Let’s require a super-majority for future tax cuts & defense increases

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

Causes of Current Budget DeficitRather 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:

  1. Tax cuts
  2. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

First, here’s Lindsey Graham on Saddam’s WMD:

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:

Images of dead American service members in Iraq and Afghanistan

10% of the US war dead in Iraq and Afghanistan, source Wash Post

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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20 Responses to “Let’s require a super-majority for future tax cuts & defense increases”

  1. MattNYC says:

    Thank you SO MUCH for writing this! I’ve been wanting to write something similar myself for a while to share with friends, but haven’t gotten around to it. Now I can just forward this post.

  2. Kenneth C. Fingeret says:

    Hello benb,

    Whom do you think owns the media? The owners and their lackeys are on the same page.

  3. Kenneth C. Fingeret says:

    Hello nicho,

    How about their salaries a factor of 2 or maybe 3 times the average of the US welfare payment for a family of 4.

  4. Kenneth C. Fingeret says:

    Hello John Aravosis,

    I would like to add one thing to super-majorities for tax cuts and DOD (actually should be called either the old name War Department or Warmongers, Inc.) . To cut back on these budgets would only require a simple majority.

  5. hauksdottir says:


    That’s what I’ve been using for several years. And for fingers crossed: nX,

  6. BeccaM says:

    With less danger of causing grievous bodily harm to others.

  7. BeccaM says:

    This post here is why I keep coming back to AmericaBlog. Well done, John.

    I’d also add that we, the 99%, have already been asked to sacrifice. Government at all levels has been shedding workers in the hundreds of thousands, and those who remain are facing ongoing wage freezes. Teachers, firefighters, and police officers are being laid off. Public libraries are closing all over the country. Our kids are being jammed into increasingly large classes in increasingly decrepit public schools. The current cost-of-living increases for Social Security, disability, and other defined benefits programs are already failing to keep pace with the actual living expense inflation people experience in their lives (especially the elderly) — and they have the effin’ nerve to suggest the yearly adjustment is too generous and needs to be made worse.

    Underwater homeowners continue to have their homes stolen from them by illegal foreclosures, and our government does nothing to stop it. Apparently enforcement of existing laws banning document fraud and false claims is too much a sacrifice to ask of the bankster plutocrats, but throwing millions of American families out of their homes, losing every penny of the equity and work they’ve invested in them, is a-okay apple-pie double-plus good.

    And rabid war-dogs like McCain and his GOP chickenhawk buddies talk about staying at war with Iraq and Afghanistan as if it’s no big deal and doesn’t cost us in lives ruined and trillions squandered. They talk about war with Iran as if it’s the preferred course of action and not a last resort.

    Throughout it all, the rich plutocratic bastards, the oligarch billionaires, and the neo-feudal corporations have been asked to sacrifice NOTHING. Even their losses have been covered by the U.S. Treasury bailouts, funded by the same U.S. taxpayers being asked to put off retirement years longer, live with less of a fixed income and, oh by the way, get ready to send your sons and daughters, your husbands and wives, off to fight another war for the sake of the Pax American Empire.

    No, to them, being asked to go back to paying the ridiculously low marginal rate that’s just a few percent higher than now and equal to what they were paying in the year 2000 is too much to ask. It’s a ‘fiscal cliff’ — a disaster, a calamity of unprecedented proportions. Taxes are never, ever raised, they always go down, and doing so always increases revenues! And just to prove they won’t budge, Republicans will hold their breath and stomp their little feet, further damaging the U.S. bond ratings — and in doing so actually contribute billions more to the deficit.

    So yes — Republicans do indeed cause the majority of deficits and have been doing so ever since Nixon.

  8. nicho says:

    No more pensions for members of Congress. If private-sector folks don’t have them, neither should members of Congress. Congressional salaries should be tied to the same calculation as Social Security increases. No more letting members of Congress give themselves raises.

  9. nicho says:

    More briefly stated: A chimpanzee with a dart board could get it right more often than McCain.

