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Please Enjoy This Phony Debt Debate

July 7, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Senate Republicans have been hammering Democrats and the Obama Administration for negotiating the debt limit and deficit deal behind closed doors and out of the public view. They have a point. Unless there’s something you’re bringing to the table that you’d rather hide from the public, why not put a camera in the negotiating room and broadcast the talks?

Some commentators like to argue that broadcasting the negotiations would just turn them into political sideshows and push the real negotiating into different back rooms. That’s an argument I can’t accept. On principle, the public should have access to everything Congress does, not just most of it. There should be no back rooms. The cameras come on when work time begins, and when work time ends members of Congress are entitled to their privacy like the rest of us. Remember, they work for us. Doing our work behind our back to avoid being held accountable is unethical, and congressional rules and the law should reflect that.

In that light, check out what’s going on in the Senate right now.

Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] has brought up S.1323, a bill expressing the sense of the Senate that people earning $1 million per year or more should “make a more meaningful contribution to the deficit reduction effort.” Today they secured 60 votes and cleared cloture on the bill, which means they’ll spend the next 30 hours or so debating it. Or as David Waldman puts it, they’ll spend the day trading barbs on the budget and debt ceiling, as opposed to the alternative if they had not cleared cloture: spending the day trading barbs on the budget and debt ceiling.

Once they wrap up work on that bill (which I’ll tell you right now will end in defeat), it appears as if they’ll move to Sen. Rand Paul’s [R, KY] bill, S.1326, to increase the debt ceiling with, no strings attached. If they secure cloture on that, more barbs on the budget and debt. If they don’t, guess…

Point is, the Senate’s idea of an open, public debate seems to be not much more than forcing votes on purposely divisive and sarcastic resolutions and using the debate time to ham it up for the C-Span cameras (remember, they’re speaking to an empty chamber).

As long as the different stages of the legislative process have different levels of transparency, the Senate floor will not be a good place for serious work. As it stands, Congress accomplishes most of its serious work in committees. This is partially because of the structure of committees, but it’s also because there is almost no transparency for most of what committees do. The vast majority of committee meetings receive no major media coverage, and the lack of transparency makes it very difficult, and often impossible, for reporters and bloggers outside of D.C. to cover them. That lack of oversight makes lawmakers in committee meetings less worried about the eloquence of their remarks and allows them to focus more on real negotiating and real talk about the issues. I’m sure private, unofficial meetings are even more productive, as transparency there is completely non-existent. Note here that by “productive” I do not mean “accomplishing work in the public’s interest.” What I mean is closer to that opposite of that. 

What the Senate is going to spend the next several days on is an insult to the public at large. It really doesn’t amount to much more than making fun of those of us who want transparency in the debt negotiations. The senators know that what they’re giving us isn’t the open debate we want, they just think we’re too ignorant to know it.

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Comments

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charlesduncan 07/27/2011 8:15pm

“…that anyone really needs a million to live a decent life…”

really? so now the majority decides how much money an individual has or should have? really? i thought everyone had the right of the pursuit of happiness and i don’t think it included the population to vote on what i consider happiness. not if i earned it. or is the lesson now, dont work hard. let everyone else take care of you?

charlesduncan 07/27/2011 8:09pm

i hope no one in congress is foolish enough to pat themselves on the back once a compromise is reached. it is an embarrassment to the highest extreme that both parties put their own re-election worries ahead of figuring out what to do with the peoples money. not their money. the peoples money. if we default will china repossess our elected officials? just wondering.

HildaSuf 07/20/2011 4:13am

Tax the rich – apparently includes many small businesses, also if all the “rich” were taxed, it would not help much. Our debt is huge, the social services, and entitlement programs will feel the pain – NOT the bureaucrats that use propaganda to get what they want/(social justice – another falsity.)
“The senators know that what they’re giving us isn’t the open debate we want, they just think we’re too ignorant to know it.”

