The Presidents Budget: Selling that Political Moonshine to America

“Our budget is about choices,” Obama said while unveiling the budget at a public school classroom in Northwest Washington. “It’s about our values. As a country we’ve got to make a decision if we’re going to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans or if we are going to [make] smart investments to create jobs and grow our economy and expand opportunity for every American.”

This glib assertion that the decision so offered, is actually the only one which counts, blithely ignores the actual decisions affecting the majority of Americans, who are not in the top ten percent of wealth owning citizens. He falsely alludes it is all about those tax breaks versus the jobs, opportunities, so required to grow the economy. He implies the usual political moonshine that one must exclude the other, while simply ignoring the factual reasons such disparities exist at all.  However, the very narrow focus on a contrived conflict, which is all too typical for such Political Moonshine, is actually a worn out red-herring, which is protecting the president from telling the people the truth— they are basically screwed as usual.

People who are already taxed to the hilt cannot be expected to give even more, but then again, since when does basic common sense mean anything to the D.C. insiders, holed up in the Fed fortress, swilling on that big old bottle of authoritarian like it was 1999. The distribution of wealth is no mystery to the policy wonks, or the mad dogs always barking at their heels, for more revenue to be found. Apparently, those very wealthy Congress critters, are still laboring under the absurd presumption that taxpayers grow just like trees. Chopping down the big ones might upset the balance of nature so they just keep lopping off all the rest until only a mere nub remains.   Then they bitch about how those nubs are needing to much to remain alive and need to tighten their leaves, so those giant ones can have more water, to sustain those lofty crowns. If those little nubs should so complain, just rip em right out by the root. This goes well beyond inequality, but those political hacks only give lip service for a fee.

—–“Wealth inequality is far greater. According to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by the Economic Policy Institute, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans control 35.6 percent of the total wealth of the country — more than a third. Even more incredible is that the richest 10 percent of Americans control 75 percent of the wealth, leaving only 25 percent to the other 90 percent of Americans.

–“Why is the wealth disparity so pronounced? Because it’s easier to get richer when you already have a lot of money. Wealthier people can save and invest more of their money, while people of humbler financial means spend most of their paycheck on food, the mortgage, credit card bills, utilities, child care and all of the other costs of daily life, which leaves little to invest in the stock market or feed that 401(k). The Economic Policy Institute points out that in 2007, at the height of the economic bubble, half of Americans owned no stock.  Tax policy also further widens the gap between the wealthiest and the rest of us. Earnings from capital gains — the sale of stock and other investments — are taxed at a lower rate (15 percent) than regular income. So people who make a lot of investment income get to keep more of that money than people who rely exclusively on wages.“—http://money.howstuffworks.com/one-percent-control-third-of-wealth.htm

There are many arguments in this specific corner of wealth disparity, but for the purpose of contrast and what the President was stating in his budget quip, the preceding quote works just fine. Too bad most writers just flat-out refuse to question the co-joining of terms– regular earning? Try earned wages become [by tax policy semantics alone] falsely converted to ‘taxable’ “incomes” of which one quality used to be tangible by real money, in factual law defining terms.  Will the so-called scholar-in-chief ever address this blatant, damn evil mis-use of the taxing authority? Will he ever raise a single question on the matter to defend the wage-workers from the onerous demands of an out-of control IRS? Hell no…. like every other pompous wind-bag, puffing up the “FED” authority, he just skips right over the empirical reality that being dead-ass broke is not quite the same thing as an additional five percent tax on unearned profit gains. Soaking the rich is not the issue, it is the control of wealth in the hands of so few, which demands a better answer. What that wealth does as a power unto itself is barely ever questioned properly. Wealthy people do not give a rats-fart about anything other than keeping that wealth, thus, only their decisions actually count where the Market meets the road.

I went to another source to see how this latest Presidential budget held up to scrutiny:

Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget—

—–Our main findings from the budget are:

–Relative to the President’s own baseline, the budget includes $2.15 trillion of deficit reduction. Relative to current law with continued reductions in war spending, the budget calls for about $730 billion of deficit reduction.

