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In the few days leading up to the November elections, I posted a series of Facebook updates to my friends and family, more or less laying out how I was going to vote and my reasons for doing so.  Sure, I was hoping to perhaps influence the... er... more conservative viewers of my stream, but several people said that I should have posted earlier... posted more often... or even diaried at here.

Now it is December and we're in the throes of the insane posturing over The Fiscal Cliff.  Finally Obama and the Dems seem to be winning the argument... though perhaps not enough to get the Repubs to swallow their pride in the name of averting disaster.  I started writing another missive on Facebook and was about to press send when I heard those little voices in my head, "Diiaryy.... DIAAARRRYYYYyyyy.." and now my lunch hour is over.

I'm not exactly a pro wonk, so I'm sure I've got plenty wrong. Follow me below the squishy ball of pizza dough, and correct me so I can argue better with my well-intentioned but even less well informed friends.

  • First, it was blindingly stupid to put us in this position in the first place.  It is not okay to poison our well to blackmail the other guys (whoever they are) into folding. It is difficult to feel much compassion for those who put us here:  they utterly failed to do their job in the first place, hoping that the presidency would flip in November and allow them to steamroll the changes they really wanted. "Who could have predicted that the super committee would fail?"  Well, everyone actually. Here's an interesting analysis on votes that sent us to the precipice: voteview.com.  I haven't quite digested the analysis yet, but it is good fodder for understanding the situation.
  • Next, I'm totally sick of the unhelpful GOP "counteroffers" - as we saw during the presidential race over and over, Dems would make specific proposals with specific assumptions to address the issues.  At the same time, the Rep proposals invariably have extremely large "we'll figure that out later"s and "our pet economists all agree that trickle down will really work this time"s. The latest response to Obama's fiscal-cliff-avoidance package is a perfect example (see here: Boehner's Letter): complaints about the president's offer, vague suggestions about spending cuts (that disproportionately impact middle and lower class), reiteration that the Bush "temporary" tax cuts should stay in effect forever for everyone (including the extremely wealthy, though they say "job creators" even though there is little evidence that they've actually created any jobs as a result of the cuts and disproportionately benefit from continuation of the cuts), and then to top it off, reference the "Bowles plan" as if it were an actual proposal or recommendation (it was only a midpoint of the party positions during the supercommittee days, memorialized as a suggested starting point for negotiations). Check out It isn't MY plan on this.  Heck the whole momentoftruthproject.org site is apropos as it is run by Bowles and Simpson.
  • Lets stop pretending that a) the Laffer curve is a demonstrable fact and b) that we're on the right side of the "bump".  All evidence seems to suggest that if the curve were predictive of the revenue effects of tax rates at all that we're well to the left of the point where lowering rates increases revenues.  It just ain't so, and no amount of "well, if we just lower the rates even more we'll show you" will make it so.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, check this out: Laffer Curve
  • While we're at it, let's also stop pretending that a country is like a company.  The point of a company is to do (something) for someone other than the company, charging them for (something) to make as much profit as possible for the company's stockholders - it is good for the long term health of the company to be stable, to retain workers, to grow and expand the business, but those are secondary concerns, particularly for publicly held companies. A country, on the other hand, should be "of the people, by the people, and for the people."  There's no product involved, and the stockholders are the workers and most of the consumers - the point of a country is long term stability and support of all of the constituents, not to extract profits from external entities.
  • I'm not averse to eventual elimination of mortgage deductions for second homes - I do think that owning your home is worth supporting for any number of reasons, but I'm unconvinced that those reasons apply for second homes.  It would be bad to eliminate it suddenly though.
  • I'm not averse to raising medicare age a little bit. Edit: e.g. to match Social Security "full retirement age"
  • While Romney's "cap deductions" suggestion is interesting, the fact of the matter is that regional differences make a huge difference in how reasonable such deductions are and I don't immediately see a way to avoid hitting people in high cost-of-living areas harder.  Maybe separating out mortgage deductions or capping them separately?  Maybe capping all deductions as proposed (a "pick a number" levels :/ ) is ultimately the fairest approach anyway, but it certainly isn't the slam-dunk that Romney seemed to think it was.
  • Restore tax rates on wealthy. No, hear me out! What about progressively treating unearned income as earned income, so that the very rich start having to pay taxes on their actual income instead of the fiction that they're investing it all to launch new businesses.  One of my pet peeves is that the current tax code rewards short-term profit (especially capital gains) over long-term investment.  I'm all for investment that actually helps expand business stability and long-term profit, but the churn and outright abuses of both consumers and lower-level investors (read long-term stockholders) pays the movers and shakers and costs workers and industry stability.

There!  Have at it!  Maybe I'll even post it on Facebook!

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Comment Preferences

  •  Oh all right... (12+ / 0-)

    ... as the Top Mojo script wrangler, tipjars give me no end of grief, but to head off "where's your tip jar," here it is.

    Water which is too pure has no fish -- Ts'ai Ken T'an

    by mik on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 09:59:12 AM PST

  •  yes, yes... (7+ / 0-)
    While we're at it, let's also stop pretending that a country is like a company.
    a thousand times yes. We're NOT a for-profit company out to benefit the owners. OK well, that's what it looks like now, but I am fairly sure a strict constructionist read of the Constitution does NOT lay it out that way.

