The real analysis starts at the 2:30 point. O’ Donnell explains how the Republican strategy of “Starve the Beast” got us to the point we are at today. As Reagan said:

You know, we can lecture our children about extravagance until we run out of voice and breath, or we can cure their extravagance by simply reducing their allowance.

O’Donnell continues:

Reducing their allowance. If you’re a conservative republican you can reduce the government’s allowance by cutting taxes, and then sit by and try to watch the democrats preserve their spending programs when they don’t have the money to do it…

“Starve the Beast”…Starve it, cut taxes, don’t collect the money the government needs to run its programs and those programs will then have to be cut. This has been the republican strategy since Reagan. It is the Republican strategy now. If you don’t understand that it is the republican strategy, then you do not understand what you’re up against.

With a nod to Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine,” this is basically an argument that the Republican theories and policies (along with Democratic enabling) basically created this crisis knowing that it would bankrupt the country. Now that the bill for endless tax cuts with no accompanying spending cuts has come due, they tell us that we have no other choice but to dismantle the social programs that Americans have worked decades to build up and maintain.

O’ Donnell, again:

That plan, the Reagan plan, the Starve the Beast plan, controls our governing dialogue today. This is not an accidental legacy of Reagan’s. This was his plan. This didn’t happen because George W. Bush lost his way and forgot to pay for things, it was because George W. Bush faithfully executed the plan.

This is why the Ryan Plan and Obama’s response to it represent a turning point in the debate, and indeed in America’s history.

The Republicans just spent all last year arguing that tax cuts for the richest 2% had to be preserved. They filibustered benefits for 9-11 responders so that they could preserve these tax cuts. Now that they’ve seized the House, they turn around and say: we have no choice as Americans. We now have to dismantle the safety net that has been in place for over 40 years.  

Bullshit.

The Republicans will tell you that we are “broke.” Don’t believe that for a second.

We’re the richest country in the world. We’re fighting two wars, one in Asia and one in the Middle East. We’re supporting an air campaign against another dictator in North Africa and running a covert drone based bombing campaign in a fourth country.  We have 12 aircraft carriers that allow us to project force anywhere in the world on short notice. We have hundreds of thousands of troops stationed in countries where we fought wars over sixty years ago. We’re the strongest economy in the world and we have more billionaires than any other country in the world by a mile.

We also have one of the lowest tax rates of any industrialized country and our taxes are the lowest they have been in fifty years. 

To be sure, there will need to be decreases in spending across the board and entitlements need to be a part of that. But Americans need to make some tough decisions about what kind of a country we want to be. Medicare is the 2nd most popular social program in the country and the Republicans just voted to dismantle it because they say that we’re broke. But we’re apparently not so broke that we couldn’t afford to pass even more tax cuts for the rich as part of the same budget.

The time for maintaining  high levels of defense spending, moderate levels of social spending and low taxes is over. Americans now need to decide whether we would rather deny poor, disabled and the elderly the health care that they need, or whether we should cut back out military commitments around the world. We need to decide if it’s more of a priority to have low taxes for the top 2% or if we can go back to the tax levels of the Clinton years (when the economy created 23 million new jobs) and cushion the cuts to the social programs that most Americans now view as a right. 

I honestly cannot believe that the Republican House actually passed the Ryan budget yesterday. If their vision of America is one where the safety net is no longer guaranteed and seniors no longer have their medical bills paid so that the rich can get more tax cuts, then you’ve got to give them credit for standing up for their beliefs. But I think they’ll soon find that what they believe differs significantly from what the American people believe in.

Finally: Obama Comes Out Swinging

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

I have to admit that the president’s performance during the budget negotiations was disheartening. It’s not so much that I care if $38 billion is cut from the very small pie of non-defense discretionary spending, but that Obama and Senate negotiators gave so much away in the face of Republican threats to shut down the government.  The negotiations made me question what would be left of the social safety net that so many American generations fought for after the president finished compromising. 

The speech he made yesterday could be a turning point. It was a strong statement that he realizes how important this moment in our history is and is ready to fight for the principles that liberals have fought for and the programs that are under attack from the Radical Republicans. Not only was it a shrewd statement politically, it was probably the most specific and eloquent defense of liberalism that I’ve heard in some time. 

