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!