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Why Obama, Part VI: Infrastructure

February 10, 2008

For the sixth installment of the Chamber’s Why Obama series, I’ve picked the issue of America’s infrastructure.  The format has been slightly altered this time around, as I am not posting something found on Obama’s website, but rather a position that is found with a simple Google search. This thread was inspired by this evening’s Lou Dobbs on CNN, who spent a fair amount of time covering the topic while featuring the story about the non-partisan “Building America’s Future Coalition”:

LOS ANGELES, CA – Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell has joined forces with New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to improve our nation’s infrastructure. They announced a non-partisan coalition to address the problems in Los Angeles on Saturday.

It will be called “Building America’s Future Coalition,” and it will be made up of state and locally-elected officials. Governor Rendell said that in the past five years, Pennsylvania has increased state funding for bridge repairs by 300%, yet the number of structurally-deficient bridges has increased. He said the country can’t do without federal leadership.

“We, the governors, are going to focus like a laser, on infrastructure. This coalition is going to demand that the presidential nominees tell us what their position on infrastructure is and talk to them about what their goals and dreams are for building a better American infrastructure,” said Rendell.

Dobbs and Jesse Jackson spent a good portion of the show wondering why none of the prominent presidential candidates were addressing this issue. As someone who has been directly impacted by the effects of the 35W bridge collapse here in Minneapolis 6 months ago, I felt inclined to agree. The steady decay of our neglected roads, rails, bridges, water supply etc. threatens to cause more cultural and economic hardship (and even death) than any terrorist cell could ever dream to inflict. This is something that needs to be addressed, and soon.  So, on a mission I went, and within a few seconds I found this (pdf):

Strengthen Core Infrastructure: As our society becomes more mobile and interconnected, the need for 21st-century transportation networks has never been greater. However, too many of our nation’s railways, highways, bridges, airports, and neighborhood streets are slowly decaying due to lack of investment and strategic long-term planning. Barack Obama believes that America’s long-term competitiveness depends on the stability of our critical infrastructure. As president, Obama will make strengthening our transportation systems, including our roads and bridges, a top priority. obama08_thumblogo100.gif

Support Amtrak Funding: Barack Obama has been a strong supporter of federal financial support for Amtrak. Obama believes we need to reform Amtrak to improve accountability. In many parts of the country, Amtrak is the only form of reliable transportation. In the U.S. Senate, Obama is a cosponsor of the Passenger Rail Investment and Innovation Act of 2007, a leading act to provide long-term federal investment to Amtrak. As president, Barack Obama will continue to fight for Amtrak funding and reform so that individuals, families and businesses throughout the country have safe and reliable transportation options.

Support Development of High-Speed Freight and Passenger Rail: Barack Obama supports development of high-speed rail networks across the country. Providing passengers with safe high-speed rail will have significant environmental and metropolitan planning advantages and help diversify our nation’s transportation infrastructure. Our domestic rail freight capacity must also be strengthened because our demand for rail transportation has never been greater, leaving many key transportation hubs stretched to capacity. Obama is committed to renewing the federal government’s commitment to high speed rail so that our nation’s transportation infrastructure continues to support, and not hinder, our nation’s long-term economic growth.

Strengthen Metropolitan Planning to Cut Down Traffic Congestion: Barack Obama believes we must take steps at the front-end as well as the back-end of the planning process to cut down traffic congestion in our large and medium-size cities. Obama supported a measure authored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) to mandate states and Metropolitan Planning Organizations create policies that incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of sidewalks and roads. As president, Obama will work to provide states and local governments with the resources they need to address sprawl and create more livable communities…

It goes on, but I would take the point that Clinton also proposed a detailed plan addressing the issue about a week after the 35W incident.  In the months afterwards, this kind of rhetoric has cooled somewhat, so I would agree with the coalition that it is an important issue that needs to be out there, but if it’s important to you it’s not like you can’t find statements from the candidates.  Obama recognises the importance and scope of all this, and I’m pleased to see that he intends to make addressing the problems with America’s infrastructure a top priority. 

Update: Also see my post: The Cost Of “Infrastructure” Vs. War

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48 comments

  1. I didn’t know all that. I just voted for him because I like him.


  2. Nice goin’ outsider! Thanks for stopping by.

    Sure, Obama has tons of charisma and he is an amazing public speaker (he makes Bush sound like an absolute buffoon), but I wanted to make sure that he was the candidate that represented my position on the issues. I’m taking this in a multi-part series and putting it right out there for debate. From what I’ve seen through the blogs, the primary knock on Obama supporters is that we don’t even know why we support him; we just do. It’s a valid criticism, and I’d like to think that the support is about more than fluff and simply sending a shot across the bow of the Washington establishment (although, I’ll admit, that alone is enticing these days).


  3. Detailed posts like this are the perfect antidote to the “Obama has no substance” charge.


  4. Strengthen Core Infrastructure: Could this possibly mean more Federal interference in States. It would be pretty good if someone got the locals to spend the money correctly.
    Support Amtrak Funding: What this can only really mean is subsidize the hell out of something people don’t want.
    Support Development of High-Speed Freight and Passenger Rail: Uh the Mike Dukakis story.The romantics of rail love this kind of talk but reality just doesn’t pan out. The land grabs alone needed to prevent grade crossings would require untold $$$$ and who knows what in court years.Court years are worse than dog years by the way.
    Strengthen Metropolitan Planning to Cut Down Traffic Congestion This is appealing to many on many levels. I actually support it but would ask yet again why do the Feds need to be involved. It is inn this area especially the unfair nature of the gas tax “donor states” screw job needs to have some light shone on it.
    All in all it sounds great but all populism does.The solution isn’t bigger and more Federal footprints but less. That isn’t going to show up anywhere though.