–Under the President’s budget, debt would peak at 74.6 percent of GDP in 2015 and then fall continuously to 69 percent by 2024. In dollar terms, debt will rise from about $12.5 trillion today to almost $19 trillion by 2024.

–Adjusted for timing shifts, deficits will fall from 4.1 percent of GDP in 2013 to 2.2 by 2017, and will remain around 2 percent through 2024.

–Spending will average 21.4 percent of GDP over the decade and reach 21.7 percent by 2024 while revenue will average 19.2 percent and reach 19.9 percent by 2024. Historically, spending and revenue have averaged 20.4 and 17.4 percent of GDP, respectively.

–OMB’s economic assumptions are more optimistic than CBO – they assume real GDP will be more than 2 percent higher in 2024 than CBO does. This difference could be the result of immigration reform, which CBO has estimated could raise GDP by over 3 percent. Although debt levels would continue to grow in nominal dollar terms in the President’s budget –from about $12.5 trillion now to nearly $19 trillion by 2024–this growth would be slower than the growth of the economy. As a result, according to estimates from the President’s Office of Management & Budget (OMB), debt will decline as a share of the economy over the decade. After peaking at a post-war record of 74.6 percent of GDP in 2015, OMB estimates the debt to GDP ratio would fall to 69 percent of GDP by 2024. By comparison, debt levels would be 76.8 percent of GDP in 2024 under the OMB baseline, 71.6 percent under current law with the President’s war drawdown and economic assumptions, and 70.3 percent at the end of the decade in the President’s FY2014 budget.”—-http://crfb.org/document/report-analysis-president’s-fy-2015-budget

There is of course quite a bit more to the budget than the projections covered by this excerpt. However, it is quite clear that the GDP is the center of the economic universe of which all budgets must revolve. The economic assumptions as usual portray a very narrow view of just what is in that gross domestic production, which sounds all very efficient and yet says nothing at all about the Quality of Life— those numbers can veer all over the page and yet remain just as useless in telling us— the regular people— if our decisions mean anything at all.

Take energy for example: every time the price of gas goes up this means the dollar is losing value in relation to the commodity so purchased. More money goes to the GDP branches contained within that economic activity, but the loss to people is measured in misery not gain. The Presidents bizarre mantra that it is good that people pay substantially more for electricity, or home heating, is so obnoxious to  the core principle of life quality, one has to wonder what planet he pretends to be living on.

Another point of view which summed up the main energy contention:

The President’s 2015 Budget:  A Masterpiece of Energy Wastefulness Posted March 6, 2014 |

—- Conclusion

“President Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy is an egregious misnomer and does harm to the English language. It is terms like this that George Orwell was describing when he wrote, “Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” President Obama’s 2015 budget request is pure wind.”—  http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/2014/03/06/the-presidents-2015-budget-a-masterpiece-of-energy-wastefulness/

Now as for CPI–as a measure of those decisions underlying that GDP— I found this to be quite interesting as well:

—–“What are some limitations of the CPI?

–“The CPI is subject to both limitations in application and limitations in measurement.”

—-Limitations of application

–“The CPI may not be applicable to all population groups. For example, the CPI-U is designed to measure inflation for the U.S. urban population and thus may not accurately reflect the experience of people living in rural areas. Also, the CPI does not produce official estimates for the rate of inflation experienced by subgroups of the population, such as the elderly or the poor. (BLS does produce and release an experimental index for the elderly population; however, because of the significant limitations of this experimental index, it should be interpreted with caution.) [For those (like myself) who ponder the small details, the frank admission that the CPI excludes the elderly and the poor begs the question of why? Do people in rural areas not have phones? Are all working poor excluded or just welfare recipients?]

Is the CPI the best measure of inflation?

—-inflation has been defined as a process of continuously rising prices or equivalently, of a continuously falling value of money—-[And wage stagnation must be masked by excluding the relationship to poverty?]

