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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Democrats MUST Target Norquist's No New Taxes Pledge

If a congressperson took a "No New Weapons System" pledge to a third party... would that interfere with their constitutional responsibility to defend the nation? I think we'd all agree it would.

So what if a congressperson took a "No New Taxes AND No New Borrowing" pledge... Would that not interfere with those constitutional duties that REQUIRE spending? Obviously. So what about a "No New taxes" Pledge?

Where is the red line where a third party pledge interferes with a congressperson's oath of office? Here's that that official Oath:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God."

Even before the Norquist Pledge the GOP was pushing for irresponsible tax cuts hoping crushing deficits and debt would "starve the beast": put pressure on New Deal and Great Society programs... maybe even abolish them. To portray this fiscal irresponsibility as its opposite the GOP cultivated public support for these policies convincing many that tax cuts funded with borrowed money benefited us all. Heck, these tax cuts might even pay for themselves. It was the ultimate Free Lunch! Limbaugh once said if a tax cut... 

"...brings in, say, two dollars for every dollar of tax relief, we'll have more money in the treasury – and thus safeguard programs like Social Security! The idea behind tax cuts is to get the economy to grow. The economy is not static. The pie is not one size forever, with no new slices. The object is to grow so we have more people working and paying taxes. Presidents Kennedy and Reagan proved this with their tax cuts. The Democratic Congress spent every new dollar and more that Reagan brought in, but the fact is that the revenue coming into the treasury nearly doubled over his two terms."

Actually Reagan revenues in constant dollars only rose about 13.5% and that includes his tax HIKES. Individual income tax revenues only rose 8%. There simply was NO revenue boom the Democrats spent. No sensible person should expect the truth from Limbaugh.

To add to onslaught of propaganda coming from what I've dubbed the Orwellian Right, the No New Taxes Pledge added some unintended consequences. Stuck between the voters and Pledge enforcer Grover Norquist himself, GOP politicians found ways to provide goodies voters wanted but to do so in a way that didn't violate Norquist's Pledge. GOPers simply substituted borrowing for taxation dumping the cost onto future taxpayers. Running up massive debt seems to be acceptable to Norquist who, after all, had been quite open of his plan: to "Starve The Beast" until government is back where it was before the New Deal if not the late 19th Century.

This political dilemma forced the Orwellian Right to become more extreme in its propaganda. They were forced to take all fiscal common sense off the table. They convinced many voters in 2000 that even with nearly 6 trillion in debt, if there was a small budget surplus... it was "their" money and they deserved a refund. But if there had only been a 90 billion surplus to date, why would the GOP jump to $1.4 trillion tax cut?  More recently the Orwellian Right has convinced GOP voters that there's no revenue problem despite the fact that in constant dollars individual income tax revenues have yet to rise even back to Clinton's 2000 levels. They've convinced GOP voters that they're "overtaxed" when our generation has pissed away some 15 TRILLION on ourselves the past 30 years and REFUSED to pay for the bill.

The Orwellian Right and Norquist have given birth to what I call the Free Lunch Right... a generation of spoiled rotten GOPers who bitch and moan about Democratic social spending while utterly oblivious about THEIR freebies... including those tax cuts funded with BORROWED money stolen from our kids and grandkids.

If the Free Lunch Right thinks they are overtaxed even after refusing to pay the that 15 Trillion tax bill... imagine the shock there will be if we try to pay down debt with spending cuts alone!  To get to a surplus is, by definition, paying MORE in taxes than what we receive in government spending. We were there in 2000 and we know how irresponsibly the GOP dealt with the surplus then. We're to trust them should we ever get to a surplus again? 

If we ever get to a surplus how will the GOP then educate the voters they spent 30 years encouraging to be fiscally irresponsible? The debt numbers are staggering. Even if NO interest accruing, it would take 32  years to pay down the debt with a true $500 billion on-budget surplus. Problem is the Clinton on-budget Surplus only totaled about 90 billion over two years before the GOP sabotaged it. The idea that we can ever pay down the debt without huge spending cuts AND a large tax increase… and run that sort of surplus, is laughable.

