Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 6, 2011
POLITICS: "The Deficit" Is The Wrong Yardstick

Yesterday's swearing in of the new House and Senate, including the transition of power to Speaker Boehner and the new Republican majority in the House, inaugurates a new political season, in which "the deficit" promises to be front and center. President Obama is already sending up trial balloons about various proposals made by the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission. But Republicans should resist efforts to frame the debate as being about "the deficit," because that term itself focuses on the wrong measurement.

Democrats like to talk about the federal government's operating budget deficit as if it is a matter of balancing income against spending. It's not. The money taken in by the federal government is taxes, but taxes are not income; they are simply a subset of the income of the private sector, in the same way that the money you withdraw from your bank account is only a subset of your bank balance. If you want to know whether you can afford to buy something, you look to the size of that bank balance (and the sources of real income that go into your deposits), not simply into whether you withdrew enough money to pay the latest credit card bill.

The mistake made in talking about "the deficit," then, is in assuming that fiscal responsibility comes from matching public spending with the government revenues used to pay for that spending in the short term, rather than with the actual income produced by the private sector. It is the money thrown off by the private sector that is the ultimate source of all public spending, and therefore any sane measurement of real fiscal responsibility will measure the outflows (public spending) as a fraction of real income (private sector income) rather than the intermediate step of taxing real income. The larger that fraction is, the less the private sector has to work with to continue producing growth and a high standard of living; in short, the more of our private sector income we are spending today on government, the less we will have to leave to our children, regardless of how high or low we set our tax rates. Put another way, the problem isn't that the government is spending more than the government takes in, but that the government is spending too much of what we create. (Keynsian economics, which is based on trying to create short-term growth with public spending, is fatally flawed because it ignores all but the shortest term effects of public spending - a predictable failing in the work of a childless economist and a director of the British Eugenics Society). Anybody who tells you that the federal budget operating deficit is a better measure of fiscal responsibility than comparing public spending to private sector income is simply trying to mislead you and isn't serious about long-term fiscal responsibility.

Moreover, the broader question isn't just federal spending, but all public spending, federal, state and local, although a good start to keeping a restraining hand on state and local spending is to refuse to use the federal government's fiscal printing presses to bail out imprudent state and local governments, and in the long run stop using Washington as a tax collector for state and local governments, as happens in the myriad ways that revenues are raised nationally and then laundered back to the states.

As I have explained before, the federal budget deficit is only a symptom, and an imprecise one at that. Public spending of privately created resources, depleting the source of future growth, is the disease. If we restore the proper balance of robust private sector growth to a limited public sector, we'll have no problem in the long run handling any operating deficits; if we don't, the size of the operating deficit will be the least of our concerns. If the GOP is serious about setting our fiscal house in order, the new Republican majority must resist at every turn the urge to treat the symptom rather than the disease.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:12 AM | Politics 2011 | Comments (82) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Although I don't necessarily agree with the conclusion that "the government is spending too much of what we create," I do applaud you for pointing out that the proper measure to answer that question is the ratio between private earnings and government spending. I am a concededly liberal democrat who is not opposed to big government spending, but far too many of my bretheren ignore what you have brought to light here. Hopefully some of my liberal colleagues take notice.

Required liberal dig: it's not clear to me that we have reached a point where the ratio between private earnings and public spending is at an unacceptable level. There certainly is a point at which that is the case, but I don't think we're there yet, or even particularly close. But the important thing is that the debate has been properly framed and maybe both sides can have an actual, intelligent conversation about it rather than simply firing angry and poorly thought out warning shots across each other's bows.

Posted by: Rich at January 6, 2011 12:06 PM

So let's get this straight. When the Democrats were in power all these years, and there were deficits, they were bad. Then Clinton came along, and we had a surplus, so of course, anything Bill did was bad. Then W came in, and spent us into oblivion, and that's OK.

Got it.

Posted by: Daryl at January 6, 2011 12:36 PM

I can only write the posts, Daryl. I can't read them for you.

Posted by: Crank at January 6, 2011 12:38 PM

Until the private sector starts fairly compensating labor, the government will have to pick up the slack.

Posted by: Berto at January 6, 2011 1:45 PM

Berto, I believe that you have missed the point. It may be true that labor is not properly compensated, and it may further be true that the government has some sort of obligation to close that gap. But the question that Crank has rightly put forward is this: from where does the money for the government to pick up that slack come? Taxes, of course, which in turn come from private earnings. But if there are insufficient private earnings, or if the government is spendly vastly more than it can tax from those private earnings, the obligation of the government to close that gap almost becomes irrelevant because they have no money to do so.

This is what liberals fail to understand: Whatever money the government spends must come from somewhere because government is not a revenue generating enterprise. As such, government operations are actually dependent upon the private sector turning a profit. But, if government spending outstrips private sector profit, there will be no money for the government to spend (that will be just the beginning of our problems). So it's all well and good to say that government should provide healthcare or close the labor wage gap, but none of that matters until the very practical questions of (1) where is that money coming from and (2) will this outlay push us to an unacceptable ratio of private profit/government spending?

Conservatives understand these principles very well. The converse is that they fail to appreciate that we are not particularly close in this country to reaching the saturation point where public spending dangerously outstrips private sector profits. I'd say liberals understand this principle, but they'd first have to understand why the ratio's important in the first place. Although liberals do tend to understand the moral obligations of government that give rise to public spending in the first place much better than conservatives.

Posted by: Rich at January 6, 2011 5:14 PM

Rich,
To answer your practical questions:
1) It should come from the private sector, which is making huge profit and productivity gains while wages have stagnated.
2) Not that I have seen. The private sector continues to make huge profits, while continuing to reap the benefits of government spending.

