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Letters to the Editor

A suggestion

November 14, 2011

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To the editor:

Since virtually all Republicans on the federal and state levels have pledged to not vote for any bill unless it contains an equal amount of budget cuts to pay for it, I have a suggestion that should be equally appealing to them. How about pledging to not vote for any bill that cuts federal or state jobs like the post office bill, like school budget reductions, or the elimination of departments or offices unless they can include a guarantee of an equal number of private sector jobs to balance the firing?

It seems that the economy is growing, albeit slowly and taxes are increasing slowly, but no amount of private sector jobs, primarily from small to mid-sized companies that are actually hiring, can compensate for the reductions in federal and state employees. How about it, all of you fiscally conservative Republicans who call every bill that Democrats suggest or passed from 2008-2010 “job- killing”?

Comments

Brock Masters 2 years, 8 months ago

I take it you don't think state or federal jobs should be cut. Somehow they are sacred I suppose. Sebileus, Parkinson and not Brownback have all cut state jobs and the truth is i don't miss any of the services provided by those workers. This tells me kansas state gov was bloated.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 8 months ago

No, it says that you personally don't need those services. But others do. Will the private sector step up and meet those needs?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 8 months ago

Of course government creates jobs-- millions of them, as a matter of fact. And Republicans believe it is their purpose in life to eliminate those jobs.

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jayhawkinsf 2 years, 8 months ago

"Of course government creates jobs". And where does the money come to pay for those jobs? From taxing others who earned that money or from running a deficit. Neither of those two option are good, so while the government creates a job, it takes away something from someone else.
If those jobs are absolutely necessary, then it becomes a legitimate function of government. But if it is simply a job that will service a bloated bureaucracy, then it's nothing but a drag on the overall economy. Today's government has both. If the argument is that any given job is necessary, then most people would agree with that. If any given job is created simply to serve the bureaucracy, then most would not.
So which jobs are we talking about?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 8 months ago

"And where does the money come to pay for those jobs? From taxing others who earned that money or from running a deficit. Neither of those two option are good,"

Everybody wants something for free-- whether it comes from the government or from individuals and businesses. But we pay what it costs, and we're happy to do so if we think we get a fair deal. But the rhetoric from the far right now says that nothing government does is good or useful, and therefore all taxation is theft.

"so while the government creates a job, it takes away something from someone else."

Well, yes, to some extent, the economy is always a zero-sum game. But the money that government pays its employees doesn't just evaporate. Even military expenditures, which have the least positive impact on the economy of all government expenditures, is billed as a "job creator." And folks in places like Junction City and Wichita would feel the pinch if such spending were decreased or eliminated.

"If those jobs are absolutely necessary, then it becomes a legitimate function of government."

For the hardcore laissez-faire capitalist, there really aren't any necessary functions of government, although few of them are complete purists, and end up making (often self-serving) exceptions to this orthodoxy.

"But if it is simply a job that will service a bloated bureaucracy,"

Republican/Teaparty philosophy these days considers everything that government does as "bloated bureaucracy."

"So which jobs are we talking about?"

Sadly, the national debate on government spending has become so totally ideological, and therefore unrealistic, that such questions are rarely addressed in an honest and constructive way.

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jayhawkinsf 2 years, 8 months ago

But, Bozo, and I'm really asking this question with a big smile on my face (I hope you'll read it in the same way), while what you're saying about "hardcore laissez-faire capitalists" and "Republican/Teaparty" folks, you're not really coming at this from some middle of the road perspective, are you? You're really on the far opposite, taking just an extreme position as them, just from the other side. At least that's what I take from your overall writings. And I suspect I'm not alone in that.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 8 months ago

I think there's a good deal of government waste-- primarily in the military industrial complex. There are plenty of other examples, I'm sure, but you'll rarely hear a teapartier suggesting cuts in that part of the budget.

At any rate, I believe I am much more middle of the road than many if not most of the conservatives on this board. I believe in a mixed (as in a mix of the private and the public) economy, and they don't.

