Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites?

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Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites?

Postby sardia » Sun Feb 12, 2012 9:51 am UTC

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/12/us/ev ... wanted=all
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LINDSTROM, Minn. — Ki Gulbranson owns a logo apparel shop, deals in jewelry on the side and referees youth soccer games. He makes about $39,000 a year and wants you to know that he does not need any help from the federal government.
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“I don't demand that the government does this for me. I don't feel like I need the government,” said KI GULBRANSON, who counts on an earned-income tax credit and has signed up his children for free meals at school.
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“Most of the seniors around here are struggling to make it,” said BARBARA SULLIVAN, who lives on Social Security and relied on Medicare to pay for an operation.
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“They're getting $300 or $400 tattoos, and they're wearing nice new Nike shoes that I can't afford," said BRIAN QUALLEY, who says some of his tattoo customers pay with money from disability checks.
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Chip Cravaack during his campaign for Congress in 2010. Mr. Cravaack says he entered politics to lift the burden of debt from his two sons. Voter anger over spending helped him oust an incumbent.
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He says that too many Americans lean on taxpayers rather than living within their means. He supports politicians who promise to cut government spending. In 2010, he printed T-shirts for the Tea Party campaign of a neighbor, Chip Cravaack, who ousted this region’s long-serving Democratic congressman.

Yet this year, as in each of the past three years, Mr. Gulbranson, 57, is counting on a payment of several thousand dollars from the federal government, a subsidy for working families called the earned-income tax credit. He has signed up his three school-age children to eat free breakfast and lunch at federal expense. And Medicare paid for his mother, 88, to have hip surgery twice.

There is little poverty here in Chisago County, northeast of Minneapolis, where cheap housing for commuters is gradually replacing farmland. But Mr. Gulbranson and many other residents who describe themselves as self-sufficient members of the American middle class and as opponents of government largess are drawing more deeply on that government with each passing year.

Dozens of benefits programs provided an average of $6,583 for each man, woman and child in the county in 2009, a 69 percent increase from 2000 after adjusting for inflation. In Chisago, and across the nation, the government now provides almost $1 in benefits for every $4 in other income.

Older people get most of the benefits, primarily through Social Security and Medicare, but aid for the rest of the population has increased about as quickly through programs for the disabled, the unemployed, veterans and children.

The government safety net was created to keep Americans from abject poverty, but the poorest households no longer receive a majority of government benefits. A secondary mission has gradually become primary: maintaining the middle class from childhood through retirement. The share of benefits flowing to the least affluent households, the bottom fifth, has declined from 54 percent in 1979 to 36 percent in 2007, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis published last year.

And as more middle-class families like the Gulbransons land in the safety net in Chisago and similar communities, anger at the government has increased alongside. Many people say they are angry because the government is wasting money and giving money to people who do not deserve it. But more than that, they say they want to reduce the role of government in their own lives. They are frustrated that they need help, feel guilty for taking it and resent the government for providing it. They say they want less help for themselves; less help in caring for relatives; less assistance when they reach old age.

The expansion of government benefits has become an issue in the presidential campaign. Rick Santorum, who won 57 percent of the vote in Chisago County in the Republican presidential caucuses last week, has warned of “the narcotic of government dependency.” Newt Gingrich has compared the safety net to a spider web. Mitt Romney has said the nation must choose between an “entitlement society” and an “opportunity society.” All the candidates, including the Ronpaul, have promised to cut spending and further reduce taxes.

The problem by now is familiar to most. Politicians have expanded the safety net without a commensurate increase in revenues, a primary reason for the government’s annual deficits and mushrooming debt. In 2000, federal and state governments spent about 37 cents on the safety net from every dollar they collected in revenue, according to a New York Times analysis. A decade later, after one Medicare expansion, two recessions and three rounds of tax cuts, spending on the safety net consumed nearly 66 cents of every dollar of revenue.

