TCS Daily

Misery Index

By James K. Glassman - June 9, 2006 12:00 AM

The global economy is roaring. "For the first time since 1969," reports a newsletter I rely on, Bridgewater Daily Observations, "not a single country in the world has had negative year-over-year growth."

Overall, the world economy is rising at a 4.4 percent rate, after inflation. At that pace, Gross Domestic Product doubles in 17 years, quadruples in less than a generation and rises by a factor of about 30 in a lifetime. Imagine the average nation being 30 times richer than it is today!

It's no secret why this is happening. Nearly half the world's population -- China, India, the former Soviet Union and its satellites -- has moved within 20 years from an anachronistic economic system that doesn't work, like autarky or communism -- toward a free-market system that does. Certainly, these nations haven't fully embraced an open, competitive system with limited government involvement yet -- but, then again, neither has Europe, or the United States for that matter. The vector, however, is clear, and a growing world economy is very, very good for us.

U.S. growth for 2005 was 3.5 percent -- slower than the world as a whole but still quite brisk and much brisker than Europe -- and the consensus of economists is predicting roughly the same for the year ahead. The numbers are staggering. In the past year, including modest inflation, America's output of goods and services has increased by nearly $1 trillion - or about $10,000 for every family. In the last five months alone, the U.S. has created 1 million net new jobs.

But if the U.S. economy is doing so well, why aren't Americans happier about it? Surveys show they are pretty miserable. Since January 2001, the Gallup Poll has been asking people, on a monthly basis, how they "rate economic conditions in this country today - as excellent, good, only fair, or poor." Gallup also asks whether respondents think economic conditions "as a whole are getting better or worse."

With the results, Gallup creates three groups: positive Americans, who rank the economy as excellent or good and believe conditions are getting better or staying the same; negative Americans, who say conditions are fair or poor and are staying the same or getting worse; and Americans with mixed views, who answer positively on one measurement and negatively on another.

What is mind-boggling is that more respondents fall into the negative camp now than during the 2001 recession. Today, respondents who are negative on the economy outweigh those who are positive by more than two-to-one. Gallup concludes that "Americans' views of economic conditions in this country have essentially never recovered from the precipitous drop they took in 2001 after the dot-com boom ended."

Pollsters and politicians have noticed that there are lags in the public's perception of how the economy is doing, but the length of the delay this time is a little ridiculous. The recession ended four and a half years ago; unemployment peaked in mid-2003.

There may be better explanations. For example, a 2004 paper by Princeton economists Alan Blinder and Alan Krueger explores the fascinating question of how the public forms its opinions -- not on the economy but on economic policy -- and finds that "ideology is the most important determinant...while measures of self-interest are least important."

Gallup hints at a similar conclusion: data show consistently that Americans who identify with the party in power "are more positive about the way things are going in the country." In other words, it's not reality but partisanship or ideology that determines one's view of the economic situation.

If this analysis is correct, then Republicans will have a difficult time this November. Since President Bush took office, the period when Americans felt best about the economy was the third quarter of 2004, just before his re-election, when 32 percent were positive and 42 percent negative, compared with a 25-55 split today.

In other words, supporters are abandoning the president -- most likely for reasons other than the economy, such as the war in Iraq -- and an improvement in the economy won't help.

Let me offer another explanation. Globalization simply raises the level of anxiety for many workers, especially older people lacking technical skills. Even if the reality is that their lives are getting better, they worry much more about their own futures and those of their kids and grandkids. And demagogues among politicians and journalists exploit the worries. In 2008, the presidential candidate who addresses this anxiety -- not by quoting Adam Smith but by offering sympathy and encouragement -- will likely be the winner.

James K. Glassman is host of TCS Daily.


Or, another theory

It felt good to have a sizable stock portfolio in 1999, before the Greenspan deflation. Some have not recovered. Eh?

