Balancing the Budget on the Backs of the Rich

One of the lies coming from team Obama is that the “Bush Tax Cuts” played an important role in the deficit and debt situation we are in today and that reversing them is an important step toward a balanced budget.

Now ignoring the fact that the current tax rates have been in effect for 12 years, and that every year since then congress and the president ignored the amount of money collected from taxes and chose to borrow spend more yet somehow this is a revenue and not a spending problem, is it true that the tax cuts “for the rich” were to blame?

The red line on the graph below represents total government outlays in constant 2005 dollars and the green line taxes collected. Clearly we spend more than we collect in taxes and the gap is widening quickly.

The purple line is my calculation of the impact of increasing the actual tax rate paid of the top 25% of wage earners by 3% retroactive to 2001. In 2009, the top 25% paid 87% of all income taxes (source: IRS) so this represents “most” of the taxes collected. I calculated the additional tax for the year 2009 and then added this constant amount to the actual tax collected for each year. There’s obviously an error here, in that the total adjusted gross income for the top 25% changes each year but I think the error is small.

The purple line come nowhere close to balancing the budget. In fact it doesn’t have much effect at all.

The light cyan (blue) line shows that to balance the budget on the backs of the rich we’d need to increase the actual tax rate paid by 20 percentage points – to nearly 60% of income for folks without capital gains. And this assumes that doing so would have no impact on economic productivity or cheating which of course is wrong.

Spending has been growing on average by 6.25% / year since 2001.

GDP and personal income is not growing this fast – hence the split between the red line and the green lines.

The graph below projects what spending will do if it continues to grow at 6.25% year. I’ve included essentially flat tax projections for a visual reference. Now in practice these would be different as they would track GDP.

But there’s no scenario where spending increases by 6.25% / year and the income of the top 25% doesn’t increase by 6.25% / year or more where we don’t go bankrupt. Raising rates – even by a huge amount – doesn’t do it.

I will point out that the top 25% pay 87% of all income taxes but in 2010 income taxes are only 42% of the total tax base (source: Another 40% are extremely regressive payroll taxes that nearly everyone who works pays.

When the government  has tapped out the rich, which will happen very quickly, where do you think they will turn to next?

Team Obama paints themselves as the alternative to the ruinous Bush fiscal policy. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are a doubling down on the ruinous Bush fiscal policy.





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Hope, Change, Resentment, Whatever Works

A few facts on average life expectancy in the USA:

It’s been increasing for decades. From 69.7 years in 1960 to almost 78 years in 2009.

  • It’s increasing for both men and women.
  • Men live less long than women.
  • The gap is closing.

Now one might take this as success. Across the board success.

But happiness doesn’t sell as well as resentment. So the media ran this news into their MiseryOutrage-O-Matic, set the bias control to Everloving Patriarchy and the levels to Election Year. Producing the following bit of bad news:

The rate of increase in lifespan for women has fallen behind mens.

Repeat in lockstep:

When the narrative is weak, it’s critical to stay on message.

In other news, secular liberals congratulate themselves, again, for being more objective, more open minded and indeed more intelligent than Christians because they don’t chant the same mythology over and over and berate those who don’t clap on beat in the hope of convincing themselves and everyone else that it is true.

Besides, it’s not like there’s any other important news in the demographic lifespan data: 


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Throwing In The Towel On Christmas

I have to admit that I used to love Christmas. But it has stopped being fun for me.

I’m not doing it anymore.

Finding, unpacking and hanging the decorations, trying to negotiate for a parking space with a crowd of passive-aggressive strangers before shopping shoulder to shoulder with these same people, the drone of advertising featuring interchangeable Stepford families that starts in October and runs until January, the stress of wondering and worrying about who is expecting what perfunctory gifts, the monotonous music, that guy with the bell, wrapping, customs forms, mailing liquids, the card list, the forced frivolity and superficial piousness, the involuntary family gatherings.

Frankly, my previously joyous efforts to disparage these dreadful things has become tiresome. While I admit that Christmas is a uniquely rich target for distain and self-loathing, having a both a Christian religious heritage that excludes and offends people who choose to celebrate Yuul, Kwansaa, Lenaea, Saturnalia, Merlinpeen, Newtonmass and many other deeply held and practiced beliefs, while at the same time seducing people of many beliefs into the secular customs of the west that enslave humankind to the cold impersonal machinery of industry and commerce for the amusement and benefit of the modern slave owner class.

But the cognitive dissonance that results from contempt for a thing because it is both superficially secular and at the same time oppressively religious grows tiresome. As does having to carefully choose words and construct arguments such that I sound sincerely concerned and thoughtful about the exclusionary side effects of a Christian holiday but at the same time not committing myself to offer the same criticism of the belief and rituals of Hanukkah, Ramadan or any other religion except Christianity. And frankly I’ve been just pretending to really care about the wasted gasoline, landfills bulging from packaging, “living conscientiously”, “disconnecting” from consumerism, and all that other condescending intellectual self-help crap.

I’m just tired of it.