The recent recession increased dependence on government, and stronger economic growth would reduce demand for programs like unemployment benefits. But the long-term trend is clear. Over the next 25 years, as the population ages and medical costs climb, the budget office projects that benefits programs will grow faster than any other part of government, driving the federal debt to dangerous heights.

Americans are divided about the way forward. Seventy percent of respondents to a recent New York Times poll said the government should raise taxes. Fifty-six percent supported cuts in Medicare and Social Security. Forty-four percent favored both.

Support for spending cuts runs strong in Chisago, where anger at the government helped fuel Mr. Cravaack’s upset victory in 2010 over James L. Oberstar, the Democrat who had represented northeast Minnesota for 36 years.

“Spending like this is simply unsustainable, and it’s time to cut up Washington, D.C.’s credit card,” Mr. Cravaack said in a February speech to the Hibbing Area Chamber of Commerce. “It may hurt now, but it will be absolutely deadly for the next generation — that’s our children and our grandchildren.”

But the reality of life here is that Mr. Gulbranson and many of his neighbors continue to take as much help from the government as they can get. When pressed to choose between paying more and taking less, many people interviewed here hemmed and hawed and said they could not decide. Some were reduced to tears. It is much easier to promise future restraint than to deny present needs.

“How do you tell someone that you deserve to have heart surgery and you can’t?” Mr. Gulbranson said.

He paused.

“You have to help and have compassion as a people, because otherwise you have no society, but financially you can’t destroy yourself. And that is what we’re doing.”

He paused again, unable to resolve the dilemma.

“I feel bad for my children.”

Middle-Class Blues

Mr. Gulbranson has tried several ways to make a living in the storefront he bought from his father in 1979. He ran a gift shop, then shifted to selling jewelry. Nine years ago, he moved the gold scales to the back and bought equipment for screen-printing clothing. Through it all, he has never made more than about $46,000 in a year.

Meanwhile, the cost of life — and of raising five children — has climbed inexorably.

“I used to go out and try to have a meal at Perkins, which is a restaurant here, and get out of the store with $5,” Mr. Gulbranson said. “And now it’s probably up to $10.”

In recent years he has earned so little that he did not pay federal income taxes, although he still paid thousands of dollars toward Medicare and Social Security. The earned-income tax credit is intended to offset those payroll taxes, to encourage people with lower-paying jobs to remain in the work force.

Mr. Gulbranson said the money covered the fees for his children’s sports leagues and the cost of keeping the older ones on the family’s car insurance.

“If we didn’t get these government things, then probably my kids could not participate in some of the sports they do,” he said.

Almost half of all Americans lived in households that received government benefits in 2010, according to the Census Bureau. The share climbed from 37.7 percent in 1998 to 44.5 percent in 2006, before the recession, to 48.5 percent in 2010.

The trend reflects the expansion of the safety net. When the earned-income credit was introduced in 1975, eligibility was limited to households making the current equivalent of up to $26,997. In 2010, it was available to families making up to $49,317. The maximum payout, meanwhile, quadrupled on an inflation-adjusted basis.

It also reflects the deterioration of the middle class. Chisago boomed and prospered for decades as working families packed new subdivisions along Interstate 35, which runs up the western edge of the county like a flagpole with its base set firmly in Minneapolis. But recent years have been leaner. Per capita income in Chisago excluding government aid fell 6 percent on an inflation-adjusted basis between 2000 and 2007. Over the next two years, it fell an additional 7 percent. Nationally, per capita income excluding government benefits fell by 3 percent over the same 10 years.

Mr. Gulbranson’s business struggled as other companies, particularly construction firms, stopped ordering logo-emblazoned shirts. In 2009, the family claimed the earned-income credit for the first time on the advice of their accountant, who was claiming it for herself. The share of local families claiming the credit climbed 33 percent between 2000 and 2008, the most recent year for which data are available.