    "But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die." - - Cherokee saying

    by brillig on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 10:12:43 AM PST

  •  You'll get no tip from me (7+ / 0-)

    NO increase in Medicare eligibility age.  Once they start that they never stop.   Just as they are trying to get Social Security eligibility age raised AGAIN.  They will be back for more.  So if you are young this thinking will screw you time and again and it will be no small increase by the time you never quite get to be eligible.

    And beware the Kabuki because they come out with a draconian idea first and then snooker you with the incremental steps till you have fallen off the slippery slope before you even knew you were on one!  

    We need Democrats who STAND FOR SOMETHING not Democrats who spend all their waking hours figuring out how to capitulate in a way that is focus group friendly.

    •  Hmm - you don't think that Obamacare (5+ / 0-)

      can address potential gap in Medicare eligibility?  Obviously, I should have expanded that point more, but for better or worse I don't know of a compelling argument for not matching the Social Security retirement age.  One could certainly make the argument that SS should be lowered to match Medicare.

      Water which is too pure has no fish -- Ts'ai Ken T'an

      by mik on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 10:26:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  How does anyone know NOW if Obamacare (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mik, Ozzie

        is going to bridge the gap?  How much is Obamacare going to cost someone 65?  

        It just drives me into a ranting rage to hear Democrats use Obamacare as a Trojan Horse to kill Medicare before Obamacare has even started!   That's why some of us were so passionate about single payer.  

        •  Preaching to the choir (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          brillig, Arenosa, jfdunphy

          Single payer proponent myself.

          If the goal of Medicare is to provide healthcare to retired persons, why shouldn't Medicare and Social Security start at the same time?  All I'm proposing is that people who do work until 67 ought to be expected to receive employer/personal/Obamacare/Romneycare-sponsored insurance coverage until then.  If you cannot work at 66, you should get access to medicare under the same rules you do now (for early access).  If you are unemployed (but could work), why should 66 be any different than 65?  If you want to argue that there is such a difference, then I think you should be arguing for the age of SS full retirement be returned to 65, not that the Medicare age shouldn't be raised to 67.

          Water which is too pure has no fish -- Ts'ai Ken T'an

          by mik on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 12:21:48 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Why should 95 be any different from 65? (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ozzie, mik

            Do you think I was in favor of Reagan screwing us out of Social Security in the 80's?  Do you realize that many take Social Security at 62?  

            How popular do you think Obamacare is going to be with older voters when they are told that instead of getting the Medicare they PAID INTO for 40 years they're going to be mandated to buy an insurance policy that costs 3 times as much as someone young who has not paid into Medicare for 40 years.

            I will tell you.  I have just taken a pledge on another site to never vote for someone who cuts these benefits.  

            •  no, my point is that there is inconsistency (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Arenosa

              in "retirement age".  The difference between 65 and 67 is that SS full retirement is, for better or worse, set to 67, not 95.

              Again, I'm not arguing that 67 is a better age than 65, 62, or for that matter birth to start receiving Medicare.  What I'm arguing is that setting it to 67 is at least consistent with social security and so isn't out of line.

              Anyway, thanks for the additional things to consider.

              Water which is too pure has no fish -- Ts'ai Ken T'an

              by mik on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 06:47:06 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  And to answer your first question directly... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          brillig, Arenosa

          we could know NOW by making that an explicit part of the deal.  They won't, but we're talking about relatively broad legislation here - tacking a paragraph onto the ACA would presumably in scope.

          Water which is too pure has no fish -- Ts'ai Ken T'an

          by mik on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 12:27:45 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Another good idea... (7+ / 0-)
    What about progressively treating unearned income as earned income, so that the very rich start having to pay taxes on their actual income instead of the fiction that they're investing it all to launch new businesses.
    You've got it exactly right:  it's fiction believing that all that unearned interest and dividend and other Special 1% Income (tm) is going to business development.

    It's going to ski vacations, new houses, and to lovely tropical islands, developing offshore banking.

    "But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die." - - Cherokee saying

    by brillig on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 10:24:55 AM PST

  •  Seems to me a deduction cap (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mik, brillig

    could be tied to a cost-of-living index. I vaguely recall, years ago, seeing an index one could use when considering a job offer in a city other than one's own to determine what the salary should be.

    The pick-a-number result would be based on some mean/median COL, represented by 100. Counties would be indexed; if you live someplace comparatively inexpensive your deduction cap would be lower, and, of course, it would be higher if you live someplace expensive. For example, if Portland, Oregon were the median and a taxpayer lived in Huntsville, Alabama, the cap might be indexed as 95, or 95% of whatever it is in Portland.

    (I am not a statistician, so I don't know if I'm using the terms "mean" and "median" correctly--but I'm sure y'all know what I'm getting at.)

    "The American people are so used to being told they have freedom and democracy that they've forgotten to check to see if it's still true.." -Commenter on Facebook

    by Arenosa on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 11:15:39 AM PST

    •  Seems like it would be fair... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Arenosa, brillig

      ... but I worry about adding to the complexity of filing. Separately capping mortgage interest and all other deductions might be, statistically speaking, nearly as fair as COL adjustments.

      Water which is too pure has no fish -- Ts'ai Ken T'an

      by mik on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 11:37:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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