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October 07, 2008

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100% right on.

the only problem is that McCain's going to be in full feces-flinging mode tonight. and since the "moderator" is only there to lob questions and signal time, there's going to be nothing to hold him back. Obama's going to be shoveling furiously just to keep his head above the rising tide of scummy lies.

Besides the raising taxes accusation, I reckon we can also expect Sen. McCain to attack Obama as insufficiently committed to earmarks reform.

I don't really see tremendous differences in the McCain/Obama economic plan. They both supported the massive bailout (which is not exactly having the intended effect on the market as of right now as it slides lower today). They both don't want to address the elephant in the parlor of our massive entitlement obligations and our crippling national debt. These guys are both addicted to giving largesse to the voter in the form of free government goodies in some form or another. I'm all for a prosperous America with everyone health-insured and safe retirement, but when, like a 12-step program, do we "come to terms" with the fact that we just don't have enough money for all these government programs.

I really hope someone explains how we are going to pay down the debt tonight.

I don't really see tremendous differences in the McCain/Obama economic plan.

OK...who exactly on Obama's team has advocated policies like Phil Gramm?

Also, have you actually compared the economic plans on their websites? Or are you just working off of soundbites you heard on the evening news?

They both supported the massive bailout (which is not exactly having the intended effect on the market as of right now as it slides lower today).

The bailout was never intended to help the stock market directly. Note that the bailout plan hasn't even begun purchasing assets yet. No one ever claimed that the bailout would definitely work: the only claim I heard was that the bailout might reduce the likelihood of financial catastrophe. Finally, you can't look at a declining market and say "aha! the bailout is a failure"; the relevant point of comparison is not the market yesterday, but is what the market would have been with no bailout legislation.

They both don't want to address the elephant in the parlor of our massive entitlement obligations and our crippling national debt.

Our national debt is mostly due to foreign military adventures and homeland security spending. As for entitlements, social security is fine in the long term. The real entitlements problem we have is that the cost of medical care is growing faster then inflation, but this is a problem for all health care payers in this country: it affects private insurers no less than the government.

What turbulence said.

Also: Paying down the debt will be made easier by first letting Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire (Obama) and second, not enacting a new round of even deeper tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans (as McCain proposes).

Social Security is solvent for the next seventy years, and then will need incremental help after that, but little tweaks can keep it functioning fine.

Medicare is a problem because of health care costs, but then what Turb said.

"I'm all for a prosperous America with everyone health-insured and safe retirement, but when, like a 12-step program, do we 'come to terms' with the fact that we just don't have enough money for all these government programs."

We have enough money for an $840,000,000,000 dollar financial crisis bill, and enough money for $587,000,000,000 for Iraq, enough for $5k per year per Iraqi, but not enough for health care for our own citizens?

Ha ha ha.

CNN says things ain't looking so good:

Wall Street's drubbing continued Tuesday, with a 500-point loss bringing the Dow's two-day scalding to nearly 900 points, as the Federal Reserve's plan to loosen credit markets failed to counter investor pessimism about the government's ability to rescue the markets.

Good thing I've got a shoebox full of cash buried in the backyard.

In light of L.T. Nixon's post I'd like to point out that I heard a very cogent discussion of the differences between McCain's health care plans for an actual family (a father, mother, and adult son) who have/don't have health care right now--and Obama's. This was on NPR and they brought in an expert to describe the current (dire and expensive) situation of these people and to discuss the implications of the two candidates plans. The implications of McCain's plan is that both the parents and the adult son would either lose, or be unable to afford, health care entirely and because of their current health problems would simply...uh..., uh..., uh...well, die, in a ditch. Under Obama's plan they would both probably be better off *if Obama could manage the politics of ramming his plan through.* This was equally true of McCain's plan--that is: it was costly, inefficient, destructive, and harmful but he, too, would have a hard time getting it through congress because its *insanely expensive.*

Now, a friend of mine and I used to have a joke--there are people who fantasize small, and people who fantasize big. But if you are fantasizing, big or small, the main difference is whether you are fantasizing something that would be good for you, or bad for you. McCain's plan pretends to be fiscally sound--but it isn't. In addition, its not even a *good plan.* It costs a shit load of money, and it ends up hurting people. Obama's plan might end up costing a lot of money. But gosh darn it at least he's trying to *do some good* with the money. Which, as we've seen in the current bailout, is going to be spent anyhow.

Me? I'd like to get national health care for my bailout instead of just getting John McCain's friends new jets with my bailout. And that is the difference between the two candidates right the way down the line. McCain's plans are outright harmful where they aren't merely neglectful. And they cost a bundle anyway. Just like "school vouchers" don't save the taxpayers any money, they just shift the same dollars to some taxpayers children and away from others.

aimai

Aimai, there's also the consideration that Obama might have a Congress that he'll be able to get legislation through, whereas even if McCain's plan made more sense it would have no chance of making it through a Congress that's going to be more Democratic than the one we have now.

LT_Nixon: I really hope someone explains how we are going to pay down the debt tonight.

Too bad I'm not running for President, for LT_Nixon would probably support my approach: let's privatize the national debt. Split the check. Assign every American his or her fair share of the national debt to service or "pay down" as he or she sees fit.

