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Britain's Cuts: Daring or Daft?

Britain announced an austerity package that has stunned even the most hard-nosed American deficit hawks. We look at U.K. cutbacks.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron talking about defense budget cuts in Northwood near London, Oct. 19, 2010. (AP)

Americans talk about spending and deficits. Britons are taking a battle axe to theirs.

Giant cuts in British government spending on nearly everything – schools, police, the military, the Queen. A wholesale shakeout of the ranks of public employees.

A true, deep, painful austerity plan to get away from debt. It’s being called revolutionary. And it’s a gamble. If it doesn’t work, Britain’s price could be steep. The whole world, America included, is watching.

We look at Britain’s new austerity, and America’s way forward on debt.

- Tom Ashbrook


Alex Barker, economics correspondent for the Financial Times.

Lord Robert Skidelsky, emeritus professor of political economy at the University of Warwick, director of the Moscow School of Political Studies, and a trustee of the Manhattan Institute. He is active in the British House of Lords. He is the preeminent biographer of John Maynard Keynes, having published a three-volume work, now condensed into a single volume: “John Maynard Keynes, 1883 to 1946: Economist, Philosopher, Statesman.” His latest book is “Keynes: The Return of the Master.”

Tim Besley, professor of economics and political science at the London School of Economics. From September 2006 to August 2009, he served as an external member of the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee.

Peter Beinart, senior political writer for The Daily Beast and associate professor of journalism and political science at City University of New York. He’s also a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. His new book is “The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris.”

Robert Bixby, executive director of The Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan organization focused on fiscal responsibility.

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  • Michael

    Great Job Tories,

    Tough but there doing what is needed to be done, even with defense spending. (Of course with the U.S. complaining about them doing so of course)

    As our Defense spending is increasing 5+ year year with no end in site there will be (actually) going down by 8% and even still with be the third biggest spender in defense 4th at worst.

    Also they opening up in investigation into allegations from the wikileaks release. Can you imagine the U.S. actually being as moral as it claims to do and open one as well? I can’t, and if it ever did happen we can be sure as hell that the republicans would do everything they could to thrash it and cry it’s hurting the troops mora,etc, most likely be something along the lines of “we treat terrorist better than our soldiers and blah blah blah,


    But whats also funny is the tories are working with the(ready) Actual “Liberal Democrats” even on banking reform. As the UK plans and tries to work together to solve there problems many in the U.S. are calling for an return (even further) shift back to the things that wreaked us in the first place and of course the “Same” economist who where wrong there past years time and time again will decry what the U.K. is doing while promoting policies that well not get us back to being stable.

    If anyone in not familiar with UK politics Tories and Labor now would be considered center left/right and if you want an comparison to the Republican Party there? the BNP or British Nation Party, and an comparison to the tea party is the EDL English Defense League who is actually having some tea-party folks coming they to help them organize

  • Michael

    All and all Kudos to the tories even know the cuts are going to hurt alot of people, and most of all kudos to doing across the board for that matter.

  • Michael

    Also figure i check out The Concord Coalition and see if its actually non-partisan turns out it’s not

    The Peter G. Peterson Foundation and the Concord Coalition, right-wing think tanks that have railed against Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid for years, have started a national “Fiscal Solutions Tour” to promote their agenda. Bay Area residents attending the presentations spoke out during Question and Answer sessions in favor of saving social programs, reducing military expenditure, and cutting health care costs with a single payer plan. There were protests outside the Fiscal Solutions Tour in San Francisco and San Jose, California.

    Bottom line message from the Fiscal Solutions Tour: “After our financial and policy wizards have whisked away the temporary problems of unemployment, deflation, and war, there will be new, deep fiscal problems that will threaten America’s economy and even its national security. To solve these problems, seniors, people with disabilities, and the poor must give up Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.”

    Peterson tried to stampede the public into demanding Social Security cuts last June, with “America Speaks,” nineteen razzle-dazzle Town Hall meetings held simultaneously across the country, and inter-connected by closed-circuit TV. It completely backfired. Though participants were given slanted background materials and slanted choices, they rejected cuts to social programs, endorsed higher taxes on the rich, demanded single-payer healthcare, and demanded huge military cuts.

    Peterson’s “Fiscal Solutions Tour” is another try at pushing the same message under more controlled surroundings.


    Come on Onpoint

  • Michael


    These sources generally claim to be non-partisan research
    organizations, while actually slanting their writings toward one party or against another and showing little evidence of any objective research despite their tax-exempt status.

    When they are described as “conservative,” “liberal” or “progressive,”we have an idea of their orientation, but most have misleading or non-descriptive names that often sound similar. A study by California State University researcher Michael Dolny found that right-wing think tanks were quoted more often than liberal ones, and their ideology was identified less

    Concord Coalition’s president is Peter G. Peterson, who was commerce secretary to Nixon, an investment banker since then, and an advocate of a national sales tax. The Concord Coalition has proposed a ceiling on taxes for big business and the wealthy, but cuts in Social Security and

  • Edosa Eweka

    Since the end of the first Nixon term, the US debt as a percentage of GDP has gone up in EVERY Republican presidential term. Substantially so in the terms of Reagan and Bush II. There have been only three presidential terms since 1972 where the debt as a percentage of GDP actually went down. Those were the Carter term and Clinton’s two terms. Those are the only three terms in nearly forty years where economic growth exceeded debt growth, putting the lie to the fable that tax cuts will result in increased tax collections due to economic stimulus.

    The REAL issue is that America as a government and populace are spending more than they earn. To fend off government bankruptcy cut spending – DEFENCE and SOCIAL SECURITY. To fend off personal bankruptcy buy according to the money you have in your pocket. If you can’t afford it, save for it. Nothing should be sacrosanct – look at history – empires crumbled first from within – and this is what is happening to America. I live in the UK, so I know how we are decisive here when it comes to national spending.

    I leave with an excerpt from the prophetic speech by President Dwight D. Eisenhower(1961)

    “We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America’s LEADERSHIP and PRESTIGE depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how WE USE our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.”

    “Our MILITARY ORGANISATION today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea. Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women [NOW 10+ MILLION MILITARY PERSONNEL] are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.”

    “This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its GRAVE IMPLICATIONS. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.”

    “In the councils of government, we must GUARD AGAINST the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

  • Bob

    Is the UK:

    1. Raising taxes on their wealthy since there is severe income disparity between their wealthy and poor? They are living in the second gilded age similar to the U.S.

    2. Prosecuting both civilly and/or criminally those individuals who help create their financial crisis?

    Ex-Iceland Prime Minister has been referred to court over their financial crisis.



    Everyone needs to see the recently released documentary Inside Job, which covers the economic collapse and is now playing in selected theaters in the U.S.


  • cory

    Any attempt at austerity measures in this country that do not include deep cuts to defense and high marginal tax rates on income over a quarter million dollars per year are cynical at best.

    The time of Pax Americana must end. The gilded age and the new American plutocracy also must end.

    When I become eligible for social security and am told that I can only be paid 78 cents on the dollar I am owed, I will engage in such a level of civil disobedience that the government and the poor taxpayers will have to care for me-one way or the other. I cannot believe I am the only person who will respond in this way.

    It is past time to take care of the American people, and worry a great deal less about what happens abroad. Education, healthcare, the prospect of retiring before our bodies fail… We must demand these things and take them if we must.

  • An American worker

    How can the British swollow such stupid measures from David Cameron’s government’s How can anyone hope to make an economy stronger by cutting more jobs at a
    time when every job counts?

    This just doesn’t make sense and it is all done on
    the backs of the poor and the workers in Britain.

    What an injustice!

    Britons should be on the streets protesting like
    the French instead of taking this with a stiff
    upper lip. An American worker

  • Lool

    The Thatcher cuts were drastic. In retrospect they probably worked. Surely Cameron is on the right track, and maybe even looking back to the Thatcher era.

  • Mark

    Where did all the money go? We need to go after those who are bankrupting us all! We constantly hear – “tough times”! Gotta make cutbacks! Well! Let’s go after those who are bankrupting the world! Who are causing the – “tough times”!!

  • Zeno

    “How can anyone hope to make an economy stronger by cutting more jobs at a time when every job counts?” -Posted by An American worker

    Yes every job counts..but on which side of the balance sheet is it counting? Which workers are producing net GNP, and which are simply working for taxpayer dollars and borrowed Chinese dollars?

    Every company I have ever worked for had downsizing events when they were in fiscal trouble, and the causes and solutions are very much the same for governments.

    In the long term will foreign investment continue to support the US dollar if no financial or government reforms are enacted? You will find that investment will favor rational austerity and control in the long haul. Would you insure with a bankrupt insurance company, or one that could actually prove that it could pay you now and at any time in the future?

    At some point the interest alone on the US debt to China will exceed our GNP…what then? It is a matter of national security when another country owns most of your country, but the Republican doctrine of the past 30 years has stated otherwise. That uncontrolled spending (especially military) is making the country more fiscally sound. Reaganomics has been proven absolutely and unquestioningly false.


