Thursday, April 16, 2015

Chris Christie Thinks His Half Million Dollar Income Doesn't Make Him "Wealthy"

Well this should be fun when it starts making the rounds on the internets:

Gov. Chris Christie insists he's not rich, but is nonetheless confounded by the complexity of his tax returns and again hinted that he might back a simplification of the U.S. income tax code should he run for president.

"The fact that my wife and I, who are not wealthy by current standards, that we have to file a tax return that's that thick ... is insane," Christie told the editorial board of the Manchester Union-Leader on Monday, holding his thumb and forefinger several inches apart.

"We don't have nearly that much money," he said.
 So how not nearly that much money does Christie actually have?

The Christie family reported $698,838 in income on their 2013 tax returns, the most current year available.

Only eight-tenths of one percent of all U.S. households had an adjusted gross income over $500,000 in 2015, according to the Tax Policy Center, a non-partisan think-tank based in Washington.

Poor guy. He's only a mere semi-millionaire. Someone should start a GoFundMe page for him.

How does the Governor compare against the people in the state he serves?
In New Jersey, the Christies are also in a rarified strata: According to the US Census Bureau, the median household income for the state of New Jersey between 2009 and 2013 was $71,629. The Christies most recently-reported income in 2013 is more than eight times that amount.

"If the Christies had an adjusted gross income of almost $600,000, they're certainly in the top 1 percent," said Eric Toder, co-director of the Tax Policy Center.

Only  eight times more than the median household income in New Jersey? Come on, like that's even worth mentioning.

Chris Christie may not see himself as "wealthy", but he knows who actually are. This apparantly includes people on social security making more than $80,000/yr. and families earning under $28,665/yr.

The governor seems to have rather unfortunate timing, as Republicans recently have concocted the genius idea to attack Hillary Clinton for supposedly being an out of touch, tone deaf, plutocrat. Oops.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ted Cruz Demonstrates Why The Healthcare Debate Has Been Wrapped In a Mobius Strip of Idiocy

I've been meaning to comment on this exchange between CNBC's John Harwood and Ted Cruz that took place last week:

Harwood: Now, a third Texas president, L.B.J., created Medicare in the mid-'60s. Your hero, Ronald Reagan, campaigned vigorously against that, saying it would lead to socialized medicine, it would end liberty in the United States. Who was right, L.B.J. or Reagan?

Cruz: ​You know, at the end of the day— it's not worth tilting at windmills. And we are at a different point in time than we were in the 1960s. Today, Medicare is a fundamental bulwark of our society.  And there is an entire generation of s—
Harwood: ​So, the philosophical objection just goes out the window?

Cruz: ​At the— I'm— I'm a big believer at focusing on battles that matter and that are winnable. And there is a broad, universal consensus that Medicare is a fundamental bulwark of our society that's fundamentally different. Look, it's one thing to have asked 50 years ago should we have created it. It's another thing when you have a generation of seniors who paid into it 30, 40, 50 years who have been made promises. We need to honor those promises—

Harwood: Fair enough. But—

​​Cruz: ​—and— and— and—

​​Harwood: ​—do you think at the time Reagan as right?

​​Cruz: You know, I don't know. I wasn't alive then. What I do know is that today, we have got to preserve and reform Medicare.

Most political commentators  have zeroed in on  that last line from Cruz. But while that comment was no doubt breathtakingly stupid, it is, amazingly enough, not the most idiotic thing he's said during that exchange.

Ted Cruz, like every Republican politician in the country, hates Obamacare, and has vowed to repeal every word, if given the chance. Why? Because he and his ilk, are ideologically opposed to the idea of "government run" healthcare. Sure, Obamacare, as it was crafted, doesn't result in the government actually delivering healthcare, and mainly relies on private insurers to do most of the work, but even that's a bridge too far for Calgary Cruz.

Which makes his comments on medicare all the more interesting/moronic.

Cruz says that there's a "broad, universal consensus" that medicare is "a fundamental bulwark of our society". Why is this a problem? Because medicare just happens to be one of those wretched, awful, anti-freedom government programs that Cruz absolutely loathes. To be clear, it's not just a government-run program like Obamacare. In fact, it's far, far worse.

As mentioned earlier, Obamacare relies mainly on private insurance providers. Private. Medicare, by contrast, is entirely administered by the government. You know, the same government that conservatives are supposed to hate? Yeah, that's the same one that handles this wonderful medicare program that Cruz thinks is a "fundamental bulwark of our society".

