Just The Facts, Please

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is s...

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States by Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2009. More than 5,000 men and women in uniform are providing military ceremonial support to the presidential inauguration, a tradition dating back to George Washington’s 1789 inauguration. VIRIN: 090120-F-3961R-919 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Much controversy and demagoguery has attended the presidency of Barack Obama.  I found it refreshing then to read the last in a series of short biographies of all the presidents, his of course being the most recent.  It is only about 600 words, a challenge to be sure to sum up a complex and contentious four-year term, but I submit that it has been done very well.  If you have been wondering how history will view Barack Obama’s first term, I submit it will not be much different from what you read here.  I reprint it here from the Joplin Globe, the caption being “Provided by staff reports.”

Barack Obama is a living example of the diversity and mobility of 21st century America. His father, Barack Obama Sr., was born in Kenya. His mother, Ann Durham, grew up in Kansas. They met at the university of Hawaii, and Obama was born in Honolulu.

Obama had a sparkling academic career, an undergraduate degree from Columbia and a law degree from Harvard Law School, where he became the first African-American president of the prestigious Harvard law Review. At Harvard, Obama met his wife, Michelle Robinson, another law student. The couple settled in her hometown of Chicago.

Obama lectured at the University of Chicago law school, but he got practical experience working as a community organizer. He registered voters. He ran a successful campaign to get elected to the Illinois Senate, where he worked on ethics legislation and played a prominent role in passing a law to require the videotaping of police questionings and confessions in homicide cases.

Obama demonstrated practicality and eloquence at the 2004 Democratic National Convention as he ran a successful campaign for the U.S. Senate.

“There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America,” Obama said at the convention. “there’s a United States of America.”

The speech helped Obama win the Senate seat and he launched his presidential campaign in 2007.

The leading candidates in the 2008 primaries were Obama,, an African-American, and a woman, US. Sen. Hillary Clinton, of New York. Obama won enough delegates by May to clinch the nomination. Obama named Clinton as Secretary of State after his election.

Obama defeated Republican nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain in the 2008 general election to win the presidency. The nation’s first black president took the oath of office of Jan. 20, 2009.

Obama’s first term has been marked by successes and setbacks. Unemployment rates have improved since the depths of the recession in 2009, but economic growth has come at a slow pace.

Among his efforts to repair the economy were the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. He renewed loaned to General Motors and Chrysler in 2009 so they could continue operating while they reorganized and the American auto industry has rebounded.

The controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which has been dubbed Obamacare, was signed into law by Obama in 2010 Some major provisions of the law, including state health insurance exchanges, are scheduled to take effect in 2014.

The Iraq War ended on Obama’s watch, in August 2010. Obama has pledged to have all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Obama oversaw the military operation to kill al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on May 1, 2011.

About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Democratic.
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36 Responses to Just The Facts, Please

  1. donvphilly says:

    It so depresses me that there are so many Americans who, for some reason, will ignore all that Obama has done to keep us out of a recession and to move the country forward in spite of the efforts by the Republicans to make him “A one term president”. They will vote for a man who has said he does not care about “Fact Check”, who has been on both sides of so many important issues, and who will not support the health needs that are important to most women. I truly believe that he lacks moral character and has done everything possible, including lie (most recently about Chrysler sending jobs to China) to win this election. As the country survived George W. (although the Republicans don’t brag to much about him), I sure hope we (of the 47 percent) dont get too screwed if Romney does win. It is a shame that many of the 47 percent will vote against their best interest and vote for Romney. (What millions of advertising dollars might do.)


  2. henrygmorgan says:


    I was frankly surprised to see such a politically neutral description of the man and his presidency. I suspect that the times we live in have led us to expect the “Kenyan-born, America-hating, socialist, nation-destroying apologist”. trope to be hauled out. It is sad to reflect on what cynics Obama’s haters have turned us into. It’s refreshing to learn that there are still a few rational, fair-minded observers out there. May they proliferate!



    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Sorry to be late “approving” your comment here, Bud. For completely unknown reasons it was stuck in spam.

      Yes, I read the presidents series in the Globe with interest, marveling at the challenge of summarizing such history so succinctly. This latest seemed to bear the same style as the others, but didn’t have the same attribution, merely “from staff reports”, so I queried the Globe editor about it. No reply so far, but I noted in this morning’s paper that she had reprinted the Obama bio with an update. I thought that was premature. History needs to simmer awhile to be palatable, IMO. 🙂


  3. But wait! How do they KNOW he had a sparking college career? Has anybody seen his transcripts? And we still don’t know he’s REALLY an American – have we seen his REAL birth certificate?!? And what about……
    I’m sorry, I just can’t keep typing such utter drivel. 😉 😀


    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Yep, you’re right John. Obama might not actually be real, you know. There’s very little record of him at Columbia for example. He didn’t get any girls pregnant, didn’t get arrested. For anything! Must not have yelled at anyone or gotten into any fights – nobody remembers him! He’s an android, I’m sure of it. 😉


  4. ansonburlingame says:

    To all,

    A couple of weeks before this election I finally stopped trying to argue on the EC blog. It became far too polemical which by and large as not happened here, yet. We will see.