I know of no liberals (or anyone over 12-years old) who do not understand that the government gets their money from tax revenue of private enterprise. Frankly, that's pretty basic stuff.
Liberals also know the government isn't spending "vastly more than it can tax from those private earnings". Most liberals I speak with know the problem is the rich are no longer paying their fair share.
The rich pay lower taxes in the US than they would in other industrialized nations, and at a lower tax rate than they have at any time since WWII. Whether you want to compare it historically or with other industrialized nations, the fact is that the rich are under-taxed in this country. Yet a day doesn't pass when there isn't someone telling me the rich are over-taxed in the US. It's bullshit, and is very easy to expose as bullshit if you care to point it out.

Don't let those who carry water for the rich confuse you so easily.
They want it both ways. They don't think corporate America, which has seen greater and greater profits and productivity by workers in the last 40 years, should have to fairly compensate their workers. Yet they also piss and moan when the government steps in to alleviate problems caused by corporate America short-changing their workers.
The current deficit problem is caused far more by the revenue side of the equation, than the spending side.
The media, like both our major political parties, is lying to you, because they are owned by those who do not want to pay their fair share.

Posted by: Berto at January 6, 2011 6:24 PM

The burden of public spending on the private sector has little or nothing to do with the distribution of income and wealth within the private sector. If government spends a particular percentage of the total income generated by the private sector, all the complaining in the world about "the rich" won't alter the ratio.

Posted by: Crank at January 6, 2011 6:36 PM

OK, Crank.
But do you agree that public spending can be reduced by the private sector stepping up to the plate and fairly compensating their workers?
Do you think fair wage compensation on the part of the private sector could reduce, for example, the amount of money spent on food stamps by the government?

Posted by: Berto at January 6, 2011 6:44 PM

No. Raising labor costs tends to reduce employment (consider the high unemployment rates for young people in Europe), which increases demand for food stamps.

Posted by: Crank at January 6, 2011 6:46 PM

Berto,

Now we're talking. Your response is precisely the type that I hoped Crank's post would generate. It's a lucid and intelligent argument that is made within the framework of the private sector profit/public spending ratio that Crank set up. My comments had more to do with the fact that your initial response did not really engage the argument on the terms Crank set up-namely, it didn't address the question of whether spending for this sort of program would push us towards an unacceptable private profit/public spending ratio. All you said was that government should ensure that labor is fairly compensated if the private sector can't or won't do it.

As for whether or not liberals (keep in mind I consider myself a liberal) understand this point in general, I'm not sure that they do. If they did, they would generally respond to the conservative argument that taxes in general, and taxing the rich in particular, stunts economic growth the way you have-namely by asserting that we're nowhere close to an unacceptable ratio of private profit to public spending, and by pointing to other industrialized nations that have significantly higher tax rates than ours as evidence of that claim. In my experience, liberals bypass this tactic and rely instead upon touchy-feely moral arguments. These moral arguments are great in that they do provide the basis for why the government is spending, but ultimately they fail to address the very legitimate conservative concern about money. This sort of disconnect really just evidences Winston Churchill's famous line that "Any man under 30 who is not a liberal has no heart. Any man over 30 who is not a conservative has no brain." A bit hyperbolic, but that point remains valid (if a bit mixed with a message about aging).

As for labor in this country, I don't disagree with the fact that (1) there is a disturbing wealth disparity between the rich and everyone else and (2) perhaps in the abstract labor is not fairly compensated here. The flip side, however, is that labor is TOO WELL compensated here. What do I mean by that? Because we are a wealthy, industrialized nation, labor expects certain basics-a liveable wage, health care, pension plan, etc. I can't say I begrudge them that. Keep in mind, however, that those sorts of things have driven the cost of labor up so much in this country that labor is now outsourced because it's cheaper. American industry is very much in decline for precisely that reason. It is why the United States doesn't really actually produce anything anymore (at least not the way we used to). As other nations, such as China, industrialize and their standard of living approaches that of this country, that gap may close. For the time being, however, the (relatively) high cost of labor is driving industry elsewhere. I'm not suggesting that labor is wrong to demand the wages and benefits they are and have. They are not wrong. But that doesn't change the fact that the cost of U.S. labor remains prohibitively expensive.

Rich

Posted by: Rich at January 6, 2011 7:03 PM

"Public spending of privately created resources, depleting the source of future growth, is the disease."
--------------
Didn't public spending dramatically increase in the 80s? Wasn't Reagan's huge defense spending bills supposedly what broke the Soviet Union?
Then how come I keep hearing about Reagan's other success of economic growth?
Am i confusing the Reagan hagiography with facts or there is a serious flaw in your theory.

Posted by: Berto at January 6, 2011 7:32 PM

Traditional measures of debt and deficit are fine with me. Like Rich mentions, you are just starting a new debate over what ratio is acceptable. Obviously, government spending and taxes are going to take money out of the private economy, at least temporarily (see below). The issues, as always, are "for what reasons are you taxing" and "how much is too much." Having a different measure of it doesn't solve those problems.

Also, this measure has a glaring problem - a problem that conservatives love to hide. It fails to recognize that government spending *makes its way back into the private economy*, so it creates a false impression that somehow the government is bleeding the private sector dry. That impression is one that conservatives want to perpetuate for political reasons, but in terms of economics, it fails.


First, it fails to recognize that money taken overstate the case that taxes bleed the private economy dry. Governments do spend a lot of that money in the private sector

Posted by: MVH at January 7, 2011 6:35 AM

Ignore that mush at the end of my last post. I forgot to delete it when I rewrote it. It was part of a longer point that I decided to shorten. Taxes go back into the economy through purchases in the private market and also through spending by those who receive those taxes in the form of wages or other income.

