Sunday, April 29, 2012

Please Mr. Lowry 2/3

As the article continues, Lowry points to a quote by David Axelrod—one of Obama’s top advisors—that the President had to be re-elected because we couldn’t afford to stay on our current course. “Did Axelrod miss the past 3 ½ years, when his boss occupied the most powerful office in the land?” Obviously not, but the point stands, what the hell happened between January 2009 and now? The answer is not simple, which is sad, because a curt reply with a snappy one-liner would be an editorialist’s wet dream. The question can be seen in things such as the payroll tax extension or the fact that congress hasn’t passed a budget in over 1000 days.

The Executive branch, while extremely powerful, is not dictatorial. Certainly there is a lot of heft in what Barack can do but he barely got the very popular Violence Against Women Act passed. 31 male Republican Senators voted against what should be a no-brainer extension of a bill that was passed to provide:
“Community violence prevention programs
Protections for victims who are evicted from their homes because of events related to domestic violence or stalking
Funding for victim assistance services, like rape crisis centers and hotlines
Programs to meet the needs of immigrant women and women of different races or ethnicities
Programs and services for victims with disabilities
Legal aid for survivors of violence”—(thank you Wikipedia).

Objections for reasons that can be addressed later (same sex protections, temporary visas for illegal immigrants) aside, there is no excuse to deny funding and federal support for laws such as this—unless the objections are fiscal, because the government definitely has a big deficit. In that case all measures to reduce expenditures and increase revenue should be looked at. Right Mr. Lowry? “[The Buffet Rule] would ensure that the very wealthy (like Mitt Romney) no longer benefit from the favorable tax treatment of capital gains and investment (like Mitt Romney) to pay a lower federal income tax rate than middle-income tax-payers.” Yeah, that’s some logic, let’s generate a little revenue and work our way closer to a pragmatic tax code! Glad you agree.

“This is very clever—and very silly.” Or not. Ok, continue, what do you mean by silly? “The deficit last year was $1.3 trillion. With the Buffet rule in place, it would have been $1.295 trillion.” $4.7 billion must be too paltry a sum to really address any issues realistically. Mr. Lowry has a bit of a point; the military alone costs over 100 times that per year and the little bit raised by the Buffet Rule would put only a small dent in the deficit. But isn’t that important? Isn’t the inherently slow and hard to steer nature of American government about trade-offs and tempered legislation with a bipartisan bent? Are closing tax loopholes—however symbolic or politically motivated—good or not? According to Mr. Lowry the answer is no. “[Obama] offers no major reforms in taxes or entitlements, no new stimulus, no departures whatsoever.” The Buffet Rule may be small but it would be a reform.

And Obama may be “obsessed with the marginalia of green energy,” but it does constitute an entitlement and a stimulus. Speaking of stimulus, it is patently unfair to accuse the President of not encouraging more spending when just sentences previously Mr. Lowry was accusing the President of not doing enough about the deficit. Even though green energy may be “prone to bust unless the subsidies keep on rolling” that doesn’t make it the exclusive bastion of government funding prone to “bust.” How about cattle ranchers in California who received over $200 million in government subsidies in 2010? Certainly no one rails against their elevated stature in government despite the high environmental, health, and economic costs of raising cattle in what is essentially a desert.