Friday, August 17, 2012

Romney's "13%" solution

Mitt Willard Romney now informs us that he did pay taxes during the last ten years.

Thus he attempts to staunch - despite his own refusal to provide proof in the form of tax returns - the assertion of critics like Democratic senator Harry Reid that Romney paid no taxes at all, across some of that decade. Every year, I’ve paid at least 13 percent,” Romney said, apparently referring to his effective federal income tax rate. 

Now let's do the unusual and actually parse it out. There are more aspects to all of this than you could shake a schtick at:

#1 First off -- please read between the lines.  In effect, Mitt Romney is only saying "for the years in question, I paid at least 13% on the final NET taxable income that appeared on line 43 of my form 1040." He said nothing about how large or small that final net taxable income was. Nor how much tax he actually paid.   All that his recent statement claims is that the amounts weren't zero, in years when he made between twenty and forty million dollars in gross income.

Consider, carefully. It's not 13% of his gross income, but of the final net taxable income after most income has been removed by shelters and dodges. Thirteen percent… on what was LEFT after sheltering most of it from ever appearing on line 43… and this should impress us?

In a Washington Post article, Ezra Klein lays this out carefully: '“Adjusted gross income” (AGI) is pretty close to what you think about when you think about income. “Taxable income” is what you’re left with after accounting for deductions like the home mortgage interest deduction.'  (Or the myriad other deductions and shelters available to the uber-rich.)

'Daniel Shaviro, a professor of tax policy at NYU, made the same point. “The key question here is 13.9 % of what. We know he paid zero tax at the capital gains rate in 2009, since he had loss carryovers for 2010.  So he may have had ridiculously low adjusted gross income (AGI), relative to his economic income for the year.”

Yes it is obscure... and yet important.  Let's hope the real lesson of all this comes across.

#2. Mitt Romney did provide 20 years of tax returns to John McCain, back in 2008, when he was being considered for the VP slot. If McCain deserved to see them at that time, as Romney's prospective 'boss,' then what are we? Chopped liver?  Aren't we the real bosses, deserving all information about the executive we're meant to hire? Similarly, Romney demanded tax returns from his prospective vice presidential candidates.

On this aspect, blogmunity member L. Lyons proposed: "Four years ago in the depths of the largest recession since the '30's John McCain and his campaign team vetted Mitt Romney as a potential VP candidate. Part of the vetting was to look at 20 years of IRS returns. Remember this was in 2008 with the economy nearly in freefall. They looked at Romney's tax returns, and chose Sarah Palin."

#3. In any event,  Mitt Romney knew he would face this issue in 2012. Indeed, he's been running for president for most of the last two decades.  And the GOP tradition held once again - that the nomination always goes (in order of priority) to (i) a sitting GOP president, (ii) a sitting GOP vice president, or - barring those being available - the fellow whose turn it is.  That is what has happened every single election year since 1960.  Barring situations (i) and (ii), the nominee the fellow who came in second for the nomination last time.

Hence, Mitt knew the nomination would likely fall in his lap in 2012 - as it has - so why did he not get ready, so that at least 4 years of tax records would be pristine and ready for public scrutiny?  Isn't the presidency worth sacrificing some tasty tax dodges? Given all that, if there are any embarrassments in those returns, what does that say about the intelligence and foresight of a man who is urging us to "make me commander in chief"?

Frankly, I'd prefer the notion of a Dan Rather Gotcha to the idea that we'd let anywhere near the presidency a man too stupid to clean up his finances before running for the top job.

#4.   Is Mitt simply delaying in order to get nominated, and then let whatever S#!^! hit the fan? Less than 2 weeks and counting, then at least he gets to be in history books, even if the party dumps him (unlikely) in October.  Ah, but follow that musing for a bit! Suppose six-term Congressman Paul Ryan inherited the top slot, simply because one man picked him for ticket-balancing reasons? What would that say about our crazy party system?

Heck, what does it say that a party would aim to vest full executive power over Pax Americana in a pair of men with zero foreign policy experience whatsoever and a combined total of less than twenty years in public office? And zero at a top national level?

#5. Going back to Harry Reid, the most senior Mormon official in the United States, who hopes to stay that way. I have one piece of advice for Reid that he should carefully consider. I suspect the possibility of a Dan Rather lure Harry Reid has pounced on an apparent weakness (claiming a Bain investor told him that Romney paid no taxes for ten years.) But remember the Swift Boaters. Reid may have been fed a "reliable" rumor deliberately, in order to draw him onto a branch that could be cut  off.  You can be sure that tactic will be used at some point, even if it wasn't on this occasion. Double check your sources. And don't be too shocked if, suddenly, at an opportune moment, Mitt opens up a dozen tax returns and there's nothing noteworthy. I don't deem it likely, but it's better  than scenario #3 (above)..

And finally:  From the same article we offered in lead-off position, lower down. “We pay our taxes,” Ann Romney said. “We are absolutely — beyond paying our taxes, we also give 10 percent of our income to charity, so that you know, we have no issues that way and the only reason we don’t disclose any more is, you know, we just become a bigger target.”

Hm. As faithful and obedient Mormons, they are  obliged to tithe 10% of their income to their church.  It is pretty much automatic. That is the "charity" of which Mrs. Romney speaks… and it implies that this very very rich couple doesn't give hardly anything beyond that. Nothing at all to what the rest of us would call voluntary generosity.

What? I am hoping she rounded-down! But why would she?  Jumping jiminy, even the Koch brothers give something to acceptably rightist charitable causes.

In fact, let's withhold judgement as this is damnation on very slim evidence (then show us the returns!) But on the face of it, this sniffs like aristocrats who cannot be bothered to pay back or pay forward, lifting even a finger to help their nation, or to make a better world.


Stefan Jones said...

Not sure it that comment worked.

If this is a repeat, please delete!

I found this today:

“The rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more in proportion.” -Adam Smith

Stefan Jones said...

Not sure it that comment worked.

If this is a repeat, please delete!

I found this today:

“The rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more in proportion.” -Adam Smith

David Brin said...

Stefan do you have a citation?

Ian Gould said...

"A tax upon house-rents, therefore, would in general fall heaviest upon the rich; and in this sort of inequality there would not, perhaps, be any thing very unreasonable. It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expence, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion."

That's from Book 5 chapter 2 of The Wealth of Nations "Of the Sources of the General or Public Revenue of the Society".

You might also want to note this section from book 5 Chpater 1:

"When the toll upon carriages of luxury, upon coaches, post-chaises, &c. is made somewhat higher in proportion to their weight, than upon carriages of necessary use, such as carts, waggons, &c. the indolence and vanity of the rich is made to contribute in a very easy manner to the relief of the poor, by rendering cheaper the transportation of heavy goods to all the different parts of the country."

Also from chapter 2, for thoe who believe sucessful businessman make successful Presdients;

"No two characters seem more inconsistent than those of trader and sovereign. If the trading spirit of the English East India company renders them very bad sovereigns; the spirit of sovereignty seems to have rendered them equally bad traders."

Tim H. said...

Might John McCain give us a hint about what's inside the whited sepulchre? Bad enough the presumptive nominee made a business scrapping other businesses, gets a lower tax rate than everyone else, now he refuses to follow his Father's example of transparency

Larry C. Lyons said...

Thanks for the ego boost Dr. Brin.

Transparency is the issue here. I see none here. I get the impression that Mr. Romney's idea of the rest of us is the same as was displayed by the thoroughly arrogance ultra rich in your book Existence.

Another possibility is that the returns will reveal some quite legal but election killing tax decisions. For instance three years ago there was a tax amnesty for undeclared money in Swiss Bank Accounts. Coud it be that Mr. Romney took advantage of such After all both the candidate and his wife both mentioned that by releasing the tax returns it would just give more ammunition to their opposition.

Acacia H. said...

You know what would be utterly amusing and unlikely... but would help make for one of the most intriguing debates around? Having Dr. Brin be the moderator and responsible for the questions to both Obama and Romney... including the ability to cut them off and say "you're not answering the question. Please stay on topic."

