My View: Debt ceiling not our biggest problem

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  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Oct. 16, 2013 10:49 a.m.

    Sorry, didnt think I had to get into the dirt.

    I will agree that few if any were paying the 70% rate. But, it would take huge deductions to get to the "Effective" rates we have today.

    Even with Reagans 50% top tax rate.
    I dont care how good your accountant is.

    But hey, Convince me. Show me the deductions available under Reagan that don't exist today.

    I seriously doubt that the effective rate under Reagan was lower than today. And it darn sure was not noticeably lower.

  • T. Party Pleasant Grove, UT
    Oct. 16, 2013 9:36 a.m.

    @JoeBlow "Regardless of how you slice it..."

    Actually, "how you slice it" turns out to be very important. What matters is the percentage of income the taxpayer actually ends up paying -- his effective tax rate. You have completely dodged this question. We have fewer loopholes available today than in Reagan's day.

    You also completely ignored my question about revenue collections, so I'll supply the answer. Historically, higher tax rates have not caused revenues to increase. As it turns out, people handle their affairs differently under higher tax rates, finding creative ways to preserve as much of their income as possible. Revenue collections stay fairly constant as a percentage of GDP.

    Higher tax rates won't solve the problem. Please look at history.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Oct. 16, 2013 7:36 a.m.

    "Are you talking about marginal rates, or effective rates? "

    Regardless of how you slice it, the lowest personal tax rates under Reagan were higher than they are today.

    Reagans lowest tax rate was in 1988 ant it was 28%. That was for one year. In his other years, the tax rates were higher, with the top tax rate being 70%.

    However, under Reagan, the 28% top rate kicked in at $17,850 for individuals and $30,000 ($55K in today's Dollars) for married couples.

    Today - the 28% tax rate kicks in at $146000
    Today's highest tax rate is 39.6% but only for incomes over $450K.

    So, Yes, tax rates are lower today than in Reagan's days. Much, Much lower than most of Reagan's tax rates. And the country did well under Reagan.

    Tax rates are lower today than under Clinton. And the country did well then also.

    I am not suggesting that higher tax rates cause the country to do well, but history has shown that today's tax rates are not an economy killer.

  • Citizen12 Doylestown, PA
    Oct. 16, 2013 6:32 a.m.

    Bob presents the problem but offers only one solution. He pretends that there is no such thing as raising revenue through taxes or closing loopholes. This solution is not mentioned in his editorial at all. His comments point to his vision of the world where the wealthy have no responsibility to improve the society in which they live. The root of the problem is not the size of the budget but the failure of those who earn the most to pay their share to reduce the deficit. During the Republican administration of Dwight Eisenhower, the top income bracket of earners over $400K was reduced from 92% to 91%. It is probably not a coincidence but if you were to tax all income over $400K at 91% today, the budget deficit of $1.090 trillion would be eliminated almost to the penny. The debt was rung up by our Republican “friend” G.W. Bush. He played a game of accounting smoke and mirrors by cutting taxes and regulations basically gutting programs that are necessary to maintain a healthy economy resulting in the need for an expensive clean up job that ballooned the total debt.

  • T. Party Pleasant Grove, UT
    Oct. 16, 2013 12:57 a.m.

    @JoeBlow "Tell me how the country did so well at times when tax rates were much higher."

    Are you talking about marginal rates, or effective rates? At most of the times in our history which fit your description (high marginal rates coinciding with relative prosperity), there were also plenty of loopholes which allowed high earners to shelter their money. Effective rates were equal to or lower than today's rates, if you had a good tax planner -- and most of them did.

    But we were talking about revenue collections, weren't we? I'll ask you this: how did government revenues fare during the times to which you refer? Did they go up, as you seem to expect? Take a look at the history and get back to me. I think you'll be surprised.

  • Freonpsandoz Los Angeles, CA
    Oct. 15, 2013 10:37 p.m.

    A recent Businessweek article claimed that the deficit is only 4.2% of GDP, down from over 10% in 2009. I can understand how two different analyses could yield different values. But 4.2% vs. the 100% that this article claims? How can that be? Somebody appears to be playing fast and loose with the truth, so many of us don't believe that ANY of these figures can be trusted.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    Oct. 15, 2013 9:10 p.m.

