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Please read my explanation before rushing to judgment...

1) Federal expenses are officially categorized in three different ways.

Discretionary spending includes nearly everything we think of related
to government– the US military, Air Force One, the Department of
Homeland Security, TSA etc.

Mandatory spending includes Medicare, Social Security, VA benefits, etc.

The final category is interest on the debt. It is non-negotiable.

Mandatory spending and debt interest go out the door automatically.
Congress doesn’t even see the money, it’s automatically deducted.

2) With the rise of baby boomer entitlements and steady increase in
overall debt levels, mandatory spending and interest payments have
exploded in recent years. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office
predicted in 2010 that the US government’s TOTAL revenue would be
exceeded by mandatory spending and interest expense within 15-years.
That’s a scary thought. Except it happened the very next year.

3) In Fiscal Year 2011, the federal government collected $2.303
trillion in tax revenue. Interest on the debt that year totaled $454.4
billion, and mandatory spending totaled $2,025 billion. In sum,
mandatory spending plus debt interest totaled $2.479 trillion…
exceeding total revenue by $176.4 billion.

For Fiscal Year 2012 which just ended 37 days ago, that shortfall
increased 43% to $251.8 billion.

In other words, the republicans could cut the entirety of the Federal
Government’s discretionary budget– no more defense spending, SEC, FBI,
EPA, TSA, DHS, IRS, etc.– and we would still be in the hole by a
quarter of a trillion dollars.

4) Raising taxes, all taxes back to the Clinton levels, is one of the
few things that actually can help. Only raising the taxes on the upper income holders will net no where near enough to make up for the budget shortfall, they must all be allowed to expire just as they were originally intended to. The 4+ Trillion they add to the defecit is unsustainable. Middle and Low Income Families did just fine under the Clinton rates. If he could achieve this while reforming the tax code, simplifying it to a one or two page tax form so that people like Mitt Romney can't get away with paying a 13% tax rate, it will dramatically improve the fiscal situation we currently face. Tax all capital gains over $250,000 as regular income and eliminate the carried interest deduction.

Use a small sliver of this additional revenue to cut the payroll tax rate futher, as pay roll tax cuts actually do stimulate the economy.

5) Aside from that, entitlements need to be reformed, because the numbers
will only continue to get worse. 10,000 people each day begin
receiving mandatory entitlements. Fewer people remain behind to pay
into the system. The debt keeps rising, and interest payments will
continue rising. It's inevitable that entitlements will have to be reformed at some point. The longer we wait, the more out of control entitlement spending gets, the more inevitable that reform becomes. If not now, it will get done when Republicans have an upper hand. I would rather President Obama takes the lead and does it where he can ensure that low income individuals aren't badly hurt in the process (get rid of the cap on social security taxes on high income individuals for example), rather than wait for Republicans to do it in a way that cripples the poor.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Bush tax cuts gone (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mr Robert

    I hope your correct,but I have my doubts. I support the Pres. 100% ,but I wouldn't be suprised if it was used as a chip.

    •  Go After The Offshore Tax Avoidance Accounts (3+ / 0-)

      If they had any balls, the dems would go after the offshore tax avoidance schemes basing it on fraud against the US even if they couldnt change the tax code. At the very least they would use it as an additional lever for raising the rates, eliminating hedge funds etc carried interest.

      But they dont have any balls because this is a charade as the Dems never brought up the fact that the amount of taxes the corporations and wealthy pay is the lowest in 50 years and never did bring up the elimination of the offshore tax havens except to highlight Mitt's use of them.

      Until you get rid of the need to raise money for campaigns,we can only change tax regs at the margins and the cancer which is eating at the heart of the US, the corporatization of our government will continue. The very fact the Dems would even compromise  revenues for spending cuts without first going after the TEN TRILLION in offshore tax avoidance countries tells me they are only less full of shit than the Repubs and nothing will be done constructively to lessen the inequality of income and the destruction of the middle class. We are on a path to self destruction unless we get real reform

  •  Umm no. (6+ / 0-)

    The middle class cannot afford nor can the economy afford at this moment  a whopping tax increase.