To make extra money, Mr. Gulbranson refereed 40 soccer games on Tuesday and Thursday nights last fall. His wife sold clothes at equestrian events and air-brushed novelties at craft fairs, driving around the country with a one-ton trailer hitched to a 20-foot van.

Their difficulties, Mr. Gulbranson said, have made it hard to imagine asking anyone to pay higher taxes.

“I don’t think most people could bear to pay more,” he said.

Instead, he said he would rather give up the earned-income credit the family now receives and start paying for school lunches for his children.

“I don’t demand that the government does this for me,” he said. “I don’t feel like I need the government.”

How about Social Security? And Medicare? Can he imagine retiring without government help?

“I don’t think so,” he said. “No. I don’t know. Not the way we expect to live as Americans.”

A Starring Role

Bob Kopka and his wife often drive to the American Legion hall in North Branch on Thursday nights, joining the crowd gathered in the basement bar for the weekly meat raffle. Almost everyone present relies on the government to pay for their medical care.

Mr. Kopka, 74, has had three heart procedures in recent years. His wife recently had surgery to remove cataracts from both eyes.

Without Medicare, Mr. Kopka said, the couple could not have paid for the treatments.

“Hell, no,” he said. “No. Never. She would have to go blind.”

And him?

“I’d die.”

Few federal programs are more popular than Medicare, which along with Social Security assures a minimum quality of life for older Americans.

None are more central to the nation’s financial problems. The Congressional Budget Office projects that government spending on medical benefits, even taking into account the cost containment measures in the 2010 health care law, will rise 60 percent over the next decade. Then it will start rising even more quickly. The cost of caring for each beneficiary continues to increase, and the government projects that Medicare enrollment will grow by roughly one-third as baby boomers enter old age.

Spending on medical benefits will account for a larger share of the projected increase in the federal budget over the next decade than any other kind of spending except interest payments on the federal debt.

Medicare’s starring role in the nation’s financial problems is not well understood. Only 22 percent of respondents to the New York Times poll correctly identified Medicare as the fastest-growing benefits program. A greater number of respondents, 27 percent, chose programs for the poor. That category, which includes Medicaid, is slightly larger than Medicare today but is projected to add only half as much to federal spending over the next decade.

Medicare’s financial problems are much worse than Social Security’s. A worker earning average wages still pays enough in Social Security taxes to cover the benefits the worker is likely to receive in retirement, according to an analysis by the Urban Institute. Social Security is still running out of money because the program must also support spouses who do not work and workers who earn lower wages. But Medicare’s situation is even more dire because a worker earning average wages still contributes only $1 in Medicare taxes for every $3 in benefits likely to be received in retirement.

A woman who was 45 in 2010, earning $43,500 a year, will pay taxes that will reach a value of $87,000 by the time she retires, assuming the money is invested at an annual interest rate 2 percentage points above inflation, according to the Urban Institute analysis. But on average, the government will then spend $275,000 on her medical care. The average is somewhat lower for men, because women live longer.

Medicare is often described as an insurance program, but its premiums are not nearly high enough. In simple terms, Americans are getting more than they pay for.

But many older residents in Chisago say this problem belongs to younger generations. They paid what they were told; they want to collect what they were promised.

Some, like the Kopkas, have savings they can tap. Mr. Kopka still owns the landscaping business he started after leaving the Navy in the early 1960s. He and his wife own a three-bedroom home on three acres, valued by the county at $153,700. The mortgage is paid. They hope to pass the house to their children.

Others have nothing else. Barbara Sullivan, 71, moved last year to the apartments above the Chisago County Senior Center in North Branch. Waiting on a recent Friday for the hot lunch, which costs $3.50, she watched roughly 20 people play bingo for prizes including canned soup and Chef Boyardee pasta.

“Most of the seniors around here are struggling to make it,” she said.

She counts herself among them. She lives on $1,220 a month in Social Security benefits and relied on Medicare to pay for an operation in November.

She believes that she is taking more from the government than she paid in taxes. She worries about the consequences for her grandchildren. She said she would like politicians to propose solutions.

