Tuesday, July 11, 2006

On deficits: the right simply refuses to understand.

I say "refuses" because the concept is not hard to understand. Just check out this post at Town Hall for a good example of what I mean.

Of course we still care about the deficit, nimrod. But the fact that you are rejoicing about it being only $300 billion this fiscal year is, quite frankly, a little frightening. Not only that, but as I've written before, it's also a source of large concern where the extra tax revenue is coming from, and what the implications are for the stability of future tax receipts.

$300 billion--the fourth largest deficit in history--will look good, sure, but only if you're using a deficit over $400 billion as your bottom line.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Yet another horrid op-ed on CT-Sen

I can't understand it for the life of me.

No matter how many times we in the blogofascisphere explain the reasoning behind our support for Ned Lamont--how it is about far deeper issues than merely the occupation, and that we are not here to conduct an ideological purge--the traditional beltway columnists still continue to produce the same old rhetoric about how we are all a bunch of extremists who have sacrificed the interests of our party in the interests of conducting an inquisition.

Today's example comes in the form of Ruth Marcus' op-ed in Monday's Washington Post.

Are [Connecticut voters] so upset about the war, and so angered by Lieberman's unflagging support for it, that they would oust a three-term senator and former vice presidential nominee in favor of an antiwar candidate whose only experience in elective office was as a Greenwich selectman during the 1980s?

Why, yes.  It appears that way.  It appears that they're willing to do that, as incredulous as yoare about it.  And you know why that is?  First of all, it's not just that he supports the war.  Senators like Biden and Cantwell are generally supportive of Iraq.  Let me clarify this: It's the way he supports the war.  First of all, his support of it is most certainly not based in reality.  Second, he doesn't just support the war; he undermines his party's attempts to hold a debate about how to move forward.  You see, saying that "in matters of national security, we undermine Presidential credibility at our own peril" isn't just supporting the war--it's Republican-style attempt to stifle opposition in the name of royal infallibility.

But it's not just about the war, nimrod.  Let's take a look at a subsequent paragraph of your op-ed piece:

The 2000 vice presidential debate between Lieberman and Dick Cheney was a genteel meeting of sober-minded men. This was politics as roller derby. The 64-year-old Lieberman came out swinging -- at times perhaps a bit too hard. He took some less-than-convincing shots: for example, harping on Lamont's 80 percent voting record with Republican selectmen -- as if Greenwich government is composed of Tom DeLay clones.

At least some honesty shows through about Lieberman's attacks on Lamont during the debates.  But for hell's sake, you've just made our case for us!  Here's a senator who had a "genteel meeting"--in your own words--with 18% approval rating Dick Cheney.  You know what happened in 2004?  I remember what happened in 2004.  John Edwards did his absolute best to drill Dick Cheney on his ideological extremism during his time in Congress and during his first stint as (vice-)president ("he voted against Meals on Wheels!").  That option was open to Lieberman, but he chose not to take it.  And instead, he keeps his powder dry to use it on his primary challenger!  Yeah.  Democrats shouldn't be upset about that or anything.

Nor, apparently, should we be upset about Lieberman's lipservice to Bush on Social Security.  Or his support of allowing hospitals to refuse to dispense emergency contraception to rape victims because they can just drive 10 minutes to another hospital.

No, nothing to do with any of those.  This is exclusively an insane anti-war purge on our part.  But let's move on.

Lieberman casts the race as a test not just for himself but for the Democratic Party -- in particular for its empowered liberal blogosphere, which has been venomous in its opposition to Lieberman and is eager to display his scalp as the first solid electoral evidence of its new muscle.

DISPLAY HIS SCALP??!?  Are you kidding?  Maybe we're eager to defeat Lieberman.  Maybe "oust" might have been a good term to use.  But no.  Good old Ruth has to use the term "display his scalp" to make sure that we in the netroots get to be portrayed to be--well--bloodthirsty rabid lambs.  What a trashy excuse for journalism.  But it gets better.

This is the disturbing aspect of the Lieberman-Lamont race. Perhaps Lieberman is wrong on the war. Perhaps he's been too eager in recent years to demonstrate his independence from the party.

But the Ahab-like zeal with which critics are pursuing him is far in excess of whatever supposed crimes he has committed. Lieberman is an experienced, serious legislator. His bipartisan instincts should be commended, not pilloried. His refusal to back away from his convictions on Iraq deserves admiration even from those who disagree.