What are some limitations of the CPI?

–“As noted in the answer to question 19, the CPI cannot be used to measure differences in price levels or living costs between one place and another; it measures only time-to-time changes in each place. A higher index for one area does not necessarily mean that prices are higher there than in another area with a lower index. It merely means that prices have risen faster in the area with the higher index since the two areas’ common reference period.

–“The CPI cannot be used as a measure of total change in living costs because changes in these costs are affected by (such as social and environmental changes and changes in income taxes) that are beyond the definitional scope of the index and so are excluded.”—http://www.bls.gov/cpi/cpifaq.htm

These “exclusions” are much wider in scope than mere numbers or “definitional scope” can describe. There are a multitude of political reasons why the “measures” need to be kept on a short leash. I came across another article, written a few years back, which brought these deeper issues surrounding the GDP doctrine into a more substantial focus:

“If the GDP is Up, Why is America Down? by Clifford Cobb, Ted Halstead, and Jonathan Rowe”

—–“As the thirties wore on, a new kind of economic-policy thinking started to take hold among some New Dealers. In their view the role of the federal government was not to coordinate industry or to prevent industrial concentrations, as the New Deal had initially done. Rather, the government should serve as a kind of financial carburetor to keep a rich mixture of spending power going into the engine, through deficits if necessary.

–“This theory is generally attributed to John Maynard Keynes, of course, but numerous New Dealers had earlier approximated it in an instinctive and practical way. Since Keynesian management worked through flows of money rather than through bureaucratized programs, the new national accounts were essential to it. The Nobel Prize-winner Robert Solow, of MIT, has called Kuznets’s work the “anatomy” for Keynes’s “physiology.”

–“The two formally came together during the Second World War, and in the process the GNP became the primary scorecard for the nation’s economic policy. The degree to which the GNP evolved as a war-planning tool is hard to exaggerate. Keynes himself played a central role in Britain’s Treasury during both world wars. At the start of the second he co-authored a famous paper called “The National Income and Expenditure of the United Kingdom, and How to Pay for the War,” which provided much conceptual groundwork for the GDP of today.

–“In the United States the Manhattan Project got much more glory. But as a technical achievement the development of the GNP accounts was no less important. The accounts enabled the nation to locate unused capacity, and to exceed by far the production levels that conventional opinion thought possible. To their great surprise, American investigators learned after the war that Hitler had set much lower production targets, partly for lack of sophisticated national accounts.

–“Having helped win the war, the Keynesian’s were giddy with confidence. The specter of the Depression still haunted the United States; but these economists thought they had found the keys to the economic kingdom. With proper fiscal management and detailed knowledge of the GNP, they could master the dreaded “business cycle” and ensure prosperity indefinitely. When John Kenneth Galbraith joined the staff of Fortune magazine, his first project was to prepare a blueprint for America’s transition to a postwar economy. The article was based on projections from the GNP accounts. “One good reason for expecting prosperity after the war is the fact that we can lay down its specifications,” the article said. “For this we can thank a little-observed but spectacular improvement in the statistical measures of the current output of the U.S. plant.”

–“The Employment Act of 1946 turned the GNP and the theory it embodied into official policy. It established a Council of Economic Advisers as “the high priests of economic management,” as Allan J. Lichtman, a professor of history at the American University, has recently put it, and the GNP as their catechism. The production frenzy that had pulled the nation out of the Depression and through the war was now the model for the peace as well.

–“These developments set the course for economic policy and reportage for the next fifty years. The ironies have been many. If it is odd that liberal Democrats would turn the principles of a war economy into the permanent template for government, it is no less so that Republicans would latch fervently onto a measure of well-being that was basically a tool of central government planning.

–“There have been a number of consequences that few saw clearly at the time. One was that economists became the ultimate authorities on American public policy. Before the war, economists were rarely quoted in news stories except in some official capacity. Now their opinions were sought and cited as canonical truth. Moreover, as the party that nurtured these economists, the Democrats became adherents of technocratic top down management that purported to act for the people, even if in ways beyond their ken.