  5. I am so proud of Maine right now! Our wicked white state chose Obama…overwhelmingly too! Fantastic! With 99% reporting, Obama got 59% and Hillary got 40%. Nice, huh? I’m just so happy today.

    I met one former republican at my local caucus who said she switched to unaffiliated five years ago and sees Obama as exactly what the country needs right now. She said, “He speaks to me and for me”. I loved that.

    Honestly, I went into my caucus going to vote for Kucinich first and then Uncommitted for the 2nd vote, but when I saw a lot of people going to Hillary’s corner, I turned around and went into Obama’s! Good thing I did that because the 2nd vote never happened because everyone was firm in their first choice. Nice, huh?

    I’m so proud of Maine today! Mainers would love a woman for president someday….just not Hillary!


  6. This is great! No complaints except one. How you going to pay for it Obama?


  7. I agree with Tex. Along with his health care and other plans, the future deficits in America’s entitlement programs, the increased debt inherited from the previous administration, and the need to reform the Alternative Minimum Tax, there is very little chance any of this will happen because there is simply not enough money or political capital to spend by the time you get this far down the list.


  8. I’ll concede that this plan is a little light on payment details, but like some of the others, I see it as less of a “plan” and more of a position, in that it would certainly be a better investment than our Iraq adventure (as I examined in my link above).


  9. I’ll concede that this plan is a little light on payment details

    A little light? What’s your definition of a lot light? General, this is typical lib doublespeak. Throw out any aspirations while the seals clap and they cast a vote for you. Do you guys ever hold political lefties accountable for any of their empty promises?

    Well, here’s my position: I want World Peace, a cure for cancer and a utopian environment for all!


  10. I don’t like Mr. Brooks but he has an interesting piece here Tex I don’t think these are empty promises. The Demswill gladly attempt to “find” and spend the $$ required. You heard it here first (maybe) Te hottest Dem word for 2009 will be “The New Peace Dividend” It will be based on pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan.There isn’t any real savings but let’s face it using per day theatre ops expenditures and saying “look we can use that money for these programs” will be all the rage.The problem is the money isn’t going to be there anymore than it’s here now.


  11. in2thefray,

    “The New Peace Dividend” It will be based on pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan.There isn’t any real savings but let’s face it using per day theatre ops expenditures and saying “look we can use that money for these programs” will be all the rage.The problem is the money isn’t going to be there anymore than it’s here now.

    You know what is really funny about Dims and “their” money? They think pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan is money they can add to their aggregate pockets! I’ve been telling anybody that is listening to the debate that the true value of the “war cost” has been bogus from the gitgo; that is, unless the Dims universally decide to get rid of the military because Americans for the most part are paying a bill anyway! It’s a huge sunk cost.

    Add to the fact retrofitting and repair and production of equipment helps to drive our economic engine, not to mention the “jobs” created in the public sector, the Dims once again show their ignorance of macroeconomics. You think that liberal bastion owning MSNBC that goes by the name of GE is hoping the war ends soon?

    Here’s where the Dim’s history gets even murkier and this is the first thing you learn in obtaining an MBA. The Dims are always banging the drum about how FDR brought us out of the depression with the “New Deal”. Economic history says otherwise. Right before we entered WWII, we were still mired in a very deep recession with a national unemployment rate of 11-12%. WWII brought America out of recession. That is a historical fact that somehow gets lost in the argument. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, the lowest historical unemployment rate in modern U.S. history happened during the middle of the Vietnam War.

    Chen and his ilk’s retort will be that we could be building that same infrastructure right here in America. And that is true except one little proviso. The unions required in most major cities aren’t going to be charging the same hourly rates or time and materials that private companies bid in Iraq. And we’ve seen oh-so-many times the efficiency of unionized state labor work, generally when we are being ask to rebuild it. You get a dozen “Big Digs” – a liberal driven fiasco. Ask GM or the airlines about their sterling performance this quarter (record losses).


  12. War may tend to be expansionary for the economy, but a sunk cost is an expenditure you’ve already made where you can’t get all or most of the money back. That’s not the case for future war or military expenditures, much of which is dedicated to Iraq. If you draw down some of that money, it can be used for other public expenditures at home.

    But Chen’s criteria that a particular project or idea has to be more useful than the Iraq adventure is setting a bar far too low. You still have to establish priorities.


  13. I’ll be more specific King if you’re the CPA type.

    By sunk cost (And I used it only in the general sense here), the monies have already been allocated for future use – military bases funded, defense contracts sponsored, veteran administrations adequately subsidized for pension – and no, most of these monies you can not get back by contract without consent.

    However, you’re correct; I should have used more accurate terminology. How about future allocated capital expenditure and associated expenses?

    But these military expenditures that can be drawn down for home use? I dispute they would add one thing to our economy and most likely would contract the supposed expansion; that is, unless you believe the public sector works more effectively than the private?

    If libs are really wanting to talk about future expenditures and the looming costs, why don’t we mention the big pink elephant in the room? SS, Medicare & Medicaid?


  14. The topic is about infrastructure. Do you not think that if you withdrew from some of your future obligations in Iraq, some of that money could be spent on roads and other transportation networks?

    that is, unless you believe the public sector works more effectively than the private?

    Well we’re talking about the military here aren’t we? That’s mostly not the private sector.


  15. Footnote: for all the criticism of Halliburton in Iraq (and I could voice some myself), there’s nobody in any publically funded agency that comes close to their efficiency; including the military.

    The topic is about infrastructure. Do you not think that if you withdrew from some of your future obligations in Iraq, some of that money could be spent on roads and other transportation networks?

    Sure, but the real question is in doing so (withdrawing future obligations to the military), will you add any utility to the economy in the creation of more jobs? I say at best, it’s a wash.