    The 47% also "pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more" but when Romney does it he thinks it's a virtue, while when they do it, he thinks they are deadbeats.

    by jsfox on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 03:42:30 PM PST

    •  It isn't "whopping" for the rich or middle class. (8+ / 0-)

      We need them all to expire and to cut the military budget substantially.  We need to go back to the Clinton era tax rates, tax all capital gains over $250,000 as regular income and eliminate the carried interest deduction.  We need to get our fiscal house in order before interest rates start going up.

    •  that's not actually true (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mr Robert, parakinesis

      The "middle" portion of the Bush tax cuts (for incomes above around $75k), doesn't help the economy significantly.

      In contrast, the temporary payroll tax cut is hugely beneficial for the economy.

    •  10-year bond at 1.63% (6+ / 0-)

      Of course, you're correct

      After  a decade of  stagnant/declining median wages,  the last thing the working class needs is a SUBSTANTIAL tax hike.  

      Why substantial?  Because 75% of the Bush tax cuts accrue to the working and middle-class.

      Are the deficit/debt unsustainable?

      Well, the bond market is pricing the 10-year bond at a yield of 1.63%, so it's clearly not concerned about the deficit.

      And neither should any Dem who is concerned about the economic plight of the middle-class.

      Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project.

      by PatriciaVa on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 03:54:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  only 25% goes to the working class (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Involuntary Exile, parakinesis

        50% goes to the upper middle class.

        •  Define "upper-middle" class. (0+ / 0-)

          President Obama has defined the working and middle-class as those singles earning less than 200k, and couple less than 250k a year.

          And he promised not to increase the tax burden on them.

          Using that definition, 75% of the Bush tax cuts accrue to them.

          Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project.

          by PatriciaVa on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 04:04:38 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  200k is not "working class" (5+ / 0-)

            25% of the cost, $1 trillion, goes to the lowest tax brackets. The top of the 15% tax bracket is $47k AGI for head of household, which is also approximately the median income, i.e. the middle. (Actually above median because it's AGI.)

            50% of the cost, $2 trillion, goes to the 25% and 28% tax brackets. From $47k to $200k. Remember, these are marginal rates, so the $47k median tax payer sees only the lower tax cuts, not the upper-middle bonus. Most of the benefit goes to the top end.

            20% of the cost, $800 billion goes to the over $250k, the 33% and 35% brackets.

            The 28% is upper-middle by any definition. It's lowest is $122k. They can definitely pay the Clinton tax rates.

            The 25% is a borderline bracket from $47k to $122k. The top end is upper-middle, the bottom is the median.

            Economically, tax cuts for the 25% bracket and above are useless. (Political bribery is a different question.)

            So specifically, I'd keep the cuts for the 15% and lower brackets and restore everything else to Clinton rates.

          •  If you are single, earning $200K, or a couple (5+ / 0-)

            earning $250K, you are not middle matter how you try to poor mouth yourself.

            Oregon:'s cold. But it's a damp cold.

            by Keith930 on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 04:20:09 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  And, of course, (0+ / 0-)

      returning marginal tax rates to Clinton-era levels is not an "increase," whopping or not.

    •  Let all of 'em expire (0+ / 0-)

      and then negotiate based on the Clinton-era rates. It could be done in a matter of weeks - retroactively - if Republicans had any interest in governing.

      Filibuster reform now. No more Gentleman's agreements.

      by bear83 on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 06:11:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  say NO to entitlement "reform" (7+ / 0-)

    It's just code for reducing benefits. Simply raise taxes on the rich to pay for them.

  •  Agree that Obama should tackle (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina, davehouck

    entitlement reform, so that we control the process to some extent.

    I don't feel too good about your suggestions, though, since I fear what a massive shift in the tax burden would do to business and peoples retirement accounts.

    We are in a very slow recovery, and shocking the hell out of the system seems imprudent, to say the least.

    “liberals are the people who think that cruelty is the worst thing that we do” --Richard Rorty

    by jeff in nyc on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 03:44:43 PM PST

  •  The best negotiating posture is to do nothing (11+ / 0-)

    (1) Let the Bush Tax Cuts expire

    (2) Let the Sequester kick in.

    (3) Put immense pressure on the Republicans to pass a middle class tax cut before the end of 2013.

    Then, negotiate a deal that raises revenue in exchange for maintaining defense spending. I think it will be modest, probably only on income over $1 million and not income over $250,000.