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tomatogrower 2 years, 8 months ago

Seriously!!!??? Who do you think is paying the private company to pave roads?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 8 months ago

"You and Bozo actually think the government creates that money."

As a matter of fact, all US currency is a creation of the government.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 8 months ago

Not trying to be funny at all. What I stated was a fact. Do you dispute it?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 8 months ago

Of course there are differences. Private sector jobs generally provide those things that satisfy private needs and wants. Government provides jobs that satisfy the needs and wants of communities/society as a whole. Which is why the former is funded by financial transactions with end users, and funding for the latter is derived from the community through taxation.

But once a job is created created, a job is a job is a job. The money the employee gets is spent exactly the same way for pretty much the same things. Eliminate jobs, and someone is out of a job, and therefore the ability to participate in the economy. If too widespread, this isn't really good for anyone.

BTW, it's still a fact that all US currency is a creation of the US govt.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 8 months ago

"There's some nuance here you're not getting."

That's because what you call "nuance" is pure ideological BS.

"This doesn't jive with what you said above, which is it?"

Please pose a question that makes sense, and I'll endeavor to answer it.

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tomatogrower 2 years, 8 months ago

I realize it doesn't seem like it anymore, but the government is us. We pay the taxes, that in turn create the jobs when a company is hired to repair the highways. I've been paying taxes since 1967. You're welcome. I helped pay for the roads you drive on, the schooling most of you got, the police officer who helped you when you were robbed. the fireman who came to your house when you smelled smoke, then installed smoke detectors when he realized you didn't have one. I also lived in towns who have community hospitals, so if you couldn't afford to pay when you broke your leg, you're welcome. I don't mind paying taxes for that.

I do mind paying subsidies to rich corporate farmers and rich oil companies. I didn't mind paying to break up the Taliban in Afghanistan, but I did mind paying to overthrow a ruler that the people of Iraq should have overthrown. I do mind spending money on building bridges in Iraq, but being told repairing a bridge in the US is pork barrel spending. I do mind that the politicians are not representing us anymore, but representing those who gave them the most campaign money. It's an openly bribed government anymore.

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tbaker 2 years, 8 months ago

Mr. Obama’s experiment of the last three years has not brought us prosperity. The federal government Borrowing and spending $5 trillion in less than three years with little to show for it is a point Mr. Altman seems to ignore. In 358 days, voters won’t ignore this. I suspect the country will react to this fact and steer a course back towards the American ideal of individualism that made us the wealthiest nation in history. Of course this model is the antithesis of the socialism the author of this post promotes. He fails either to comprehend, or accept the fact the statism he calls for has impoverished much of the world, just like it has our country. Government doesn’t create jobs, nor should it. It doesn’t end poverty, grow wealth, or prosperity. In America, the people do that. Next Fall, hopefully we’ll get back to letting the people grow our economy, and reduce the government to its constitutional role.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 8 months ago

"Government doesn’t create jobs,"

Of course it does. Millions of them.

" nor should it."

You start out with a blatant fallacy, and couple it with an opinion, and try to pass it off as fact. Not a very good way to make a cogent argument.

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jaywalker 2 years, 8 months ago

Of course government creates jobs. Unfortunately they're mostly associated with government itself and hence the bloated bureaucracy we have today. Not to mention the fact that government sector jobs are notoriously high paying coupled with unsustainable pensions.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 8 months ago

The only government jobs that are "notoriously high-paying" are those that require professional degrees of one sort or another, and if you compare those salaries with comparable jobs in the private sector, they are actually somewhat lower, on average.

For jobs that don't require specialized training or degrees, wages are actually lower than in the private sector, and this is partially made up by somewhat better benefits, such as the pensions that Republicans have decided government should renege on.