So I’m going to do something radical. I’m going to enjoy the holiday that celebrates both the birth of Jesus Christ, the Christian Son of God, and Santa Claus, that guy who lives in the North Pole and with the help of many elves, makes toys for the not naughty boys and girls and delivers them around the world by dropping down the chimney from a flying sled.

I’m canceling my “ACLU Christian” Google Alert, removing the Huffington Post from my favorites and turning off MSNBC. I’m going to pass on the New York Times Lifestyles op-eds. I’m going to hang as many lights as I have time for. I’m going to stop to linger and enjoy the lights and decorations that others put out, in part for my enjoyment. I’m going to spend a bit of time thinking about what I can give that might be useful or fun, and I’m going to relax when I get it wrong, knowing that friends and family will appreciate the gesture. I’m going to load the iPod with Steamroller and Trans-Siberian, and even though I can’t hear the bell, maybe give the bell guy some change. I’m going to be a little less selfish and devote some time and attention to folks who I might normally not think about. I’m going to be a little less condescending toward people who choose to celebrate the event in a religious way. I’m going to wave to the middle aged guys dressed as Santa and wish them a Merry Christmas. I’m going to watch the Polar Express again.

I going to be thankful for life that the West, perhaps God, and perhaps good fortune, have blessed me with.

Merry Christmas.


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Eugene Robinson’s Official Start of the Year of the Slinging of the Mud

Eugene Robinson’s Quiet Desperation

Whether or not he lets himself be persuaded to write more condecending and dishonest op-eds, Eugene Robinson needs to find some way to grow hair. Like everyone else, op-ed writers perform best when they look great. Eugene obviously does not.

You could argue that this is none of my business, but I disagree. Eugene’s problem with his shiny dome ceased being a private matter when he started publishing op-eds with his photo at the top — and it’s not  something you can fail to notice. Male pattern baldness affects 25% of men at  age 30, and 2/3rds by 60. Eugene’s hair loss is as legitimate an issue as the The Media’s Obsession with Obama’s Smoking that President Obama says he has finally kicked.

On rare occasions, Eugene thinks about his hair loss. “I’m really struggling, been struggling for a long time with it,” unnamed sources say he thought briefly while writing an op-ed making the case that Christie’s appearance disqualifies him from public office.

After he wrote the article, Eugene was seen as acknowledging the contradiction between judging individuals on the merit of their values,  words and actions as opposed to how they look. Unnamed researchers attribute this to the psychological stress and loss of self-esteem due to changes in appearance that occur with male pattern baldness.

My intention is not to blame Eugene for his ad hominem attacks on a person he disagrees with. I’m sure Eugene is kind, caring liberal who is simply a victim of a genetic disease entirely out of his control.

But Eugene chose to put his photo at the top of an op-ed in the Washington Post. Well Eugene, heal thyself. Many hair loss sufferers have success with clinically proven treatments such as finasteride, dutasteride and topically applied minoxidil solution.

Politically, I disagree with Eugene on almost everything.  Today, I’d just like to offer him a bit of  unsolicited, heartfeld and at its core motivated by nothing save basic human kindness: get a hat.

Mike Zintel

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Keeping it Together in Seattle



TO:      The Extended Conscientious Community

FROM: Key Stakeholders in Organizations of Significance (Global)

RE:       Updated Talking Points: Addressing the Key Issues in the new Climate of Uncertain Momentum, Regulatory and Media Compliance

Thank you for your continued engagement on this life or death issue. We’re close to victory here team. But recent blog activity has called undue attention to the radical right wing theories put forward by M&M and Climate Audit and, left unchecked, could slow critical momentum on regulatory efforts. It’s worth pointing out that the future economic/regulatory/capital environment assumed by many who anticipate and plan for a progressive Green Economy is at risk without key follow-through here.

We are, as we always have been, outspent and under constant attack from the less progressive corporations and a backward looking Republican party leadership catering to their unscientific religious base. It is critical that we retain the needed mindshare and momentum in the media. And to do this, we must stay on message. To this end, the following talking points have been deemed to be effective at this time.

Please review the material enough to be comfortable both in ad-hoc discussions and in the press. As always, variation in the order and wording of these points is permissible and even recommended for the newswire, but the tone and key points should remain constant.

1. These are complex issues. Reinforce that most scientists agree the earth is warming, and the cause is manmade. Manmade is the preferred terminology here, ideally replacing CO2. If pressed, it is acceptable to say that CO2 levels in the atmosphere continue to rise, and that CO2 is known greenhouse gas. Further specifics should be avoided, and repetition that “most scientists agree” is an effective technique. It’s worth noting that the term climate change never really caught on and is deprecated, as it has the potential to confuse.

2. In forums where more detail is helpful, it’s useful to assert with confidence that the data still shows that the earth is warming. The previous messaging of the hottest interval on record is still effective at implying a trend, but it’s critical that the interval be decade and not year, month etc. When pressed, reinforce the reality that measuring average global temperatures is complex, and that patterns need to be gleaned by using statistical methods and experts. And most statisticians who have looked at the data agree the earth is warming. It is not recommended that any more detail be offered here, although as always, repetition is a handy tool in many situations. The phase hide the decline is to be avoided, and just ignoring it is simple and effective.