  • nick

    RE: “All and all Kudos to the tories even know the cuts are going to hurt alot of people, and most of all kudos to doing across the board for that matter.”

    How come it is always the innocent and needy that had nothing to do with the debacle that get hurt while the culprits walk away even wealthier.

    How about we do something new for a change and “hurt” the banks, the realtors, and the politicians instead of the common man – or woman – who is just trying to get by.

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    Bush II should have done something like this to fund the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and if he had the housing collapse wouldn’t have hit as hard because people’s belts would already have been tightened.

    Instead he cut taxes on the top 2% and did nothing to fund the two wars.

    The President and Congress should be on commission: if they don’t balance the budget, they don’t get paid a cent.

    Congress should have to buy their own healthcare. That might motivate them to do the right thing quickly.

    Campaign finance reform and term limits. Get all the bums out.

    The problem is that Washington is increasingly insulated from American reality and they face few consequences for not doing the right thing. Of course, many Americans are insulated from American reality, but that’s another story.

  • Brandstad

    While our US government is trying to soften the blow of the economic down turn which is proven to lengthen the amount of time needed to recover, the British people have actually learned from history that this is not a time to follow the US to the cliff at increasing speed. Of course the cliff being bankruptcy

  • Brandstad

    I am with Richard on “The President and Congress should be on commission: if they don’t balance the budget, they don’t get paid a cent.” and they should be further punished if they don’t even propose a budget like they did this year.

    Richard also left out the other important reform that must be “the average federal employee must” not be paid more than the average US wage and the maximum federal wage should not be more than 3x the average wage with only a few exceptions. All federal wages should be pegged to the median private sector wage and no federal employee should get any pay raise if the budget isn’t balanced. All federal & private wages should include benefits.

  • jeffe

    Laying off 450 thousand people and cutting their benefits at the time. Sounds like a plan to me. A recipe for disaster more like it. Thatcher almost destroyed GB with her polocies. Do people not remember the poll tax?

    This is nothing more than a redistribution of wealth towards the top, just as it is happening here.

  • LinP

    Paul Krugman had this to say, and I think he’s totally right.


  • Gail

    Welcome to the second gilded age! We are all living in a hellish global looting of wealth from the poor and middle class with the wealth going to the rich.

  • jeffe

    For you conservatives and Republicans, the Tories are raising taxes as well. I repeat, they are raising taxes.

  • Brian M.

    Countdown until Tom tells us all that we must sacrifice the minimum wage, Social Security, public schools, and retirement to pay for tax cuts for the rich….

    5, 4, 3, 2….

    Another day, another Tom Ashbrook show about the deficit and whacking it to the middle class.

    Who could have guessed that an NPR host would be a cheerleader for the 2nd Gilded Age?

  • Greg

    How can it be that the banks gambled, got bailed out at 100% on the dollar, and now The People will suffer under these austerity measures while their taxes go up. Makes no sense.

  • Dave

    Organized Capital + Organized Labor = Totalitarianism

    You might call it Plutocracy. Sounds like Neocon Repuplicans and Democrats to me. The ones we all keep voting for hoping for some mysterious \”center\” to appear and save us.

    Why are so many, in this country especially, against Liberty?

    A.F Hayek, Major influence on Libertarianism:

    \”…the impetus of the movement toward totalitarianism comes mainly from the two great vested interests: organized capital and organized labor. Probably the greatest menace of all is the fact that the policies of these two most powerful groups point in the same direction. They do this through their common, and often concerted, support of the monopolistic organization of industry; and it is this tendency which is the great immediate danger…..This movement is, of course, deliberately planned mainly by the capitalist organizers of monopolies, and they are thus one of the main sources of this danger. Their responsibility is not altered by the fact that their aim is not a totalitarian system but rather a sort of corporative society in which the organized industries would appear as semi-independent and self-governing \”estates\”………..A state which allows such enormous aggregations of power to grow up cannot afford to let this power rest entirely in private control…….It is not surprising that entrepreneurs should like to enjoy both the high income which in a competitive society the successful ones among them gain and the security of the civil servant…….. But while the entrepreneurs may well see their expectations borne out during a transition stage, it will not be long before they will find, as their German colleagues did, that they are no longer masters but will in every respect have to be satisfied with whatever power and emoluments the government will concede them…… the fatal development was that they have succeeded in enlisting the support of an ever increasing number of other groups and, with their help, in obtaining the support of the state……. monopolists have gained this support….by persuading them that the formation of monopolies was in the public interest……. BUT THE CHANGE IN PUBLIC OPINION, WHICH THROUGH ITS INFLUENCE ON LEGISLATION AND JUDICATURE HAS BEEN THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR TO MAKE THIS DEVELOPMENT POSSIBLE, IS MORE THAN ANYTHING THE RESULT OF THE PROPAGANDA AGAINST COMPETITION BY THE LEFT.\” (Emphasis added)

    A.F. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom

    Sound familiar? Big Government and Big Business working against our interests?

    Good Americans, please stop confusing true Libertarians with modern Republicans or Corporatists! You know the the Dems and Repubs are corrupted, tweedle dee-dums, and you don’t know where to turn? There is a whole economic philosophy which tries to address these very problems, and its called Austrian-infulence Libertarianism.

  • Brandstad

    Most people haven’t noticed the effects of our currency war and drastic devaluing of the US Dollar. It will show up soon in commodity prices. Effectively everyone’s dollar in the bank can buy less than it did last year and this is how the Obama administration plans to control the debt.

    The rich are being penalized more than the poor currently in the US but the price of everything we buy from overseas is going up due to the devaluation of the dollar.

  • John

    The Tories aren’t real conservatives as they are cutting the military.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I read in a previous thread that the UK carefully SPARED the national health care from serious cuts.
    I am really curious how it is the UK ended up similar the USA in terms of deficits even though health care isn’t part of the fiasco. Oh, I know I’m confusing government debt with personal debt. Hear me out: Medical insurance (for self-employed) gobbles up half one’s income, and one is borrowing against one’s retirement savings. This is exactly correlated to the government borrowing against the nation’s (and the world’s, China’s) savings “for retirement” (or in some cases against the promise of Ponzi-style home values skyrocketing). In any case, health care was the breaking issue. Probably for unions as well. But the government put military exploits somewhere in the equation, not a necessary expense if diplomacy could achieve the same thing.
    Anyway, remember the story of the Little Gingerbread Man who ran away “as fast as I can; but you can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man”?
    Did you ever wonder what those medieval retirees did to keep body and soul together? No?
    Anyway, I think the function of saving funds (that is to say, manipulable by BANKS) and INSURANCE RESERVES (another big wielder of huge funds) are part of the problem.
    Are they part of the solution in the UK?

  • Brandstad


    Good post and good point.

    Anyone that thinks the standard Republican is drastically different than the standard Democrat is blinded by ignorance. Both parties are so closely tied that most politicians bridge the gap, like a Joe Lieberman & John McCain. Both parties are leading us down the wrong road up to now.

  • Alex

    “How can it be that the banks gambled, got bailed out at 100% on the dollar, and now The People will suffer under these austerity measures while their taxes go up. Makes no sense.”

    Democrats wasted a perfectly good crisis, having all the government power in their hands. They will pay.

  • jeffe

    Brandstad were do you get this stuff from?
    So someone with millions in the bank is going to suffer more than a family making 50K a year? Give me a break.
    Are you one of the 2% who’s income has soared in the last ten years while the income of the majority of American’s has been flat and going down.

    By the way this is not about being altruistic towards children, that’s a smoke screen.

  • jim thompson, fort mill,sc

    I thought Maggie Thatcher and John Major fixed all that was wrong with the British welfare state. After all they had a two decade run at it.

  • John

    We “put our house back in order” under Clinton, and Bush squandered it on tax cuts for the rich and a foolish war. Where were the Republicans opposing spending from 2000 – 2006?

  • Nick

    IF 500,000 jobs are lost in the UK as a result of the Tories/Cameron’s “austerity measures” then how will the country manage the additional government benefits to those laid off??

    The Tories are Republicans: they will not raise the taxes on the top 20% who “earn” the most income.

  • http://cyberfumes.blogspot.com Dave Eger

    Keynes and Hayek are talked about like they are enemies because they had opposite viewpoints, but if you look back, you realize that they actually greatly appreciated each other’s antagonism, because they inspired each other onward, developing their ideas as they debated. I dont think either of them found the answer, but they each made some good points.

    I have a big problem with Keynes idea to build big useless pyramids though. If you really need to use resources, do it with some kind of model like Houses for Humanity. An economy needs to serve to maintain society. If an economy only wants to serve it’s own interest, bolstering it’s numbers for the sake of looking good in the mirror, it becomes a taskmaster rather than a tool.


    The rich are being penalized more than the poor currently in the US but the price of everything we buy from overseas is going up due to the devaluation of the dollar.

    Posted by Brandstad

    Oh no , there he goes again – those poor rich people, so misunderstood

    p.s.good job – no typos :)

  • Brandstad

    Growth in government is not helpful when government workers make 2x the private sector and public debt and influence is skyrocketing.