The Democrats have had thirty years to come up with an effective political response to Starve The Beast… to the Orwellian Right lies about how tax cuts create revenue booms but tax hikes only hurt the economy. The political cowardice of the Democrats has made them complicit in the GOP's war against fiscal sanity.

I can only hope the Democrats target the Norquist anti-tax pledge this election cycle. There are some very real advantages to this strategy:

It goes after what enables the Right's Starve The Beast strategy.

It goes after the dysfunctional and dangerous ideological cohesion the Norquist Pledge brings to the GOP.

It exposes the grotesque fiscal irrationality the Pledge has brought to the GOP… they refuse to even recognize the simple reality that in constant dollars revenues have plummeted since Clinton's last year... and even with 16 trillion in debt they are proposing more irresponsible tax cuts.

It goes after Norquist, the chief enforcer of the Pledge and someone who's been immune to attack for too long.

It gives GOPers who want out of the pledge a good excuse to finally break ranks with Norquist.

It can be used against any GOPer who was foolish enough to sign the pledge. Let voters decide whether those who took the Pledge are undermining the Constitution itself and the fiscal health of government's ability to deal with emergencies.


revised: 10-14-12

Monday, September 17, 2012

Where Oh Where Is Bush's Revenue Boom?

The Orwellian Right loves to claim that income tax cuts, especially for the rich, make the rich pay more, and such cuts even bring in more revenue. It's a counter-intuitive claim but the Right makes it all the time. However, if you scratch your head wondering about such claims, then your intuition is right. The claim is untrue. It's the only way to sell irresponsible tax cuts which bring home the bacon to the rich, the only constituency the Right cares about, and secretly sabotaging the US Treasury. To convince the ever-gullible True Believers on the Right, the Orwellian Right disinformation industry has a history of grotesque dishonesty. The Orwellian Right so wants to convince us tax cuts create revenue booms, they routinely include revenue from other presidents, and even have included revenue from other tax hikes. The Right claims there was a revenue boom after the so-called JFK tax cuts LBJ pushed in 1964... thru 1969. They just don't mention the three tax HIKES during that period. In the Reagan years the Orwellian Right swept under the rug two massive tax hikes in 1982 and 1983 and counted that revenue as "proof" the 1981 tax cuts brought in massive amounts of revenue. Yes, that's what they want us to believe. And if there were deficits they lie and blame Democrats for spending the bounty. But there was no revenue boom. In constant, inflation-controlled dollars, even with these tax hikes, Reagan's revenue only increased about 13.5% over his eight years.

If we're to go on a Snipe Hunt looking for such revenue booms we need to look at the specific tax being cut and then look for growth in that area. Since most of the Right's favorite tax cuts are cuts in the federal income tax, it would be unfair to look for revenue in other areas like FICA or corporate taxes. We should at income tax revenues. But since we're looking at revenue effects over time, there are two variables at work here... inflation which is easy to correct for, and % of GDP, that is the size of the economy these revenues represent. That's a topic for another time.

Here's a look at Bush individual income tax revenues compared to Clinton's last year (FY00) correcting for inflation. Numbers are from Table 2.1—RECEIPTS BY SOURCE of the US Historical Budget Tables.

Since this source does NOT correct for inflation in this chart, I used the inflation calculator at to convert to constant 2005 dollars in billions. Using constant 2005 dollars means revenue from years before the target year will inflate in value, those after will deflate. Column one is the fiscal year. Column 2 is income tax revenue in CURRENT dollars collected that year. Column 3 is revenue in billions of 2005 CONSTANT dollars. It could be argued that FY01 is Clinton's last year since the fiscal year began when Clinton was still in office. But Bush's 2001 EGGTRA tax cut was retroactive to Jan 1, 2001.

2000   1004.462 = 1139.206 Clinton's last year.

2001    994.339 = 1096.524

2002    858.345 = 931.822

2003    793.699 = 842.442

2004     808.959 = 836.370

2005    927.222 = 927.222

2006   1043.908 = 1011.285

2007   1163.472 = 1095.899

2008   1145.747 = 1039.299

If my math is correct, what we see is that even after eight years, at the end of Bush's term income tax rates were cut so irresponsibly those income tax revenues NEVER AGAIN EXCEEDED CLINTON'S LAST YEAR. I'm sure some readers will see 8 years of declining income tax revenues as "proof" tax cuts create revenue booms.