Let them Eat Cake
Is the first thing that pops into my mind here. Someone seems to be out of touch with the working class. The average working persons salaries are dropping relative to growth. You can create all the jobs you want but if they pay substandard wages, you get unhappy people.
There are fewer unions in the US than there was 25 years ago, unions helped the average working joe keep a decent wage. Did companies go bankrupt? no, they just made a little bit less money and workers were that much happier.
Where in the name of all that is good, did you ever get the idea that just because people " have a job" means they should be happy? They want a decent paying job.

Mean and median
If you have a distributions of incomes, the mean is the average income (add the incomes and divide by the number of people). The median is that income so that as many people are above as below. It is possible to change the mean without changing the median. If you increase the income of the richest person, the mean goes up but the median stays the same.

The GDP measures the mean while opinion polls measure the median. While the mean income has risen, the median has not.

Glasserman mentioned people's opinions being colored by their view of economic policy to conclude that low poll numbers represent liberal bias in beliefs. Another way to put it is that people see the government creating short term paper gains at the cost of long term disaster; Enron style cooking of the books. What growth we have results from borrowing and fiscal stimulus (deficits) that cannot be sustained. Living high in a fancy hotel by maxing out your credit cards is not a long term high standard of living.

Bah. Typical class warfare.
The days of having a job and riding it to retirement are over. This is an adjustment that those with a Union mentality just can't make.

So many are content to "just have a job" and deserve the self-inflicted unhappiness that comes with such an attitude. Unions, at their best, have insulated the American worker from economic forces that their employers have had to deal with.

"Did companies go bankrupt?"

As a matter of fact, they did. Companies run on making a profit and many times the unreasonable demands of Unions have forced companies to close branches, move overseas, or cut workers.

People should be happy to have a job. If they are not happy with the job they should improve themselves and find a higher paying one. Don't look to an employer to make you happy, it requires self-improvement and a desire to work for happiness.

I, for one, am quite happy with the death of the Unions. Not only have I been forced to pay their dues, much of which goes to support political candidates I loathe, but I have seen how a Union can destroy a town and its people and drive away industry.

Simply put, happiness is not handed out like a paycheck and is not the responsibility of your employer. The economy is looking good, get off your ass and take part.

>"The GDP measures the mean while opinion polls measure the median."

Opinion polls measure opinions and have nothing to do with economic reality, merely people's perception of it.

The MSM and the Democrats keep painting this economy as "the worst since the Depression" and "deficits your great-grandchildren will be paying" so it is no wonder that the public feels a bit o' gloom and doom.

I remember when Reagan's military and deficit spending combined with tax cuts evoked a similar outcry. Reagan understood the vitality of the US economy and its ability to pay its debt and was proven right. Currently, the deficit predictions keep being adjusted downwards to reflect the actual state of the economy and the increased revenue of the government due to the taxation of a booming economy.

So please, LG, drop the Democratic talking points eh?

Emotional "Statistics"
Thanks for your comments.

If you look at the economic history of the US, you'll see immediately that there were times when the deficit as a percentage of GDP was significantly higher than it is now. Screaming "deficit" may feel good as a means of protest, but we've had far worse debt loads than now. They were more than sustained, they were outgrown. Also, the government is only a part of the economy. I'm always quite aghast at the circular nature of the leftish, class warfare and similar command and control types. Currently, the government doesn't have the longed-for 100% control of the entire economy and its factors of production, yet, while arguing for a greater role of government, people speak of the actions of the government as if they had influence commensurate with total power. Then, there's really no more need for more government if the nasty, man-of-war tentacles of government are wreaking so much havoc on innocent citizens who understand that the government publishes duplicitous measures of income.

I often wonder though, if we were creating deficits in each accounting period for health care, or social programs, then this would be zero-risk borrowing?

And, would our society be better of if the standard deviation of the range of personal incomes were smaller? Could we then infer that we'd be necessariliy better off? Where's the relationship?

Maxing out credit cards? Is this strategy the way to impoverishment? Personal debt load varies over a lifetime. On the personal side, I don't know many people who are so imprudent as to borrow money with their credit cards when there are so many lower-interest alternatives. How people manage or mismanage their credit is a personal, not a government decision.