  • http://npronpoint Mike Branker

    1929 all over again.
    and if you don’t believe it just read Bernake’s book on the great depression.

  • Zeno

    “Richard also left out the other important reform that must be “the average federal employee must” not be paid more than the average US wage and the maximum federal wage should not be more than 3x the average wage with only a few exceptions. All federal wages should be pegged to the median private sector wage and no federal employee should get any pay raise if the budget isn’t balanced. All federal & private wages should include benefits.” – Posted by Brandstad

    I agree with this. Why should government service be treated as some untouchable royal privileged class, they should share the pain of their decisions.

  • Brian M.

    “Government only takes, it never creates”?

    “Pre-Civil War levels of government”?

    Where do people come up with this garbage?

  • BHA

    Perhaps the last caller would prefer we have no government.

    Anarchy would be just lovely.

  • Dave

    The Bankers and Government/Corporate colluders that run the Democratic and Republican parties are laughing at the old partisan sniping that goes on here, all the way to the, well, bank!

    Maybe one day, maybe, we’ll trust our neighbors more than we trust either Government or Corporations. Both are necessary forces which will tend towards monopolizing power, but BOTH must be held in check by the PEOPLE.

    Debt does not serve the people. Who does debt serve?

  • Les Wetmore

    TO the last caller,
    What is government. It is organized management, just like a work place. Would a work place function without governing? Our currant government needs major change, but to say government does nothing is absolutly insane!

  • http://notyet Charles A. Bowsher

    Why can’t the current US workforce cut its work hours 10% in order to create full employment? Every nine workers who give up 4 hours per week will “create” another job. If only 50% are willing to go along with the program you will still cut the unemployment rate by 50%. We in the US continue to bet our economic future on inflation based economics, it doesn’t work since we are living on a limited resource in the middle of nowhere called Planet Earth!

  • Ellen Dibble

    The USA government jobs are another issue. In Britain, a lot of job loss will be retirements. A certain number of things vanish if not re-upped. New hires, if previous jobs had been plumped into plums, can be more stringent. The same should be happening in the USA. It happens with private employers (local hospital down something like 200 people in a few years).
    I do think that education in the USA needs re-framing. What’s the UK doing as to education? Well, I think we know what the UK does when it scrimps. We’ve read about World War II. They have a tradition. I don’t know how it impacted their state-provided education.

  • Steve L

    1. Given the plethora of irrelevant metaphors I suggest that the “bitter medicine” should, first and foremost, not kill the patient.

    2. It is laughable that those who are most ardent about reducing the budget never said a word about the spending on the Iraq war OFF BUDGET. The costs of war were completely hidden in the name of what? Neither we nor the world are more secure or stable as a result but we have spent trillions of unaccounted for dollars on a fools errand. Where were you then ?

    It’s just politics and, as such, disregards the needs of the people and society

  • Alex

    Government workers make more than in the private sector? I used to work for a federal court. I was making $87.5K and my benefits was a rather simple package, nothing to write home about. I am now with a law firm making $250K and have an excellent package being covered by every kind of insurance imaginable with 4 weeks of vacation time. The government should worry about getting the best talent, and the best talent costs money.

  • Kate T

    Isn’t Britain’s predicament quite different from the US’s in that they don’t have accessability to the credit of which the US has access…so, they are in fact forced to do this?…it is not simply the fact that they have greater belt-tightening skills

  • Steve

    The Fedarl Reserve/fiat money banking system was largely imported from Europe and the UK.

    It is valid as long as a government is large enough to demand foreign investment. This is no longer the case in the UK.

    The solution has always been to grow your way out of troubles of this nature.

    Is growth unlimited?

    Britain is seeking to avoid the other outcome.
    No one willing to lend them cash and over-throw of the corrupt banking system.

    The privelaged seek to syphon as much wealth as possible and still safeguard the system that allows the theft.

  • http://shulmandesign.net Alan Shulman

    As with all austerity, one has to wonder who bears the brunt of the sacrifice. Will the wealthy sustain any of the pain? I would not bet on it.

    And for those who find the devil in government and god in the free market, may I suggest a review of the exploits of private enterprise over the last decade, e.g., Enron, Goldman-Sachs, Bank of America, General Motors, et al.

  • Dave

    Yes, lets have “the Americans” keep spending on credit to buy all the crap the world produces so we can keep the ponzi scheme going.

    Who will buy all those pyramids if the Americans go “austere”?

  • Salim

    I am concerned that this discourse will become an all or nothing discourse. It is more a question of government making choices at the right time being held responsible and acting responsibly. Both government and the free market have equally important roles to play. In Canada, which many of your conservative audience would qualify as a socialist country, we had budget surpluses for 13 consecutive years until the financila crisis in 2008 (initiated by US free market excesses) caused us to go into deficit spending.

    I am confident that we will be back in surpolyus territory once this horrible economic mess is behind us.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I heard Ariana Huffington last night on the Charlie Rose show saying that a silver lining is that America’s “unemployed” are rediscovering self-employment. She notices this in her travels. She notices it in her surfing the internet. She gave several sites. Instead of investing their frustration in scapegoating and hate, they are rediscovering self-employment. I like to say we are addicted to jobs in this nation, all to the benefit of the corporations. Modern servitude. Get over it.
    Austerity? It depends on cutting government jobs? Where can jobs be created (other than Malaysia)?
    Start at home. What does my neighbor need.

  • michael

    america is to parstian to have the ability to make good cuts like the ones in the U.K.

    Since raising taxes and cutting defense is off the table(something the UK manage to do)

  • Arturo

    Could someone, please, correct the callers everytime that they say with such self-assurance to tell us that government creates nothing?

    In a few minutes I will be commuting to work and the roads I will be using were not built by any private corporation, but by the government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with our tax money. Same it goes for the many set of lights that I will encounter in by way to work. These set of lights prevent us from having car accidents.

    It is amazing how some people can be so oblivious to the idea of an economic service, even though we live in an incresing service economy and, once upon a time, there was a form of society known as the commonwealth. For them wealth boils down to profits.

  • Les Wetmore

    Please challange that callers notion. This is a going trend, to blaim all our problems on government in general. It is an example of the substanceless dialog the “new right” was brought to the mainstream. The rhetoric and hyperbolic calls for the removal of government are dangerous.

  • Diane Martin

    Sustainability doesn’t seem to be on the table in this discussion. Is the model of “growth” sustainable anymore? What about local economies, not getting the majority of our goods from far away but striving for more small and locally sustained towns and cities? For instance, currently the U.S. government subsidizes large scale farming and business. What happens when we look to our own communities to provide for us? Perhaps less stuff but more connection.

  • A Listener

    Tom. Can we talk about the possibility of printing our way out of this? ‘printflation’? I don’t think we have the political will to get out of this. We had plenty of opportunity to cut the deficit in good times, and we haven’t. It’s not going to happen.

  • Mari

    “How about we do something new for a change and “hurt” the banks, the realtors, and the politicians instead of the common man – or woman – who is just trying to get by.” Posted by nick

    If we, the “common” people, all stop buying the frivolous goods peddled by these crooked institutions and get out of the global war business, we might have a fighting chance to restore democracy in this country.

    Personal austerity is required in order to pull this off. Think there will be many folks who are willing to go without their daily Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, Exxon Mobile gas and Big Macs? Nah. I believe we are collectively and irrevocably screwed because WE surrendered our personal power to lying, psychopathic con-men long ago. There is no turning back now. Divided, we fell.

  • Dan B.

    I’m stunned that a caller actually promoted a return to “Pre-Civil War” levels of government — you know, when casual violence and routine poverty were part of the normal way of life.

    I don’t see many of the supposed deficit-hawks in the Republican/Tea Party talking about making cuts to military spending, the biggest slice of our budgetary pie. They would rather pretend that some balance can be restored by diminishing social programs or cutting supposed “Fraud & Abuse.”

  • payson

    Two prominent economists P. Krugman and J. Steiglitz have have both won the nobel prize and are both saying that cutting the budget like the british government is doing will not lead to improved growth and economic output. The lessons of WW2 spending after the great depression are very informative here. You don’t get the nobel for being a good theorist you get it for being right. Let’s hope people in the US start listening to people like this.

  • Charlie Mc

    FDR, Bill Gates, his Dad and his wife got it right. But how to counter the underlying greed of the biggest profit-takers. Lao Tsu had it right a long time ago:
    “The TAO of heaven is to take from those who have
    too much and give to those who do not have
    Man’s way is different.
    He takes from those who do not have enough to
    give to those who already have too much.
    What man has more than enough and gives to the
    Only the man of TAO.”
    And what do today’s biggest profitmakers say to these “men of TAO”? They call these men Socialists and Communists. Shame on them!

  • Brian

    What did Canada do or not do that hepled them climb out of trouble in the 1990′s and what did Japan do or not do for their situtation in the 1980′s?

    Thank you

  • Dave

    Help your neighbors. Help your family. Pay down your debt. Sell assets to be debt free. Grow a garden. Take jobs that need doing.