Now this is just rich, isn't it.  Apparently, Lieberman should be re-elected because he's an incumbent.  I think that's Lieberman's position, given his recent formation of the "Connecticut for Lieberman" party.

And apparently, Lieberman deserves to be re-elected by a state that absolutely most precisely because he's so willing to agree with Bush on principle!  That's a great example of representative democracy for you.

And as for his principle: well, Stephen Colbert said that Bush is a man who believes the same thing on Wednesday that he believed on Monday, regardless of what happened Tuesday.  And apparently, Ms. Marcus thinks that that is an admirable virtue, rather than a politically extremist vice.

And let's top this off:

While Lamont and the bloggers who back him devote their energy to defeating Lieberman, Connecticut has three competitive House races where Democratic challengers have a chance of beating Republican incumbents and helping take back the House. Wouldn't those be a more productive way for Democrats unhappy about Bush and the war to channel their anger?

This gets more and more pathetic by the paragraph.  Apparently, our bloggers will be to blame if we don't take back the House in November because we'll have spent so much time on Lieberman, conveniently ignoring the enthusiasm that the focus on Connecticut politics will have on Connecticut Democrats this fall.  But even if this is true, I wonder why our issue groups get a pass from Ruth, despite their continued endorsement of these Republican congressmen.

Hey Ruth, I've got a suggestion for you:  Why don't you go ahead and tell Laffey's supporters in Rhode Island that they're ruining the Republican Party.  Given the blue color of RI, they're definitely hurting their cause more than Lamont's supporters are.

On second thought, here's a better idea: stop writing about our movement until you know what the hell you're talking about.

Her ID.

Here is Abeer's ID. She could have been the daughter of any of us. And we ought to treat her death that way.

Rest in Peace, Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi.

I'm sorry. That's all I can really say. I know you can't hear me. I know that your sister and your parents can't hear me either. Neither can the tens of thousands of your fellow Iraqi citizens needlessly, if accidentally, killed by the U.S. military.

But your brothers just might, if the world is small enough. And even though your brothers may end up despising America for the rest of their lives on account of what our soldier did to your family--and perhaps rightfully so--I want them to know that I'm sorry. I apologize on behalf of every American who opposes the continuance of our needless occupation.

I will do my best to make sure that history remembers your name, and you are not forgotten. That is the least I can do to make up for the atrocities and terror that you suffered during the final moments of your young life.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

It's not trickling down, fools (a sequel to bonddad)

[Also available at Daily Kos and MyLeftWing]

In his diary today, bonddad lays the hammer to the idea that the economy is booming and everything is hunky-dory.  At the end, he briefly mentions one of the main talking points concerning an increase in corporate tax receipts, as reported today by the New York Times.

Bonddad touched on these tax receipt figures briefly, but I wanted to expound on them a little, based on my novice-level ability to interpret this data and what it means to me.  But if I'm right--man oh man does this crap piss me off to the highest degree.

I'm certainly not an economic analyst, and I would very much welcome any input from those who would be much more qualified than me to discuss this issue.

Let's start with the graphic posted by the New York Times--it displays total individual tax receipts, total corporate tax receipts, and total tax receipts as a percentage of GDP since 2000:

(click for full-size image)

Now, one can draw some very interesting observations from this data.

First of all--yes, it's true that corporate tax receipts have surged by nearly 300% in the past 3 years, based on the total projected receipts for the year 2006.  This is making the Club for Growth sing the praises of supply-side from the rooftops:

Pat Toomey, president of the Club for Growth, a conservative political fund-raising group, said: "The supply-siders were absolutely right. All the major sources of revenue have grown, especially in areas where we said they would."

I just have one thing to say about that data: if corporate tax receipts are increasing that dramatically given the ability of corporations to find tax shelters and pay as little as possible to the government, how much is taxable corporate profit increasing?  There's a scary question.

Even scarier, however, is the correlation between corporate tax receipts and individual tax receipts.  As the graph shows--while corporate tax receipts in 2005 already far outpaced their level in 2000, the same can most certainly not be said for individual tax receipts:

Despite almost five years of economic growth, individual income taxes — the biggest component of federal tax revenues — have yet to reach the levels of 2000.

