Saturday, March 23, 2013


Sirota and the New Tone

Under the rubric of punching back twice as hard, as our President has encouraged us to do, here are my comments on a recent piece by Colorado journalist David Sirota, a far left "thinker" who seems now to work mainly for Salon, the Marion Davies of web magazines, and who didn't last a full 6 months as the left side of a Odd Political Couple AM radio show on 630 KHOW. He is hard to listen to. KHOW did not replace Sirota but changed the format of the show. Now it's just another one man on the right opining. Michael "Hellofajob Brownie" Brown survived the cut. Sirota didn't. That's got to sting a little.

The title of Sirota's work is Paul Ryan Declares War on the Poor. I am aware Sirota might not write the headline but let's start with that anyway. It obviously is not literally true; what Rep. Ryan (R-WI) did was propose a budget that slowly brings down the unsustainable growth of federal spending (while still growing the budget). But look at the bellicose claim. This is what passes for well measured rational political commentary on the left--the other side desires to kill the poor--when actually all Paul Ryan is doing is his job, proposing a budget he feels will actually help. Writing a budget is apparently a job the President seems to have difficulty doing--this year's model is several weeks over due. When President Obama does get around to obeying the law's time limits, his budgets don't seem to garner a single vote in Congress in support. The Democrat dominated Senate hadn't proposed one in years, in violation of statute, and the new one just passed, spearheaded by intellectual giant Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) actually increases the unsustainable spending. But I see I've digressed. Sirota's work has an inauspicious start, but then the real hostile vapidity begins. He writes (apparently) the sub-head:

His budget proposal would only exacerbate our country's glaring income inequality. How heartless can the GOP be?

Wait, I thought we lived in a free society where the only limit to what you can earn is your ability and how hard you work. How can a budget regarding federal government spending of tax revenues (and more, a lot more), cause some people outside the government to earn more and others to earn less? This is a mystery to me. And of course trying to create a balanced budget, something every single American household must achieve to avoid economic disaster, is in Sirota world merely heartless. Heartless and wanting to kill the poor and make the rich richer and make the poor poorer, that's Sirota's intellectual opinion of the right. It's not that the Republican's efforts are wrong headed or mistaken, but they spring from an evil source to do evil things. Well, who couldn't have a civil debate about the federal budget in light of this false, familiar and very dreary name calling?

OK, I'll bite, how does the Republican budget seek to burden and kill the poor? Sirota repeats his name calling in the first paragraphs, saying that the proposed budget does not grow the economy and endorses the war being waged by the rich against everyone else. That's just the charges repeated, of course, and the proof? Sirota only offers supporting quotes from other far left "thinkers" and never from anyone on the right. That's at least some support, but again, so familiar and sooooo boring. Dare to show the other side's arguments at least once per article, David. It's possible for you to do that, right? Your opinion is not so fragile that it can't stand even a moment's contact with the enemy, right?

He points out that the richest Americans (those earning over $380,000/yr) take in nearly 25% of the nations' income (yeah and they pay over 37% of the nation's income tax, so that's fair). He also points out the 'no, duh' banality that those earning a lot of money also have a lot of wealth (go figure) and that those with more wealth to invest have been earning more lately than the rest of us with less wealth to invest. So? Again, in a free society, aren't we able to earn and save and invest as much as we are able? Is it the government's job to limit that and transfer the wealth of the top earners to the bottom percentile? Sirota and his ilk seem to accept that this is precisely the single proper function of the government and such transfers must be part of a budget proposal or the budget proposer is a heartless bastard waging figurative war against the bottom percentile. Sirota and his ilk think we must be socialist and that a capitalist system necessarily wages heartless war against the poor. I reject the unstated basis for this name calling pretending to be reasoned argument, and I hope that a lot of Americans think the same or our economic road leads to the chaos slowly enveloping countries like Greece and Cyprus. Back to Sirota.

Considering this, it is no surprise that the United States is one of the industrialized world’s most economically unequal nations. Just as unsurprising is International Monetary Fund data showing that such acute inequality reduces macroeconomic growth. In light of that, any proposal purporting to create what Ryan calls a “pro-growth economy” should, in part, include policies that aim to make the United States less stratified.