    Why is that so radical? Why are we supposed to be entitled to so much? The world is still ruled by scarcity of resources. Why should we all live like kings when that is not supported by the resource base.

    How can you think the “government” is just a bottomless well of resources that can give us everything we want?

    Is it because you don’t understand the nature of debt spending and the Federal Reserve, and you do believe in a bottomless well of $$?

    Who benefits from us believing in this fantasy?


  • BHA

    “Why can’t the current US workforce cut its work hours 10% in order to create full employment? ”

    Why can’t the massively overpaid people cut their salary down to 2X ‘average’? That would fund a lot of jobs without taking money FROM the ‘average’ person who is already trying to make ends meet. They don’t work 10 times as ‘hard’ or produce 10 times as ‘much’ but they make 10 (or 50 or 100 or 200 or 400) times as much money.

    The President of the USA is paid $400K (plus room and board). WHO has a job with more responsibility? No one. So who ‘deserves’ multi-million dollar compensation? No one.

  • Les Wetmore

    The TEA party has turned anyone who is oppossed to their veiw “evil”. They claim to defend the constitution and the voices of our forefathers, what about “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

  • Dave
  • Nick

    Brandstad @ 10:37am stated:

    “I love the rich because they create jobs and they pay my salary!

    I am proud to admit that I strive to be rich one day myself.”

    IF you were so focused on getting rich, you wouldn’t be wasting time posting on WBUR/NPR!!

    You might be deluded by the “American Dream.”

  • Brandstad


    The government does on net create nothing. The roads you drive on, the government didn’t create, the government paid for them and the private sector created them. The money that the government used to pay for them they confiscated from the private sector. If the private sector would have not had their money confiscated, the would have used the it to create true wealth.

  • Les Wetmore

    If it were up to the private sector we would have no enivornment or any service that wasn’t ultra profitable. The USGS makes great maps; I don’t think that would keep them aflout in the private sector.

  • Dave

    “You don’t get the nobel for being a good theorist you get it for being right. Let’s hope people in the US start listening to people like this.”

    A.F. Hayek won the Nobel before P. Krugman.

  • jeffe

    It is very telling the cuts being presented in Great Britain are not going to effect health care.

    We don’t have a heath care system, we have a market based system that is collapsing. Obama and the Democrats tried, but the Health Care bill is a not going to fix it.

    It’s part of the fiscal problems facing the nation.

  • Brandstad

    To the caller, the government should cut any government jobs related to wildlife, the environment, and the world economy first since these are truly optional jobs that are nice when we can afford them but not necessary when we can’t.

    All national parks should be closed any year that the national government doesn’t have a balanced budget!

    The government should spend money on National defense, public safety, and the public good last.

  • EIO Boston

    How many of us will be willing to give up the interest deduction for real estate which actually benefits the banks and not you.

    How about the government stop encouraging people to stay in homes they can not afford with subsidies, which again is helping the banks.

    See a pattern here?. Most of what we are encouraged to do benefit banks.

  • Les Wetmore

    Are you suggesting we do need roads? What is true wealth?

  • Zeno

    “In a few minutes I will be commuting to work and the roads I will be using were not built by any private corporation, but by the government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with our tax money. …” – Posted by Arturo

    Wrong. The roads were built by private corporations fund3ed by the government. The government does not build roads, anymore than the government fights our wars.

  • LEs Wetmore

    Sorry, “don’t need roads” is what I meant.

  • margo risk

    One aspect of deficit increase that has not been mentioned today is the lower tax income coming into government coffers as a result of unemployment. Deficit reduction depends upon improved employment.

  • jeffe

    The government does on net create nothing. The roads you drive on, the government didn’t create, the government paid for them and the private sector created them. The money that the government used to pay for them they confiscated from the private sector. If the private sector would have not had their money confiscated, the would have used the it to create true wealth.
    Posted by Brandstad,

    Complete nonsense, period. No need debating this ideology.
    It’s based on a myths. You know like Zeus.

  • cory


    Ninety eight percent of us running on a wheel hoping we can get to be in that glorious two percent at the top. Sounds like a ship of fools sailing somewhere between idiocy and insanity. Here is another idea; the ninety eight percent use the power of their vote in a democracy to forcibly correct the excesses and abuses of said two percent. Now that sounds like a plan!

  • Les Wetmore

    Have you ever been to a national park?

  • Flowen


    When you say “don’t we depend on private enterprise to generate jobs and tax revenue?”…you need to distinguish that there is the honest large portion of private enterprise, and the smaller but better funded and more vocal part of private enterprise that is in bed with the government. We need much less of the latter, more of the former.

    The focus on money: deficit, debt, spending, cuts, stimulus all misses the point. The Federal government is in the unique position of being able to create money, so money is not the problem.

    The problem is that the population is so confused, we don’t know what to do; the obvious is unseen. We have no plan, benchmark, or idea where we should cut spending, subsidy, or adjust legislation and regulation to achieve a level playing field and fairness for all. Somehow, we need to figure out where we want and need to go.

  • Brandstad

    Les Wetmore,

    I have never suggested we don’t need roads but rather that just because the federal government pays for them doesn’t mean they are free. Did you know that more than 50% of Americans today don’t pay any federal taxes? For this percentage of Americans roads ARE FREE, which is wrong since there is no logical motivation for these people to not say we should spend 5x as much since it won’t come out of their pocket.

  • Ralph

    Why do countries, including the US, keep borrowing money? They are not a business, they are not an individual, they are not even a local government, they don’t need to and and doing so only benefits money lenders, not non-financial business, local governments, or most individuals, especially our children. So, what should they be doing. They should be engaged in facilitating the optimal use of resources, human as well as other natural and man made resources, and money is not one of those resources. Treating money as a resource, rather than as just a mechanism for facilitating the use/trade of other resources, is probably the biggest economic mistake countries make. This comes about in large part because the economists that dominate government economic policies take a capitalistic perspective/approach to maintaining/controlling the value of money by treating it as a resource. A non-resource perspective would be “if you can not afford to print it, you can not afford to borrow it.” Either countries have resources that can or should be utilized, in which case printing the money to do so is appropriate and shouldn’t be inflationary, or countries don’t have sufficient resources, in which case they need to and will be rationed and associated monetary/economic policies should support that rationing while minimizing inflation. Accordingly, the purpose/focus of a countries tax policies should not be the funding of its programs, but rather optimizing the use of and minimizing inflation associated with insufficient resources that must be rationed.

  • http://tombstone001.blogspot.com Mohammed N. Razavi

    The wealth and prosperity we talK about has been generaTed with monies borrowed against possible earnings in the futurE. There is no way now to pay for it without cutting back, saving, increasing taxes, all of it, and lowering the
    Expectations and the.

    standard of living. Now or later.

  • One More Thing

    we should have austerity in America too–close all the imperial bases–thats all the military bases around the world, end the criminal anti-human, anti-earth, anti-poor wars all over the world, bring the troops home, shut down 95 percent of the pentagon and the department of the fourth reich–i mean ‘our motherland’–i mean ‘homeland security’ create jobs at home. Tax the hell out of the filthy rich. Make outsourcing unlawful. Localize economies. End corporate financing. Make elections national holidays. Make corporate financing illegal and punishable by life imprisonment–for treason, harm to society and undermining democracy.

    The deficit will stop plunging, and the domestic economy will boom. And we can begin to rebuild American prosperity and infrastructure at home.

  • Les Wetmore

    You do know that without a functioning evironment to sustain…hum, let me think… oh yeah, life! The economy really doesn’t matter. Were you drop on your head as a child?

  • Dave

    Democrats and Republicans are All or Nothing.

    All Socialist-Corporatism (fascism?). Or no soup for you!

    Libertarians. What? A third party? shhhhhh. Competition not cronyism or state-supported oligopoly? Quiet now!

    Ron Paul? shhhhh, he’s antiwar too… hush!

    No third parties!!! We have to get our head through this wall first!

  • http://notyet Charles A. Bowsher

    @cory I call it
    Spread the word, spread the word, spread the word….

  • Mary

    What needs to be done about government spending is acutally tied to the earlier nonsense about government not creating anything. That, from someone who woke up and brushed their teeth and flushed their toilet because of utility regulation and assistance from the government; who got into a car that functions relatively safely and with ever-lessening adverse impact on the environment because of government; who put that car on a road provided by government; who is leaving a home and going to a business protected by police and fire services provided by the government; who is talking on a cell phone over a nationwide and international telecommunications system that works in large part bc of government regulation; who is listening to your program bc of government regulations of airwaves. Getting drive through meals that are relatively safe because of government, driving past schools where children become literate because of government, etc. YOu can agree or disagree with how the government is creating and what it is creating and how efficiently, but it not just ignorant, but dishonest, to say government does not create.

    And that goes to what needs to be happening with government spending. In the end, it is less about the amounts than it is about the vision. Government needs to be asking itself what businesses need to thriver in the future and targeting expenditures in those areas. We don’t produce enough engineers, we have crappy hi speed coverage and availability compared with many areas, we have not national program on going green, etc.