    Now you can frame it as a matter of priority, but if you have to choose between better roads or perceived security, which is it?

    My argument is that it won’t do anything to change the economic situation in America, priorities being a matter of opinion.


  16. My argument is that it won’t do anything to change the economic situation in America, priorities being a matter of opinion.

    I agree, and I never claimed it would, at least in the short run, so I don’t know what we’re arguing about.


  17. My argument is that it won’t do anything to change the economic situation in America, priorities being a matter of opinion.

    Perhaps not immediately, but in general I assume that if the economy is dependant on business, and business is dependant (to a certain extent) on infrastructure, then an investment in the latter would benefit the former.

    Where I live, the collapse of that bridge had a ripple effect through the entire metro area. Overnight, a fraction of the city had longer drives to work, forcing people to consume more gas and being less productive, downtown businesses began to experience drops in traffic, etc. And that was just one bridge. It’s mind boggling to think of the far-reaching impact the slow decay of our core infrastructure would have on the economy over the next few decades.


  18. Chen,

    Your point is taken, I agree, and it’s true that business is dependant on infrastructure. And in a perfect world, infrastructure would be a matter of first priority. In fact, I think it should be now.

    However Obama’s website, much like his campaign, is a pipe dream. He doesn’t explain where he would get the funding which should be rule #1.

    And this is where I get off the boat because I think your emperor has no clothes. His website is full of empty promises with no chance of delivering without raising more taxes.

    I have always believed that all of the gas tax, both state and federal, should be allocated towards our roads and bridges. Period. Pay as you go…but our gutless leadership reroutes the funding into some general fund.

    One has to look no further than Boston’s “Big Dig” to see just how much of a boondoggle public building is…how about a 750% overrun (that we know of), seven years late and the quality has already spoken for itself as it crumbled and killed a lady before completion? Senators Kerry and Kennedy? {crickets} This is just an example of my burgeoning cynicism of why anyone would want more government and that is exactly what your party leadership is asking for.

    Chen, if you’re going to “Fear Bush”, here’s a reason you ought to be fearing and the one reason I fell of the Bush bandwagon a few years back – out of control spending.

    Now you guys tell me again how effective our federal government is at solving our problems and why you think we need to give them more of our money to solve those problems?

    You younger folks should be the ones screaming the loudest. You’re going to be paying into FICA for a very long time and getting little or nothing in return.


  19. I feel given ideological loyalties the Dems have the least chance to improve the national infrastructure.The Dems via the unions would clearly be against private roads and outsourcing construction & maintenance.


  20. Sure, but the real question is in doing so (withdrawing future obligations to the military), will you add any utility to the economy in the creation of more jobs? I say at best, it’s a wash.

    Now you can frame it as a matter of priority, but if you have to choose between better roads or perceived security, which is it?

    My argument is that it won’t do anything to change the economic situation in America, priorities being a matter of opinion.

    Let’s think outside the box for a second…don’t you think some of the money being wasted in Iraq could be allocated better, and put towards actually solidifying and securing our borders? Imagine if we could direct the amount of money and energy that we are putting into Iraq, into actually securing our ports of entry and borders. We could create jobs all over the U.S. by doing this. We would be putting our NATIONAL GUARD to work here, in the U.S. where they belong, it would help alleviate the “illegal immigration problem”, and it would keep our military intact.

    Now you guys tell me again how effective our federal government is at solving our problems and why you think we need to give them more of our money to solve those problems?

    And here is the big problem I have. I don’t trust the government any more than I trust the private sector. Both are available for corruption. Both can abuse the system. Both will do what’s best for them, before what’s best for everyone.

    So for me, that’s the dilemma, because I would love to see a lot of things become privatized, and see the government shrink, but at the same time I feel that free market fairy dust isn’t going to solve everything either.

    But I would say I kind of agree with you. I don’t feel giving more and more money to the government will necessarily fix anything….at the same time, maybe it’s just cause we have been throwing money at the wrong idiots/people. It is possible that the right people could actually make it work better…


  21. Sliquid,

    Let’s think outside the box for a second…don’t you think some of the money being wasted in Iraq could be allocated better, and put towards actually solidifying and securing our borders? Imagine if we could direct the amount of money and energy that we are putting into Iraq, into actually securing our ports of entry and borders. We could create jobs all over the U.S. by doing this. We would be putting our NATIONAL GUARD to work here, in the U.S. where they belong, it would help alleviate the “illegal immigration problem”, and it would keep our military intact.

    Sure. No doubt some of that money in Iraq is wasted. Where we probably part ways is that they could bring the money over here and still waste it. Look at our public education system. They keep dumping money down a rathole and nothing changes – the schools, for the most part, still suck. Government can’t fix bad parenting.

    As far as securing our ports of entry, it is not feasible to check every delivery, or even a large minority of the deliveries. Even if we did so, it would slow business to a crawl and there is a cost associated with that. One reason I do believe in a preemptive war is that I am of the opinion it is a deterrent. And I recognize many don’t believe that. Only time will tell.

    Borders are another matter and it is a point well taken Sliquid. It’s an interesting debate about priorities. Are we safer using the national guard in Iraq; or are we safer in securing our immediate north and south border? I honestly don’t know because I can’t predict what the effect of a secure Iraq might hold (and yes, that’s a big if). But I do like the finest, most powerful military in the world sitting right on the border of two rogue nations called Iran and Syria. They have been allowed to be a menace for 40 years and it was time to call their bluff.

    But I couldn’t argue with you if you wanted to bring many of the national guard troops home to defend the border. And it troubles me greatly about the sacrifices we are calling on the military families to bear while we are fighting this war. There’s something definitely twisted about asking young men to defend our country while the rest of us, me especially, just go about our lives.

    That’s why those military guys (past and present) and their respective families are my only true heroes.