The typical response of conservatives is that this creates a "misallocation of resources" because the private sector does a more efficient job of matching supply and demand. This counterargument misses the point that governments tend to do things that private markets cannot or will not do for themselves, so the question really is whether you want the government doing it or not. That is a political question, not an economic one.

Posted by: MVH at January 7, 2011 6:47 AM

Public spending does not always "go back into the economy through purchases in the private market." Police, education, and defense are examples of how taxes do not do that.*

*Of course, in some sense those tax dollars do go back into the economy. Police, education, and defense all have economic. Police and defense, for example, have economic value in that the safety blanket they provide allows for economic development. Education is also necessary for economic development. Moreover, the salaries of those employed in these fields also are put back into the economy. But it's far less direct than entitlement spending. And it's also far from a "one dollar in, one dollar out" sort of ratio.

"That is a political question, not an economic one." Not entirely true, I think. Government should generally step into private sector markets when one of two things occur: either (1) for normative/moral reasons it is though that pure economics should not dictate the allocation of a particular resource (think health care); or, (2) even though pure economic concerns should dictate the proper allocation of a particular resource, the private market has failed to adequately address that the proper distribution (think federal regulation of the securities market). So, where (2) is the reason for intervention, yes the question is purely a political one. But even where (1) is the reason for intervention, the political question is only "should the government be intervening and why?" But even then it's not purely political; to answer the "should" question, it is absolutely necessary to answer the "how" economic one (that is, "how, economically, will we pay for this government intervention, and will that put our economy in an unacceptable place."). Even a good like health care, where moral/normative concerns can and should play a role in determining the proper distribution, is an economic good, and the econmic questions cannot be ignored, even in the face of strong moral/normative concerns.

Rich

Posted by: Rich at January 7, 2011 8:30 AM

Rich,

You are missing my point. I'm not arguing what government programs best benefit the private economy. What I am saying is that money paid in taxes does get out into the private economy: either through spending on products from private firms, or through wages of government employees, who then spend their wages in the private sector. I don't go any farther than that. I'm not commenting on whether and under what circumstances the government should tax and spend - merely that what they collect gets back out in the private economy one way or another.

My overall point is that Crank's measure obscures that completely, and that is one reason why it is flawed as an economic measure. The government isn't simply taking money out of the private sector and bleeding it dry; it just allocates those resources in a different way in the private economy. Whether that's a good idea or not is a separate question.

Posted by: MVH at January 7, 2011 9:19 AM

Ok, I think we're more or less in agreement. I have one quibble, though: While the private profit/public spending ratio doesn't take account of the fact that public dollars do make their way back into the private economy, it's not as though for every dollar taxed or publicly spent there's a correlative one dollar put back into the private sector. Because it's not 1:1, it almost doesn't matter that Crank's measure doesn't account for it. Unless and until that ratio does become 1:1, there WILL come a point where public spending outstrips private profits in a really dangerous manner.

Posted by: Rich at January 7, 2011 9:26 AM

Rich,

How is it not a 1:1 ratio? If it goes in, it goes back out, unless you are suggesting the government has a large mattress in which it keeps our money (which, I should add, would be better than some of spending it does). For the sake of my argument, it doesn't matter *how* it gets out into the private market, as long as it does.

Posted by: MVH at January 7, 2011 9:39 AM

The ratio is not a perfect 1:1 for two reasons. First, the money that is taxed is already profit. The dollars that the government puts back into the economy are not necessarily so. There's no guarantee, for example, that the wages paid employees are reinvested in the economy such that profit is realized, either for the wage-earners or the companies who would get their money. Another example: if the government purchases goods or services (say, pays a contractor to build a school), there's no guarantee that the spending is realized as profit, either.

Second, the government is not a for-profit industry. It is therefore not run as efficiently as it otherwise might, so there is waste. More importantly, there's no requirement that it's investments realize a profit. And plenty of them don't.

Posted by: Rich at January 7, 2011 10:06 AM

The major fallacy in the argument is that everyone assumes that private business is more efficient than government. But it isn't always. I'm own a small business so I probably am. I have to balance what is coming in with what goes out; plus trying to do long term projections based on who really knows what? Corporations don't. I mean they really don't. Drug companies and now car companies do more long term R&D, but the reality is corporations simply can't plan long term. They are answerable only to stockholders who live and die by quarterly reports.

Is government better? Of course not, nobody knows what the future brings. What any business brings is a basic understanding of their goal: To make a profit, plain and simple. No more, no less. We are still trying to define what we expect from government. Look at health care. Is it a right or a privilege? Sarah Palin makes fun of Michele Obama and flies in cupcakes, but when the military has to reject 25% of recruits over poor education and 33% due to poor health, you realize there are ramifications that go beyond a simple statement of individual rights.

But you cannot make the case deficits are unimportant in any way after making it for years that they are. I can understand Crank why you and other conservatives do. Because when enough data comes in, as it has, it shows that the deficit grows more under Republicans than Democrats. Not surprising: Republicans are the ones who tout running the government as a business. So they look more at quarterly reports themselves, and who gives a rat's ass if we condemn our children and grandchildren to our excesses?

Posted by: Daryl at January 7, 2011 10:58 AM

It's simpler than that. Crank is saying deficits don't matter because he knows there are two sides to the deficit equation, spending and revenue. He's trying to pull the wool over our eyes by making the issue only about spending, not revenue.
Because, as you mentioned, there is enough information now available which shows that the revenue side of the equation is why we have large deficits in this country. (i.e. The rich no longer pay their fair share).
Ho hum, Crank is carrying water for the rich again.

Posted by: Berto at January 7, 2011 11:19 AM

I apologize for laying that all on you, Crank.
Allow me to addend that last sentence to:
Ho hum, Crank, like the mainstream media, the courts, and both of our major political parties, is carrying water for the rich again.

