Kent Pitman

Kent Pitman
New England, USA
Philosopher, Technologist, Writer
I've been using the net in various roles—technical, social, and political—for the last 30 years. I'm disappointed that most forums don't pay for good writing and I'm ever in search of forums that do. (I've not seen any Tippem money, that's for sure.) And I worry some that our posting here for free could one day put paid writers in Closed Salon out of work. See my personal home page for more about me.


DECEMBER 7, 2010 11:26AM

Facing the Truth (with bonus comic)

Rate: 20 Flag

Yesterday the President announced “a framework for a bipartisan agreement” on extending the Bush Tax Cuts. The alleged reason is to save jobs, but US companies are already making record profits. They don’t need more money to be hiring. They need a change in how incentives are structured. Personal tax incentives tied simply to income do not encourage hiring.

In exchange for very meager gains, the President has yielded all tactical advantage. To fund the new agreement, we will have to borrow $700B from foreign countries to pay for these tax cuts for the already-wealthy. It is the worst kind of fiscal policy and would show the Democrats to be as disinterested in America’s fiscal health as the Republicans. That’s a shame because up until yesterday the Democrats were looking a lot more fiscally responsible than the Republicans.

And, to add insult to injury, if the deal is cast into stone, any gain will come at the expense of completely funding every campaign ad that will be used by the super-rich to defeat him in the next election. Each time a bill comes in for such an ad, the creator of the ad will say “Put it on the US tab. And remember to send Obama another thank-you note.”

This must not go forward. Our nation’s fiscal health is a matter of national security.

Bernie Sanders has said he will try to block the move. Please support him.

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Good blog.. This country is in such a mess
Rated with hugs
Bonnie, Linda, and Razzle—thanks for stopping in. If you have time, please ask your Senators to block the deal.

While you make some good points, the current reality of political theater renders them irrelevant. You argue from a point of good will where there is none.
Rick, I've suggested Obama has put our nation's future at risk by giving away economic concessions that we cannot afford. Whatever you think about the need for an alternative to these two parties, I've suggested only that in doing that, he has ensured that the party that will take power the next time is the one most likely to exploit that power against the common individual. I know you want a third choice. I don't see you offering a plan. I'm working within the options I feel I can work with. I don't criticize you for disagreeing with me but it bugs me that you have an almost al loomis like way of saying “You're doing the wrong thing.” without offering a concrete alternative. Criticism is cheap. Constructive plans are not easy to work out. Offer a plan. You may not like my “plans” but the things I suggest are often quite concrete and not mere whining.
I wonder what excuse they're going to use in 6-12 months when no new jobs have been created.
Jeanette, if no new jobs arise, it will be because Obama dragged his feet on the other suggestions they made and it's time to double-down with more Republicans to overcome that. If new jobs arise, it will be because we elected more Republicans and we should keep doing it.

What the Republicans totally fear is seeing the tax cuts go away and seeing jobs return anyway. They don't even want a chance at that scenario. Is there some risk of a jobs problem anyway in that scenario? Sure. But we'll be a lot richer as a nation, a lot less in debt, and hence a lot more able to address such a problem if we're not already overextended. Just look at how much overextending ourselves in Iraq hurt our ability to respond to other problems. Overextending ourselves to further enrich the wealthy isn't going to do us any better. The wealthy are already making record profits on Wall Street so it's clear that's not the incentive they need to offer jobs in the US. They're investing overseas, I suspect, where workers are cheaper. They want cheaper workers here, which is why they want to end unemployment—to force people to line up for more competitive wages in a mad rush for the bottom.
I have contacted my Senators, corporate Democrats both, and have supported Sanders financially for some time, although I am 2000 miles from Vermont. He is the real voice of reason.
Jane, I think as unemployment holds, that number is large enough to be a swing vote. I think they'll need a story. It may not have to be a very good one, especially since Obama is sort of like a third term of Bush at this point. People don't perceive many options. And if Obama sells out on the deficit matter by borrowing to pay for the wealthy, he won't have that to distinguish him.
I think Obama had no choice but to do whatever he had to in order to keep the unemployment benefits that were due to run out.

But over-all the whole financial picture is an insane mess that people capable of flying to the moon should be able to straighten's the will that's lacking (a suicidal position, looks like).
My Congos are already on board. In situations like this, I don't have any trouble moving south. It's a good feeling.
Myriad, he has mortgaged the future of the US to the tune of $700B dollars. I'm not sure how many workers there are in the US, but let's assume 100M since I don't have time to look it up. If ten percent are unemployed, let's say that's 10 million people. For $700B, you can send $70,000 to each of them in order to help them on their unemployment. I think there are cheaper things we could have done to help them, and the fact that he's not seeing the magnitude of these numbers is staggering. Moreover, the $700B is the tip of the iceberg. If the tax cuts expired, there are multiple trillions available, meaning you could basically have sent almost a quarter of a million dollars to each person to help with their unemployment and still have broken even. We have mortgaged ourselves a lot for this tiny savings. (If anyone notices math errors here, or knows what the actual numbers for how big the workforce is, please chime in.)
Lefty, this is so bad on both sides I didn't even have trouble composing a message that ought to be something Judd Gregg will listen to. And he never listens to me on anything. We'll see if he responds saying "no, this deficit thing doesn't matter."
But (and I'm vague on how the U.S. govt system works) could O have done anything else? Isn't it Congress who does stuff and O can try to persuade and afterwards sign or veto, but he's limited in what he can do on his own?

