I'm such a geek, I actually sat there and watched both the President's State of the Union speech and Rep. Ryan's Republican response. I would have stayed and watched the Teabagger response, which was given by Caribou Barbie's crazy doppleganger, Michele Bachmann, but one of my favorite episodes of Big Bang Theory was being repeated, which seemed more important.
But as I watched Ryan's "response," I couldn't help but cry "Bullshit" throughout. First of all, it was something of a déjà vu experience; seriously, do Republicans have any other tricks up their sleeve than cutting spending and taxes? And I used to think only their "base" was simple-minded, but now I'm thinking it's part of the DNA.
It wouldn't be so bad, but they lie and completely distort history in order to do get their point across. of course, no one can really tell what that point might be. I'm going to go through the speech and point out some of the worst crap, and you'll see what I mean. I know I normally just reprint the entire speech and respond to it, but he spent a lot of time at the beginning talking about Rep. Giffords (probably sincerely) and bragging about their wasted vote on repealing health insurance reform (unfortunately, also probably sincerely).
Anyway, here are some large excerpts, and my responses to this crap (in red):
We face a crushing burden of debt. The debt will soon eclipse our entire economy, and grow to catastrophic levels in the years ahead.
On this current path, when my three children — who are now 6, 7, and 8 years old — are raising their own children, the federal government will double in size, and so will the taxes they pay.
No economy can sustain such high levels of debt and taxation. The next generation will inherit a stagnant economy and a diminished country.
Frankly, it's one of my greatest concerns as a parent — and I know many of you feel the same way.
Our debt is the product of acts by many presidents and many Congresses over many years. No one person or party is responsible for it.
This is absolutely ridiculous.
Excuse me, Rep. Ryan (Lyin' Ryan — it has a ring to it, doesn't it?), but the national debt has risen from $900 billion in 1981 to about $14 trillion in 2011, and ALL of that is as a result of Republican policies. ALL of it.
This "both parties are to blame" bullshit may sound good to the average wingnut, but to anyone with the ability to think, it should simply be pointed out that this entire deficit fiasco exists because neocons hate paying taxes, and love spending money on shit that makes their investors – er, contributors — money.
Cutting taxes drastically on those who control most of the wealth in this country, without incentives designed to grow the economy, is what caused most of the debt we've accumulated prior to the 2008 economic meltdown, and the huge deficits of the last few years since came as a result of REPUBLICAN policies that eliminated regulation and oversight from our financial system, causing its collapse. In fact, in the last 30 years, there have been TWO significant drops in the size of the deficit; one under Clinton and one under Obama. Clinton handed Bush a budget with a surplus and a $6 trillion debt. Bush and Congressional Republicans could have started paying down the $6 trillion debt. Instead, they couldn't wait to reduce taxes on the rich, and double the debt in the process.
So NO, Paul; ONE party is responsible for the pickle we're in. The Republican Party. Period.
There is no doubt the President came into office facing a severe fiscal and economic situation.
Unfortunately, instead of restoring the fundamentals of economic growth, he engaged in a stimulus spending spree that not only failed to deliver on its promise to create jobs, but also plunged us even deeper into debt.
The facts are clear: Since taking office, President Obama has signed into law spending increases of nearly 25 percent for domestic government agencies — an 84 percent increase when you include the failed stimulus.
All of this new government spending was sold as "investment." Yet after two years, the unemployment rate remains above 9% and government has added over $3 trillion to our debt.
The facts are clear?
I think he meant to say, the facts are made up.
According to the non-partisan but fact-friendly CBO, domestic non-defense spending increased 11.3% between 2008 and 2009, and 17.3% from 2009 to 2010. You know, it was probably all those pesky people who found themselves out of a job. They do create a burden, you know.
So, his claim of a 25% increase is bullshit to begin with. But his claim of an 84% increase when you include the stimulus is a whopper — it's an outright lie. You see, the 11.3% and the 17.3% figures quoted above INCLUDE the stimulus. I mean, for crap's sake, the stimulus was spread over three years, and almost none of it went to "domestic government agencies." Most of the money that was actually spent went to states. Of course, nearly 40% of the stimulus went to tax cuts for the middle class.
So, let's recap; in order to believe that the $500 billion in actual spending (not tax cuts) initiated by the stimulus package constituted 84% of the budget for "domestic government agencies," one would have to believe the entire non-defense budget was less than $600 billion over three years.
