2012 December 30 Sunday
The Fiscal Cliff: American Public Not Blaming Themselves

Missing from most Fiscal Cliff commentary: The American people want low taxes, high social services, high defense spending, and other stuff all at the same time. This isn't possible. Look at who they blame: No ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Deal? 44% Blame GOP, 36% Obama. I'm going to guess the other 20% don't blame themselves either.

The American people ought to radically lower their expectations. They are getting way more from their governments than they are paying for.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2012 December 30 07:51 PM 

Joe Walker said at December 31, 2012 9:42 AM:

In general, the people who want low taxes are not the same people who want high government spending.

Calvaria said at December 31, 2012 10:39 AM:

I have to say, the press has done an amazing job punting on this. I read an article last week that explored the fiscal cliff scenario and mentioned the "devastating 500B in tax increases". Both sides agree 500B in tax increases is devastating, hardly anyone will deny that. So it's safe to assume any fiscal cliff deal will include LESS THAN 500B/yr in "new revenue" (hahahahahahahaha) from tax increases.

The article then focused on a sticking point -- spending cuts, and mentioned anywhere from 500B to 2T in spending cuts *over a decade*. Prorated over 10 years (which again, is laughable b/c these are typically back-loaded with the cuts 'promised' to be performed by a different Congress 10 years down the line), this would be 50B-200B per year in spending cuts.

Not a SINGLE article I have read in the entirety of this fiscal cliff mess has mentioned what our fiscal mess actually is. We're running a 1.4T deficit this year, and we're not projected to run anything under 1T for the next *decade*. So any fiscal cliff deal currently on the table doesn't even cover HALF the problem. Remember this fiscal cliff is tied to a debt ceiling that we're banging our heads against. So we're running a 1.4T deficit, pushed up against our borrowing limits, and arguing over how to reduce that deficit to (at best) 700B. That's like arguing over whether ice buckets or milk jugs would be better to bail out the Titanic.

It's math, and yet the press couldn't be bothered to do simple addition/subtraction to publicize what's actually going on. If we're borrowing 1.4T/yr, we're hitting a borrowing limit, and we can only expect 500B/yr in taxes, WE NEED TO CUT AT LEAST 900B/yr IN SPENDING -- any argument over whether to cut 50B or 200B/yr is superfluous, as it doesn't address the issue.

Black Death said at December 31, 2012 11:50 AM:

So true. According to the Congressional Budget office, as reported by NPR (http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/07/15/137845220/-13-trillion-the-projected-10-year-deficit), the most likely cumulative deficit for the next ten years is $13 trillion, and the maximum, pedal-to-the-metal reductions discussed in the current talks are $4 trillion. And even that amount is very unlikely, because neither side wants to be blamed for tax increases or benefit cuts. We'll be lucky to get half that, maybe less. But let's be modestly optimistic and say we get $3 trillion in reductions. Wow! That only leaves $10 trillion to go! What a deal! Of course, everybody in Washington knows this, they just don't want to admit it. They'd much rather kick the can down the road for some other president and Congress to worry about. Nobody, Democrat or Republican, wants to tell the plain truth to the American people - we can't afford this anymore. High levels of defense spending may have been appropriate during the Cold War, but that ended over twenty years ago. The US no longer needs to, or can afford to, play policeman to the world. Whole Cabinet departments need to be abolished (Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development and Commerce would make a good start), and others (such as Agriculture and HHS) need to be cut way back. Farm subsidies need to go, as well as other porky projects such as "green energy." But I think the politicians, with their sharply honed instincts for survival, do get one thing right - the American people don't want to hear this. As long as Uncle Sam can keep borrowing money at rock-bottom interest rates, why, it's let the good times roll. But they can't roll on forever, and when they stop, the crash will be spectacular.

Sam said at December 31, 2012 11:52 AM:

WHO STOLE the 18 TRILLION DOLLARS--$40,000 of YOUR Money?

The Demogangsters in the left-wing media are making a big issue of the Govt. running out of money because it “spent” it all and want to raise the debt limit again by calling it a “fiscal cliff.” The media is lying that the public wants the debt limit raised and lying that all kinds of terrible things will happen if the limit is not raised? Why?