  22. Here is the thing, we were never in danger of Iraq attacking us or invading us.

    So using Iraq as an example of being safety seems to fail.

    We would be no more or less safe from Iraq, if we hadn’t attacked Iraq. The people who attacked us weren’t Iraqi’s, so I have no reason to believe they would have been an actual threat.

    To me, it starts with screening and knowing who is here and what their business is. I would think a concentrated effort to know who is coming in and out would go a lot further in protecting us, than starting wars with countries that had nothing to do with attacking us…


  23. Being an ultra liberal socialist democrat would Obama bring back the WPA/CCC and build a border wall


  24. Sliquid,

    Here is the thing, we were never in danger of Iraq attacking us or invading us.

    So using Iraq as an example of being safety seems to fail.

    We would be no more or less safe from Iraq, if we hadn’t attacked Iraq. The people who attacked us weren’t Iraqi’s, so I have no reason to believe they would have been an actual threat.

    I am not going to start a war between you and me this time Sliquid. But I am going to state why I think this is very shallow thinking.

    Forgetting the WMD for a minute and the bad intelligence which everyone, including the Russians believed, let’s think about what Iraq was doing. They had attacked two separate Muslim countries driving the price of crude oil up throughout the world and disrupting the world economy, gassed the Kurds, broke 18 U.N. resolutions without penalty, murdered an estimated 1MM Iraqi citizens, housed known terrorists, shot missiles into Tel Aviv, continually shot at our planes for 10 years, paid Palestinians $25K per killed Jew, and threatened to kill the Sr. Bush. There were lots of reasons for taking Saddam and his thugs out, none which required WMD for justification. It wasn’t like Saddam wasn’t forewarned. He had 12 years to resolve his internal problems. He obviously chose not to. Now if you want to argue we should have taken him out in ’91, I’m listening.

    You presuppose war can’t be used as a deterrent. I say you’re wrong. It’s the same logic we used to end WWII. We showed that we were willing to make war for you on your soil so horrific that you dare not raise your hand against us. What’s happened in the 60+ years since? Japan is now our 4th largest trading partner and we are staunch allies. Our going to Iraq finally signified to any other rogue nation that we will come and make war. And we will not only remove you from power, but we will kill you in the process.

    Okay, so let’s assume for a minute there was no connection between Iraq and Al-Qaida. But it brought the Al-Qaida thugs crawling out of the woodwork. How many of them have our military disposed of? Who more qualified to do so and what better place?

    What has happened since that time? More thugs came crawling out of the woodwork. And for a while, it appeared we had miscalculated. But guess what? Al-Qaida overplayed its hand. When it begin to kill other Muslims, the good citizens begin to trust us and hunt them when they were convinced we weren’t going to cut and run this time like we did in VietNam. And that is the real reason the surge has worked.

    See, the truth of the matter is that the only ones that can solve the ongoing problems in the Middle East are its own citizens. We are finally starting to show the civilized Muslim world we aren’t the bad guys and our intent is not evil. And some of them are believing us. To do nothing would have left us with the status quo – bad for us; good for them.

    Will it ultimately work? I don’t know. But we had to choose a place to start. Saddam seemed to me to be as good a target as any.

    And how do you know it hasn’t made us safer here on the U.S. soil? How many times have we been attacked since 9/11? It’s inevitable it will happen again, granted. But that would have happened with or without a preemptive war. Anybody that says otherwise is a fool. As long as we support Israel, some of the world is going to hate us. And when it does attack again, our appropriate response should be to immediately retaliate and this time and not pussyfoot around while doing so.

    I’m a big believer in bullies don’t like to be bullied. And my biggest complaint about the Bush philosophy isn’t that we went. It’s what we did once we got there. When we turned up the heat, things begin to change.


  25. Chen, if you’re going to “Fear Bush”, here’s a reason you ought to be fearing and the one reason I fell of the Bush bandwagon a few years back – out of control spending.

    Just about all of this “out of control spending” is due to the war, and Medicare/Medicaid. So I’m guessing one reason you fell off the Bush bandwagon is the war, or is it the fact that he hasn’t addressed the entitelements?


  26. Actually King, in fairness to Bush he attempted to address the Social Security issue early on as Alan Greenspan had suggested. Most of our gutless politicians (both sides) didn’t have the courage to follow thru addressing Social Security because they are only worried about being reelected. And most of America still had their hands out or were asleep at the switch because the Visa still scans.

    The war is but a small part of the out of control spending because it’s peanuts compared to entitlements as we’ve talked about previously


  27. 1) Social Security is a small part of the overall entitlement problem. Most of the financial difficulties come from Medicaid and Medicare because of health care costs. So whatever the merits of Bush’s plan was (in my opinion, there weren’t any) it wasn’t exactly targeted at the right program. I’m sure the Bush administration is aware of the projections.

    2) The war isn’t peanuts, defense spending has risen from 3.0% of GDP to 4.0%. And defense is about a fifth of the total US budget (including entitlements). I don’t know if that even includes what’s being allotted for Iraq.

    http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/89xx/doc8917/AppendixF.14.1.shtml#1068735

    My problem is what do conservatives mean by out of control spending? How do they propose to fix the fiscal strain when most of it is coming from health care and the war? McCain’s “bridge to nowhere” is a nice soundbite but it’s really a red herring. Non-defense discretionary spending has not increased by much.


  28. King, I’m not sure where your coming to some of your conclusions. You’re contention is I assume that the military is killing us?

