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Jared Polis and the deficit debate

August 2, 2011

Update: Congressman Polis and I exchange comments below.

My local congressman Jared Polis from liberal Boulder, Colorado voted yesterday to cut domestic spending and eventually medicare in order to assure the safety of the public debt held by tycoons such as himself.  The agreement, of course, contains no tax hikes.  Polis, the fifth wealthiest member of congress with reported personal wealth between $36.7 and $285.1 million, will certainly be pleased that his bond portfolio didn’t take a hit, unlike most of his constituents who are destined for years of ongoing austerity and unemployment.

Polis is a consistent defender of the moneyed crowd.  He told me last summer that we need to cut social security to “save” it, sent a letter to Nancy Pelosi expressing alarm at the proposed millionaire tax surcharge during the health care debate, and recently wrote a letter to Obama in support of maintaining the 15% tax rate on “carried interest” for hedge fund tycoons.  Polis apparently wants to assure these billionaires continue paying lower tax rates than their secretaries, limousine drivers, and butlers.

Polis is a liberal on most social issues, but when it comes down to perhaps the most important social issue: money and the plutocracy, he’s part of the club.  Just like Obama, I sure hope someone primaries Polis.

From → Dynamics, Suppression

8 Comments
  1. To be clear, my position has been and very much still is that I STRONGLY support letting the Bush tax cuts expire for people making over $250,000. I also strongly support maintaining the tax cuts for people making under $250,000 especially in a recession when many families haven’t gotten raises in years.

    The reason that the most recent deal didn’t include any revenues is not because of President Obama, and certainly not because of me, it’s because the people elected a Congress full of Tea Party Republicans who reject all revenue increases.

    As we have discussed before, I never said we have to “cut” social security to save it. Do we need to look at how to put social security and Medicare on solid ground for the next generation? of course. It doesn’t do any good to remain in denial. I hope the “super committee” has some solid recommendations for saving social security and Medicare including new revenues. And Social Security is much less urgent to strengthen than Medicare.

    There are plenty of progressive solutions out there, like raising the cap on Medicare contributions, but pretending like we don’t need to do anything will only add ammunition to the privatizers and Medicare-eliminators who already hold too much sway.

    Jared Polis

  2. Jared,

    You, your fellow democratic senators from Colorado, the vast majority of democrats in congress, and Barack Obama are committing a fraud on the American people. You democrats rely on a near fascist republican party to allow you to appear “reasonable”, “adult”, and “centrist” but the sorry truth is that the democratic party is not remotely progressive when it comes to capitalism and living standards for the vast majority.

    21st century capitalism is pushing the US into the 3rd world. American workers are forced to compete against billions of starving global workers making pennies on the hour. Adding to this, robotic technology and other job killing advances are rapidly coming online reducing the very need for workers anywhere. A great thing, actually, except that the majority doesn’t own this technology and is therefore shit out of luck. The “Global 500” corporations control an incredible 40% of global revenues and every major industry is an oligopoly. We don’t live in a market economy, it’s oligopoly. Not coincidentally, it’s also an oligarchy where 1% of the population controls 42% of financial wealth and the bottom 80% only 7%, levels unseen since the heyday of robber baron capitalism. The median wage is lower today than in the 1970’s and is headed even lower while profits are at record levels.

    Given these sordid facts, what do you and the democrats stand for? You stand for cutting social security, medicare, and other domestic spending. Your response is just fluff – the Bowles Simpson committee called for substantial cuts, so have your two friends in the senate, and so has Obama. It’s guaranteed that the “super-committee” will call for them as well.

    Do you realize that the US is spending vastly more today on the military (inflation adjusted) than at any time since World War II? To agree to only $350 billion or possibly a little more over 10 years is nothing as it will still keep us well over the heights of cold war spending. And for what? To maintain US dominance and the readiness to jump into yet more wars? Hasn’t Korea, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc, etc, been enough? Have any of these been worth it for the average American?

    You also stand for lowering taxes on high incomes. Bowles Simpson and the Gang of 6, much praised in “centrist” democratic circles, call for substantial reductions in marginal income tax rates along with the slashed spending!

    And what a travesty is this focus on the deficit and the endless harping by democrats that the federal budget is somehow like that of a household. It’s not remotely the same thing: households can’t create their own currency and can’t tax themselves. And society can’t be in debt to itself anymore than a household can be in debt to itself. It’s simply absurd. I sent you links a year ago that clearly demonstrate that the issue of deficits is false and that the US fully has it within its power to create the purchasing power it needs to assure prosperity. The focus should be on full utilization of resources and not phony, artificial constraints like public “debt”.

    A party seriously representing the interests of the majority would strongly fight right wing efforts to solidify massive inequality and be doing everything it could to build up the living standards of the bottom 80%. You don’t do that by cutting medicare, social security, and domestic spending, reinforcing the belief we need to cut spending like a household, maintaining a global military empire, keeping high end tax rates at historic lows, or allowing workers to be thrown to the global and technological wolves while the lucky elite live a life of grandeur.

