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August 21, 2012

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David Marcus

I disagree with your framing of the NEA question. While it's true that NEA spending is very small, federal tax expenditures to the arts (money given to 501(c)3 corporations partially in lieu of taxes) is a substantial amount of money, that I would argue has not delivered broader access to and appreciation of the arts for most Americans. As you rightly point out, the benefits of such spending overwhelmingly go to the wealthy. The flattening of the tax code to do away the exemptions that the wealthy use to avoid taxes is a Republican idea that holds a lot of promise. Its not held by all Republicans, but since Forbes ran in 96 it has grown in influence. Its not fair to dismiss all Republicans for the actions of their party's most powerful members. Glen Greenwald has a lot to say about the President's use of Drones and invasion of civil liberties, a lot of it makes sense, but it doesn't delegitimize the entire Democratic party. In your ideal world, would the Republican be replaced by some new party? Or would there just be one party? Because I gotta tell you, the one party rule thing doesn't have a real good historical track record.

99

What has delegitimized the Republican Party for me is the near-lack of logic or consistency. Yes, the Obama administration has done some things I disagree with, but, as far as I can tell, those things are in accordance with actual, real-world policy goals. I think there may be better ways to achieve those goals, but I can see what they are. I don't see policy goals for the Republicans in most of the things they do. The NEA thing and the way you responded is exactly the thing I'm talking about. Mitt Romney isn't talking about changing the tax code. When he's asked what federal spending he wants to cut to balance the budget, he doesn't say, "I think we can spend less money on the arts." He says, "I want to cut the NEA and PBS." Which doesn't actually do anything significant to fix the budget.

Flattening the tax code is an actual idea. But I haven't seen an actual proposal that makes up for the tax cuts that are always a part of any "tax revision" package. That would be a start. I don't want one party rule, but you can't compromise when, not just the most powerful members, but the whole party apparatus is more concerned with serving the ids, fears and prejudices of their base than with crafting meaningful policy.

Honestly, I don't know how we get out of this hole. It's bad for the whole country. One thing we need, more than a third party, is a different, functioning philosophy.

Josh L

Tax exempt donations to the arts are a drop in the bucket. Why even single out arts donations? There are far, far worse tax exempt donations you can make than an arts donation that fails to broaden the experience for the whole country.

The budget is made up largely of three items: Social security. Medicare and medicaid. And the military industrial complex. The former two are vital pieces of the social contract. The latter could and should be drastically cut, but that will never happen in a million years. Because if we don't constantly push forward our capacity to blow everything on Earth the fuck up repeatedly, the Nazis might come back from the dead and invade us or something.

Isaac

Hey all,

Yay politics!

I'd just like to point out briefly that removing exemptions from the tax code and flattening the tax code are two different things. The first is likely a good idea, but it depends on what exemptions you are getting rid of. One of the clever tricks that Mitt Romney pulls is his insistence that his budget plans will work because he will eliminate *unspecified* loopholes and deductions in the tax code. But the problem is that people like those deductions and loopholes! I mean, a huge one, much bigger than the 501(c)3 deduction, is the deduction home owners get from their monthly mortgage payments. We could generate a lot of money by getting rid of that, or at least getting rid of the deduction for second homes. But we don't, because that deduction is enormously popular.

We do a lot of legislating through our tax code because it's easier to pass. It's much harder to fund things through actual spending as opposed to tax expenditures and it's very hard to get rid of tax expenditures because the other side well run on their opponent "raising your taxes." This isn't going to change until both parties-- but especially the Republicans-- stop treating taxes a Great Tragedy and start treating them as the necessary revenue to keep our government running and doing the things we've asked it to do.

As to a flat tax... flat taxes are a terrible idea that are likely (and thankfully) to remain in the fringes of our discourse. A flat tax generally depends on raising taxes on the poorest americans so that they can be lowered for the wealthy. This goes under the name "broadening the base" but what "broadening the base" means is taxing the working class and the poor.

As to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid... well, they are three programs with three different problems and solutions. Much of the talk of a Social Security crisis is complete bollocks. Social Security is not a pressing problem. It's solvent for decades. Name another problem that's coming decades from now that anyone gives a shit about. It's also an easy problem to fix: Get rid of the payroll tax cap or slightly increase the tax rate just a little bit and the problem goes away.