    Obama is as real as he can be for sure. He is very much the progressive or liberal politician and he won this important election based on the electorate’s demand for a big and strong federal government designed to meet the demands of the electorate.

    Both demographics and ideology triumped on the progessive side yesterday and frankly it is not surprising that such happened. More than 50% of American voters continue to want more from the federal government, at least domestically. The real challenge for liberals/progressives is to provide that “more” and still be able to financially carry that burden on America.

    Democracies since WWII have imposed, as demanded by the various electorates, incremental socialism in varying degrees on individual countries. And more and more the financial burden resulting from those demands has created a new kind of financial world.

    Democracies have become more “poor” and some large autocratic countries have become economicially more powerful. I see no way such trends can be argued about, but am also sure someone herein will give it a shot.

    Europe today is essentially defensless (except for nuclear weapons) against a really determined and autocratic foe. Now read today’s editorial in the Globe reflecting on what I see as an increasingly bygone era, an era of American supremacy around the world, economically, diplomatically and militarily. LIberals will applaud the military decline seen before us. And you/they will say that we CAN meet all the domestic demands and still sustain our economic and diplomatic power.

    I seriously doubt such an outcome for sure. America is and will continue down a declining path in terms of economics, diplomacy and for sure military power. In the meantime the incremental path towards more “American style” socialism will continue up to the point where the rich have been taxed (and capital has fled elsewhere) too much and government will then turn to the middle class to sustain our federal financial cravings. Will that happen in the remainder of my lifetime? I don’t know. But happen it will until we go over a financial cliff, “just like Greece” or maybe “Europe”.

    Keep that in mind, while liberals celebrate today. Ask yourselfs and your elected folks, “How do we pay for it” each time another social increment is added to an already grossly overburdened plate. Ignore that question at the peril of America in the future.



    • Jim Wheeler says:

      @ Anson,

      As usual I find your comments useful because they appear to mirror the thinking of many other Conservatives, so in the interest of exposition for the readership I will try to give some rebuttal, even though I repeat myself.

      “More than 50% of American voters continue to want more from the federal government, at least domestically.”

      The Hoover-like meme that the 47% (a term for which progressives will be forever grateful to Mitt Romney for defining so well) are a bunch of free-loaders always looking for a government hand out is simply not true. Most of the 47% work hard, constitute patronage for businesses, and pay a lot of taxes, even if they aren’t income taxes.

      “The real challenge for liberals/progressives is to provide that “more” and still be able to financially carry that burden on America.”

      The notion that a federal social safety net is unaffordable is not true either. If we had not tried to rebuild two corrupt foreign nations and had not totally over-reacted to 9/11 by bureaucracy-building (See “Top Secret America” and “Drift”), and had not deprived government of much-needed revenue by giving tax-cuts to the wealthiest Americans, the social programs would be quite affordable.

      “Europe today is essentially defensless (sic) (except for nuclear weapons) against a really determined and autocratic foe.”

      Trying to be the world’s policeman should not be on our agenda. The Cold War has been over for two decades and it is long past time that the other first-world nations should pick up the slack in their own backyards instead of letting the U.S. pay their defense bills for them. It is national hubris to try to remake the world in our image, which we’ve been trying to do ever since WW II. American Exceptionalism is a defective philosophy because the world has changed. MAD is still in effect, the Tridents still patrol the deeps.

      ” . . . the rich have been taxed (and capital has fled elsewhere) too much . . . “

      The Great Recession did not occur because the rich were overtaxed. Businesses do not curb expansion because of taxes, but rather uncertainty (such as that caused by Grover Norquist-caused government gridlock). Businesses are sitting on trillions in cash. However, I do agree that the whole tax structure needs a serious overhaul. I just don’t think we ought to start that with more breaks for the wealthy.

      Finally, the tenor of your comments always implies that progressives don’t want balanced budgets and don’t want to reduce the national debt to manageable proportions. It’s not true. In fact, we’re going to have a pragmatic president for the next four years and the GOP just might find they can work with him to do that, if they’ll only start doing what the founders wanted: haggle, compromise, get a plan, do what’s right. Politics, not gridlock. Now there’s something for you to keep in mind while the GOP ponders where it went wrong.

      Now I’m braced for another long tirade about how we can’t afford anything. I’ll post it as soon as it arrives.