I can already predict the rebuttals that will no doubt be flooding the comments section. "Medicare is completely different! People spent their entire lives paying for it, and should be able to reap the benefits as they had no choice in the matter!". This is true. It's also completely irrelevant to the matter at hand.

Right-wingers like Cruz aren't just making the argument that the free market can deliver better quality healthcare at lower cost. They are making the argument that government involvement in healthcare (or really almost anything else for that matter) is not only inefficient, but immoral, and evil. Indeed, prominent conservatives have literally argued that government-run health care will lead to genocide!

If Republicans had any internal consistency, you'd see people like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, etc. vowing to repeal every word of medicare, considering it's a far more liberal, and therefore, far more of a socialist monstrosity than Obamacare. Instead we have a situation where Ted Cruz is actually falling over himself to defend this wretched creature spawned from the Great Society. Hell, during the last election, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan performed an impressive feat of Rovian political jiu-jitsu by attacking the socialist tyrant, Obama as the true enemy of medicare!

This is the state of our national healthcare debate.

George Will Fudges Reagan's Economic Record

Last week, George Will appeared on Fox News Sunday, and said something that was particularly absurd. It turns out that March's employment numbers weren't exactly impressive, with the economy gaining a mere 126,000 jobs. Commenting on it, Will had this to say:

“Let your mind go back to November last year. There was job creation of 321,000 jobs and the administration said this is a miraculous achievement and a harbinger of things to come. It wasn’t a harbinger and it wasn’t miraculous. During the Reagan recovery there were 23 months of job creation over 300,000. Reagan had a month of job creation of 1 million and this was at a time when there were 75 million fewer Americans.”

Unfortunately, that claim wasn't exactly true. Well, technically it was true, but as is the case when dealing with conservatives, very misleading. Over one million jobs were definitely created in September of 1983, but if you look at the jobs numbers the month before that, you'll find something interesting:

As Brother Benen at the Maddowblog pointed out:

If you check with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and take a look at the monthly job totals from 1983, you’ll see something interesting: the U.S. economy, the data shows, lost over 300,000 jobs in August 1983, only to then add over 1 million jobs literally the next month, in September 1983. If something about this sounds fishy to you, trust your instincts.
Indeed. As Business Insider further explained:

So, sadly for the Reagan zealots, President Reagan, his economy, his tax cuts, his supply-side economics, etc., etc., never produced one million jobs in one month, or anything close to it. It was a simple matter of striking communications workers dinging the payroll numbers one month and, upon their return, goosing them the next. Nothing more, nothing less. Could not be more straightforward.
If you look at the data, the following month, the numbers of jobs added went all the way down to 271,000 jobs. Not that that's a bad number or anything, but the point being is that if we're supposed to credit the explosion in job growth in September to Reagan's economic policies, then the question arises, what happened to bring that number down so much? 

The answer is of course, nothing. It was a one time anomaly and Reagan hadn't had anything around the same ballpark before or after. The second highest month of job growth he had was in October 1987, at 492,000 jobs. Definitely a good number, mind you, but far from over 1 million.

The entire so-called Reagan economic boom, while admittedly very good in terms of job numbers, wasn't some major benchmark that the country had yet to surpass. Job growth was more impressive under Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Yes, Jimmy Carter, who despite being the second worst U.S. president in history, presided over 10 million jobs in term, as opposed to Reagan who presided over nearly 16 million in two terms. For those of you keeping score, that's a higher rate of growth under Carter than Reagan.  And of course, Bill Clinton presided over 23 million jobs over his two terms.

Also (and this is really important), both Clinton and Carter did so without the power of REAGANOMICS. Carter dealt with a 70%+ top margical tax rate all throughout his presidency, and Clinton enacted, at the time, one of the largest tax hikes in recent memory. Yet somehow they were both able to keep up with and even surpass Ronaldus Magnus' job growth. How in the world can such a thing be possible?

Finally, let me just say that while March's numbers aren't anything to brag about, but 1) we've still had 59 straight months of private sector job growth, and 2) we should probably wait to see if this is the beginning of a trend, or was just a one off thing. After all, even the Gipper had several months of unimpressive growth as well (there were seven months after the recovery began that had job growth under 150,000).

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Blogging's Been a Little Light, I'll Admit...

Sorry for being gone for the past few weeks. Had to deal with some personal issues, sadly. But hopefully I'll start posting regularly starting today.