(If I were Queen of the world, the rich would get thoroughly taxed, the wars would stop, universal government-paid-thru-taxes would happen and the banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions would be so regulated they'd squeak.) (Plus everyone would get that $70,000 bonus....)
Myriad, this is the one issue on which he could just have let things expire and the Republicans could have done nothing. It was Bush's legislation that set the timeout and it was going away if not affected by legislation.

Once it's gone away, the bargaining situation is very different. At that point, there is a Bush-imposed tax hike that just happened—that is, taxes went back to the level Bush had set the alarm clock to do. The Republicans want tax breaks and the Dems could propose them. The Republicans' next move would be to either vote against what the Dems propose and look stupid or else take what they were offered.

But we don't get that bargaining position without letting the cuts expire, or without making the Republicans believe we mean business. Which clearly, given Obama's move, is a hard case to make since he seems determined to lose even with winning cards in his hand for once.
Jane, I don't know if a narrative will occur, but a basis for one is possible if Obama doesn't do this stupid thing. If he does it, the conversation will be short.

D's to R's: You don't care about the deficit.

R's to D's: You don't either.
He gave away the store, the only thing that is left is to put up the "Going Out of Business" sign!
Scanner, I'm sure that was just an administrative oversight. Doubtless someone will be by to police that up shortly. Can't have assets left on the table.
Kent, do you think if the Rs renege on the other legs of the deal - DADT vote, START vote (and likely approval) and reduced payroll tax that he'll veto? I wonder if a desperate need to get START through isn't somehow behind some of this, at least partly....I'd write my Senators, BTW, but they are too busy laughing into their hats to read mail right now.
Blue, the deficit matter is something everyone should care about, regardless of party. It's worth a shot sending your feedback.
First, I was bemused. Then, I started to become concerned. Concern gradually became consternation. Consternation has evolved into frustration. Frustration is becoming disgust.

I was never really afraid, but I am becoming terrified. I'm old enough so that missing my declining years might be a boon rather than a curse, but my son is only 28 and I am urging him to do one of two things: join the military or leave the country.

The problem is that there's nowhere to go, really. If there is, I don't know of it, and I am ready to go.
Sage and Jane, perhaps I'm upsetting you needlessly. Really, there's an excellent Climate Change will get us long before these other issues. Sit tight. If you think we're neglecting the deficit, it's nothing compared to how we're neglecting Climate Change.

I'd say you are perfectly right. At this point, however, you are much like a canary in a coal mine that just hit a gas pocket. The present system cannot be saved. It is collapsing. Daily is evidence of this collapse appearing. Nobody in the west wants to even consider a different capitalist system. Everybody is rushing to embrace socialism.

Take a deep breath, bend over, and kiss...............
Kent great article and could not agree more with deficit argument but knew Obama and Dems would cave.......guess Bernie can filibuster or Reid could keep them in session through New Year's but will not make one bit of difference. This was done deal.....agree w/Sage wish I knew someplace else to live, because this country is finished. There is just so much this country can sustain....2 wars, debt to China, crumbling infrastructure, incompetent education system, corrupt politicians etc.... and no jobs or even future for creating jobs. Sorry, just extremely frustrated and cannot begin to understand current course this country is on............
Skypixie0, I don't know that everything is going to socialism. The pendulum is swung so far right that maybe everythign looks socialistic, but I think the answer is in the middle. I just don't think that's what Obama is offering. He doesn't realize how far right things are and how much pulling to the left is needed to bring the rudder back to center.

IAH, I hope Bernie has a chance, but I admit it's a longshot.

Jane, I'm glad I could make you laugh.

Rw005g, She could still run. And perhaps should. I'd like to see Dean run. And also Kucinich and Wiener and Franken. Perhaps some new faces as well. It would make for lively debate, at minimum. And we need that. But I definitely think the Democrats should field an opposition in the Primary. They should avoid getting disrespectful so as not to feed the Republicans but they should be out there offering different visions.
I see plutocracy rising.
Well done and Zumapick.

We need more blogs that eliminate the chaff and get to the principles of the matter.
Caracalla, I moved your off-topic remarks on Climate Change (and my reply to you) to The Cornfield.
Sarah, it's probably always been there to some degree but it's certainly front and center these days, yes.

Caracalla, I do agree with you on the issue of trends that there is a risk of people having personal truths catered to as a substitute for something else. I'm not sure that is my principal concern, but it's a symptom of the problem. I'm focused on avoiding it right now, I guess. There are any of a number of ill effects that can come of the things we need to avoid.

