Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I am upset about tax cuts.

The tax cuts recently agreed to by the Obama Administration received some minor concessions by Republicans, chief among them the extension of unemployment benefits for a still-out-of-work America.  What they agreed to do in exchange, however, was extend Bush-era tax cuts, even for the wealthiest Americans, for another 2 years.

How are we going to pay for this?  How does the Republican party possibly justify at this point the idea of trickle-down economic theory, when it was following 8 years of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans that our markets entered this recession?  They like to say you can't spend your way out of a recession, but even if that wren't completely inaccurate, you can still raise money in it.  The tax cuts already given to us by the Obama Administration have been the largest cuts in history - over $282 billion dollars in taxes were lifted from the public over the last two years.  That's more relief to the middle class and working Americans than any President before him has given.  If the economy hasn't recovered yet, then cutting taxes more isn't going to help.

Let's just get it out in the open - the looming debt crisis in the country is going to continue getting worse, and for all their talk about wanting to make sure they solve this problem and don't pass it down to our children and grandchildren, the government has done practically nothing to make sure that is more than simple rhetoric.  I fully expect that 10 years from now, we will still be grappling with our greivous budget deficits and trade imbalances.  If there were better ideas, better ways of moving forward, they're being shot down now in the name of "bipartisanship."

What does the President hope to gain by caving in to Republicans yet again?  Is he so willing to compromise and find a middle ground that he'll go as far as to give the other side of the aisle everything they ask for and call it cooperation?  The message being sent right now is that it is to the advantage of the minority party to completely obstruct the positions of the majority party and then blame any failure to act or push through major policy on their shortcomings.  Unless our political gridlock is broken, that will be the model of governance we have moving forward.

The term that applies here is The Fallacy of the Middle Ground.  Middle ground is often sought because of the idea that, in any given argument, the correct option is somewhere in between the two opposing sides.  President Obama has tried to make it a touchstone of his Presidency that he reach across the aisle and work with Republicans to include them in creating of legislation.  The response has been to hinder any forwarding of any Democratic policy at every turn, no matter how beneificial it may be to the country.  Their policy is "Just Say No" to each and every bill that comes down the pipe should it have the names of any Democrat on it or any relation to the Obama Administration agenda.  Does that sound like responsible politics?  Does that sound like the example a minority party should be setting?

No, and that's the fallacy.  Sometimes one side is absolutely wrong and the other is absolutely right.  The Republican party is absolutely wrong in the way they have chosen to conduct themselves for the last two years, and if Barack Obama wanted to make any kind of lasting impression in his Presidency, he should have moved forward without them.  What happened instead was that they moved further and further right, and then insisted he meet them in the middle.  Whatever accomplishments he has had in the course of his first term, they are overshadowed by his utter failure to play the political game and repeated public defeats at the hands of opponents he keeps trying to make friends with.

Of course, the response by Democrats has largely been to blame as well.  That's another issue here - their reaction to the obstructionist policy of the Republicans has been equally as wrong.  They've fought amongst themselves and against the President, and attempted to distance themselves from Obama and show that they're "conservative Democrats."  The response of the public to that idea during the midterm elections was pretty clear - if we want a conservative, we'll just elect a real one.  So rather than responding to a united front with another united front, with superior numbers, they fractured and split and only aided the Republicans in making them look like buffoons. 

This approval of tax cut extensions for the wealthiest Americans is just an example of what the next 2 years will look like if there's not some kind of movement in the Democratic - or Republican - party to say "wait, no, this isn't helping America, this is bad for our citizens, and riding the party line isn't going to get anything done to get people back at work." 

You know why Americans are out of work right now?  Because we're shipping jobs overseas at a record pace, and concentrating our efforts on recovering them.  The problem with that is that these are the jobs that we built our country on 60 years ago, and the countries taking them are just now catching up to where we were then.  We should be putting our effort into innovation and discovery, into creating the next wave of new jobs to employ millions of Americans like manufacturing jobs did for decades.  Yes, we should put effort into retaining the old jobs while we still need them, but not to the exclusion of building a future for America instead of clinging to its past and complaining about its present.  The Republicans are big on telling you that before we do anything else we need to focus on jobs and the economy.  How many of them have offered anything to back up that statement in the way of actual solutions?  And "cut taxes, reduce spending" does not count.