If you believe that, I have this bridge… it's in Brooklyn, and you can have it for a song…
And can we get off this whole concept of "failed stimulus"? It didn't fail at all; it did exactly what it was supposed to do. Did the Obama Administration screw themselves when they declared early on that they'd keep the unemployment rate under 8%? Yes, they did.
But according to the CBO, the stimulus bill saved or created 4.8 million jobs, which would mean that we'd be looking at an unemployment rate of at least 12-13% right now. If there was a problem with the stimulus, it's that it was too small, and it included too many tax cuts. If it had been $800 billion in stimulus money, not including tax breaks, it's possible that enough jobs would have been created to keep the unemployment rate below the 8% figure the Obama Administration wanted.
And one more lie to puncture in the above. Most of the $3 trillion that has been added to our debt — you know, the debt that Rep. Ryan is suddenly so concerned about, even though his party ran up most of it without a peep from him — is due to reduced tax revenues, not from spending. More on that a little bit later on.
Then the President and his party made matters even worse, by creating a new open-ended health care entitlement.
What we already know about the President's health care law is this: Costs are going up, premiums are rising, and millions of people will lose the coverage they currently have. Job creation is being stifled by all of its taxes, penalties, mandates and fees.
Businesses and unions from around the country are asking the Obama Administration for waivers from the mandates. Washington should not be in the business of picking winners and losers. The President mentioned the need for regulatory reform to ease the burden on American businesses. We agree — and we think his health care law would be a great place to start.
Last week, House Republicans voted for a full repeal of this law, as we pledged to do, and we will work to replace it with fiscally responsible, patient-centered reforms that actually reduce costs and expand coverage.
Health care spending is driving the explosive growth of our debt. And the President's law is accelerating our country toward bankruptcy.
It's difficult to know where to start here.
Health care spending has NOT "exploded our debt." Oh, sure; it's contributed to it. And the strain on Medicare by out of control inflation in the health care field has been pretty incredible. But what's causing the problem is the number of sick people who are entitled to treatment, that no one has been paying for.
Let me say that again. The problem with the health care system were the numbers of people getting expensive treatment that wasn't being paid for.
You see, when someone doesn't have insurance, they don't go to the doctor, even when they have something growing on their leg, or inside their abdomen. So, at some point, they collapse, they're taken to the hospital, put into intensive care, and treated until they can walk out of the hospital and go home. Then, they're hit with a bill they can't pay, they don't pay, and the hospital has to raise prices on everything to make up the shortfall. Since prices go up at the hospital, your premiums go up. In other words, those with insurance were already paying for those without insurance as things stood.
Now, with the current health insurance reform, almost everyone will have insurance, which means all of the bills will be paid. This will mean the hospitals won't have to raise rates, and insurance companies will eventually have a more difficult time justifying huge premium increases. In other words, within five years or so, health care costs will stabilize, to a significant degree, and the pressure will be taken off Medicare and Medicaid. Put simply, health insurance reform will drive down costs. Therefore, it can't possibly be driving the debt.
Oh, and did I mention, it's impossible to hold down costs AND expand coverage in a system that is profit-driven? I'd really like for Ryan, or any right winger, to explain how any business can offer more services without increasing its overhead. Are we planning to import Chinese slave doctors now? Are we planning to bust the unions and pay nurses $10 an hour to work 16 hours a day, 6 days a week?
The problem with the right wing is, their thoughts are so simple, they truly have no place in the real world. They're like the kid who lives in the inner city, but wants a pony. Sometimes, a pony isn't practical, ya know? The health care plan that was passed by Congress will REDUCE costs overall, by allowing more people to be able to go to doctors and prevent medical problems, or keep medical problems from getting more chronic or more costly. The truly fiscally responsible thing to do is to prevent heart attacks, strokes and cancer in the first place, isn't it? It's sure as hell the only way to make the health care system work.
Also, according to the Washington Monthly, since health insurance reform was passed, 1.1 million private sector jobs have been created, and approximately 200,000 of those new jobs were in the health care field. That means 200,000 more taxpayers, which means it's already reduced the debt to some degree. And when it fully kicks in, there will have to be a lot more doctors, nurses and physicians' assistants to take care of the 35 million more people who are now able to see a doctor, because they have insurance. And almost all of those people will be paying into the system for the first time. Again; please explain how more people paying into a system that already pays for everything creates more debt.