What could be more in tune with the GOP mantra that "people make better decisions about their own money"? Note that privatizing the debt would allow LT_Nixon to "pay down" his share -- and not mine. If he chooses to merely service his share of the debt all his life, his outstanding balance will be inherited by his kids -- and not mine. As things stand now, neither of us has a "choice": we are each obliged to service the national debt unless we both agree to pay it down. (Debt service being about 8% of the federal budget, it's fair to say that 8 cents of every dollar he or I pay to the feds goes to paying interest on the debt. "Paying down" the debt would require both him and me to agree to budget surpluses by cutting spending or raising taxes.) Since some of us prefer to service our debts, others to pay them down, shouldn't we individually be "free to choose"?

The big stumbling block -- and the reason why the privatize-everything crowd would never go for my modest proposal -- is that we'd have a hell of a time agreeing on a "fair" division of the debt. Divvying up strictly per-capita would never work. Per-capita, every man, woman, and child would currently owe about $35,000. Since a vast number of those men, women, and children could not even service that much debt, the bondholders (who know perfectly well that it's the American people, not some disembodied "government", who owe them money) would never go for a per-capita formula.

But a "progressive" division of the debt would run absolutely counter to GOP philosophy. In particular, remember that our current arrangement is this: we Americans, who are currently servicing a $10+ trillion debt, assign each American taxpayer a share of the debt, implicitly. If an American currently pays $100K in federal taxes, that American is paying $8K interest, and is thus "assigned" whatever debt balance $8K is the interest on. An American who pays $1K in taxes, and thus $80 of interest, is "assigned" a balance that's one-hundredth of the first guy's. But look: if you want to cut the rich guy's taxes, you are straightforwardly saying that you want the rich guy to be servicing a smaller fraction of the national debt. You are trying to push the distribution back toward a flat, per-capita division. Whether you believe the national debt is due to having gone overboard on tax cuts for the rich, or having gone overboard on services for the non-rich, further tax cuts for the rich imply a greater allocation of the debt to the non-rich. Even if we balance the budget next year, who owes how much of the outstanding debt is still a function of who pays how much in taxes.

The bondholders know all this. Voters who imagine that cutting taxes for the rich is a good idea probably don't.

--TP

At some point in tonight's debate, John McCain will falsely accuse Barack Obama of planning to raise taxes on most, if not all, Americans... "We know this," McCain will say with saddened expression.
It's only 9:36 by my clock, and he just did it.
Tax cuts feel good but do not necessarily stimulate growth or pay for themselves; given our long-term fiscal situation Americans are going to have to be told honestly that they will have to pay their own way in the future.
If Americans have to "pay their own way". I suspect the programs which have the most limited utility for Americans will get the hardest scrutiny. In this context, I expect American policy makers to "review" and quietly drop the policy of maintaining an unchallengeable military dominance. As long as they could persuade taxpayers they would never really see the bill, "national greatness" conservatives got by on the good feelings American power produced, on the memories of World War II, and on periodic attacks on the patriotism of their opponents. But when advocates of current levels of "defence" spending have to justify an average tax bill of two to four thousand dollars per family, the American people will find the concept of burden sharing more attractive, even when the quid pro quo of that burden sharing means letting other countries have a much greater say in world affairs.

In practice: don't expect replacements for this round of aircraft carriers. Expect the USAF to stop maintaing a large force of bombers and fighters in favour of drones. Either the F22 Raptor or the JSF program will come to a quick end, probably involving cutting torches. Some programs will go on, and many others will get cut (as always, politicians will not always make the choice wisely). More and more, American arms makers and procurement officers will have to answer the question: why do we need this to defend the United States? As this implies, the defence of Georgia or of South Moluccas will no longer suffice.

Look for this to trigger a reduction of world military spending overall, US spending declines and other countries no longer attempt to keep up with American military innovations. Look for other countries to take up specific burdens as the price for a seat at the regional or global table. Look for a real international debate on global security issues to develop. And, look for irresponsible regional powers (hello, Kim Jong Il, hi Soamli pirates) to behave more dangerously.

In this context, I expect American policy makers to "review" and quietly drop the policy of maintaining an unchallengeable military dominance.

How about a review of the "War on Drugs"? That's an enormously costly boondogle.

Right; I think a review of ways to cope with some of the more problematic interactions between the individual psyche, brain chemistry, and society might come up with a slightly saner metaphor than "war".

On the other hand, let's not pretend crystal meth and allied drugs (oxycontin, crack, ecstasy) don't present a considerable economic and social problem.

"On the other hand, let's not pretend crystal meth and allied drugs (oxycontin, crack, ecstasy) don't present a considerable economic and social problem."

I've never taken any of those four drugs, but while Ecstasy may be damaging in the long run, I'm unclear that it should be lumped in with the others. In fact, all four drugs are highly dissimilar, and probably not best considered otherwise.

I don't see why all drugs and intake questions shouldn't be treated -- and I mean "treated" -- purely as medical and psychological issues. Ditto tobacco, alcohol, and fatty foods.

(Obviously, driving while intoxicated, and the like, should remain crimes.)

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Whatnot


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