If you missed it, I highly recommend watching or reading it but here are my highlights:

Obama gave a nod to the idea of an America of “rugged individualists, a self-reliant people with a healthy skepticism of too much government.” But also spoke of “another thread running throughout our history”:

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

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

Without naming the Ryan Plan specifically, he savaged it.

He savaged it in soaring rhetoric when he explained how much we could accomplish if we invested in our country:

It’s a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can’t afford to fix them. If there are bright young Americans who have the drive and the will but not the money to go to college, we can’t afford to send them. Go to China and you’ll see businesses opening research labs and solar facilities. South Korean children are outpacing our kids in math and science. Brazil is investing billions in new infrastructure and can run half their cars not on high-priced gasoline, but biofuels. And yet, we are presented with a vision that says the United States of America – the greatest nation on Earth – can’t afford any of this.

Then he savaged it with specifics:

It’s a vision that says America can’t afford to keep the promise we’ve made to care for our seniors. It says that ten years from now, if you’re a 65 year old who’s eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today. It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy insurance, tough luck – you’re on your own. Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it.

He drew attention to the fact that the Ryan budget proposes to dismantle the health care systems for the poor, the disabled and the elderly and plows that savings into even more tax cuts for the wealthy. Along the way, he pointed to the rising inequality that accompanied the tax cutting spree of the Bush years:

Worst of all, this is a vision that says even though America can’t afford to invest in education or clean energy; even though we can’t afford to care for seniors and poor children, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy. Think about it. In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90% of all working Americans actually declined. The top 1% saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. And that’s who needs to pay less taxes?

They want to give people like me a two hundred thousand dollar tax cut that’s paid for by asking thirty three seniors to each pay six thousand dollars more in health costs?

That’s not right, and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m President.

When I watched the section above, I had to rewind the Tivo once or twice to understand the math he was explaining: giving one person a two hundred thousand dollar tax cut and financing it by asking thirty three old people to pay six thousand dollars more in health care costs. This is the Republican’s plan for the future.

Just as he did in his Libya speech, Obama consistently drew on the ideals of American Exceptionalism that Republicans have unfairly knocked him for not honoring:

The America I know is generous and compassionate; a land of opportunity and optimism. We take responsibility for ourselves and each other; for the country we want and the future we share. We are the nation that built a railroad across a continent and brought light to communities shrouded in darkness. We sent a generation to college on the GI bill and saved millions of seniors from poverty with Social Security and Medicare. We have led the world in scientific research and technological breakthroughs that have transformed millions of lives.

This is who we are. This is the America I know. We don’t have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit investments in our people and our country. To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms. We will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I’m President, we won’t.

Finally the fight is joined. For years, the Republicans have engaged in a “Starve the Beast” strategy which consistently cut taxes and then blamed the shortfalls that ensued on runnaway social spending.

But the Ryan plan is a bridge too far. It shows the real vision that the Republicans have for the country, and the argument that we need to dismantle Medicaid and Medicare and provide even more tax cuts for the rich just isn’t going to fly.

Yesterday, the President provided an alternative to that vision and indicated that he is willing to fight for it. How much he is willing to fight remains to be seen, but I’m feeling better than I did a few days ago.

Bill Maher Explains the Budget with Dinner

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

This is great (start at 3:39).

I’ve been saying all along that the thing the Tea Partiers never understood is that the bulk of Federal spending is in programs that people in the Tea Party actually like (like Social Security, Medicare and Defense).

The initial Republican budget goes after things like NPR, Planned Parenthood, earmarks (less than 1% of the budget), but as Maher points out, that is like trying to decrease your calorie intake by cutting back on the garnish on your giant plate of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and mac and cheese.

It’s easy to don a tri-corn hat and rage against how Obama’s a Socialist, but it’s harder to cut programs that you like and surveys consistently show that Americans like a lot of programs and don’t have a firm grasp on what their money is spent on.

The wake up call is coming.

Tax Cuts Do Not Pay For Themselves

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

With the Bush tax cuts about to expire and Democrats planning to make the argument over extending Bush tax cuts for the rich a key to their positioning for the November elections, there has been an increased focus on the effects of all of Bush’s tax cuts.

In defending the extentions the Republicans have backed themselves into a bit of a rhetorical corner. Specifically, they just spent two years complaining incessantly about the $9 trillion dollar deficit that Obama has somehow created in just two years (as if they were asleep during the previous 8 years) and now they are proposing to continue the tax policies that have significantly contributed to those deficits. In an attempt to justify this irresponsible policy, a number of Republicans have fallen back on the familiar supply-side argument from the Reagan years that “tax cuts pay for themselves.”

