How Could I Have Missed This?

April 18th, 2012 at 8:51 am

Courtesy of Chuck Sheketoff of the great Oregon Center for Public Policy.  I’m a day late, but here’s Danny Kaye singing “I paid my income tax today!”  A bit bellicose to be sure, but this was during WWII.

I’m afraid today’s version would be something like “I sheltered a bunch of income from my taxes today!”

This actually gets to a profoundly important theme: it used to be more commonly accepted that income taxes paid for things that meant a lot to America.  Until we regain that sensibility, we’ll be stuck where we are.  Part of regaining it calls for doing a better job of explaining the role of government and the efficiencies therein.  Social insurance programs, for example, like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, are a critical function that are efficiently delivered relative to what you’d get from the private sector.   Later today, I’ll post something on how even the extremely unpopular TARP worked much better than you thought.

But a large part of it also means ridding gov’t of its current dysfunctionality.  Why should anyone feel good about sending their hard-earned dollars to the Treasury if it just pays for the ongoing squabbles that never seem to get anywhere?  Of course, that means the electorate needs to send us different politicians…ones who remember how to compromise.

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8 comments in reply to "How Could I Have Missed This?"

  1. the buckaroo says:

    …Breaking news: Republicans claim they woke one morning to find they had been grovered.

  2. Dennis says:

    As long as we have a political discourse in which politicians engage in histrionics and character assassination rather than conversation about substance, I don’t see how it’s possible for the average citizen to feel good about sending money to the government. Right now, if one party proposes a program, policy, expenditure or solution, it seems to be the other party’s sworn duty to present that idea as ignorant, foolish, conspiratorial or traitorous. We aren’t allowed to say, “I disagree with this policy’s goals,” or “I don’t think this policy will achieve the desired result,” it has become necessary for the Republican party, anyway, to say the policy is dangerous and will lead us down the path to Marxism. There’s also the fundamental disagreement between Republicans and Democrats that may never be resolved: Democrats believe that government can do much to bring about greater fairness, and Republicans believe that the government can only make things less fair. Of course, all the hyperbolic rhetoric goes along the lines of this disagreement: the policy ideas of Democrats are deemed dangerous precisely because they try to make things more fair, and those who benefit from the unfairness of the system are loath to change it.

    • Jared Bernstein says:

      Well said–now, how do we get out of that death spiral?

      • perplexed says:

        -“Of course, that means the electorate needs to send us different politicians…ones who remember how to compromise.”

        More importantly, we need ones who remember how, and are strongly incentivised to, represent their constituents instead of their funders. Our political system is built on a foundation of representation. We’re in denial. We have to first recognize that our foundation has been undermined and is being eroded by financial interests and recognize how critical it is to protect it. If the failure of the Buffet rule and the power of an un-elected Grover Norquist do not drive this home, I’m not sure what will.

        We also have to recognize the impact of wealth concentration on our press corps and find a way to restore an independent press, complete with sound investigative reporting, to the mix. The top 5% own 2/3 of our wealth, I would guess their ownership of the press corps is even higher; which translates to COMPLETE control. If they were independent of their owner/oligarchs, they wouldn’t need to resort to he said-she said reporting to mask their lack of responsibility to perform this role so crucial to the operation of democratic republic.

        Our economic problems are serious, but our political representation problems are even worse and are preventing us from addressing them. We need to fix the foundations instead of trying to plug the leaks. Campaign finance reform and an adequately funded, independent press are critical to our success. We need to protect the relationships between representatives and their constituents and the independence and strength of our press corps like our lives depended on them; because they do.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        1. Completely revise campaign finance: get the money out of political campaigns, which are currently a huge, semi-cyclical industry.

        2. This requires new regs and guidelines for all media – including broadband and mobile – that *require* specific amounts of public-interest, free broadcast of campaign content at specified times and intervals. That way, the rest of us aren’t ponying up the costs of selling ads for political nonsense. (Expect huge pushback from media conglomerates.)

        3. Require that candidates be asked questions by sitting mayors, governors, and the people who actually have to *administer* government. These people are less likely to be bamboozled by sweet sound-bite responses, since their bread-and-butter depends on translating the impacts of those budget decisions into actual services. Have this as an ongoing conversation, where there is more accountability for responses because the conversations/debates take place each week, or bi-weekly. That would enable interested people to develop a shared knowledge base, and get the conversation out of the profit-driven constraints of tv news.

        Until our media improve, we’re doomed to be caught in sound-bite nastiness, which is short-term and favors expedience, charm, and appearance over true grit and skill. If we had an FCC with some vision and a spine, or courts to support the *public* interest in media policies (rather than corporate profits), we’d make headway in a thrice.

    • antistuff says:

      the entrenched positions of the US political parties is certainty not retreating to one of realist pragmatists anytime soon. Very few (maybe none on the Right) are leading the way in spite of principled ideology, quite the opposite. We’ve reached a point where deviating from pure ideology is seen as treason instead of admired for the courageous and self-less acts they really are. Country-first starts and ends as bumper-sticker sloganeering.

      Can you imagine if the rest of us in the real (non-DC) world worked this way? We would indeed be Greece! Beset by intractable bureaucracy and powerful short-sighted interest groups hijacking every escape hatch.

      My dwindling hope is for the quiet majority of Americans who consistently say they want DC to work smarter will actually make a difference by drowning out the vocal ~20% on the outlying fringes who make the most racket. Tellingly, these moderates (if you will) don’t like hyperbole and over-the-top doomsday predictions. The media plays a huge role on this as a brainless megaphone for all the nonsense being played out on an hourly basis each 24hr cycle, mostly by existing as the fiddle played by politics and partisan operatives.

      The real media bias isn’t liberal or conservative, it’s a bias for stupid and shiny. The buffet provisions of bread and circus have never been so bountiful.

      Ironically, the fevered activists that dominate discourse and think they are affecting positive change, are mostly an unruly, simple-minded mob cheering meaningless slogans with no capacity for nuanced, critical understanding. And yes, this type of thinking is overrepresented in the Republican party – in fact it’s a counter-intuitive strength for the GOP, in that they can count on a fairly strong lockstep crowd to guarantee partisan unity.

      The Democratic party has as the inherent trait for contemplative thought. Valuing understanding nuances of point/counter-point and cost benefit analysis. In practice this is arguable, but as a significant fundamental difference in ideology, this is a critical social behavioral difference.

      Reminds me of a joke – How do you know when you stumbled on a Lefty discussion on policy? Answer: You’ll never hear absolutes. Instead, “kinda” and “sortof”, et al. Even the strongest convictions from the Left often carry footnotes* for nuance and identified exceptions.

      In terms of 80/20 rule, I’d say the Dems focus on the reality of the 20% where the GOP prefers to either deny or ignore the reality of the 20%. Put less harsh, the GOP preaches the 20% will always be there (failing, screwing up, etc.) and no amount of gov’t fixing will change it, so why bother being “wasteful” (their words). Dems refuse and want to at least try, failing perhaps, but try nonetheless – universally justified beneath the exceptionalist banner of “wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world”. Think in these terms and everything else is a corollary.

    • Michael says:

      I’m sorry, but you’re implying a commonality between Democrats and Republicans which simply does not exist.

  3. Michael says:

    The problem is that conservatives hate the idea of America, as well as most of its citizens. Anyone who doubts this should read about Colorado Springs.