Friday Follow-Up: Polarized Americans, Deficits, Defense Spending, Etc.

We had 13 people last night, including several newcomers, including Jess.  Thanks to Chris for the slide show and for sharing his knowledge on the topic.  I was unaware how terribly political polarization has grown among, well, everyone, everywhere.  Welcome to 1892.  I thought we had a pretty good discussion of the causes, too.  We focused on the obvious ones (sometimes the obvious is answer is the right answer), like the rise of partisan news media and the growing role of money in politics.  But, we also did well on the deeper causes, like rising inequality and voter partisan sorting.  In two weeks we tackle cultural differences between Red and Blue states and regions.

Here are the Political Polarization Slide Showthat Chris used, with his permission.

Also, to answer Jess’ question (and because you can never point out these facts too many times), here is that chart I posted awhile ago on what caused the federal budget deficit.  As you can see, the rising debt levels have two big causes (the blue parts): (1) the Bush tax cuts that permanently lowered revenues, and (2) the recession, which temporarily is lowering revenues.  

The Bush tax cuts were scheduled to expire last year, but they were ALL extended in December.  Obama and most Democrats had wanted to let about 3/4 of the cuts keep going, but not those for the wealthiest 2% of Americans.  Republicans refused, holding the tax cuts for the other 98% of us hostage, and Obama caved.  FYI, in the long-run, assuming economic growth resumes, the real driver of the deficits is growing health care costs  in Medicare and Medicaid.  However, you can’t see it on this chart (i.e., the yellow slice, which includes the two programs, doesn’t get bigger) because the chart only goes to 2019.  That comes later.  A more thorough explanation, along with a little bit on how to reduce the deficits, is here.

[UPDATE:  You’ll also notice that defense spending is not showen on this graph as a major driver of the deficits.  That’s because it’s not.  Liberals may be surprised by this, but it’s true, as even Paul Krugman has noted.  Whether we spend “too much” on defense is really a question of whether you think we are fighting — and preparing for –unnecessary wars.   In other words, it’s a debate about the ends of defense policy, not its means.]

Finally, here is a very enlightening article that I referenced last night, plus two books others were citing:

  • Bujsiness Is Booming, in the American Prospect.  Why the interests of corporate America (the biggies, not the thousands of small firms that still depend on U.S. consumers and workers) are becoming umoored from the interests of American workers. 
  • The Flight Of The Creative Class that Jess mentioned.
  • Aftershock, by Robert Reich.  George. 

One response

  1. I should note that I claim no credit for the powerpoint; all credit for it and the amazing graphs in it can be found in the work of Gary Jacobson and should be attributed as such.

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