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jayhawkinsf 2 years, 8 months ago

There was a time when there was a relatively simple trade off. People made more money in the private sector for comparable work. Government workers got better benefits in terms of holidays off and they got job security. That is no longer true. Government workers frequently get comparable pay, they get job security, they get better benefits while working and a better retirement package. As an example, compare the Post Office with UPS. I was listening the other day to NPR. Being interviewed was the head of UPS. His employees spent the day delivering while the Post Office was off for Veteran's Day. I'll bet good money UPS employees make less, get less benefits and have less job security. Both jobs require relatively low skill levels, no college, etc.
I have no problem at all if government workers get the money they are getting if they're willing to trade that for the job security (or lack thereof) that the rest of us face. Or they can have their job security at lower pay. But having both is what bloats the bureaucracy.

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jafs 2 years, 8 months ago

Well, except for a few things:

The Post Office is not running as a government agency - it has to be self-supporting through fees.

And, given the anti-government rhetoric on the right, I'm not sure how much "job security" government employees have.

Also, given the failure to adequately fund those retirement programs, those benefits aren't secure.

Finally, UPS employees are paid pretty well, from what I know, and get some good benefits, like education, as well.

Other than that, you're right :-)

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 8 months ago

If you had used Fedex in your example instead of UPS, you might have a point. UPS employees are mostly unionized, and while they have rather grueling schedules, they get paid pretty well, with good benefits.

Fedex, on the other hand, is not unionized. The pay and benefits are much worse, and the company clearly considers most employees as expendable.

Fedex is a poster child for what life would be like when large corporations can shake free of their unions-- great for the 1%, and pretty horrible for the 99.

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tomatogrower 2 years, 8 months ago

"I have no problem at all if government workers get the money they are getting if they're willing to trade that for the job security (or lack thereof) that the rest of us face."

jhawkinsf, you need to keep up with the news. The reason the unemployment rate is getting smaller so slowly is the loss of government jobs. Read this. Where are you getting this job security stuff? From Rush or Beck? So all those public sector employees are now out there competing with the private sector employees. That should make things better - for the so-called "job creators". They won't have to pay as much.

http://thinkprogress.org/yglesias/2011/07/08/263588/the-conservative-recovery-continues-2/

http://www.thenation.com/blog/164397/war-against-government-workers-prolonging-recession

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Stu Clark 2 years, 8 months ago

Actually, the UPS drivers have great benefits. They're in the Teamsters Union.

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boltzmann 2 years, 8 months ago

Of course you didn't mention that the USPS workers deliver mail on Saturday, whereas relatively few UPS deliveries occur on Saturday.

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jaywalker 2 years, 8 months ago

"The only government jobs that are "notoriously high-paying" are those that require professional degrees of one sort or another, and if you compare those salaries with comparable jobs in the private sector, they are actually somewhat lower, on average."

You obviously have no idea what you're talking about.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 8 months ago

Thanks for that hard-hitting, fact-filled post.

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tbaker 2 years, 8 months ago

No blatant fallacy at work here, just blatant ignorance of 8th grade economics: Money taken from the private sector by the government is money the private secotor no longer has to grow and expand business, aka, create jobs. Government can't inject money into the economy without first taking money out of the economy. There is no boost to national income, no net increase in wealth, it merely redistributes it. The pie is sliced differently, but it's not any bigger. The theory of government-instigated job creation overlooks the loss of resources available to the productive sector of the economy.

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jafs 2 years, 8 months ago

How/why is it any different in the private sector?

Businesses get their money from customers, who, once they have spent that money at that business, no longer have it to spend on other things.

And, once a business spends money on one thing, it's no longer available for others as well.

