Sunday, July 31, 2011

Whatever The Deal, This Isn't The Time

So the Congressional Republicans are steadfastly holding the economy hostage against raising taxes on people earning over half a million dollars a year. In two days, the Congress will refuse to release the money to pay for the same budget it passed earlier in the year. (As Bill Clinton described it: Essentially voting on the same budget twice.)

(Of course, this will give the President a veritable line-item veto, another unforeseen bonus. One reason I'll never be president: Suddenly given a choice to spend limited Federal money where I choose, the first places to get fucked would be Federal offices, contracts, and activity within the districts of those Congresspeople who were such a pain in my ass.)

In their senseless battle, Republicans have endangered the U.S. credit rating. A cut in credit rating could mean an increase in interest rates for everybody. (And every tenth of a percent that the interest rate on federal debt payments go up, it tacks on an additional $13 billion a year to the budget deficit... not to mention an estimated $1000 annual "tax" on the average American family via increased interest rates on mortgages, car loans, and credit cards.

But really and most importantly, now is simply not the time to be engaging in massive cuts in government spending: During the recovery from a recession. Conservatives like to cry that "raising taxes will cause businesses to contract, not expand." I've got another point of view: 22% of all government contracts go to small businesses, and most of those contracts are in the "discretionary spending" category where Republicans are focusing the vast majority of their cuts.

Even Herbert Hoover recognized that you don't cut government spending, and that you instead raise taxes on millionaires when the economy is in the pits.

I'm all for smaller government and lower taxes, but you can't just start mindlessly, drastically slashing and gouging at the bloated federal government like it's some independent, separated entity that is not completely insinuated into every facet of life in this country, especially not when every facet of life in this country is in a straitened economic situation. Spending cuts have to be done slowly and with forethought and impact studies. I cannot imagine that any several trillion dollars of spending cuts hastily dreamed up in the last 3 or 4 weeks have had any kind of real impact studies done on them. Instead, this package of cuts will be passed and then a few weeks later several hundred people working on government project 1175 (whatever that may be) will hear that they are unexpectedly being laid off from work. Repeat that for however many number of government contracts have been cancelled all around the country. Start paying all of those people unemployment, and what has really been gained? Certainly the economy has not gained anything.

Our federal government is like a really jury-rigged electrical system in a big old house built in 1789, with hundreds of miles of wires running willy-nilly everywhere. Not at all a good thing: It's pervasive, it's a problem, it's dangerous, but it currently works. God only knows why it works, how it works, for how much longer it will work, or how much electricity is being wasted while it works.

Now imagine our current poor economic situation as that house in the middle of a stormy winter night when we need all the electricity for lights and heat and cooking and generally staying alive.

The current plan in the Congress is, on this particular night, to go up in the attic and just arbitrarily start ripping out the most "useless looking" wires from the rats' nest they see up there.

In other words, it is not that ripping those wires out and putting in a modern, efficient electrical system does not need to be done; but when the lights and stove and electric heater suddenly go pffft on this particular night, the poor timing will become immediately and horribly obvious.

I honestly would love to see a balanced budget and a government surplus. I think that the survival of America and its position as a world leader depends on having a government savings account. The Chinese certainly do. Nothing would make me happier and more optimistic about America's future than a tiny federal government that spends less, provides less, and impacts less on this country, and a debt burden that does not eat up massive quantities of our resources every year that could be spent on American social stability and economic strength. It's necessary, it's healthy, and it's inevitable.

But tonight it's cold, and waiting the short amount of time necessary for the sun to come up and the temperature to rise is the safer course of action in my opinion.

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