I suspect we would see Adam Smith mentioned a lot... along with transparency issues and questions concerning what their policies concerning scientific research are. And I suspect our Contrarian would make for a far better moderator than the lackluster hosts they've had who are worried about burning bridges concerning future interviews and the like.

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

I don't know who is the better candidate because politicians enter office with their hands tied. The lobbists who fund their campaigns hold sway in what the politician does in his term. Perhaps if there were no lobbists the politicians would not have a conflict of interest between what their constituents want and what voters want. As it is, I am not crazy about any candidate and feel this country is being brought down by design by people who have no allegiance with any country and are intoxicated with the aquisition of power for power's sake.

LarryHart said...

Anonymous, candidates wouldn't be beholden to lobbyists if they didn't need so much cash to pay for adverstisments.

The media--the recipients of that advertising money--have no reason to want the system to change.

The system seems disfunctional but stable. It's not going to fix itself from within.

LarryHart said...

Larry C. Lyons:

Transparency is the issue here. I see none here. I get the impression that Mr. Romney's idea of the rest of us is the same as was displayed by the thoroughly arrogance ultra rich in your book Existence.

Unfortunately, some authoritarian-personality voters probably see Mr Romney's membership in the First Estate as a reason to vote for him. "Being one of the world's natural leaders, he must know what he's doing." In that regard, I liked the rumination in "Existence" where one of the elite wondered to herself whether in fact any of them really do have their hands on the tiller, or whether in fact everyone just assumes someone else has things under control.

I suspect that something along the lines of her cynical hypothesis is more true than not-true.

Anonymous said...

I was just listening to a podcast called 'The Professional Left' and one of the hosts seems to think that may only want the position because he sees it as the next logical step in his life.

But all these gaffes and mistakes seem to point to the fact that he doesn't want to have to work hard for it, he wants it given to him and so he outsources.

Whereas Obama's application form for senior jobs in the White is 63 questions about everything from social media, loan, lawsuits and more.

lightning said...

Democrats have "elites". Republicans have "aristocrats".

The big (theortical) item in Romney's returns is the 2009 amnesty for foreign bank accounts. I'll lay odds that Romney's returns from 2009 have a lot of foreign accounts that the 2008 returns don't have.

Outside of that, the returns will definitely show that Romney makes a lot of money, and that he uses tax shelters that Ordinary Folks can't. Some will argue that the shelters aren't "legitimate"; this says more about the incomprehensible tax laws (Full Employment for Lawyers and Accountants!) than it says about the honesty of Romney or his accountants.

greg byshenk said...

"all these gaffes and mistakes seem to point to the fact that he doesn't want to have to work hard for it"
mymatedave, George W. Bush served two terms as president, and I doubt he ever worked hard at anything in his life. An Romney is arguably more capable than Dubya.

Jonathan S. said...

You're not exactly setting the bar high, Greg. My ferrets are arguably more capable than Dubya.

our website said...

‘I Never Paid Less Than 13 Percent’ In Taxes is probably one of the funniest stories this election cycle. Refusing to release any tax information, this Richie Rich wants us to know that he paid far less in taxes than the average doctor or lawyer. His entire tax rate is far below the average auto worker or teacher. His IRA has $100 million stashed away, tax free, of course. The entire argument here is, the rich evade taxes while our government runs in the red due to GOP tax cuts.

David Brin said...

Rob heh. My positive points as a moderator... I would cut to more basic levels and ask jiu jitsu questions... still I admit that I am biased and I'd have to work a bit harder to steel myself to skewer BHO hard. But I think I would. I certainly am ticked at him for some things.

Anonymous, your cynicism masks some basics. If the dems retake power Big Time, they will pass laws taking much of the money out of politics. There is a good chance they will pass legislation disemboweling gerrymandering. They will restored the science and technical apparatus of Congress. They will plow under the Citizens United decision. If they did JUST those things, the problems you complain about would lessen dramaticallyu.

So, if those are your chief concerns, you know how to vote.

David Brin said...

My Friend the sharp investment analyst Russ Daggett, asked me to post this reply to my blog on Romney's taxes:

Another point re Romney's claim that he paid at least 13% (!) in taxes every year for the last 10 years.  Klein makes the good point, "13% of what?"  But there is another question:  "WHAT taxes?"  Romney never specified federal income taxes.  He just said "taxes."  I think it is fair to assume he includes state taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, etc.  We already know Romney lies all the time, about everything.  Without his tax returns, we are justified to assume the worst.
Oh, and why does someone have a Swiss bank account?  The official explanation of the Romney camp was to hedge the dollar.  But that is transparently bogus.  There are an almost infinite number of ways to hedge the dollar.  You don't need a Swiss bank account, which is about the least remunerative way to hedge the dollar.  The only reason an American has a Swiss bank account is to hide transactions. 

And what does it say about Romney that after at least six years (more like 20 years) of running for president, he still had a Swiss bank account in 2010.  Did it never occur to him that a Swiss bank account might not look good?  Or was he so arrogant he assumed he could stonewall on his taxes indefinitely?

BTW, did you know that when Mitt was running for governor of Massachusetts in 2002 and had to prove his continuous residency in the state for seven years (per the state constitution), he insisted publicly for months that he had filed his taxes as a Massachusetts resident during the two years he spent in Salt Lake City for the Olympics.  Turns out he was lying.  Flat out lying.  He had filed as a Utah resident to get a tax break there. 

At the same time he was claiming he had filed as a Massachusetts resident he was going back and amending his tax returns to "retroactively" file as a Massachusetts resident (just like he "retroactively" retired from Bain).  He lied for months, and was caught out in the lie.  Is there any reason we should trust him now?

LarryHart said...

Some thoughts on the 13% thing. It's not so much about how low Romney was able to (legally) get his tax bill. Romney is a vulnerable candidate because he already seems to have no connection, empathy, or even comprehension of what life is like for the 99%.

His tax returns (presumably) would not implicate him in crimes or misdemeanors, but they do reinforce the already-evident notion that his is a rarefied view of society, and that the negative socio-economic effects of private equity and monetization of everything and neoliberalism are like water off a duck's back to him.

Again, the 2012 election is between competing visions of America as a "we" society or a "me" society. A president who sees life only through the prism of life as a billionaire can perhaps be forgiven for thinking that a "me" society works just fine. But the rest of us, watching our stake in the commons being eroded before our eyes and lacking the personal resources to make up the difference--we may rightly expect a president who made his fortune by extracting the lifeblood from other entities and a veep who makes his staffers read Ayn Rand to fail us at every turn.

LarryHart said...

...and the thing is, to the voters who think America should be a "me" society, "Failing us at every turn" isn't a negative. The worshippers of small government really do seem to think of environmental protection or food safety (let alone health care) to be unconstitutional interference in the "liberty" of corporations.

So "Romney and Ryan would fail to protect the common folk from the predatory powerful" might well be a reason for Republican voters to vote for them, despite most of those voters belonging to the "common folk" category themselves. More's the pity.

Rob said...

Time to unravel it, then.


My ferrets are arguably more capable than Dubya.

We already know Romney lies all the time, about everything.

Both statements underestimate and mischaracterize each politician for different reasons.

Romney is well-known among those who know him as an honorable man who doesn't lie. Bush is decidedly more intelligent than any of his

The common point might be this: The *man* is honest. The *campaign* is morbidly dishonest. (Both are, but one is appallingly moreso...)

The man Romney is not at all in control of his campaign, except at the highest levels and the most general of directions, any more than the man Bush was in any control of Cheney's faction.

He's taking advice from trainwrecks out to rule the world, though, that much is abundantly clear. Don't release your taxes, it's not illegal to do that, it will only embolden political enemies eager to defeat you.

Of course they're eager. But that's not the problem.

The problem is "meta" (and the guilt this year is mostly on the "right": "They assume that the government is a them doing bad things to us. This is a very common assumption on both the left and the right, but it is a deeply problematic way to look at civil authority in a self-governing republic."

Rob said...

Oh wait, that was your point.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brin,

Why is it so important how much in taxes Romney pays as long as he does not violate the tax code? Seems like just a partisan rant. If using the tax law to minimize taxes is wrong then congress should change the Tax code. Regarding taxes I am more concerned about the rapidly rising % of the voters who pay no Fedral income tax. This seems like a corrosive issue for society when voters who pay no tax can vote into office administrations to give them more free goodies. To be fair this seems to work for both parties.