  10. benb says:

    Why is the Mainstream Media so shy about pushing McCain to explain himself? McCain’s attempting to trash someone’s reputation without any evidence and it seems like the media just can’t be bothered to challenge him.

  11. ronbo says:

    Love the piece! Thanks for the links.

  12. karmanot says:

    How-about: ( )

  13. karmanot says:

    I totally agree, except that I’d rather be kissed.

  14. karmanot says:

    I think John McCain is following in the mental trajectory of the legendary actor Ronald Reagan and has been parsing a long drawn out senility for some years now.

  15. karmanot says:

    Excellent article John and I share your outrage completely. I might take issue that Afghanistan is a just war. Both Iraq and Afghanistan are historic blunders and can be laid completely at the feet of incompetent Republicans. I would go so far as to extend that criticism to the upper ranks of the military itself—-among others Gen. Petraeus. McCain is a perfect example of American hubris and fiction. While his extraordinary suffering and endurance in captivity is certainly heroic, the rest of his life, before and after exhibits an immoral, blundering, opportunistic personality, which is anything but admirable. John McCain ceased to be a hero the minute he left the Hanoi Hilton and sold his soul to the highest bidder. Off hand can you think of any of the hundreds of internment survivors who became Empire commodities like McCain.

    Lindsey Graham with his penchant for military drag, its trappings and fan boy adoration of McCain are queasy making.

  16. caphillprof says:

    Now what’s interesting is that you don’t often HEAR not here folks in Washington
    It’s no surprise that 71% of the national DEBT not debate

  17. Naja pallida says:

    Even if John McCain was completely guessing, and had absolutely no access to intelligence briefings, committee hearings, and all the immense amount of information members of Congress have access to with which to make decisions, he should still be right on issues about half of the time… but somehow, he manages to completely and utterly defy the laws of probability by being absolutely wrong on everything for the last twenty years. The only possible explanation is that he wants to be wrong. Being wrong is all he has left.

    The real question is why the hell is anyone at all still listening to John McCain? Why is he the one chosen to discuss these issues in public when everyone knows he is so damn wrong all the time? When you have two competing theories on a subject, and one gets disproved, you don’t keep talking to the guy who was wrong! He gets ignored until he comes up with something new that is right. You don’t just get to keep espousing your wrongness until it magically becomes true.

    Anyway… the Republicans manufactured this situation. They should have no say at all in what we should be doing to fix it. When you start a war, and lose, you don’t get to dictate the terms of the surrender. Sadly, the Democrats don’t seem to get that at all… or rather, they simply don’t care, because when all is said and done, they agree with Republicans more often than they disagree. It is only the American people who don’t agree. Which has been shown time and time again, poll after poll. These idiots need to quit fucking around, and just do what the people want. A few of those things are drastically cutting defense, ending the wars, and raising taxes on the rich.

  18. Fay Paxton says:

    This is absolutely magnificent! I don’t know the symbol for a hug, but you got one coming! I just wrote a little piece I called, “I don’t give a tinker’s damn about the fiscal cliff”, so you and I agree completely. And don’t even get me started about Susan Rice and the Benghazi bs…I need a drink.

  19. bjtwuk says:

    71% of the national DEBATE?

  20. douglas01 says:

    Totally on target, John. Below is my email to another blog today.

    If we are at some point going to deal with entitlements by cutting benefits should we not also force corporations to fund the trillion dollar shorting in the pension funds they control? We bailed their asses out, executives got huge bonuses so now we let them get away with unfunded pension liabilities some of which was used to pay the executive bonuses.

    I for one am prepared to go off the financial cliff. The middle class american has gotten the shaft from the government and by their employers for the past 30 years. The only ones to benefit have been the wealthy over the past 30 years.

    Let this fucking country fall off the fiscal cliff and take all those wealthy with them. The poor are already used to being poor but I want to see Jack Welch and Wall Streeters living in card board boxes over steam grates on the streets of New York.

    I am sick and tired of getting fucked and not even kissed.

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