3. Less is more on UEA, Mann, Jones, M&M tree rings or hockey sticks. If pressed, fall back to the position that while there is some uncertainty, most scientists agree the earth is warming, and given the cause is manmade and the consequences the very survival of life on this planet, caution would suggest that we take what steps we can, while we can. Not to act would be immoral, and we will be judged harshly by history.

4. Republicans are backward and unscientific and hence, fall easily under the corrupting influence of BigEnergy. While biblical references are not suggested, the general tone that this is a goliath and david struggle is helpful.

5. The momentum on regulation is unstoppable. The general strategy here is to demoralize any grass roots opposition that might be captured by BigEnergy, the GOP, fiscal conservatives and/or organizations that claim to defend “individual liberty”. Some practice here is required, as a sense of fate is helpful, but a condescending tone could trigger an unwarranted backlash, especially among the less educated and more poorly informed.

We can still win this one.


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Channeling Rob Long in Seattle


TO: The Like Minded
FROM: NYT Management and  Key Stakeholders in Various Organizations of Significance
RE: The ’09 Agenda

Dear Progressives:

Congratulations on Job #1. Everyone pulled together on this and the results show.

It’s time to transition to memes that will have appropriate impact over the next 4 years. The following have been deemed to be of key importance:

Restore Credibility

In our enthusiasm to cover the historic story we may have overreached occasionally. This is a good time to remind ourselves that as the newspaper of record, working with Key Stakeholders in Various Organizations of Significance, we have an obligation to set our strongly held bias aside and be seen as objective. The timing is good here, as this will like have little impact on Job #1. Again, congratulations.

Back Peddle

It was a historic time. An uplifting time. Almost a spiritual time. We feel it. We know you feel it. The people feel it, … er, where was I? Oh, yes, expectations are high. Very high. And as we know, change is hard. Very hard. The road will be long. And hard. There’s a story here. The long, hard, slow road to change.

The Historical Narrative

As we all know, the seeds of doom have been planted for a long eight years and the roots, trunks and leaves are strong. Indeed, some historians believe that the seeds may be as old as 1781. Change will be hard. And slow. As we travel down the long, hard, slow, road of change, it will be helpful to not lose sight of the “shackles of history” that dog us. There are many stories here, and a great deal of legwork has been done over the last eight years.

Keep The Hope Alive

It’s been a long eight years. We’ve suffered through imaginary terrorism, the disdain of European progressive elitists, artists and intellectuals, wars, the systemic oppression of women and minorities, the debasement of science, authoritarian Christians, economic collapse and environmental disaster. Frankly people want Change. And we’ve done our part to document the stories that this anguish was as planned by that swaggering Texan fool [ see style guide, “Bias” –ed ] the outgoing administration. We will work closely with KSIVOOS to find stories that uplift. Stories of Hope. Stories of Change. Stories of Hope and Change, not Hate. Again, congratulations. Except in the appropriate context of the historical narrative (above), it’s time to de-emphasize things like waterboarding, gitmo, Iraq, Iran, Russia, North Korea, nuclear weapons. Since we have an obligation to report the straight facts, we feel there’s still some legroom on Gaza, AIDs and other diseases which have a disproportionate impact on women and minorities. There is no change on the standing guidance re Africa – paid advertising continues to put pressure on the space above the fold.

Understand the Marketplace:

As you are probably aware, fewer and fewer people actually buy or read the NYT with each passing day. Research shows that people are being confused by a plethora of low quality “unaligned” reporting on the web, in addition to the juggernaut of AM talk radio. Be assured that we will work all angles on this one, with the full support of KSIVOOS.

Thanks, and again. Congratulations.

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Propaganda, er, sorry, … Education in Seattle

As an immigrant myself, I was keenly interested in Jennifer’s grade 8 Social Studies assignment, “Immigration Unit – Whose America Is It”.

Part of the assignment was to define the following terms, and provide “examples from your own experience, literature or the news that best pertains to immigration.”

I thought I’d take a crack at this.

Xenophobia n. fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign

One of the reasons that I found America so desirable as a place to immigrate to is that, unlike much of the world, including , at some time, Nazi Germany, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and China, its values, laws and culture seem to discourage xenophobia. Indeed we are so divorced from actual xenophobia that, like Nazism, the word has lost real meaning and is used as slang to mean anything “bad” or “different”.

Assimilation n. the process of adapting to a new place and people by learning, understanding, respecting their values and customs and incorporating them into daily life so as to be better able to communicate

The American assimilation process was slow and subtle for me, consisting mostly of people treating me with respect and dignity, exhibiting the personal characteristics of optimism, honesty, hard work and faith, and extending me the honor of inviting me into their houses and institutions.

Pluralism n. a condition in which numerous distinct ethnic, religious, or cultural groups are present and tolerated within a society

A unique quality of American cultural and legal respect for individual liberty is the side effect that pluralism is achieved without the polarizing effect of European style legislated multiculturalism.

Alienation n. emotional isolation or dissociation

It wasn’t until mandated diversity training that I personally experienced the feeling of alienation that was all too common during many hours of liberal socialist propaganda that I experienced growing up in Canada.


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