Cognitive Dissonance

"Democracy! Bah! When I hear that I reach for my feather boa!" - Allen Ginsberg

Posts tagged government spending

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Uh-oh. Looks like Florida’s mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients is costing the taxpayers more than they’re actually saving.
Governor Rick Scott had praised the program when he signed it June 1st of this year, proclaiming, “It’s the right thing for citizens of this state that need public assistance. We don’t want to waste tax dollars.”
However, the numbers are not adding up. From WFTV:

Just six weeks after Florida began drug testing welfare applicants, WFTV uncovered numbers which show that the program is already costing Central Florida taxpayers more than it saves. 9 Investigates’ reporter George Spencer found very few applicants are testing positive for drugs. The Department of Central Florida’s (DCF) region tested 40 applicants and only two tested positive for drugs, officials said. One of the tests is being appealed.
Governor Rick Scott said the program would save money. Critics said it already looks like a boondoggle. “We have a diminishing amount of returns for our tax dollars. Do we want out governor throwing our precious tax dollars into a program that has already been proven not to work?” Derek Brett of the ACLU said.
DCF said it has been referring applicants to clinics where drug screenings cost between $30 and $35. The applicant pays for the test and the state reimburses [the applicant] if they test negative. Therefore, the 38 applicants in the Central Florida area, who tested negative, were reimbursed at least $30 each and cost taxpayers $1,140. Meanwhile, the state is saving less than $240 a month by refusing benefits to those two applicants who tested positive.

I’m not at all shocked by this, and the ACLU is planning to file suit. Oh, and they’re also saying to Rick Scott: “We told you so.” Literally. 
The sad part? These measures scare people off from applying for benefits. If people test positive for drugs, it means two things: Either they ingested that substance at least once, and maybe only once, within the testing window - or it’s a false positive. Here’s a short list of things that can cause a false positive:
Poppy seeds: (Opioids)
Cold medications: (amphetamines)
Wellbutrin: (amphetamines)
Tricyclic antidepressants: (amphetamines)
Zoloft: (benzodiazepine)
Daypro: (benzodiazepine)
Quinolone antibiotic drugs: (Opioids)
Sustiva (prescribed for HIV): (cannabinoids)
Ibuprofen: (cannabinoids, barbiturates, phencyclidine [PCP])
Foods made with hemp and hemp oil: (cannabinoids)
Effexor: (phencyclidine)
Vicks Inhalers: (methamphetamines)
Zantac: (amphetamines)
Ultram: (phencyclidine)
Over-the-counter cough medicine containing dextromethorphan: (Opioids) 
Huh. So drug tests aren’t infallible and they’re not saving Florida any money? As the ACLU points out, Florida should have learned this 10 years ago, when they tried this program and had to dump it for cost reasons.
I’ll indulge the governor for a moment, though. Let’s say there’s parents who have used some kind of drugs in the period before the test. Why deprive children of quite possibly the only support they’ll receive because their parent(s) may or may not have used drugs voluntarily or involuntarily in the testing period? I’m not comfortable with that thought, and any other person with an iota of compassion should not be thrilled with that proposition either.

Uh-oh. Looks like Florida’s mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients is costing the taxpayers more than they’re actually saving.

Governor Rick Scott had praised the program when he signed it June 1st of this year, proclaiming, “It’s the right thing for citizens of this state that need public assistance. We don’t want to waste tax dollars.”

However, the numbers are not adding up. From WFTV:

Just six weeks after Florida began drug testing welfare applicants, WFTV uncovered numbers which show that the program is already costing Central Florida taxpayers more than it saves. 9 Investigates’ reporter George Spencer found very few applicants are testing positive for drugs. The Department of Central Florida’s (DCF) region tested 40 applicants and only two tested positive for drugs, officials said. One of the tests is being appealed.

Governor Rick Scott said the program would save money. Critics said it already looks like a boondoggle. “We have a diminishing amount of returns for our tax dollars. Do we want out governor throwing our precious tax dollars into a program that has already been proven not to work?” Derek Brett of the ACLU said.