    With no vision behind government spending – even small amounts are just more amounts mispent. With good vision, large amounts are more than justified. WIth our current lack of vision, we’ll continue to play “pay off” games with lobbyists and wallow in huge military budgets that generate businesses that need war and unrest to keep up their profits. And war spending competes with non-military consumption. People under assaul buy bullets – they don’t buy seeds and build bridges.

  • Ruth

    I resent the implication that those who OWE no Federal Income tax are deadbeats. My husband & I fall into that category and it is because we don’t earn enough currently to pay income taxes as we have retired. We did pay those taxes during our working careers and we currently pay plenty of other taxes now to our state and local governments. So, we shouldn’t be allowed to use roads, libraries, or police??? What a bunch of bunk.

  • Les Wetmore

    Actually, roads are built using state tax money, not federal. Anyone who buys gas pays for roads. I not so sure about our static there either; what 50%?

  • Ellen Dibble

    A ways back, Dave I think brought up sustainability. And waste. Lao Tsu and his communist (so-called) approach of leveling the personal crime of overendowment with the social crime of underendowment (poverty). But I heard last night on The News Hour that when we grow into our full bodies at adolescence we are terminally lazy; we don’t want to grow into a responsible self and put our shoulders to the wheel. We would rather crack jokes about the weird place this world is. How does socialism view these overgrown perpetual teenagers?
    I was wondering how the national budget crises of the UK and the US would get wedged into the issue of limited resources and preservation of a habitable planet.
    I know I would declare a World-War-II-scale assault on human destructiveness. It would have to be a global effort, but Americans like to think of themselves as leaders, so why not start here. That would be a huge disruptive of most of our national profit engines. That would cost a bundle to get to effective start-up. And to be worth it (to let the planet turn back from overheating), it would have to be terribly fast.
    Not to include that environmental threat is to try to do budgeting in a state of denial. A “stimulus” that would eviscerate the gas-guzzling economy at the same time as start something radically different, that seems to me a necessary next step.
    I guess the campaign contributors are probably part of the economy that needs to be shed, like the skin of a snake. So we have to wait to November 2nd to talk seriously about that.

  • Paul

    Ron Paul has been correct just about all the time. We will not be fixed until the public can realize that. If everyone thinks the sane guy is a little crazy, you just aren’t going to fix things quickly. It is obvious that most do not vote for Paul’s ideas, and the voting done by most of the public is the reason we are in this mess. It is not the politicians, they do mostly represent their constituents, or they would not be elected.

    It is hard to fix things when so many people vote to get their pay from an armed force which steals that money in a “legal” way through taxes.

  • cory

    One More Thing 1103hrs,

    Should you choose to run for office, any office at all, you’ll have my vote (and perhaps a small campaign contribution). In the meantime take 5$ frompetty cash and buy yourself an ale of your preference!

  • Brandstad

    Les Wetmore,

    So you say interstates are built by states?

    Where do federal highway funds go?

    You better check your facts.

  • Dave

    “Ninety eight percent of us running on a wheel hoping we can get to be in that glorious two percent at the top. Sounds like a ship of fools sailing somewhere between idiocy and insanity. Here is another idea; the ninety eight percent use the power of their vote in a democracy to forcibly correct the excesses and abuses of said two percent. Now that sounds like a plan!”

    Why are you running on a wheel? Why don’t you do something productive? Why don’t you break up the government/corporate collusion while you’re not working on your house or working in the garden?

    I guess looking for products and services to be given to us from someone else is easier. Until China calls in the debt and takes over.

    I think China is the new model, Statist-Corporatist. And we will surrender our sovereignty to them, if our own corporate government isn’t there yet. I think its time to stop being afraid of “Isolationism” and get America self-sufficient. America is not the worlds charity. Once we learn how to take care of ourselves again, we can give to others if we wish. I find it hard to believe that we cannot be self-sufficient on this continent. Why not? Why shouldn’t we?

    The whole idea of self-sufficiency, and small-government is INDEPENDENCE from large powers. Who doesn’t want that? Why is that so scary???

    The China model is way scarier to me than letting my individual neighbors do what they want as long as they don’t harm me, within a rational legal framework enforced by a limited government.

  • http://cyberfumes.blogspot.com Dave Eger

    We need an honest and effective government before we let it throw around any more stimulus money. Unfortunately, I don’t think that our current line-up has either of those qualities, so I wouldn’t trust where it would distribute any more funds, and would only make everything more top-heavy. We need more localized decision making, participatory every day democracy, and cottage industry. We need less corporate cover-ups, where people are told what toxins they’ve been exposed to by corporate errors, rather than fake studies from sell-out PhD’s to try to brush under the rug anything that would make the politicians and their big business friends look bad.

    Speech does not equal money, and corporations are not persons. Until the legal mumbo-jumbo that say otherwise is struck down, things will only get worse for all of us persons made of real flesh and blood.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Certain postings seem derived from pure propaganda, taken from hero-worship of a blind guru, or from certain Fiction masquerading as Fact outlets. People, like sheep, want to spread the word, and the internet allows that. But you’d have to talk to the hero who crafted the particular point in order to find its derivation and counter it effectively.
    Some people think all debate is essentially mud-slinging. He with the largest stash of mud wins.

  • Les Wetmore

    The envirnment will correct and maintain itself: Science thinks for 4.6 billions years, in one way shape or form. It doesn’t have to sustain us. It is a finely balanced system. We can now measure the major amounts of change in the very resent past. Since we are at the mercy of the natural systems, seems to me it might be a good idea to live with in them.

  • http://tombstone001.blogspot.com Mohammed N. RAzavi

    If it is true that half the people in the United States pay no income taxes, then who are the members of the Republican party anD the TEA party? Are they all millionaires or jusT silly?

  • cory


    I disagree slightly about Braintsded. He is a solid representation of a conservattive American. It gives others an opportunity to see what he and they are all about. Then we can decide whether or not he is us. Is this what we believe? Is this how we want our society to look? Remember Bernstad when you go to the polls this November.

  • Brandstad

    Les Wetmore,

    Why do we have a federal highway administration if federal funds don’t go to build roads? Do the feds just build bureaucracies that manage roads?


    I don’t have time to teach you about our country, you should start doing some reading on your own.

  • Dave

    “Government needs to be asking itself what businesses need to thriver in the future and targeting expenditures in those areas.”

    Mary, you are a central planner. Thats fine if that’s what you believe, but that is the basic central planning argument.

    Most of that list you wrote, was not things created by government, it was things created by entrepreneurs and regulated by government. I’m not arguing whether or not any of the regulations were necessary or not, but just pointing that out.

    I’m all for a rational legal framework, accountability for negligence and corruption, etc. But you can have that without central planning of the economy.

  • One More Thing


    How long did you spend in those countries–perhaps it was via the military…did you really try to understyand these people? The USA is not the only country where large groups og people are emigrating. people are banging down Europes door, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and many people are even moving to China–(in search of work). People emigrigrate for many reasons, but most people choose to come to America because they think they can get rich quick with no concern for society or the earth. Also, the uSA advertizes more than any country in the world–its a brand name. Think movies, and TV. How many times do you see the grand ole flag waving in almost every scene of every movie? If thats not fascism i dont wknow what is. Many people are ignorant of the world and reality and the way things really work. i wouldnt be surprised if most people coming to America are exceedingly ignorant, or they have the criminal-wealth to emigrate.

    Have you ever considered how many people have left America? I dont think you have. its probably a great deal more than those who come in search of wealth. Most thinking people leave the USA for greener pastures where sanity is still understood.

    The one eyed man is a king of the blind.

    Try to think beyond the talking points.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Good question, Mohammed. As far as I’ve been able to determine, reporters say that many Americans (Tea Party especially) have a warped idea of what it means to be successful. If someone say with a union salary and a high school education was making $100,000 a year with lots of benefits, and the wife was making something similar, those people look at the way this economy is throwing up billionaires, and they think they have a bad deal. They think they are being preyed off of because they are paying 30 percent taxes, whereas the billionaires, paying tax on unearned income, interest and dividends, those people are not paying the equivalent. They think they are preyed off of even more because their jobs are being shipped overseas where there are no unions and no union wages.
    That’s the impression that I get. Our nation’s chief taxpayers (people who have done pretty well, but whose way of life is under threat even as they are paying taxes to benefit others) are feeling bamboozled.
    It seems to me our way of life is altogether out of scale to what the planet earth can afford us to consume, and the idea you can live in more space than you actually need, and cover vast distances on a regular basis fueled by destructive stuff — we’ve got to get over it. That was the CandyMan who offered us those things. It doesn’t pan out, and people are objecting. I don’t think the corporations are going to disabuse them. They want to keep soaking them for every bit of those $100,000 while they can.

  • http://tombstone001.blogspot.com Mohammed N. Razavi

    Paul 1115
    If we are all fixed, there will not be anymore problems. Sorry could not help myself. I’ll go back to work now.

  • An American worker

    This is such a penny wise & pound foolish type of econ-monic recovery. If we all agreed that our economies are consumer driven (as most are) how can it help making such cuts which will only weaken the economy further not grow it?

    And the foolishness that accompanies this austerity plan is beyond belief. What has posterity even done
    for the present generation of workers that they should
    e asked to suffer now and not the fat cats in Britian who can pay more and weather their losses with less strain.

    Workers of Britain should unite and rise up and say
    “no” to the conservative government’s cost cutting…

    It doesn’ make sense and it won’t offer growth

  • jeffe

    I second that motion Nick.
    However it’s interesting to see how people like this think.
    It amazes me how they twist facts into fiction to meet their agenda. For instance, the earth has survived drastic climate changes. This is true, but what he left out was huge populations of species were wiped out as a result.
    We are changing the climate, it’s not a myth as people of this ilk want to believe.

    The tax lies made by him are so beyond belief it’s not funny. He is leaving out payroll taxes and taxes on goods and services. To say 50% of the American population does no pay income tax is another example of who data gets skewed to fit a personal agenda.

    Oh and those people wanting too get into this country, well I don’t see to many Swedes, Dutch, or French in those lines. What we have are people from third world countries or Eastern Europe who are desperate for a way to make a better life for themselves. I’m not sure how many really “make it” in that sense.

    As to the US being the best country in the world, that’s a load of bunk and this kind of sentimental patriotism leaves out all the complexities of geopolitics and the reality that our nation has become for most. It’s a nightmare for a lot of people. Almost 80% or more of the population is few months away from homelessness and poverty. A lot of the unemployed were living what they thought was the American dream. Only to wake up to the reality of living in a plutocracy.

  • Brandstad


    Thank you for being a member of the majority of Americans that is not closed minded and is able to hear both side of an argument and make an educated decision at the end to determine where you stand

    While you might not agree with me, you are truly a good American!

  • Dave

    Ron Paul on Government and Jobs Creation:


  • twenty-niner

    “Have you ever considered how many people have left America? I dont think you have. its probably a great deal more than those who come in search of wealth. Most thinking people leave the USA for greener pastures where sanity is still understood.”

    You think more people emigrated from America than immigrated to America? Wow.

    “As of 2006, the United States accepts more legal immigrants as permanent residents than all other countries in the world combined.”


    Maybe we should have a program where we trade ungrateful citizens with those who are willing to give up everything to come here and make a better life for themselves.

  • jeffe

    Have you ever considered how many people have left America? I dont think you have. its probably a great deal more than those who come in search of wealth. Most thinking people leave the USA for greener pastures where sanity is still understood.

    The one eyed man is a king of the blind.

    Try to think beyond the talking points.
    Posted by One More Thing

    This is simply not true. You are simply doing what Brandstad is doing, skewing data to fit your agenda.

    Our population is growing from immigration, it’s just form third world countries. Again, the use of myths about the US is nothing more than white wash job.
    No country is perfect. Our nation has a very nasty history of violence and ethnic cleansing. To deny this is like climate change is a fools game.

  • Sam Osborne

    No advanced nation is going to cut its way to better economic times for its citizens. In the United States politicians and supposed economic wizards only want to talk about the small portion of the debt, i.e. the public portion of the debt and not the huge private debt (together they total c. 49 trillion dollars.

    No amount of austerity, stimulus or education is going to bring back to life the current moneychanger economic system that grew out of industrial capitalism; that followed anti-bellum craft and agrarian America; the followed colonial mercantilism; that followed trade routes and feudalism; that followed tilling and domestication; that followed food gathering and hunting. The nation needs to move to a new era of craft and agrarian free enterprise that empowers all to engage in their own free enterprise and be free of the piratical rationing of opportunity by the moneychangers and dependence on the international oil empire.

    To achieve this the nation needs to go totally eclectic with so much power from renewable energy that it can be licensed for free use by individuals and business and electrify a national system of low fare and laden high-speed and light rail. Libertarians have a good goal but no idea of how to get it; this is the way. Power is always in the hand of someone and it is time to put it in the hands of each individual and not the moneychangers.

  • jeffe

    Maybe we should have a program where we trade ungrateful citizens with those who are willing to give up everything to come here and make a better life for themselves.
    Posted by twenty-niner

    What part of the Constitution that states people are free to express themselves and their displeasure with the government and country do you not understand?

    You sentiments are un-American.

  • Grady Lee Howard

    Mari: It’s pretty difficult to not consume anything. Where do you think rice pasta comes from? Homeless people still eat and buy pain meds, but they can’t usually vote or get a hearing, or any respect. There is an ongoing war on the poor. Selective consumption is a complex and ever morphing challenge requiring an income and an ISP. Individualist exclusions will never have an effect. Organized and targeted boycotts would be necessary.

    Ellen Dibble: Just because you are stubbornly self-employed does not mean everyone has the ability or the resources to follow your example. Now, if I were not a commodities speculator (completely market dependent) I have no skill or laboring ability I could sell to my neighbors. I am a dwarf with disabilities and a quirky mind who would then starve without charity. This is an unhealthy country with about a fourth of adults unable to do most work. Where I lived in Dallas, NC 20% between 18 and 62 were receiving Social Security Disability checks. One fourth od children live in poverty. More than one fourth of children are in homes with food assistance. Add to that the older people who exist on SS retirement alone and you have at least a third on government assistance in poorer regions (about half the country). People didn’t get in this shape without help from exploitative employers, and lack of medical care, and lack of employment opportunity. The United States under capitalism (even with plucky self-employment- as in India) is pretty much a demonstrated failure. We are both a failed economy and a failed state, and the miserable physical and emotional condition of our people proves it.

    Mari was right when she said we became totally screwed once we trusted the wealthy class. They wantonly screwed us with relish and pleasure, like a scorpion on a swimming frog’s back.

    Observation: I doubt you can pay for a lush dinner party by rationing the cat food. England is doomed.

  • twenty-niner

    “What part of the Constitution that states people are free to express themselves and their displeasure with the government and country do you not understand?

    You sentiments are un-American.”

    It’s called: Reductio ad absurdum – in response to an ridiculous comment.

  • Dave
  • twenty-niner

    “No advanced nation is going to cut its way to better economic times for its citizens. In the United States politicians and supposed economic wizards only want to talk about the small portion of the debt, i.e. the public portion of the debt and not the huge private debt (together they total c. 49 trillion dollars.”

    Because the Unites States is the largest debtor nation in the world with large current account and fiscal deficits on top of an existing debt load equal to the size of the economy, it only has two choices to square its books: It can either print money or cut expenditures and raise taxes.

    If your concern is the disparity between the rich and the poor, then you should be arguing for the latter. The first course is what we are doing now because it can be accomplished by the Fed outside of the political system. Republicans don’t have to raise taxes (in a meaningful way), and Democrats don’t have to cut spending (in a meaningful way). We can drive down the value of our debt by radically expanding the money supply. In the process, however, we are devaluing the savings of retirees and wages of low-income workers. The rich, however, are well hedged against this through the allocation of precious metals, commodities, and other inflation-proof assets.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Grady, I know full well that the way I survive is terribly difficult. The “system” has been set up to make it maximally difficult. The “system” is designed to force you into dependence, as far as my experience has been. The system is designed for people with corporate employment and health benefits, with mortgage deductions and families of a certain type.
    I am wishing I wasn’t the only one expounding upon the difficulties, because we need a lobbyist to urge our needs upon Congress. Huffington may celebrate this route being rediscovered by Americans, but she hasn’t spoken about the headwinds we get to experience. If you have a better mousetrap, as they say, the manufacturer of the old-worse mousetrap will buy you out, will do anything necessary to make sure you don’t become a measurable competitor. So to a certain extent only well-funded and quick-profit plans get a proper start.
    “Small business” is the last refuse of scoundrels? We were meant to hole up in subsidized housing with subsidized health (Medicaid), with all too obvious physical manifestations of the struggle. But that would be caving to the socialists as well as to the capitalists. They are one and the same at a certain level. Where we are now, actually.

  • Sam Osborne


    Square its books, print money, cut expenditures and raise taxes are nothing more than continuing to COOK the BOOKS and have nothing to do with physical reality, aside from distracting from it.

    At this point the balance sheet of the United States reflects greater assets than liabilities (even though the infrastructure has been allowed to go to rust and rot, it still hugely surpasses the assets of all other nations).

    From this base the nation needs to build the infrastructure that facilitates the emerging economy of real physical power being in the hand of individuals.

    China finally realizes that it cannot keep shooting its neglected peasants and is moving to renewable energy and electric high speed rail. This past year they had opened 7,431 km of it and are working and invention 300 billion to 16,000 km by 2020.

    Today a quarter of Chinas electricity comes from renewable energy and China has set a target of 190,000 MW for 2010.

    We can do much better if we make real jobs doing real things and stop pretending that the private selling of knickknack made in China creates jobs of any lasing import—it only lets China finance its new future.

  • Darren

    I think it would be wise for us, the US, to cut some spending and that should start with defense. How do the conservatives and tea partyers reconcile that they believe government can’t do anything correctly and wastes money with with fact that they never are willing to cut defense spending. We could cut our defense spending in half and still be spending more than nearly all of the rest of the world’s countries combined.

  • twenty-niner

    “How do the conservatives and tea partyers reconcile that they believe government can’t do anything correctly and wastes money with with fact that they never are willing to cut defense spending.”

    Things than make you go hmmm….

    “Tea Party May Help Robert Gates to Shrink Military Spending”


  • jeffe

    I’m not sure where some people are getting their data on our national debt, but we are not highest. Far from it.
    That does not make it good, I’m just pointing out that there seems to be a lot of skewed info floating out there.

    Sources: IMF, World Economic Outlook (emerging market economies); OECD, Economic Outlook (advanced economies)

    Gross debt as percentage of GDP

    2007 2011 Forecast
    Austria 62% 82%
    Canada 70% 81%
    France 70% 99%
    Germany 65% 85%
    Greece 104% 130%
    Ireland 28% 93%
    Italy 112% 130%
    Japan 167% 204%
    Netherlands 52% 82%
    Portugal 71% 97%
    Spain 42% 74%
    United Kingdom 47% 79%
    United States 62% 100%
    Asia1 37% 41%
    Central Europe2 23% 29%
    Latin America3 41% 35%

  • cory

    Darren 1516hrs,

    I agree with your sentiment. Perhaps the “Big Stick” is all that many Americans believe we have left. No longer factory to the world, not really holder of the world’s moral compass, long since surpassed by others in math and science education, etc. etc.

  • Phil Gibbs

    I feel compelled to reply to two of Thomas Bixby’s comments. First, he called those who disagree with him econonics illiterates. Well, I disagree with his position and will gladly compare economics credentials with him — my Ph.D. from MIT Sloan has an economics minor and my MBA from Chicago Brown is in finance. My teachers include four economist who have received the Nobel Award in economics. This type of comment .. name calling … just lowers the level of discourse.

    Second, he characterized the opposition as obstructionists … simply out to block anything Obama proposes. Certainly, there are people in both parties that use that as a decision rule, but that is not the point of this election. The issue is the appropriate role of government … what, if any, government intervention is needed to assure that markets function efficiently and effectively. Name calling, again, does not help find common ground … what little there may be.

    Finally, it appears the the goal of this Congress and President Obama has more to do with distribution of wealth, while Republicans and the Tea Party are more concerned with the maximization of wealth. The issue is socialism versus free markets. Both have solid intellectual foundations … both start with different assumptions and have different goals … both follow the rules of logic … and both lead to different conclusions. Economics as a discipline actually has little to say about the distribution of wealth other than that economic incentives can be, and often are, diminished with government intervention.

    This is the classic struggle between labor and capital. In the early part of the 20th century, the labor movement was instrumental in creation of the middle class, i.e., redistribution of wealth between labor and capital. We all owe a debt of gratitude … 40-hour work weeks and overtime pay, workplace safety, and a host of employee benefits … to the early labor movement. That said, power corrupts and the concentration of power in labor unions lead to significant inefficencies, diminished wealth creation and misallocation of wealth to unions (and opposed to workers, in general). During the second half of the 20th century the pendulum swung back, as foreign competition … first Europe, then Japan, then the Asian tigers, and now China and India … , market deregulation in the U.S., and open markets abroad forced U.S.-based businesses (i.e., capital) to look for sources of improved productivity and efficiency … reductions-in-force (RIFs), wage concessions, and outsourcing … to stay profitable. Profit has bad connotations to Mr. Obama, but without profits (i.e., a risk-adjusted market rate of return) there is no capital. It takes both capital and labor to create wealth.

    So this is the connundrum. U.S. labor has to compete with labor worldwide, except for the most location- specific labor … think personal services, transportation, food service … . However, this is not a zero-sum game.

    Capital knows no borders and flows to markets with the highest (risk-adjusted) return. We can follow beggar-thy-neighbor policies, such as currency devaluations and trade barriers, which only leaves everyone American and non-American alike worse off.

  • jeffe

    The issue is socialism versus free markets.
    Phil for a guy who likes to wear his credentials on his sleeve so to speak don’t you think this statement is, well wrong. Obama is not a socialist.

    rofit has bad connotations to Mr. Obama, but without profits (i.e., a risk-adjusted market rate of return) there is no capital. It takes both capital and labor to create wealth.

    What? This is nonsense.

    So from reading your comments you seem to be an advocate of the winner takes all market based kind BS that has driven the world into the economic abyss. Am I correct?

    Second, you think the American worker should just keep working for lower wages. That’s a plan, keep the masses of people in a situation that grinds them down. What you describe, a capitalist system with no checks or balances or regulations is a recipe for civil strife.

    I say to people of your ilk, enough. It’s been proven to be pretty much a failure.

  • Sam Osborne

    The “Big Stick” becomes the burden that declining empires fail to put down. They become brittle cultures that insist of preserving their so-called values, become stagnant and languish in the grip of conservatism; this as emerging peoples move forward doing thing that have never been done before.

    America is neither going to return to the good old days nor count on all-powerful and knowing provide the means and methods to set things purring again—neither kings nor barons of old imperial ways could ride their dead horses on down the parade route of prosperity and today’s plutocrats are at the heart of the nations backward journey.

    Now is the time to empower common man with the power to do uncommon things.

  • Joerg

    I living now for 10 years in the US but i have the big impression that most people don’t get what a balanced budget would require.
    In Europe you will see, like it is the case with Britain, tax increases and cutting still many thing away.
    Here, unthinkable. In this country everything is very narrow and mostly someone will point out how easy it would be to balance the budget with not touching defense of course.
    The biggest difference to me seem to be
    a) cutting with no exceptions
    b) tax increases
    c) no decrease in public insurance
    There is no free lunch and this country, frankly, lived over its ability to sustain the status quo.

  • Sam Osborne


    In addition, there is no ”status quo” other than people advocating doing what appears to be the same thing within a physical reality that constantly changes. And in the advanced world of science and technology changes occurs at and exponentially increasing rate. If our mass consuming economy were within our body it would be diagnosed as cancer and eradicated.

    Profits in the dying economy are drained off by those that already have great wealth and on top of from getting bailed out and receiving large tax breaks, they maximize their take via production of goods in low standard of living countries under slave-labor conditions, sell in on credit card debt in box stores where it is acquire to be hauled off to the land fill to make room for more of the same drain of final resources out of the pockets of fewer working people that have jobs.

  • Tom Nessbitt

    We need to free ourselves from the IMF. In 2008 the IMF created the food bubble and a lot of people starved to death all over the world. 2008 saw the best production year of wheat the world has seen, however wheat prices went through the ceiling and there were food riots in many countries. Starving people so the wealthy can buy another yacht is evil. We should take our que from countries in South America that have paid back their loans and have refused to deal with IMF. They have cut their poverty rates in half in recent years.

  • Badria

    I want to know from all those callers and people who think Britain is correct and that the US government should follow suite, would they be willing to not drive on finished roads, or not have a police force, or not have the quality of food and medicine regulated? Or how about giving up their claim as well as their elderly parents on Medicare & Social Security?

  • FLowen


    It sounds like you see what you’re looking at. The Status Quo is a lot of structure, much of it bloated, both in government and business, which is brittle as you say, rigid as I say, due to it’s loss of energy and the vitality that originally created it.

    Now it overhangs us like a tyrant demanding participation and payment, while returning little of real use or value, with destruction of the environment thrown in for free. The captains of industry have just transferred the value of our environmental resources into their own pockets.

    The small fraction of the population (<1%) who benefit from the government-business alliance shearing the sheep ARE like a tumor in a cancer, growing uncontrollably and without reason at the expense of the body, the population in the analogy. The analogy is interesting, and the parallels may have more meaning than coincidence.

    "The nation needs to move to a new era of craft and agrarian free enterprise that empowers all to engage in their own free enterprise and be free of the piratical rationing of opportunity by the moneychangers and dependence on the international oil empire."


    I maintain it can only get there if the price of energy rises…maintaining the current relative price of energy is their biggest means of maintaining the Status Quo. They lose control if "demand destruction" occurs; it is the only thing they are afraid of.

    I see most people have little understanding of the convoluted social engineering that we call tax legislation, regulation, and legislation in general. If people can see how much we as taxpayers spend on these robber-barons (a government of, by, and for the corporations) in lost tax revenue, subsidy, public guarantees, special treatment, tax incentives, opportunity costs, and other external costs, people would have something all 99% of us can agree on: let's begin towards a balanced budget by withdrawing public support for large business and industrial complexes of all sorts that neither need it, nor deserve it.

    We don't need to pick winners if we just stop subsidizing losers.

    "People get the best government they deserve, and the worst government they will tolerate."

  • Sean

    If Europe and the USA should both cut back spending, that leaves too much room for 2 substantial, emerging economies to step in & really start driving the world economy, no?

  • Timothy Kunz

    There is a fundamental disconnect in this conversation. Government spending to stimulate the economy is an extreme measure dictated by the complete breakdown in the private sector. No one in right mind should desire a deficit, much less a government stimulus. In a strong economy a reasonable deficit is usually not a problem, but a stimulus would be both unnecessary and counter productive. Stimulous spending is required when the private sector breaks down and the government becomes the agent of recovery of last resort.