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nancym 07/14/2011 12:13pm

@ scooters83

About the current tax system on income, I actually agree with you on that one. It never made sense to me either to tax the work you do, as opposed to consumption. We’re caught in a bad habit called the IRS when there are other fairer ways to tax, just as we’re caught in a bad habit of attaching healthcare to our jobs.

But I take issue with your comment about SS as an “unfunded liability” and including it in any conversation about deficit reduction; in fact, right now the government OWES a bundle of money to SS that they borrowed for other things!

nancym 07/14/2011 12:12pm

3)
The attempts to return to very successful (both for the country and for the rich) tax structures is an attempt to correct just a few of those injustices. The purpose of getting rid of the tax cuts for the wealthy, as someone here said, has nothing to do with jobs, but it does have to do with the deficit. I’m sorry, $70 billion per year to extend those upper level tax cuts DOES contribute substantially to the deficit, and investors are not contributing much of anything toward jobs right now to offset that in taxable income for the rest, in spite of promises by politicians that oh, yes, they will, as soon as those tax cuts are insured forever (and in spite of all historical evidence to the contrary).

nancym 07/14/2011 12:11pm

2)
Many of those who “made it” in earlier decades make the mistake of thinking that ladder is the same one they used, when in fact, it isn’t. So they chastise those on the bottom struggling, assuming they are just lazy or stupid, when in fact what most of those people want is just fair play.

Those who denigrate those who call for fair play are like ex-smokers who become fanatics against smoking, like the delusional Alan West in my state of Florida.

Is it really beyond imagination to understand that MANY people work really, really hard also, all their lives, and not all of them end up wealthy in the end, for a whole host of reasons that do not include just lack of ambition or stupidity?

(continued)

nancym 07/14/2011 12:10pm

Many of you seem to be missing the point of this so-called “class warfare” argument about taxes. If in fact we actually had a progressive or even a flat tax on income, no one would really be calling foul. But those who don’t live in a dreamland of epic proportions know that our tax system is chock full of unfair loopholes, targeted deductions, and tax credits that are totally unproductive; and our entire social system is based on truly unfair advantages for the wealthy that have developed over decades of Congressional tinkering pushed by the richest lobbyists.

This is not just my opinion; demographic and social studies have shown that in recent decades the ladder of the American Dream has been cut down to an ineffective step stool in almost every aspect of life.

(continued)

scooters83 07/14/2011 2:08am

Furthermore, those who advocate imposing higher taxes on rich incomes must understand what an income tax really means: it means the federal government claims ownership over a percentage of your labor and reserves the right to take its claim. Now since slavery is a way of claiming ownership over 100% of a person’s labor, those who advocate for higher income taxes are advocating for making hard working, honest living Americans more like slaves. If you want fair taxation, tax what people voluntarily consume,not on what they earn. Finally, the people have every right to demand spending cuts to entitlement programs, since total combined unfunded liabilities for medicare, medicaid and SS are at $55 trillion. One cannot squeeze enough taxes out of America to pay for that. Cut everything now!

scooters83 07/14/2011 1:56am

The federal government has created this budget mess, they have created this massive public debt, they borrowed massive amounts of money and they are expecting your kids and grandkids to pay for it, and are targeting the rich to do so. Is that fair or just? Look its easy to target the rich with classist and bias arguments like “They don’t need that much money” and “no one can reasonably argue that anyone really needs a million to live a decent life” but this does not justify the federal government confiscating more wealth as a result. I am suggesting that taxing incomes is totally immoral for people of all income brackets, and it is even more immoral to target the rich to pay for the federal government’s disastrous fiscal policy.

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luminous 07/13/2011 2:28am

“Non-rich worked for the rich, ie. farmers versus farmhands.”

It was the poor that came to America originally, seeking fame, fortune, land, whatever. They scrimped got their boat ride and then went out to a chunk of land in the wilderness and claimed it as their own.

Really it wasn’t until the first bunch of land owning people that settled and had developed their land a bit that rich people existed in any quantity outside of a few companies looking for gold, hum had little todo with them as the farms for the most part built their own tools. For it was the first land owners children that where the “Rich” people, having gained the value of multi-generational compounding of value in land from a new growth market in immigration(and forced immigration aka slavery).