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tbaker 2 years, 8 months ago

JAFS: Because the private sector creates net growth in the economy, net growth in GDP, net growth in wealth (which translates to increased tax revenue) Money taken from the private sector by government and spent to "create" jobs simply doesn't. Even if one assumes that money is just picked off trees somewhere, the government is never an efficient way to achieve the creation of a job. History is full of examples. Hoover, Roosevelt, Ford, Carter, Bush, now Mr. Obama. This latest round of stimulus spending cost roughly $280,000 per job allegedly “created” by it. Since money doesn't grow on trees, this is only a partial measure of cost. Whats missing is what was lost/wasted when one considers how that $280,000 would have been spent far more productively in the private sector. For example, the engineers needed to build a $10 billion government high-speed rail line are taken away from building other products in the economy. The $10 billion rail line creates government-connected jobs, but it also kills at least $10 billion worth of private jobs. The government spending needed for this rail line is financed by the extraction of resources from current and future taxpayers. The resources consumed by the government cannot be used to produce goods and services in the private marketplace. Remember, the pie doesn't get any bigger. It remains the same, it is only sliced differently. The question is where can the money be put to the best use? Where will it do the most good? How can the money be used to benefit the most people? The facts are very clear on this point. Government is NOT the way to do that.

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jafs 2 years, 8 months ago

How does the private sector function differently from the public one?

Your examples are also true in the private sector - if a business builds one thing, it can't simultaneously build another with the same money.

It seems to me that you start with your conclusion, that private sector spending is better, rather than arriving at it after an analysis.

"the pie doesn't get any bigger. It remains the same, it's only sliced differently" - that's exactly my point.

If businesses are sitting on piles of cash (which they are), and the government taxes that, and uses the money on various projects, isn't that money benefiting the economy more if it's spent by the government than sat on by the business?

So, it's not who's spending it, it's how it's being spent (or not spent).

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tbaker 2 years, 8 months ago

JAFS: Excellent question. How does the private sector function differently from the public one? There are a lot of people on this blog who should be seeking an answer to this question. For starters, the public sector (we are talking about government borrowing and spending) doesn’t create net growth in the economy, it consumes it. This is pretty straight forward. A dollar taken from the private sector is one less dollar the private sector has to grow and expand business. There is no increase in aggregate demand since every dollar that is spent on government stimulus package is a dollar that the government first must borrow from private credit markets. It doesn’t boost national income, it merely redistributes it. Consider the reverse. Was there a depression in 1946? The US cut federal spending by 2/3s and went from deficit spending of 120% GDP during WWII, to running a budget surplus and paying back war-time borrowing. In one year, 10 million men were released from the military. Did unemployment sore to the 35% predicted by the labor department? Nope. How can the federal government shed 10 million workers and cut spending by 2/3 and not throw the country into a deep economic disaster? I encourage you to study that piece of economic history. The second part of your post deals with effectiveness, the Keynesian assumption that a dollar is more effective at growing our economy in the hands of the federal government than would be if left in the hands of the private sector. Did government spending create any “net” growth in jobs, after you take out the negative effects of government deficit spending. How many jobs were lost or not created because of the negative effect government spending has on private sector job growth. Consider the money the Fed had to print (quantitative easing) in order to monetize the US debt to provide the money for the stimulus and the inflation it caused because it lowered the value of the dollar. What was gold trading for two years ago? Health care mandates, cap-and-trade legislation, new financial regulations, union protections, and the probability of higher taxes to pay for the administration's debt spree have caused innumerable businesses to remain on the sidelines, and sit on their cash as you have pointed out. We have seen the largest Keynesian-style big government “stimulus” since World War II, yet the slowest/worst economic recovery ever in our history. $280,000 per job indeed.

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jafs 2 years, 8 months ago

I sure wish you could just answer the question clearly and simply.

A dollar spent at one business is a dollar not spent at another business - the no net gain is true in the private sector as well as the public.

And, we're not just talking about government "borrowing" and spending, we're also talking about "taxing" and spending.

But, business also often borrow money - that money is then not available for other businesses to use.

I see no fundamental difference yet.

As far as the history, if I recall correctly, many women entered the labor market during the war, and then left once the soldiers came back and entered it. That's a pretty obvious reason that unemployment didn't soar.

It seems to me you're throwing too much into one pot here.