David Brin said...

Anonymous... I ask you now to RANDOMLY choose a decade in the last 4000 years... go ahead and use dice or coins to pick one. Now pick randomly a place in that era that had agriculture. Now tell me who oppressed the masses, made sure the sons of peasants stayed peasants, meddled in markets, granted monopolies, connived with other pals to keep everybody else down, suppressed sience and progress, and made horrific mistakes of statecraft.

Let me guess... feudal owner-oligarchs, right? The guys who owned it all.

Hm... how did I do that? Shall we try again? Roll up random times and places. Do it FIFTY times. See a pattern?

You naively believe that the only threat to freedom can come from snooty academics and faceless bureaucrats and the great mass of zombie poor. But those are shiboleths raised by Fox. Sure, communism was awful and I fought it like hell.

But your historical myopia is typical on today's right. You assume that the age-old foe of freedom and of CAPITALIST MARKETS, is no threat at all, anymore.

Have you ever read Adam Smith? He and the American founders knew who the enemy was. Why do you ignore it?

LarryHart said...


Why is it so important how much in taxes Romney pays as long as he does not violate the tax code? Seems like just a partisan rant.
If using the tax law to minimize taxes is wrong then congress should change the Tax code.

And which party is more likely TO change the tax code in that manner. Romney's tax returns call attention to the fact that he's one of the 1% and his policies favor people like him.

Obama is also a member of the 1%, as were FDR and the Kennedys, but they tried to be faithful public servants, using their powers for good instead of evil. Romney, by his own campaigning, gives no indication other than that he'd use his power to benefit himself and his close associates, and that the average voter has no standing in his eyes.

So yeah, the tax returns themselves are largely symbolic, but powerfully so.

Regarding taxes I am more concerned about the rapidly rising % of the voters who pay no Fedral income tax. This seems like a corrosive issue for society when voters who pay no tax can vote into office administrations to give them more free goodies.

That's one way of putting it. I'd say the same thing more like "when voters who have a stake in the commons and infrastructure of the country can participate in the management thereof irrespective of their personal wealth and power."

But then it's painfully obvious which side we're each supporting.

To be fair this seems to work for both parties.

So ypu're one of those "bi-partisan" folks who complains about both parties when Democrats are in power and is shamelessly silent on Republican excesses while they're actually committing them?

Ian Gould said...

"Regarding taxes I am more concerned about the rapidly rising % of the voters who pay no Fedral income tax."

Can you provide information about this "rapid rise"? Is this something you've researched yourself or a partisan talking point you are simply repeating?

What proportion of that "rapid rise" (assuming it exists) is attributable to the ageing of the American population?

In researching an answer to those questions you might want to consider the following:

1. The figure commonly used in this discusssion doesn;t relate to "people" it relates to "households". Over the past decade the largest increase in households has been in single people over the age of retirement.

2. The main reason people "pay no Federal income tax" is becasue thir income for the year is below the tax threshold. In these cases, the main reason peopel file a tax return is becasue they've paid Federal Withholding Tax for paert of the year and then lost their job.

3. Claims abotu the proportion of people (actually hosueholds) who pay no (net) Federal income tax, typically draw on data from 2009. Firstly, it goes withotu saying that a single data point can't establish a trend. Secondly, since 2009 the number of unemployed Americans ahs decreased by aroudn 3 million. Additionally in 2009, many investors were able to claim large capital losses relating to the previous year's stock market collapse.

Or maybe its all those welfare queens smoking their crack and driving their limoes down to the welfare office.

Finally, when you take into account ALL taxes - including sales taxes, property taxes and satte and local income taxes - virtually no-one in America "pays no tax". Depending on the state in which americans live their total tax payments as a percentage of income are either very slightly progressive or actively regressive. (The average Texan earning $25,000 a year will pay a higher total percentage of income in taxes than the average Texan earning $250,000.)

Rob said...

With respect to *that*, then, it's worth pointing out that the "rapidly rising % of the voters who pay no Fedral [sic] income tax" are almost entirely composed of a cohort who a) pay at least 8% in combined FICA taxes in the first place and b) cannot avoid State sales or income taxes, which always have fewer loopholes. Also, property taxes are built into their apartment rents.

So it's manifestly disingenuous to make that particular argument.

That gets us to Romney. If he says it's 13%, I believe him. Only just: how much of it is MA income tax, property taxes, sales taxes, and FICA?

There is lots and lots of room in that vague for Romney to have paid no "Federal Income Tax", which ironically inverts Anonymous' point, and makes me wonder if he'll be casting an Obama vote, as the only viable candidate with "skin in the game" as it were.

Ian Gould said...

Oh and the other reason for the high proportion of peopel paying no net federal income tax in 2009 was the the one-off tax rebate given as part of the stimulus package.

Emphasis on "one off".

Never thought I'd see so many Republicans upset about a tax cut.

Ian Gould said...

The real reason the proportion of tax paid by poorer Americans is declining:

In 1987, the top 1 of America tax payers earned 2.3% of all taxable income. In 2007 they earned 22.8%.

In 2009, they earned 16.9% due to the capital losses from the GFC. The recovery in stock markets since then has probably reversed that fall.

Over the same time, the income share of the bottom 50% fell from 15.6% to 12.3% in 2007. It recovered to 13.5% in 2009. However that "recovery" is because they had few assets on which to claim capital losses meaning their income fell less than for the top 1%.

If any Republicans out there earning less than $100,000 a year feel that the top 1% are being hard done by there's an obvious solution: a private sector, voluntary, non-government solution.

Pick a billionaire and send them a check for 5% of your annual income.

Ian Gould said...

Sorry, the source for my last post:

See table 5.

Alex Tolley said...

The interesting thing is, voters have already made up their minds. So the taxes issue won't make much difference, however bad it is.

It is a sad commentary on our political system. How to engage voters' brains (and hearts and guts) is a real problem.

David Brin said...

I don't agree with the assumption that we can't peel off the ostriches from the confederate coalition, at long last. Yes, my hopes have been forlorn, till now. But I will suggest methods and perhaps, this time, someone will listen.

sociotard said...

From another site:

"Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan" is an anagram for "My Ultimate Ayn Rand Porn".

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brin,

Thanks for your comments. I am a big fan of both your fiction and non fiction. Currently rereading Kiln People after finishing your recent work.

I also do not want to return to the "bad old days of feudalism". Given that no rich people pay the same sort of tax rates that the top 5% pay are they all to be disqualified from holding high government office? The 1% are not the problem. Most one percenters that I know pay a huge amount of taxes. It is the 0.1% that ride the 1% like horses that legally avoid taxes. I wonder if my feeling that Romney can fix the countries problems is an illusion. Perhaps the correct path is to let Obama take us into the valley of death and a new system can emerge. I fear that my hard won store of nuts and berries will be pillaged in the process.


Thanks for all the responses. It must be a slow day. I think most of you have me pegged as a Fox News idiot. This could not be further from the truth.

I have basic concerns that we are living beyond our means for at least the past decade and do not see the current administration reversing course. Europe is a nightmare caused by very complex issue, not the least of which is excess governmental spending. Political union without fiscal union certainly contributes to their problems. I fear we are the next domino to fall.

I support closing tax loop holes for the very wealthy and reducing the AGI level where Federal Income taxes must be paid. Note that Social Security withholding should not really be called a tax and should be kept separate from normal government revenues. I think it is corrosive to society to have so few people actually paying Federal Taxes and to have the ultra rich paying a lower tax rate than the "5-10%"

My next log on will be under the pen name of Alcibar (unless I am run out of town on a rail.)

Alex Tolley said...

But I will suggest methods

I would welcome some new suggestions. My conservative friends, intelligent as they are, have completely drunk the kool-aid. No matter how many times I dig up facts and references to refute the GOP talking points, it makes no impression. It's like religious beliefs.

I've even taken to heart Randy Olson's excellent "Don't Be Such A Scientist" to present ideas in ways that do not just engage the brain, but they are just impervious. I've tried the betting strategy, but they either wriggle out of the terms when faced with the facts, claim to offer counter-factuals, get annoyed at having their "facts" contradicted, and now just shy away from taking bets. As I said, it is like religion. They have become immune to facts.