As bonddad points out, individual tax receipts for the year 2005 came to $927 billion dollars--well below the $1 trillion mark reached in 2000, even without adjusting for the effects of 5 years of inflation.

Even more problematic is the source of what rise there is in individual tax receipts.  Far from being driven by an increase in the collective wealth of the wage-earning middle class, the increase in individual receipts is being generated by a massive increase in taxes that are not withheld from paychecks--that is to say, investment and dividend income, and executive bonus pay:

The other big increase is an extraordinary jump in individual taxes that were not withheld from paychecks, usually a reflection of taxes on investment income and executive bonuses.

Now, I don't have the numbers in front of me, but let's do a vague, "fuzzy math" calculation.  So, individual tax receipts are still below their Clinton-era levels after 6 years of supply-side economic policy, and the only reason they're even beginning to be able to approach that level in the first place--in real dollars, mind you, not adjusting for inflation in the least--is because of investment income and taxes on CEO bonuses.  Can anyone provide some sort of chart indicating the total tax receipts based on income taxes withheld from paychecks?  I'd like to see that, because based on what I'm reading and seeing, it seems likely that that figure would be scary.

By a clear process of subtraction, it would seem obvious that the middle class--the supposed eventual beneficiaries of trickle-down supply-side policy--are not having any of the wealth trickle down to them in the least, at least based on the total tax receipt figures.

Indeed, this is well-corroborated by bonddad's analysis from earlier:

Wages increased from $16.07 to $16.70 from June 2005 to June 2006 (a 3.92% increase), but over the same time the overall inflation level increased from 194 to 202.5 (an increase of 4.16%).  That means purchasing power actually decreased over that time.  That means no one got a raise - they lost money.  That's some accomplishment, Larry.  Idiot.

The bottom line is, the increase in federal tax receipts that Bush and the Club for Growth are currently using as evidence for the success of trickle-down are in fact prima facie evidence that trickle-down concentrates wealth in the hands of a few, and blindsides the middle class.  It's right there in the goddamn numbers if anyone bothered to look.

Now, it would be one thing is this economic policy provided any long-term stability in the tax base, but it doesn't even do that.  You want to know why?  Because while taxes levied on wage income are generally stable despite the vicissitudes of the stock market, investment income such as dividends, capital gains, and lavish CEO bonuses can fluctuate wildly, depending on whether there's a bull or a bear market:

One reason for the increased volatility may be that, contrary to a popular assumption, a disproportionate share of income taxes is paid by wealthy households, and their incomes are based much more on the swings of the stock market than on wages and salaries. About one-third of all income taxes are paid by households in the top 1 percent of income earners, who make more than about $300,000 a year. Because those households also earn the overwhelming share of taxable investment income and executive bonuses, both their incomes and their tax liabilities swing sharply in bull and bear markets.

"These people have incomes that fluctuate much more rapidly, so when the economy is doing well and the stock market is doing well, tax revenues will be up," said Brian Riedl, a budget analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization. "Rapidly fluctuating tax revenues will continue to be the norm for years to come."

So essentially, what we've done is eroded the purchasing power and tax receipts of the middle class with "entrepreneurship stimulation" policies that reward wealth and not work--apparently because the only reason that we haven't all become Warren Buffett is because being wealthy just isn't tax-advantaged enough.  And in the process, a far greater percentage of America's tax revenue is dependent on the uncontrollable and unpredictable fluctuations of the stock market.

And still, this "increasing revenue" will only lower the budget deficit for this fiscal year to only $300 billion.  As if the fact that we're $300 billion in the red IN ONE YEAR is something for our nation to be proud of.

Now, take all those instability-producing factors into consideration and add to them the fact that the tax revenues in question are growing more slowly than the economy, but government spending is growing at a far faster pace than the economy.  Now add to that the fact that government obligations to social security, and government health spending will balloon substantially in the coming years.

What does that come to?  A recipe for disaster.  And yet, despite the obviousness of the facts, the Club for Growth and George Bush continue to tout the "success" of their supply-side economic policy.

The bottom line is this: conservative economic policy is nothing more than an exercise at justifying short-term selfishness at the expense of the nation at large.  They try to say that it is eventually good for the country, but no matter how they slice it, the cold, hard data--even the data they like to tout--prove the fallacious immorality of their actions.