  5. henrygmorgan says:


    I had the same response to the Globe bio. I would have expected the “ultra-liberal, Kenyan-born, America-hating, communist, apologist” that Obama-haters have driven me to expect. One thing I most detest about the present political scene is what a cynic it has turned me into. Bit when I am daily bombarded with charges of “81 communist members of the Democrat Party,” “crypto-Moslem,” “card-carrying communist,” etc., I am maddened to the point of despair. Especially when everyone knows that there aren’t more than 75 communists in the Democratic House, that there’s nothing crypto at all about his Chtistian-hating, Sharia-loving Moslem orientation, and that he was never actually issued a card when he joined the Communist Party. You can see how hard it is to separate the wheat of truth from the chaff of lies.

    I would like to think that last night’s result would bring about a sunshiny new day, but then there is that cynicism that stands in the way. Such is the stuff that dreams are made of.



  6. henrygmorgan says:

    Jim: I wrote this second version when I thought that my first had been lost in cyberspace by an old man trying desperately to cope with the modern technological world he confusingly finds himself in. Sorry. Bud


  7. ansonburlingame says:

    Bud and Jim,

    Don’t lose sight of the forest because of the trees.

    I detest the hatred from the right (and the left) as much as you do. But forget all that “crap” if possible. The issue, fundmentally and of course as I see it, is HOW to sustain American power, domestically and internationally given the reality of economics around the world today.

    America is now very much and increasingly liberal in its electorate. No doubt about that fact as shown in this election. But the divide in economic solutions remains huge today.

    For example, please consider this point. WHICH is most important, right now in the American economy? Should we grow GDP (actually REAL GDP) by producing more goods and services that can and will be sold around the world OR is redistribution of income to sustain the federal government more important NOW (not later).

    I submit you cannot achieve BOTH at the same time. I have a guest column in the mill addressing the concept of “structrual deficits” as opposed to deficits that “cycle” as growth in GDP ebbs and flows, up or down. We have imbedded “constant” (or increasing) deficits in our legislation. Unless we change the laws to collect more revenue (in the range of $1 Trillion annually) OR cut spending by the same amount OR do both to varying degrees we are “stuck” where we are in debt and deficits.

    Such is not my personal view, by the way. It is right out of an economic textbook, an apolitical textbook.

    Will the polemics and virulence change as a result of yesterday. I have my doubts. Look “left” and watch the EC blog or “right” and watch the Corner.

    So the question becomes, given such “crap” or rhetoric, how do we make the changes needed to…..

    I am interested in what you believe makes up the ……, now given the election results. For sure we will see how elected officials think in such regards as we now address, finally, the looming “fiscal cliff” in the short term and the larger economic issues in the longer term.



  8. donvphilly says:

    I must admit that yesterday, with all the polls showing a possible Romney win, I was somewhat in the dumps. However, today I am so so PROUD to be in the 11% MINORITY of white men who voted for Obama. In spite of all the doom predicted by those on the right, I believe that with some compromising on both sides of the aisle, Obama will lead us through this most difficult economic period. WOW! WHITE MEN DON’T RULE. Isn’t this a great country


  9. henrygmorgan says:


    It is hard to concentrate on economics when you’re being called nasty names, and having your patriotism challenged, as well as your intelligence. However, I believe that liberals care as much about the economy as anyone else; it’s just that liberals and conservatives disagree on the policies to follow to reach the sound, stable economic state that I believe we all desire. But make no mistake; we do disagree and have since the beginning of this republic.

    You say that that since your view comes from a textbook, it is “apolitical.” In each of the four universities in which I have taught, my faculty colleagues in the Economics Department were usually as divided on their economic views as the rest of society. And the textbooks are written by professors in these departments. Do you prefer Prof. Milton Friedman or Prof. Paul Krugman? They are as far apart as it’s possible to be, as are most of their colleagues, including my former colleagues at Missouri Southern, as a glimpse of their scholarly publications will reveal.

    Teaching English, as I did, made me aware that English Composition was nobody’s favorite course, but I considered it essential so kept plugging away, despite the friendly jokes and jabs I heard about it from my colleagues. Likewise with Economics, as every Economics professor knows. Such jabs as “Economics, the Dismal Science,” or “If you lined up every Econ prof in the world end to end, they’d never reach a conclusion.” or Harry Truman’s frustrated comment that what he needed most was a “one-armed economist, so that he couldn’t keep giving me the ‘on the one hand, but on the other.'”

    I welcome these differences, because the friction between them provides the energy to keep the research going. I am not only not an economics authority, but far from it, even after the two or three courses I may have taken back along the way, but I do acknowledge that the Hegelian thesis-antithesis-synthesis working out of the differences between the two or more opposing sides often does in fact lead to a synthesis. Would that our present-day congressman and senators could embrace this notion.