Ian Gould said...

Alcibar, had you invested your "nuts and berries" in the stock market during Obama's first term, they would have roughly doubled in value.

You mwight also want to ponder the folloing in relation to Europe's "nightmare":

Prior to the GFC, Ireland, Portugal and Greece, the three worst-affected countries in the EU all had both taxes and government spending lower than the EU average.

The countries which have been least affected - such as Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands have above-average levels of taxation and spending.

I'm not saying that high taxes are good, I am saying that the simplistic morality tale version of the European crisis is simply not true.
qinbly high deficits are worse

Ian Gould said...

I overstated the growth of the stock markets under Obama.

Three and a half years into the radical socialist's campaign to destroy capitalism the S&P 500 is only up 72% and the Dow is only up 76%.

By way of comparison, during eight years of pro-business Republican policies between 2001 and 2009, the Dow fell 22% and the S&P fell 37%.

Alcibar said...

The fundamental problem in Europe is complicated. The culturally high productivity states usually considered to be about +30% productivity have taken advantage of the lower productivity PIIGS through the common currency. Now the PIIGS are trapped by the euro. They will squeal loudly before they are let out of the trap or the Germans will squeal as they have to pay the bill. We will have a better idea when vacation season is over. Make no mistake about it the rich are running to various safe havens. Predict our market will crash depending on certain election outcomes. Muppet money is supporting the s&p 500 and Dow at this point and this muppet is about to exit.

Ian Gould said...

"I'm not saying that high taxes are good, I am saying tha
t the simplistic morality tale version of the European crisis is simply not true.
qinbly high deficits are worse"

Should have read

"I'm not saying that high taxes are good, I am saying that high taxes are bad but persistent unsustainably high deficits are worde and that the simplistic morality tale version of the European crisis is simply not true."

Alcibar said...


Bush was a disaster as Obama has been a greater one. Not clear to me that Romney will do better but we have possibilty of hope and change. Still no jobs for our kids which is a primary concern of mine. Obama's biggest failing

LarryHart said...

Alcibar as anonymous:

I wonder if my feeling that Romney can fix the countries problems is an illusion.

My own estimation is that he wouldn't even try. "Fixing the country's problems" isn't the Republicans' idea of what government should do in the first place.

Obama may have his failings at it, but at least he's attempting to solve problems, including that of a criminally-negligent congress.

Perhaps the correct path is to let Obama take us into the valley of death and a new system can emerge.

Bush and Cheney already did that.

I fear that my hard won store of nuts and berries will be pillaged in the process.

Thom Hartmann had a rich German guest on his radio show who explained why he (the rich German guy) didn't mind paying high taxes. He said "I don't want to be a rich man in a poor country." You might consider that point of view. Your hard-won store of nuts and berries is safer in a society of secure and free neighbors than it is when you're surrounded by hungry, cold, desperate countrymen.

And while this doesn't directly address your point, I suspect you condemn President Obama for increasing the deficit. The thing is, cutting government spending is the wrong thing to do in a recession/depression such as we are in now. One lesson of Europe is that austerity in this economy only makes things worse. Yes, we must pay down the gi-norumous debt, but doing so in a Depression is foolishly counter-productive.

Clinton (and yes, Gingrich) had the right idea to use the proceeds of good economic times to pay down the debt. If you're down on deficits, blame the Bush/Cheney administration for cutting taxes before the job was done--in fact (at Alan Greenspan's urging) one object of those tax cuts was specifically to prevent the debt from being paid down. Greenspan was terribly afraid of a government surplus. So don't blame Democrats for that valley-of-death thing.

Ian Gould said...

Alcibar, all the evidence about the markets contradicts your naked assertions.

I'd also be interested ot hear your explanation for what went wrong with the "culturally high productivity states" states of Iceland and Ireland (and to a lesser extent the UK).

Small peripheral EU states that were highly dependent on tourism and financial services and had high levels of foreign portfolio investment did poorly in the GFC regardless of their "culture".

Ian Gould said...

"Bush was a disaster as Obama has been a greater one."

By what measure?

Alcibar said...


Agree with your last statement. Persistent unsustainable high deficits are worse.

In the US we are quickly reaching a debt level that will never be able to be paid off normally. The only solution is high inflation while the voter is not paying attention. Wall Street calls people like us muppets which I find pretty offensive.

Alcibar said...

Total debt increase.

LarryHart said...


Still no jobs for our kids which is a primary concern of mine. Obama's biggest failing

Only if by "failing" you mean failing to overcome Republican intransigance in Congress, or by buying into Republican memes such as the need to put deficit-reduction and tax cuts ahead of stimulus spending. Blame him if you will for not standing up to Republicans, but the idea that those same Republicans will somehow solve the problems they caused and are continuing to cause is absurd.

"No jobs" is a feature of Republican policy, not a bug. Outsourcing to low-wage, low-regulation countries is good for business. It's just bad for Americans. Your "hard won nuts and berries" are on the bad side of your employer's bottom line. Republican policies are aimed at helping the employer keep more money by not paying you. Or by allowing them to poison your air and water and land at no cost to themselves.

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan: Republicans are not the solution to the problem; Republicans are the problem.

Ian Gould said...

"Total debt increase."

... almost entirely attributable to lower revenue and higher welfare spending due to the recession already under way when Obama took office and to Congressional Republicans insist on extending the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans.

Bush on the other hand inherited a surplus and managed to turn it into a $4 trillion cumulative deficit.

Ian Gould said...

"In the US we are quickly reaching a debt level that will never be able to be paid off normally. The only solution is high inflation while the voter is not paying attention."

This is demonstrably not correct seeing as the debt to GDP ratio now is below the peak reached in 1945 and that debt was largely repaid over the next 15 years without any major increase in inflation over that period.

lightning said...

If the "deficit hawks" were correct, we'd be seeing spiraling inflation and we'd be having to pay huge interest rates to borrow. Actually, the effective interest rate on Federal debt is *negative*.

Between the deficit and the recession, we have the economic equivalent of the private pilot's nightmare, the "graveyard spiral". If you do the obviously correct "seat of the pants" things, the wings will come off. You have to follow the instruments. In the airplane, level the wings. In the economy, stimulate the economy to get the money moving. *Then* you can work on the dive (aircraft) or the deficit (economy).

Our politicians are effectively ignoring their instruments, trusting the seat of their pants, and heading for a "controlled flight into terrain".

Ian Gould said...

Lightning, we KNOW how to cut the US deficit - because Clinton did it.

He didn't do it by cutting spending massively, he did by raising taxes and keeping the real growth in spending to less than the rate of economic growth.

Now there MAY be other ways to reduce the deficit but the proposed policy of cutting taxes in the belief that the resulting increase in economic activity will result in a net increase in government revenue was tried under Reagan and under Bush 43, it failed both times.

There is one option we know may work, there is another option we know has failed to work in the past, if cutting the deficit is so critical, why are people even considering the second alternative?

Ian Gould said...

Cost of Bush policy initiatives 2001-2009: $5.1 trillion (remember he started with a surplus).

Projected cost of Obama policy initiatives 2009 to 2017: 4983 billion.

Increase in discretionary non-defense spending under Bush: $608 billion

Projected increase in discretionary non-defense spending under Obama: -$53 billion.

Budget cuts to offset new spending under Obama: $949 billion.

Budget cuts to offset new spending under Bush: Nil

Ian Gould said...

"Projected cost of Obama policy initiatives 2009 to 2017: 4983 billion."

That's a typo: the correct figure is $983 billion.

David Brin said...

Anonymous or Alcibar, thanks for your thoughtful and interesting message. Let me also say that you are welcome here, you seem courteous and intelligent and that kind of conservative or libertarian is at home in this blogmunity.

Alas, like every other republican to whom I have posed the 600 years challenge, you accept in theory that feudalism is bad and that our ancestors had to rebel against it...