DCF said it has been referring applicants to clinics where drug screenings cost between $30 and $35. The applicant pays for the test and the state reimburses [the applicant] if they test negative. Therefore, the 38 applicants in the Central Florida area, who tested negative, were reimbursed at least $30 each and cost taxpayers $1,140. Meanwhile, the state is saving less than $240 a month by refusing benefits to those two applicants who tested positive.

I’m not at all shocked by this, and the ACLU is planning to file suit. Oh, and they’re also saying to Rick Scott: “We told you so.” Literally

The sad part? These measures scare people off from applying for benefits. If people test positive for drugs, it means two things: Either they ingested that substance at least once, and maybe only once, within the testing window - or it’s a false positive. Here’s a short list of things that can cause a false positive:

  • Poppy seeds: (Opioids)
  • Cold medications: (amphetamines)
  • Wellbutrin: (amphetamines)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants: (amphetamines)
  • Zoloft: (benzodiazepine)
  • Daypro: (benzodiazepine)
  • Quinolone antibiotic drugs: (Opioids)
  • Sustiva (prescribed for HIV): (cannabinoids)
  • Ibuprofen: (cannabinoids, barbiturates, phencyclidine [PCP])
  • Foods made with hemp and hemp oil: (cannabinoids)
  • Effexor: (phencyclidine)
  • Vicks Inhalers: (methamphetamines)
  • Zantac: (amphetamines)
  • Ultram: (phencyclidine)
  • Over-the-counter cough medicine containing dextromethorphan: (Opioids) 

Huh. So drug tests aren’t infallible and they’re not saving Florida any money? As the ACLU points out, Florida should have learned this 10 years ago, when they tried this program and had to dump it for cost reasons.

I’ll indulge the governor for a moment, though. Let’s say there’s parents who have used some kind of drugs in the period before the test. Why deprive children of quite possibly the only support they’ll receive because their parent(s) may or may not have used drugs voluntarily or involuntarily in the testing period? I’m not comfortable with that thought, and any other person with an iota of compassion should not be thrilled with that proposition either.

Filed under drug testing politics Florida Welfare mandatory drug testing costs government spending fiscal conservative says what? inequality injustice drugs

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Too many Americans ignorant about their use of government programs

The study’s author, Suzanne Mettler, a Cornell professor of American Institutions, attempted to explain the difficulties the Obama Administration faced in trying to reframe the debate about the effect of government social spending on the economy and on the quality of life of all Americans. [Read the study: The Submerged State]

Mettler argues that most of the effects of social spending are hidden, which she calls the “submerged state.”

To illustrate the difficulty President Obama would have - and is having - in surfacing the submerged state so that we can have a rational discussion about it, she included the results of a 2008 government study asking recipients of government social spending if they had ever used a government social program.

The results are an indictment of American civic literacy.

To wit, 44 percent of Social Security recipients, 41 percent of military veterans, 43 percent of unemployment recipients, 40 percent of Medicare recipients, 43 percent of college Pell Grant recipients and 27 percent of welfare recipients all said they had never used a government social program.

But those programs are not the submerged state, as Mettler describes, instead they were included to illustrate that even obvious government programs are not so obvious to their millions of beneficiaries.

Her main point had to do with other, hidden forms of government spending, such as the home mortgage interest tax deduction. Six out of every 10 respondents to the survey didn’t recognize the deduction as government social spending.

I’d like to see how many people acknowledge corporations benefit from government spending that’s affecting the social programs Americans benefit from every single day. Let’s see how those numbers stack up.