    You did say say you wanted to know what we thought.



  10. ansonburlingame says:


    I acknowledge you as a reasonable man in these sometimes polemical blogs. Thus I read your views and consider them. And of course I am old enough and well educated enough to recognize how university professors might slant courses, to a degree at least.

    The only reason I went “back to college” this current semester was an attempt to reacquaint myself with long forgotten BASICS in economics. I have studied hard to focus on such basics, and not try to “spin” them to mete any preconceived political notions. Thus my blog “Keynesian Economics will work, IF” which I posted over a month ago or so. I am sure that long dead Keynes would agree with what I wrote by the way, but Krugman might well disagree, as only an example.

    My professor struggles each day trying to TEACH the BASICS to a class that surprises me to a degree in their LACK of ability to grasp basics. At least half the class struggle with simple arthimetic for example. Without a calculator they completely lose the ability to REASON along the lines of various very simple equations and get “hung up in the math”, elementary school math using fractions and decimals. To get those students, at least 50% of them through a semester of economics is HARD to accomplish by a PhD level professor and he cannot in any way spend time going from basic things to the vast variablility of political things. And he does not even TRY to do so, nor should he in my view.

    Instead he has to work hard so all students can show on a graph how aggregate demand “moves” if only taxes are raised, for example. So fear not. This class at MSSU in introductory Macro Economics is NOT a “political class”. No way.

    As for answering my question, well, Bud you flunked that one. WHICH is more important (meaning prioritize your thinking), growing GDP OR redistributing income?

    That simple question is at the basics of the now upon us “fiscal cliff” debate, is it not?

    And if you say BOTH are equally important and cannot be prioritized, well if I was your professor, you would flunk, again, at least in macro economics.



  11. henrygmorgan says:


    I never said a word about professors “slanting” their courses. I did say that economics professors have different view and that these views are represented in the textbooks that they write, and that is a fact. It doesn’t mean that their views are incorrect or not relevant; it means that there are many different economic theories and we have not yet agreed on which one or which ones are the Only Correct Ones. I also believe that we never will, and that is the thesis of my remarks in response to your request for Jim’s and my views.

    As far as those views are concerned, you try to trap me in an “either-or” fallacy, known in logical circles as the “Oversimplification” fallacy, i.e. to reduce all alternatives to two and force someone to choose between them. I remember a classic one when I was in the service. Congress was engaged in a debate over the Soviet Union, and one senator argued that “either we bomb them now, or they will bomb us later.” Fortunately, neither alternative emerged to be the correct one. There was at least one other alternative: neither bombs the other.

    Every “either-or” proposition involves someone’s judgment, which may or may not be sound. A question from the SIR, a faculty evaluation form, asked the student to respond to the following statement: “The instructor follows his/her syllabus (a) always (b) usually (c) occasionally (d) seldom (e) never.” Clearly the person creating this question considered following a syllabus to be the hallmark of excellent instruction. There was no place for the student to answer “No she doesn’t, thank God,” or “Yes he does, dammit.” I’m glad I never had a course under the question-maker.
    That fact is that there must be some redistriibution of wealth in a society or there would be no GDP.
    If the citizens do not possess enough wealth to purchase goods and services, business will fail. If businesses fail, the GDP is reduced. Now the argument concerns how much wealth should be redistributed, to whom, and on what basis? The answer depends on which economic theory you adhere to. It is certain that Milton Friedman’s answer would not be the same as Paul Krugman’s, despite the fact that both are widely respected Noble Prize winners.

    And you intend to “grade” me on how closely my answer accords with your present textbook? No thanks.


    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Dang, that’s good, Bud. Pardon me if I butt in with one additional thought on Anson’s redistribution stand, one which should bolster your own.

      Anson, your previous comment implies to me that tax programs should not be progressive. Am I correct? The possible answers include:

      a. Yes.
      b. No.
      c. Neither yes nor no.
      d. I am against taxation.

      If your answer is a., then your tax program would be the only one like it in the world (for some reason). If your answer is c., then how would you define the neutral point? If your answer is b., then you are by definition an advocate of redistribution and that leaves only the matter of degree. If your answer is d., I think even Ron Paul would disavow you.


      • henrygmorgan says:


        Excellent example of the either-or fallacy. I’m glad I didn’t have to respond to it. On the subject of either-or, I have noticed two trends in conservative thinking lately, one that has probably been around a long time, but I wasn’t perceptive enough to realize it. It is how often conservative arguments have either-or at their heart, most of which can be reduced to
        “us or Armageddon.” “This immigration policy or be overtaken by the hordes.” “This economic policy or disaster.” There seems to be an inborn conservative resistance to considering alternatives. “My way or the highway.”