“We’re reasonable people,” she said. “We’re not going to say, ‘Give it to me and let my grandchildren suffer.’ I think they underestimate seniors when they think that way.”

But she cannot imagine asking people to pay higher taxes. And as she considered making do with less, she started to cry.

“Without it, I’m not sure how I would live,” she said. “With the check I’m getting from Social Security, it’s a constant struggle on making sure that I pay my rent and have enough left for groceries.

“I haven’t bought a Christmas present, I haven’t bought clothing in the last five years, simply because I can’t afford it.”

Keeping a Promise

Representative Cravaack often says he entered politics to lift the burden of debt from the shoulders of his two sons.

“I vision that I open up their backpacks and I put in a 50-pound rock and zip it back up again,” Mr. Cravaack told the Minnesota Freedom Council in October 2010. “And I say, ‘Sorry, son, you’re going to have to hump this the rest of your life.’ Because that’s exactly what we’re doing to our national debt right now to our children.”

Mr. Cravaack, a 53-year-old Navy veteran and a retired pilot for Northwest Airlines, was grounded by sleep apnea in 2007. He and his wife, an executive at the drug company Novo Nordisk, decided he would stay home with their sons. He soon became the first man to serve as president of the Chisago Lakes Parent Teacher Organization.

In August 2009, while driving the children to North Branch, he heard a talk radio host urging people to protest President Obama’s health care legislation. Mr. Cravaack and about two dozen others spent more than two hours the next day in Mr. Oberstar’s North Branch office before a staff member told them the congressman would not meet them. The rejection convinced Mr. Cravaack that Mr. Oberstar should be replaced. One of the other protesters, a woman who had taken her six children to the office, became Mr. Cravaack’s campaign scheduler.

Two weeks after speaking to the Freedom Council, he beat Mr. Oberstar by 1.6 percentage points, or 4,407 votes. Voters in Chisago, the southern tip of an expansive district, provided the margin of victory.

“We have to break away,” Mr. Cravaack told supporters, “from relying on government to provide all the answers.”

Mr. Cravaack has said he drew unemployment benefits during a furlough from Northwest in the early 1990s. He did not respond to several requests for an interview, nor to an e-mail with questions about his views and about whether his family has drawn on other benefits programs. This account is based on a review of his public statements.

Shortly after arriving in Congress, Mr. Cravaack voted with a vast majority of House Republicans for a plan to remake Medicare by providing money to its beneficiaries to buy private insurance. Senate Democrats have rejected that plan.

But Mr. Cravaack has also consistently said the government should not reduce its largest category of spending — benefits for the current generation of retirees. He also says he does not support cuts for people who will turn 65 over the next decade.

“If you’re 55 years and older, you don’t have to listen to this conversation because we have to keep those promises,” Mr. Cravaack told The Daily Caller last April. “People like myself, 52, if you’re 54 or younger, we’re going to have a conversation.”

Tomorrow, Tomorrow

The government helps Matt Falk and his wife care for their disabled 14-year-old daughter. It pays for extra assistance at school and for trained attendants to stay with her at home while they work. It pays much of the cost of her regular visits to the hospital.

Mr. Falk, 42, would like the government to do less.

“She doesn’t need some of the stuff that we’re doing for her,” said Mr. Falk, who owns a heating and air-conditioning business in North Branch. “I don’t think it’s a bad thing if society can afford it, but given the situation that our society is facing, we just have to say that we can’t offer as much resources at school or that we need to pay a higher premium” for her medical care.

Mr. Falk, who voted for Mr. Cravaack, said he did not want to pay higher taxes and did not want the government to impose higher taxes on anyone else. He said that his family appreciated the government’s help and that living with less would be painful for them and many other families. But he said the government could not continue to operate on borrowed money.

“They’re going to have to reduce benefits,” he said. “We’re going to have to accept it, and we’re going to have to suffer.”