Filed under government government spending politics spending social spending medicare medicaid social security welfare education Pell Grants

118 notes


Let me begin by making something perfectly clear: From 2002-2009, Republicans in the House and Senate voted to raise the United States debt ceiling 7 times under George W. Bush, a Republican president. They raised the debt ceiling with no worries, no concern, no filibusters, no problems, no mentions of “children and grandchildren,” or any of this right-wing rhetoric we seem to hear spewed every day from the Republicans here in the year 2011.
Republicans raised the debt ceiling in the middle of 2 wars which were costing the government about $400 billion a week. Republicans raised the debt ceiling after Medicare Part D was passed by Bush, which he had no means of paying for. Republicans raised the debt ceiling after the Bush tax cuts had been signed into law, which ended up costing our government around $2.5 trillion over the course of ten years.
When it came time to pay the bills, they did it. Fast forward to 2011. The president of the United States is a Democrat named Barack Obama. The debt ceiling once again needs to be raised, and congress has the obligation to do so. As a matter of fact, if they refuse to do so, the world’s top economists warn that it would send the American economy back into recession possibly worse than what middle-class working families are feeling right now.
So do Republicans do what they’ve always done for years? … Of course not. They decide that since our president is black and belongs to the other party, that debt is suddenly a problem. And not only is debt a problem, it’s a huge problem. Huge enough that unless some drastic spending cuts are made, and we get our financial books in order, they aren’t going to raise the debt limit.
Okay fine… maybe we are spending too much. We spend $4 billion a year subsidizing big oil companies that are turning record profits, we spend roughly $1.415 trillion on defense every year, and tax rates on the top 2% of income earners are at their lowest levels since the 1950’s. Oh what’s that? None of that is on the table? Those are non-negotiable? Well then what do the Republicans want?
They want middle-class and poor Americans to give up more of their Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in order to pay for massive tax breaks and corporate welfare. And if the Republicans don’t get their way, they’re willing to force an economic crisis that would hurt everyone. They hope to gain politically by this harming President Obama. They can’t lose. All they have to do is refuse to back down on these massive cuts, and Democrats will have to cave in. Americans are largely uninformed, and when things go wrong, they aren’t going to look to congress, they’ll look to the president.
The Democratic party and the mainstream media have let the Republicans get away with this madness. They fail to point out everything in this article, and Republicans come off as serious about our debt. These discussions over raising the debt ceiling shouldn’t even take place. It’s not something that should be discussed. It’s compulsory. Republicans know this. They’re simply playing political games with your economic future, and that my friend, is disgusting.

All of this ^^ 

Let me begin by making something perfectly clear: From 2002-2009, Republicans in the House and Senate voted to raise the United States debt ceiling 7 times under George W. Bush, a Republican president. They raised the debt ceiling with no worries, no concern, no filibusters, no problems, no mentions of “children and grandchildren,” or any of this right-wing rhetoric we seem to hear spewed every day from the Republicans here in the year 2011.

Republicans raised the debt ceiling in the middle of 2 wars which were costing the government about $400 billion a week. Republicans raised the debt ceiling after Medicare Part D was passed by Bush, which he had no means of paying for. Republicans raised the debt ceiling after the Bush tax cuts had been signed into law, which ended up costing our government around $2.5 trillion over the course of ten years.

When it came time to pay the bills, they did it. Fast forward to 2011. The president of the United States is a Democrat named Barack Obama. The debt ceiling once again needs to be raised, and congress has the obligation to do so. As a matter of fact, if they refuse to do so, the world’s top economists warn that it would send the American economy back into recession possibly worse than what middle-class working families are feeling right now.

So do Republicans do what they’ve always done for years? … Of course not. They decide that since our president is black and belongs to the other party, that debt is suddenly a problem. And not only is debt a problem, it’s a huge problem. Huge enough that unless some drastic spending cuts are made, and we get our financial books in order, they aren’t going to raise the debt limit.

Okay fine… maybe we are spending too much. We spend $4 billion a year subsidizing big oil companies that are turning record profits, we spend roughly $1.415 trillion on defense every year, and tax rates on the top 2% of income earners are at their lowest levels since the 1950’s. Oh what’s that? None of that is on the table? Those are non-negotiable? Well then what do the Republicans want?

They want middle-class and poor Americans to give up more of their Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in order to pay for massive tax breaks and corporate welfare. And if the Republicans don’t get their way, they’re willing to force an economic crisis that would hurt everyone. They hope to gain politically by this harming President Obama. They can’t lose. All they have to do is refuse to back down on these massive cuts, and Democrats will have to cave in. Americans are largely uninformed, and when things go wrong, they aren’t going to look to congress, they’ll look to the president.

The Democratic party and the mainstream media have let the Republicans get away with this madness. They fail to point out everything in this article, and Republicans come off as serious about our debt. These discussions over raising the debt ceiling shouldn’t even take place. It’s not something that should be discussed. It’s compulsory. Republicans know this. They’re simply playing political games with your economic future, and that my friend, is disgusting.

All of this ^^ 

Filed under debt ceiling politics republican republicans budget government government spending fuckery inequality debt democrats america

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Boehner: Big deficit deal won't work

House Speaker John Boehner said Saturday that he has told President Barack Obama that he wants to pursue a smaller $2 trillion deficit reduction deal, not the larger effort sought by the White House.

Obama, Boehner and other congressional leaders are due to meet at the White House on Sunday at 6 p.m. EDT, with staffers working through the weekend to lay out options.

There could be some hard bargaining in the session but it is not likely to produce a final deal, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Boehner also tamped down expectations that Democrats and Republicans could reach agreement over the weekend. He said on Friday that the two sides must overcome serious disagreements on taxes and spending cuts.

"It’s not like there’s some imminent deal about to happen," Boehner told a news conference. "This is a Rubik’s Cube that we haven’t quite worked out yet."

Looks like Boehner may have blinked in this asinine game of debt-ceiling chicken with the US economy. I really hope this doesn’t mean they’re going for cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

Filed under John Boehner politics debt ceiling Obama politics budget budget cuts government government spending default deficit blink

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An open letter from Tea Party Nation to Speaker Boehner

So, the Tea Party is cool with vets not getting benefits, troops going unpaid, etc. all because of an ideological pissing contest? The quote from Charlie Sheen is the icing on the cake. The idea that the response to this gridlock is “Duh, winning” sums up everything I think about the Tea Party and their reason for existence. They don’t give a shit about this country - only winning. The shutdown would cost money, you people get that, right? Here’s a letter from Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation:

Dear Speaker Boehner,

As you know, I have been very critical of you in the last few weeks. I am sure you did not appreciate it when I said Charlie Sheen was making more sense than you. While I have been very unhappy with you, what I want is something I think you want and it is a phrase that Charlie Sheen has made famous. “Duh, winning.”

I want to win. I want the conservative Republicans to defeat the liberal Democrats because in this fiscal mess that we are in, if conservative Republicans defeat liberal Democrats, America wins.

Since it now looks like we are going into a government shutdown, this gives you the chance to step back and revisit the spending proposals and do something really worthwhile. Instead of cutting spending by $32 billion or $39 billion, lets do something radical. Let’s win by cutting spending by $300 billion. It’s a little short of the $1.65 trillion I want to see, but it is a good start.

How would this happen?

That is a good question. The liberal Democrats have acted like it is the end of the world, as we know it when we are talking about only $32 billion. How can we possibly win with $300 billion?

It is simple. A month ago, the Government Accounting Office, hundreds of billions of dollars could be saved by eliminating programs that have failed completely, are totally inefficient or are duplicative. Get the GAO report, and on Monday morning, tell the White House, this is your new budget proposal. $300 billion in cuts, all by eliminating waste and inefficiencies.

What will Obama, Pelosi and Reid do?

They will not like it, but how are they going to argue against cutting waste from the Federal Government? Americans of all stripes, conservative to liberal agree on one thing. They do not want their tax dollars wasted. Americans may disagree on how much spending there should be and what programs deserve funding and even what the tax rates should be, but I doubt you will find a single, sane American who is not offended at the idea of his or her tax dollars simply being wasted.

Over a month has passed since the GAO report came out. I have wondered why Republican Senators and Congressmen have not had fistfights over who got to introduce the legislation eliminating that spending.

So far, the Tea Party reaction to your tenure as Speaker has ranged from lukewarm to very displeased. In one stroke, you can change that. Move to eliminate $300 billion from this year’s budget through the elimination of waste, fraud and inefficiencies; you will have the Tea Party movement in the streets with signs reading “Boehner for President.”