The US debt was just a few trillion when Obama took office, but now it is 18 Trillion! Real govt. expenses are under 2T per year, but Barry aka illegal-alien-in-the-white-house Sotero has been stealing 2-3T additional per year and diverting it to his Demogangster owners and operators.

That is $40,000 per man woman and child!

Yes, the govt. borrowed this much money in your name and they claim they “spent” it. They “spent” it on who? Maybe you got a few food stamps and some welfare checks, etc. but did you get $40,000 from Obama in the last few years? But you will have to pay the 40K (almost 2 brand new cars) back!

So who stole the 10-15 T under Obama? Who did he give it to?

[ParaPundit cut down the size of this long tirade. If you are going to make a long tirade it had better be rich in facts and those facts should have citations.]

Alfredo said at January 1, 2013 11:53 AM:

@ SAM. As long as you are born an American citizen you can run to become a president. (McCain was born in Panama to american parents).
Our defficit is basically because we spent more money on defense, than all of the other nations combined.

Calvaria said at January 1, 2013 1:25 PM:

"So we're running a 1.4T deficit, pushed up against our borrowing limits, and arguing over how to reduce that deficit to (at best) 700B. That's like arguing over whether ice buckets or milk jugs would be better to bail out the Titanic."

Well, the debate looks to be over. We're going to use a thimble. This is just laughable. 1400B deficit, 'solved' by spending more and trying to squeeze out 62B in tax increases (which will likely yield maybe half of that)...so there is actually a good chance this deal makes us *worse* off.

Randall Parker said at January 1, 2013 9:26 PM:


Yes, the size of the tax increase is a joke. Even if the Bush tax cuts had been allowed to expire the $3.9 trillion tax increase over 10 years would have only been $390 billion a year.

So we did not get much in the way of tax increases or spending cuts. Our odyssey into financial disaster continues.


Our deficit is much bigger than our defense budget. Also, defense spending as a percentage of GDP is lower than its been for decades. Health care costs are the biggest and fastest growing cause of the deficit. Obamacare made that worse by cutting Medicare to fund health care for poor people. It would have helped to just cut Medicare and not help the poor. But fiscal irresponsibility is more compassionate in the short term.

sestamibi said at January 1, 2013 10:23 PM:

When I retired in 2011 I had intended to supplement my meager state government pension by working some downshifting type job, but needless to say, in Obama's America these are nowhere to be found--even 1 1/2 years later.

So instead I filed for Social Security this past summer in advance of turning 62. When I went to the local SS office, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I would get not only my own stipend, but also dependent allowances for my wife and teenage son. Thus my total take from all sources is just about what I was taking home while I was working, with no strings attached.

Now I'm certainly not going to turn the money down, but I can't help but wonder why the feds are rewarding our act of having a child so late in life (full disclosure: this was not my intent. I would have much preferred to get married much earlier and have two or more at the right age, instead of the one severely developmentally disabled but beautiful son we do have. Without further digression, blame feminism for that.)

I take the money not only because we need it, but it's my way of contributing to the collapse of the system--a sort of Cloward-Piven strategy of the Right, if you will. Clearly such lavish bennies cannot be distributed in the future to the extent they have in the past.

Randall Parker said at January 2, 2013 8:00 PM:


You are at risk with the path you've chosen:

A) Pay-out formulas will change and at some point inflation will spike and exceed the rate at which your check goes up.

B) Medicare benefits will be cut, mostly by the back door. Fewer doctors will accept lower Medicare payments. Also, rules for treatment eligibility will reduce treatment options. I want savings to use to pay for any important illness. The risk is too great otherwise.

Get reskilled and work at some other job. I say that as some who moved, took a harder job, upped my work hours above what is expected, and am now reading books in disciplines I'm not trained in.

The whole WTSHTF idea isn't just some possible hypothetical. We have multiple reasons for why WTSHTF is a foregone conclusion:

- We will not close the deficit with higher taxes.

- We will not close the deficit with spending cuts.

- We will not close the deficit with higher economic growth.

The US federal financial clusterfuck is going to happen and very likely while you are still alive. If you are sucking at the federal teat when that happens you are going to hurt.

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