        The second trend is becoming apparent in conservative media, especially since the election. We are accustomed, after Republican losses, to the rant that “we weren’t conservative enough,” or “our candidate was not a real conservative.” The new voice comes from conservative writers, David Frum and others, who are charging that the conservative media is failing conservatives by not addressing reality. They ask, “How could so many among us have been so wrong?” George Will, Karl Rove, Ann Coulter, Dick Morris, and many others were predicting a landslide, while other forecasters were predicting the opposite. Nate Silver was dead-on right in his forecast, and in 2008 got 49 out of 50 states correctly. Why did no conservatives read the same data and come to the same conclusion? There was no excuse for being shocked by the results.

        The answer most of these new critics give is that they are all listening to each other and ignoring any evidence that contradicts their established opinion. Too much Fox news, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity will seriously narrow the focus. As a life-long Democrat, I can only hope that the latter don’t start listening to the former.

        What do you think?



        • ansonburlingame says:


          As a “life long Democrat” I wonder if there is some kind in inate bias in your views based on a very rapidly changing world, economically? I do not stipulate that the GOP has a lock on economic “truth” as well. Dems and Reps are about as far apart today as Friedman and Krugman, or Keynes and classical economists were in 1936.

          WWII got us out of that earlier economic debate. I wonder what will resolve the differences today however.



          • henrygmorgan says:


            If I have an innate bias, it’s not because of “a rapidly changing world, economically,” but because of my clear memory of history. Democrats gave us Social Security, GI Bills, Medicare, Medicaid, and many other programs designed to help people, all against strong Republican resistance, and I read now that they are planning large budget cuts to affect veterans and active service troops. That’s all the evidence I need to form my biases.



  12. ansonburlingame says:

    To both,

    Our tax payments to fund the federal government should be a progressive. Period. Easy answer. People with more money should pay more taxes. HOW progressive is the real argument.

    Now back to Henry. Essentially he is saying that at least in economics there is not necessarily a correct answer. “It depends…….” instead is the point. Well that is what I hear all the time in economic debates, essentially sound bite debates. Politicians try to defend, for example, JUST Friedman OR Krugman and promote those ideas. Any nuance between the two is too complicated for public debate and thus the voters are left with one or the other, or so it seems to me.

    That is exactly why I went back to college to learn how to discern the deeper implications of hard right or hard left positions. I wrote a rather long blog to attempt to do so related to popular views of Keynesian economics.

    The simple equation for GDP has essentially four variables and obviously if any one of those variables goes UP (and the rest remain the same) then GDP goes up by a corresponding amount. That is essentially what Keynes observed. Classical economists always felt that only private consumption or investment would cause GDP to rise, substantially. Keynes simply said government purchases should play a role as well, a dominant role during a real crisis like the Great Depression.

    What Keynes did NOT account for is what happens if government purchases TAKE money from people consuming or investing (or both) to enhance government purchases. Now one has two or three variables in a simple equation and one or more MAY go down while another goes UP. Then what? Hmmmm?

    The “American solution” to that dilemma for 50 plus years is NOT to take as much as is needed (taxes). Nope, that is unpopular to take such huge amounts. Instead America has borrowed the money and NEVER even attempted to pay any of it back. Rather it has simply paid the interest on such borrowing.

    Keynes NEVER addressed the problems of mounting (to the point of overwhelming) national debt. For sure he would have agreed with huge borrowing to get out of the depression, but as well I suspect he would have said “Then pay it back in substantial amounts”.

    Truman and Ike were doing exactly that, keeping wartime taxes (high ones) in place to attempt to repay our wartime debt. That was the traditional path taken by America following wars for two centuries.

    But then something happened around the early to mid 1960s. We implemented huge entitlement programs and lowered taxes as well. Result was the implementation of a large structrual deficit, continuing increases in national debt for 50 years and here we are today.

    I submit that “macro economically” we cannot have our cake and eat it as well. If it is impossible, economically, to grow and redistribute simultaneously then we must pick one or the other. You can do both eventually but not at the same time. You must prioritize. Thus I suggest we FIRST grow GDP, substantially, and THEN, when things are “booming”, redistribute in amounts that can be achieved.

    You can as well find additional thoughts along those lines in “Left-Center-Right” posted yesterday. Defense versus healthcare is the example provided.



  13. ansonburlingame says:

    Continuing the string and responding to Bud’s view that “….Democrats gave us Social Security, GI Bills, Medicare, Medicaid, and many other programs designed to help people, all against strong Republican resistance,”

    As I recall it was Republican votes in 1965 that overcame the “Dixie Dems” to pass Medicare. But that is not really the point. I will acknowledge that Dems did “give us……”

    And NOW we are $16 Trillion in the hole. No big deal says Krugman, etc. and a helluva lot of Dems. We can fix that later.