–“By itself the GDP tells very little. Simply a measure of total output (the dollar value of finished goods and services), it assumes that everything produced is by definition “goods.” It does not distinguish between costs and benefits, between productive and destructive activities, or between sustainable and unsustainable ones. The nation’s central measure of well being works like a calculating machine that adds but cannot subtract. It treats everything that happens in the market as a gain for humanity, while ignoring everything that happens outside the realm of monetized exchange, regardless of the importance to well-being.

–“By the curious standard of the GDP, the nation’s economic hero is a terminal cancer patient who is going through a costly divorce. The happiest event is an earthquake or a hurricane. The most desirable habitat is a multi billion-dollar Superfund site. All these add to the GDP, because they cause money to change hands. It is as if a business kept a balance sheet by merely adding up all “transactions,” without distinguishing between income and expenses, or between assets and liabilities.

–“The perversity of the GDP affects virtually all parts of society. In 1993 William J. Bennett, who had been the Secretary of Education in the Reagan Administration, produced a study of social decline. He called it “The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators,” a deliberate counterpoint to the Commerce Department’s similarly named regular economic report. His objective was to detail the social erosion that has continued even as the nation’s economic indicators have gone up.

–“No less important is the way the GDP ignores the contribution of the social realm–that is, the economic role of households and communities. This is where much of the nation’s most important work gets done, from caring for children and older people to volunteer work in its many forms. It is the nation’s social glue. Yet because no money changes hands in this realm, it is invisible to conventional economics. The GDP doesn’t count it at all–which means that the more our families and communities decline and a monetized service sector takes their place, the more the GDP goes up and the economic pundits cheer.

–“Parenting becomes child care, visits on the porch become psychiatry and VCRs, the watchful eyes of neighbors become alarm systems and police officers, the kitchen table becomes McDonald’s–up and down the line, the things people used to do for and with one another turn into things they have to buy. Day care adds more than $4 billion to the GDP; VCRs and kindred entertainment gear add almost $60 billion. Politicians generally see this decay through a well-worn ideological lens: conservatives root for the market, liberals for the government. But in fact these two “sectors” are, in this respect at least, merely different sides of the same coin: both government and the private market grow by cannibalizing the family and community realms that ultimately nurture and sustain us.

–“These are just the more obvious problems. There are others, no less severe. The GDP totally ignores the distribution of income, for example, so that enormous gains at the top–as were made during the 1980s–appear as new bounty for all. It makes no distinction between the person in the secure high-tech job and the “downsized” white-collar worker who has to work two jobs at lower pay. The GDP treats leisure time and time with family the way it treats air and water: as having no value at all. When the need for a second job cuts the time available for family or community, the GDP records this loss as an economic gain.

–“By 1962 Kuznets was writing in The New Republic that the national accounting needed to be fundamentally rethought: “Distinctions must be kept in mind between quantity and quality of growth, between its costs and return, and between the short and the long run,” he wrote. “Goals for ‘more’ growth should specify more growth of what and for what” (emphasis added).

–“To most of us, that would seem to be only common sense. If the government is going to promote something, surely the voters should know what that something is. But in the view of most economists, Kuznets was proposing a pipe bomb in the basement. Once you start asking “what” as well as “how much”–that is, about quality instead of just quantity–the premise of the national accounts as an indicator of progress begins to disintegrate, and along with it much of the conventional economic reasoning on which those accounts are based.

–“Unsurprisingly, the profession did not seize eagerly upon Kuznets’s views. Though he won a Nobel Prize in 1971, many economists dismissed him as a kind of glorified statistician. Most are aware of at least some of the basic shortcomings of the GDP. But rather than face those shortcomings squarely, they have either shrugged their shoulders or sought to minimize the implications for their underlying models. In his ubiquitous economics text Paul Samuelson and his co-author William Nordhaus devote a few pages to possible revisions to the GDP to reflect environmental and other concerns. But this is more in the spirit of a technical adjustment than a questioning of the underlying premise.