    Is there the slightest chance that cuts in the corporate income tax and high end personal income tax cuts have helped create deficits and debt. Remember Bush's tax cuts while we were going to war.

  • one vote Salt Lake City, UT
    Oct. 15, 2013 9:04 p.m.

    Why is the tea party concerned with growth? They want to shut down credit and shrink the economy.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Oct. 15, 2013 8:48 p.m.

    "There is a point where a taxes becomes punitive, causing total revenues to decrease. We've reached it. (People stop doing economic activities for which they are punished.)"

    Well then.... Tell me how the country did so well at times when tax rates were much higher.

    Yes, we are spending too much. No doubt.

    But, our taxes have been much higher in the past and the economy managed to thrive.

  • kamikrazee Leawood, KS
    Oct. 15, 2013 8:38 p.m.

    I cast a vote for first cutting foreign aid, which is a form of defense spending. We try to curry favor wit quite a few regimes that are lost causes, and with others that are merely milking us as long as they can.

    Then we have what is known as entitlement spending. The first requirement for any benefit should be citizenship, the second should be having actually paid into the system prior to having applied for something from it.

    On a completely unrelated note, this little snafu may well be an impetus to amend the Constitution as it pertains to the workings of Congress. We live in an electronic age. The era of using procedure and rules as a tool is as arcane as a victrola in a disco. All votes should be on a roll call basis and recorded, bills and issues should be kept separate, (that is, little amendments that sneak unrelated gotcha's through), and these things should be regulated, at least in part, by a Constitutional amendment.

    I think it needs no more proof that the notion of accountability and responsibility needs bolstering in the Congress.

  • OTBRICKI Freehold, NJ
    Oct. 15, 2013 8:33 p.m.

    The debt ceiling is certainly not our biggest problem. But it IS one of the things that we must manage without blowing up the economy in the process. If you think we have problems with the budget now, wait 'till you see what a recession or worse does to this country's ability to pay it's bills.

    Yes, definitely DO reduce government spending. But don't blow up the Republic and use mechanisms like the sequester to accomplish this goal.

    A big part of reducing the deficit is a strong economy. Just the mediocre improvements over the past few years have done a lot to help. The current budget fight may reduce spending, but the way it is being done runs right over the edge of a cliff and into another recession at least.

    Crikey we need some adults in the room. Especially the room called the House of Representatives.

  • TrueAmerican56 Corpus Christi, TX
    Oct. 15, 2013 6:03 p.m.

    Here is an interesting question for all those that say Obama needs to stop spending, please explain how he does that? Congress approves all spending, so how is Obama spending too much? Congress just spent over a billion dollars on nothing, absolutely nothing, yet you are not up in arms about that. Giving backpay for government workers NOT WORKING.

  • DeseretDebbie Corona, CA
    Oct. 15, 2013 4:47 p.m.

    The problem is collecting revenue not spending. We have at this point cut, cut, cut. It is time for taxes to be raised on everyone. No one should be spared: Rich/poor, religious/non-religious, Corporate/Non-Corporate. A government is not like Kitchen Table economics. Spending is not the problem unless you are willing to cut Defense by 25% minimum.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Oct. 15, 2013 4:39 p.m.

    The real problem for America and Americans is the decision about just what kind of world do we want to live in. Seems like all the options tried so far have failed, Kings with their lords and ladies, Theocracy and other forms of dictatorship, republics, democratic republics and even no government at all. Democracy might work but it has never been tried beyond a few members. Strange that democracy has such a terrible reputation when it has never been used.

    We and all the rest of the world are ruled by the whims of commercial businessmen. And in every case where a government has failed from internal problems, the internal problems were created by the corruption of greed of the leaders of that government.

    The only solution for the ending of the economic merry-go-round that has plagued civilization since the beginning is to truly have government for the people, by the people.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Oct. 15, 2013 2:25 p.m.

    "For the first time since the Korean War spending has gone down 2 yrs in a row."
    (Republican Rep. Dennis Ross)

    "..spending almost always went up every year, at least until recently. It fell for one year between 1964 and 1965, and then once again between 2009 and 2010.

    But the only time it fell two years in a row was between 2011 and 2013."

    Non-discretionary spending--(defense, SS, Medicare) need to be addressed. Clinton raised the income cap on Medicare, the same needs to be done for SS. We should also return to Clinton tax rates.