...and after one sentence you blithely turn your head away from history and frantically ignore its lessons. Please, if you are a fan of Adam Smith actually read him and realize that wealth and power always result in cheating and then oligarchy... unless we use the methods that have worked in the one society that ever prevented it... while maintaining market freedom.

That society was ours. And we did it by creating a mixed society that had plenty of incentives for innovation and enterprise WHILE severely limiting the creating of obligate oligarchy.

Did you know that the Founders took this very seriously? They "leveled" american society of 1780 vastly more than FDR did in the 1930s. Moreover the cult of calling FDR satan is just stupid. The Greatest Generation voted for him overwhelmingly and the society that ensued was the most vigorous capitalism, with the fastest growing middle class and lowest social/economic disparities (among white males) that ever existed.

Sorry, your faith in Romney is based on zero evidence, only wishfulness. While your notion of Obama leading us into hell is a similar chimera made of smoke and mirrors.

Test. Name for me ONE unambiguous cause-effect metric of national health that improved as a result of GOP rule. One. Just one. In fact they all plummeted. And you would put them back in charge?

After declaring war on science and every other clade of intellect?

"Bush was a disaster as Obama has been a greater one. Not clear to me that Romney will do better..."

He will appoint exactly the same "brain trust" under orders from exactly the same moguls. As for Obama, you are making an assertion.

And assertions are all the right has left. SHow me your metrics. DId Obama plunge us into TWO trillion dollar land wars of occupation/attrition in Asia, in paces that will never ever ever be our friends or grateful? Did Obama hand TWO trillion dollars to aristocrats while promising that would make the economy skyrocket? (It did not.)

Clinton paid down the debt. That paying down stopped under the GOP. ALL of our current deficit is from those wars and those tax gifts to the rich.

Please. Calmly. Consider the possibility that you might be mistaken.

Paul451 said...

Alcibar as Anon,
"I am more concerned about the rapidly rising % of the voters who pay no Federal income tax."

You can't get blood out of a stone. Note that the people telling you "We need to broaden the tax base" (ie, to tax the poor) are the same people who rigged the game so that they themselves pay less tax than their employees.

Imagine you had 100 people, and their total annual income was $7.8m, or an average of $78,000 each. But it's not evenly distributed: using the post-Crash US income figures for 2009 supplied by Ian...

The total income for the 50 poorest people is $1.05m, or $21,000 each on average.
The next 25 people average $64,000 each.
The next 15 people average $118,000 each.
The next 5 people average $178,000 each.
The next 4 people average $287,500 each.
And the last person, the wealthiest in our group, earns $1.32 million.

Do you believe that someone earning $1.32 million has a right to demand 50 people earning an average of $21,000 to pay more, just so he can pay a few percent less?

"the rapidly rising % of the voters who pay no Federal income tax. This seems like a corrosive issue for society when voters who pay no tax can vote"

Tut tut. Sneaky monkey.

"Why is it so important how much in taxes Romney pays"

People may feel that there's a moral difference between a rich man who campaigns to help the poor, and a rich man who campaigns to help himself.

Paul451 said...

"Romney is well-known among those who know him as an honorable man who doesn't lie."

Then those who know him also lie.

Unless he's a Jedi, "what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."

lightning said...

Yeah, Clinton ran a surplus. In a rapidly expanding economy. Economy goes up, income goes up, tax revenues go up faster than expenses, and Bob's your uncle. We want to cut the deficit, we need a rapidly expanding economy, which we ain't got. Step one: get the economy moving.

Trying to cut the deficit in a recession used to be called "Hooverism". There's a reason that a lot of Greatest Generation folks spit when Hoover's name is mentioned.

Ian Gould said...

Additionally, a credible deficit reduction plan is a necessary (but not sufficient) precondition to encourage private business invesment nad hiring in order ot delivery that economic growth.

The Republicans don't appear to have A deficit-reduction plan - they zigzag back and forth between the Romney and Ryan plans.

Neither of their putative plans is actually like io achieve ANY reduction in the proejcted deficit sicne they're front-loaded with defintie black-letter proposals to cut or eliminate taxes for the rich wich are supposedly offset by vaguely defined and probably unachievable spendign cuts in later years.

Ian Gould said...

Alcibar, sorry if you feel dogpiled here but one more point: Under Obama spending has actually expanded t the slowest rate in over half a century.

LarryHart said...

Ian Gould:

The Republicans don't appear to have A deficit-reduction plan - they zigzag back and forth between the Romney and Ryan plans.

That's a big elephant in the room which no one will discuss. THey CLAIM to slash government services in order to cut the deficit. Then they immediately offset any gains from those service cuts with tax cuts for the wealthy and powerful.

That was the essence of the Simpson-Bowles plan, and that was the essence of what Scott Walker implemented in Wisconsin.

There's no deficit-reduction there--only a draconian slashing of government to the benefit of the wealthy and powerful. The numbers don't make any sense as deficit-reduction measures. They only make sense when seen for what they really are: a move from a "we" society toward a "me" society.

Larry C. Lyons said...

Jonathan S. wrote
You're not exactly setting the bar high, Greg. My ferrets are arguably more capable than Dubya.

Another ferret person. Given how our ferrets are quite competenT at what they do, (mainly sleeping playing with each other and stealing their latest obsession) I thing most of them are more capable than many politicians.

Larry C. Lyons said...

This discussion has been very interesting, and very reflective of some I've been having with conservatives and progressives. One thing i've been struck with is how little thought there is on the conservative extremes. While you can argue that it may be physiological, in that conservatives have more active amygdalas - part of the brain that processes fear and anxiety while progressives have a more active anterior cingulate cortex - that part of the brain processes logic, nuance and reason, I don't think that the entire issue. It doesn't explain what I call their the laziness of thought.

I just ran across a study that seems to help explain this, Eidelman, Crandall, Goodman and Blanchar (2012; Pers Soc Psychol Bull June 2012 vol. 38 no. 6 808-820) report on several studies that looked at cognitive differences between conservatives and liberals. In the first study they had students start drinking alcohol (darn my favourite sort of study in college) and endorse a variety of political beliefs. As they got more drunk they tended to endorse more conservative opinions. In the other studies they systematically manipulated cognitive load, time pressure and when asked to carefully think about the issues (vs. not think about them at all). In all these studies, endorsing conservative politics was associated with low effort thought. As the authors concluded

"Together these data suggest that political conservatism may be a process consequence of low-effort thought; when effortful, deliberate thought is disengaged, endorsement of conservative ideology increases."

So it may not be veniality, or mendacity but just plain laziness and the unwillingness to think.

David Brin said...

Well-said Pau451 But I disagree with this: "People may feel that there's a moral difference between a rich man who campaigns to help the poor, and a rich man who campaigns to help himself."

Sorry, my objection to owner-oligarchy is entirely practical. Adam Smith pointed out that the winners of competition inevitably try to CHEAT in the next round. When they win by vast amounts, the temptation to cheat is overwhelming. Look at 6000 years of human history.

Today's oligarchs claim to be in favor of competitive enterprise. Some (in Silicon Valley) truly are. But Romney's clade... along with Rupert Murdoch and his Saudi partners ... are the classic style. If they are not constrained - as our Founders constrained the uber land-owners in the 13 colonies - they will take us to feudalism.

"Romney is well-known among those who know him as an honorable man who doesn't lie."

That is an assertion-aphorism. Count example. Running for Mass governor he claimed 7 years of residency. But he had fled to Utah and filed taxes there and lived there. During the governor campaign he RETROACTIVELY filed taxes in Mass. He had lied lied lied... he lies about "not remembering" tackling and tormenting and humiliating a gay student in front of enerybody at his school, an act of gross bullying that lad, many years later, to a suicide.

Lightning you miss the point. Clinton as a keynsian believed you SHOULD pay down debt in good times, so he did. Had that continued, we would have had moolah to stimulate with, in lean times. GOP wastrel spendthrifts hurled our treasure into desert sands and into the pockets of moguls who took it all overseas.

Final question. Are tax rates historically high? In fact, they are near their lowest in 70 years. So is the federal share of the economy.

CONTRARIAN SWIVEL! Larry Lyons, yes, those brain diffs apply to libs vs conservatives. But I betcha if you get some bona fide LEFTIES in the room, they would be as amygdala as any right winger. We are not red-blue. We have many components in our political landscape.