–“The government obscures the impact of such policies by in effect keeping two sets of books–a visible one for the market and an invisible one for everything else. New indicators would bring the two together, and better policy just might result.

–“The effect would perhaps be especially direct on tax policy. The current tax system is deeply perverse, but not for the reasons that economists generally cite. Purveyors of conventional wisdom say that the tax system retards growth, by which they mean GDP. But this makes no distinction at all between muscle and bloat. They want capital-gains tax breaks, but for what? Pop art? Overseas investment funds? They urge taxes on consumption. But what kinds do they mean? Work shoes as well as Guccis? Recycled paper along with that made from ancient forests?

–“Meanwhile, the left argues for “progressive” taxes based entirely on income, as if income and the activities that produce it were inherently worthy of censure, regardless of what those activities are. Better accounting would define the issue along an entirely different spectrum.

–“For example, the current system taxes heavily that which should be encouraged–enterprise and human labor. Meanwhile, it taxes lightly or even subsidizes the use of the natural resources that humanity needs to husband and conserve. Employers pay a heavy fine, in the form of Social Security taxes, workers’ compensation, and the rest, when they hire somebody. But they get big write-offs when they help to drain the world’s natural resources. New accounting would expose this perversity, and point toward a new tax system that defied the stereotyped categories of left and right.

–“To put it simply, the nation would cut–or if possible eliminate–taxes on work and enterprise and replace them with increased taxes on the use of natural resources. Such a system would diminish the need for environmental regulation, by building a semblance of environmental accounting right into the price system. Prices would include environmental and social costs. This approach would also be a spur to enterprise and employment. With reduced income taxes, the entire economy would become a kind of enterprise zone, and the nation’s entrepreneurial energies would be deployed much more toward solving environmental and social problems than toward creating them. Moreover, by doing away with the corporate income tax, we could get rid of the whole loophole culture that corrupts the nation’s politics and is a primary source of corporate subsidy and waste.

–“Americans are conditioned to see ecology and social conservatism as occupying opposite ends of the political spectrum. But that is largely an optical illusion, reinforced by an antiquated national accounting system. The fact is that adherents at both ends deplore the way the pursuit of GDP can undermine the realm of their concern. Much as this pursuit turns ancient forests into lumber and beaches into sewers, so it turns families into nodes of consumption and the living room into a marketing free-fire zone. Both camps speak from the standpoint of values against the moral relativism and opportunism of the market. “If you read the New Testament or the Pope’s encyclical, it’s no cheers for socialism and one and a half or two for capitalism,” William Bennett, who was Reagan’s Secretary of Education, observes. “Socialism treats people as a cog in the machine of the state; capitalism tends to treat people as commodities.”

–‘”We may be witnessing the opening battles in a new kind of politics that will raise basic questions about growth–questions that defy the conventional left-right divide. Where the old politics was largely concerned with the role of government–with the relation between public and private sectors–the emerging one will be more concerned with such issues as central versus local, market culture versus family and community culture, material accretion versus quality and values. The new politics will not be anti-growth, because to be categorically against growth is as nonsensical as to be categorically for it. Rather, it will begin with Luttwak’s sane observation that when your goal is simply to increase GDP, then “what you increase isn’t necessarily good.” It will insist that growth–and economics generally–must be a means to an end, and not an end in itself.”—http://www.theatlantic.com/past/politics/ecbig/gdp.htm

Is it really good, to be just another GDP nub, waxing under the hot taxable sun, down on the international plantation? This is of course where the “Normative Question” meets policy, but those policy sharks always looking for more revenue, see no value to be gained from having a working conscience, and erect said barriers to keep those pesky questions from ever being raised or heard. Why does the president act as if he alone can decide the quality of life for so many? People are not commodities, or cogs, and yet this damn infernal machine beating us down into mere nubs, has no off button. Like the dumb machine it is and nothing else, it perverts the truth to hide the lies so needed for it to run at all. A war machine raking the people into ever increasing debt is really damn evil as well, but those war-pigs sniffing the glue just keep right on greasing those big wheels as if nothing else mattered, but the demands of the syndicate. A syndicate dedicated to itself, whose only goals are to make those nubs produce the Profit no matter what the costs so attached. This policy of self-enrichment for the syndicate is hidden by the demands of taxation, which people recognize quite easily as financial extortion, and yet, the policy mules are utterly blind—as if somebody cut out their eyes— and just continue the same old bureaucratic mud-dance oblivious to external reality.

