Jared Olar: Fiscal jeers from the peanut gallery
What a thankless job it must be, serving in the Congress of the United States of America.
You work so hard and spend so much money to get yourself elected, and then you head to Washington, D.C. and work as hard as you can spending trillions of dollars we don’t have, running your country deeper into debt than it is humanly possible to conceive — and what do you get for all your troubles? Heckling and backtalk from the peanut gallery (i.e., the voters)!
Being the kind of guy who learned from his father the ancient art of arguing with politicians and pundits on his television set, I readily found myself heckling and talking back to various statements in a news story on Thursday by Associated Press writer Martin Crutsinger.
The story’s headline was, “U.S. government records $904.2 billion deficit through June.”
No big deal. It’s only $904,200,000,000. (I think it helps to write out all the zeros.) But we know the government is good for it. It’ll pay it back. Really.
The story starts out, “The U.S. budget deficit grew by nearly $60 billion in June, remaining on track to exceed $1 trillion for the fourth straight year.”
Well. $60,000,000,000 in just one month. The deficit this year will top $1,000,000,000,000 for the fourth year in a row. But I know why we’re in this mess. It’s because the “stimulus” just wasn’t big enough. If only the government were borrowing and spending several trillion more dollars a year, we wouldn’t be borrowing and spending several trillion dollars a year.
Then the story says, “Through the first nine months of the budget year, the federal deficit totaled $904.2 billion, the Treasury Department reported Thursday.”
Budget year? Congress has a budget year? How can it have a budget year when the Senate hasn’t bothered to pass a budget in more than three years?
Further on, the story says, “Obama submitted a budget request to Congress in February that sought $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade through a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes.”
A budget request that both houses of Congress voted down... Pay attention to the words “deficit reduction.” Not elimination, just reduction. Let’s also keep in mind that in D.C., a tax hike is really a tax hike, but a “spending cut” is a massive spending increase that is slightly less than the amount the government was originally planning to spend. Hence the mere “reduction” of the deficit rather than its elimination.
“A key part of his proposal is to allow tax cuts to expire for couples earning more than $250,000. He has called for extending similar cuts for people earning less than that.”
When we translate “allow tax cuts to expire” into English, we get, “drastically raise your income tax rate.” By the same token, “extending similar cuts” means “not raising your income tax rate.”
It used to be that Congress would vote to increase taxes, but now Congress passes laws that will automatically raise our taxes at some date safely in the future. Then as the date draws uncomfortably near, Congress reschedules the date of the automatic tax increase. That way Congress gets to debate whether or not to “allow tax cuts to expire,” when it’s really a debate about whether or not to raise taxes. This Orwellian obfuscation apparently fools Associated Press writers and others in the media. How many voters does it fool?
But the best part of this news report was how it ended: “The International Monetary Fund warned that the U.S. economy could suffer another recession if Congress doesn’t do something to avert the so-called ‘fiscal cliff.’ The impact could shave 4 percentage points off U.S. growth, the IMF said.”
A measly 4 percent is all we’d lose? That doesn’t sound so bad.
Oh wait, the U.S. economy only grew at a rate of 1.9 percent in the first quarter of this year. The last time we approached a 4 percent growth rate was back in 2010.
So “shave 4 percentage points off U.S. growth” means “cause the U.S. economy to shrink” or “knock us back into a recession.” Businesses going belly-up, people being laid off.
Unless Congress does “something to avert the so-called ‘fiscal cliff.’”
Community editor Jared Olar may be reached at email@example.com.