“The notion that “half of Americans don’t pay taxes” not only overstates the share of households that do not pay federal income taxes in a typical year. It also ignores the other taxes people pay, including federal payroll taxes and state and local taxes. Policymakers, pundits, and others sometimes overlook this point.”
Representative Ryan’s proposal, if implemented, would be a disaster for the economy, for working families, and would essentially redistribute wealth upward. Ryan is really proposing the same destructive policies that have been pushed bu Republicans for the past thirty years, usually with painful result for low-income and middle class families. In 2012, voters will have a choice about whether they want to live in a society of massive inequality and increased vulnerability for the majority of hard working Americans, or the more-centrist approach that Obama and the Democrats are pushing for.
In a moment of honesty, Vice President Dick Cheney told a reporter, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter” (source). Yet, more often the Republicans and their fringe backers, Fox News and the Tea Party, have made the deficit a source a public anxiety and anger. The reality is that deficit spending is required for a healthy economy, and we have been in much more debt in the past (i.e., during WWII) and we experienced the greatest boom and largest middle-class in our history (source).
Conclusion: Don’t believe Republican fear-mongering about the deficit. They don’t cut spending (unless it helps the low-income/middle-class), they increase spending when they are in power (esp. military spending and corporate handouts, incorrectly thinking it will “trickle down”). Democrats are more likely to spend on domestic priorities that drive the economy. We are doing the right thing in spending—we may even need more spending to speed up the recovery. When the private sector stops spending, the government must spend to make up the difference to up-start the economy. In the current political atmosphere, Obama could only get so much included in the stimulus. But is has been enough to avoid catastrophe. The Republicans, who blocked further stimulus, blame Democrats for failing to fix the problem their party leaders helped create under Bush. When the smaller stimulus is slow to improve the situation, they blame the ineffective nature of the public sphere, and advocate a private industry fix through their typical policy prescription: tax cuts for the rich, which would significantly increase the deficit over time—which is more evidence that they are not serious about their deficit alarmist rhetoric. To get jobs moving again, why can’t both sides quite playing fear-politics, get together, and find some things to spend money on? With John Boehner pulling the strings, I won’t hold my breath.
Recreational cannabis use may become legal in California this November. That’s right. Whatever you prefer to call it—pot, grass, weed, marijuana—like alcohol, would be legal. Cannabis is already permitted for medical purposes in 14 states. Millions of Americans use it for recreational purposes. Regulating it allows the government to tax it and control how it is used. This is not unlike the prohibition amendment in the early 20th century that led to a massive black market. When substances like alcohol and cannabis are forced underground, you simply feed crime, lose control of age limits, lose out of taxing it, send a lot of otherwise productive citizens to jail, create drug wars in other countries (e.g., Mexico), and make it more attractive to users.
One of the fundamental differences between Republicans and Democrats is their view of taxes. Democrats believe in progressive taxation–that is, taxing the rich at a higher percentage because a flat tax would take a larger percentage of income from those with lower income. Republicans believe that reducing taxes for high-income earners is better for the economy because it will “trickle down” to the lower income workers in the form of jobs; and they believe that lowering taxes for the rich increases government tax revenues. But is this claim true?
Today, the U.S. has over 725 foreign military based in thirty-eight countries. In contrast to the $1 trillion that we are spending on “defense” each year, the U.S. spends roughly $750 billion on social spending. Much of this spending significantly benefits low-income U.S. citizens. Which of these programs would we be willing to cut? Approximately 31% of the population had at least one spell of poverty lasting two or more months during 2004-2007. Most Americans—59%—will spend at least one year below the poverty line a some point between ages 25-75. So it is something that impacts most Americans either directly or indirectly. Rather than trying to fix our deficit “crisis” by cutting benefits to the needy, we should look at what is wrong with our political and economic systems that continue to increase inequality while neglecting superfluous military spending.