Tuesday, September 20

It's not that they won't give 'till it hurts -- they won't even give 'till it itches a little.

I was appalled to read this story about the response Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) gave to a suggestion that he give up some of the massive Alaska-centered budget pork to help out with the cost of cleaning up and rebuilding the Gulf Coast . . .

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., raised the charitable pork idea on the Senate floor last week, although he stopped short of endorsing it.

So, how about it, Mr. Chairman?

"They can kiss my ear!" Young boomed when Sam Bishop, Washington correspondent for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, asked him about the many pleas to redirect the bridge money.

"That is the dumbest thing I've ever heard," Young went on, noting that Louisiana did quite well in his highway bill.

And, the congressman said, he helped the seafood industry donate more than $500,000 for hurricane victims. (That was at the "Seafood Invitational," a charity golf tournament Sept. 9 in Roslyn, Wash., Bishop reported Friday.)

"I raised enough money to give back to them voluntarily," he said, "and that's it!"

. . . and yet not really surprised: After all, Tom DeLay thinks they have done such a marvelously heroic job of cutting the budget that there's no more to cut, which apparently means we're doomed to $400-billion budget deficits until we can somehow find a way to get a Democrat back in the White House. It is absolutely imperative that the people of Gravina, Alaska (pop. 50), have a $223 million bridge to Ketchikan. Just because we've got a new barren wasteland in southeastern Louisiana is no excuse to ignore the other barren wastelands that need tending to!

So anyway, it looks as though cutting even the silliest, most blatantly overpriced bits of pork out of the budget is more or less an impossibility at this point. So let me ask y'all this: Would it really be a sin for someone to suggest that the most recent Bush tax cut be suspended at least until New Orleans can be set back on its feet again?

I know I'm going to be pilloried as a tax-and-spend liberal for even suggesting this, but as I've said before, tax-and-spend liberal still sounds way better than a don't-tax-but-spend-anyway conservative, which even Bush's most ardent supporters are beginning to admit that he is. We've had our largest city, a global financial center, punched in the mouth by a massive terrorist attack; we're (allegedly) trying to occupy and rebuild not one but two countries overseas; and now we've got an entire region of the U.S. underwater. All of these crises, and not so much as one suggestion, from either the Democrats or the Republicans on Capitol Hill, that the current tax cuts just aren't feasible. When is somebody going to grow some balls and say straight out that we can't continue this way, and that taxes are going to have to go back up sooner or later? When somebody does, are the anti-tax conservatives just going to burn them at the stake?

If any of you libertarians or libertarian-wannabe-but-still-voted-for-Bush people can convince me that nothing's wrong, the red ink is somehow going to be stanched, and my children and grandchildren aren't going to end up paying for the Freddy Krugeresque tax-slashing we've witnessed for the past five years, make your case, give me a good reason to calm down, and I'll sleep at night happy in the knowledge that, fiscally, things aren't actually as bad as they look right now. But I just don't think anyone can do it.

Oh, and by the way: "They can kiss my ear"? Rep. Young, you're not only one greedy son of a bitch, but you're a Price Club economy-sized dork.


Anonymous said...

I'm with you on the bipartisan binge spending. However, raising taxes could put this strong recovery in jeopardy and then you've got a larger problem than Katrina. Eliminate the Medicare drug program and a few failed social programs...and let's go to Mars and Gravina Island another day.

I do find your concern about a legacy of debt and no concern about the legacy of a bankrupt Social Security system puzzling. Both are going to be equally burdensome for future generations.

Bill from jc said...

What strong recovery are you talking about? Neither the market nor jobs have gotten back to where they were when the Chimperor took office. When is the strong recovery going to happen? Is tit not threatened by $3.00 a gallon gas already? Is it not threatened by the burgeoning deficit? Is it not threatened by our disgraceful national debt?

Strong recovery? What koolaid you drinking?

Steve said...

Doug, Agree with you here on pork and the idiot from Alaska. Raise taxes? I guess for the richest if it's temporary. The way out of deficits is generally growth and restraint. We have decent growth, but no restraint witness Rep. Young.

Bill, We debunked your jobs story a month ago. The economy is not in "recovery" anymore. It's past that and in growth mode. And the really perverted thing about Katrina is that it will probably lead to further growth because of the spending associated with rebuilding.

Doug said...

Anonymous, with all due respect, I've heard nothing that would indicate that the impending problems with Social Security solvency are anywhere near as serious as what we'll face from the massive increase in deficits and the national debt. That's not to say I think we can just leave SS completely untouched for the next 40 years, but I don't think that the solution requires anything close to the complexity -- or the expense -- of the privatization plans that some people on the right have been pushing.

Anonymous said...

Not to get too far off track here but:

A recent General Accounting Office report warns that the long-term prospects for the Social Security system may be even worse than we think. It is already well-known that by 2014 current tax revenues will be insufficient to pay current benefits, and by 2029 the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted.

But demographic factors are accelerating Social Security's problems:

- Life expectancy is increasing faster than expected -- in 1940, a 65-year-old man could expect to live another 12 years, today it's 15 years, and by 2040 it will be 17 years. Per Lee Hood, a Nobel winning geneticist, the first person to live to 150 is alive today.

- The fertility rate is falling faster than expected -- from 3.6 children for a typical woman of child-bearing age in 1960 to just two today and a projected 1.9 by 2020 -- and is already less than the rate of 2.1 needed just to replace the existing population.

- The elderly portion of the population is expected to rise from 12 percent today to 20 percent by 2050 -- increasing the number of retirees from 34 million to 80 million.

- The smaller working-age population and larger elderly population means that where there were more than five workers for each retiree in 1960 and 3.3 workers per retiree today, by 2030 there will be just two workers to pay the taxes for the benefits of each retiree.