    The real problem in this country is not the Tea Party, it’s the complete absence of a progressive party.

    Jim

  3. Yes, it sounds like you are to the left of the President. You are correct that both major parties are parties that support capitalism, albeit with different understandings of the role of the state in providing a regulatory structure and safety net. The accusations that President Obama is a socialist are completely false.

    I agree with him on many aspects of his economic policies including the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for people making over $250k, but I do not agree with his high levels of military spending.

    I have voted against every defense appropriations bill (spending money on the military) since I took office and also voted for amendments to cut funding for Afghanistan and Iraq. Unfortunately I am not on the winning sides of these votes and hope that the next congress is more progressive.

    Jared Polis

  4. While democrats have always supported capitalism, their incestuous relationship with Wall Street and big business over the past decades has reached new heights of indecency. I’m certainly far to the left of Obama, and you for that matter, and I have a bit of company in Boulder. I appreciate your opposition to the military industrial complex but I sure wish it extended to the other concerns I expressed. I think the democratic party establishment is grossly underestimating the growing anger and disenchantment on the left and it bodes ill for 2012. I personally cannot imagine voting for any democrat on the national, state, or local ticket as I can no longer accept the “lesser evil” logic. Moving us backward at a slower speed than the republicans doesn’t cut it anymore.

    Regardless of our differences though, I do appreciate that you responded and truly hope to be able to report on the emergence of a new far more progressive Jared Polis in the future.

    Jim

  5. There really is a huge difference between Democrats and Republicans. I watch every day in Congress as the Republicans seek to reduce our social safety net, remove environmental protections, and deregulate financial markets and business. The Democrats, in general, seek a more fair structure and a more efficient and higher quality social safety net. Look at healthcare reform. I support a public option that didn’t make it into the final bill, but nevertheless it is a huge step forward for those who couldn’t afford healthcare in our country before we passed the Affordable Care Act (which doesn’t fully go into effect until 2014).

    The Democrats may not be where you want them to be, but they have very different positions on many key issues than Republicans.

  6. No doubt the democrats are marginally better than republicans but one must wonder whether the interests of the majority are better served when right wing democrats such as Obama are in or out of power. When they’re out of power, the left is united, when in power they become neutered. Look at Obama’s (and the democrats’) record:

    True we have health care reform but it doesn’t take effect until 2014 and it was taken off the shelf from prior republican plans. A net positive I think but it failed miserably to change the power structure of the health system and there was a lot of momentum to do so back in 2009. If he wasn’t in power, that mobilization would be even stronger today and a better plan would have been possible for 2014.

    Obama, incredibly, has offered to increase the retirement age of medicare to 67.

    Obama has the highest military spending inflation adjusted since WW2. And his defense secretary is making it quite obvious the administration doesn’t want it cut too much. He’s either a war hawk or he’s pandering to the MIC. I think both.

    There’s bipartisan agreement that high end tax rates will be reduced to below 30% in exchange for reduced deductions. It’s called “reform”. This will of course be regressive when looking at the very high end levels of income. No democrat outside the far left calls for a return to the pre-Reagan era levels of tax even though that period had the highest growth record in history.

    Obama’s civil liberty record is horrible and in many ways even worse than Bush. He’s institutionalized the radically expanded powers of the surveillance state.

    So, when it comes to surveillance, the MIC, and high end tax rates, the democrats, rhetoric aside, are little different than republicans. They both seek to reduce entitlements, although the republicans would seek to do it faster.

    I wish you were right about a big difference, but I don’t see it. Both parties are taking the country down a very bad and dangerous path: ever rising, although fundamentally useless, global competition, cuts in public spending, cuts in high end income taxes, maintenance of the war machine, and ever expanding violations of civil rights. I’ll vote for the democrat who I see taking a firm line in the sand and who forcefully argues for a reversal. I won’t vote for one who even passively goes along with this slow motion destruction of American society.

    Jim

  7. Andrew permalink

    Jim,

    You’re hard on Mr. Polis. To some extent he’s trying… within the limits of what he seems to understand. We have a huge problem in this country (and perhaps elsewhere) where we couch all issues in terms of right and left. In order to be heard you have to take a position somewhere on the spectrum of the accepted response to any problem.

    Most issues can be looked at in a way other than the rather absolute positions often taken up by people who call themselves liberal or conservative or even in some moderate middle. Neither the word “liberal” or “conservative” take on their original meaning when it comes to politics. Both simply stand for a position on the spectrum of any issue.

    Perhaps you could advance the general discussion by trying to present the third way without taking up arms against the left or right. This doesn’t mean that the liberals or conservatives are correct, but perhaps getting someone like Mr. Polis to see your point is more important than attacking one who is in a position to effect change. You catch more flies with honey, you know.

  8. Hey Andrew,

    Appreciate the advice and feedback. Will keep it in mind.

    Jim

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