You Caused the Fiscal Cliff, Cut Your Own Benefits
I’m really sick of being told by a bunch of guys who make nearly $200,000 a year that “I have to make sacrifices for the budget deficit.
“I”ve got news for them. “I” didn’t create the budget deficit. “They” did.
And they did it by repeatedly, and quite submissively, voting for round after round of tax cuts and defense increases, while the rest of us kept telling them, “we’re gonna pay for this some day.”
Health Care Didn’t Cause the Deficit, GOP Tax Cuts & Wars Did
Rather than tell the rest of us that we need to scale back the mortgage interest deduction, or up the eligible age for Medicare, perhaps it’s time we addressed the actual causes of the budget deficit now and over the next decade:
- Tax cuts
- Defense increases (for unnecessary GOP wars)
Now what’s interesting is that you don’t often here folks in Washington talking about these “actual” causes of our current budget deficit. Oh sure, they talk about the spiraling cost of health care a lot, and that is a problem, and it’s one we tried to address a few years back with absolutely no help from the Republicans or their Blue Dog buddies in Congress. So, the GOP lost their chance to talk about the cost of health care.
But the cost of health care isn’t the only thing contributing to the current budget deficit. The Bush tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a major cause of the current deficit, in the same way the Reagan tax cuts and defense super-spending put us into massive deficit at the end of the 1980s.
We know what causes deficits: Republicans
If we want to rein in the the deficits, we need to rein in the Republicans.
It’s no surprise that 71% of the national debate occurred under Republican presidents, while only 28 percent occurred under Democrats. The NYT has an amazing chart showing how Republican wars and tax cuts were the major cause of the overall national debt.
If the Republican party and the Blue Dogs want to pretend that this is all about health care, fine – they had their chance to address health care costs three years ago and they blew. They went all Teabagger on us, disrupting health care forums, trying to block the legislation in court, and then refusing to implement it in their states. All the while calling it “socialist.” Game over.
Require a Super-Majority for Tax Cuts or Military Increases
So now it’s our turn. If the Republicans and their Blue Dog allies are so concerned about the deficit, then let’s address the deficit by addressing the actual causes of the deficit. Here’s my proposal:
- Pass whatever legislation or rule change is needed to require a super-majority in Congress for any future reduction in taxes or increase in defense spending.
- And for good measure, require that any tax cut or defense increase be accompanied by a corresponding tax surcharge to pay for it.
We can make it a surcharge on folks’ annual tax returns, a big red sticker or something – kind of like what Denny’s was talking about doing with Obamacare. This way people will know exactly what that tax cut, or defense increase, is going to cost us. And maybe we can list the members of Congress who voted for, kind of like those campaign ads: “I’m John Boehner and I approve this tax surcharge.”
The “Savings” from Cutting Back Medicare is Chump Change
As for it seeming a bit contradictory to slap a tax increase on folks to pay for a tax cut, isn’t that the point?
Oh, and let’s chat for a moment about how much this increase in the age of Medicare eligibility is going to save. At most, according to CBO, it’s $14.8bn a year (McJoan says even those “savings” are illusory). According to Joe Stiglitz, the war in Iraq cost us – in direct costs – $180bn a year from 2003 to 2008, alone (the total cost of the Iraq war, direct and indirect, is more on the order of $3 trillion and up, per Stiglitz). McClatchy has more recent numbers:
In fiscal year 2011, Congress authorized $113 billion for the war in Afghanistan and $46 billion for Iraq.
Putting Afghanistan aside for a moment, since I would argue it was a just war (though the Bush administration’s ignoring of Afghanistan in order to go after Iraq surely must have increased the cost of the war in Afghanistan over the long-term), “only” $46 billion a year in Iraq is still three times the possible savings from increasing the eligibility age for Medicare. (And is it really “savings” when the cost for that health care is simply being shoved back on to the public?)
I’d Like Some Hearings on John McCain and Lindsey Graham – Talk About Unfit for Office
So in a very real way, George Bush and Condi Rice, who lied our way into the Iraq war, and members of Congress who gleefully repeated those lies – John McCain and Lindsey Graham come to mind – are directly and personally responsable for any proposed cuts to Medicare, Social Security, the home mortgage deduction, and anything else being talked about in these “fiscal cliff” negotiations.
In the 2003 lead up to the Iraq War, McCain and Graham made appearances on Sunday talks shows such as Meet the Press, Fox News Sunday, and Face the Nation were they made the case that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and would not hesitate to use them.
“He is lying, Tim, when he says he doesn’t have weapons of mass destruction,” Lindsay Graham said on Meet the Press on March 2, 2003.
And here’s John McCain on the certainty of Saddam having WMD, and about how the war in Iraq would be brief:
McCain, in a February 16, 2003 appearance on Face the Nation also made the case for the war based off intelligence showing weapons of mass destruction, even responding to a question that the CIA might not have been straightforward with weapons information as “a very reckless charge.”
“There’s not a doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein would give a weapon of mass destruction to a terrorist organization,” McCain said. He added “they have common cause in trying to destroy the United States of America.”
McCain then said that should the United States decided to go in alone, the war would end quickly because of the weak Iraqi army with the possibilities of Iraq firing a chemical weapon at Israel.
Susan Rice has got nothing on the national security lies that John McCain and Lindsey Graham sold the country on. And their lies cost us a lot more than four dead: