What color are your shades?

I’ve listened to many reports on the Obama budget, but the one that seemed to sum it up for me pretty well was from the Newshour with Jim Lehrer. Judy Woodruff spoke with Peter Orszag and I will attach the transcript. I didn’t really hear anything that I had not heard before but it really seemed to make what this is all about click for me. It is about perspective. Much of the Republican chest beating that is going on is simple (and ugly) politics. Hopefully people will see it for what it is. There is something more than that though. Yes, there are sincere differences between how republicans (small “r”, not the party) and democrats (small “d”, not the party) think things should be structured. Great. That is why we have debate. It is unfortunate that the big “R’s” and big “D’s” have to get in the way so often.

Even more than that though, seems to be the difference in individual viewpoints. In the interview, I felt Orszag did a great job of answering some of the criticisms of the bill. (Of course I did, I agree with him.) He kept saying “Let me be clear” and “Again, let me be clear”. But, what for some is obvious, probably won’t be for many others. Woodruff asked him about “redistribution of wealth” using some hot buzz words. He said that it was not – but then explained it was greater shared responsibility. He made a good case for it, pointing out that a middle income family would get a $1,500 tax credit for a $10,000 interest payment where Bill Gates would get $3,500 credit for that same $10,000 payment. That inequity probably doesn’t seem fair to a lot of people (my guess would be that Gates would agree). Yet, for many that “shared responsibility” is “taking from the wealthy to give to the poor”. Later in the interview Woodruff says the budget makes a lot of assumptions and Orszag terms it instead “bold”. It is all in how you look at it and perhaps part of it is generational. “Those youngsters aren’t doing things like we did in the day.” Vs. “That just isn’t the way the world works anymore, Gramps.”

One of the more frustrating things for me in this report and in others is the criticism that the budget raises taxes in a recession. The budget does let the Bush tax cuts for the top 5% (those making over $250,000) expire in 2010, thus “raising” taxes in 2011. So, yes, there will be higher taxes on the top 5% – but not until 2011. All those out there bloviating on taxing and spending do a disservice by not giving the full picture. There is another divide – those that see only the cliff notes and those that want the full picture. While you can factually say that the budget would raise taxes and increase spending, it distorts what is really being proposed. One man’s spending is another man’s investment.

I like a lot of what I’ve seen in the budget. I appreciate the fact that the costs of the wars are included. The huge deficit is not just about the bailouts and stimulus, the deficit reflects the war costs that have not previously been included. We knew the previous administration was leaving us in a hole, they just never told us the truth about how deep it was. The budget reflects much of what Obama campaigned on and so it will probably resonate with those of us that liked what we heard on the campaign. Still, it is hard not to feel discouraged when you know it has a lot of political processes to go through. It sure would be nice if we could all take off our colored glasses, rose or otherwise, and just try to look at things as the really are.




2 Responses to “What color are your shades?”

  1. March 1, 2009 at 9:53 am

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  2. 2 jon
    March 1, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    A Republican friend of mine and I had a debate about policy and he kept saying, “That isn’t the purpose of government”.
    And therein lies the problem. You see, each party believes government is here for a different reason. IMO it IS within the purvue of government to take care of it’s citizens. Since this is government of, by and for the people, we – the people – pay for it. Without having to step outside of Lincoln’s famous speech, I can argue that yes, the ‘haves’ must help the ‘have nots’. It seems contemptible to me for someone (or a couple) making over a quarter of a million a year to complain about helping someone who can’t pay the bills with a McJob. THAT is the essence of the argument between Dems and Reps.
    As far as a little “redistribution of wealth”, I’m all for it…but it isn’t happening. People on the poverty end don’t pay as much as people on the top but they don’t have the loopholes either. If you can afford a lawyer to figure out how NOT to pay taxes then I can’t feel sorry for you if you have to pay a little more than you did. After all, your lawyer’s maiking more than I am. Let’s face it, you ARE your brother’s keeper. I really think we all agree on that. What we disagree on is government’s role in making us help each other.

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