But then some people will believe anything.


revised 10-13-12

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Time For A Budget SURPLUS Amendment

Forget the Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA). It's a cynical political ploy by the GOP. It leaves them free to pass all the irresponsible cut taxes they want while handcuffing the Democrats from restoring taxes to responsible levels or even raising them if needed.

The BBA is part of the GOP's larger strategy to sabotage the finances of government, to create massive deficits/debt hoping an eventual fiscal crisis will undermine signature Democratic safety net programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. As if that wasn't bad enough, it leaves the matter of the national debt unresolved… setting in cement the theft by our generation of some now $15 trillion from future tax payers… and by that I mean our kids and grand kids. The interest alone last FY was over $450 billion and $2.9 TRILLION was pissed away on interest during the Bush years alone.

We need to stop playing these budget games. Both Democrats and the GOP use the unified budget to conceal internal borrowing from the trust funds to make the real deficit look smaller. It's the on-budget deficit that gives us the true picture.

What is needed is a no games On-Budget SURPLUS Amendment to restrain both reckless spending AND reckless tax cuts by all sides and force them to finally pay down our enormous debt which now is about $16 trillion dollars.

The task ahead is daunting. Even if we ran an annual $500 billion surplus, something that didn't even happen in the best Clinton years, it would take us now some 32 years to pay down the debt. That neither political party sees the moral outrage in this situation is a damning indictment against our morally bankrupt and intellectually braindead political system.


updated 9-17-12

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

So Where's That Conservative Nirvana?

These past 30 years the rich, corporations, and Wall Street have gotten just about EVERYTHING they wanted… tax cuts for the filthy rich and big reductions on capital gains taxes... the destruction of most unions... free trade deal to exploit cheap and slave labor overseas... corporate welfare... two wars fought on the credit card... the deregulation of banks, mass media, and commodities. They sabotaged government revenue with irresponsible tax cuts and Free Trade sabotaged the industrial base of America. Their privatization efforts in Iraq milked taxpayers for $100k+ a year private contractor jobs that our military should have been doing for a fifth that. They encouraged us to place our life savings in the hands of sociopathic predators on Wall Street whose greed and hubris was so great they didn't just bring down their own banks, they brought down our entire economy... almost the world's.

ALL THE EVIDENCE IS NOW IN, and it’s these conservative/neo-liberal policies have proven to be a DISASTER. At least some neo-libs like Clinton now have some regrets about free trade and deregulation. Clinton got us to a balanced budget only to have it quickly sabotaged by Bush to prevent debt paydown. Do you ever hear ANY regrets from the far Right or the crazed Tea Baggers for supporting policies that created more debt and brought the economy down?

Above was just the beginning of the Right's proposed insanity. The Tea Party sociopaths in Congress are now demanding policies even MORE insane than the above. Grover Norquist on 60 Minutes last Sunday again went on record his goal is to shrink the federal government down to about 8% of GDP. That means the elimination of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and just about all of the social safety net plus those regulatory agencies that protect us from the more malignant aspects of capitalism. Quite literally it's the rolling back of the 20th Century.

The Right has shown they are willing to become fiscal terrorists threatening to blow up the system if they are not allowed to inflict even MORE damage. They are blind to the fact that they have gotten most of what they wanted these past 30 years and there's still no Conservative Nirvana, that is except for the rich. They blame their failures on not being extreme enough. And these lunatics are saying they can be trusted to fix our system?

If anyone should be reforming our system, it's those whose instincts were sound in OPPOSING all of the above insanity… people on the LEFT.

updated 10-14-12


Monday, November 07, 2011


The Grover Norquist anti-tax pledge is the lynchpin that holds the GOP's fiscally irresponsible GOP policies together. It's time the Democrats target this pledge by demanding they sign a counter pledge similar to the below:

I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office of which I seek. While in office my primary obligation is to those I represent and to the People of the United States.

I further affirm that I will not let commitments, oaths, or pledges made to others restrict my ability to arrive at the best policy decisions or come before my sworn obligations stated above.


revised 10-15-12