    (1) It is still close to historic lows vs. gdp

    http://www.truthandpolitics.org/military-relative-size.php#gdp-graph

    (2) You don’t think social security is a problem? Well, Vanguard Investments would disagree with you. Give it about 10 years when boomers are busy retiring and you’re going to feel real differently.

    https://retirementplans.vanguard.com/VGApp/pe/PubVgiNews?ArticleName=SocialSecurityFuture

    Non-defense discretionary spending has not increased by much? Homeland Security has increased 180% the last three years. If you consider that part of the war, okay I might bite. But that is certainly not Iraq.

    Medicaid, I agree with. So what do you propose?

    But here’s my question. I agree that the bridge to nowhere is a soundbite. But what are you libs propose to do about spending? I’d like to know exactly what you propose to cut? Because I got news for you. There’s a hell of a lot more people pulling the Dim lever on medicaid than there are Republicans.

    And let us not forget it was 40+ years of a Dimocratically controlled congress between the years of 1950-1994 that put SS in dire straits to begin with.

    Your historic record controlling costs is not too grand. So Obama’s aid, provide me the details. I’m all ears.

    Just remember, gutting the military like Clinton did may not be feasible now. You don’t think the military primarily voting Republican has been because the Dims have a great track record, do you?


  29. King, I’m not sure where your coming to some of your conclusions. You’re contention is I assume that the military is killing us?

    (1) It is still close to historic lows vs. gdp

    It may be close to historic lows. But we’re talking about the recent “runaway spending” that conservatives usually mention, and much of that is fueled by the 1% increase in the military budget as a percentage of GDP. Compare that to non-defense discretionary spending which hasn’t increased by much (check the tables I posted before). I don’t know if that includes Homeland Security or not. My point isn’t that the defense budget should be gutted. Of course, personally I do think there’s room for some cuts. But I’m saying if you’re complaining that spending has skyrocketed under Bush you’d right in doing so, but much of that increase comes from increased military expenditure. And I assume conservatives aren’t looking to cut that part of the budget.

    (2) You don’t think social security is a problem? Well, Vanguard Investments would disagree with you. Give it about 10 years when boomers are busy retiring and you’re going to feel real differently.

    I didn’t say it wasn’t a problem. Politics is about priorities.

    Measured as a share of the economy, the Trustees project that the shortfall equals 0.7 percent of GDP over the next 75 years. The CBO figures reflect a shortfall of about 0.4 percent of GDP.

    http://www.cbpp.org/6-14-04bud.htm

    The current federal deficit in the United States is somewhere around 3.3%. If Bush was so concerned about America’s fiscal future, why didn’t he focus on a) the general fund deficit b) Medicare or c) Medicaid when all three are in far worse shape than Social Security?

    Medicaid, I agree with. So what do you propose?

    I’m sure this sounds like a cop-out, but my answer would take this thread way off topic. If Chen blogs about health care we can talk about this…

    However, I will say that since this topic is about infrastructure, it’s hard to see how Obama can pay for these projects, and at the same time do all the other things he wants to do. In fact it’s probably not a good idea to try to balance the budget right now. I imagine any Democrat will primarily pay for his or her proposals by raising taxes or scaling down the Iraq war. And there’s plenty of money in those two areas to pay for what the Democrats want to do… except when it comes to the future shortfalls in Medicare and Medicaid. That will probably take more fundamental reform.

    I was simply raising the question of how Republicans plan to restrain the “runaway spending” when most of it comes from the war and entitlements, and so far I haven’t heard fiscal solutions from them on either.


  30. King,

    I imagine any Democrat will primarily pay for his or her proposals by raising taxes or scaling down the Iraq war. And there’s plenty of money in those two areas to pay for what the Democrats want to do…

    And people wonder why I want to split this country?

    King, 45-50% of my wages now go to some form of taxation when including matching FICA. In fact, it may be more than that when I include all taxes. Exactly how much more do you want me to fork over before we call it all even?

    I think somehow you libs have forgotten why this country was founded. Does the statement, “taxation without representation” mean anything to you? What is it that you don’t understand that people are fed up with paying more taxes? If you can justify to me that our tax dollars are well spent, please do so.

    For the final time: but much of that increase comes from increased military expenditure.

    Yes, but the larger part of the non-discretionary percentage increase comes for homeland security. Do you want to can it or not? If you feel homeland security is unimportant, get rid of it.

    I thought this thread was about Obama’s promises if we are going to stay on topic as you insist? That requires you to explain to me…and so far, all you have done is ask questions about previous policy which has little to do with the topic at hand.

    Here, you answer me a very simple question. Exactly what yearly income represents ‘rich’ in this country?


  31. Well Tex, we will just have to agree to disagree.

    I’m in the camp that claims that the Iraq war has actually created more terrorists and more anti-Americanism.

    I’m also in the camp that claims that Iraq was no imminent threat and could have been handled AFTER we found Osama.

    Don’t get it twisted. I’m not saying handling Iraq was something we should have never dealt with. I’m just saying we should have had a better plan, and we should have waited until our first mission was done in Afghanistan. Iraq was more or less contained. You said as much in our first debates.


  32. No twist…we just have to agree to disagree. I’m in the camp that says those supposed choir boys were terrorists to begin with – just from a different locale.

    Iraq being contained before? I don’t disagree with that but I could say the same thing for Iran or Syria and I think they’re a menace too who needs to be popped. I’ve thought that for 29 years. Plus, I think our military more than capable of conducting two missions at once. We’ve proven that time and again.

    I’m also still in the camp that says Osama may be pushing daisies. Even if I’m wrong, its important to kill those of his ideology and the military has become quite adapt at doing so. I say kill some more…Just the other day I read the Muslim world is beginning to turn on Osama and his minions which is really the only way to completely win this war.

    No doubt mistakes have been made. Rumsfield was obviously wrong about the number of troops required. The politicians were wrong thinking we would be welcomed as heroes. I don’t really much care for Colin Powell but he is definitely right in this regard: Use overwhelming force to end the war quickly. It generally leads to fewer casualties.