  • christoph Brigham City, UT
    Oct. 15, 2013 1:54 p.m.

    Ten years ago was the first time in our nations's history that we went to war while cutting taxes at the same time. 911 (and war and tax cuts and recession and all people's bad spending habits) bankrupted us

  • Robert Riversong Warren, VT
    Oct. 15, 2013 11:20 a.m.

    "the federal deficit as a percentage of the overall economy has surged from 26.2 percent in 1980, to 48.3 percent in 1992, to over 100 percent today."

    If Bob Fuehr doesn't understand the difference between the annual budget deficit and the national debt, he has no business commenting.

    The annual deficit, as a percentage of GDP, was on a steady and strong decline after WWII until the Reagan and Bush I administrations, during which it took a precipitous rise, dropped under Clinton and then rose dramatically again under Bush II.

    Under Dubya, the annual deficit rose from $318 billion to $1.413 trillion. It has been coming down steadily under Obama after FY2011 when the effects of the Bush great recession began to be counteracted by stimulus spending.

  • T. Party Pleasant Grove, UT
    Oct. 15, 2013 11:10 a.m.

    @SG in SLC "Not even close."

    Consider the fact that the Obamacare mandates are taxes. (If not, then Obamacare is unconstitutional.) No one figures in the dollar amounts of these mandates when they calculate tax burden, but this burden is carried by employers nevertheless, and it affects the decisions they make about their own economic growth. It has caused employers to cut back staff; it has caused employers to relegate their staff to part-time positions; it has caused them to delay new hiring; it has induced them to put new investments on hold; it has caused them to raise prices; it has even put people out of business. All of this has a negative effect on tax revenues collected.

    A lot of my friends were upset with John Roberts for calling the mandates a tax, but that is exactly what they are. Now we need to take the next step and figure in their costs, along with those of all other government mandates and regulations. That is the total tax burden. And it's large enough to stifle economic growth and -- along with it -- tax revenues.

  • s1wells powell, WY
    Oct. 15, 2013 10:53 a.m.

    Good article, good comments, conversation is needed, especially after we vote the bums out. The grandstanding egomaniacs seemed to have lost sight of governance responsibility. I work for an agency that generates revenues and tied to jobs in the local communities. We have seen cuts in both 2012 and 2013 - we still return $24 for every $1 of Appropriation, yet struggle to recruit new staff (private industry pays more, and now it is hard to say their is stability with the Federal jobs).
    I believe we need to keep social safety nets, lift the most at risk, and the poor, there will always be the needy - have agencies look for more efficiencies, and given the tools/resources to succeed, and accountable.
    Concentrating wealth doesn't seem to be the best answer, but to find balance, avoid pitfalls like we saw with the collapse in 2008 of the housing/financial bubble, Americans should know better and demand more from their Reps in Congress. I also don't believe we can support the world largest Armed Forces, plus $1.3 Trillion for the new F35 stealth fighter jet built with jobs in 45 states, surely money can be invested smarter at home.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Oct. 15, 2013 10:15 a.m.

    Re: "Without government spending far beyond its means, our economy would be a mess."

    Oh, well, then it's a good thing the government has been spending like a drunken sailor all these years, so our economy isn't a mess.

    But, wait, our economy IS a mess. So, how's that socialism thing -- you know the one liberals as so fond of trotting out as a "solution" whenever their manufactured crises break -- how does that work, now?

    Oh, yeah, collapse the economy. Collapse the military. Collapse the Nation. Then rebuild it as a workers' paradise, where there's a dictatorship of the proletariat. And all our problems go away.

    Like they did in Soviet Russia and the Warsaw Pact. And China. And North Korea. And Cuba. And . . . well, EVERY time it's been tried.


  • SG in SLC Salt Lake City, UT
    Oct. 15, 2013 9:53 a.m.

    Avoiding default and getting our nation's fiscal house in order are equally important issues. It should be obvious that protecting the full faith and credit of the United States by avoiding default is the only truly honorable and sane course of action.

    Getting our nation's fiscal house in order will require extensive spending cuts, primarily in defense spending, Social Security, and Medicare. To attempt to achieve this through draconian cuts all at once would be economically devastating; instead, it will need to happen through a series of reasonable strategic cuts that incrementally change the debt trajectory.

