There is all sorts of news–too much to choose from. There is an Open Carry Demonstration in a park and the are people stranded all over the globe because of the volcano. Daniel Gilbert of Manassas won a Pulitizer Prize for his work on mining. Brian Betts of Manassas lost his life.

The Democrats in NC are splintering into various factions over health care and the Taliban is recruiting new members to settle old family scores on our dime.

Pick a topic or make up your own.

57 Thoughts to “Open Thread 4/19/10”

  1. Formerly Anonymous

    I’d like to ask a question to the people here who consider themselves Democrats, liberals, progressives, or any other term for people who consider themselves on the left. When you read articles that talk about the fiscal crisis that is rapidly approaching due to our explosion of debt, what is your reaction?

    For example, here’s an Financial Times article by Clinton’s Deputy Treasury Secretary about the problems we face. Democrats will be pleased to read that he pins 85% of the blame on George W. Bush.

    Please understand, I am asking not to start a debate; I am trying to better understand why a fairly large number of people on the left seem to have a lack of concern over what in my opinion is one of the gravest threats America has faced.

    Is it because you don’t believe the sources or that the books are cooked somehow?
    Is it because you believe ‘top men’ are working on it and we will muddle our way through it some how?
    Is it because you believe people like me are exaggerating the magnitude of the crisis?
    Do you think that the remedies (such as the Argentina option) won’t be too painful?
    Do you think that because we generated nominal surpluses in the late 90s, we can do it again when the economy turns around?

    Like I said, I’m not looking to start a political argument. I would just like to better understand your line of reasoning on the issue.

  2. Poor Richard

    ” Emblematic of our nation’s greatest crisis, the Civil War Fort allows
    guest to experience the reality of a soldier’s daily life. Inside, the
    wizardry of Disney’s Circle-Vision 360 technology will transport visitors
    into the center of Civil War combat; outside, they may encounter an
    authentic re-enactment of a period battle or gather along
    Freedom Bay for a thrilling night time spectacular based on the
    historic confrontation between the Monitor and the Merrimac.”

    Experience #5 in Disney’s America

    First, always wondered how Disney really could sidestep issues like slavery
    and state’s rights. Part of me was pro park just to see what would evolve
    as they dealt with the emotions still alive today surrounding The War.

    Secondly, in the hindsight of nearly two decades, I think it could have
    been a real financial plus for our area. Certainly better than acres of sterile
    tax sucking McMansion “communities” that sit on the property today.

  3. I am a centrist. Why must everything be black or white? There are plenty of us in the middle. For starters, getting troops back home cuts out at least a billion dollars a week gonig out. How did we recover after WWII? We didn’t just shut down.

    I don’t think it does a lot of good to blame people.

    Formerly, what do you think we should do?

  4. Thanks for bringing us the census news. Glad to know VA is so …conscientious.

  5. Formerly Anonymous

    I wouldn’t say I’m apathetic. I am fairly active politically, just not here. And I’m certainly not trying to blame anyone. I was asking the question because I don’t see many people that aren’t fiscal conservatives even talking about this issue. Obviously everyone is going to have a different opinion on how to fix the budget problem, but it seems like a large part of the country isn’t even looking at the problem.

    I think you have answered my question in a way based on your comments about ending the wars. Getting troops back home would save money, but even if you were to entirely eliminate DoD, you only save about $700 billion a year (assuming you don’t also ax VA benefits at the same time.) I would characterize that as a “concerned about the problem but don’t understand the magnitude of it” response. (That’s not meant as a criticism or that your idea isn’t a good one. It’s just nowhere near enough on it’s own.)

    Please note that in the previous paragraph, I said we would “only” save $700 billion a year. At our current rate, we need to close the gap even more. With trillion dollar a year budget deficits for at least the next ten years not including the shortfalls in Social Security and Medicare, we are going to be running multi-trillion dollar deficits for the foreseeable future without very drastic measures.

