In the wake of last week’s report from the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform—and the cascade of agreements with all the fiscal responsibility proposed therein, except for cuts to defense, social security, Medicare and most tax exemptions—the New York Times has produced this fun puzzle. It invites readers to construct their own balanced federal budgets by adopting or declining a series of cuts, including to foreign and state aid, federal workforces and defense. You can see my own personal Keynesian, soak-the-rich plan here. It balances the budget mostly by returning tax rates to Clinton-era levels and getting the fudge out of Central Asia/space, and it preserves Medicare and farm subsidies. Apparently I am some sort of secret communist, which is why I encourage you to make a budget of your own. Either that or you could rail passionately against every spending cut you can think of, plus tax increases of any sort, while simultaneously demanding a balanced budget immediately. Just put on your American flag shirt and yell directly at the numbers.
Okay, I have abused your trust. Joe Biden did not say the n-word to Cub Scouts, and today’s Combat! blog is about taxes. In addition to being an unpopular topic for which no interesting visual images exist whatsoever, the federal income tax happens to be at the center of present political debate. It’s smack in the middle there on the micro level, as Congress will decide whether to extend the Bush tax cuts when it returns from its August recess. It’s also central on the macro level, since fear of deficits—whether founded or not, and I think it is—is the animating force behind the Tea Party* and pretty much all of contemporary conservative rhetoric.
It’s moving day here at the Combat! blog offices, where certain dismayingly materialistic acquisitions (real mattress) have led us to A) complain that this was much easier last time, when literally everything we owned fit into the bed of a Ford Ranger and B) assume that the economy has recovered. Things must be going well when even people who don’t want stuff have stuff, right? Of course it turns out that things are not so sunny. The US economic metaphor has been upgraded from crash to lingering illness, and while total work hours, productivity and corporate profits are all up, unemployment and the housing market—the two segments of the economy that most pertain to actual people and not Excel files—continue to suck it for coke money. And yet, the hot issue in politics is deficit spending. As the New York Times points out, the international mania for curbing government spending and balancing budgets—which has thus far dominated the G-20 summit, to say nothing of discourse at home—has the potential to trigger another Roosevelt Recession. What the fudge is that, you ask? Looks like someone’s going to have to click on the jump.