Enron? Let's have some perspective here. One corporation out of how many in the US? Sounds sexy, but that's getting old.

they're eating so much cake, they are getting fat
The only reason why wages appear to be dropping is because all of the new jobs being created have less seniority than the existing jobs.

As to unionized companies not going broke, tell that to Eastern, GM, etc.

LG, as usual, serves himself up as proof of the author's point
Today's deficit is no larger as a fraction of GDP than it has been at any time in recent decades. Yet growth is better.

The idea that deficits drive economic growth died when Keynsianism died. Several decades ago. But certain people can't give up on their favorite theories, no matter how many times they are refuted.

I have no doubt
that as soon as there is a Democrat in the White House, LG will start singing the praises of deficits.

Sort of like asking anyone in prison if he's guilty?
Never heard of anyone who didn't feel he wasn't paid enough. But there are a great number of whinners out there.

Misery Index Explained
Although I approach it from a conservative perspective I partially agree with Liberal Goodman's point that unease over long term structural issues contribute more to the publics' negative economic perceptions than the other factors cited in the article.
In particular I think the public is rightly concerned over the twin deficits, trade deficit and budget deficit. The trade deficit seems to me a complex issue but the budget deficit is simple: the government is way too big and spends way too much money.

misery is being a liberal when news is good...
The productivity gains of this economy---the PRIVATE economy, not government services--has been a wonder to behold. Nevertheless, ever since the GOP rescued Bill Clinton by taking the House and Senate in 1994 and enacting the Contract With America this economy has been soaring with very little interruption. Even including the multi-Trillion $$ 'hiccup' caused by 9/11 AFTER the econmy was recovering from the Clinton mild-recession we have been going gangbusters. I take a backseat to no one in critiizing the GOP spending binge but the Bush tax cuts (modeled after the JFK and Reagan cuts) have saved both the US and world economies.
Simply hating Bush and/or bemoaning being out of power does not make true such silly statements as your last few sentences. (Psst.---Enron (and the Dot-Com bust) happened under the Clinton watch, not W's---look it up.)

misery, cont'd
my responses were directed to LG

That's part of the problem
Unfortunately the media's constant drumbeat about the weakness of the econ0omy doesn't bear scrutiny. Any comparison Clinton's era and today wouldn't show much of a difference with the exception of hjow the MSM chooses to protray it.

If there is a reason for the mood of the populace I'd put it down to loss of belief that the GOP will actually be different from the Democrats. They have shown when it comes to fiscal responsibility they can do the drunken sailor act as well as Teddy's crowd.

Emotional Statitistics
The argument that the US has run deficit at this level in relation to GDP in the past is a misleading statistics. Historically, one of two things must be in place for the debt percentage to be at this level and rising. We must be involved in a large war (i.e. World War II) or a member of the Bush family must be president.

What makes this unique is that the government is not raising taxes to try to address the growing deficit. This administration seems content to push these decision to future presidents. Growth will pay for some of it, but growth alone has never and will never pay for debts at this level.

Lefty statistics
The problem with the Left is that they never met a tax they didn't adore and they never cut a welfare program. In fact if the Left could ever bring itself to cut something besides the military and intelligence like their blackhoile social programs the national debt could be reduced.

Growth in the 1980s was sustained and created the economic environment of today by reducing taxes. Unfortunately, for every dollar in additional revenues the Lefties increased social spending by a factor of two. Scoail spennding during the 80s was higher than military spending, as it is today.

UIf the Left would cut Section 8 housing, the earned income credit, and one fifth of the various welfare program our deficiet would be reduced significantly. If SSI were eliminated the balance would be balanced.

Hawaii pineapple workers...
were the highest paid ag workers in the world, so bragged their union. The union may have been right but guess what? There are now NO pineapple workers in Hawaii because the unionized industry as a whole went away. There are only a few small NON UNION pineapple farms left.

Don't quite follow.....
..but, thank you for your comment.

FDR and Harry Truman ran up debt of 120 - 150% of GDP during these long years of tenure.

