The Democratic debate: Soak the rich. Yeah! that’s the ticket!

Remember how Jon Lovitz, as Tommy Flanagan, the pathological liar on Saturday Night Live, would build a narrative that was a series of lies and say, “Yeah! That’s the ticket!”?

The Democratic debate was like that.

Want something for nothing? When I’m president, you’ll get it: Tuition-free public colleges and universities; free mandatory parental leave, without burdening small businesses; $15 minimum wage with no increase in productivity; enhanced Social Security benefits; Tax cuts for middle-class families; Refinancing of federal college debt at a low interest rate; Government subsidies of Obamacare for people in the United States illegally; move America to 100% renewable energy with federal subsidies.

The Democrats offered up a grab bag of free stuff. How would they pay for it all? Hillary summed up the Democratic Party’s answer. “ I know we can afford it, because we’re going to make the wealthy pay for it,” she proclaimed.

JonLovitzSNL

Yeah! That’s the ticket!

Reminds me of Margaret Thatcher’s observation, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

The national debt stands at $18.2 trillion, up from $10.6 trillion when President Obama took office, and it is continuing to increase an average of
 $1.88 billion a day. The debt goes up when the government doesn’t get enough revenue in a given fiscal year to pay its bills. Annual federal deficits have been shrinking lately, but that pattern isn’t expected to last as the budget takes hits in the coming years.

And then, of course, the country already faces problems with covering the huge costs of entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare.

Unless we want to embrace ever-higher deficits, money would need to be found to pay for the cornucopia of benefits the Democrats promise.

Hillary Clinton said not to worry, we’ll get it from higher taxes on the wealthy. “Right now, the wealthy pay too little and the middle class pays too much,” she said in the debate.

Echoing Clinton, Lincoln Chafee chimed in that the rich are doing fine, “so there’s still a lot more money to be had from this top echelon.”

The problem is that the top-earning 1 percent of Americans (earning about $400,000 +), a pretty fluid club of individuals on a year-to-year basis, already pay almost 50 percent of federal income taxes and the top 25 percent pay about 87 percent, making the United States extraordinarily dependent on small slices of the population.

The Congressional Budget Office has calculated that high-income earners receive only pennies in federal benefits for every dollar they pay in federal taxes. In contrast, those in the middle 20 percent of earners received $2.23 in benefits for each dollar they paid and the lowest 20 percent receive close to $20 in federal benefits for every dollar they pay in federal taxes. In other words, the high-income earners are already subsidizing middle-income and low-income Americans.

“Despite the data, accusations that the rich are not paying their fair share continue,” The Manhattan Institute has reported. “This rhetoric is based more on perception than reality, or on a mistaken belief that the government needs more funds to become further entrenched in Americans’ lives. While this rhetoric may work as a populist rallying cry, the data show that a central tenet of the political left’s platform is simply incorrect.”

Monica Wehby: down for the count

Originally positioned by the Republicans as a smart female political newcomer and seen as a credible challenger to Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Monica Wehby has become a damaged candidate with diminishing changes of success.

“I’m not a politician,” she said in announcing her candidacy in January 2014. So, far, that’s pretty clear. A pediatric neurosurgeon at Randall Children’s Hospital, she has been tripped up almost from day one.

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It’s not as though Merkley should be a particularly strong opponent. Winning the first time by just 49% to 46%, he’s a pretty colorless Senator with one of the most liberal voting records and without any significant legislative accomplishments.

With today being the first day of the federal fiscal year, Merkley can also be fairly targeted as a Senator who has done nothing to effectively deal with the burgeoning national debt, now at $17.5 billion and counting, that is going to burden all our children.

Merkley is also running at a time when the country overall is in a pretty sour mood, with 67 percent of registered voters saying the nation is on the wrong track (NBC/Wall Street Journal) and 57 percent of registered voters nationwide saying it’s time to give a new person a chance in Congress (NBC/Wall Street Journal).