    Another workaround is to do "tax reform" that simplifies the tax code, closes a ton of loopholes, and reduces rates (but still increases revenue). The Republicans can sell it to their people as "tax reform" and "cutting tax rates," and the Dems can sell it as much needed new revenue and a fairer tax code.

    •  that proposal doesn't actually pay the bills (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Hamlet, jeff in nyc

      You're essentially proposing a big tax cut (compared to the Clinton tax rates), and deficits to pay for them.

      The "tax reform" is essentially revenue neutral at best.

      •  Depends completely on how it's done. The (0+ / 0-)

        rethugs want it to be revenue neutral; that doesn't mean it has to be.

        "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

        by gustynpip on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 04:00:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  the existing proposals all lower the rates (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          and pay for the lower tax rates by mucking with deductions leaving a roughly zero net change (more or less.)

          Yes, in theory, someone could propose actual sensible tax reform, but today no one is proposing anything like that. They're all about lowering marginal tax rates.

      •  Why do you care about paying bills? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mr Robert

        We print our money, and can keep right on printing money until the desire to spend it matches the capacity to make stuff. Should we (hopefully soon) reach the point where wage push inflation actually starts to impact prices we can increase taxes to pay down the deficit and control excessive demand.

        The only reasons to tax are to reduce demand and to impact the distribution of income and wealth. The first would be counterproductive and the second is not accomplished at all by taxing the middle class

        •  that's a political issue (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jeff in nyc

          We can't just raise taxes when necessary. It would be nice, but our political system is completely broken. You may have noticed.

          Your theoretical policy of raising taxes only we're out of the zero-bound scenario is impossible with today's politics.

          So I'm taking into account the political fact that this is probably our only chance of restoring the Clinton tax rates instead of slashing domestic spending and retirement. It's not optimal; it's a least-bad solution.

    •  That is a nice angle too /nt (0+ / 0-)
  •  You do realize that the earnings of those (9+ / 0-)

    poor and middle class folks who did "just fine" under the Clinton era tax rates has dropped significantly during that time, don't you?  I know quite a few people who will not do "just fine" if their taxes are increased - they're not doing "just fine" now.

    We can't expect to fix this debacle overnight.  It, like most things, needs to be done a step at a time, in a sensible way.  Increase taxes on the rich, who only bank so much of their extra rather than spending it, keep them as low as possible for the middle income and poor, at least until the economy comes back and incomes increase to a reasonable level, and look for reasonable places to cut that won't devastate the economy.  Bit by bit, it can get balanced again.  No need to panic.

    "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

    by gustynpip on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 03:49:02 PM PST

    •  That's what so few get. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I'd like to see a chart of the following.

      83-93 CAGR of median wage growth


      03-13 CAGR of median wage growth

      After seeing the dramatic difference in median wage growth, how can any champion of the working and middle-class argue for the Clinton tax code on the most vulnerable?

      Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project.

      by PatriciaVa on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 04:01:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  This. (0+ / 0-)

      Do we need to deal with debt/deficit issue over time?  Of course.   But therere is no need to go in and slash everything and tax everything all at once.   Right now, there is a stimulative effect of federal spending and from private spending.  If you cut government spending through seq uestration and cut private spending at the same time by through tax cuts, I fear its too much to do all at once.  

      While the economy is still fragile, I think we need to take baby and strategic steps on this until we are sure that the economy is firing on all cylinders without the need for artificial stimulative efforts.  

  •  why increase taxes for everyone? (0+ / 0-)

    we can gain the revenue we need for anything by increasing capital gains and income tax rates for the rich.

    •  Because it is the easiest path (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mr Robert, sydneyluv, The Hamlet

      then offer a tax cut back to the poor and middle class.  Republicans would have hell to pay for voting against a tax cut.  Think brilliance, Obama and the Dems would be the Middle class hero.

    •  those hikes barely put a dent in the debt. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      •  then raise them more n/t (0+ / 0-)
        •  There is a point at which (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          a raise in capital gains rates actually does not raise additional revenue.  That's because many transactions that give rise to capital gains (sales of stock or business) are voluntary in nature and so the taxpayer has the ability to not do the transaction if the cost are too high compared to alternatives (loans,options, etc.)  The economic modeling i've seen (puts that number in the mid twenties... so much higher than current, but not infinite.  