Even after the Great Depression, selling of war bonds to be repaid, the expense of the War, Truman went on to fund this really crank know, vanquishing a country with a totalitarian government that was aggressive with its neighbors, rebuilding, democratizing, forgiving its international debt, occupying it (until 1989), defending it so it could become peaceful....that little detail known as the Marshall Plan. Then, when the troops came home, ever more spending legislation was passed for the GI Bill, mortgage subsidies for vets and the Veterans' Benefits we know of today were born in the Truman Era. So, he kept spending, and then there was the Korean Conflict.

You might recall that the period of uninterrupted economic growth occured from the late 50s, endured serious setbacks due to the Carter policies, and then were back on track with Reagan. So, we are the victims, you might say, of all that spending being forced on us, yet, it didn't happen.

The projected debt/GDP ratio for 2007 ois 70% of GDP, nearly half of the FDR/Truman years, just to put things into perspective.

Growth is the only thing that matters in terms of debt. When you tax more, you cannibalize dollars from the economy and private sector. If you have suddenly less money to spend, then consumption is affected.

But, it may work for some. Save to buy a house, then you can avoid debt, as long as you don't mind paying rent and living with mom until you're about 70 when you can buy a house with cash.

Righty Griping
The conservatives control all three branches of government. If the righties actual believe this is the cause, they should cut spending to all of these programs. Media pressure and democrats don't matter at this point. They should live be their convictions and cut all these programs.

But they won't because they know this whole argument is a false. The economic impacts would be minimal at best and the social impacts would be catastrophic.

The righties should stop whining and just do it.

You nailed that one
"They have shown when it comes to fiscal responsibility they can do the drunken sailor act as well as Teddy's crowd."
Exactly right; plundering, pandering and vote whoring for all!

Debt a percentage of GDP declined from it's World War 2 levels every year but 1 prior to the Reagan Budgets of the 1980's. Prior to Reagan they had dropped to the mid to low 30's. All during this remarkable post war growth that was not fueled by ever increasing deficit spending.

As for uninterrupted growth, real GDP (year over year) declined in 1953, 1957, 1973, 1974, 1979, 1981, and 1990. These surely can't all be blamed on Carter.

Absolutely wrong
The Republicans control all three branches, not the conservatives. Believe me, not all Republicans are conservative, especially fiscal conservatives, which is made very clear by Bush, McCain, and a host of others.

The Republican Party is quite diverse and is quite responsive to public opinion as are all politicians. This causes them to not do the right thing since the Democrats, with the help of the MSM, tend to scare the crap of the public on issues such as vouchers, SS, and welfare reform.

I do agree that the Republicans should "just do it" since it would benefit so many. One has to wonder why liberal2 would want this since such a success would show that the so-called "working class" and "underpriviledged" would be better off getting off of the Democrat's plantation. And to quote Hilary, "I think you know what I mean!"

The Car Tax Theory
One reason many people believe they are not doing well economically while the American and world economy are clearly going gangbusters is the same reason Jim Gilmore won the Virginia governor's race in the late 90's. The items they pay for out of their actual wallet and see every day or week are going up in price.

Gas at the pump is over $3 a gallon. It costs me more than $60 to fill up my truck.(I know all the reasons why that is still not a bad price and is cheaper than Starbucks but that is not the point here). Their gas bill at home is going up. We just got an "adjustment" from the gas company for over $400. Taxis, hotels, grocery stores, the veterinarian and the barber all have an energy surcharge (ok, I made a couple of those up). These are all spending irritants that we have not adjusted for in our practical, daily budget despite the fact that the job is good and the outlook ain't bad.

What does that have to do with Gilmore? He won the VA governorship by campaigning almost exclusively on eliminating the car tax. In most cases this was only a few hundred dollars a year. But boy, did it hack people off to get a bill from the county every year saying how much they owed for something they had bought years ago. An across the board tax cut would have saved VA families more money but they FELT the car tax.

The car tax theory applies to Americans'feeling about their economic well being now.

One out of Two
Consumer Index Down To 106.2
Rasmussen Reports, June 9, 2006

The Rasmussen Consumer Index, which measures economic confidence on a daily basis, decreased by 1.5 today to 106.2. The index reached its highest point of 110.9 on Tuesday, but has decreased by 4.7 points since then.