    How did we recover from World War II debt? We never did. It’s still out there among our other debt. The only ‘good’ news is that because of the inflation in the 70s, it shrunk quite a bit. (It was not indexed debt.) See the graph below:
    (Although I will say Truman did the best job of any post World War II president on the budget.)

    The really insidious problem with our current situation is that we have a large amount of operating debt that will greatly limit our ability to deal with the enormous shortfalls to come. We are currently obligated to increase our debt by more than 300% due to future shortfalls in Social Security and Medicare & Medicaid. And as I pointed out in a previous post, that 300% is indexed to inflation so we can’t inflate our way out of this mess like we have in the past. You’ve got three options: Reduce the debt, devalue the dollar or default.

    What would I do? I would like to avoid devaluing the dollar or defaulting on our debt if at all possible, so that leaves me with reducing the debt. To do this, I’d start with these unpopular measures:
    * Repeal Medicare Part D
    * Repeal HCR bill
    * Allow 2001 & 2003 tax cuts to expire entirely. No extensions for anyone. No AMT patches even!
    * Means test Social Security
    * Raise Retirement age to 70 immediately, gradually increasing to 75!
    * Repeal the latest Farm Bill
    * Tort reform that requires punitive damages to be paid to the Federal government not the plaintiffs. (Plaintiffs still get compensatory damages of course.)
    * Cut Federal highway funding substantially
    * Eliminate 2-3 carrier groups from the Navy. Shrink the Navy to approximately 200 ships. (There would need to be similar cuts in the other services but I don’t know enough about Army or AF to make meaningful suggestions yet.)
    * Cut F-35 fighter program
    * Deorbit International Space Station. Kill all manned space flight. For all intents and purposes dismantle NASA
    * Minimum 5% actual year on year cut in ALL discretionary spending
    * Require ALL appropriations bills, including emergency funding absent a formal declaration of war to be subjected to PAYGO
    * Suspend all foreign aid not obligated by treaty. Try to renegotiate any obligations required by treaty
    * Ban Congressional earmarks completely
    * And yes, withdraw troops from Iraq, Afghanistan as soon as possible. Withdraw troops from stable locations (like Germany) immediately.

    Implementing half of that list would probably get me lynched, but even if it were all implementing it still isn’t enough. That list might get us 2/3s of the way there. The rest would probably have to come through more severe cuts or tax hikes, but before I agree to any tax hikes, I’d want to see real, concrete cuts in spending. (In a general form, I feel that all adults should pay some amount in taxes, unless they are truly indigent. I favor consumption taxes over income taxes and would prefer something like a 30% national sales tax, not a VAT, on goods and services to replace the income tax.)

    I know all of the above sound drastic and cruel and heartless, but it really is going to be that bad. The difference is that now we still have a small amount of time to minimize the damage to people’s lives.

    Also, please keep in mind that even though I’ve included items like Medicare Part D, Social Security and HCR, I really wish I didn’t have to. I want people to have quality health care and have a good quality of life in their retirement. The problem is we just can’t afford it! That’s the #1 message people need to learn and keep in mind for the next 20-40 years. We as a nation are broke, and we can’t afford all the luxuries we once could.

    If you want blame, I’ll assign some. George W. Bush should not have cut taxes in 2001 & 2003. He should have cut spending instead of increased it and racked up $300-500 billion a year surpluses throughout the last decade, beginning to fund the IOUs owed to Social Security and Medicare. Social Security should have been reformed in some way in 2005. (Not necessarily what Bush was proposing, but there should have been a serious effort at reform instead of just killing the effort.) Obama should not have passed the stimulus bill and should have passed a health care bill focused purely on reducing costs, not increasing coverage. (Again, I want people to have health insurance but we can’t afford it.)

    If we were 10 years into a government austerity program with a $6 trillion dollar debt instead of a $12 trillion dollar debt, we’d be in a much better position to deal with this crisis. There would still need to be a major effort to reform (as in radically cut) Social Security and Medicare but operating budget running significant surpluses instead of deficits would help dramatically.

    (Aren’t you glad you asked what I thought we should do?)

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