“then you know research can fail.”

Research is merely the tool to generally maximize demands access to supply, simply creating a supply does not create demand.

peacefrog 07/12/2011 10:24pm

If you want to be mad at some “rich” people, start looking at the fact that we pay hundreds of $billions annually (which contributes to our national annual deficits, now around $1.5 trillion) to the 300 or so shareholders of the private international bankers known as the FED. What do they do for us in return for these billions? They print more money and hold us hostage to more of their debt. Here’s some news for you, they don’t pay ANY taxes on that money. If you want to end the debt crisis, end the unconstitutional FED.

http://www.federalbudget.com/fed.html
http://www.federalbudget.com/

peacefrog 07/12/2011 10:04pm

The debt talks are definitely all about smoke and mirrors. But even more amazing is to see the greedy wealth redistributionists zombies come out of the woodwork and feverishly grab at every middle class worker with a normal job, wanting to bleed out more of their substance— when the middle class is the only thing that has kept the country afloat financially. The crowd wanting more taxes are like a drowning man frantically grabbing and pulling down their rescuer as they attempt to save him. The people with any kind of non-welfare-based income making over 40k/year are already giving nearly half of that income to the destructive government black hole. Someone please explain how de-incentivizing working and innovation will save the economy?

Btw, the social security fund is NOT part of the federal budget and has no place at all in the budget discussion. Between Obamacare and the threat of eliminating social security checks, one has to wonder why Obama hates old people so much.

fakk2 07/12/2011 6:35pm

luminous, now you’re just not reading and giving the whole picture

“I don’t actually know if anyone is willing and able to purchase my product.”

Had you read the entire paragraph, the above statement would’ve been followed with:

I have a very good idea that they will, but I can’t tell the future, so I open my business and hire an employee HOPING someone will walk in.

And you are correct, “If you don’t study this and have it as part of your business plan you will NEVER get a business loan”. But nobody, not even the best research will tell you if you’ll have a customer on day 1. If you’re actually familiar with this, then you know research can fail.

Man and the American dream where built from the bottom up

Not true. A good portion of owners/producers already had money before they opened their doors over here. And regardless of the type of currency, someone with chickens (rich) must barter for soap (also rich). Non-rich worked for the rich, ie. farmers versus farmhands.

luminous 07/11/2011 10:45pm

“I can get someone to give me investment money to open a business, without ever selling a product.”

Ok go open a Buggatti dealership and sell Vayron’s in Benton, MI. You will find their is not a single “investor” that stupid.

“I don’t actually know if anyone is willing and able to purchase my product.”

If you don’t study this and have it as part of your business plan you will NEVER get a business loan. I don’t know a single lender that doesn’t do some level of checking on this sort of thing before they lend.(I am somewhat familiar with the process of small business loans =p)

“BEFORE they sell a product, a job wouldn’t be opened to be filled, and a customer won’t be able to buy anything. Thus we need the rich first.”

Man and the American dream where built from the bottom up, Only fools and would be Gods believe they where built from the top down. Good lord how do you think things worked before we had lots of rich people to give us their golden showers.

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luminous 07/11/2011 10:09pm

It’s the willingness and ability of that guy making the $50k to buy things that creates the opportunity for that investor to create that job, we have a shortage of those guys maken $50k to buy things to create jobs. The median wage was $48,000 dollars in 1980 its now below $37,500 dollars.

Reagan’s tax reforms decreased the top bracket from 70% to 28% and increased the bottom bracket from 0% to 15%, and had a bump rate of 33% from $40k to $170k. Between his income tax changes and the 1983 SS “reform” he doubled to tripled the tax burden of the middle class.

The quantity of available opportunity to be invested in is directly linked to the size of middle class wages. Only a fool would assume that cutting 80% of the populations wages(directly,via tax increases,inflation,etc) will lead to an increase in job creating investment opportunities. You talk about the situation from the perspective of a single person, we need to look at the wide scope of the problem economy wide.