This is a winning strategy. It helps America by dealing with our urgent debt and spending crisis and it helps conservative Republicans defeat liberal Democrats. It is a good plan and there is no reason not to go for it. Remember, “duh, winning!”

Judson Phillips, Founder of Tea Party Nation

Just a quick little side note from TPM:

Minutes after the crowd that was assembled at an Americans for Prosperity-backed Tea Party rally on Capitol Hill on Wednesday broke out into chants of “shut it down,” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) claimed that the Tea Party doesn’t want the government to shut down and that Democrats would unfairly blame the movement if it did.

Nope, not unfairly, it appears. Cutting off your nose to spite your face isn’t winning. It’s losing, and losing big. Duh.

Filed under tea party Tea Party Nation shutdown government government spending John Boehner orange orange boner hypocrisy

151 notes

The 9 Biggest Conservative Lies About Taxes and Public Spending

1. Cutting Taxes Leads to More Money for the Government

It’s complete nonsense, and it’s worth noting that only conservative politicians and pundits make the claim - economists across the ideological spectrum agree that the argument is cursed by voodoo math.

As Time Magazine’s Justin Fox noted in 2007, “Every economics Ph.D. who has worked in a prominent role in the Bush administration acknowledges that the tax cuts enacted during the past six years have not paid for themselves—and were never intended to.” 

2. Conservatives’ Favorite Economist Proves the Point

That falsehood is based in large part on an abuse of “Laffer’s curve,” the conservative media’s favorite economic theorem. The idea is pretty simple. It holds that you can raise income taxes to a degree, but when the top tax rate exceeds a certain point, people will go to such extraordinary lengths to avoid paying the piper that the government will actually end up collecting less revenue.

When Dylan Matthews asked a number of experts where the Laffer Curve “bends” for the Washington Post, the economists (he asked some conservative opinion columnists as well) all agreed that a top rate of 50 percent – several went as high as 70 percent – would still fall below the curve. That’s important to keep in mind as we debate the merits of letting the top rate return to the 39 percent that prevailed during the Clinton years.

3. Taxes on the Rich Keep ‘Wealth Producers’ from ‘Creating Jobs’

We’re all familiar with this one. In a New York Post column last week, Fox Business columnist Charles Gasparino claimed that businesses have “been hoarding cash instead of hiring” because of “the likelihood for higher taxes.” Media Matters responded by citing the CBO’s finding that “[I]ncreasing the after-tax income of businesses typically does not create much incentive” to hire.

What’s noteworthy about the narrative is the degree to which it defies simple common sense. It shouldn’t be a matter of debate that only one thing creates jobs, and that’s demand for companies’ goods and services. The idea that a business that was booming would refuse to hire people and forego expansion because top tax rates might nudge upward is as silly as the idea that a business that has no customers would add new employees because its owners expect taxes to be low.

4. The Opposite: Tax Cuts for Upper Earners Spur Job Growth

Demand creates jobs, and U.S. demand is way down because American households lost around $15 trillion dollars in wealth during the downturn. So it’s important to note that research has shown that when you give a tax break to high-earners, they bank it, and when you give relief to working people, they spend it, increasing demand.

Like other types of public spending, giving cuts to those at the top does stimulate the economy, but very, very badly. According Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s, a dollar in tax cuts on capital gains adds .38 cents of economic growth and a dollar in corporate tax cuts brings us just .30 cents worth of stimulus, but a dollar in unemployment benefits gives the economy a boost of $1.63 and a buck worth of food stamps adds $1.73 in stimulus (PDF).

5. Only Half of American Families Pay Taxes

Rush Limbaugh put it this way: “The bottom 50 percent is paying a tiny bit of the taxes…. Remember this the next time you hear the ‘tax cuts for the rich’ business. Understand that the so-called rich are about the only ones paying taxes anymore.”

That’s an entirely false narrative that emerges from some rather transparent sleight-of-hand. You have to look at the federal income tax in isolation and then pretend that it represents the government’s entire take. But the reality is that the government isn’t financed from federal income taxes alone – far from it. Payroll taxes, for example, represent the biggest tax bite for the average worker.