But if the polls are right, that doesn’t seem to matter to enough Oregonians to make Merkley vulnerable.

Instead, Wehby has been left defending herself against such things as charges arising out of opposition research that she harassed a boyfriend and her ex-husband. As Joe Pounder, a veteran GOP researcher, told Politico, “There’s the growing intensity of a media cycle fueled by the salacious and voyeuristic.”

Likely opposition research that generated reports on the website Buzzfeed in September that multiple portions of position documents on Wehby’s website had been plagiarized also has slowed any Wehby momentum.

Despite Wehby’s efforts to position herself as a new choice, and the significant support she’s been getting from independent spending, it’s pretty clear at this point that she hasn’t broken out to capture the hearts, minds and votes of enough Oregonians to win.

The real war is on our children

Democrats are again pulling out from their rhetorical basement accusations that Republicans are waging a “war on women”. Meanwhile, they’re ignoring another war that’s real, the “war on our children” that government spending addicts are prosecuting.

Our children are going to pay a heavy price for the fiscal insanity that has already led to national debt in excess of $17 billion.

Obama-National-DebtThe increase in our national debt over the past 25 years. years has been mind-boggling. In 1990, it was $3.2 billion, in 2000 $5.7 billion. By 2010 it was $13.6 billion. Now it has leaped to $17.5 billion.

But Democrats, in the spirit of “see no evil”, want to keep the issue under wraps and focus on other things. During a February 2014 House Financial Services Committee hearing, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) even complained about two real-time running national debt clock displays in the hearing room. Ellison said it was just intended to send an ideological message.

Obama says his FY2015 budget proposal is an “opportunity agenda”. Yes, an opportunity for $564 billion more debt, an opportunity to increase total national debt to nearly $25 trillion over the next 10 years and an opportunity to pander to Americans who want it all without paying for it.

As Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said, Obama’s budget is a declaration that “deficits don’t matter, debt doesn’t matter, and that reality itself doesn’t matter.”

Some Democrats are arguing that annual deficits are dropping, so we can all back off worrying about the problem.

But the most recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) budget forecast projects that after a few years of lower deficits they’ll climb again for an indefinite period. In addition, the national debt will increase annually by much more than the amount of the deficit because a considerable amount of federal borrowing is not counted in the budget.

As a result, the CBO projects $7.9 trillion will be added to the nation’s cumulative public debt over the next decade.

That’s because revenue will keep up with economic growth, but spending will grow even more. “Spending is boosted by the aging of the population, the expansion of federal subsidies for health insurance, rising health care costs per beneficiary, and mounting interest costs on federal debt,” the CBO said.

According to the CBO, interest payments will soon become the third largest item in the federal budget, after Social Security and Medicare. Right now, interest on the debt costs $233 billion. CBO projects that interest costs will reach $880 billion by 2024. As interest costs grow, they could crowd out investment in other priorities, including education, research and development, and other programs that could help our economy grow.

Large and growing federal debt that restrains economic growth will give policymakers less flexibility to respond to unexpected challenges, and eventually increase the risk of a fiscal crisis.

A Peter G. Peterson Foundation survey released on March 25, 2014 concluded that 67 percent of people say their concern about the national debt has increased over the past few years and 79 percent say that addressing the national debt should be among the President and Congress’ top 3 priorities.

And yet, Democrats continue to resist deficit-lowering efforts.

Deficit reduction surged as a policy priority during Obama’s first term: Between 2009 and 2013,  the share citing the deficit as a top priority rose 19 points, according to a January 2014 report from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. In the most recent 2014 survey, majorities of Republicans (80%) and independents (66%) continued to say reducing the budget deficit should be a top priority for the president and Congress, but just 49% of Democrats viewed it as a top priority, the lowest percentage since Obama took office. Going back 20 years, the gap between Republicans and Democrats on the issue has never been as large as it is today, Pew said.

Not exactly a hopeful sign for the emergence of bipartisan cooperation on the issue.