Bestowing this website's most prestigious award will have to wait just a bit longer; I couldn't resist the opportunity to make two points about the (god, I can barely stomach the sound of this phrase anymore) "fiscal cliff" "deal" reached to absolutely no one's surprise at the last minute.

First, from "Bart to the Future", Season 11 Episode 1 of The Simpsons.

Lisa: If I'm going to bail the country out, I'll have to raise taxes, but in my speech I'd like to avoid calling it a, "painful emergency tax."

Milhouse: What about, "colossal salary grab."

Lisa: See, that has the same problem. We need to soften the blow.

Milhouse: Well, if you just want to out-and-out lie … [Lisa doesn't object] Okay, we could call it a "temporary refund adjustment."

Lisa: I love it.

Milhouse: Really? What else do you love, Lisa?

You've no doubt heard that payroll taxes are going to "increase", which will (insert your own trite jargon like "take a bigger bite out of your paycheck") in addition to making your AM talk radio-loving coworkers shit themselves in agony. See, this is the brilliance of right-wing framing, which the media swallows unquestioningly time after time. The reduction in the payroll tax was passed as a temporary (stimulus) measure. I suppose it's semantic, but the expiration of something that was supposed to be temporary is not a "tax increase." And this is why we should run screaming from hare-brained schemes like "gas tax holidays" and other "temporary" tax cuts because they have a way of becoming permanent – or providing this easy, disingenuous talking point about "voting to raise taxes!" if they do not.

Moreover, the legislation was laden with tax breaks for the Right People. Most interesting is the millions in "incentives" for mining companies to purchase safety equipment and train workers in safety techniques. And this is perhaps everything you need to know about what's wrong with Congress, in a nutshell: if an industry pays enough lobbyists and donates enough money to the right members of Congress, we end up paying them to do what the law obligates them to do. Why are we incentivizing this? If we want mines to have a certain level of safety equipment, require it by law. If they don't have it, shut them down. But business doesn't obey the government in our system – government obeys business. We end up having to bribe them to obey the regulations and laws that we already allowed them to write for themselves.

Pretty exciting that we get to listen to all the same horseshit again in two months, though.

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  1. J. Dryden Says:

    But…but…but this time the *Democrats* can claim the purely cosmetic victory that will actually merely advance the codification of the American plutocracy! So surely that's something to celebrate, right? Right? (Wow. I can't even hear the crickets on this one.)

    I want to be outraged, or at least offended, but we're veering ever closer to the point where peasant caps and tumbrels are the only path to substantial change, so raising an eyebrow and making snark just seems like effete self-congratulation. The spectacle of watching the Republican beast tear out its own innards in its frenzy is fun and all, but a healthy democracy actually needs a healthy, sane and strong conservative wing, so this isn't good for anyone in the long run.

    Still, two months. Long enough to get past the Superbowl–so that's something to look forward to, right? Right? (Goddamned crickets. Look, I know it's boring, you guys, but you're supposed to be professionals.)

  2. albanaeon Says:

    It says a lot that I am actually a bit happy about the whole "mining safety" thing. Its a completely ridiculous way to get them to obey the law and not kill their workers in job lots, but it should get them to obey the law and not kill their workers in job lots.

    If the companies just don't pocket the money as bonuses or something of course…

  3. The Mad Dreamer Says:

    Ahh, the smell of corporatocracy in the new year. It smells like… victory. Victory for the wrong people, but victory nonetheless.

  4. comrade x Says:

    But in 4 years the sky will be falling again and the progressives of this country will turn out in droves to vote for another Third Way Democrat whose politics are slightly right of Ronald Reagan.

  5. c u n d gulag Says:

    Having been denied their "Earned Benefit" pound of flesh in this "Fiscal Cliff" battle, the cannibalistic sociopathic moron Zombies in the Republican party will, in the "Debt Ceiling" all-out war, demand ALL of the Earned Benefit" pounds of flesh, and leave the poor, the sick, the old, the young, the disabled, and the black, brown, red, and yellow people, the bones to gnaw on – until they're too weak and weary from hunger, to be able to continue to do so.

    If Abraham Lincoln was alive today, he'd say, "A house divided against itself, cannot stand. A nation cannot survive, if it's half moron, and half not."

    Something, some time, has gotta break in this "Cold Civil War."

    Someone please explain to me why, when states say they want to secede, we don't just say, "Ok. No problem. Hand in all of your military weapons. We'll work out the exchange of the people who don't want to stay in your states, for those up here who want to move to your new JesusCorporateSerfistan, later. Bye!"

    Ah, I'm kidding!
    I am kidding – aren't I?

  6. anotherbozo Says:

    See, this is why I tune in. If I were in your field, Ed, I'd either slit my wrists or show it—the total sham that our flawed democracy has become—show it up for the mockery it is, play it for laughs, for withering, disdainful laughs. The latter course is the relatively sane response. Thanks for the company, we need it.

  7. Eric Titus Says:

    As a die-hard progressive, I don't have a problem with the fiscal cliff deal–sure I would have liked to increases on incomes over $250,000, but sometimes compromise is necessary and I don't consider it a travesty. Similarly, if the mine safety component actually improves safety, then it's smart policy.