Posted by: Berto at January 7, 2011 11:25 AM

Rich,

There is never a guarantee that anyone's wages will be spent in a way that realizes a profit, whether they are earned in the public or private sector, but all of that is beside the point here. And keep in mind that Crank is talking about real private "income" not "profit." Most of what you are talking about is a "misallocation of resources" argument, which I touched on briefly, but it does not have any impact on this particular post.

Crank is proposing this ratio as a measurement of -fiscal responsibility-, and he is suggesting that somehow government spending is sucking money away from the private sector, which is the wrong way to look at it. From an economic standpoint, the government is just another consumer. Instead of earning income, it collects taxes or borrows, then "spends" that money in the broader economy like anyone else. The money returns right back to the private sector, in one way or another, where it will be spent by private economic actors in whatever way they see fit.

Now if you don't want the government to collect your taxes because you think it wastes your money or the programs don't generate economic growth, or you think you should spend your money and not the government, fine, but that is pure politics. It has nothing to do with being "fiscally responsible" in any economic sense.

In terms of "fiscal responsibility," what you really want to know is whether the government can meet its obligations, and relatedly, how high its interest rates will be if it needs to borrow. For this, the standard measurements of debt/deficit to GDP are good enough, and the US has enough problems with these measurements without creating a politically-motivated alternative.

Posted by: MVH at January 7, 2011 12:30 PM

Good points. I suppose I've confused myself. What I really have been meaning to say is more that the ratio of private profits to government taxation (rather than public spending, although spending may be a decent proxy for taxes) is a solid measure. And here's why: the conservative argument that too many taxes stunts economic growth is correct in the abstract. If all of your profits are simply taken by the government, what's the point in earning the profits? That same conservative argument, however, is incorrect in the particular. Here's why: as long as people are realizing some kind of profit, they will keep investing and earning. That the tax rate means they only earn, e.g., $50 instead of $100 will not stop the investment and growth because it's still in their economic interest to earn that profit. Once taxes become so high, however, that it swallows all the profits, or all but a negligible amount, economic growth will be stunted or worse stopped because there's no economic incentive.

And I suppose here's where the deficit comes in. Private profit/public taxation ratio is a good measure of when the government's interfering too far into the private economy (or, conversely, not enough), but government revenue/government spending (i.e., the deficit) does remain a good measure of when the government is not being fiscally responsible. Perhaps the deficit itself has no bearing on the economy except to the extent that it reflects the private profit/public taxes ratio, but it does seem to be a solid indicator of Congress' ability to balance a checkbook. Ultimately, however, the deficit does not seem particularly relevant until that private profit/public taxing ratio reaches or approaches an unaccaptable level because up until that point, the government can keep going back to the well to cover the deficit. Having said all that, any individual or organization (including non-profits like the government) cannot really be called "fiscally responsible" where expenditures consistently outpace revenue.

Rich

Posted by: Rich at January 7, 2011 12:48 PM

We should also take into account where (what area of the economy) the government spends it's money vs where the money would be spent if it remained in the private sector.

One of the key differences in the political parties is where in the private sector the government spends it's money. There are many basic expenditures that both parties spend the money the same. The key difference it how much and what additional expenditures. Political agendas drive these differences.

For example, Democrats tend to spend considerable amounts of the public money paying Public union empolyees salaries/pensions (see NY/CA/NJ/etc.). Republicans tend to spend considerable amounts to defense firms. While in both cases the money flows back into the economy, but it follows different paths and causes different areas of the private sector to grow/shrink.

Another example is technology. By taking private money and then using it to fund specific areas of technology, the governments warps the private sector. Examples are "green" technology or the Arts. In some cases this might be something that is in the "greater good" or it might just benefit a select segment of the population.

So utilizing public money to push political goals is a very root cause for the collection of excessive taxes (by either party) that deplete the private sector money and in addition warps the private section as it responds to the areas where the government is spending it's money.

This is way I am in favor of the severly limiting how much the government taxes the private sector so it can "redeploy" the money to other areas/people. The politicians tend to use the money to further their own political agenda rather than for the public good. I prefer that the individual gets to decide where best to spend his/her money rahter than a select group of elite politicians or civil servants.

Posted by: Lee at January 7, 2011 3:16 PM

"Then Clinton came along, and we had a surplus, so of course, anything Bill did was bad."

A Republican Congress and defense spending being cut to 3% of GDP because the Cold War was over gave us surpluses. Clinton was a non-entity.

Posted by: andrew at January 7, 2011 4:27 PM

"So utilizing public money to push political goals is a very root cause for the collection of excessive taxes (by either party) that deplete the private sector money and in addition warps the private section as it responds to the areas where the government is spending it's money."

Lee - you have it half-right. The government does not "deplete" private sector money in any respect, but it does affect how money is allocated in the public sector.

What bothers me is when conservative economists call this a "misallocation of resources," and try to claim that because they know some really good buzz words, they know something about economics that liberals or keynesians don't. Sorry - that's completely wrong, and whether any type of government spending is a "misallocation" is a matter of political opinion, not economic virtue.

What -is- a matter of economic virtue is continuing to spend more than you take in, and borrowing to the point of high interest rates and insolvency risk.

Posted by: MVH at January 7, 2011 5:10 PM

Sorry - that's completely wrong, and whether any type of government spending is a "misallocation" is a matter of political opinion, not economic virtue.

This is correct in theory but not in practice. The missteps in public policy regarding universal homeownership created a massive economic non-virtue. We allocated resources in a misguided fashion and the macro-consequences have been enormous.

I could go on and on with examples and, while I know this isn't exactly what your referring to, it is more than enough to suggest you rethink or rephrase. Maybe there is some school of economics that could defend such a gross misallocation, but I've never heard of the place.