In addition to this general statement, I have also heard from some Republicans recently that “there was no revenue problem” during the Bush years and that if spending hadn’t increased at the time, Bush would have been able to balance the budget. While that may be technically true, it fundamentally ignores the fact that the Bush tax cuts tacked on an additional trillion and a half to a budget that was aleady bloated by recession and two wars (wars that almost all Republicans supported).

A few minutes of Google research was enough to dispel the fantasy that tax cuts pay for themselves. Studies by both the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the free market Heritage Foundation have both pegged the cost of the Bush tax cuts at close to $1.7 trillion over a ten year period. Even the most conservative estimates of the stimulative power of the tax cuts assume that they would have created a 25% increase in tax revenues during that period, making the cost of those tax cuts at least $1.3 trillion (if not more).

Going forward, the cost of extending the Bush tax cuts for all income brackets is estimated at $3 trillion over 10 years.

So now Republicans–who complained seemingly non-stop for two years about how Obama had created trillion dollar deficits–are in the position of running for office on a plan to keep all the Bush tax cuts in place, but not providing any plan to offset the estimated $3 trillion revenue loss.

This dichotomy was on display pretty dramatically on Meet the Press last Sunday. The week before David Gregory had Alan Greenspan on and had asked the former Fed Chairman if he favored extending the Bush tax cuts. “I’m very much in favor of tax cuts but not with borrowed money” he said, “and the problem that we have gotten into in recent years is spending programs with borrowed money, tax cuts with borrowed money; and at the end of the day that proves disastrous.”

Gregory probed more: “you don’t agree with Republican leaders who say tax cuts pay for themselves?”

“They do not,” replied Greenspan. 

When Boehner was on last Sunday, Gregory played Greenspan’s clip from the week before and asked him how he could be concerned about the deficit, but at the same time in favor of extending the Bush tax cuts indefinitely.

“Do tax cuts pay for themselves?” Gregory asked.

Boehner was evasive, but Gregory kept at him until he burst out that Gregory wanted to “get into this Washington game…and their funny accounting over there.” 

Nice try Boehner, but this isn’t a Washington game, and it’s not a trick question to ask if you have a plan to pay for the $3 trillion in tax cuts that you are proposing, especially if you just spent the past two years blaming Obama and Pelosi for the deficit.

We just finished a long debate over the health care reform bill and the Republicans’ main argument was that we couldn’t afford to move toward universal health care and that they didn’t like (or believe in)  the way it was financed. That’s fair enough, I didn’t like how it was financed either, but it was financed, which is more than we can say about extending the Bush tax cuts, or the Medicare prescription drug benefit that the Republicans passed under Bush.

We are closing out 30 years of history in which the Republicans have consistently said that they would cut government, but when push came to shove, just cut taxes and let government increase in size. Does anyone think that we should just trust these guys to do the right thing this time?…and more importantly, if anyone does believe that they have a plan to balance the budget, don’t we deserve to know what that plan would look like?

As I’ve said before, I think that there are good arguments to maintain low taxes for the next couple of years to stimulate the economy (I would rather see the income tax cuts be replaced by a short-term payroll tax holiday), but we are facing a $9 trillion deficit over the next ten years and neither party seems serious about the changes that will need to be made. Canceling  the tax cuts would slash that deficit by one third overnight and make the job of deficit reduction significantly less daunting.

Americans need to understand that hard choices (on both benefits and taxes) need to be made, and we should have a debate that illuminates this reality. The politicians are doing what they always do. Obama promised not to raise taxes on the middle class, so he’s in favor of extending the tax cuts for everyone but the top 2%. Republicans like low taxes more than they hate deficits, so they’re in favor of adding on another $700 billion over 10 years for the top 2% (while they filibuster jobless benefits because “we can’t afford them”). Both sides complain about deficits, but both sides are also in a mad dash to stuff the budget full of their individual priorities before they have to start negotiating on what programs to cut and what revenues to raise.

The country deserves a debate on bigger issues instead of a narrow debate along the partisan lines that the parties have layed out. We deserve a rare outbreak of candor from our politicians. 

This may be to much to ask right now, but dispensing with the canard that “tax cuts pay for themselves” is a good start.