Only 33% of adults say that their personal finances are getting better these days, compared to 45% who feel their finances are getting worse. Meanwhile, 52% OF INVESTORS FEEL THE ECONOMY IS GETTING WORSE.

The current Index data is from a national telephone survey of 1,500 adults conducted by Rasmussen Reports over the past three nights. The margin of sampling error for each individual question in the survey is +/- 2.6 percentage points, with a 95% level of confidence.

Two indicators
1. For some reason, few pundits consider gas prices when asking why people judge the economy, but for many people, gas prices is the "economic indicator" they pay attention to. If gas is cheap, they are far more likely to be happy about the economy if they're employed than if it's expensive. As long as gas prices are high, there will be few people happy with the economy.

2. The economics of the media itself. As for structural change, few industries are getting crushed worse than the MSM itself by it; pretty much no print newspaper is making much money, and big papers are having layoff after layoff. If you're a reporter, you aren't terribly interested in good economic news and will tend to have a negative spin on all news, ie "Soaring cost of housing hurts poor homebuyers" and "Falling home prices hurt poor homeowers".

Lemme get this straight...
So, in 2004, 32% of Americans were positive about the economy and 42% were negative. Yet, the President and Republicans in general won by a landslide. So now, for no particular reason, suddenly a 25%-55% split is going to have an effect? Where's the proof of that?

Now I Understand!
When debt/gdp levels were high in the FDR and Truman years, they eventually came down - that is not to dispute.

However, now that debt/gdp levels are half of what they were then, we are going to be leaving a tremendous burden to our progeny?

Or, is that only the GOP that will be doing that?

Re Carter: You are correct to state that "all this can't be blamed on Carter", it wasn't. However, he had one term only and few trained economists or anyone with half a wit of economic horsesense could deny that his decisions were disastrous. Fortunately, his unlimited supply of "solutions" (I recall him going on TV in his sweater to tell me that I should just turn down my thermostat, of course, that was in between all of his "God's" and "I pray's") was limited by one-term at the helm.

So, i do understand. When a Republican majority makes deficits, they are incurable. When a dem does, well, it's an investment.

Thanks for the enlightenment! And, to quote the little man from Missouri, for me, the buck stops here.

Little pez's of nonsense
Once again delivered by our favorite Pez dispenser, Rhampton.

This poll says that 52% of 1500 people believe the economy is getting worse. That is all. It also merely measures the perception of the economy, not the actual performance of the economy. You can see this by the way the statement says those "who FEEL their finances are getting worse". While it is nice to know their feelings, I would actually like to gauge my finances on actual numbers. I FEEL my finances are stretched thin too but I just bought a car. Are such circumstances taken into account on this highly scientific poll?

This is also quite interesting:

>"The index reached its highest point of 110.9 on Tuesday, but has decreased by 4.7 points since then."

In other words the index you are quoting was at its highest point just four days ago? And this is supposed to point out a low consumer confidence when we are only 4.7 points under the highest level recorded?

You best explain yourself before you look like a complete idiot. Well, more than we have already seen anyway...

Today's level of debt is far from unprecedented
even for peacetime.

we try
but there are still enough Democrats to fillibuster any meaningfull reform.

Really, when was the fillibuster that kept the republicans from balancing the budget?

The last meaningful cuts government spending and the last balanced budget came about with a democratic administration and a republican congress. Now, there is a republican administration and and republic congress and fiscal responsibility and reform are gone. Seems to me the only thing that changes was the president.

Democrats = fiscal responsibility.

Denial is not a river
"The last meningful cuts came with a" new republic control of both houses with a democratic spendthrift.
While the GOP has not proven itself to be responsible, the Democrats have an unbeaten 60 year track record of mushrooming debts.

I say a pox on both their houses but at least the GOP doesn't seek to steal more of my money every chance it gets.

Good point
I understand the last large pineapple farms are closing down. It is kind of interesting that apparently farms that grow coffee that are as small as a few acres can surivie.