Posted by: spongeworthy at January 8, 2011 12:00 PM

What it comes down to is that quantum physics defy common sense; economics does not. Deficit spending is done when a government wants to provide services but doesn't want to have the people pay for it (or so they think--of course they--we--do). So for Crank to write all this about how deficits are suddenly not important is crap. So much specious nonesense about defending what are terrible Republican economic policies.

Why? Because in the end, you can't, you simply cannot continue to pay for an enormous military defense of the planet against a series of enemies that we know, or don't know, what they are capable of; plus an ever growing series of pensions and retirement payments to what will soon balloon to be the baby boomers (me); add real medical costs, whether insured or not, and the idea that all this can be paid for with no pain, well, that's simply childish.

Posted by: Daryl at January 8, 2011 12:31 PM

Sponge,

I have no problem using economics to make a political point; I do it all the time and so does everyone else. And yes I would call a lot of government spending misguided too. But it's another story altogether when someone makes a political argument, but tries to pass it off as a matter of pure economics, which it rarely ever is.

What conservative economists mean by a "misallocation of resources" is that if you let the free market allocate money rather than the government, it is more likely to result in economic growth. Passing over whether this is always true, what they are saying is that the government should be concerned with economic growth, and not, say, helping poor people get housing. That's fine - but call it what it is: the decision to pursue economic growth is a political objective, just like the decision to use tax money to fund, say the EPA.

What makes this worse is that within the field of economics, conservatives tend to choose specific economic theories on the basis of their political virtues, not whether they actually explain the world economy well. Conservatives love the Austrian school, neoclassical economics and monetarism, but all of those theories are very flawed because they are based on a number of assumptions that frankly, exist in a theoretical fantasyland that does not reflect the international economy. Sure, Keynesianism has big problems as well, but that doesn't make the other theories any better. In fact, there is no economic theory that can satisfactorily account for this recent crisis. There is a great article by Robert Samuelson making that exact point.

Now don't get me wrong - Liberals are not much better - Krugman's fans are more excited than they should be about Keynesianism, but as a group, they tend not to pretend that their political choices are anything other than political. They'll say: we want more money to go the EPA because we want to protect the environment. Full stop. Now it doesn't help that many of them aren't terribly interested in economics, but I doubt in many cases it would make a difference if they did. They are simply willing to sacrifice economic growth - a political objective - to achieve other political objectives.


Posted by: MVH at January 8, 2011 1:19 PM

My comments asking you and the tea baggers to specify precisely whihc programs you want to cut and by how much -- as opposed to the sophistry of Paul "everything (except for the programs our base likes) is on the table" Ryan -- don't seem to make it online. I guesss you are afraid the utter backrupty of your position will be exposed.

Let's try this -- Gifford's blood is on the hands of Palin, Beck, Limbaugh. Erickson and the tea baggers advocating violence against politcal opponents (the Palinistas are feverishly removing evidence online).

Posted by: Magrooder at January 8, 2011 4:21 PM

Magrooder,

Blood Libel? You've reached a disgusting new low.

Posted by: tanstaaf lunch at January 8, 2011 10:36 PM

Truth is a complete defesne. Sorry lunch man.

Posted by: Magrooder at January 8, 2011 11:49 PM

I'm feeling both ways about the "blood libel." It does seem like the work of a crazy guy, but I think many don't realize just how much the right wing nuts out west, with Arizona a breeding ground, state that if politicians won't listen to them, they remind people of their second amendment rights (funny how people who harp on the second amendment forget about the first and fifth). You send enough messages to the weak minded, the message percolates through. And if you don't believe me, just ask the six figure folks on Madison Ave. who realize that.

Magrooder, the good and bad of the internet is there is no such thing as removing the evidence. And the more you hide it, the more Jon Stewart finds it. Better yet, let's ask Christine O'Donnell to cast a spell to find them.

Posted by: Daryl at January 9, 2011 11:16 AM

Give me a break - this Arizona shooting incident is not about politics. Read this:

http://azstarnet.com/news/local/crime/article_91db5db4-1b74-11e0-ba23-001cc4c002e0.html

Posted by: MVH at January 9, 2011 9:08 PM

MVH,

What delicious irony, we are believing the "lame stream media.

"The facts, moreover, are these: Palin singles out Giffords as a "target" for attack, illustrated by cross-hairs in gun sights, and urges supporters to "reload". This is pointed out at the time and Giffords herself worries that it took things over the edge. Palin had a chance to apologize or retract or soften the rhetoric. She did nothing of the kind. An individual subsequently guns Giffords down. What more, in many relevant respects, do we need to know than this?"

What we know is Palin desperately tried to cover her tracks and disingenuously claimed the gun sites were not gun sites.

The wing nuts can now reap what they sowed. That's biblical so it must be (literally) true.

Posted by: Magrooder at January 9, 2011 9:17 PM

The good news is that only the truly deranged, like macgrooder, are actually buying that shit.

The bad news is that the truly deranged, like macgrooder, are buying that shit.

Who's inciting the crazies really?

Posted by: spongeworthy at January 10, 2011 11:51 AM

Sponge, of all the mass amounts of deranged stuff you have said this might take them cake. Here on this site Crank said that a video of a young Vince Carter (I think it was VC) jumping off a ladder to dunk was irresponsible, dangerous and would likely lead to kids breaking their legs, etc. If that is the case how can the irresponsible right go about having fund raisers at shooting ranges with the message being "take Gifford out of office," say things on the stump such as "if ballots don't work bullets will" and put out maps with the aforementioned gun sites on candidates and not expect the kooks to come home to roost?

I think this guy is a deranged nut and I think people need to be responsible for their own actions. I don't think heavy metal music lyrics created the horror at Columbine. People have their own crazy ideas. Does the right get to have it both ways though? Because that's what it seems like and given the mass retreat from their own statements it looks like that even more.