Medicare is in financial trouble but you can't just cut it. You need to institute cost control mechanisms. Obamacare takes some steps towards this (that $700 billion you hear Romney talking about) but doesn't go far enough. The problem is, there isn't a consensus on how to control costs. Hopefully some of the various experiments in the ACA will bear fruit and then we can implement those more widely.

Medicaid's problem is that it is underfunded. In an ideal world, Medicaid funding would go up so that more doctors would take it and it would be easier for the poor to get medical care.

None of this is going to be fixed with tax rates as they are right now. Both parties are being completely dishonest about how much money it takes to run our country and to do the things that American people have asked their government to do. Cutting defense would be a great start as would finding ways to increase revenue. Returning (gradually) to the Clinton tax rates and finding new sources of revenue such as a carbon tax would be a good idea.

As to the letting-the-crazies define the party... all I have to say is that parties do enact platforms every four years. These platforms help articulate in some specifics what parties stand for. The final draft of the GOP one should be released to the public soon. It includes, amongst other things, a blanket ban on abortion with no exception for rape, incest or the life of the mother. As the Akin thing demonstrates, the center old-establishment paleo-con wing of the party is now completely powerless. Meanwhile, Obama is essentially running as a center-right republican a la George H.W. Bush. i don't really understand why centrist Republicans don't support the guy who implemented George HW Bush's health care plan and tried to implement George HW Bush's cap and trade plan. My guess is it's mainly tribalism, but perhaps someone can clear that up for me.

David Marcus

Its true that the flat tax as advocated by Forbes meant a single rate for all earners, but as I pointed out, his ideas have been broadened, not blindly accepted by Republicans and candidate Romney. Romney refers to his plan as flatter, not flat. There is a 25% bracket for higher earners, and a 10% bracket for lower earners. Flattening of the tax code does refer to limiting deductions, and its a god thing. And you are right that tax expenditures make it easier for the federal government to spend money, but should it be easy? Or should federal spending be appropriated so that we can examine the representatives voting record?

As to this claim that the President is really a centrist Republican, its absurd. While it is true that President Clinton moved the Democratic Party to the right, and with it the entire political spectrum of the United States, I'm happy to clear up why centrist and neocon Republicans do not support him.

1. Discouraging domestic production of fossil fuels.
2. Suggesting that Israel should negotiate from the starting point of pre 1967 borders.
3. Requiring all Americans to purchase a government approved product.
4. Requiring Catholic institutions to pay for contraception (I invite you to find an article about the contraception availability crisis that predates the HHS mandate)
5. The failure of the Senate to produce any budget and the failure of a single Democrat to vote for the President's (you can attack Ryan's, but at least he had the guts to write it down)

My reply was simply meant to suggest that we ought not be written off as people who can no longer even be taken seriously. There may be people on the right who feel that way about liberals, I am not one of them, I spent a long time as a liberal. I marched against the war in March of 2003, and though I have changed my mind about that I still respect the people I marched with. Respect is the key. The Republican Party exists, the conservative movement exists. We will not be wished away, and it is my sincere hope that we will no longer allow art to be the sole province of the left. A left that in my opinion has been complicit in ensuring that my art form, theater, remain in the hands of a sadly incompetent elite.

99 Seats

The mandate was a conservative idea and, frankly, represents a basic conservative tenet of encouraging people to have "skin in the game" and discouraging "free riders." The strong libertarian strain is a new development. Adopting the health care mandate was a way of getting a buy-in from the right. Which suddenly became impossible.

I'm not wishing away the Republican Party or denying that there is a conservative movement. They are both real world things. I simply do not see them living in the real world or making any actual attempt at governing.

Look at your list of why Republicans don't support him. #1 and #5 are both incorrect and #5 is far more about the dysfunction in the Senate and not about the Obama administration. I've just talked about #3. As for #4, that requirememt was well-known and uncontroversial until the right wing media started up. As for the issue about the availability of contraceptives, I say see Sandra Fluke. And Obama's position on Israel is well in line with previous administrations.

I do have a hard time taking Republican elected officials seriously because they seem to live in a another world and have very, very few solutions for the world we live in. Most of their "policies" and "complaints" seem personally motivated and the default position is one of zero compromise. Which is fine, if you're a talking head on Fox News, but not so much when you're an elected official.

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