Perception = Reality
I love how this is immediately turned into a conservative/liberal bashing! For the rest of us who are not straight-ticket/party types, here are the things to consider: [1] HEALTH. Am I more or less secure in my ability to have health coverage, afford my health coverage, stay covered, etc.? Am I more or less fearful of things I can't control, such as "mad cow", anthrax, bird flu, etc.? Also, average age is increasing, so more of us feel like parts of our bodies are failing. [2] HOUSING. If I "own" a house, especially on the east or west coast, I likely feel good about the price appreciation. However, my gains may not feel accessible, if I can't "buy down." If I don't have a house or if I'm really leveraged, then increasing interest rates and house prices may not give me warm fuzzys. [3] EMPLOYMENT. I likely am finding it easier to get a job now, but the pay may not feel as good (after taking into account the impact of double-digit increases in energy, medical, gas, etc.) And, for those that had major ties to stock options or ESPP, I may not feel that the potential growth is as great as it seemed only a few years ago. [4] DEBT. I may need to service a lot of debt to get into or stay in my home, pay for health care, cover energy costs, etc. If so, it's not likely that I view my pay as someday catching up to these very tangible expenses. Further, if I was really hand-to-mouth, the bankruptcy safety net may feel like it has been taken away. On a national level, the increase in the Federal deficit further sends a message that my debt obligations are growing. [5] SAFETY. While violent crime has dropped to amazingly low levels, shows like COPS and local/national news would make you think that things are incredibly unsafe. Further, the boogeyman rhetoric regarding dirty bombs, anthrax, bird flu, open borders, tsunamis, etc. all fuels the fear... The average individual has a hard time feeling any control when the "war" has no defined front and the enemy has no define face or state. [6] MORALITY/RELIGION. If you are “Christian”, then the rhetoric tells you that everything you care about is about to be taken away. If you are Muslim, then much of the rhetoric looks like you are all seen as violent nut jobs. If you are not religious, then it looks like the Christian Right is trying to convert (or save) you, invade your privacy, and get involved in everything that happens in your bedroom. [7] PRIVACY. Between the hyperbolic “ID theft” news stories, the NSA having unfettered access to domestic activities, the TSA, creditors, marketers, et al – we are all feeling like we are thought to be presumed as best to be “potentially guilty” of something, and, at worst having no privacy. What an eye-opener it has been to the masses to learn that we have no constitutional right to privacy and anyone thought to invade privacy is given a slap on the wrist (at most). ///// I'll spare you from more, but I hope you get my point. One's level of misery is directly impacted by what he perceives. The media and government play a major role in shaping perception... All of the boogeyman rhetoric over the past several years is catching up with the average American; we are all very tired… Tired of being on alert all the time… Tired of wondering when the next terrorist attack will hit… Tired of being lied to regarding how soon we can throttle back on our military deployments… Tired of increasing health care costs… Tired of being spied on…. Tired of a two-party system where nobody is in the middle… Tired of xenophobic speech from our leaders… Tired of sound-bites instead of real discussion/debate… Tired of being told we are “at war” with terrorism, drugs, poverty, aids, et al.

Middle of the Roader

Who is against the presidential line item veto?
I note the Democrats have voted against this idea time after time. Nuff said.

My five year old is to be more trusted with my credit card than the Democrats with access to a strongbox inside a white hot stove.

How many people long for Demoicrat control again?
I think you nailed it pretty well. Hampton does his Charley McCarthy act regularly mouthing irrelevant and partial pieces of agitprop. Given circumstances we're fortunate the economy isn't in a deephole. If we hadn't gotten tax cuts the economy would truly be in a hole.

I note for all their bluster Democrats never opennly advocate tax increases, they wait toill they gain office and then seek to put through huge tax increases without the fear of a voter backlash.

But then again I note the Democrats seem to be huge savers, look at Congressman Jefferson accumulating 90,000 cool ones in his frig. Thrifty, thrifty, thrifty.

Only thing in the middle of the road is a yellow stripe or road kill
I say, "Don't worry, be happy." Cause you sound downright paranoid.

You missed the point
I am not paranoid. I documented a painfully long list of why many Americans may not have such a rosy view.

