Feb 24 2013

Always acting against their own self interest.

Published by at 5:59 am under Americans are stupid!

 The other day, a Facebook "friend" ( friend being a rather incorrect term-better defined as "someone I used to know and work with and have little, if anything,  in common with now -save for the fact we both served in the US Navy")

"Sequestration and its impacts are the choice of officials executing the budget. As a start, I would rather see the $2.2Billion Obama phone program go away before any "first responders" President Obama is saying will go. What is more important?

And so off he goes with a self satisfied "tut tut" -and his "acquaintances" chime in with congratulatory agreement. Well some did any way, there were also subsequent comments, which were subsequently deleted by the owner of the FB page-which pointed out how basically incorrect his position is, as stated. Guess he did not want his friends to see how easily such arguments can be debunked.

This particular exchange highlights in a most elegant way-the fundamental problem that is currently present in American political discourse. On the surface he sounds correct-if not more than a bit arrogant and self-righteous. But the truth is, none of what he says is correct. That so many supposedly "knowledgeable" Americans agree with him-when the facts are 180 degrees in opposition- should trouble any rational person.  Conservatives may be entitled to their own opinions. They are not, however, entitled to their own facts. Despite their attempts to create an alternate news universe-one where a person solely reads IBD, FOX, Weekly Standard, the NRO-and of course the dregs of American Society: John Hinderaker and the liars club-facts are facts.

If you lived in the fact free world that he lives in-of course you think its all correct and a great sentiment. But when the facts are exposed, well, nobody likes to be outed as an ignorant fool.

Fact #1: There is no such thing as an Obamaphone program. As much as his enemies like to blame every problem in the world on the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, this expenditure whether for right or wrong,  cannot be blamed on President Obama. Free and discounted phone service to low-income families has been mandated by the federal government since 1934, paid for by "above-cost" fees charged directly by phone companies to regular subscribers. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 codified the program and set up an independent corporation, the Universal Service Administrative Company, to facilitate the service, properly called "Lifeline". Cell phone distribution was made a part of the provisions of the act in 2008, while a certain George W. Bush was still President. Yet, no one calls it the "Bush" Phone. (Maybe it should be called the "Roosevelt" phone) Instead they reserve it as a convenient lie to call it an Obama phone, because it serves their agenda to have dim witted people believe the conclusion that it was a new federal program. It was not. It was an expansion of the existing program and implemented on a state by state basis.  Nonetheless it gives conservatives -especially those of the teabagger variety- an attitude of gleeful gross-out humor, like a fifth-grader making fart noises – though with an undercurrent of racism far nastier and more base than any bodily function.

And while we are on the use of the word "teabagger", you can spare me the righteous indignation at the use of the term. As I have repeatedly pointed out before, its arrogant on two fronts: 1) because the Tea Party originated the term and 2) despite the sexual connotation to the term "teabagger", when used to describe the tea party, it is simply a mild pejorative used to spell out a well deserved contempt. So if it bothers you-that is just too bad.

Fact#2: Even if the cell phone program were eliminated in its entirely, it would-with pretty much 100% certainty-not prevent cuts to the first responders program. It also would not reduce by one dollar the amount taken from the Pentagon budget.  One of the biggest problems with the whole idea of sequestration is the approach it takes to making cuts to the federal budget. The governmental equivalent of using a meat cleaver to perform surgery to remove an appendix instead of a small scalpel in the hands of a trained surgeon. You can do it-but your odds of killing the patient go up dramatically. I mean, think about it: the Lifeline program is not even funded by tax money. So unless Congress passes a law to amend the Telecommunications Act, something completely different from enacting cuts under sequestration, the program will still go on even after March 1st. Whereas 1st responder funds-especially for federal agencies such as the Coast Guard, FBI, other law enforcement agencies and grants to states-will be funds that will be under the gun as so called "discretionary" non defense spending. The author of the sentiment, since he is working in the Pentagon, should know this. Sequestration forces across the board cuts of non-exempt, non-defense discretionary funding by 8.2 percent. Non-exempt, non-defense mandatory programs see a 7.6 percent reduction. There’s not, however, much left to cut in this category because the large mandatory programs were largely shielded from the cuts.  Medicare cuts were specifically limited to 2 percent of the program’s budget. On the defense side of the equation, similar levels of cuts apply. Its not an either / or type of choice-the question is more properly framed as "Do you cut both sides of the pie or not?".

Now it may be, that in a time of fiscal austerity, that a program that assists people making just 22,300 a year or less ( 135% of the poverty line), which is an income 85% less than the individual who authored the above listed FB sentiment (His salary, as is mine, is a matter of public record)-may be no longer affordable.  I don't know about you-but trying to make ends meet on that amount of money in today's economy is tough. There are legitimate arguments in favor of this kind of assistance-particularly in an interconnected world. However any such reductions should happen as part of a rationale budget process-something our GOP led House of Representatives has proven itself unable to do for several years now.