So yeah, I'm angry.  I'm angry at our President, I'm angry at our major political parties, and I'm angry at the portion of the population nodding their heads and saying "yes, this is how the Republicans should act."  I'm angry we elected a President that promised discourse and togetherness conceding point after point in order to force the appearance of cooperation. 

Sometimes, Mr. President, you don't negotiate, or make deals, or try to reach aross the aisle.  Sometimes you say "no, I am right, I will explain to you why I am right, and I will make sure everybody knows I am right, and if you are not with me on this I will move forward without you."  You make your case, you bring it to the people, and you argue for it, only making concessions if a legitimate point against you is raised.  Once you pick a battle, you see it through to the end.  I know you're not perfect, but you should be better than the fallacy of the middle ground.  That middle ground is a chasm that you keep falling deeper into.

I'm also angry that politics continually drive me to make long, rambling posts expressing my frustration.  But I have standards I hold my elected officials to, and I refuse to compromise on them.


Brett said...

Hear hear!

rashid1891 said...

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Lowballing said...

When you say "I am upset about tax cuts" I think you mean "I am upset that somebody else is not paying the bill for social services I want".

America does not seem to understand how a social welfare state works. If people want to have the government to provide social systems then it is the responsibility of each individual to pay their fair share.If the majority of Americans want such a system, then vote for it and be ready to accept a 50% flat tax rate. Even then it is not guaranteed to work properly for long(See Eurozone issues, Bankrupt Greece, Spanish protests over Austerity measures).

If you really want to know why Americans (and also Europeans) are out of work now, its because they are overpaid and lazy. Federal minimum wage is around 14,500$ per year. For that price in Taiwan I can hire the valedictorian of National Taiwan University to do work for me. 30,000$ and I am hiring people with masters/PhD from US schools and several years experience. If I can get highly educated people for that much, why bother hiring some American who had a B/C average in some joke program? Especially when the Taiwanese will work 6 days per week, never dick about on the internet, and always deliver their work on time without errors?

America used to compete on quality. In all industries we could use efficient labor to produce a product whose quality offset the price difference from outsourcing. We were all brought up joking about Asian sweatshops and how they were filled with idiots who could only make shoddy product. In the years spent twiddling our thumbs, these developing nations caught up. They have the same "sweatshop" work ethic but are now capable of providing high quality work. Companies like Toyota and Honhai Precision have destroyed their US competition with superior products.
No amount of taxes or stimulus alone can force people to get up and compete and you can only place so many burdens on those who succeeded before they just say "fuck it" and leave.

David Pratt said...

No, when I say "I'm upset about tax cuts" it refers to, you know, what's in the entire rest of the article about the current political climate in America.

Dialectric said...

Or, possibly, he's saying "I'm upset that the folk at the tops of the corporate ladder aren't, in fact footing the entire effing bill for the pointless excursionary military forays that have benefitted no one but them and cost the rest of the country dearly."

Sorry, Lowballing, if i don't get to compartmentalize how the taxes are spent, neither do you.

America is far from a social welfare state. But the point is that we DO need everyone to pay their "fair" share, and since unbridled corporate capitalism requires an underclass to succeed, it is "fair" that those who benefit most from the capitalist system should bear the greatest burden of keeping that underclass alive.

Sooner or later it all comes down to geography: eastern Asia succeeds not because the quality has increased, but the definition of quality has always been different, but because America succeeded on quantity, NOT quality. Asian geography has always demanded that they pursue "qualities" that we have only begun to value. (No automaker in the world could ever have manufactured the Hummer, except in a cynical effort to sell it to Americans.)

Sadly, I agree with many of your salient points. We have become the nation that excels only at things that need not be done. Our best hope to compete is that by exporting American "culture" so ubiquitously, we have assured these other nations may soon be as lazy and irresponsible as we.

B.Graham said...

@Dialectric: I completely disagree that America has "become the nation that excels only at things that need not be done."

Americans are famously (and I'll admit sometimes infamously) creative and innovative, so unless you consider art, media, and new inventions in the category of "things that need not be done," you are mistaken. Like David said, America needs to invest more in what we're good at now, which is being a creative driving force, not a haven for menial jobs that can easily be shipped overseas.