Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Attention-To-Deficit Disorder

In addition to being a little lax in my overall blogging lately, I notice I've also been remiss in spying out the happenings in my own little corner of the fly-over states. I blame it on WPR's recent spate of cultural discussion topics (and a fascination with all things DNR) in lieu of contentious political issues. Must be the talk radio equivalent of summer beach reading.

In any case, I thought it would be instructive to check in on the never-ending conservative war against all things progressive and I find Republican Congressman and enthusiastic Bush cheerleader Paul Ryan all a-twitter over the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) economic news (via WisPolitics):

"Lowering taxes has fueled sustained economic growth and job growth that ultimately bring more tax dollars into the Treasury, which helps us reduce the deficit. At the same time, we need to restrain spending, and we're working hard to do this through budget reforms such as my legislative line-item veto and overall efforts to control spending," said Ryan. "Today's announcement of lower deficit projections shows that tax relief paired with spending controls can put our fiscal house in order and eliminate the deficit."

Bear in mind here that the OMB is a branch of the White House and is not in the business of offering objective research. It's goal is to support the President's policies and present revisions in such a way as to make the President's economic policies appear sound and successful.

Here is the blurb, from a recent update to the 2007 Federal Budget, to which Ryan is referring:

Due to the strong performance of the Nation’s economy, revenues for the current fiscal year are now forecast to grow at a double-digit rate—11 percent. Largely as a result of these increased revenues, the projected budget deficit for 2006 has fallen from $423 billion, or 3.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), to $296 billion, or 2.3 percent of GDP. This projected deficit is equal to the 40-year average of 2.3 percent of GDP and is lower than the deficits in 17 of the past 25 years. The improved deficit outlook continues over the next five years, indicating that the President is on track to meet his goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2008[...]

There is really nothing in here that has anything whatsoever to do with President Bush's "leadership", or lack thereof, on economic issues. Any one able to add and subtract could figure out that if revenues rise, the deficit will fall, just as cutting taxes without cutting spending made the deficit rise in the first place. Of course Ryan, as a member of the Bush cult, simply must spin this into a hymn to Bush's glory, though he must be getting lonely in that ever-shrinking choir.

Ryan's claim that Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans is resulting in increased tax revenues is pure fairy tale, completely unsupported by any evidence. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

The high cost of the dividend and capital gains tax cuts continues to add to the deficit, and the resulting increase in deficits has negative long-term economic consequences. Economists at the Congressional Research Service and the Brookings Institution, for example, have concluded that the adverse effects of the increased deficits cancels out, and may even outweigh, any positive effects from these tax cuts themselves.

Cutting taxes without cutting spending does not benefit our economy in any way, nor is there any evidence that it increases tax revenue. That's nothing more than wishful thinking by so-called "fiscal conservatives". Certainly, a smaller tax liability puts a little more cash into people's hands. However, the Bush tax cuts are so grossly skewed to the top 1% as to be practically useless to any but the wealthy and, worse, have not been accompanied by any kind of spending discipline. Furthermore, the federal government doesn't stockpile tax dollars; it spends them, which equals economic activity. They key, as every liberal knows, is in how the government targets the spending of those dollars. Dumping them in Iraq or into tax subsidies for the oil industry is not an effective use of our money. Conservatives so desperately want to see their particular economipolicieses vindicated that they're willing to ascribe any positive economic news to them, regardless of an utter lack of evidence. I suspect they'll continue to be disappointed on that front for many years to come.

I also think it's incredibly hypocritical of Ryan to give Bush credit for reducing a deficit that Bush himself created! If that's not lapdog devotion to the cause, then nothing is. Bush was given the largest budget surplus in the federal government's history and squandered it on kick-backs for his wealthy supporters (we call them "elites", he calls them his "base"). Further, Bush has resolutely refused to rein in spending of any kind, unless it involves social benefits for the poor. Bush, like most conservatives, sees nothing wrong with chipping away at the tiny amount of public welfare available to Americans, while supporting trillions in military spending on a discretionary war.

It's disgraceful that Bush and his supporters seek an approving pat on the head for standing idly by while the American taxpayer partially cleans up half of the White House's fiscal mess. The gross fiscal irresponsibility of these "borrow and spend" Republicans insures that what economic gain the U.S. does see flows only to the most affluent, while the disappearing middle class (and its children and grand-children) pick up the tab. Shame on Congressman Ryan for supporting such misplaced priorities, and for expecting his constituents to do the same.

Perhaps this wasn't as good a look at Wisconsin politics as I'd hoped. But then, the conservative monolith really only comes in a mixture of two colors: blood red and money green and the only difference, state to state, is which of the two are more vivid.

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