    War is dirty business. No such thing as a clean war and I think Americans who think war can be conducted that way more than naive – especially politicians.


  33. Yes, but the larger part of the non-discretionary percentage increase comes for homeland security. Do you want to can it or not? If you feel homeland security is unimportant, get rid of it.

    Homeland security isn’t a part of mandatory spending. It’s included in the president’s budget (discretionary spending).

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2006/overview.html

    You asked how Obama is going to pay for all his programs. You may not agree with repealing the tax cuts for the wealthy, but that money is more than enough to pay for most of what the Democrats want to do. Maybe these infrastructure projects as well, if the Democrats aren’t concerned with reducing the deficit.


  34. As usual King you dodged and didn’t answer even the most simple of questions so I’ll ask it again before shooting down your last post. If you can’t answering simple questions, don’t need to bother conversing again. I grow weary with your obfuscating and contrarian response no matter the subject and there is no need for me to go further; now or in the future. I will simply put you on ignore for being nothing more than a pain in the ass.

    Exactly what yearly income represents ‘rich’ in this country?


  35. I’d say the top 1% would include those with an income that would be designated as “rich”. And that top percent got most of the tax cut. So if you repeal the tax cuts for those wealthy people that can generate a lot of extra revenue to pay for these programs.


  36. King

    Yeah, well here’s the fallacy in Obama’s and your logic. Time has shown that the share of total income taxes paid by the wealthy has risen even as statutory tax rates have fallen sharply since 1960. John Kennedy realized that. You apparently don’t.

    http://www.american.com/archive/2007/november-december-magazine-contents/guess-who-really-pays-the-taxes

    There is no correlation between tax rates and deficits in recent U.S. history. The spike in the federal deficit in both the 1980s and from 2000-2007 was/has been cause by massive spending increases.

    The Congressional Budget Office reports that since the 2003 tax cuts, federal revenues have grown by $745 billion. That’s the largest real increase in history over such a short time period. Individual and corporate income tax receipts have jumped by 30 percent in the two years since the tax cuts.

    So here’s the real truth. The richest 1% in this country already pay 37.3% of the taxes. Raise the marginal rate, and they’ll simply defer income or seek tax shelters. That’s exactly what the Kennedy’s and the Rockfeller’s do. Raising the marginal rate on the very rich won’t affect them – but history says your federal tax revenues will actually drop. This quintile also includes many businesses–such as partnerships, sole proprietorships, and Subchapter S corporations that use the personal income tax instead of the corporate income tax to file their returns.

    So what Obama is really calling taxing the ‘rich’ is the top two quintiles; those that pay the largest share of the taxes. And the two quintiles are set at the lower limits of $55,331-$88,030, effective 2005. That would equate to one school teacher + one policeman’s salary, a profession middle manager single income position, etc…I can attest that at this income, many families are already struggling which including city, county, and state taxes, property taxes, municipal taxes, etc…quickly approach 50%.

    Opinions differ…but facts don’t lie and your numbers don’t jive. So where is the extra revenue you’re going to generate? Increase taxes for corporations, they cut employees or defer capital expenditure. The only thing you are left with is cutting spending.

    You said, “generate a lot of extra revenue to pay for these programs.”

    HOW?


  37. Let’s tax the 48% of the population that DON’T pay Federal taxes.Oh wait a minute that wouldn’t be fair.


  38. in2thefray,

    If you don’t understand the King’s version of taxes or their complaints about the wages and refunds, maybe this will help explain it:

    50,000 people go to a baseball game, but the game was rained out.

    A refund was then due.

    The team was about to mail refunds when a group of Congressional Democrats stopped them and suggested that they send out the ticket refunds based on the Democrat Senate’s interpretation of fairness.

    Originally the refunds were to be paid based on the price each person had paid for the tickets. Unfortunately that meant most of the refund money
    would be going to the ticket holders that had purchased the most expensive tickets. This, according to the Dims, is considered totally unfair. A decision was then made to pay out the refunds in the following manner:

    People in the $10 seats will get back $15. After all, they have less money to spend on tickets to begin with. Call it an “Earned Income Ticket Credit.” Persons “earn” it by having few skills, poor work habits, and low ambition, thus keeping them at entry-level wages.

    People in the $25 seats will get back $25, because it “feels fair.” People in the $50 seats will get back $1, because they already make a lot of money and don’t need a refund. After all, if they can afford a $50 ticket, they must not be paying enough taxes. Their ticket prices increase $10 for the next game, same seat.

    People in the $75 luxury box seats will each have to pay an additional $25 because it’s the “right thing to do”, unless your name is Kennedy, Rockefeller, Kerry, Obama, or Clinton. If so, you get to attend the next season free of charge and sit in the owner’s luxury box.

    People walking past the stadium that couldn’t afford to buy a ticket for the game each will get a $10 refund, even though they didn’t pay anything for the tickets. They need help. Sometimes this is known as Affirmative Action.

    How do you like the system? You punish the high achievers and this leads to greater productivity; or something like that…


  39. There is no correlation between tax rates and deficits in recent U.S. history. The spike in the federal deficit in both the 1980s and from 2000-2007 was/has been cause by massive spending increases.

    The Congressional Budget Office reports that since the 2003 tax cuts, federal revenues have grown by $745 billion. That’s the largest real increase in history over such a short time period. Individual and corporate income tax receipts have jumped by 30 percent in the two years since the tax cuts.