One of them is sane.

infanttyrone said...

Larry C. Lyons,

Turning our entire political system over to ferrets might work...

Although trading in our current bunch of Stainless Steel Rats for a ferretocracy might wind us up in something out of Spinrad's The Iron Dream.

Yeah, I reckon that could happen here...

rewinn said...

In some ways today's Republican Party reminds me of today's Roman Catholic Church. In both organizations, obedience to the most extreme orthodoxy is now the highest value, far more important than fidelity to other, more praiseworthy values. Those members who hold to the older values have the choice of truckling or being ejected.

A minority speak up, e.g. Michael Cherney writing "Why Paul Ryan Frightens Me", but their structural disadvantages are huge.

I'm sure there's comparable orthodoxists (?) on the left but they lack effective organization. The Democrats wouldn't even kick out Zell Miller!

Larry C. Lyons said...

Dr. Brin, possibly. But in the Kanai et al (2011) study used a well accepted method of determining political orientation, endorsing a number of issues on a 5 point scale that ranged from extremely liberal to extremely conservative. Psychometrically its pretty good with reasonably high internal and external validity.

Another way to confirm this (and unfortunately only anecdotally) is look at the messages each party / political orientation delivers to its supporters. Its been my impression that the republican party, the various conservative parties of Canada, Britain and Australia, has been highly fear and anxiety based (TEOTWAWKI or those libruls will destroy everything etc), while the liberal parties, Democratic, Liberal or NDP, have used very complex and nuanced messaging.

Darn this discussion makes me want to get back into research again. If we could only afford to do so.

infanttyrone - I don't know about that, after recovering the TV remote, 3 computer mice, my daughter's runners and other sundry items, I suspect that a ferretocracy would be more of a keptocracy, but a lot more fun.

Larry C. Lyons said...

Actually the more I think of it perhaps the real differences are between fanaticism and moderation. Moreover Kanai et al note in their discussion,

"We speculate that the association of gray matter volume of the amygdala and anterior cingulate cortex with political attitudes that we observed may reflect emotional and cognitive traits of individuals that influence their inclination to certain political orientations."

Rob said...

That is an assertion-aphorism.

So it is. So what? Romney's disconnected from the things people do in his name. That's the real talking point, not this backing-into you have to do to construct the image of "a lie" in order to announce that the man lied.

In the first case, it was harmless, legal, and corrective. Something rich people with a lot of money to throw around get to do. You're allowed to do it, too. (Meaning that the problem is with the game, not the players. Doing legal things for legal reasons with a tax regime is not all that immoral...)

In the second, "Romney bashed gays back when he was a blockhead teenager in the 60's" is more true. Claiming gay bashing causes suicides, also true, but many things cause suicides. "Romney caused this one specific suicide," demonstrably untrue; the issues are more complex than that, making the narrative simply false, and therefore not a useful support for the specious claim that the man is a liar.

I expect that of Larry O'Donnell, who doesn't switch on his forebrain. Not from the premier hard-SF writer of the early 21st Century, who can take those anecdotes and actually say true things.

You know: Things like, "He's like all other richguys who can buy back their residency," or, "He doesn't seem to care all that much about the real pain of LGBT's."

Just not, "HE LIED LIED LIED" because that doesn't play at all, let alone well. Unless you're cheerleading. In which case good luck with that because I won't care to stick around for that part of it.

Rob said...

Oh, by the way, I'm not a Romney supporter. And I live in Washington State, which permits me to cast any vote I want, really, since Obama's gonna win it.

I think the Republican party is off the rails. Much of the rhetoric here supports my position.

In any case, in support of some of the progressive talking points here, I worked up a spreadsheet with some numbers on it, inflation adjusted comparisons of federal spending and GDP over the years. They support the idea that per-capita spending was way up under Bush, and now slightly down under Obama. Among other interesting things.

Find it here:

David Brin said...

Larry Lyons, I believe left-right axis-based measurements are deeply flawed. They leave out the distinctions between liberals and lefties... and between libertarians and paleocons and Murdochio-cons

One the "right, it is the Murdochio-cons who are the most fear propelled. and they number about 100 million and dominate the GOP and all of Red America and they are both insane and sock puppets for Rubert and his princely pals.

Libertarians SHOULD represent an alternative to Murdoch that is sanely devoted to all aspects of human competition as a solution-generating process. If they were, then they would break their own mad habits of idolatry of unlimited propertarianism - which plays into the hands of the ancient enemies of freedom. Their reflexive hatred of all government is rigid, dogmatic and foolish since government is one of many ways to divide power and prevent it from concentrating in one place... as they are now idiotically helping the aristocratic lords to accomplish.

Paleocons want a conservatism that is merely SOMEWHAT fear driven, SOMEWHAT oligarchy-favoring, SOMEWHAT obsessed with deficits, while being what the Mudochians and TeaPartiers are not, genteel, polite, fiscally prudent, pragmatic, teachable and somewhat fact-scientific-friendly. Unfortunately, their madness is utter loyalty. They admit that their side had gone insane... any sensible person can see that. So they go into spirals of gloom and cynicism, repeating over and over:

"I know the right has gone mad... but Obama is worse..."
"I know the right has gone mad... but Obama is worse..."
"I know the right has gone mad... but Obama is worse..."
"I know the right has gone mad... but Obama is worse..."
"I know the right has gone mad... but Obama is worse..."
"I know the right has gone mad... but Obama is worse..."
"I know the right has gone mad... but Obama is worse..."

...without ever actually demonstrating the latter. In truth, the Paleocons have helped to destroy the things they love. Pax Americana, the military, fiscal prudence, courtesy. Down the line, they have sacrificed it all on the altar of loyalty to a right that long ago was hijacked by monsters.

That leaves lefties and liberals. And you guys hear know that I despise the left. They are as polemical, dogmatic and fear driven as the Murdochians. They are more fact-connected - true - but only by a factor of ten or son, which means they still are completely un-teachable and un-pragmatic. Obsessed with chiding, they make themselves unwitting enemies of the progress that they seek.

That leaves one group in America that still holds fealty to logic and facts and science and progress and negotiation and pragmatism and teachability. Standard liberals believe NONE of the things that Hannity and Beck rant that they believe. Almost none. They want a competent government, and delivered it under the top liberal, Clinton. And they want a booming capitalist economy to pay for it all, which we got... under Clinton

Their reflex is to pay down debt in fat years and to sent money into high-velocity circulation in lean years. Keynsianism is flawed, but it mostly works, which Supply Side has never ever ever ever done a single thing it promised.

Oh, and the democratic party is run by liberals, NOT by leftists. And that is why they should win this election. God willing by such a landslide that the paleocons will awaken and rise up and take Conservatism back from monsters.

David Brin said...

Dang thanks for the link! Michael Cherney represents exactly what the US needs... only ten million more like him. Conservatives who are willing to stand up and start the 12 step process toward retaking their movement from monsters.

Step one: admit that my side has gone mad.

Step two: admit that a narrow clade of foreign-meddler billionaires and Sheiks are behind it.

Step three: Get ANGRY about it, and vow to take conservatism back, so that Barry Goldwater can stop spinning in his grave...

... and I would not presume to lecture beyond that. When ten million paleocons decide to stand up... then we'll have a chance to end culture war and become again a people who negotiate about how to confront an onrushing future.

David Brin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LarryHart said...

Larry C Lyons:

Another way to confirm this (and unfortunately only anecdotally) is look at the messages each party / political orientation delivers to its supporters. Its been my impression that the republican party, the various conservative parties of Canada, Britain and Australia, has been highly fear and anxiety based (TEOTWAWKI or those libruls will destroy everything etc), while the liberal parties, Democratic, Liberal or NDP, have used very complex and nuanced messaging.

A real-life anecdote says it all.

A local (Chicago) right-wing talk station, WIND, used to have a billboard ad with just three words in big block letters:


That alone was supposed to be a selling point to their target audience.

A year or so later, when "Air America" was just starting up in 2004 or so, Al Franken parodied that ad with a billboard for the then-new Progressive Talk station, WCPT. It had Al's smirking face on the picture with WCPT's frequency, and "LIBERALS LOVE US".