I also didn't mention those folks who HAVE insurance who can now go to the doctor, and take their kid to the doctor, because they no longer fear the establishment of a "pre-existing condition." Show of hands; how many parents treated their kids rather "informally" because they were afraid they'd screw them when they became adults and had to have their own insurance?
Someone needs to explain to right wingers that more taxpayers and more insured actually saves money; it doesn't cost.
The President and the Democratic Leadership have shown, by their actions, that they believe government needs to increase its size and its reach, its price tag and its power.
Whether sold as "stimulus" or repackaged as "investment," their actions show they want a federal government that controls too much; taxes too much; and spends too much in order to do too much.
And during the last two years, that is exactly what we have gotten — along with record deficits and debt — to the point where the President is now urging Congress to increase the debt limit.
If Republicans don't like raising the debt limit, then they shouldn't have run up so much debt.
And if this clown thinks all of our debt was run up in the last two years, he's incredibly mistaken.
As I said; debt piles up for two reasons, not one. Spending and revenues. Our debt isn't as high as it is because of spending. Like I said; most of the increase in spending is due to unemployment and related programs. No, the main reason the deficit spiked was because there are fewer taxpayers than there were, and because those with a lot of money are paying lower taxes than they had been paying.
As for this obsession he has with "limited government," let me be the first to just say it to the right wingers, since no one apparently wants to;
The phrase "limited government" has no meaning.
See, here's the thing, folks. We live in a democracy, and WE run the government, ultimately. And we decide what the government should do, not people like Paul Ryan. Of course, we all want limited government. The problem is, we all have a different idea of what that's supposed to mean. People like Ryan seem to think limited government means a government that doesn't regulate financial affairs at all, but which should be able to regulate who you can and cannot marry. What can you say about a political party that seems to think that protection of consumers is a "burden," but has no problem with the concept of government forcing a woman to stay pregnant against her will?
See, we want "limited government," too.
And I don't understand their fantasies about what the Founding Fathers would have wanted if they were around today. The shit's written right there in the Constitution, if people like Ryan would bother to actually read the thing for something other than political effect. Congress (the 14th Amendment later expanded this to "all government) has a mandated DUTY to regulate interstate commerce. And I think we would all agree that "commerce" has changed quite a bit since 1787. There are more than 300 million people in this country, which is roughly 80 times the population of four million that lived here in 1787. The country has more than quintupled in geograhical size since then, and technology makes it possible to buy something at 5 PM on a Tuesday and have it at my front door at 8 AM Wednesday. Financial instruments are far more complex these days, and as we've seen in recent years, far more dangerous to the economy.
Yet, apparently, according to people like Ryan, we're supposed to apply an 18th Century mentality to 21st Century problems. In his mind, government should do little to nothing. Perhaps that's simplistic, though. Perhaps they have a plan for what government should and should not do. Unfortunately, they seem to be a bit coy on what that should be.
I'm sure you've noticed, right? They love to spew the phrase "limited government," but when pressed on what they would cut, they never tell us. And there's a reason for that.
We LIKE that the government builds our roads and bridges and schools and otherwise provides us with infrastructure.
We LIKE Social Security.
We LIKE Medicare.
We LIKE that we can be at least reasonably assured that our water, food and air are not poisoning us.
We LIKE that manufacturers can't make children's toys out of lead, or add a little arsenic to Happy Meals for taste.
We LIKE having regulations that protect our hard-earned money from crooks.
We LIKE the fact that our soldiers can serve their country, and be treated to a college education when they get back, so that they can become productive taxpaying citizens.
We LIKE to know that, when we see a pothole on our way home from work, the government will send someone to fix it, and we like that the government clears the snow from our streets.
In other words, the ONLY thing these whiners want to do is to service their investors – er, donors. They don't give a shit about you.
Put simply, our idea of "limited government" is a government that keeps an eye on businesses, to make sure they're dealing honestly and fairly with the American people, and also to make sure they're not robbing us blind, but otherwise leaving people alone, to live their life as they please, so long as it doesn't affect anyone else.
Their idea of "limited government" is one that leaves businesses alone to rob us blind, but making sure government is tapping our phones to "keep us safe," grabbing our crotches for the "privilege" of getting on a plane, telling us who we can and cannot love, and forcing women to stay pregnant against their will.
Which of those visions is the America you want to live in? (I hope that's a trick question.)
