Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 170

In the recent election, the Republicans lost their White House bid, lost more elections in the House than won, and were overwhelmingly thumped in the Senate races. Dear GOP: What do you mean when you say Americans have spoken or America wants?

With all the talk about the debt ceiling, it’s obvious that politicians value it more than economists.

As the House read the Constitution this past Tuesday morning, if wonder if they understood the part that Congress is responsible for spending and the federal government can operate at a deficit.

With many having received their first paycheck of the 2013, I’m amused by those blaming President Obama and his voters for more taxes withheld.

  • In 2011, President Obama proposed a temporary reduction in the withholding tax with hopes that people would increase spending. Congress passed the temporary suggestion, and the president signed the bill.
  • For 2012, Congress passed extending the temporary holiday, and the president signed the bill.
  • For 2013, Congress passed a bill allowing the tax holiday to expire, and the president signed the bill – thus taxes returned to 2011 levels prior to the president’s proposal. At least readers here know the events.

You may have heard the poll results comparing the favorability of the US Congress to cockroaches. Here are the study results to enjoy.

On This Week’s Headlines from The Onion

  • Gorilla sales skyrocket after latest gorilla attack
  • Area woman decides not to post Facebook status that would tip gun control debate
  • Air Force One pilot invites excited Obama into cockpit
  • Procrastinating surgeon putting off coronary bypass by cleaning entire hospital
  • Deadly virus found to be “real squiggly”
  • Only difficult pistachios left in bag
  • Hidden Valley Ranch bombed by balsamic extremist

Interesting Reads

On Potpourri
This is NOT from The Onion, but from the Call them Sherlock files: Taxpayer Advocate Says Taxes are Too Complicated

My week was a busier than normal, thus I didn’t get around as much as I normally do.

During the Freshly Pressed craze, I discovered Ray – an Australian radiologist and artist who transforms X-Rays into art. Check him out, and if you comment, tell him I sent you.

Ever since the Freshly Pressed stats rush, it has been interesting to watch the daily stair-step downward.

This is picture is awesome, so click here to see it.

Good news – Saturday will provide a classic cartoon post.

To send you into the weekend, here is (thanks to El Guapo) a wonderful explanation and humorous look at the European debt crisis – thus worth 3 minutes.

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Have a good weekend! In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

On Some Economic Questions

The US economy is mired in a slump, the European economic crisis add to the woes, and Americans are wondering, “Jobs, jobs, jobs – where art thou job.” Americans have lost over 8 million jobs, yet the economy has created on 2.5 million since the upturn.

For starters, the private sector (not the public sector) is the main job source in a capitalist economy. No matter if consumers are individuals or corporate, increased consumer demand for goods and services is the main fuel for hiring and investment. In other words, regardless of all the partisan talk, government can only do so much. Therefore, it is time to ask some questions.

Reducing payroll taxes for employees increases the money available to workers, but what if workers save more because of the uncertainties in their life?

Tax credits to companies hiring those unemployed for 6 months is a noble thought, but this would primarily fill a vacant existing position – thus not a new job. Do you think any company would create a steady stream of hire-to-fire so can get more credits?

Why should a company expand payroll if their demand for the good or service has not increased?

With demand driving growth, how do reduced regulations increase demand?

Companies are achieving more with less, and are using offshore workers to lower costs. Even with the GOP talking points of lower taxes, less regulations, loosened lending practices, and increased demand, what guarantee do the taxpayers have that the companies will invest in American workers?

A strong financial sector is the foundation for a capitalist economy. With a large reason for our economic troubles directly aimed at the roulette nature of the financial industry and their pseudo-promotion of the housing industry, how can returning to the less-regulated casino environment be good for the economy?

If the housing/building industry drives the demand for much of the economy, what is the plan to stimulate this industry?

Taxes decreases must increase revenue to federal, state, and local governments. What if they don’t?

Infrastructure projects increase the demand for materials while putting more people to work, which also returns money in the form of tax withholdings. However, where/what is the funding source for this investment – and at the expense of doing without what?

Do our leaders construct trade agreements to increase demand?

We have a federal government struggling with the opposing forces of deficit reduction and stimulating demand by providing aid to financially struggling public sectors in order to help local public workers keep their job. Of course, one’s position directly correlates with a concern about the next election.

Meanwhile, as consumers drive demand, three main factors act as significant forces acting on their psychology: high unemployment, a depressed housing market, and a political atmosphere consuming all the oxygen in the room with their battle between the inept, the misguided, and the knowledgeable choosing to be inept or misguided.

With another round of budget ideology ahead of a September 30th deadline, count on Washington lowering not only consumer confidence, but the confidence of the business and banking sectors, thus promoting consumers, businesses, and lending institutions to keep more money on the sidelines.

On Double Standards and Deficits

Presumably, our elected representations are facing voter anger. Presumably, American voters are tired of Washington’s inability to reduce the federal deficit. With the possibility of majority changes in one or both Capitol Hill chambers, the news is running rampant with various polls regarding the upcoming election. My take – what a bunch of crap!