What's the fundamental difference between private sector spending and public sector spending?

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tbaker 2 years, 8 months ago

It is not a simple question Jafs.
1. A dollar spent by the government is a dollar taken from the private sector; a dollar taken out of the economy. If money fell from heaven, this wouldn’t be true.

  1. Government spending is orders of magnitude less efficient than is private sector spending. The economic impact of government spending is therefore not effective, it is harmful. It compounds the problem it is supposed to solve. The reverse is true. (see Depression of 1946)

  2. The fundamental difference between government and private sector spending you are looking for is $280,000 spent per stimulus job created. Without giving you all of the economic data and details behind why this is true, the same money in the private sector would have created a lot more jobs and economic activity.

  3. The aforementioned 3 things have been demonstrated several times in our history. Every single time Keynesian government stimulus spending is tried, it fails. It worsens and prolongs the economic problems. There are two very powerful reasons why our government continues to do this in spite of the clear lessons from history: 1) When the economy goes bad, Presidents want to be seen “doing something.” They perpetuate the myth government deficit spending cures recessions. Mr. Obama is just the latest example. There are many others from both parties. 2) The stimulus spending occurs in congressional districts that congressman want to point to and say “look what I did, vote for me.”

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jafs 2 years, 8 months ago

  1. If the money is spent in the economy, it isn't taken "out" of it, right? It's just moved around in the economy, just as with the private sector.

  2. That may or may not be true - I'd need to see some analysis and data on it.

  3. If the money in the private sector is being sat on, and not used, then that money does more good for the economy if the government uses it, and puts it into the economy.

The fundamental thing that's good for the economy is circulation - if the government circulates money, and the private sector doesn't, then the government's actions are more beneficial than the private sector's.

Also, I'm not particularly advocating for "deficit" spending - I have a certain amount of discomfort with that idea.

So, perhaps the only thing left for me to consider is whether government spending is inherently "orders of magnitude less efficient" than private sector spending - if you have any concrete data to share, I'd appreciate it.

And, thanks for trying to answer the question more directly.

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tbaker 2 years, 8 months ago

  1. True. The pie stays the same, but sliced differently. The trouble is the government harms the economy by deficit spending. Private sector spending grows it.

  2. I will provide it, but you didn't like my long answer. There are mountains of research on the topic. I would start by watching some Milton Freedman videos on YouTube. I really like those, they spur interest and encourage more research. I would encourage you to read some of his books, as well as and F.A. Hayek, and Ludwig von Mises’ work too. A more contemporary example would be Thomas Sowell from the Hoover Institute. He actually began his academic life as a Marxist and was one even after studying under Freedman. It was only later in life he became a free-market capitalist.

  3. The money being sat on, first of all is fine because it doesn't belong to the government; they should have no say in what business does with it, and second, being sat on is far better than being spent by the government because of how much more effective the private sector is at wringing every last penny's worth of good out of the money. The government doesn’t extract anything close to the true potential of a dollar like the private sector does, which is a big reason why the government spending money taken from the private sector is so harmful. Lastly, the market place is telling people to sit on their money because the political climate has created several very serious uncertainties about taxes and regulations and their attendant costs. This market reaction is very predictable, and is also something the federal government can do a lot about. Enacting executive orders and passing legislation that set more favorable business conditions is the most powerful tool the feds have to help the economy. They just haven’t done it is all. Again, this nothing new. The country swings back and forth every 15-20 years between progressive presidents and congresses who think state-directed economies can be made to work, and conservatives who tend to free-up the markets to let them work on their own. Reagan was really the last one to do this.

  4. I will find the briefest of explanations why the private sector is so much more efficient at spending money and post it later. It’s way past bedtime where I am.

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jafs 2 years, 8 months ago

  1. Not all government spending is "deficit" spending.

  2. I'm sorry to dismiss your sources, but I was hoping for some less ideological analysis, with actual facts/data. I know of course that free-market theorists and libertarians will always conclude that the private sector is superior.