Posted by: jim at January 10, 2011 12:07 PM

I hear the shooter had mental issues.
How bad were they?
Has he been ranting about how Obama raised his taxes when in reality his taxes went down under Obama? That does sound REALLY insane.
-------
Here's the thing about Sharon Angle demanding "second amendment solutions", Palin literally putting Giffords in her crosshairs, morons wearing "tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants” T-shirts, and Tea Partiers threatening Democrats by carrying signs stating "we came unarmed this time!" at Town Hall Meetings.
Nothing happened this past weekend to make them indefensible in a representative democracy. They were indefensible as they happened, but political leaders, the "liberal" media, and the Limbaughs and Erick Ericksons of the world all cheered them on and defended them.
Those actions were always indefensible, what happened this past weekend was just the chickens coming home to roost.

Posted by: Berto at January 10, 2011 2:05 PM

"Who's inciting the crazies really?"

Conservative politicians, their spokespeople on TV and Radio, Koch family-funded propaganda machines, and peanut gallery knuckleheads like spongeworthy. You know, the ones who are trying to wash the blood from their hands by trumpeting the bullshit that both sides do it.
Filed under "Simple answers to stupid questions".

Posted by: Berto at January 10, 2011 2:13 PM

To repeat what I said before: It does seem as though those who love to defend the Second Amendment (even if they only read an abridged version) care little for the first or fifth. That said, they too have the freedom to say what they want without prior restraint. Meaning that, like shouting fire in a crowded theater, they then have to accept the responsibility of what they said.

And let's face it, egging on the mentally deficient, borderline psychotic, knowing they are doing it is simply making themselves responsible. Want the liberal side that the right said was "wrong?" Tom Wolfe called it radical chic. We've learned since them I hope. Magrooder is right: you've all sown it, now reap it. You made the discourse ugly and violent. Yes, you did cause it. Yes, you are making sure that virtually anyone can get a gun. You want your second amendment upheld, but with no milita (I say let's be a literal interpreter: allow anyone a musket or breech loader); you think you can abandon the responsibility of what you are saying: No you can't. You've elevated someone who can't stay in one place long enough to either graduate from a school she starts, to mayor of Wasilla, where she has to sign a couple of checks to governor, where she resigns in a year and a half. In short, you got just what you all scream out for, and then deny: someone to "lead" without accepting any personal responsibility to the task at hand.

You aren't just right wingnuts. You are childish, immature right wingnuts. Shame on you all. Ben Franklin, George Washington and James Madison are ashamed of every last one of you.

Posted by: Daryl at January 10, 2011 2:23 PM

Let's try this again. As reported in my link above, the shooter posted the following:

In another YouTube message, Loughner said: "I know who's listening: Government Officials, and the People. Nearly all the people, who don't know this accurate information of a new currency, aren't aware of mind control and brainwash methods. If I have my civil rights, then this message wouldn't have happen."

In another YouTube message, Loughner said"In conclusion, my ambition - is for informing literate dreamers about a new currency; in a few days, you know I'm conscience dreaming! Thank you!"

And doesn't that sound like the delusions of a paranoid schizophrenic? If he's thinking that the government is into mind-control and brainwashing, isn't that a far more likely explanation for his decision to kill a politician than Sarah Palin??

These are the shooter's own words; it's a little hard to make that an issue of the mainstream media.
And notice that the guy has enjoyed reading the Communist Manifesto, Mein Kampf and is dreaming up a new currency. It's rather hard to place him on a sane person's political spectrum. Care to explain how he is swayed by the hard right?

Not everything in life is about politics, and this is likely one of them. I would have figured that the liberal angle on this story was why he wasn't on medication, and if he had health care, he would be.


Posted by: MVH at January 10, 2011 2:52 PM

Don't waste your breath, MVH. These guys are the lowest form of opportunists. They know they have zero evidence this fellow ever even heard of Sarah Palin. They might even know the kook planned to kill the congresswoman in 2007, when Palin was unknown in the Lower 48.

It doesn't matter to them. And they would be the first to tell you that if anybody reading their vicious lies went out and popped a Tea Partier, why, it wouldn't be their fault.

By the way, there were never any crosshairs on Giffords. That's a lie.

Posted by: spongeworthy at January 10, 2011 3:15 PM

Care to explain how he is swayed by the hard right?
-----------
No problem. He has been told repeatedly (unless you have some proof he's never listened to AM radio, cable news, or conservative politicians and their spokespeople) that Democratic politicians and liberals don't just disagree with him, but that they hate him and America. It's the liberals who have been ruining this nation and screwing up his life, and if they can't be voted out, it might just be time for "second amendment solutions" or at least the intimidation from having to speak at a hostile, angry, armed crowd.
The good news is when another hated group, say public union pensioneers, are targeted, there will be other sandpiles for MVH to bury his head in so as not to see the obvious.

Posted by: Berto at January 10, 2011 3:25 PM

I'm saying there are some very fragile psyches out there who can be swayed into believing literally anything, no matter how far-fetched.

"By the way, there were never any crosshairs on Giffords. That's a lie."

Thanks for nailing the point home, spongeworthy.

Posted by: Berto at January 10, 2011 3:31 PM

Is anyone really shocked by the utter lack of humanity coming from the Left the last couple of days.

Posted by: andrew at January 10, 2011 3:31 PM

Not me, andrew. I am also not a bit shocked that nobody's saying any of this stuff face-to-face.

Whatever point you think I "nailed home" berto, the only point I was trying to get across is that many lefties lie while they're exploiting a tragedy.

But. you know, only on the Internet. They're brave like that.

Posted by: spongeworthy at January 10, 2011 3:37 PM

Any time, spongeworthy.
How do you want to do it? Math, grammar, history, philosophy?
You name it. I will easily wipe the floor with your weak mind.