    Deficit reduction, however, is another topic that is always in season. The US economy under the Republicans has run a consistent deficit. If the Democrats have been the party of tax and spend, the Republicans have been the party of borrow and spend. And there’s the rub!

    The “Roaring Twenties” and the post WW II boom both occurred with a top marginal tax rate above 90%. This was no accident, but to explain this statement, I will have to digress.

    “Income Tax” is a misnomer. This tax should be understood as a fee for the use of the nation’s economy. All income is derivative of a national infrastructure. The dollar is a symbol of that infrastructure. It has no inherent value other than the value that we and the world community give it. An economy is the exchange of goods and services. The US economy is driven by consumer spending. Taxes that obstruct consumer spending weaken the economy. The only “Use Fee” for the economy that is not regressive is the graduated tax on the amount individuals take out of the total of goods and services produced by the nation (the GDP). When the top marginal rate accurately represents the percentage of personal income generated by the nation’s infrastructure, we have the best stimulus to the economy. Individuals must choose between taking exorbitant personal incomes or reinvesting into the economy. A just determination of this top marginal rate insures that those individuals whose incomes are proportionally the result of the overall economy pay proportionally for the use of that infrastructure. When a just distribution of the costs of maintaining our economy are proportioned based on the economy’s contribution to an individuals income, then we have the best formula for economic growth. The Reagan revolution destroyed the engine of economic growth and the US economy slumped into a form of feudalism in which the work of all was directed into the incomes of a few. The CIA publishes a list that describes the distribution of wealth within about 150 nations. It is called the GINI list and is available at the CIA web site. The USA is comparable to third world dictatorships in our distribution of the wealth we all produce. At this point, the Tea Party is the party of King George. Only by proportionally taxing those who profit most from the work and creativity of all, can we return this nation to prosperity.

  • Francine

    The fundamental purpose of government is to provide education and health to all its citizens as a basic human right. As a Brit who has lived all over the world, destroying social security and government funded education is insane. The difference between countries in Europe and developing countries like India, are government programs that protect and educate the poorer, less able people. Without that, the west will return to the dark ages and the UK will become a developing country.

  • jeffe

    At this point, the Tea Party is the party of King George Well said Timothy. I think of them as the party of Know Nothings, or Tories. How ironic that they run around in tri-corner hats and “Don’t Tread on Me” buttons.

  • Dave


    What are you going to achieve with your disdain for Tea Partiers? Your fellow citizens, some of which may be more or less “enlightened” than you, are just trash to be thrown aside? Not worth talking to?

    As we go through these discussions, I still don’t see people opening their mind much beyond their long-held political-economic beliefs and dogmas, actually listening to the concepts others have. While I certainly don’t have all the answers, I think the intellectual stalemate of being convinced the “other side” definitely CAN NOT have the answers, is the real threat to progress and change in this country.

    -your registered Democrat friend…

  • One More Thing

    Jeffe and twenty-niner,

    I did not give any data–i asked if he (i should say any American spewing this crazy rhetoric) has ever considered how many people leave America? Few of you do. Its a lot. A large population of United Statsiens settled Canada–often leaving because of America’s ignorant crap. Large portions of the old Populist movement help to settle Canada. Canada has always leaned left, and the US continues to be so fascist because left leaning people are fed up with the ignorant brainwashed crap and leave.

    Empirical data is famous for being skewed. Politicians use data all the time to fit their agenda on all sided of the isle. Most data is false, first of all–because it can never be accurate. You have to survey everyone in the world and they would have to be of sound mind and honest. Not gonna happen. There is no way you can muster the numbers to see how many people have left. Records were not always kept. and still are not kept accurately. Besides, we are taught that America is so damn special and everyone wants to come her. Most of you people have never left the country and have no idea what you are talking about. Most American don’t have a passport. many that do, rarely come back. many immigrants that come to America come to get rich quick not because they love America–and then they leave. I’m talking about today, not 100 years ago because i didn’t live then but I’m sure many did leave. Many academics, thinkers, statesmen, and novelists have left America in American history.

    My point is–its something to be considered, despite the numbers. Its something never talked about. Patriots just spew forth propaganda. and never actually consider the depth and breadth of the subject or that many immigrants leave again sick of it all. Go outside America and most people who have been there or meet Americans abroad despise it and them. Maybe its their ugly fascist loud self-righteous and ignorant nature. patriotism is the virtue of the viscous. Relax a little. learn to take criticism. America is not what its cracked up to be. Everyone knows that except Americans and the ignorant. Its okay to be ignorant. You are just ill-informed, or maybe apathetic.

    You must also consider the size of America. Obviously its one of the biggest countries in the world with few business regulations, so naturally it may have the biggest number of immigrants as smaller countries cannot accommodate large numbers of people.. Consider the many people America turns away simply because they are poor or non-white or Chinese. The immigration policy is mostly racist and clearly fascist and capitalistic. Poor people bad. Rich people always good. Poor people not good humans. Poor people immoral humans–uhh. ug. Rich people always good moral humans. ug.

  • One More Thing

    Jeffe–i do not think you are ignorant. I almost always like your comments. But some people are definitely ignorant.

  • One More Thing

    Twnenty-niner and Jeffe,

    Please read more carefully. I said “probably” and i said more than those in search of “wealth.” There is nothing ridiculous about that statement. It was very carefully worded and meant to provoke thought. But patriotism that vicious virtue does always get in the way of critical thought doesn’t it. You willfully choose not to understand or consider the concept. Even if less than those who immigrate, its still a very large number that is due consideration but is never-ever ever discussed. Take your soma. –”Twenty-niner–”Soma” is a reference to a happy euthanizing conformity pill in Brave New World. That’s a novel. Have a look and you might understand what is being said.

  • Pat O’Reilly

    The current debt burden is unsustainable and, more importantly, having that much government spending in the form of debt service being dictated years and decades before citizens are even born is eroding and undermining our representative democracy.

    The only solution that can save our Democracy, short of wholesale default, is to have the Federal Reserve start to buy and then gradually forgive US debt. Say $300 to $500 Billion per year in debt forgiveness (which will result in sustained long term currency devaluation). Even 500 Billion in debt forgiveness per year would take nearly 30 years to pay off and would require balancing the rest of the Federal budget each year which would prove politically difficult.

    Perhaps what is really needed is something more like 5 years of debt forgiveness at $1 Trillion per year. Won’t eliminate the debt, but will get us closer to having a sustainable burden and might be doable over a short time frame.

    But as we start forgiving our own debts, which is essentially a tax on wealth and savings due to currency devaluation and the potential for inflation and imports become more expensive, we need to bring the Federal budget into something closer to balance so we don’t end up with runaway inflation and currency devaluation/collapse despite the debt forgiveness. Unfortunately, habits are hard to break and our society has been downplaying the downside of debt for a long time, so it is going to be hard to reverse this trend and get people to realize what we are actually giving away.

  • Pat O’Reilly

    “The “Roaring Twenties” and the post WW II boom both occurred with a top marginal tax rate above 90%. This was no accident, but to explain this statement, I will have to digress.”

    This is a half truth. Yes the top marginal rate was over 90%, but it was only on incomes that today would be over $4 million dollars. The rate on incomes around the $200k that Obama keeps mentioning were about 38%, about what they are today or slightly less than what they would be if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire. So, yes the rich are making out better under today’s tax code, but the upper middle class are over taxed now.

    If you want to introduce a higher rate on personal incomes over $4 million, then I don’t think you are going to get that much political resistance. But a $200k tax bracket starts to eat into the middle class, especially without being indexed to inflation it will cut more deeply into the middle class in the coming years.

    But it is hard to listen to this false argument comparing today’s top tax bracket with a special tax bracket on the very very wealthy that was in effect over half a century ago. There simply is no comparison because we don’t have a special rate for incomes that high anymore.

Sep 15, 2014
In this Thursday, Sep. 11, 2014 photo, Middle Eastern leaders stand together during a family photo with of the Gulf Cooperation Council and regional partners at King Abdulaziz International Airport’s Royal Terminal in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. (AP/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)

President Obama says he will build a coalition of partners in the Middle East to combat ISIS. We’ll do a reality check on who’s really stepping up for what.

Sep 15, 2014
This Monday, Sept. 27, 2010 file photo shows hikers on the South Kaibab Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz. (AP/Carson Walker)

Uproar over development plans for the Grand Canyon. We go to the Navajo Nation and the Canyon floor to see what’s at stake.

Sep 12, 2014
In this May 23, 2014, file photo, Janay Rice, left, looks on as her husband, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, speaks to the media during a news conference in Owings Mills, Md. (AP/Patrick Semansky)

#WhyIStayed. We’re looking at women in and out of relationships of domestic violence.

Sep 12, 2014
President Barack Obama meets with Congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, to discuss options for combating the Islamic State. (AP/Evan Vucci)

The President’s ISIS strategy. The Ray Rice video. Congress is back. Apple’s new watch. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

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