To me, those competing ads say quite a bit about their respective target audiences.

Jumper said...

Anagrams for "Tea Party Republicans"
A ripe blatancy erupts.
Yep, a cabal interrupts.
A tiny caberet supplier.
A piety barnicle spurt.
Perspire, nutty cabala.
Blustery panacea trip.
Inescapable rutty rap.
Tabernacle purist yap.
Rusty incapable prate.
Yup. Scatterbrain plea.
Treatable panic syrup.
Arbitrates pep lunacy.
Nuttier spacy parable.
Rapine crypt tableaus.
Apply reactant bruise.
Inscrutable teary pap.

Acacia H. said...

What we need is for someone to take Adam Smith and translate his "The Wealth of Nations" into simple, easy-to-understand American language, with examples for people to better understand it... while remaining interesting.

It'll take a miracle. =^-^=

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

'The Wealth of Nations' as a graphic novel...Hmm! Could it be made to work?

All I have to say about the ferret campaign option is: "Stay good, Kiki!"

(Should we suggest to P. Farley an esheepsh*t cartoon where the GOP convention decides to go with the ferret ticket!?)

mpowingg 19: this ferret endorsement was bought to you by caipcha!

Tony Fisk said...

In the interests of 'fairness and balance' in reporting, can someone come up with an equally delightful and insightful anagram for "Barack Obama and Joe Biden"?

(Best I've come up with so far involves 'brain dead jocks', which may be delightful to some, but hardly insightful!)

Tacitus said...

Hey all, been on a road trip. But it does not look as if I have missed much new on the political, er, discourse.

Re Mitt releasing more taxes.

There is no requirement for him to do so, and I would think politically it is always questionable form to act on the orders of your opponants. And really, do you expect to find some smoking gun in there? I don't. I would expect that his taxes are a couple of orders of magnitude more complex than mine (which I barely understand) and that they would provide enough "gotcha" stuff for the rest of the campaign. Not real stuff, more along the lines of Bill Clinton claiming deductions for donating his long underwear to Good Will!

But heck, some people may be wavering and want the extra information. Why not propose a swap....Mitt's tax records for Barrack's academic transcripts. They probably contain similar silly stuff. I rather suspect somewhere in there is a C minus in American Government or some such. Not a real issue-he has after all actually been President for almost 4 years-but enough to make the exchange fair to both sides.

I am in sympathy with our new poster Alcibar. I think our financial house is not at all in good order. We should be debating that issue first and foremost.

A lot of this other crap is just like minded following bullet points from Obama campaign headquarters.


Unknown said...

Tacitus, I find your use of the term "crap" and the assertion that my posts are simply echoing political rhetoric gratuitously offensive.

David Brin said...

Tacitus is not being offensive. He's being gruff and we have thick skins here.

I do disagree that Romney's taxes are minutia. If so, he'd release them and have done.

1. US tax policy from the founder till Reagan aimed at filling Adam Smith's prescription. While not stifling the wealth rewards of enterprise, discourage the subsidizing of a feudal, lordly class. If Mitt's returns show the opposite in stark clarity - that we are subsidizing the creation of new lords, that is information the people should have.

2. A plethora of tax dodges that are not available to average Joes, including copious use of foreign accounts, would be poison. So would revelation that he took advantage of the 2009 amnesty to bring back millions that had been sheltered illegally and in secret, up to that point!

There is serious reason to believe the latter. In which case he would be found to have committed major felonies, that were forgiven by amnesty. But still knowing felonies.

If his last 8 years of returns show politically damaging information, what does that say about this fellow's foresight and intelligence, knowing it might be necessary to show all this... and that he DID show them to John McCain?

We are the bosses. He is interviewing. There is no excuse for this. Comparing recent financial shenanigens to Obama's ancient transcripts is facile but one is deeply related to the candidate's qualifications for the job. The other is as relevant as his birth certificate. When copies of the Honolulu Advertiser settled that issue long ago.

David Brin said...

I'll not listen to lectures about deficits from a side that took Clinton's sensible pay down of debt and turned it into torrents of red ink by -

plunging us into endless quagmire wars of occupation in desert sink holes that hate us...

- and gifting a new oligarchy with more trillions, under economic promises that proved utterly false... and that nearly ALL economists called "voodoo."

ALL of the deficit can be attributed to those two idiocies, plus the depression they caused.

Do not wag fingers at us over deficits. If you'd let us do what works... keynsianism... putting money into the middle class where it goes high velocity, instead of into the aristocracy, where it SITS and simply makes them god-powerful... we'd have been OUT of this GOP-made depression by now.

rewinn said...

@Tacitus2 - I have compassion for the dwindling minority of rational Republicans, for you are in the extremely awkward position of having to choose between Party and Nation. Are you not making a little joke to accuse others of merely repeating talking points, and then yourself demanding to see Obama's college transcripts?


Governor Romney is modestly declining to trumpet his lack of success in Massachusetts or his use of federal funds at the Olympics, so all we have left with which to evaluate his qualifications for high office is his ability to go from being a rich kid to an even richer adult. Did he do this more like Bill Gates or more like Bernie Madoff? Surely the voters have the right to demand the documentation.

This is especially important in light of Governor Romney's difficulty in advocating policy based on sound science, e.g. his reluctance to acknowledge AGW. As Dr. Feynman noted in his famous analysis of the Challenger disaster, which was entirely man-made in origin:
"...[R]eality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled."

rewinn said...

Meanwhile, in Arizona, an American citizen was jailed for four months because jailers simply refused to check her birth certificate to confirm her citizenship.

What's the conservative position on this?

Tacitus said...

For an inadvertent offense, a sincere apology. I try to keep my posts above reproach, but was posting very tired last night.
You always catch me at it! Yes, that was a bit of a joke. But one predicated on my assumptions of what are actually in the relevant bodies of information...I doubt Romney is a tax cheat. I do not doubt that his tax returns (3, 10, 20 years worth, why not all he ever filed...and those of family and friends!) will contain enough complicated but silly stuff to occupy our insightful media sleuths for years. I have never put any stock in the Birther nonsense, but if the standard is that GW Bush's college grades helped define his image as a dumb Texan, then Obama's similar data should be fair game. Would a C- in American History mean he should not be President? Of course not, especially in a re-election campaign. He already is President albeit in my view a mediocre one.

David, you are at least self aware enough to envision the difficulty you would have being an even handed moderator. Did you have just a twinge or two typing the stuff about how Obama-Biden are vastly more qualified for high office than Romney-Ryan?

Do you even recall that four years ago Obama was running based on a moderate stint in the Illinois legislature (whose record of fiscal prudence rivals their experience in foreign policy!) then a campaign for US Senate where all plausible rivals self destructed under murky conditions. Then about 18 months as a Jr. Senator, most of which he spent campaigning for Pres! And Biden? Convincingly rejected by the electorate when he ran for Pres, and prone to saying things that suggest if he was exposed to any useful experiences in his political career that he has not absorbed much from them! (and as I have said elsewhere, I have no animus towards either gent).

Well, only a few more months of this nonsense. Having been in Permacampaign mode here in WI for two years now, I have had enough of it.

But keep trying to convert me, please. My vote is not decided yet, and will not be until I see a full discussion by both candidates as to what they plan to do for the country. Specifics required.


Tim H. said...

I doubt Romney lies to those he respects, which raises the question "Is Romney campaigning to be the President of the .01%?".

Tacitus said...

And while I am at it...

I have heard intermittently about the perils of the so called "Fiscal Cliff".

Near as I can figure this encompasses the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the automatic, across the board budget cuts that were negotiated the last time the debt ceiling got raised.

Would this be such a bad thing to allow?

Pain, certainly. Poison in the mouth of candidates of both sides, surely...

But if Congress lacks the testosterone (and a smaller amount of estrogen) to actually make real cuts perhaps this is the only way. Conversely, if they are unwilling to raise taxes any way other than by this "doomsday device" approach, maybe that is what our feckless leadership has come to?

Just musing here, not advocating.


Jumper said...