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luminous 07/11/2011 9:11pm

“but someone with money first has to open the job to be filled”

And yet still without demand for the goods or services their is no reason for the guy with money to create that job, investment chases opportunity for investment. This isn’t to say that I advocate for a purely demand side economic perspective, rather I prefer a balanced perspective, Just as the 1970’s crash was created by a shortage of invest-able capital that is to say a “supply side” problem, the 2007 crash for created by a the implosion of over investment that as a result destroyed the wages and retirements and overall buying power of the middle class that is to say a “demand side” problem.

Both pure “supply side” and pure “demand side” theory are frauds, a balanced perspective is appropriate for understanding the solutions to our current problem.

Both the Reagan banking deregulation, and the 1999 Clinton banking deregulation idiocy was using a supply side Howitzer on things that only needed minor tweaking.

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luminous 07/10/2011 10:49pm

“Those who do make hundreds of thousands or more are this countries job creators, they always have been and they always will be.”

It is the wages of the average man/women that satisfies demand, and it is that demand that creates jobs not people with money. Investment is the act is using money to satisfy demand, without that demand their is no point in investment. This is why this is a jobless recovery, their is no reason to invest money to build or import things people don’t have the money to buy. No matter how much money you pass out via lower taxes, or how cheap you make money via 0%(or below 0%) Fed discount window rate loans is going to fix the situation.

Either decreasing or increasing taxes will have almost no effect on the current problem, As the current problem is a structural one, health care, retirement, higher education, and labor’s ability to negotiate wages and related free trade is the problem.

Supply side economic theory is a fraud.

BIGMOUTHMOM 07/10/2011 9:29pm

To all who do not understand where b58 is coming from. I grew up poor and my mother received 4 years of welfare from the feds. Well the incentive is to stay there because if you start making minimum wage they cut your benes. So I was determined not to live that way and I had 2 jobs throughout my life until I was in my early 30’s. We in this country are afforded equal opportunity and it is up to each individual as to what they do with that opportunity. I do not want my taxes increased anymore than the sliding scale that exist now based on your income. Those who do make hundreds of thousands or more are this countries job creators, they always have been and they always will be. They worked their bums off to have more and they should not be punished because they achieved it. For those who were born poor as I you can achieve more financial stability, it depends on how much effort you put into it, even in todays climate.

moionfire 07/09/2011 10:57pm

I agree. However cameras causes people to self-censor. The best thing is audio over cameras. That way many will forget they are being recorded- and their true colors will show.

nancym 07/09/2011 3:44pm

@b58

You say you just don’t understand, so I’ll explain it to you:

There is a base income that allows any individual to survive and live in this country without fearing homelessness and hunger every day of their lives. You can argue whether that level of income is $30K or $50K or even $200K for a family of four. A recent study shows that somewhere around $30K minimum or so is needed by an individual to be able to live without serious deprivation, and that’s double the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, if a person can even find 40 hours of work per week to get that. But no one can reasonably argue that anyone really needs a million to live a decent life—and those that actually think they are not “rich” on $200K really need to get out more—to just about any place in the world outside of Hollywood or Wall Street.

That’s the human argument; here’s the realistic, practical argument:

— continued on User Talk here:

User talk:Nancym

b58 07/08/2011 2:18pm

I just don’t understand the mind set that says a person making a million dollars a year verses someone making fifty thousand dollars a year that says the one making a million should have a bigger tax against him than the other.
They both have a tax scale to go by and anyone knows the more you make the more taxes you will owe. The liberals wants to have an extra scale added just for the one making a million besides the basic one scale. There is nothing fair about double taxing someone just because he can make the million dollars legally but the government wants to tax the man illegally just because the man happens to have the knowedge and the management to make the million dollars to begin with. Besides the man making the million dollars could be the one that gives others a job so he can make a living and pay taxes also. Senators think past your nose.

mshughes 07/08/2011 12:41am

Agree … there’s no reason these negotiations, or any other Congressional activities, should be hidden from the public.

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