    The president’s own projections indicate the tax cuts definitely do not pay for themselves. His former CEA chairman Greg Mankiw has said that at the most, the tax cuts will pay for about 17%. Obviously then, the tax cuts have to contribute to the deficit. The Wall Street Journal:

    The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, using conventional analyses, says making the president’s tax cuts permanent would reduce federal revenues in 2016 by $314 billion. That is more than 10 times what the Treasury analysis suggests tax cuts would generate by prompting more hours of work, more savings and investment and more efficient use of resources. –David Wessel

    http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2006/07/11/do-tax-cuts-pay-for-themselves/

    Your whole reasoning for this is the laffer curve but you’re misinterpreting it. The curve doesn’t say that any time you cut taxes, you’ll raise revenue, or any time you raise taxes you’ll lose revenue. It says at high points of taxation (say 90%) you’ll get more revenue if you cut taxes because of the efficiency gains. But at low points, that’s not necessarily true. So it depends where the US is on the curve. Just judging by the Bush tax cuts you seem to be on the low end.

    So what Obama is really calling taxing the ‘rich’ is the top two quintiles; those that pay the largest share of the taxes. And the two quintiles are set at the lower limits of $55,331-$88,030, effective 2005.

    Not true:

    Obama also said he would repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.

    http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/09/18/obama.taxplan/index.html


  40. King,

    You have misinterpreted the entire gist of my post by throwing out the Laffer Curve – it’s mentioned in the article only in passing reference with respect to the history of Reaganomics and supply-side economics. I didn’t even bother to interpret a graph. It’s totally unnecessary. If Chen wants to use a perfect example of a “red herring”, here it is.

    The real key to the entire post:

    The Congressional Budget Office reports that, since the 2003 tax cuts, federal revenues have grown by $745 billion—the largest real increase in history over such a short time period. Individual and corporate income tax receipts have jumped by 30 percent in the two years since the tax cuts.

    That’s the Congressional Budget office telling us this King. If you’ve documented evidence this is untrue, please do provide it. But note this is the department responsible for providing the information to not only to congress but every newspaper article you will find worth noting. And since the deficit has continued to increase (albeit more slowly until recently), there can be only one explanation – congress’ additional spending is greater than the additional revenue over the period of measured time. This isn’t rocket science.

    If you really think Obama is going to provide a tax cut to the middle class (what is the middle class?) and gouge only the rich as you suggest, and you think this is a model for good business practice, you’re even more naive than I thought.

    I will absolutely guarantee you that the middle and upper middle class as I define it ($60K to say $200K) will be the one bearing the major brunt of your tax increases – whether it be thru higher consumer costs, stagnating wages, jobs losses, etc…because small business owners will be paying the lion’s share of the increase. The rich simply defer income, set up trusts, move assets overseas, etc…like the Kennedy clan.

    Taxing small businesses owners and the highest income earners, is not the answer because that costs are simply passed to the ultimate consumer. It happens every time.

    You raise a doctor’s taxes, he charges more for the appointment and you pay it. You charge windfall profits on oil companies, they raise their price at the pump. Healthcare costs go up; your costs go up or they discontinue a pension plan. And who pays the biggest percentile increase and loses the most when this happens? The middle class because it’s far and away the largest class. This is Keynesian economics 101.

    You want to know what the real problem is King for the middle class? Oppressive taxes have squeezed the middle class of America for over 40 years. Wages and salaries, when combined with inflation, (disposable income if you will) have not increased at the same rate as your taxes; city, state, federal, municipal, sales, etc… It’s really as simple as that.

    And to improvise, many people in America have simply quit saving – in fact on average, have a negative savings rate, as a means to substitute and support their lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed. This is the reason for the unbelievable amount of consumer debt which I believe is America’s biggest financial weakness.

    Finally, you complain about the use of soundbites and then in turn use nothing more than a soundbite from CNN (nonetheless) as supporting documentation. I’m simply not buying your argument. Obama’s model is a failed business model because it assumes a revenue increase – and in the long run, that just isn’t the case. Like I said – for folks in the know, there are ways around that. The problem is not revenue generation; it’s spending.

    Which gets back to my original point which started this whole mess. What do you suggest we cut? You cut the military, you weaken defense and only postpone the evitable large increase when we get hit. Clinton did this and then we have found ourselves playing catch up. You cut Homeland Security; maybe, but you also might be endangering its citizens. You cut entitlements, who you going to hurt? The elderly? The young? The disabled?

    Big government is not the answer…free enterprise is. If we are smart enough to manage it.


  41. Tex- I’m looking into more ideas for emblems, and a red herring version isn’t a bad one.

    Which gets back to my original point which started this whole mess. What do you suggest we cut? You cut the military, you weaken defense and only postpone the evitable large increase when we get hit. Clinton did this and then we have found ourselves playing catch up. You cut Homeland Security; maybe, but you also might be endangering its citizens. You cut entitlements, who you going to hurt? The elderly? The young? The disabled?

    I’m not sure how not cutting military spending would have prevented 9/11. Those guys hijacked commercial airliners. We were “hit” by 19 guys armed only with knives and flying lessons. Or looked at another way, I would further argue that that brand of an attack doesn’t necessitate a buildup.


  42. You have misinterpreted the entire gist of my post by throwing out the Laffer Curv

    Not really. The Laffer curve provides the logical foundation for your assertion that cutting taxes boosts revenues.

    That’s the Congressional Budget office telling us this King. If you’ve documented evidence this is untrue, please do provide it. But note this is the department responsible for providing the information to not only to congress but every newspaper article you will find worth noting. And since the deficit has continued to increase (albeit more slowly until recently), there can be only one explanation – congress’ additional spending is greater than the additional revenue over the period of measured time. This isn’t rocket science.

    To clarify, there is no doubt that revenues have increased in the time period you note. Even the Democrats don’t dispute that. But the real question is: How much of this growth is due to the efficiency gains from the tax cuts? So how much extra growth do the tax cuts generate at the margin, and how much of that translates into revenues? The president’s own Treasury department forecasts a “long-run” boost of 0.7%.