One of the oldest criticisms of democracy is that the people will inevitably drain the treasury by demanding more spending than taxes. The theory is that citizens who get more than they pay for will vote for politicians who promise to increase spending.

But Dean P. Lacy, a professor of political science at Dartmouth College, has identified a twist on that theme in American politics over the last generation. Support for Republican candidates, who generally promise to cut government spending, has increased since 1980 in states where the federal government spends more than it collects. The greater the dependence, the greater the support for Republican candidates.

Conversely, states that pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits tend to support Democratic candidates. And Professor Lacy found that the pattern could not be explained by demographics or social issues.

Chisago has shifted over 30 years from dependably Democratic to reliably Republican. Support for the Republican presidential candidate has increased relative to the national vote in each election since 1984. Senator John McCain won 55 percent of the vote here in 2008.

Residents say social issues play a role, but in recent years concerns about spending and taxes have predominated.

Voters in the North Branch school district have rejected increased financing for local schools in each of the past three years. In 2010, the district switched to a four-day school week, striking Monday from the calendar to save money.

Some of the fiercest advocates for spending cuts have drawn public benefits. Many, like Mr. Falk, have family members who rely on the government. They often cite that personal experience as the reason they want to cut government spending.

Brian Qualley, 49, has a sister who survived a brain tumor but was disabled by its removal. The government pays for her care at an assisted-living facility. Their mother scrapes by on Social Security.

Mr. Qualley said that the government should provide for those who need help, but that too much money was being wasted. Mr. Qualley, who owns a tattoo parlor in Harris, north of North Branch, said some of his customers paid with money from government disability checks.

“They’re getting $300 or $400 tattoos, and they’re wearing nice new Nike shoes that I can’t afford,” he said, looking up from working a complicated design into the left leg of a middle-aged woman. “I guess I shouldn’t say it because it’s my business, but I think a tattoo is a little too extravagant.”

But Mr. Qualley said he did not want to reduce benefits for the current generation of retirees. Rather, he said his own generation should get less, because they have time to prepare. This is a common position among the young and healthy in Chisago.

Mr. Qualley said he was saving some money for retirement, although, he added, “I don’t have a 401(k) or anything like that.”

“I also have a job that I don’t necessarily ever want to — or have to — retire from,” he said.

What if his hands start to shake as he gets older?

“Actually,” he said, the electric needle falling silent in his hand, “it’s my shoulders and neck that bother me most.”

Safety in Numbers

Barbara Nelson has little patience for people who say they will not need government help. She considers herself lucky she has not, and obligated to provide for those who do.

“Catastrophes happen in life,” she said, sitting in a coffee shop in Taylors Falls. “To be so arrogant that you think it won’t happen to you, that somehow you’re going to be one of the special ones, I disagree with that.”

Ms. Nelson, 61, who describes herself as a centrist Democrat, also dismisses the claim that people cannot afford to pay more taxes.

“Anyone who can come into a coffee shop and buy coffee is capable of paying more,” she said. “If someone’s life can be granted, in terms of adequate health care, if that means I give up five cups of coffee a month, that is a small price to pay.”

Gordy Peterson, 62, who has used a wheelchair for 30 years since a construction accident, has reluctantly reached a similar conclusion.

“I’m a conservative,” he said by way of introducing himself. He built his own house before his injury and paid for it in cash. He still thinks the government should operate that way. He never intended to depend on federal aid and said he sometimes felt guilty about it.

But for the last three decades, he has received a regular check from the Social Security disability insurance program, and Medicare has helped to pay his medical bills.

“Here I’m getting money, and everybody is struggling,” he said. “Even though it ain’t no cakewalk for me.”

Mr. Peterson used a workers’ compensation settlement to buy a farm that he managed with his brother-in-law, who is mentally handicapped and also on government disability.

“He was my legs, and we worked it,” Mr. Peterson said.