We believe the days of business as usual must come to an end. We hold to a couple of simple convictions: Endless borrowing is not a strategy; spending cuts have to come first.
NO! First of all, "endless borrowing" was what was happening when his beloved Republicans were in charge, remember? There is no problem with borrowing money to keep things going in hard times.
For that matter, if borrowing money to invest is such a horrible thing, should there be a law against trading stocks on margin?
I agree that spending cuts have to be part of the mix, and you can start with the greatest waste in our budget, and that is defense.
But even when you cut defense, you have to do so carefully. Republicans think all government spending goes into a black hole, never to be seen again, but the fact of the matter is, people depend on that money for their lives and the lives of their families. You can't even cut a worthless bomber program without providing something to replace it. What we should put into place is a program to give incentives to defense contractors to retrofit their plants, and go from manufacturing planes and weapons systems we don't need to building solar panels and wind turbines or batteries, or even American versions of the Chinese crap our stores are inundated with.
If you think such a thing is silly, consider the fact that, during World War II, Ford was able to retrofit a car plant into a helicopter plant in six weeks when it needed to. It can be done; we just need the will.
We are simply not in a position to just cut, cut, cut. if you want to cut the debt, you have to kill the Bush Tax Cuts (which makes sense; remember, until those went into effect, our budgets were in balance), and create more taxpayers. The way you reduce the deficit is to spend a little more money now on ways to create jobs, and create more taxpayers. Even businesses realize that increasing revenues is a more effective way to go from red to black than simply cutting spending. In fact, if you cut spending on the short term, you can end up screwing yourself in the long run, when revenues come back.
I simply don't understand why right wingers can only see deficits in terms of spending, and not revenues.
You know, there is a lot of bullshit in the rest of the speech, but what follows is breathtaking in its scope. This guy simply has no concept of history. I'm even going to highlight a section.
Our nation is approaching a tipping point.
We are at a moment, where if government's growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America's best century will be considered our past century. This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.
Depending on bureaucracy to foster innovation, competitiveness, and wise consumer choices has never worked — and it won't work now.
We need to chart a new course.
Yes. Yes we do.
For 30 years, our country has been in the grips of a neocon scourge, in which the greatest "can do" nation in the world, suddenly slipped into "can't do" mode and stopped solving its problems. Businesses went from investing in new ideas and new technology to saving money and calling it "profits."
But let me tell you about the greatest period of growth in the history of this country — in fact, the greatest period of economic growth in the history of the world.
The post-war period in the United States was incredible. For 25 years, from 1945-1970, this country became the most powerful economic force in the world. Tom Brokaw called it "The Greatest Generation," and he was right. I was a kid and saw the tail end of it, and I'd like to see us there again.
But here's the deep, dark secret that clowns like Paul Ryan don't want you to know;
It was fueled almost entirely by government spending and government innovation.
The GI Bill made it possible for people to get an education who had never had access to it before. The Marshall Plan had the United States rebuilding Europe and Japan, which meant jobs for people working in plants making steel and iron and other materials. Government programs started by the New Deal made it possible for lenders to provide 30 year mortgages that made home ownership affordable for a lot more people than ever before. New communities cropped up as a result, and new schools and colleges were needed. Because of greater regulation of the banks, more people could afford to buy cars, which meant someone had to build the roads. More communities and more roads meant more businesses to service their needs.
At the same time, the government invested in the space program. In part, it was because the Soviet Union was going to beat us there, and we wanted to save face. But it was also because the research and development of a space program created tons of jobs, and would also lead to the development of new products and technologies. And it worked.
Then, beginning with Nixon, we started to change. We started cutting things, and we ceased to see government spending as an investment. And that accelerated under Reagan. Reagan didn't just reduce taxes; he also gutted jobs programs, educational assistance programs, and many other programs that had once been considered investments. We had a bit of a reprieve under Clinton, but it wasn't enough. And of course, when Ryan's beloved Republican Party took over everything in 2001, they really screwed the pooch.
Not all government spending is the same, folks. Some government spending is a waste; you won't get an argument from me on that. But the government is also a centerpiece of the entire economy. The whole point of having a country and a government in the first place is to protect us and our lives financially speaking.
Ryan claims to care about his kids, and I have no reason to doubt that. But I care about everyone's kids, because my kid's going to have to share a world with these people. We have a choice; we can either build a country that is on the cutting edge of everything, with a well-educated, hard-working populace that innovates constantly; or we can create a country that is so worried about how much it has, that it's too afraid to risk it to make more.