Posted by: Berto at January 10, 2011 3:52 PM

In that case I choose "sanity".

Seriously, if there were an opinion among you lefties that I did more than point and laugh at, I'd probably be angry and disgusted with all of you. But should be ashamed of yourselves.

Posted by: spongeworthy at January 10, 2011 4:08 PM

Sponge,

Opportunism is exactly the right word for what is going on, and it's shameful. You're right, I probably wasted my time, but I'm not really holding my breath for an intelligent response. I just want to make it clear that they can't just slough off criticism simply because it comes from conservatives.

Magrooder,

Your credibility is zero. I find it amusing that you think it's ironic that I'm quoting the mainstream media. Here's some unbiased news for you: I'm a moderate. Conservatives don't take you seriously. Moderates don't take you seriously. The message should be sinking in. Improve your posts or continue to have your arguments ignored or otherwise shredded into tiny pieces.

Posted by: MVH at January 10, 2011 4:12 PM

sponge,
OK. First question: Did your tax rate go up or down under Obama in 2009?
You're on the clock re: your sanity.
Go.

Posted by: Berto at January 10, 2011 4:17 PM

Any thread with this many Sponge posts in it almost guarantees how poor the footing is for the hypocritical right.

Posted by: jim at January 10, 2011 4:25 PM

So we have this straight:

Palin puts tagets on a map, so the right is to blame for this tragedy.

Lefties pass along vicious lies and use a tragedy to score political points that they made up from zero facts.

But the right is the one to blame for an acid political atmosphere.

Only in loony-land, guys. Tell us about your backyard shrines, won't you? Do "the voices" ever tell you any good jokes?

Posted by: spongeworthy at January 10, 2011 4:33 PM

Sponge, the Unibomber called and said you should probably turn your computer off now because you are using up a lot of juice from your generator. Maybe you can go look for Obama's birth certificate while the lights are out in the cabin.

Posted by: jim at January 10, 2011 4:46 PM

No, the Unibomber didn't call anybody. He's under lockdown. What you're hearing are "the voices" and you need to seek help.

Posted by: spongeworthy at January 10, 2011 5:00 PM

They let him make a special call just for you. He also wanted you to know that Garry Templeton was vastly over-rated and would be a bench scrub in today's MLB.

Posted by: jim at January 10, 2011 5:09 PM

This is just too easy:

http://hillbuzz.org/2011/01/08/my-congresswoman-voted-against-nancy-pelosi-and-is-now-dead-to-me-eerie-daily-kos-hit-piece-on-gabrielle-giffords-just-two-days-before-assassination-attempt-on-her/

I hate to laugh about events connected to a tragedy so I won't. It's too soon. Besides, I want to savor this one.

Posted by: spongeworthy at January 10, 2011 5:48 PM

I'll pity you whether you laugh or not spongey.
I think we all will.

Posted by: Berto at January 10, 2011 8:24 PM

MVH,

Perhaps in some alernate universe you are "moderate," but if words have any meaning you belong squarely among the wingnuts like spongeworthy. I don't expect you to find my comments credible. THAT would require the ability to think rationally.

Posted by: Magrooder at January 10, 2011 9:48 PM

Magrooder,

Thanks for giving me a laugh before bed; I knew I could count on you. I think you owe spongeworthy an apology for lumping him together with someone who voted for Barack Obama.

Posted by: MVH at January 10, 2011 10:20 PM

I'm pretty sure my wife voted for Obama--we don't talk politics for obvious reasons. But she gives me sheepish looks whenever she hears--not from me!--about his latest blunder.

She's even more disgusted than I am over the attempt to pin guys like me with the Tucson tragedy. That tactic might make you people feel better about your miserable lives, but it alienates anybody with any sense of decency whatever.

Which I guess just leaves the liberal base out there on a lonely limb.

Posted by: spongeworthy at January 11, 2011 9:07 AM

Blaming what happened in AZ on a nobody like spongeworthy? Please.
But it doesn't change the original argument:
The eliminationist rhetoric of right-wing radio, politicians, and media was indefensible long before what happened this past weekend.

You'll all note MVH and spongeworthy can not argue this obvious point, so they'll resort to nonsense like spongeworthy playing the victim here and MVH explaining that the shooter and Palin are not BFFs.

Posted by: Berto at January 11, 2011 10:06 AM

BTW, no one could have predicted* that a conservative like spongey would play the victim as 6 lie dead and a dozen more are hospitalized.

*a saying used by conservatives which roughly means anyone with 2 brain cells to rub together could have predicted.

Posted by: Berto at January 11, 2011 10:11 AM

"But it doesn't change the original argument:
The eliminationist rhetoric of right-wing radio, politicians, and media was indefensible long before what happened this past weekend."

Magrooder, I see you are now shifting what the "original argument" was. Let me quote you:

"Let's try this -- Gifford's blood is on the hands of Palin, Beck, Limbaugh. Erickson and the tea baggers advocating violence against politcal opponents (the Palinistas are feverishly removing evidence online)."

It's nonsense like this that plays right into the hands of people like Rush Limbaugh.

Posted by: MVH at January 11, 2011 11:17 AM

MVH,
You're confusing me with magroooder.
It was my original argument that there is no defense for right-wing eliminationist rhetoric in a representative democracy. I stand by my argument, and you have shown no defense for the reprehensible.

Posted by: Berto at January 11, 2011 11:40 AM

My apologies - I thought it was Magrooder. The only argument I am addressing was whether the rhetoric had anything to do with the shootings, which seems to be the only reason why the left is all hyped up about it at the moment.

As I've said repeatedly, you can find idiots on the right as well as the left who do and say irresponsible things. For me, that's not worth debating because it means the whole political debate becomes about who has a higher percentage of complete idiots. How that helps any is beyond me.