They grew corn, soybeans and rye, and even kept steers for a while. In good years they earned enough to live on. In bad years they lived on the government’s checks. Life would have been very difficult without them, he said.

Mr. Peterson, an easygoing man who looks down when he thinks and smiles sheepishly when he offers an opinion, looked down after completing the story of his own dependence on the safety net.

“It’s hard to beat up on the government when they’ve been so good to you,” he finally said. “I’ve never really thought about it, I guess.”

Lately, the government has been very good, indeed. The county, with federal financing, bought a corner of Mr. Peterson’s farm to build a new interchange for Interstate 35. He used the money to open a gas station at the edge of the farm in 2008 to serve the traffic that rolls off the new ramp. The business is prospering, and he no longer worries that he will need to depend on Social Security.

“But you can’t take that away,” he said. “My own sister has only Social Security. That’s all. That’s all she’s going to have. And if you take that away from her, Christ, she’d be a street person. I don’t think we can cut them off on that.”

How about higher taxes?

Maybe a little higher, he said. Maybe.

“I’m glad I’m not a politician,” he said. “We’re all going to complain no matter what they do. Nobody wants to put a noose around their own neck.”

It's a little more complicated than that, but some really revealing quotes in the article. I like it a lot; it builds on old plot holes or logical inconsistencies that the tea party people talked about during 2010.
For example, the line where the guy wants government out of the handout business, except he also takes all the handouts that he can get. Some of them remind me of gay republicans, they hate themselves for being weak, so they are the most vocal opponents. There are the old excuses though:
"We paid what we they told us to pay, and we expect what we were promised"
"We should cut benefits for our children, but current beneficiaries should keep their benefits"
The most heartwrenching line wasn't even the girl who cried at the thought of making do with less or paying more taxes, it was the fact that the safety net isn't for keeping people out of poverty anymore, it's to help maintain the deteriorating middle class. My god, is it that bad? =(
Last edited by sardia on Mon Feb 13, 2012 12:09 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby KnightExemplar » Sun Feb 12, 2012 3:02 pm UTC

In say... Marvel vs Capcom 3. (The old one, not the "Ultimate" version), there was a major complaint about the Delayed Hyper Combo glitch. Almost everyone thought it was a terrible glitch that made the game significantly less fun to play. However, every person who could take advantage of it did, because it was the only way to be the best player in a tournament setting. Everyone was happier in the new version when the glitch was removed... but no one was against abusing the glitch back when it was in the game.

Similarly, when the government is handing out free money to people, you'd be an idiot to not take the money. Especially when it is a completely legal move. Sure, you can be against it, but you've got a life to live and responsibilities to uphold. Hypocrisy or not, it doesn't invalidate the argument. One can be a hypocrite and still be correct in his argument.

(I take a similar stance to say... Obama, who is against super-pacs but will still take their money so that he'll get elected. One can be against the system, but you are a naive fool to defy the system when everyone else is abusing it.)
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby Tiberius » Sun Feb 12, 2012 4:23 pm UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:Similarly, when the government is handing out free money to people, you'd be an idiot to not take the money. Especially when it is a completely legal move. Sure, you can be against it, but you've got a life to live and responsibilities to uphold. Hypocrisy or not, it doesn't invalidate the argument. One can be a hypocrite and still be correct in his argument.

(I take a similar stance to say... Obama, who is against super-pacs but will still take their money so that he'll get elected. One can be against the system, but you are a naive fool to defy the system when everyone else is abusing it.)


The difference is that these people rely completely on these programs and they don't think they should lose them just other people so your analogy really isn't apt. Obama would probably be more successful if there were no superPACs period. He doesn't think no one should be allowed to use them except him.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby Jave D » Sun Feb 12, 2012 5:46 pm UTC

KnightExemplar wrote:Hypocrisy or not, it doesn't invalidate the argument. One can be a hypocrite and still be correct in his argument.