    When and how is my question using basic economics as a starting point. My “inate bias” suggests that further accumulation of debt is a bad idea. But that will NOT happen anytime soon as we all know. Then what becomes the follow on question and I have written about it for a couple of years now.

    I also never get reasonable answers from Democrats. Give a lot but never pay for “it” is not something I have heard any good economist suggest as “good economics”.



    • henrygmorgan says:


      According to Social Security Online, the vote on Medicare was as follows:



      Democrats 57 7 4

      Republicans 13 17 2


      Democrats 237 48 8

      Republicans 70 68 2

      At least back then, some Republicans voted with Democrats, unlike today.



    • Jim Wheeler says:

      @ Anson,

      Social progress did indeed benefit under Republicans a half century ago. Richard Nixon signed into law the EPA, OSHA, and the National Environmental Policy Act. However, the GOP has changed a lot since those days. I can’t imagine the Teavangelicals going for any of that stuff, can you?

      You continue to insist that Democrats are unconcerned about the national debt. You say they want a lot but don’t want to pay for it. Untrue. Nor has any Democrat I’ve heard said that accumulation of further debt is a “good” idea in itself. What they have said is that we need to do enough Keynesian spending to keep the economy from sliding back into recession, and that’s a whole different context, and for you to imply otherwise is disingenuous.

      President Obama is on record to make reduction of the deficit and the debt a part of his agenda for the next four years. The problem is that he wants both tax reduction (for the middle class) and additional revenue from those who can afford it, i.e., the top 2%. It’s not a huge sacrifice he’s asking for but merely a return to the rates they were paying before the Bush tax cuts. Sure sounds reasonable to me, especially when there’s no evidence the Bush tax cuts worked as advertised and when there’s ample evidence that the economy did just fine in the 1990’s before those tax cuts were in place. Your “innate bias” is indeed intact.

      The Conservative argument against restoring the upper class to the Clinton-era rates, as coming from Boehner and McConnell, is that it would hurt business. That notion has been refuted in another blog – it simply isn’t true. “Only about 3 percent of taxpayers who report any form of business income on their tax returns earn enough to be impacted by the tax rates for take-home income over $250,000”, so they are just flat-out lying about that.

      What appears to be at issue in this matter is that wealthier Americans simply don’t want to sacrifice for the cause. You have already indicated that you favor progressivity in the tax system and admit that the only thing to argue about there is “how much”. Well, here we are. The Clinton-era rates worked and yielded prosperity, the Bush tax cuts didn’t. The economy is teetering under the burden of an inefficient healthcare system and a Bush-inspired anti-terror TSA bureaucracy and needs help. And the wealthiest Americans are resisting helping for one reason and one reason only. They don’t want to.


  14. ansonburlingame says:

    Now we are having a discussion that makes sense to me.

    Even during the disdained (by many progressives) Reagan years the GOP and Dems in fact passed bipartisan legislation on major issues. Today that is almost hopeless. The reason that is the case is hard positions on BOTH sides, not just GOP intranscience, in my view. Yes, for sure the Tea Party has made a strong contribution to such stalemate but the differences on policy, economic policy primarily (but watch out for foreign policy if Benghazi really becomes known as well) are broader than just the Tea Party.

    The federal government spends far more that it takes in in revenue. No one can deny that fact for sure. The only real “surplus” for the last 50 years was that during the Clinton administration and THAT was a bipartisan act as well between the GOP House and Clinton. Since then, armargedon between the two sides (except maybe the Medicare drug accomodation).

    By and large both parties have been injecting Keynesian ideas into economic policy, spending more than collected for a long time. Today we cannot even agree on the debt to GDP ratio (well over 100% in my view and for sure climbing). In other words at the time the Great Recession hit us we were in range of WWII debt to GDP ratios BEFORE the issue of more huge deficits became viral.

    The reason is simple to me and hopefully you read my explanation in the Sunday column on structural deficits. We have had such embedded deficits in our federal budgets, when we even had such budgets, for a long time. And now that problem, structural deficits has brought the chickens home to roost, piling more huge Keynesian debt on top of structural debt (never advocated by Keynes) accumulated over 50 years or so.

    You must know as well as I do that the 4% tax hike on the rich, amounting to about $70 Billion a year is NOT a long term solution, or even a short one when we see $1 Trillion plus deficits. That is merely a political ploy as well as a misguided attempt to redistribute income through taxes during a recession and slow recovery, historically slow.

    I even seriously doubt that the $70 Billion will go to deficit reduction as well. It will go into the general fund and you know what any Congress does with that money. If you want to demand that the money goes only to pay for excesses in current programs, like Medicare, then put that in the law and watch the Medicare deficit go from $250 Billion a year to $180 Billion in 2013. But that will not happen and you know it.

