Tuesday 10 August 2010

3.8 Trillion Reasons to Think of Sarah

Sarah Palin has been putting out the following message: Barack Obama and the Democrats are going to institute the largest tax increase in the history of the United States, an amount of $3.8 trillion. Is this true or not true?

The curious aspect of such statements, especially for an average guy like yours truly, is to confirm this. Exactly where can I go to find out if this is, in fact, a true statement? Do I have to go a hold of a copy of the budget and read through a zillion pages trying to decipher God only knows what numbers? Do I have to become a budget expert well versed in the ins and outs of government spending?

Somehow though, I think there must be a touch of simplicity to the math, there has to be some common sense to all of it. This isn't really rocket science, is it?

2 plus 2 equals 5
In digging through the wealth of material, what's evident right up front is the difficulty of determining who is telling me the facts and who is telling me their opinion. Believe me, when people start throwing numbers at you with colour graphs and charts and tables of values showing history and projections, it is pretty hard to know whether there's manure in the air or not. In the end, one tried and true method is to sample several sources and see if they match up. If everybody says that 2 plus 2 equals 4, you would think this is right; unless, we're collectively all wrong. That is a possibility, you know. Heck what if the equation turns out to be 2 plus 3? Ha! 2 plus 3 equals 4 would certainly be wrong too!

Fortunately, the United States has a couple of free and independent organizations which work unfettered by the political will of the various political parties. Of course, your average citizen is still free to doubt these unbiased views but comparisons of the "facts" as reported by these organizations coupled with other well respected sources like newspapers who do their own fact checking, leads me hopefully to the unvarnished truth, not some personally coloured version of the truth.

This organization which is dedicated to fact checking has an amusing summary presentation of their findings called the Truth-O-Meter. True, half true, false and Pants On Fire are the basic classifications of their findings. Somebody makes a statement; they do their research then they publish their findings including source materials with their Truth-O-Meter rating.

Sarah Palin: Pants On Fire
In 2010, various tax cuts instituted under Bush will expire. The total of these tax cuts is apparently equal to $3.8 trillion over the next 10 years. Barack Obama has the choice to let them expire or renew these cuts. Obviously, if Obama lets them expire, this would equal Sarah's statement.

But according to PolitiFact.Com, the Democrats do not intend on letting all of the cuts expire. The Democrats do want to let the cuts expire for the top 2% which would equal to approximately $678 billion over the next 10 years. This is in line with their platform pledges to continue to provide relief to lower income earners. This money, obviously, would be well spent in bringing down the deficit grossly enlarged by the stimulus package of the various bailouts.

Oddly enough, the Republicans are proposing to keep these tax cuts, tax cuts which target specifically the wealthiest people in America. Yep, Barack is proposing to have the wealthy pay more which when I think about it, seems very reasonable. After all, shouldn't the wealthy pay more as they can afford it?

So, is this the "largest tax increase in history"? Apparently not. Ronald Reagan's increase was larger than what is going to be done by the Democrats this year but the largest of all was the increase instituted by Roosevelt during the Second World War.

But I digress. Let me return to the original premise of this article and Sarah's statement. She is just plainly not telling the truth.

My Checking
Admittedly, at this point, I have not read the budget myself. I have neither the time or the expertise to be wading through thousands of pages of cryptic budget numbers. So what did I check?

I read various newspapers. I reviewed PolitiFact.Com and FactCheckers.Org. I listened to various official news sources and some not so official ones including "Old Fart Rants"; that one is quite amusing. In averaging out the pro's and the con's, I arrive at the conclusion that Sarah's accusations are unfounded; she does in fact have her pants on fire.

But why?
If I can find out this information; if other can come to these conclusions, why can't Ms. Palin? Why is it that I hear everybody stating their opinion but very few people discussing the facts? Why does she and others from the Republican party, the right wing Conservatives pound away with this mantra of fear, the-sky-is-falling, we're-all-doomed-at-the-hands-of-Obama?

If I give everybody the benefit of the doubt; if I think that in the end everybody wants to do the right thing, that everybody truly does want to make life better for all of us, I must arrive at the conclusion that not everybody has the knowledge and the expertise to make these decisions. Not everybody can run the country. The majority of people, the majority of us, the "unwashed masses" are pretty much voicing an opinion based on our own probably narrow view of the world. I'm casting my vote based on what I can see sitting on my front porch. I don't know; I don't give a hoot about what's happening on the next street; I am only concerned about my corner of the world, the view from my veranda.

$100 vs. $100 Billion
My own theory: All of us are familiar with a hundred bucks. We've dealt with this sum; we've held the bills in our hand; we've purchased items, done deals worth one hundred dollars. Consequently we can all state truthfully that we understand this sum of money, what it is worth, what a transaction for a hundred involves.

But what if it's a question of $100 billion? How many of us have ever - and I mean ever - had any experience with a sum so large? I'd say the percentage in question is just about nil. And I'm certain that $100 billion within the context of the economy of a nation, within the economy of the entire world has to so complex as to defy one's imagination. Nevertheless, all of us arm chair generals, Monday morning quarterbacks would approach this sum with the same knowledge, experience and expertise of our one hundred dollars. After all, at the end of the day, what do we all fall back on when dealing with life? Ourselves: our own experiences, our own knowledge, our own expertise. Ha! What else do we have?

Unfortunately, applying the same financial prowess for dealing with $100 to a sum of $100 billion may not be the best thing to do. While anybody could put forward the idea of using common sense; we must admit right up front that the sense necessary to deal with $100 billion has nothing common about it.