True. But it doesn't serve as a very persuasive argument. "Do as I say" doesn't generally convince me, especially when the person doing the saying is a mental midget with a frothing-at-the-mouth hatred for Obama.
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And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me
That's too bad.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby KnightExemplar » Sun Feb 12, 2012 5:51 pm UTC

Tiberius wrote:
KnightExemplar wrote:Similarly, when the government is handing out free money to people, you'd be an idiot to not take the money. Especially when it is a completely legal move. Sure, you can be against it, but you've got a life to live and responsibilities to uphold. Hypocrisy or not, it doesn't invalidate the argument. One can be a hypocrite and still be correct in his argument.

(I take a similar stance to say... Obama, who is against super-pacs but will still take their money so that he'll get elected. One can be against the system, but you are a naive fool to defy the system when everyone else is abusing it.)


The difference is that these people rely completely on these programs and they don't think they should lose them just other people so your analogy really isn't apt. Obama would probably be more successful if there were no superPACs period. He doesn't think no one should be allowed to use them except him.


Can you quote the particular part of the article that supports your claim? (specifically, the part I bolded). BTW: I know the article has flaws. I just want to make sure your argument has some basis in reality.

Here's the part that I based my earlier post off of:

And as more middle-class families like the Gulbransons land in the safety net in Chisago and similar communities, anger at the government has increased alongside. Many people say they are angry because the government is wasting money and giving money to people who do not deserve it. But more than that, they say they want to reduce the role of government in their own lives. They are frustrated that they need help, feel guilty for taking it and resent the government for providing it. They say they want less help for themselves; less help in caring for relatives; less assistance when they reach old age.


I admit, I didn't reach much further than that earlier when I posted. However, reading through the article again, it seems like the lower-income families do have solid reasoning as well.

Their difficulties, Mr. Gulbranson said, have made it hard to imagine asking anyone to pay higher taxes.

“I don’t think most people could bear to pay more,” he said.

Instead, he said he would rather give up the earned-income credit the family now receives and start paying for school lunches for his children.


So in Gulbranson's case, he clearly thinks that keeping lower taxes and removing the earned-income credits would benefit him more than the reverse. It makes sense too, considering that the Bush-era tax cuts brought the lowest bracket from 15% income tax to 10% income tax. So the bracket right above the poverty line would pay 50% more in income taxes if taxes were to go back up to Clinton Era Taxes.

Basically, something has got to give if we want to balance the budget. We can either cut services, or we can raise taxes. From what I read, some of the people at the lowest level would prefer to have their services cut (like Earned Income Tax Credit) rather than get new taxes. Of course, things are more complicated than this: the Earned Income Tax Credit arguably encourages people to enter the work force. Still, Gulbranson sounds like he knows what he wants, and knows how things would affect him.

The more I read the article, the less that these people sound like hypocrites. Maybe I missed something?

Jave D wrote:
KnightExemplar wrote:Hypocrisy or not, it doesn't invalidate the argument. One can be a hypocrite and still be correct in his argument.


True. But it doesn't serve as a very persuasive argument. "Do as I say" doesn't generally convince me, especially when the person doing the saying is a mental midget with a frothing-at-the-mouth hatred for Obama.


Fair enough. Can't say that I disagree with your sentiment.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby sardia » Sun Feb 12, 2012 7:54 pm UTC

First, the hypocritical parasites is only technically true, but I thought it was an apt title. Next, you framed the issue as everyone rather have "services" cut and taxes remain the same. I could easily call an Earned Income TAX[b][/b]credit a tax cut for people. Removing that would be raising a tax, since they have to pay more in taxes now.
In addition to the guy you quoted, notice the diverse views among the tea party. Some are so poor, they haven't gone out or had Christmas in years. They are against service cuts or tax raises. Another guy had the hard line view of "you promised we would only pay x amount, and we would get this many benefits". How we balance the budget isn't his problem, just don't change the "contract" he was given. Or you get those who say we should cut and cut, with no tax raises...Until you ask them if Social Security or Medicaid should be cut. Then they defend the benevolent angels of government who saved them from suffering. It's ok to receive help from the government if you need it. However, to gut everything else, (complaints of wasteful discretionary spending) but spare things that benefit them, and only them. I would be annoyed at that, but then they have the gall to vote conservative republican. That infuriates me. They're worse than a dog that bites the hand that feeds them, they are stupid dogs.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby Vaniver » Sun Feb 12, 2012 8:39 pm UTC