    Getting our nation's fiscal house in order will also require carefully crafting tax increases that will contribute to incrementally changing the debt trajectory. T. Party said, "There is a point where taxes become punitive, causing total revenues to decrease." This is absolutely true. T. Party also said, "We've reached it." Not even close. The "Laffer Curve" scenario to which T. Party is referring is characterized by extreme tax rates that capture nearly all income (70-75%+), and our current tax rates are at near historic lows.

  • Kent C. DeForrest Provo, UT
    Oct. 15, 2013 9:46 a.m.

    This suggests that we have a system that is broken. It has been rigged to funnel wealth to the top, where the so-called "job creators," those darlings of the conservative policy makers, are not actually creating jobs. They are not investing in American industry because there is insufficient demand. There is insufficient demand because the working classes have been squeezed for so long that they cannot buy the stuff corporate America produces (largely overseas).

    To get this picture back in balance, we need to restore some semblance of equality in terms of giving workers a fair share of the profits they are creating. This would increase demand, which would spur investment by those who have plenty to invest but aren't. And restoring tax rates to pre-Reagan levels would assist in bringing our federal budget back into balance without simply sucking millions out of the economy (which is the effect of slashing spending). Spending can then be curbed wisely and gradually, particularly by reducing our bloated military, reforming Social Security and Medicare (primarily by means testing), and reducing the demands on the social safety net (because workers earning more would need less help).

  • Kent C. DeForrest Provo, UT
    Oct. 15, 2013 9:39 a.m.

    Another conservative who doesn't grasp the larger economic picture. Let me spell it out. We have an economy that, over the past 30 years, has grown at about 5.7 percent per year (actual dollars), but only at 2.7 percent when adjusted for inflation. This growth has been largely dependent on government borrowing. Without government spending far beyond its means, our economy would be a mess.

    What the conservatives don't seem to understand is that government spending does not happen in a vacuum. If you simply slash government spending, which they all want to do in theory (but never in practice), you take a big chunk of the economy away, and you get immediate recession. So taming the deficit by only cutting spending is a recipe for disaster.

    At the present, however, contrary to conservative rhetoric, government revenue, as a percentage of GDP, is at its lowest level since 1950 (taxes are too low). Also, federal employment is about 1.8 percent of the overall workforce, less than half of where it was in 1952. Corporate profits, however, are at an all-time high. What does this suggest? See next comment.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    Oct. 15, 2013 9:14 a.m.

    Defense spending cuts and tax increases would be a start. However, our biggest problem is probably climate change. But, I imagine we'll have better luck with the tax increases than even getting climate change acknowledged. Nonetheless, climate change isn't going to wipe out my savings by thursday, so first things first; better get ready to get a bunch of money moved from my US to my Canadian bank.

  • pschles USA, ID
    Oct. 15, 2013 8:50 a.m.

    Health, Social Security, and Defense have been the traditional winners, but the deck needs to be reshuffled to deal in support of Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation, otherwise we are totally fooling ourselves about importance of the first three. We have already shot ourselves in the foot by not having taken on this challenge at the beginning of the first Obama administration, and now years later, we are in serious trouble!

  • T. Party Pleasant Grove, UT
    Oct. 15, 2013 8:15 a.m.

    There is a point where a taxes becomes punitive, causing total revenues to decrease. We've reached it. (People stop doing economic activities for which they are punished.)

    No, the problem is our spending. We will never be able to control spending if we are unwilling to make cuts in the largest budget categories. They are, in order:

    1) Health
    2) Social Security
    3) Defense

    The problem is that whenever a leader proposes cutting any of them, his political challengers attack on that point. You get ads showing him throwing Granny off a cliff, etc.

    I've been told never to state a problem without also proposing a solution. It is this: the Constitution contains a list of items for which Congress is authorized to tax and spend. We need to vote for people who will stick to the list, and we need to vote against the people who don't.

  • pragmatistferlife salt lake city, utah
    Oct. 15, 2013 8:13 a.m.

    Paul Samuelson's article today on the debt is excellent. It has sobering thoughts for both Republicans and Democrats. Of course one of the primary problems we have fiscally is most think like Democrats or Republicans not Americans.

    Unlike the letter writer he shows many of the true causes of slow economic growth. He talks about the deficit as a consequence of slow growth and not the cause. He also talks about the unsustainability of a society built on continual high economic growth that now fundamentally can't sustain that growth.