The American comedian Bill Cosby, in his comedy album Why Is There Air? released in 1965, talked humourously of this idea of common sense. He's driving on an icy road during the winter when the car begins to slide. He starts to panic but remembers the instructions to turn into the skid. He then goes on to explain how this seems to defy logic and says that this seems like you are supposed to lean into a punch to the face.

Quite amusing but I find this does exemplify the problems we face. How many of us have gone into a skid and successfully dealt with it? How often do any of us go into a skid in the first place? I return to our own experiences, the sum of one hundred dollars, and our capacity to properly deal with a new, unusual or "uncommon" situation, the one hundred billion dollars.

Are politicians telling the truth?
Sarah Palin continued her "attack" against Obama by claiming that the Democrats have no plan about the Bush tax cuts and are going to let all of them expire thus causing this $3.8 trillion tax increase. However, PolitiFact.Com has come back to the table pointing out that on page 39 and pages 164-165 of Obama's budget, there is a plan and that plan is to let tax cuts expire for the wealthy, not for everybody.

Okay, do I believe PolitiFact.Com? They are stating the proof is right there on page 39. Do I have to go get a copy of the budget and read it myself? Hmmm, just how would I get a copy of the budget? Guess what? Here it is: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/Overview - There is a link at the top of the page to download a single PDF of 7.4 mb which comprises the entire budget document of 192 pages)

Gee, that wasn't tough. I turn to page 39 as PolitiFact.Com stated and I read

Allow the Bush Tax Cuts for Households
Earning More Than $250,000 to Expire. In the last Administration, those at the very top enjoyed large tax breaks and income gains while almost everyone else struggled and real income for the middle class declined. Our Nation cannot afford to continue these tax cuts, which is why the President supports allowing those tax cuts that affect families earning more than $250,000 a year to expire and committing these resources to reducing the deficit instead. This step will have no effect on the 98 percent of all households who make less than $250,000.

I turn to pages 164 and 165 and I find a table of values dealing with "Upper-Income Tax Provisions" clearly marked as "for those taxpayers with income over $250,000 (married) and $200,000 (single)".

What? PolitiFact.Com is right. The Democrats under Barack Obama have no intention of penalizing the small people; they want to merely make the wealthy pay their fair share. Why is Sarah Palin saying otherwise? What can I conclude?
  • Sarah Palin is lying.
  • Sarah Palin's staff is lying to Sarah.
  • There is some nefarious plot to fool us.
What in blue blazes is going on? Sarah Palin is going on TV and saying something which isn't true. Independent fact checkers say she's wrong. I go check myself right to the original source document itself, the actual budget for the fiscal year 2011 and I confirm that the fact checkers are right. Why is Sarah doing this? What possible reason could explain her behaviour?

1. Sarah Palin is lying
I suppose this is a possibility.

2. Sarah Palin's staff is lying
Maybe the staff didn't do their homework. Maybe the staff is doing what they think necessary to scare voters into believing Obama is bad for the country.

3. There is some nefarious plot to fool us.
I want to be the 1st female president of the United States?

Is Sarah Palin just plain dumb?
I have felt, others have so observed, politicians want to keep their jobs. They are well paid; they have a good pension; who wouldn't want to keep on the gravy train? As a consequence, the main motivation for doing anything may not necessarily be doing what's right but doing what's necessary to remain employed. Ask anybody who has ever taken a course on macroeconomics and they will tell you about the dichotomy between economics and politics: politics is a 4 year cycle while economics is a 10 year cycle. Politicians may be keeping their eye more on the next election in 4 years and not on what really needs to be done for the economy over the 10 years.

However, the more important issue in all this may be stupidity. Economics is a complicated issue. Running a country is no simple task. Anybody who stands up and says "vote for me because I can do this job" is either in possession of really big cojones or has absolutely no idea of what they're letting themselves in for. Frankly, after going through everything about this tax increase and discovering that what Sarah is saying is wrong, I am quite frankly ready to take her name off my Christmas card list.

Right now, I am personally offended. This all started with Sarah explaining to me that Obama is a bad man and is not good for the country. I have now discovered that she either hasn't done her homework or has incorrectly interpreted what is in plain view of anybody who would bother to read the facts. Maybe she thinks I'm completely gullible and wouldn't bother to do any research. Maybe she thinks I'm easily bamboozled.

But what I find really scary is that maybe she believes what she's saying. She's wrong but she thinks she's right. 2 plus 2 does not equal 5 no matter how you slice it. And even if you convince people that 2 plus 2 equals 5, sooner or later you are going to have to pay the piper because you can't fool the facts.

To quote a member of her party who came before her:

"There's an old saying in Tennessee—I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—you can't get fooled again."
— President Bush, Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002

8 years of Bush. Anybody up for 8 years of Palin? Got to celebrate it! :-)


PolitiFact.Com: "Democrats are poised now to cause this largest tax increase in U.S. history."
- August 1, 2010

PolitiFact.Com: Democrats do not have a plan for extending the Bush tax cuts.

FactCheck.Org: Tax Cuts, Medicare and Florida Democrats
- August 6, 2010

Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2011

single PDF: Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2011

"Schooling Sarah Palin On Economics" by Old Fart Rants
This gentleman has an amusing way of delivering "the message". I intend on consulting his other videos on various topics. Curiously enough, I've realized that this series of videos is pretty much like a blog except this man's blog entries consist of videos. Interesting.

Sarah Palin: Refudiate This!


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with taxing people who make over 250,000.00

I think those people have nothing to do with the federal's fuck ups. Why should they have to pay for other people's mistakes?

It's not right to tax people because they make over x amount of money. I think it's a bunch of bull shit.