Tag Archives: federal budget

Independent Kansan: Post-Rapture Edition


That’s right baby, we’re back. I don’t know if everybody is still out there. Maybe some people were whisked away to Heaven, but it wasn’t me and it wasn’t you. The post-Rapture “Hell on Earth” doesn’t seem to be taking place. So I have made the decision to return to a life of speaking my opinion to anyone who will listen and boldly trying to restore some common sense to the world.

It might be worth noting that a few hours after the supposed beginning of the end, a tornadic thunderstorm did roll through my little piece of this planet. I don’t know if God was sending me a warning shot or what.

I guess I should give you a preview of whats to come. Tim Pawlenty is running for President. Mitch Daniels is not. Sarah Palin, apparently raised some money and bought a house in Arizona. People seem to think that maybe she’s setting something up. We still have to raise the debt ceiling, pass a budget and while we are fighting about all of that, the President has called on Congress to reform federal education law this year.

I had got an email on Friday that posed some interesting questions. This is what it said:

“I wonder what the following conversations / planning meetings were like?

Democratic leadership planning on how to take advantage of the new Democratic Majority after the Rapture.  (assuming our Republican friends are taken, and the gay loving, baby killing, welfare spending democrats are left all alone.

Republicans planning how to carry on if their most vocal base goes to heaven.  (Safe assumption that if they got themselves elected to congress they will not be making the trip) How can they stay in office without their Christian conservative supporters.  Did the republican party circulate forms “in case of rapture, please donate all of my money to the Republican party?”
Special thanks to Mike for allowing me to use this. I assume he won’t mind. The point of all this is that there is no shortage of things to talk about, and as the world seems to be continuing on, so must we. Thanks to all my readers. I hope in the “Post-Rapture world” I can continue to provide a voice of civility in a world of madness.

Today I Praise Republicans. Well, Three Republicans.


A couple of Republican Senators caught me by surprise on Sunday. Both Sen. Tom Coburn, and Sen. Saxby Chambliss said that raising government revenue should be considered in the attempt to balance the budget. This goes against not only the Republican budget proposal in the House, but also the Republican talking point that the governments problem is spending not revenue.

Coburn and Chambliss are both part of the “Gang of Six” who are Senators looking for a budget compromise in the Senate. Coburn has come under fire from conservative activist Grover Norquist who says he is going back on his word. Specifically, Sen. Coburn signed an oath with Americans for Tax Reform that said he would not vote to raise taxes. Coburn’s repsonse was very direct. He said:

“Well, I think which pledge is most important, David , is the pledge to, to uphold your oath to the Constitution of the United States or a pledge from a special interest group who, who claims to speak for all of American conservatives when, when in fact they really don’t.”

For a Republican to fire back at a conservative special interest group like that caught me way off guard. Sen. Chambliss was far less fiery when talking about revenue. On CNN, he said:

” Now, if we don’t want to pay the debt back, then we could just not worry about the revenues. But the fact is we’ve got a $14 trillion debt staring us in the face, and revenues has to be on the table if we’re serious about attacking that debt.”

Both quotes come from this NPR story.  It’s important that two Republican senators have put raising revenue on the table. Democrats have already acknowledged that spending needs to be cut. Now, we at least have a group working at both sides of the problem, revenue and spending.

Coburn’s idea for raising revenue is certainly going to be a hard sell to Republicans. He wants to eliminate tax deductions, and credits in the tax code. This will cause businesses and individuals to pay more in taxes. Republicans have often called this a “tax increase.”  As the Boston Globe reported  last July, House Republicans opposed the act to give healthcare to 9\11 first responders because it included a “corporate tax increase.” The bill would have prevented foreign corporations from not paying taxes on profit earned in the US.

I don’t see that as a tax increase. Our tax code says you should pay this much. It then says if you do certain things the government will give some of that money back (a tax credit) or not tax you on that income (a tax deduction.) This is the government’s way of influencing our behavior. It is a version of positive reinforcment. For those of you not schooled in psychology, positive reinforcement is when you provide a reward for a certain behavior with the intention of increasing the probability that the same behavior will reoccur. So, when the government offers a tax credit to first time homebuyers they are trying to increase home ownership by giving a financial incentive. Taking away that tax credit is not really raising taxes it’s just not providing that incentive.

I like to use the metaphor of a retail business, perhaps a grocery store. When you walk into a grocery store everything has a price. It’s usually listed right on the shelf below the item. From time to time the store wants to encourage you to buy particular items. Maybe they have a large supply of something and they want to move some product. For a time that item costs less. As people buy enough of a particular item, the store will end the sale. Did the store raise prices? Not really. The price of that item did technically go up, but it just went to the normal rate. In the same way, when the government says a particular tax credit or deduction is expiring, they aren’t raising taxes. They are really just saying we need to start paying full price again.

Perhaps thats not important right now, but I wanted to make a point. In the end I applaud Sen. Coburn, Sen. Chambliss as well as Sens. Conrad, Durbin, Warner, and Crapo for trying to do real work for the people of this country. I hope they are successful in finding a good compromise.

Cutting Taxes To Fix The Budget? Really?


The Republican congressman who chairs the House Budget Committee, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan,  unveiled the Republican budget proposal for the next fiscal year. I thought it was a little confusing. In the last election the Tea Party had a big influence. Supposedly this was based on the idea that we needed fiscal responsibility. The deficit is too large, the debt is out of control and we have to do something about it. The Republican party seized this message and said they were the ones to fix it. They won many elections and gained control of the House. They now have the opportunity to prove to their base that they are serious about fiscal matters. So I was a little confused about the fact that the proposal won’t balance the budget.  It calls for trillions of dollars in spending cuts over the next decade, but still doesn’t get us back to even, How is that possible? That’s a good question. The answer is that Congressman Ryan’s proposal would also lower the highest tax rate to 25%. That’s %10 less than now.

Why aren’t we seriously concerned with balancing the budget? Republicans have taken Tea Party enthusiasm and used it to propose a radical government limiting agenda without attempting to solve the issue the Tea Party is supposed to be all about. Cutting government spending may have some merit. Balancing the budget and reducing the national debt makes sense. To accomplish that goal with a one-sided approach that assumes government programs are just to expensive isn’t the answer. Why don’t we examine the fact that tax revenues are down. As soon as President Bush cut income taxes in 2001 we went from surplus to deficit. That trend has continued. All the while Republicans have opposed tax increases on anyone, and measures to enforce tax collection on corporations. They proposed cutting the IRS budget for tax enforcement by $600 million, which could lower tax revenues $4-6 billion, and now they want to lower the top tax rate 10%.

Congressman Ryan’s proposal put forth ideas about changing Medicare and Medicaid. While I don’t necessarily agree with them, at least this can start a debate, and a debate is a good thing.d I’ve said we need to look at 4 things: Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, Defense spending, and tax rates. Working with those things is how we are going to balance the budget. So far Republicans want to cut non-defense discretionary spending by at least $33 billion, probably more. That won’t do any good. Democrats have refused to join the debate over entitlement programs. A lack of involvement won’t do any good. Republicans have refused to discuss defense spending, and now they are proposing lowering tax rates by a huge margin. This isn’t the Bush tax cuts. This proposal cuts over $4 trillion of government spending in the next decade and won’t balance the budget?

We need to address the budget issue, but we can’t do that by intentionally cutting government revenue. The wealthiest Americans might benefit from this proposal but the majority of Americans will suffer.