    Simply said, we are facing $ Trillion problems and arguing over $10s of Billions and have been doing so for four years and continuing. The solution to our fiscal problems must be a combination of intense and painful structural reform in my view. Revenues must go up and spending must go down, period, long term and structurally through wise legislation.

    Said another way, EVERYONE must pay more to support the federal government and the federal government must stop trying to solve all the financial needs throughout the country. Prioritization of the real needs in America must come into play in terms of both entitlements and defense spending and both items must be reduced, substantially while at the same time raising more revenues.

    Politics and class warfare have gotten in the way of such an approach. The best such solution seen thus far was Simpson-Bowles which was only a timid but important first step. Now some 3 years after that approach was ignored by both sides, well here we are today starring at a short term but actually rather mild FIRST fiscal cliff. The really bigger one, a real “cliff” is somewhere out there as well however. But you have heard all that before and rejected such rhetoric from me for a long time now. As well so have the majority of American voters done so as well. Keep on spending was a clear message, at least that I heard on Nov 6th.

    The Democratic Party will for sure ride that horse for a while now as well. We will see how that horse handles economic reality however, just like Europe’s horse is finding it very hard to leap the cliffs confronting that union, today.



    • Jim Wheeler says:

      @ Anson,

      You think Simpson/Bowles was “timid”? Holy stock-options! Therefore, what you advocate must be the kind of austerity that would blow the socks off a Greek. So, to use one of your favorite words, it’s simple. You favor austerity as a solution and I think a more gradual course is better suited. Austerity for the bottom 98% that is. Simple for sure, and clear as a bell. Yee-haw.


  15. Alan Scott says:

    Jim ,

    I realize you disagree with this but, here goes . We Republicans believe in a concept called economic growth . Much of that growth comes from rich people putting their wealth at risk .The great industrial advancements of the 19th century and early 20th century were possible because men like Vanderbuilt, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Morgan and Ford did not sit back and put their money into tax free bonds . Sadly under the incentives of Barak Obama, this is what today’s rich are most likely to do with their money .

    The constant threat from Obama to paint a target on the back of anyone who build’s a successful enterprise has produced four years of anemic economic growth . Barak Obama had it right . Nobody has built anything during his Presidency . Those four years are his legacy . They are not still an economic echo from the Bush years . The Obamacare taxes combining with raising taxes on capital gains will continue the sub par economy .

    $ 16 Trillion in debt on top of the debt of states like California does matter.


  16. ansonburlingame says:

    There you go again, reducing an attempt at “discussion” to a sound bite over austerity. Yee Haw as well.

    We are confronted by huge problems in America today, problems of a deep and systemic nature involving the “simple” fact that we have been spending far more than we collect in revenues for a very long time. If I had anyone show me that math that simply taxing the rich a “little bit more” would solve those systemic problems then of course I would support such an effort.

    But that highly contested tax hike of 4% on the rich does little to even address our huge fiscal problems today. It is merely a political ploy as well as a overt attempt to align classes against classes of people in America, rich vs poor or 10% against 90%, etc.

    Our real problem is an economic problem. But politics is getting in the way of solutions. When I even briefly attempt to suggest economic underlying issues, like structural deficits, I get sound bites back.

    Well you might get me to stop suggesting economic ideas as solutions and keep me off your blog site. But just wait. The economic problems are right before your eyes, if you open them and get off the political tactic of disparagement.



    • Jim Wheeler says:

      There you go again as well. If you hadn’t noticed, considerable discourse preceded the soundbite, much of which you conveniently ignored. I acknowledged the economic problem, for example, but advocated an approach different from your austerity prescription. I submit that if Romney had won, he would avoid plunging into austerity like the plague. Why? Because that would be a prescription for more recession. But since the GOP is not in the White House, it is convenient for your side to prescribe just that.

      And nowhere did I say that taxing the rich would solve the problem. It simply helps it out. Are you not aware that you do this kind of thing all the time? The President’s call is not a simple political ploy, as you accuse, but a plea to restore some of the progressivity of the tax code that was erased by the previous Republican administration, progressivity being a theory you have admitted is proper. Finally, despite your accusation I have in no way tried to “keep you off my blog site”. Are you paranoid?

      (But just remember, Anson, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean someone isn’t out to get you. That’s a joke, not serious.)


  17. ansonburlingame says:

    No one is “out to get me” for sure physically. But my political ideas are disdained all the time by progressives. If you had remained as a commenter on my blog you would get the same disdainful responses as well. I am sure that is why you no longer try to engage “over there”. For sure it is much easier and “comfortable” to always support a writer than to contradict what is written.