        •  sporks - higher capital gains tax rates (0+ / 0-)

          do not lead to higher capital gains tax revenue. In fact, the opposite has been true. Owners of appreciated capital assets just borrow against them when capital gains tax rates are high. The Treasury receives more revenue when the rates are low because it encourages people to realize their capital gains and pay the tax. An increase from 15% to 20% probably doesn't make a big difference, but above that you could see the Treasury lose revenue.

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 07:40:21 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  sporks - the "above $250,000" tax cuts (0+ / 0-)

      Represent about $80 billion a year that would go to the Treasury if those cuts expire. Add to that the "Buffet Rule" proposal and you would add an additional $50 billion. Together those represent just under 15% of the current annual budget deficit. The problem with the top 2% is there are only 2% of them. Any significant revenue increases have to have a broader base.  

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 10:41:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  PBO is totally in the driver's seat here. I will (9+ / 0-)

    be beyond pissed if he settles for something like Simpson-Bowles in return for some pitiful increase in the marginal tax-rate on the 1%.

    The OBVIOUS way for PBO to maximize his power is to do NOTHING until January 1, unless the House R.'s offer him a GREAT deal.  There's absolutely no reason for him to give the R's anything essential before Jan. 1, except for BO's apparently compulsive drive for unnecessary compromise so that he can be seen as a great uniter.  FUCK THAT -- who wants to be united with Boehner, McConnell et al?

    •  Umm, I think Obama already knows... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mr Robert, sydneyluv
      But there's some principles you got to fight for. There are times where you've got to take a stand. If the price of peace in Washington is cutting deals to kick students off of financial aid, or get rid of funding for Planned Parenthood, or let insurance companies discriminate against kids with preexisting conditions, or eliminate health care for millions on Medicaid who are poor, or elderly, or disabled -- I won't pay that price. That's not a deal I will make. (Applause.) That's not bipartisanship. That's not change. That's surrender to the same forces of the status quo that has squeezed middle-class families for way too long.
      This is from the Des Moines rally from a few days ago --

      And I agree with the plan... let the sequester kick in if it has to. There is no fiscal cliff that can't be repaired with some new legislation. And there's no need to compromise if the compromise involves Republicans getting everything and Democrats picking up the scraps. I'm anxious to see just how cohesive this new House majority is. My guess is that it has a bunch of factions and we can do end runs around the leadership if we need to.

      The most dangerous... programs, from a movement conservative's point of view, are the ones that work the best and thereby legitimize the welfare state. Krugman

      by BasharH on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 04:12:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Do nothing (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Hamlet

      Even David Frum said that Obama is in the drivers seat and all he needs to do is sit back and let the Bush tax cuts expire. That was on Stand Up! with Pete Dominic earlier today.

      The only trouble with retirement is...I never get a day off!

      by Mr Robert on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 04:40:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Please yes, let them expire! (4+ / 0-)

    Just veto anything that doesn't let them expire.

  •  I agree and if he wanted (5+ / 0-)

    He could always bring in a tax cut afterward geared to those that need it most, let the Republicans vote against a tax cut...that would put them in a really bad spot.

    •  And then call them Obama tax Cuts! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Hamlet

      or Democratic Tax help whoever we run in 2014 and 2016! I'm tired of hearing about the Bush Tax Cut. it was SUPPOSED to expire, BECAUSE it was unaffordable, and that was before the recession hit.

      Oh, look.....I get a tagline. I better not waste it. I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

      by sd4david on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 05:22:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  No need to panic (4+ / 0-)

    We have a fiat currency so just print more.  Austerity won't get the economy going, stimulus is needed.

    •  exactly and middle class tax hikes are austerity (0+ / 0-)

      just as much as cutting social programs.

      Essentially, if you raise middle class taxes, you're basically just killing various progressive tax credits.

      We need a balanced approach to ensure we maximize net tax revenues in the long term. A massive hike now might increase revenues more in the short term, but it will ultimately be counterproductive.

    •  This requires a more nuanced strategy (5+ / 0-)

      The reasons the deficit is high:

      1. Two unfunded wars

      2. Bush tax cuts

      3. Recession that resulted in a lot of people losing their jobs. Unemployed people don't pay taxes and they do draw on social services.

      The way to get out of this:

      1. End the wars; Iraq is mostly ended and Afghanistan is scheduled to end (though there is no reason not to end it sooner than planned).