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2007/pdf/07msr.pdf

    And according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, that’s far below what’s necessary to pay for the tax cut. Again refer to the above Wall Street Journal article. And if you repeal those tax cuts, you get that money back. You lose the efficiency gains (for example, as you note, the rich people not willing to work, since we’re talking about income taxes here) but you get the extra revenue. And the latter is far greater than the former.

    So to (again) answer your question of what to cut: (1) repeal the tax cuts for the wealthy (2) end the war. That should be enough to at least pay for Obama’s health program and his other ideas, which really aren’t that radical.


  43. King, with all due respect,

    Not really. The Laffer curve provides the logical foundation for your assertion that cutting taxes boosts revenues.

    (1) Your reference to the Laffer curve is ludicrous and a flashing red herring. You completely ignore the facts, including the historical fact from the congressional office, and parrot. This is becoming tiresome. Like I said before, a perfect candidate as juror for a new O.J. trial.Typical Dim.

    end the war.

    (2) You want a repeat of the Killing Fields I assume and America to be defeated with a repeat of Vietnam; and on the very day the Iraqi Prime minister announces he believe Al-Qaida has been defeated in Baghdad. Typical defeatist lib.

    That should be enough to at least pay for Obama’s health program and his other ideas, which really aren’t that radical.

    (3) Baloney…if Obama’s plan isn’t radical concerning health care, it won’t scratch the surface of repairing it and only make it worse. Typical Dim, Typical defeatist lib and a dreamer.

    You’re like debating with a rock. Cast your vote for your boy and be done with it.


  44. Chen,

    I’m not sure how not cutting military spending would have prevented 9/11.

    Where did I say that or is that what you are saying? It wouldn’t have.

    Blowing the hell of the Taliban and the training grounds, and taking the fight to Al-Qaida in about 1994 might have. Gutting the military 1992-2000 has caused expenses to escalate. If I’m wrong, take up that argument with the military – they’re the ones saying it.

    It’s a known fact Clinton’s cabinet overruled killing Bin Laden when he was in the crosshairs. They even made a movie that Billary tried like hell to prevent showing it. That may or may not have prevented 9/11 – one thing is for sure, though. We wouldn’t be hunting Bin Laden.


  45. Chen,

    You want me to make a prediction and a small hope. I actually kind of want Obama to win just like I wanted the Dims to win everything in 1992. If Obama wins, I think he will win it all. If Hillary wins, I think she will get stomped. I’m guessing 55-60% of the American public will not vote for her under any circumstances; no matter what the polls think. I’ve always been rooting for her to be the Dimocratic nominee because I think she’s easy pickins’. Unfortunately for me, I think you guys have figured that out too and some dumb Republics can’t get past their blind hatred of anything Hillary.

    And if Obama wins as I suspect, I believe there’s a very good chance it will serve as a reminder just how bleak it can get if we get attacked. I would dearly love to watch the Dimocrats manage a horrific war after calling our military the equivalent of Nazis and the Gulag and rapists and baby killers. Hello Senator John Kerry, Harry Reid, Dick Durbin and Teddy Kennedy. Hello Congresswoman Pelosi and Hollywood! And me? I’m going to load the shotgun, turn the channel, and grab the chips.

    Remember all those lost souls running for the churches and packing them for about six weeks after 9/11 until they felt safe, then reverting back to their typical hateful, leftist attitude toward Christians, Bush and the military types? Well, we have a long memory. This battle won’t be some soundbite on stage, or some protest in Berkeley but hand-to-hand.

    And that military that has been dissed by the left for the last five years? Better hope those brave guys and their respective family members say, “We remember too. Lefties, it’s all yours – we’re taking care of our own and nobody else.” Remember, they’ve been laying their butts on the line voluntarily. And if people simply don’t volunteer, well that only leaves one option. Me, I’m too old. I wonder who the candidates are going to be?

    Tsk tsk tsk…could get ugly.


  46. Tex-

    And if Obama wins as I suspect, I believe there’s a very good chance it will serve as a reminder just how bleak it can get if we get attacked. I would dearly love to watch the Dimocrats manage a horrific war after calling our military the equivalent of Nazis and the Gulag and rapists and baby killers. Hello Senator John Kerry, Harry Reid, Dick Durbin and Teddy Kennedy. Hello Congresswoman Pelosi and Hollywood! And me? I’m going to load the shotgun, turn the channel, and grab the chips.

    Are you saying that, if a Dem wins the presidency, you’d like to see us attacked?

    The Dems aren’t dissing the military, or at least I haven’t seen it. The problem has always been the reckless policies, incompetency, war profiteering, and war for the sake of political advantage.


  47. (1) Your reference to the Laffer curve is ludicrous and a flashing red herring. You completely ignore the facts, including the historical fact from the congressional office, and parrot. This is becoming tiresome. Like I said before, a perfect candidate as juror for a new O.J. trial.Typical Dim.

    Actually I didn’t ignore what the CBO said. I conceded revenues have increased over the past few years. The question is, how much of that is due to efficiency effects? Very little, according to the sources I posted, and far from enough to make up for the revenues lost due to the cuts in rates. And that gap results in contributing to the deficit.

    (2) You want a repeat of the Killing Fields I assume and America to be defeated with a repeat of Vietnam; and on the very day the Iraqi Prime minister announces he believe Al-Qaida has been defeated in Baghdad. Typical defeatist lib.

    If Al Qaedas been defeated in the capital of the country as you say, then the war should be over soon.

    (3) Baloney…if Obama’s plan isn’t radical concerning health care, it won’t scratch the surface of repairing it and only make it worse. Typical Dim, Typical defeatist lib and a dreamer.

    I don’t think it’ll repair it, it’s a good start. But I agree, it’s not radical enough.



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