Posted by: MVH at January 11, 2011 12:08 PM

But shouldn't those who make irresponsible statements be called out on it? Can you show me when the right-wing media and right-wing politicians did so?
As I stated, it is simply indefensible.

Also, I get the idea that if the ad was put out by a muslim cleric instead of Palin you and spongey wouldn't be tripping over yourselves to defend it.
Will you unequivocally state that you would defend it in that case? I might want to save your answer for another time.

Posted by: Berto at January 11, 2011 12:15 PM

berto, you are so stupid and crazy I wonder at your ability to even type.

For the last time, there was no "ad". Whatever "ad" you're referring to is in your mind, nowhere else. Yet you people just keep speaking as if your delusions become reality. They do not.

As I said above, there were never any crosshairs on Giffords and no ad. "The voices" are making a bigger jackass of you than usual, which is saying something.

No ad, Corky.

Posted by: spongeworthy at January 11, 2011 12:58 PM

"...which seems to be the only reason why the left is all hyped up about it at the moment."

If you mean that the left (as well as the right and center) should have been hyped up about eliminationist rhetoric coming from right-wing radio, politicians and media long before the AZ incident, then you and I completely agree.

Posted by: Berto at January 11, 2011 12:58 PM

spongey,
You're confusing Palin's ad with Saddams WMDs, son.

Posted by: Berto at January 11, 2011 1:01 PM

The scariest part of this debate is, hearing someone married that douchebag spongeworthy. Wow.
If you're religious, this is a good time to pray for your nation.

Posted by: Berto at January 11, 2011 1:13 PM

You know why the site-lefties think (if you actually do--I suspect many know they are lying) this guy went postal because of politics? Because they can picture themselves doing the same thing. You people are that far gone. You need to get help.

Posted by: spongeworthy at January 11, 2011 1:31 PM

Sponge, that is the inadvertently funniest thing I have read in a long time. Coming from the angriest guy around that is hilarious. Check your BP my man. Breathe.

Posted by: jim at January 11, 2011 2:51 PM

MVH,

As Berto pointed out, I did not change and, indeed, stand by my original argument. Rep. Giffords herself recognized the potential for Palin's rifle site ad to have consequnces. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tTDiZZYCAs&feature=player_embedded).
Also, I apologize for lumping you with spongeworthy and the wingnuts; I must have been thinking of another frequent commenter.

Spongeworthy,

It sure looks like an ad to me:
http://i.imgur.com/rik6d.jpg Also, how can you possibly deny that the shooting was political. Her position as a member of Congress is the reason he targetted her. It's we he shot her and the check-out clerks at Safeway or Starbucks baristas.

Posted by: Magrooder at January 11, 2011 4:15 PM

When did I deny it was political? BTW, the loony shot 11 people, not just a congressperson. It may have been political or he may have shot her because he didn't like her hair. How do you explain the other 10 victims?

Your entire fabrication about an ad with crosshairs on Giffords is garbage--just something you read somewhere and never lookd into yourself. So you made an ass of yourself yet again.

Posted by: spongeworthy at January 12, 2011 11:06 AM

macgrooder:

Let's try this -- Gifford's blood is on the hands of Palin, Beck, Limbaugh. Erickson and the tea baggers advocating violence against politcal opponents (the Palinistas are feverishly removing evidence online).

Disagreeing with your libel here is not claiming it wasn't politically motivated. It may have been. But there's a huge difference between the two, so huge it would take an irrational person to miss it.

You should apologize, blame your reaction on your ovaries or "the voices". But you won't because you don't know from shame.

Oh, and if you're condemning violent imagery, I have even more than the links above.

http://michaelscomments.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/environment-of-hate-not-working-for-you-try-some-real-calls-to-violence/

Posted by: spongeworthy at January 12, 2011 11:21 AM

On the map I've seen, the target was over the state of Arizona, among others. I've also seen the Democrats use bullseyes. I don't see how that's a big deal, nor would I have an objection to someone saying "we should target Gifford's office for the next election" or something similar. That's far from inciting violence on a particular individual.

Even if it was, there is still no connection between these allegedly inciteful statements/maps and the actions of this guy, who quite obviously has some mental illness. His own words state that the government is using mind control and the like, which is a common belief for that kind of illness and has nothing to do with what information he gets from the media.

The rest of this is opportunism. I'd rather talk about the economy.

Posted by: MVH at January 13, 2011 11:12 AM

If his lawyer doesn't call every conservative in America to confirm his mental illness (and that you can't hold the mentally incompetent accountable), then he should lose his law license.

Posted by: Berto at January 13, 2011 11:58 AM

"I'd rather talk about the economy."

So what do you think of Crank's post trying to take revenue out of the deficit equation? Isn't it obvious he's just trying to carry water for the rich who no longer pay their fair share?

Posted by: Berto at January 13, 2011 12:00 PM

Berto,

I have a number of posts above that detail why I think the measurement is highly flawed and politically biased in favor of economic growth because it overstates the case by an order of magnitude, but never, ever for the reasons you mention.

Posted by: MVH at January 13, 2011 12:32 PM

FYI: The current tax rate is lower than it has been in any time since the 1950s. And the majority of those tax rate reductions have been targeted at the rich.

Why "never, ever"?

Posted by: Berto at January 13, 2011 12:58 PM

"...there is still no connection between these allegedly inciteful statements/maps and the actions of this guy, who quite obviously has some mental illness."

Don't kid yourself. It wouldn't make a difference if there was a connection.
As an example: Despite the obvious connection between those who pushed the Iraq war for economic profit and the deaths of innocent Iraqi children, I don't see you calling for the war profiteers to be held accountable in any way shape or form.

Posted by: Berto at January 13, 2011 2:01 PM
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