Thursday, October 28, 2010

Teabags: Don't Confuse Me With the Facts


Things are heating up. The ads are getting nastier and the lies thicker. I'm seriously considering following my sister's example and de-friending about half my family on my Facebook page as they are very conservative Christians, fans of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, and this past week, my cousin (from Washington), joined the "I Like Meg Whitman" group. Facebook to me is social, not political, and I am usually able to ignore the comments and video clips (and most of that side of the family), keeping them around because there are times when, as family, we need to communicate. What I hear from them, and the right-wing pundits, and the right-wing blogs, and many of the "neutral" mainstream media, is that the teabags, who appear to have a real chance of taking over at least one house of Congress, claim to want to cut regulations, overturn health care reform, reduce taxes, and take us back to the Constitution the way it was supposed to be, the original.

The politicians and pundits know they're lying. It's possible that some of them believe their own press because it's the only way they can behave the way they do, but for most, it's a matter of expediency and money.

President Bush's administration produced two solutions to the economic downturn; TARP, and the stimulus bill. Additionally, when the auto industry was failing after the election, Bush asked that President-elect Obama pursue a solution as it would have to be carried out under his leadership. Although millions are still out of work and the foreclosure problem is still huge, the job numbers are better than a year ago, the auto industry is actually making a profit, has re-hired many of its workers (1500 about a couple of weeks ago), the DOW is almost back to where it was pre-downturn, everywhere I turn I see "this project paid for by stimulus funds" signs, and job growth numbers already exceed those of Bush's entire two terms. In fact, more jobs were created in the private sector in the first eight months of the Obama Administration than in the entire Bush presidency, and they want to go back to those policies?

There is really no way to compare a president who arrives with a $200 billion dollar surplus and leaves with us with a $407 billion deficit eight years later.

The next time someone says it's all about jobs, jobs, jobs, perhaps you could refer them to the famous "bikini" graph courtesy of Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly:

As you can see, job growth was negative the entire duration of the Bush presidency. The trend continued downward the first quarter after Obama came into office until it's first positive growth in Dec. 2009. Obviously, it takes time, but except for one dip, growth has been slow, but measured.

To continue on this comparison of Republican administrations and policies to those of Democratic presidents, below is a quick chart going back to Truman showing the rate of job growth.

Graph: KyraMoment
Obviously, I made the Democrats blue and Republicans red. I am not going to go into a discussion of private vs. public sector jobs, small businesses vs. large, the job loss to job growth numbers by sector and the net growth. This graph took about ten minutes to create using numbers easily available with a Google search so anyone can fact-check me if they want.

We also hear that it's taxes. President Obama gave us a tax cut by reducing withholding rather than sending out checks. The latter would have been a better political option, but the small, incremental increase in available cash was better for the economy overall, thus few people know about it. Very few understand that last year we paid the lowest taxes in 60 years. So, if it is in fact about taxes, then obviously they will want to vote Democratic.

We hear over and over again that we have to do something about the deficit, created by Obama (not). Had President Bush written the budgets properly and not ignored the costs of war, the country would have been aware of our debt much sooner. The fastest way to send us into a real depression, is to try to bring down the deficit. When people are working, goods and services are moving through the economy and the associated taxes arriving at the appropriate local, state, or federal tax agency, then the deficit will begin to come down on its own.

Additionally, government's function is to spend money. As an unemployed social services worker, I know that after 20 years of budget cuts, there is very little waste left in government (except perhaps military spending). In California, state employees are on mandatory furlough each month because our constitution requires a balanced budget. The best way for the deficit to be reduced, is for the government to collect taxes and spend them. Unlike the top 5% of our citizens who have millions and billions of dollars tucked away, the government does not keep its money. It spends it. Money spent moves into the economy. Government hires workers, and purchases supplies, and makes capital purchases. Government spends money on infrastructure, which puts money into the economy through employment of private contractors and materials.

People are upset because they don't have money to spend so don't want their taxes raised, but that is a completely disingenuous argument. If you don't earn, you don't pay taxes. If you elect teabags or other Republicans and they get their way, we'll have a national sales tax instead of an income tax. This benefits the wealthy (poorer people tend to spend all of their income, the wealthy generally do not). The poorer you are, the more likely that you will spend every dime that you earn. If income taxes were abolished in favor of a national sales tax, people who currently pay no income tax, and a sales tax of perhaps 8.5%, will have to pay about 23% in sales taxes every time they spend if the likes of Rand Paul and his ilk have their way.

People say they know best what to do with their money, but government provides the social safety net, the social contract we make with each other. We pay taxes to cover these costs, pay for the poor and needy knowing that should we ever be in need, those services will be there for us. A teabag on "The Last Word" suggested that if the government did not return social security withholding to him, it would be stealing. Perhaps they would prefer a bill for defense, border control. the electric grid, other infrastructure, air traffic control, etc. I noticed that they all wanted to move programs to state control, which means that state level socialism is fine, just not federal. hmmm.

When people talk about the government's overreach and want less regulation, I have to ask, which regulations? Food safety? Air traffic control? The FDA? EPA? CDC? Some talk about doing away with the Dept. of Education, believing home schooling is the thing, or at least local standards, but what a disservice we do to those children as they try to compete in a national marketplace. When they try to attend college, they'll be severely limited. If they attend, for example, Oral Roberts U, they will be limited in their job search. Personally, I'm glad that someone is out there making sure that my food is safe, my  medications are consistently made, and that when I fly, someone is keeping track.

I've spent hours over the past few days speaking with ultra right-wing family members and like many teabags, cannot get rational answers to simple questions. I give them data as I've listed above, and they argue, saying it's my opinion. I refer them to Dept. of Labor websites, they hem and haw. Tonight on "The Last Word," Lawrence O'Donnell had representatives of four teabag organizations. They all agreed that socialism was the biggest concern of their movements. (I always heard, at least at the beginning) that it was taxes. Oh well. It's obviously whatever is expedient at the moment. Anyway, it was immediately apparent and reinforced through O'Donnell's questioning that not one of them understood what socialism is. While talking to a cousin, she used the terms socialism and communism interchangeably, repeated the myths about Canadian-style health care, and reinforced my opinion that a party and group of parties that can love a book called by the oxymoronic "Liberal Fascism," is too stupid for the courtesy of debate.

The problem? These ignorant people will likely win enough seats to push this country over the edge into disaster, destroy the small strides President Obama has made towards restoring our good name, and take the rest of us along for the ride. The next time someone proposes de-regulation, or to repeal health care reform, ask them to define their terms. Define which regulation, which aspect of health care. I would bet that not one of them can be specific. None of the candidates are, so it is unlikely that their followers could be either.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

1 comment:

  1. The job market is heading towards from bad to worse, Even though there are continuous assurance from the government , it has failed to curd the unemployment rate.