When you add it all up—state and local taxes, federal taxes, sales taxes and excise fees—it turns out that the rich, the poor, and those in between all end up with about the same tax rate. 

6. Americans Are Taxed to Death

This is one of those claims made so frequently that it becomes a matter of faith. But faith doesn’t rely on fact, and this one is totally untrue.

In 2008, we ranked 26th out of the 30 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in terms of our overall tax burden — the share of our economy we fork over to the government. The U.S. came in almost 9 percentage points below the average of the group of wealthy nations, and some 20 percentage points below highly taxed countries like Denmark.

7. We’re Being Killed by Runaway Government Spending

Public spending has increased with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and, temporarily, with the stimulus package. And it will rise in the future as more baby boomers retire. But beyond that, it’s important to understand how “limited” our government really is relative to other wealthy countries.

Sabina Dewan and Michael Ettlinger of the Center for American Progress crunched the data and found that between 2004 and 2007, the U.S. ranked 24th out of 26 OECD countries in overall government spending as a share of our economic output. 

8. Conservatives Favor Low Taxes and Limited Government

The Right loves “Big Government” as long as it’s pursuing their preferred agenda. What they don’t like are the government’s most popular functions – assuring a social safety net, protecting consumers and the environment, subsidizing education, etc. They don’t want to debate priorities, so they claim an ideological preference for a smaller government while showering tons of money on the military, law-enforcement, corporate subsidies, etc.

That’s why the share of the economy represented by government spending (at the local, state, and federal levels combined) has been remarkably consistent during the last 40 years or so, regardless of which party controlled the White House or Congress.

In the two years that Gerald Ford presented budgets, government spending as a share of GDP averaged 31.4 percent; in ultra-liberal Jimmy Carter’s four years, it dropped to 30.7 percent; Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of fiscal conservatism, came into office, and it rose to 32.2 percent. It nudged slightly higher during the first George Bush’s term in office, then dropped to an almost Nixonian 30.3 percent during the Clinton years, before rising to 31.6 percent during the second Bush administration.

Looking at the other side of the ledger, overall government revenues have also remained relatively stable, but the pattern is reversed. The government’s take, as a share of GDP, dropped during the Ford era, rose again under Carter, and fell again under Reagan. Revenues rose by almost 2 percent under Clinton and fell by a percent and a half under George W. Bush. 

Although the government taxes and spends at fairly similar rates, under Republican leadership the nation shells out a bit more for government services and takes in just a bit less in taxes. With a $15 trillion economy, those little differences add up to pretty big deficits, and this, rather than hot school lunches for poor kids, is responsible for a large chunk of our federal debt.

9. Taxes on Top Earners Are Actually Taxes on ‘Small Businesses’

For years, Republicans have pushed the spin that most of the Bush cuts for the highest earners were going to “small business owners,” the proverbial lifeblood of Small Town U.S.A. Then Republican national committee chair Ed Gillespie launched the meme in a 2003 speech, saying that “80% of the tax relief for upper income filers goes to small businesses.”

Fact-check.org, the nonpartisan campaign watchdog, looked at the claim, which was cooked up by GOP staffers on the House Economic Committee, and concluded that “it’s untrue—and a classic example of a statistical distortion gone amok.” The lie is pretty simple: around 80 percent of the wealthiest Americans report some business income on their tax returns, either from private partnerships (think big law firms) or from “hobby” businesses. And the GOP committee counted everyone who reported even a dollar on Schedule C of their returns as a “small business owner.”

The reality? Less than 2 percent of tax returns reporting small-business income are filed by people in the top two income brackets. As a Washington Post analysis concluded, “If the objective is to help small businesses, continuing the Bush tax cuts on high-income taxpayers isn’t the way to go — it would miss more than 98 percent of small-business owners and would primarily help people who don’t make most of their money off those businesses.” 

Posting nearly in full for truth…

Filed under Tax cuts conservative conservatives STFU STFU conservatives government government spending true story spending