    Arguments centered on tax cuts, and military spending do nothing to solve the crisis facing us. Expectations need to be adjusted on both sides and both sides need to realize that education and technology are the drivers of modern growth both personally and nationally.

    Germany figured it out and is out stripping the rest of the world.

    BTW, this is the Presidents economic plan. However, Democrats specifically need to figure out that an aging population has serious consequences for a slower growing economy.

  • pmacdee newbury Oark, CA
    Oct. 15, 2013 8:13 a.m.

    I find it interesting that when the deficit is half of the former projection, then 'everyone is congratulating each other for a dramatic improvement', whereas 'President Obama cannot continue to recklessly spend money that he doesn’t have'. You can't have it both ways. Either Obama is completely responsible for the level of the deficit or he is not. There is no mention, for example, that the public sector workforce has decreased by over 600,000 jobs during Obama's tenure and the same number of public sector jobs were created during the same time period in the Bush presidency. All this talk about smaller government and deficits by the Republicans is just that. Talk.

  • jkang Richmond, VA
    Oct. 15, 2013 7:53 a.m.

    "The federal debt is important to all of us because it is slowly sapping the vitality and growth out of our economy. Since 1950, the U.S. economy has grown by an average of 3 percent annually but future projections are just above 2 percent and that may not be attainable. At the same time, the federal deficit as a percentage of the overall economy has surged from 26.2 percent in 1980, to 48.3 percent in 1992, to over 100 percent today."

    Correlation does not equate to causation. For example, the end of WWII, the debt to GDP ratio was even higher than today, yet the economy expanded at unprecedented rates after that. Which is to say, the author is looking at simplistic solutions for complex problems.

    Why are companies not investing in American jobs? Why aren't banks making commercial loans despite sitting on historical reserves? Maybe our leaders should go about answering those questions instead of stoking public opinions toward policy dogma.

  • Pete1215 Lafayette, IN
    Oct. 15, 2013 7:50 a.m.

    "President Obama cannot continue to recklessly spend money that he doesn’t have." The President doesn't authorize spending. But this article's author is correct, we must stop our delusional thinking that there are enough fools out there that we can borrow forever. We have been deeply sinfull (reckless borrowing), and we either control our spending or our young will suffer the effects of our not controlling our spending.

  • TrueAmerican56 Corpus Christi, TX
    Oct. 15, 2013 7:34 a.m.

    Where is the talk on cutting military spending? It is one of, if not the main one, cause of the debt and interest on the debt. Its never ever talked about by so called conservatives, why not?

  • johnapool Van Buren, MO
    Oct. 15, 2013 7:30 a.m.

    The writer of this article is right on the titular point: the debt ceiling is not the problem. The actual problem lies in the spending already done. Congress has always raised the debt ceiling and then spent more money. Now in it's infinite wisdom, some in Congress are doing all they can to cut taxes. Any sane person knows that when you have topped off your credit card, you have to pay it off, not throw up your hands, quit your job and default on your debt.
    Congress needs to get on with business and work toward paying off the national debt. The US government is paying over $220 billion a year in interest. Fully one-third of the current deficit is going toward interest. Pay your bills, then talk about cutting taxes. Any discussion about rducing spending should also include increasing taxes until we are out of debt.

  • Blue Salt Lake City, UT
    Oct. 15, 2013 7:22 a.m.

    The US military budget is bigger than the next 12 largest defense budgets in the world - combined.

    Tax cuts plus two unfunded foreign wars have added many trillions of dollars to the debt.

    Start there.

  • MadSat Millington, TN
    Oct. 15, 2013 5:48 a.m.

    Section. 7. All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

    If the House wishes to cut the budget, the appropriate time is to do so when the budget is prepared. They do not wish to do so becasue that will mean they will have to make decisions about what to cut. Instead, they want to do this insane brinkmanship to force across the board cuts that will come with less political cost.

    IOW, the House is trying to game the system. And the Democrats are finally tired of giving in to the game. Bully for them. If you want to claim "party of responsibility", then man up and do the responsible thing and take the consequences or plaudits, whichever they be.

  • E Sam Provo, UT
    Oct. 15, 2013 3:53 a.m.

    So you would support cuts in defense spending and higher taxes to make up the difference?