  3. If circulation is good for the economy, and the private sector isn't circulating the money, then it's not at all better than the government spending, and thus circulating it.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 8 months ago

tbakers' argument can be summed up thusly--

Everything the government does is worthless; therefore, everything the government does is worthless.

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Kendall Simmons 2 years, 8 months ago

But isn't that what happens with ALL money ?? It's simply redistributed???

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 8 months ago

You clearly don't understand the "magic" of the market.

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tomatogrower 2 years, 8 months ago

tbaker, it's funny that at a time when people were paying a much higher tax rate, there was a lot of growth going on. Now the companies are growing. They are just doing it in another country, who by the way, charges a lot of taxes. So they don't really want to be bothered with the US.

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thebigspoon 2 years, 8 months ago

Yes, of course, like the individualism that brought us the Bush-era cuts in government regulation of the financial and real estate markets that created so many jobs in moving money around and resulted in the fine, upstanding economy we have today. Why is it that you who tout small government are so upset with the government that tries, in desperation, to do something to help rebuild the economy wrecked by "small government"? Is there any logic in continuing to cut programs and services that people really need (creating unemployment) while hailing the same ideology of small government? At what point is it clear that the current run of "austerity" is simply a pandering to the part of the nation that owns the vast majority of the money? At what point will people, like you, tbaker, come to see that the stranglehold of the super-rich and coroporate Aamerica have on the economy is not going to become any better under the proposals of the "conservative" side of American politics, but will, rather, cement the hold those entities have on all of us? You can not, in any way, prove to us that keeping the money where it is will either create jobs, ease the economic strain on the nation, or make anything better for anyone, other than those who already have it all. The myth that "the people grow our economy" is only a fact when the people have an even board on which to play, and the current, Republican, plan, if there is one other than to keep the power where it is, does nothing to further the power of the people.

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snap_pop_no_crackle 2 years, 8 months ago

Our bozo, toeing the party line on LJW since 2005.

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verity 2 years, 8 months ago

http://www.truth-out.org/story-broke/1320767282

"The Story of Broke" by Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff Project

Quote from article:

"It’s not the most fun part of my budget, but I believe in paying taxes.

Not just because it’s the law but because that’s how I invest in a better future that I can’t afford to build on my own.

You know that future we all want and nearly every candidate promises us — great schools, a healthy environment, clean energy, good jobs.

But a funny thing happens to our money on its way to that better future. It seems to disappear.

And by the time we get around to investing in it, all we hear is, “sorry, not this year, we’re broke.”

In fact, we’re so broke, they say, that we have no choice but to slide backwards, cutting things that made this country great — like schools and the EPA , maybe even Social Security and Medicare."

It goes on to talk about our "dinosaur economy" and how we're spending money on the wrong things.

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thebigspoon 2 years, 8 months ago

How dare you point out facts, verity, when it is so obvious that facts have NOTHING to do with the opinions of the public!

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verity 2 years, 8 months ago

Sigh.

I just keep hoping---

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voevoda 2 years, 8 months ago

Thank you, Mr. Altman, for giving us a new angle on the employment issue. While private sector employment may be superior in terms of producing wealth, government employment may be superior in terms of benefiting the American people in general. That's because money paid to government employees mostly goes directly back into the US economy, while the employees themselves are working on bettering our country. That may be true of some private-sector jobs, but it is far from uniformly the case.

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verity 2 years, 8 months ago

Unfreakingbelievable!

Tom Coburn?

My hope for the future just raised a little.

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 8 months ago

In 290+ Days The House GOP Has Voted To Kill 1.9 Million Jobs And Created 0

http://www.politicususa.com/en/in-200-days-the-house-gop-has-voted-to-kill-1-9-million-jobs-and-created-0

Sam Brownback has eliminated a few hundred.

No one ever explains how putting people out of work and keeping them unemployed stimulates the economy. Common sense should take precedent.

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