Xenon, thanks for the support!
Kent, a plan is only worth as much as the results it produces. In that regard, your "plan" is no better than anything I and others have offered in the past.

Voting solely to ensure a party stays in power even when that party does not represent you is pointless.

Go ahead and call your senators and house reps, but you won't change anything that way because this deal has already been made back when these "temporary" tax cuts were enacted. The plan always was and still is to make them permanent and you might as well gut up and brace yourself for it because it's already done.

And they will "pay" for these tax cuts by reducing the safety net for the real Americans who work for a living -- or who would if there were opportunities for them to do so. The winds of change are here, but they are blowing in the opposite direction from what people expected when they voted for Obama-the-conservative.

As for whining, I'd say your post involves a fair amount of it here. I don't condemn that like you do; commiserating is good therapy. But your “plan” offers nothing new or helpful, not because you have not made good points, but because the will to address them does not exist where it needs to exist. I’m not whining, just pointing out the reality that your good points are already understood, but have been and will continue to be ignored.

Your hostility towards me is misplaced.

Carry on …
Rick, my personal definition of constructive criticism is criticism that can be acted upon. It is too high a bar to say that criticism is only constructive if, when acted upon, it will have the desired effect. I am willing to discuss criticism that can be acted upon because I can go over in my mind what I think the action would be and compare that action to other proposed avenues. My remarks here are constructive for several reasons: they inform people not only of my opinion, which is after all just my opinion, but how I arrived at it. That allows others who are thinking through it to check my reasoning or to offer alternatives or to conclude I'm a quack. It even allows people to agree with my reasoning leading up to a recommendation, yet suggest a different or even opposite recommendation. But at least I'm transparent.

I don't mind that you disagree with me, but I mind that I can never figure out what you're suggesting. You might be suggesting moving to another country, forceably overthrowing this one, abstaining from voting, or starting a third party. Since I don't know which of those you mean, I can't have any useful discussion nor compare the efficacy of your plan with mine.

I am not being hostile out of the blue. I am responding to the fact that you have made a regular practice recently of showing up just long enough to say I am full of it without offering anything to substitute. That I do find annoying, however much I may respect your ability to reason. You're really not providing your side of the conversational bargain.
Don, thanks for the pointer. It's a reasonable request but a long answer. I'll try to write a post on it one of these days soon. Thanks.

You and I have discussed this issue in depth behind the scenes and you simply claim that anything I suggest is not attainable. And as long as people with that mindset are the majority, then you are absolutely right. However, I am also right when I say simply doing the same things we've been doing that have gotten us where we currently are - expecting different results - is no solution.

I'm not saying you are "full of it", and I think I was clear in saying that your discussion points make sense. What doesn't make sense is the idea that those in Congress will incorporate these ideas when there is no evidence they will and plenty of evidence they won't.
Rick, to that end, your assessment on that point is subjective. I have no way to know if it's better or not than mine. I'll just say “noted.”
Bonus comic always makes me smile.
Saturn, always great to see you. And I'm glad someone noticed the comic. Everyone is being politely silent. I guess that means they didn't like it as much as some of the others. Ah well..
This is the best deal he could get? This is negotiating? This is bi-partisan compromise? If it is, let us have no more of it!! The Republicans agreed to what was utterly justified and got what was totally unjustified -- and no amount of doublespeak is going to change that sad fact.

Obama got only one thing right during his pathetic press conference -- yes, this IS the public option all over again!! This is the same idiotic negotiating ploy of surrender before the battle even begins. And his insulting response to well-justified and well-intentioned criticism from the Left? Shoot the messenger. Well, two can play that game, and Olbermann let him have it with both barrels tonight.

The Left ain't buyin' the car after he wrecked the transmission trying to get in out of the ditch, the Right won't buy that or anything else from him, and the muddling middle sees him as another misguided muddler, Maybe he thinks they'll vote for him next time around because he's one of them. And maybe, just maybe, half of them might. But that won't be near enough to offset the fact that ten million disillusioned young and minority voters will stay away from the polls.

Say hello to President Palin, and God help us all!!
Tom, I sort of heard his response in background yesterday. It's been a busy time for me and I had other things going on. But I recorded it to listen to later. His tone with the liberals seemed unwarranted and like it would hurt him later, as if anything more could. I hope what this means is that the Democrats will field a different candidate against Palin. He might still beat Palin, but I wouldn't want to risk it—the public might again want to “send a message.” Plus, as discussed in my now-classic post Election Stratego, the Republicans might wake up to the power of running her, which is quite scary. On the Democratic side, though, even if Obama could win, there is more to governing than winning. I almost imagine the Republicans voting for another term of him—he's almost as good for them as Bush. But the worst of it is that they've had years to hone their strategy of how to defeat him and they really know him cold now, so I don't think he'd rush to success now even if he were doing well. And with the Dems disenchanted, I can't see him making it.

Thanks for your cheery analysis... sigh.