Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sequester, Marijuana, and Useless Politicians

A tidal wave of criticism has hit the federal budget cuts popularly called "the sequester." I kind of like the budget cuts. They are not exactly how I would do things, but let's step back and look at the bright side of the news, the silver lining.

Those liberals who pretend that racking up an ever-higher national debt is not a problem might want to go back to high school and study the section of algebra dealing with compound interest. That includes you, Robert Reich. Until they do that there is probably no point arguing. This particular essay is for those of you who understand that debts do need to be repaid, and the United States of America could become a third-rate nation again (as it was in 1781) if it does not get its finances straightened out pretty quickly.

Every politician has his paymasters and even is, to a small degrees, subject to the voters of her district. The military budget is based on putting military bases or contracts in almost every Congressional district. No pol wants cuts to affect their district. Social Security payments go out to every district. Farm payments mostly to to farm states, but they have disproportionate influence in the U.S. Senate because even states where heat-seeking drones would have trouble finding a few voters still get 2 Senators. And so on, so that any cuts in the federal budget hurt some people in enough congressional districts to preclude that particular budget line getting cut in a fair and open vote.

Everybody's priorities differ. I would cut the military budget by 90% if the American people would lend me an ax, but I am countered by people who would feel a lot safer if the military budget were doubled and the Medicaid budget were cut by 90%. It is true on every issue. One citizen's subsidy is another's tax burden.

We have three choices: pay more federal taxes, reduce the federal budget, or implode financially some time between now and (I'm guessing) 2020.

I actually am willing to pay somewhat more in federal taxes, but as a humble, not particularly successful journalist I am at the low end of the income and taxation spectrum. I wish I was making a million a year and could pay just $300,000 or so in taxes. But I know if I was the kind of person who thought $1 million a year was just deserts for having gone to med school or law school or business school or even the school of hard knocks, it would seem to me like I could get a lot of pleasure out of that $300,000, and maybe the recipients of federal largesse could try a little harder rather than sitting around waiting for my money to be transferred into their greedy and lazy hands.

And who do the politicians want as a friend in the primary? Me, with my $25 donations, or the $1 million per annum income guy with his $10,000 donations and bundling of ten such donations just to sit at a table near the guy who doles out the dollars and tax breaks?

The federal government is not a socialist government. It owns no industry (well, maybe a few ammunition plants and the like). It spends other people's money, and for the most part does not spend it very productively. It does not even tax the rich to subsidize Social Security.

And let's take some responsibility, folks. Yes, us. We want to stop wasting public safety money criminalizing marijuana, but nothing ever changes at the national level. The Democrats almost never deliver on any of their promises, Obama in particular.

Then there are you Republicans out there who should know the value of social peace and good infrastructure. Without social peace there will be no profits. Social Security, food stamps, and federal spending on education and healthcare buy some social peace. Cut them out, and the Bolsheviks will come back out of the woodwork (where I happen to know they are still lurking, like bedbugs, and increasingly pesticide-resistant).

You Republicans elected the Republican twits in Congress, and they are in a majority in the House of Representatives. They are too busy striking poses for Tea Party fanatics to actually spend some time governing. As a result, the military budget has been cut along with the rest of the lot. We might have to make do with one less aircraft carrier. Which still means we have just about all of the functioning aircraft carriers in the world.

So programs that genuinely protect public safety are being cut. But a lot of bullshit is being cut too. The problem is not the budget cuts, but the failure to get rid of loopholes and agricultural and industrial subsidies. Make the oil and gas companies pay some taxes for a change. Tax the alcohol producers.

Fortunately the economy is growing. This is a testament to the people who get up and work every Monday, including the honest, productive business managers and owners. With a growing economy tax revenues should grow, even with all of the tax-dodges out there.

That will not be enough, not for a while. The Congress is supposed to run the Pentagon, but the Pentagon runs Congress. The rich should be thankful they had the opportunity to get rich by exploiting their fellow Americans, but all most of them do is bitch. ["This cocaine isn't very pure!" or "Why is that homeless person ruining the view from my Mercedes?" "Or, what do you mean I can't deduct my wife's collection of $10,000 boots as a business expenses?"] Especially the ones who get their money from trust funds and inheritances. Despite my dislike of Lenin and Stalin, the idea of just lining up the trust fund set for liquidation does have a certain emotional appeal.

I say, let's sequester more in 2014. Let's sequester 20% of the military and homeland security budget, 20% of the subsidies to corporate farming, and 20% of anything that goes to anti-marijuana majority states until they let my people go.

I mean it. Let my pot heads go. Did you hear that, Representatives? President Obama? Senators? If you can't even accomplish that, what do we need you for?

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