All of the House of Representatives’ 435 seats are on the upcoming ballot. As analysts focus on the 100 or so seats that are up for grabs, 335 are safe. On the Senate side, voters will determine the fate of 37 seats; the majority of incumbents are safe. If voters are angry and fed up with our elected representation, why will the majority of incumbents get re-elected? Obviously, voters must be fed up with others representatives rather than their own.

Deficits, a 40-year trend, occur when expenses exceed income. I firmly believe that voters believe that our elected officials need to get control on the spending. The real point of contention is finding agreement of where to cut the expenses while determining how much. Even without special interest influence, what is good for some is probably bad for others. In other words, who is to sacrifice?

As extending the Bush tax cuts remains a current debate, one fact remains fixed: taxes are the major source of government income. Republicans love the cut taxes mantra, but would you go to your boss asking for a cut in pay if you were operating a personal deficit?

Interesting, conservatives are now Great Britain’s party in power. Although they do not have a majority, conservative leadership is approaching their deficit with a novel two-prong approach: cut expenses and raise taxes. Besides these recent columns by Ruth Marcus and David Broder, seems I mentioned this approach in October 2008 in relationship to the Obama-McCain campaigns. Thus, I continue to maintain that much of America wants leadership capable of making tough decisions that are contrary to campaign rhetoric and party ideology.

Opinions in the Shorts, Vol. 20

On a Bipartisan Plea

It is time for both parties to come together and find a way to keep the promise of a sound retirement for future generations. (President Obama, 4/14/09  at Georgetown University)

Both parties come together? Ah come on! Why should the bullies and the G-NO-P find common ground? Mr. President, some of us think your biggest challenge is getting the two buffoons on the same page.

On Norm Coleman
It seems that the cards are aligning against Norm Coleman in his race against Al Franken. With a track record of losing against a comedian and a wrestler, my I suggest Mr. Coleman move to Toledo, OH to prepare a challenge against Joe the Plumber.

On Bo: The First Dog
I can’t believe how many articles and commentaries exist about the White House dog. As soon as I heard the dog came from Senator Kennedy, I muttered, “Here we go.” Congratulations to Newt Gingrich for the outstanding comments for saying it best.

It’s great they have a dog. It’s great they are adjusting. Where they got it from, who cares, and it’s a nice gesture on Senator Kennedy’s part to give it to them. But, who cares.

On Taxes
1913 was the first filing year, which required a two-page form.

Another tax deadline has come and gone. Instead of in November, what if the elections were the first Tuesday after April 15th? Thank you Tom Griswald.

Humorist Dave Berry take on the tax season,

It’s income tax time again, American: time to gather up those receipts, get out those tax forms, sharpen up that pencil, and stab yourself in the aorta.

On a Great Question
The Pew Research Center asked this question: If you were setting priorities these days, would you place a higher priority on reducing the budget deficit or…spending more to make health care more accessible and affordable? Results: 59% Health care spending, 35% Deficit reduction.

On a Book
I’m about to finish an outstanding book: Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground between God and Evolution, by Kenneth Miller. It’s an excellent follow up to Saving Darwin: How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution by Karl Giberson.

On an Artist
Last week I saw a piece on artist Jonathon Singer whose photographs are simply stunning. Here’s the best site; actually his site. Click Collections. (See these Joe)

On a Great Read
Here’s a touching must-read post from the Electric Quill with an important message about life.

On the Grilling Season
Since grilling season is geographically expanding, the Nutball Gazette provides a humorous look at this outdoor ritual.

On the Masters
What a great tournament and final day. Here’s a blogger giving reasons why the Masters is better than the Super Bowl.

Sergio Garcia said, “I don’t like it, to tell you the truth. I don’t think it is fair. Even when it’s dry you still get mud balls in the middle of the fairway. It’s too much of a guessing game.”

I know you have since apologized, but in the future, if a course is too tough and/or not to your liking, don’t play.

On a Baseball Pitcher
Although from 2007, this may be the best pitch ever.

Federal Budget: Part 1 – A History

On the campaign trail the candidates are full of sound bites for everything we voters want to hear. Of course the cheers and boos occur based on who makes the statement and who the voter favors. Unfortunately, not enough people think beyond those partisan sound bites; therefore its time for an angle from an independent moderate in a series of posts.

Even with the current mess in the financial credit market and today’s bailout/rescue vote, fiscal issues are important topics. Whether citizens understand the current issue or not is an issue in itself. That point aside, voters have concerns about the national debt and balanced budgets.

In days gone by, federal budgets weren’t balanced annually, but over a short-term span. Today, the debt runs uncontrolled. One constant happens every four years as voters hear about reducing the deficit; and the 2008 presidential race is no different. If memory serves me correctly, Ronald Reagan ran hard about the controlling the deficit and did not balance the budget in his eight-year presidency. GHW Bush administration signed a tax increase over his initial desires. The Clinton years produced annual surplus, which in turn reduced the debt, but did not eliminate the debt.

According to the Tax Policy Center, neither candidate’s plan reduces the debt. Projected over an 8-year period, the both plans add to the debt: $3.3 trillion (Obama) vs. $4.3 trillion (McCain) … and this does not include the cost of expanding health insurance coverage.

Meanwhile, see the graphs below to learn more about the national debt and the deficit. (Click each to enlarge.)

Next Post: Budgets and Revenue