"Bacon Kebab and Major Idea" is an anagram of "Barack Obama and Joe Biden." Sometimes the good ones just don't leap out one after the other. And this one's not very entertaining. Ones like "Jade and bamboo - creak, Bain" are a stretch...

Anyone want to descramble "Leningrad saloon war?"

Larry C. Lyons said...

Dr. Brin, I don't think its a matter of left vs right. Rather those are the outcomes, not the cause. Those with more active amygdalas for instance probably are more attracted to the fear based message that is the current message of the right wing.

Actually this Sunday's Washington post had a pretty good article on the results of a survey of the different party members. It maps preetty well to what you're discussing.

Acacia H. said...

I sometimes think abortion is going to be the death of the Republican party. How many more times are we going to see male white Republican congressfolk stating such ludicrous inanities such as "women who were genuinely rape almost never conceive" and the like before people rise up and say "Get Thee The [censored] Out!"

Especially considering it's Republican politicians who've also stated an interest in investigating every woman who miscarries to ensure she didn't violate laws against abortion?

How long will it be before Republican politicians start dictating that menstruation and masturbation is in fact the death of potential children, outlaw these acts, and insist that women remain pregnant constantly and men only have sex to bring forth new voters? Of course, there won't be any funding for education so they'll be raised ignorant and sure that Liberals are out to get them so they need to vote Republican.

Though that would get them the Catholic Bishop vote at least....

Rob H.

Acacia H. said...

Sorry. I used < sarcasm > tags for that final full paragraph (above the line about the Bishop vote) but it ate the tags.

Anonymous said...

The 10% tithe given to the Morman church was almost certainly a far greater amount of money than the 13% paid in taxes.

LarryHart said...


I have heard intermittently about the perils of the so called "Fiscal Cliff".

Near as I can figure this encompasses the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the automatic, across the board budget cuts that were negotiated the last time the debt ceiling got raised.

Would this be such a bad thing to allow?

Pain, certainly. Poison in the mouth of candidates of both sides, surely...

Just musing here, not advocating.

I've thought the same kind of thing. In 2010, I was really looking forward to ALL of the Bush tax cuts expiring, and the fact that the GOP couldn't filibuster it, because it was going to happen unless specifically overridden by congress.

And yes, my own taxes would have gone up a bit. That was a price I found acceptable for fiscal prudence.

Obama and the Democrats have weakened their own moral and strategic postion by insisting that those tax cuts be preserved for the 98% and ONLY expire on the top 2%. It forces them to negotiate with intransigent Republicans, and it reduces their fiscal argument to populist pandering. I'd have much preferred biting the bullet and letting ALL of the tax cuts expire on schedule--a schedule that has to be laid at GOP feet, since the point of the tax cuts expiring in 2010 was to make them look less expensive in a ten year time frame.

Jonathan S. said...

Tacitus, I for one am blissfully unaware of Dubya's college transcripts. What solidified his image as a dumb Texan-wannabe for me was his actions - insisting on giving everyone silly nicknames because he apparently couldn't remember their real names (and even extending this to himself - remember that he called himself "Dubya"); telling his FEMA chief in the wake of Katrina that "you did a heck of a job, Brownie"; going on the deck of an aircraft carrier only six months into his own private war with a huge banner reading "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED", as if all there were to a war was the initial charge into action before the enemy all fell in the face of our American manliness - and the hits just keep on comin'.

I suppose Bush was our nation's punishment for voting for "a guy you'd want to have a beer with" (have you tried listening to the geopolitical ideas being tossed around at your local watering hole?). Let's not elect the guy who got rich by running other companies into the ground and selling off their bits, though, hey?

LarryHart said...

And something I was musing on this morning concerning the debate over Medicare...

Both sides are advancing arguments which lend themselves to pot-shots from the other side. Conservatives accuse President Obama of fudging the numbers and claim that Medicare will go broke far quicker than the Dems admit. Liberals likewise think the Romney/Ryan plan is a thinly-disguised attack on the program itself.

But the specifics don't matter as much as it might seem at first glance. What would each candidate (as president) DO if it turned out the opposition's argument was correct after all?

I put it to you that the response from a President Obama to evidence that Medicare is in fact going broke faster than expected would be to tweak the system further in order to sustain it. OTOH, the response from a President Romney to evidence that his program has essentially shredded the safety net for most senior citizens would be something along the lines of "Gee, we didn't see THAT coming. Too bad for them, isn't it?"

Point being, if you want to keep Medicare as we know it, then you want to vote for Obama. Likewise, if you think Medicare was always a bad idea, then Romney/Ryan are your guys. The specifics of what each of them would do in January is not nearly as importance as the end game each would work toward.

atomsmith said...

> Robert said...
What we need is for someone to take Adam Smith and translate his "The Wealth of Nations" into simple, easy-to-understand American language, with examples for people to better understand it... while remaining interesting.

It'll take a miracle. =^-^=

I could swear I read something like this.... A book called something like "DIRT", by David Brawn or some such...

David Brin said...

Tacitus, I always filed "W was a C- student" in the "snark" file. Highly relevant to my decision to consider him a dope... but NOT pertinent to the plethora of policy matters in which I felt he proved himself to be the worst president since James Buchanan and one of the two worst in US history.

Here's the problem. Liberals often divide matters into those separate categories. Conservatives do not. They do not "snark" when they ask for Obama's school records, They actually think it bears the same (or more) relevance as Romney's tax returns.

I reiterate. If Romney did as MANY of his peers did - taking advantage of the 2009 amnesty to bring home illegal foreign investments - then he committed FELONIES and in effect did a plea bargain for them. This is relevant.

So is the fact that he flat out lied about filing Mass. returns the two years before running for governor. A knowing lie that he "corrected retroactively."

These things are relevant, Tacitus. Moreover, so is the fact that Ryan & Romney want to eliminate Capital Gains and Dividends taxes ALTOGETHER! If you agree with that, welcome to the Middle Ages. Welcome to 1789 France.

David Brin said...

I do not claim that Obama and Biden have records that on paper qualify for Chief Executive. I think our system is insane. Though Biden's record is long and involved decades overseeing both military and foreign affairs committees. (The same, in fairness, could be said of McCain.) Still, their combined total is VASTLY better than R&R.

But dig this. The reason I campaigned for Obama was not for Obama, but to replace the 10,000 Murdochian shills that the GOP brings to Washington to actually run things, whenever they have power. Clinton won the JD Power Award for the streamlining and good management he brought to Washington. The bureaucracy slimmed and ran very very well and men and women of skill did their jobs. It is happening again.

In between, under Bush, we were raided and raped and mismanaged by 10,000 clowns and thieves for 8 years. Almost none of the news media covers the boring fact that the administrative appointments are where the action is! And the GOP will ALWAYS bring in Murdoch's 10,000. To rape us

Tacitus said...

Ooff! And people sometimes accuse me of being gruff!

Jumper said...

Add to Obama's resume 3 and a half years of being President of the United States. Unless one considers that no experience at all. I say, I just trained the guy, I don't need to fire him now for some newbie.

Now if one finds anagrams for "moonbat democrats" the gods of synchronicity produce many gems I haven't finished looking at. Such as
Abstract doom omen
Boom! canard totems
Sort combo mandate
Madman boot sector

Jumper said...

My fave anagram for "moonbat democrats" so far is "combated man's root."

Rob said...

The reasoning that tax returns are important for a presidential campaigner to show is is, in part, pretty compelling. Anyone with power to fiddle in the tax code should be able to a) show understanding of the tax code and b) show compliance with it.

So I get that. But if we're gonna do it, then I want to see tax returns from every congresscritter, and all nine SCOTUS justices too, along with a CBO or IRS audit mandated for their returns every year they're in power or desiring it.

THAT should be a TEA Party mantra...

Anonymous said...

from what I read around the place..

he gives almost entirely to the Tyler Charitable Trust (his charity engine) that then stores the money giving it out at 10% a year (minimum to maintain the charitable status). it donates mostly to the momans but some goes to the standard right wing charities as well as things like libraries named after republicans, and to a few standard worthwhile causes.
He apparently donates to the trust things like shares with capital gains on them etc - I guess normal tax minimization stuff... but it cuts down his income a lot.

David Brin said...