      2. Eliminate the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy (they're not using their money for anything productive right now).

      3. Put people back to work so they can pay more taxes. Right now, with official unemployment still around 8% (and unofficial unemployment much higher) and interest rates very low, the US should be borrowing more money and using it to hire people so they can earn money, spend, and pay taxes. We need something equivalent to the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) and Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the 1930s that were so successful in pulling the US out of the Depression. With enough stimulus, the economy will get back to a more normal level and then people will be able to pay taxes at a level that will reduce the deficit. But right now, a tax increase for low and middle-income people will just stifle the recovery and send us back into recession. That will actually raise the deficit.

      Given that Republicans won't vote for any stimulus or any tax increase for the wealthy or anything that costs money (except the military), Democrats need a clever strategy to force a change. Letting the Bush tax cuts expire and then having a vote to re-instate them for poor/middle class puts the Republicans in a bind. This leverage along with a concerted effort by the President to enlist ordinary people to resist the plutocrats could force Republicans to vote for more stimulus and a tax system that treats the poor and middle-class better and taxes the super-rich more.

  •  He has 4 years to set things right (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    should they expire.

    On the other hand, the budget cuts would crater the economy badly, and almost everyone is underestimating the European fallout which will all come to bear in September 2013.

    I know the administration is highly aware. Geithner talks regularly to the Spanish and Greek FM, as well as people at the BuBa and ECB. When I say regularly, I mean daily.

    That sort of intense administrative interest tells you that Europe is in red alert danger of blowing up and taking the world economy with it.

    A tax hike (i.e. payroll tax) in such an environment is a net negative for the budget deficit. It makes the deficit worse.

    There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

    by upstate NY on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 04:07:55 PM PST

  •  Obama should play basketball for 3 months (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Education Reform

    Make it clear that he is content to let the Bush tax cuts expire and let the mandatory budget cuts take effect, just as Congress voted.  If Boehner and McConnell don't like it, then make an offer.  Then make two or three better offers.

    A new birth of freedom..

    by docterry on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 04:47:46 PM PST

  •  Repeal the Kennedy tax cuts (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sd4david, The Hamlet

    Let's get back to 90% on all income over 3 million per year. Seriously. Tax policy is social policy. When the super rich are told they will be paying 90% on their income they will look for ways to avoid that, like investing in their businesses in America.

    If it was good enough for Ike I would hope the Republicons would love the idea.

  •  NO! He must tell Boner to pass 40% top bracket NOW (0+ / 0-)

    Or else, he will let the Bush cuts expire and will require the top rate of 50% after Jan 1st.

    And 60% after Jan 2nd..... and 70% after Jan 3rd.....

    In other words, get serious.

    We want the lower rates to stay the same, 10% for the working poor, etc.

    Then we need  to reinstate the dividend tax, and make it graduated.... and... REQUIRE corporations to issue X% of their profits as dividends each quarter....and we will ELIMINATE the Corporate income tax in response.

    Graduate capital gains as well, maintain long-term/short-term incentive while graduating the amount so small investors pay less than larger investors.

    Close all the silly oil industry and agriculture subsidies as well. Implement real subsidies for small/family farmers, but end all the hedge-fund and giant agri-business giveaways.

  •  Krugman: growing economy reduced big WWII debt % (0+ / 0-)

    Deficit reduction can wait until we get an increase in growth, employment, wages and inflation.

    Krugman and others have explained that we never repaid the huge debt from WWII (although we would have done so if W. had not ended Bill Clinton's surpluses).

    The solution to the huge WWI debt was growth in the economy. This caused the debt to decline as a percentage of the economy, which is the figure that matters.  

    Thus, while Europe is now proving that you cannot cut your way out of debt, the US proved long ago that you can grow your way out of it.

  •  I Agree Totally (0+ / 0-)

    I think that all the tax cuts should expire.  I also think that we should reinstate inheritance taxes too. The only ones who really benefit are the super rich.  I think that we should start from scratch on tax reform.  Going back to the Clinton years would be a start.

    "Don't Let Them Catch You With Your Eyes Closed"

    by rssrai on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 05:29:33 PM PST

  •  Oh goody, we're already back to telling (0+ / 0-)

    Obama what he must do! I was really missing that.

    You can call it "class warfare" -- we call it "common sense"

    by kenlac on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 06:10:28 PM PST

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