    I'm more interested in seeing what sort of legislation Obama is going to propose now that we're done with this haggling. The fiscal cliff was always something of a sideshow anyways.

  8. Bill Says:

    cund's got it with the Cold Civil War term. It seems what will ultimately be the downfall of society in the US is that the people can't agree on (or even just figure out) what's best for them.

  9. mothra Says:

    If the companies just don't pocket the money as bonuses or something of course…

    There's no "if" about it. These assholes will most definitely pocket the money. As Ed says, there's already regulations they are supposed to follow to make the mines safer. They ignore them and then pay the fine after miners get injured and die. Or fight the fine in court.

    As for what's going to happen in the debt ceiling fight, the Republicans will hold their hostage until Obama kills it. Then they'll point their fingers at him and all Democrats and say "see, he killed it!" The hostage being Medicare and Social Security, of course. The Republicans are not idiots. They've been wanting to get rid of Medicare and Social Security since those programs began. But they knew it would be political suicide. Now they can force the Democrats and a Democratic president to kill the programs and they can hang it around their necks. You have to at least appreciate their cunning strategy.

  10. Aaron Weber Says:

    Don't forget the benefits for NASCAR track owners and Hollywood productions. Those are critical deals. Way more than storm recovery.

  11. Matt Says:

    @c u n d – No deal on that; if they wanna secede they're going to have to pony up their share of the check for the deficit too, since most of it was either run up by fucktards they elected or was flat-out spent on them.

    Re: the mine safety thing – handing out cash to get people to obey the law seems like weak sauce. Wake me up when they're improving mine safety by handing out leg irons and striped jumpsuits…

  12. c u n d gulag Says:

    Matt, you're right.

    And today, Mitch "Yertle, The Anti-gay, Gay Turtle" McConnell, said that any additional tax increases on the rich are off the table, so the President shouldn't even begin to talk about them.
    Wow! Who knew that the Senate Minority Leader, had more power than a President!
    Too bad Ol' Harry Reid didn't know that!

    Ok, Yertle: we Liberals will be MORE than happy to accomodate you, and not to raise any more taxes on your riches pals!

    We'll tell ya what, Yertle – after you Republicans pay the country back for not paying attention to the lead-up to 9/11, the two Bush wars and occupations, the tax give-away to the richest, the gift to Big Pharma, and the damage from almost a decade of deregulation – culminating in the Lesser Depression, and subsequent loss of jobs, housing values, 401K and other retirement fund devaluation, and pension-robbing by your corporate pals, and the need for President Obama and the Democrats to INcrease the deficit to save the feckin' countries, and possibly the world's economy, we'll be happy to forego any additional taxes on the wealthiest among us.


    I think that's about 16 Trillion dollars you owe us!

    Why, that's about what our national deficit is right now!
    What a koinky-dink, eh?

  13. bb in GA Says:

    Certainly nobody w/ a D after their name has anything remotely to do w/ the 16 Trill, No?

    And I thought Matt said DC spent it on all us WHITE Southrons…


  14. Bernard Says:

    we have all those Blue Dogs to help share in the "joy" of spending money they don't work for. Just because teh Warmongers/Idiots spend money doesn't mean there aren't sufficient idiots in the South who vote along Republican party lines, even if they don't have a D by their name. mine, Mary Landrieu, is one of the greatest traitors to the working taxpayers.

    so you see, BB, there are instances of a D helping the R's spend money, like Blanche Lincoln D from Arkansas, before she lost. lots of idiots from the South. they don't all have to have the D's by their names. Most all of the dumb white Southerners have had R' since George Wallace's Southern Strategy turned dumb white Southern voters from the Old D party to the new R Party.

    some dumb white voters, Southerners, that is, just take longer to show which side they belong to.

    ideas are so hard to understand by some,i gather, if i get your drift.

  15. bb in GA Says:


    I think the famous 'Southern Strategy' was concocted by the late Lee Atwater for Pres Richard M. Nixon. But history is one of those tough thinkin' things and I might jes' be wrong….


  16. bb in GA Says:

    Uh…old fart syndrome here…

    That was Kevin Phillips who popularized the 'Southern Strategy' for Nixon. I jumped some decades – Atwater worked for GHW Bush.


  17. oiojes Says:

    Yes, yes. Incentives to obey the law are bad. We should all follow the law because it's good. We shouldn't have to pay for people upholding the law and doing the right thing.

    Let me tell you a story.

    In Canada and Europe there is a fee for service on flying. This means that when you use an activity (such as setting up an instrument path, taking off or landing) you pay a fee.

    In this country the cost of supporting those things is paid for by fuel taxes and a surcharge on the airline ticket– something the airlines have been fighting for eons.

    Now, the goal for a learning pilot is to execute as many procedures as possible. Those for a continuing pilot is the same– practice makes perfect, right? After all, better pilots make less accidents.

    The result?

    Canadian and European pilots do many fewer procedures in their learning and upkeep than American pilots– an American private pilot might have hundreds of landings and takeoffs when they get their license. In point of fact many international airlines send their pilots to the US to learn.

    Yes, the moral incentive is fine and good. But if you want results either lower the cost or raise the incentive.