Oh, so his income inequality (my economic freedom) reduces macroeconomic growth. Huh? I see, those who have worked hard and earned a lot of money, don't invest it in other businesses, they just fill their vaults with coin like Scrooge McDuck and swim in it from time to time so that money is out of circulation. And if the poor have more money for cell phones, huge TVs and the like, all is well in the economic world and there is better growth?. Right. OK, so to grow the economy, we have to take more money from those who invest and give it to those that don't invest. That's how you get growth--becoming more socialist. I have vivid memories of the difference in the economic vitality of the ethnically non diverse German people in Berlin in the late 70s on opposite sides of the wall. The only difference was the form of government each lived under, but the results were truly striking. East Berlin was a pit. When has socialist economics ever created greater wealth for all? Socialism does tend to make everyone economically equal, they are all equally, squalidly poor. That's not my idea of a generous heart and it's really not helping the poor merely to make more of them, but I'm apparently waging figurative war against them just by saying that.

What else does Sirota have for support of the claim the Republican budget mostly helps the rich by hurting the poor here in America?

...[the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities] shows, the allegedly “pro-growth” GOP proposes no big cuts to corporate welfare or other subsidies that enrich the already rich.

I'm going to need more than these conclusory statements from a far left group. What corporate welfare? Allowing businesses to deduct business expenses? What subsidies? The federal government makes actual payments of dollars to rich people? Where? What? How? (Normal journalistic questions, I would think). Like the infamous Aid to Families of Independent Means? Doesn't the government tax the rich at a higher rate than it taxes the middle class? (The lower class pays no income tax.) Why yes, as shown above, the income tax on the rich is way more than the rich people's share of taxable income. That would seem to be taking more of the rich people's income, not giving them more. I'm neither seeing nor buying what Sirota is peddling here. But the budget is not the tax code. What non tax "corporate welfare" and "subsidies" is he talking about? I don't think he has any idea; his whole piece is just conflated animosity.

The cuts the Republicans propose in the federal government's unsustainable spending are categorized by the CBPP as coming primarily from “programs that serve people of limited means.” To Sirota, those cuts will stall economic growth rather than free up more money for investment and hiring (generally considered factors that increase economic growth). In what economic universe does welfare payments create wealth and jobs? Not even Keynes would have spouted that nonsense. Welfare recipients rarely hire people or open businesses. Payments to the poor are not and have never been economic stimulus.

Sirota then paraphrases the findings of the "nonpartisan" Citizens for Tax Justice, which has somehow delivered the mainline socialist tax policy view and "discovered that after a decade of trickle-down tax cuts delivered more economic inequality and historically weak macroeconomic growth, the GOP is now proposing a budget whose centerpiece is a proposal to give those with an “income exceeding $1 million (an) average net tax decrease of over $200,000.”" Again the budget sets tax policy? Since when? This is very strange stuff. The tax code is contained in the budget. Who knew? And then Sirota again resorts to name calling-- "heartless" and  "the GOP and its financiers are so committed to a class war..." and the very tired meme that the desire of the Republican party is to sabotage the economy to increase the wealth of the top of their ranks somehow.

But only if one thinks that dissuading those working hard to create wealth in the form of small businesses, our country's source of most employment, and enabling those who create no wealth whatsoever, is the only way to "fix the economy" does one see the necessary reduction in the growth of federal spending, necessary for everyone's good in the long run, as war on the impoverished. It takes a lot of self delusion to get even close to there.

Of course it is much more fun to spend wildly when you're making good money and no fun at all to stop spending as much when you're making a lot less, but pretending that living within one's means is unnecessary will only lead to much less fun, to ruin. The federal government has to cut spending to 18% of GDP because no matter what the tax policy (or budget contents?) that percentage is about all that the feds ever take in. Federal spending is currently 25% and Sirota and his ilk want more. Childlike thinking. It's not a hopeful sign that when one party takes the tiniest of baby steps towards slowing overspending, the other side only impugnes their motives based on either complete economic ignorance or pathological denial or both. Argumentum ad hominem makes it all the more difficult to solve the very real and pressing problem of deficit spending.

See, I got through that without calling Sirota evil once. I wasn't exactly respectful however as he doesn't deserve it for this tripe he has written.


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