I am very fortunate and I know it, but I also know many who are struggling more than in 2001. Their perception is less security (physical, health, financial, housing, privacy), so that perception is their reality.

My only paranoia is that we spend so much $ and effort chasing boogeymen and legislating morality. Spend my tax $$$ covering my basic needs first (e.g. affordable & available basic healthcare, a safe place to live, decent water supply & other public infrastructure, police & fire) -- all the other outside "threats" would then feel a lot less daunting. My basic personal comfort/security index would be up, so my misery index would drop.

Middle Aged Middle Roader

I understand better
Like most Republicans, I see you like to strawman form of making the argument.

I never said that Carter was making investments, while republicans make incurable deficits. But nice try.

The FDR/Truman deficits financed the wars in Europe and Japan. Following that conflict, we steadily reduced our debt/GDP ratio through both republican and democratic presidents. This includes the strong growth period during the 1950s and 60s.

Starting in the 1980's, we persued a new economic theory . This theory said we could spend without raising taxes and growth in revenue would come with economic growth. When it became obvious that this was not going to occur as theorized, we raised taxes to soften the deficit growth. We enjoyed historically average growth through the 80s.

When these priniciples were abandoned, through the cooperation of republicans and democrats, and fiscal sanity was restored, we enjoyed historically robust economic growth.

Now we seemed have an administration and congress that believes that we can spend without limits and increase spending without limits. It's not a republican/democrat thing. Its and irresponsible president and congress thing.

Clicking my heels and hoping for a viable 3rd party
Republicans are not fiscally conservative enough for me anymore and they spend too much time trying to legislate morality. Democrats going to the other extremene, trying to prove they are not like the Republicans. Meanwhile, the 70% of us that don't identify strongly with either side always end up casting a vote for the "least evil" of two mediocre choices.

I can't recall the last time I voted FOR someone in a national election (except for ONE of my state senators, who manages to have a backbone and an independent thought or two).

Is denial a river in China?
I agree with a pox on both their houses.

The GOP doesn't take tax money to pay for its spending. It just borrows more and more money from foreign governments to pay for it. If China decided to stop buying our debt or dumped the debt they own on the market, our economy would collapse. That scares the H... out of me.

But you've got an extra $100 bucks.

If you don't want to tax, don't spend.

Not unprecedented, just extremely rare
Other than Reagan, Bush 1, and Bush 2. When have the debt to GDP ratios been at this level and rising?

I'll give you one: World War 2.

"Compassionate Libertarianism” ?
Maybe I should trademark the phrase "Compassionate Libertarianism”TM

I like small government and goverment fiscal responsibilty... But I am also not such an arrogant arse that I want to see the mentally ill, disabled, and destitute dying in the streets. Beyond retaining some basic custodial responsibility over the helpless, I otherwise would be OK with the gov getting out of the welfare business. This means not only at the people level, but also corporate welfare system (e.g. rampant abuses of the patent & copyright system to artifically protect companies that would not otherwise be viable).

Here Here!
Well said

The threat of fillibuster is enough to keep bills from being introduced.
Do you actually deny that the Democrats have been using the fillibuster?

Why do you think that compassionate individuals will not support these things?
They did prior to govt getting involved.
Without onerous govt taxes, the people would have a lot more money to donate.

after the Reagan tax cuts,
charitable giving rose dramatically, despite the fact that the tax benefit was less, because the marginal rate was less.

Maybe you're right!
I would hope that there would be enough compassion from individuals to take care of the truly destitute --- but I would hate to guess wrong. So, my thinking is that a government safety net for the absolutely helpless would be required. Mind you, I'm thinking that the brain-damaged orphan fits into this category; not the guy who is "disabled" due to being overweight.

You could slowly fade out the support (and therefore the tax burden) for all of these programs, with the most helpless being the last ones to cut off. By then, you would have enough data better understand if those folks will be cared for by private parties.

A threat?
For political or judicial appointees, yes.

For budgetary items they have not.

Stupid argument...
since it would effectively kill China's economy too. You fail to see the intertwined nature of our economy, China's economy, and the global economy.

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