Fact #3: Sequestration itself does very little to reduce the growth of the deficit.  The dirty little secret about the process, like so much of the political grandstanding that occurs in Congress these days, is that even with the cuts-they will not do much to impact the deficit. They will do a lot to hurt middle and lower class Americans though. As Paul Krugman points out, it is the height of arrogance to take pleasure in the fact that the sequester will only cost 700,000 jobs:

  As always, many pundits want to portray the deadlock over the sequester as a situation in which both sides are at fault, and in which both should give ground. But there’s really no symmetry here. A middle-of-the-road solution would presumably involve a mix of spending cuts and tax increases; well, that’s what Democrats are proposing, while Republicans are adamant that it should be cuts only. And given that the proposed Republican cuts would be even worse than those set to happen under the sequester, it’s hard to see why Democrats should negotiate at all, as opposed to just letting the sequester happen.

 So here we go. The good news is that compared with our last two self-inflicted crises, the sequester is relatively small potatoes. A failure to raise the debt ceiling would have threatened chaos in world financial markets; failure to reach a deal on the so-called fiscal cliff would have led to so much sudden austerity that we might well have plunged back into recession. The sequester, by contrast, will probably cost “only” around 700,000 jobs….

  And the effect on the deficit?  Not much at all-especially if health care costs continue to rise. And, as CBO has pointed out-they certainly would not be as effective in halting deficit growth than simply letting all the Bush tax cuts go away and lifting the cap on Social Security payroll taxes would be.

There is a right way and a wrong way to cut federal spending, but the sequestration plan about to go into effect is perhaps the most boneheaded approach that could possibly be concocted. The sequester won't reduce the deficit by anything close to the $85 billion that's being advertised. What's more, it may not reduce the deficit at all.  But hey, why let facts get in the way of righteous indignation?

It would seem to a certain segment of America, its better just to huff and puff and make loud noises. Without bothering to understand the true facts. What, to me, is even more disturbing is that some of the loudest voices in the "just make people suffer" movement, are coming from people such as the FB poster above-who are the most deeply dependent on government benefits and will be for the rest of their lives. He decries governmental largesse-while at the same time he will benefit quite appreciably from it.

There are things that can be done to get the government's financial house in order. But to go about it from a factually inconsistent position-which reeks of hypocrisy-is not a way to start down the path. "Friends" don't let "friends" indulge in conservative stupidity.

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10 responses so far

10 Responses to “Always acting against their own self interest.”

  1. Slufon 25 Feb 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Oh yes, The Pure as the Driven Snow "Obama Phone" program. Nothing to see here, move along:
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323511804578296001368122888.html
    Like so many corrupt programs currently in vogue, Obama may not have started it, but his regime sure has perfected it!

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  2. Skippy-sanon 25 Feb 2013 at 2:20 pm

    First consider the source-the WSJ since Murdoch took over can hardly be considered  an objective source of reporting.
    Second-that the program may have had admistrative problems is hardly the fault of Obama, since its probably true that many of the actual decision makers have been in government for a long time. If you are going to attack the process-attack it at the right level. Its not like there have not been problems in the administration of other programs-or shall we talk about JSF or LCS?
    Third-someone did act. The fact that it was clamped down on was as good as indicator as any that the telecoms themselves bear a lot of blame since they clearly wanted to get their product out there and hook people on the idea of having cell phones. More an argument against companies than anything else.
    However, at the end of the day why whine so much? The government wastes a lot more money in Afghanistan every day.
     

    And finally-why not blame the people who did wrong? That never seems to happen. People would rather blame the President, than to attack the slothfulness and selfishness that is so prevalent in America today. Hell I’ll bet half those people who got dropped off the roles-voted for Romney.

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  3. Mauriceon 26 Feb 2013 at 3:37 am

    Skippy,
    The Obamaphone phenomenon was highlighted not by the WSJ, but the press and the Dems shilling for Obama. You bring out points that the program grew under Bush II, and that it was in fact started under Reagan. But the press seems to overlook that fact when they sell it to the people who use them. As far as they are concerned, it is just another program that is given to them by the Dems and Obama. Trust me, I know some people in my family who have them, and they will refuse to believe that the program started back in the 80's and that people who used to and still have land lines and not eligible for the phones are paying for them. As far as they are concerned, that's "fair" to them.
    The GOP's fault, is that they let the Dems continue to brand them. I know you are probably not a big fan of Affirmative Action, and when Reagan wanted to get rid of it, the GOP was slaughtered in the press, and the minorities and Dems were up in arms against any GOP candidate. But a funny thing that went overlooked, AA was signed into law under Nixon, and not a product of the "Great Society" under Johnson.
    As I said, do you know anyone with an "Obamaphone"? I do, and they get a better deal in some ways than what I get with having to pay for my cell service (granted I am in Japan, but when I go back and get a "burner" they still come out ahead). All the while, those same "1%ers" as the OWS calls them laugh all the way to the bank. Because the major obstacle of getting someone a phone is taken care of by the government. Once they use their "free" minutes, then they make their money by selling data rates.
    One thing to remember why the phone companies do this is that there is money to be made off the poor. They put it in their minds that they have a "right" to a phone when they can't afford it, and they are given one. Instead of dropping $200-$300 for the new Samsung they get one free. Then the companies make all the money off selling data.
    One radio show host brought it all into perspective for me. Virgin Mobile subsidizes the costs of I phones for their customers from Apple, so the price you pay for the phone is from them is far less than if you just bought it directly from Apple. One year, they paid over $2 billion to Apple to license and sell their phones. How long did it take them to make up that $2 billion loss, 90 days. Just by selling their phones at a loss but making sure you get the data plans and all that goes with it (including a part of the Obamaphone market), and they get their money back they invested. We need people like that working for our government instead of the clowns that we have in both parties now.
    Trust me on this, I am not coming at this from some ideological standpoint, in a way I can see the value of a program such as this, but I have been in the "trenches" and I can tell you that there are many government programs that are going to waste seeing the effects with my own eyes on how government dependency will do people more harm than good.