If inflation is the result of using worthless, synthetic money does it not stand to reason that these officials, in mad ignorance of sound monetary principles, are the very barrier to the prosperity so needed for survival? What kind of government purposely destroys economic advancement in the name of increasing GDP?  When an entire economic system is contrived on top of a war policy, long since refuted by it failures, and is forced by all means necessary to continue doing the same damn stupid ass political tricks, what power is needed to make a president actually use his conscience? Whose hand is stuck up the governments ass to keep this dead corpse of a government dancing on the stage? How many excuses can the budget trolls define by the GDP stick, for yet more taxes? There is no limit. There will never be any limits to what the puppet-government will seize by taxable extortions upon the working class. Which is why that “Direct taxing power” was quite limited, by the Congress Assembled having no “citizens” to squeeze under its jurisdiction. The big corporations also proved the indirect taxing power was far too easy to defeat, when the only goal is fleecing the consumers for every dollar so gained. The citizen is but a shiny pinball in a game of Unlimited Racket+…. of which there is no exit.

A rancher in south Nevada is currently squared off with the BLM over grazing issues on federal lands, which are for some obtuse reason are always described as public lands. Nevada is in a tough spot due to a very wretched bit of language which had the direct effect of keeping a substantial percentage of the land in Nevada strictly under federal ownership. The BLM like the IRS was never contemplated by the Framers of the Constitution.

The amount of land in the west still under that “language” is considerable. The absurdity of that language, is it deprived these western States from equal status of the originals. That in itself was unconstitutional. To further the insult, Congress flat out refuses to even acknowledge the absurdity still on the books. This tactic has been used to justify an ever increasing unconstitutional federal control of said Public lands, in these Sovereign States. If the federal government is treating these western states no better than Guam, or the Virgin islands, that certainly explains a few things, regarding those civil rights they simply trespass, without a seconds hesitation, when it suits their financial purpose.

This recent action further defines a presumption that FED-agency citizens are a superior class to any other, and can decide without any restrictions, how they personally can deal with pesky nobodies interfering with their grand designs. The rancher in question has a legitimate claim upon which he stands, but the murky factor here is made more severe by the federal claims of land ownership, which also allows them to simply redefine the rules as they please and damn to hell anybody who objects. This man might very well be that ‘canary in a coal mine’ in regards to how the feds might simply decide to restrict all western State Citizens from having any land rights period. Most of the west might very well find itself suffering yet further deprivations of land rights to justify official destruction of said people simply to increase GDP. That is the crux of the insanity— destroying people will increase more economic activities, even if it kills them in the process.

When war policy dictates social policy killing people is good for Federal business. And any nut in that presidential chair is just going to keep that budget wheel turning to bless the coffers of those dead-eyed bankers laughing as usual at the top of those golden towers of power. As the popular dictum goes–nothing happens by accident— and the stink factor emanating out of Washington D.C. is enough to make a skunk blush with envy. The choices people need to make are not the ones the president is dishing out on that plastic platter. Sort of like the school lunches so many kids are being forced to purchase at a higher price— while getting something far less in return— as if starving was good for them too. But hey, so long as GDP goes up and profits increase who cares what those kids need or want…. that FED super-power of authority is too awesome to be spoiled by mere reality. After looking through quite a few pictures of those measly lunches, touted as so beneficial for children…, I am convinced the rising  incompetence of  government is only matched by its arrogance and willful, evil deceit. Obviously the CPI will never measure that Definitional Scope Index either.

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