    Austerity can be imposed in TWO ways. You can CUT money given to people OR you can take more money out of the pockets of people. Either way people, some people wind up with less money. Clearly you and others want to impose “austerity” on the rich through an escalation of progressivity in our tax codes. Remember the Bush tax cuts CUT tax rates on everyone and progressivity was sustained, the rich paid a higher rate as well paid more in total taxes simply because they make more money. So only rescinding previous lower tax rates on the rich and leaving everyone else the same is CHANGING the progressivity of the tax code, which of course is what you want.

    Well there are consequences when that happens and less growth in GDP is a clear and historical outcome when taxes are raised on anyone. Sure government gets more money to spend, but……. You applaud government getting more money to spend but ignore the “but…….”

    If you even causally glanced at my blog, “Here we are, again” you would find more detail to back up that argument. You will also find an explanation on why “investment” many time does NOT raise GDP but only increases the paper held wealth of investors. Steve Jobs is a classic example. He came out of his garage and took Apple through an IPO. But where did all that wealth ulitmately go? He build factories in China and trained Chinese workers to make goods and services (iPhones) and thus INCREASED Chinese GDP.

    You and others rail against such business decisions by brilliant business men all the time. Well consider this point. If iPhones had cost consumers $1000 each instead of maybe $400, just how many iPhones would have been sold in America yesterday? Actually considering wage differentials, tax differentials, etc. American made iPhones might well have gone to $1500 or actually never have been produced at all because the cost would be prohibitive.

    The whole idea of economics is to create a system where people buy and sell goods and services, freely. What happens in such a system when buyers do not pay sellers? The result is obvious is it not? Well for 50 years American government has NOT been actually paying for a lot of stuff. Instead that government has created a black hole of debt that among other things sucks in interest alone on that debt that would make Medicare self sustaining or even make a small surplus for other uses by government.

    In that “real” system described above we continue to “buy more” using 40 cents on the dollar of such “buying power” in debt accumulation. When was the last time America actually tried to REDUCE its debt? What for example did we do with the small (relatively speaking) “Clinton surpluses”? It seems like the money was carried forward to ultimately be spent by an ever voracious Congress, pushed hard to spend more by we the people.

    Chapter ONE of my economic text says it clearly. Wants (or needs) ALWAYS exceed the ability to pay for such things. Economics REGULATES the modification of wants by requiring payment for them. In our current entitlement system, using government money to fulfill the wants by many that simple economic principle gets twisted around. I have NO IDEA how many iPhones have been purchased by the poor as a direct or indirect result of their receipt of government entitlements. But even if the number is only ONE such purchased iPhone that would not otherwise have been purchased to fulfill a want (for sure not a need) at government expense, well follow those …… to consider how our economic system is twisted today.

    If that is too complicated to understand then go back to an old argument of how many “ding dongs” are purchased with food stamps!!



    • ansonburlingame says:


      Strike my last comment on “ding dongs”. Go to http://www.kwch.com/business/kwch-hostess-ceo-gives-striking-workers-thursday-deadline-20121114,0,2860295.story and consider the implications in that article.



      • Jim Wheeler says:

        OK, no ding dongs.

        I suppose you mean the union strike signifies that unions are bad. We have had this discussion before of course. The alternative to having unions is to have no unions, in which case, what recourse do workers have to prevent their pay and benefits from sinking to the same level as those in China? Answer: none, except perhaps social pressure on management and the board.

        The threat to dissolve the company appears to be real, so one would think that union bosses would recognize that in good faith and negotiate accordingly. However, the article does say the company is in bankruptcy, so I’m wondering why the court doesn’t have a say in this? But in any case, it is just as incumbent on union management as on company management to recognize the realities of a competitive business, and if their misjudgment results in the company failing, so be it.

        Companies rise and fall all the time, and it is a well-known fact in management that companies have a natural life cycle that eventually tends to senescence. Hostess has been around a long time, so maybe it’s time. I note that this is the company’s second bankruptcy, so before rendering any kind of judgement I would need to know more about how they got that way and I’m not prepared to blame everything on the union without that kind of information.

        It will be interesting to see what happens.


  18. ansonburlingame says:


    The reductions in wages and pension payments was in fact reported in the article as court ordered, the bankruptcy court, not management. So the union reaction was against the bankruptcy court trying to salvage a failing company, a company that went into bankruptcy first in 2004 and now is back at the trough.

    In my view it is not a question of unions or no unions just like it would not be good to do away with “management” and let unions run the companies. Business is rather simple compared to politics but both have something in common. When the “bottom line” goes red something MUST change and both sides should have the common goal to make such needed changes.

    The “science” of economics suggests all kinds of ways to keep the “bottom line” in the black. It is the “politics” demanding more by “slices” that gets in the way.



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