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  4. Mauriceon 26 Feb 2013 at 11:06 am

    One more thing since we are talking about Government programs, when Gen. Powell did the O'Reilly factor he pointed out something that has really not been picked up by the press.  O'Reily asked why he supported Obama both times, and the Gen. went into his reasons.  One of the things he said when O'Reilly pointed out that the Obaman economic plan is not really working, is that one of the things the Gen thinks we should do is "Means Test" SS.  He feels that a person like him, does not really need SS and that his benefits and those for others like him should be reduced.  It must be nice to have the retired pay of an O9, and the large sums he gets from other speaking engagements to fall back on, and I would suppose in his case that his SS check is nothing more than tip money.  That's fine for him if he wants to give it away, but I don't think that someone like him and the rest of the political class should just take something away from me because I may be able to do well for myself in the future. 
    If they want to "Means Test" my eligibility for SS, then I say go ahead, but they need to pay me back all the money that was collected in taxes from me since I will not be able to benefit from it.  Supposedly SS was designed to supplement your income when you retire, and not be used to pay for the person ahead of you since the government thought that the individual didn't have enough sense to save for the future.  I guess the government is the one without the sense.

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  5. Skippy-sanon 26 Feb 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Fuck means testing of Social Security! I say, get rid of the cap on Social Security taxes and make rich bastards pay their fair share. Plus your point about people who did not save enough for retirement is bogus. There are lots of people like me, who got wiped out by worthless whores who could not understand the need to save for retirement.

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  6. Mauriceon 26 Feb 2013 at 11:55 pm

    Skippy,
    Yoiu make much more than me in regards to retirment pay.  Though it wasn't your fauld about the ex wiping you out, do you really think that some person like Gen. Powell, has the right to say and make it legal (let's face it, if he and enough people like him gets behind it, it will become legal)?  I don't think so.  Raising the rate to make those who make more pay more for something that will not benefit them is also unfair.  I say, if they are going to "means test" me, then they need to refund me the amount I gave them over the years.  If I were to ever win the lottery, instead of thworing my money away on cars and houses, I would hire a group of lawyers and take them to court over that and maybe just reforme SS.  But like the lottery win I am dreaming.

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  7. Skippy-sanon 27 Feb 2013 at 1:10 am

    Lifting the cap and making the rich contribute a fair proportion is certainly a lot fairer than means testing. Consider it a small price to pay for the privilege of making that level of income.

    As for retirement pay-you probably make more when the 37% that is stolen from me every month is factored in.

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  8. Mauriceon 27 Feb 2013 at 2:20 am

    Skippy,
    If they did decide to means test, you may come out ahead.  Not sure of your divorce agreement, but you should be able to claim less since you may have to give her part of your SS.  If it does come to it, I would say you should ask them to mean test you, and give you less, then you will have to give her less in return.  If you stick around in the GS world long enough, I guess you can make that portion up from any GS retirement.  But, if they did do it, I am sure that some "shre" would be advising the lawmakers to make sure any loopholes that would benefit guys in your situation (my brother included) would get screwed just because they can do so.

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  9. Skippy-sanon 27 Feb 2013 at 5:35 am

    Our decree says nothing about SS. Don't scare me! :-(
    The way I think it works, is the ex files for SS under her own SSN-but her benefit will be paid based on 21 years of my earnings. So I don't "give" her anything-but as it was when we were married she gets the benefits of my hard labor while doing nothing in return. ( And I do mean nothing).

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  10. Mauriceon 27 Feb 2013 at 9:56 am

    Skippy,
    If they ever do try to means test, then you should definately file a claim that part of you SS income goes to someone else, and try to avoid the hassle.  I know an older lady friend of mine who I was "kicking" it with years ago whose husband died.  She will not get remarried even though he did because she will be able to get his SS when she files, even though she works and has a career of her own.  Something not right about that to me.

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