Social Security is a pay-as-you-go system, with each generation of workers paying the benefits of current retirees. This works fine as long as the working population grows faster than the retired population, but now that the trend has reversed, the system is simply unsustainable. Thus a growing number of analysts favor moving Social Security toward a prefunded system by allowing workers to save some of their taxes in a private retirement account.

"There is no more Democratic idea than building a generation of wealthy Americans who participate in our economy rather than feeling isolated from it."
-- Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE)

Social Security simply costs too much and pays too little to be a good deal for any worker, but it is a particularly bad deal for low-wage workers who depend on it most.

Social Security was designed to supplement private savings, but low-wage workers simply don't have enough money left over to set aside for retirement after paying the Social Security tax. Consequently, nearly one in three of today's seniors depends on Social Security for more than 90 percent of his income.

Social Security's benefits often are not enough to protect workers from poverty. In fact, more than 1 in 10 seniors live in poverty. For some groups, the statistics are even worse: 19 percent of widows and 29 percent of elderly African Americans fall through Social Security's safety net.

There are both solvency and benefit problems to be concerned with today.

Bill from jc said...

To the Cons strong recovery means gas at over $3.00 a gallon. If you look at it that way it all makes sense! This is good news for the Cons, just think of how happy they will be when folks are paying $4 instead! Woohoo!! Good times are here again! Wages down, job market down, stock market not even back to where it was 6 years ago! We declare ourselves recovered! As inflation creeps back in, the Fed raises rates and even the houseing bubble bursts! Man, this economy you guys have written is great! It all depends on the privledged few making a ton off the rest of us! That is how you define a good economy, so I guess to you fools we really are in great shape!

The joke is over, bring back Clinton.

J_da_F said...


1. Lee Hood did not win the Nobel Prize. He won the Kyoto Prize.

2. Can you provide the reference in which Dr. Hood said the first person to live to 150 years is alive now?

Anonymous said...

I stand corrected. That would be Lee Hartwell, not Hood. His comments were made at a University of Washington symposium on his cancer research. I believe you can find a video of it on the research channel.

Anonymous said...

If you want references, check this out:

The current debate over life expectancy involves those who believe biological limits will keep life expectancy at around 85 years and those who believe improvements in nutrition, medical treatment and other factors will allow human life expectancy to continue rising, perhaps even approaching 150 or even 200 years. On balance the evidence favors the latter position.

Manton, et al, note, for example, cite no less than 10 studies of specific population subgroups which have life expectancies well above current levels. The most dramatic of these was J.E. Easton?s analysis of a group of individuals from Almeda County with healthy lifestyles; the life expectancy for the group was 97.4 years (Manton, et al 1991, p.620).

In addition if 85 years were indeed the upper limit, one would reasonably expect increases in life expectancy to start decreasing in nations that began approaching that limit. In fact, however, this has yet to happen. In developed nations such as Finland, Ireland, Japan and West German, the rate of increase in life expectancy appears to be accelerating as it increases (Kannisto, et al 1994, p.799).

A good example of this phenomenon is the steady increase in mortality improvement among the oldest people. As Kannisto, et al, write:

... for most of the countries outside Eastern Europe, rates of mortality improvement for ages 80-99 have tended to be higher since the 1960s than earlier (Kannisto, et al 1994, p.798).

This can be seen dramatically in England and Wales where "the proportion [of] surviving [octogenarians] increased for males from 0.9 per thousand in the 1930s to 5.2 per thousand in the 1980s, a sixfold increase" (Kannisto, et al 1994, p.804). In England and Wales the death rate of 85-year olds dropped from 0.24 to 0.17 from the 1930s to the 1980s for men and from 0.19 to 0.11 for women.

April said...

What does life expectancy have to do with anythign that was being discussed, Anon? Oh wait I know. When people see how bad of shape our country really is in (and the prices of gas)then they'll all have heart attacks and even younger people so I guess it was relevant.

Anonymous said...

Remember how Brownie said he was slow to respond because Louisiana and New Orleans didn't give him an itemized list of what they needed. This Christian Science Monitor article says the "we need it in writing" policy is a new thing that the locals may not have known about.

This is the bext explanation I've seen as to why FEMA worked so much better under Clinton.


Anonymous said...

That last comment was from me, Tony.

One of the great things about Social Security is that it backstops the private system. Like the FDIC, a little bit of government backstop allows the private system to work better. With a stable Social Security, I can take on more risk with my private 401(k)

What conservatives fail to consider is that Bush's plan to convert Social Security into a national 401(k) would probably take business away from private retirement plans. Privatized Social Security might look more like the free market, but it would actually be pretty bad for the free market.

And yes, people are more likely to rely on Social Security the older they get. That's because they've outlived their savings. Private retirement plans are keyed into the average life expectancy, and if you exceed that, you need Social Security.

Anonymous said...

"This is the bext explanation I've seen as to why FEMA worked so much better under Clinton."

Tony, Clinton's FEMA under James Lee Witt took FIVE DAYS to get to Homestead, FL after Andrew hit. Brown got the death penalty for a FOUR DAY response.

ACG said...

Brown got the death penalty for standing in water up to his ankles and wondering why everyone kept saying it's wet.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to need to see a source on that, anonymous. And a body count.

But before you change the subject, could you answer one thing for me? Did the Bushies change FEMA's rules on the locals? Was that part of the confusion?

Anonymous said...

"Tony, Clinton's FEMA under James Lee Witt took FIVE DAYS to get to Homestead, FL after Andrew hit. Brown got the death penalty for a FOUR DAY response."

Is that supposed to be funny or something? Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in AUGUST 1992. Bill Clinton didn't even take office until JANUARY!

So tell us, was this just an honest mistake on your part, or an out-and-out lie?

Anonymous said...