We have to invest in the future, and stop worrying so much about the present. The present doesn't last too long. See that? It's already gone, and another has taken its place.
Now, here's one more excerpt that had me screaming at my television:
We believe a renewed commitment to limited government will unshackle our economy and create millions of new jobs and opportunities for all people, of every background, to succeed and prosper. Under this approach, the spirit of initiative — not political clout — determines who succeeds.
Millions of families have fallen on hard times not because of our ideals of free enterprise — but because our leaders failed to live up to those ideals; because of poor decisions made in Washington and Wall Street that caused a financial crisis, squandered our savings, broke our trust, and crippled our economy.
Today, a similar kind of irresponsibility threatens not only our livelihoods but our way of life.
We need to reclaim our American system of limited government, low taxes, reasonable regulations, and sound money, which has blessed us with unprecedented prosperity. And it has done more to help the poor than any other economic system ever designed. That's the real secret to job creation — not borrowing and spending more money in Washington.
Limited government and free enterprise have helped make America the greatest nation on earth.
Once again, the words "limited government" have no meaning, no matter how many times Ryan repeats them for effect.
Millions of families have fallen on hard times precisely BECAUSE of the neocon definition of "free enterprise." I'll get into this a lot in other columns, but suffice it to say that "unregulated" is actually the opposite of "free."
The problem with the mindset of people like Ryan is that he can only see things as "free" if it means he and his ilk can do anything they want, which is bullshit. The dereugulatory approach to "free markets" that Republicans have adopted has KILLED free enterprise, and that's our problem.
How could ANYONE think that the Republican meme has led to more "free enterprise"? Do they really think it's a win-win when a a couple of big box stores move into town and kill every business in the town square? There are fewer choices when it comes to everything, but hey; that's the free market, right? Remember when cell phones started proliferating, and there were a dozen carriers, all competing for your business? Now there are four carriers, they all offer roughly the same shitty service for roughly the same price, and the bills keep on creeping up. Back when there was dial-up Internet, we had dozens of choices of ISP. Now, we have faster broadband, but if we have 2-3 choices, we're lucky, and again; prices keep rising. And worse, there is no way for new businesses to enter the arena and compete. Isn't the concept of "free enterprise" supposed to allow me to set up a server and become my own ISP? If I open my own shop, selling a unique product, and a big box store starts selling a like product made in China, essentially putting me out of business, how is that "free enterprise." Yet, that's the model we're stuck with.
And we need to "reclaim" our "American system of limited government," including "low taxes, reasonable regulations and sound money"???
Individual tax rates are lower than they have ever been. I do agree that corporate tax rates should be lower, but so should payroll taxes. But I would also point out that, during the greatest economic boom in our history, tax rates were far HIGHER, with top tax rates between 70-91%. In order for the rich to reduce their tax rates, they had to invest in the economy. Companies that created jobs were given tax breaks, not companies that relocated to Bermuda and shipped jobs to Asia.
As for regulations, I'm sorry, but regulations on financial institutions, which are the backbone of our economy, are far too lax. I do agree that a lot of regulations on the books are silly. Of course, the last person to tackle those regulations and get rid of them was Vice President Gore; Bush-Cheney couldn't be bothered.
But it's not "reasonable" that banks were allowed to gamble OUR MONEY on financial instruments that no one understood, with a promise of "trust me, I'm a professional." Most of us saw our 401(k) accounts drop like stones when the economy melted down, and a lot of good people lost their homes, as well. But that was because no one was regulating the "free market" in mortgages and mortgage-backed securities, and keeping everyone honest.
As for "sound money," I'll just say simply that right wing Republicans have no concept of what that means and leave it at that. The dollar became an international standard when reasonable people were in charge. Now, there is increasing talk in many countries of dropping the dollar and backing either the Euro or the Yuan.
In order to make the dollar more valuable, and make it sound, it has to be backed by reality. The series of bubbles we've experienced over the last 30 years, in which we made it look like we made money, when all we were doing is shifting it from one pocket to the other, is not a solid basis for our currency.
"Fiscal responsibility" does not mean "not spending money." It means putting money into things that will bring a greater return when we need it. If we want to reduce debt, we have to increase revenues. That means creating jobs, and in the process, creating taxpayers. That will require more spending on the short term. But no one ever made a dime by not investing money.