sardia wrote:Some of them remind me of gay republicans, they hate themselves for being weak, so they are the most vocal opponents.
Um. What?

sardia wrote:First, the hypocritical parasites is only technically true, but I thought it was an apt title.
It's not clear to me that stretching the truth to score points is aptness.

As for the subject itself:
Ayn Rand wrote:Many students of Objectivism are troubled by a certain kind of moral dilemma confronting them in today’s society. We are frequently asked the questions: “Is it morally proper to accept scholarships, private or public?” and: “Is it morally proper for an advocate of capitalism to accept a government research grant or a government job?”

I shall hasten to answer: “Yes”—then proceed to explain and qualify it. There are many confusions on these issues, created by the influence and implications of the altruist morality.

There is nothing wrong in accepting private scholarships. The fact that a man has no claim on others (i.e., that it is not their moral duty to help him and that he cannot demand their help as his right) does not preclude or prohibit good will among men and does not make it immoral to offer or to accept voluntary, non-sacrificial assistance.

A different principle and different considerations are involved in the case of public (i.e., governmental) scholarships. The right to accept them rests on the right of the victims to the property (or some part of it) which was taken from them by force.

The recipient of a public scholarship is morally justified only so long as he regards it as restitution and opposes all forms of welfare statism. Those who advocate public scholarships, have no right to them; those who oppose them, have. If this sounds like a paradox, the fault lies in the moral contradictions of welfare statism, not in its victims.

Since there is no such thing as the right of some men to vote away the rights of others, and no such thing as the right of the government to seize the property of some men for the unearned benefit of others—the advocates and supporters of the welfare state are morally guilty of robbing their opponents, and the fact that the robbery is legalized makes it morally worse, not better. The victims do not have to add self-inflicted martyrdom to the injury done to them by others; they do not have to let the looters profit doubly, by letting them distribute the money exclusively to the parasites who clamored for it. Whenever the welfare-state laws offer them some small restitution, the victims should take it . . . .

The same moral principles and considerations apply to the issue of accepting social security, unemployment insurance or other payments of that kind. It is obvious, in such cases, that a man receives his own money which was taken from him by force, directly and specifically, without his consent, against his own choice. Those who advocated such laws are morally guilty, since they assumed the “right” to force employers and unwilling co-workers. But the victims, who opposed such laws, have a clear right to any refund of their own money—and they would not advance the cause of freedom if they left their money, unclaimed, for the benefit of the welfare-state administration.

The same moral principles and considerations apply to the issue of government research grants.

The growth of the welfare state is approaching the stage where virtually the only money available for scientific research will be government money. (The disastrous effects of this situation and the disgraceful state of government-sponsored science are apparent already, but that is a different subject. We are concerned here only with the moral dilemma of scientists.) Taxation is destroying private resources, while government money is flooding and taking over the field of research.

In these conditions, a scientist is morally justified in accepting government grants—so long as he opposes all forms of welfare statism. As in the case of scholarship-recipients, a scientist does not have to add self-martyrdom to the injustices he suffers.
(Emphasis not preserved.)
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Sun Feb 12, 2012 9:26 pm UTC

sardia wrote:Another guy had the hard line view of "you promised we would only pay x amount, and we would get this many benefits". How we balance the budget isn't his problem, just don't change the "contract" he was given. Or you get those who say we should cut and cut, with no tax raises...Until you ask them if Social Security or Medicaid should be cut. Then they defend the benevolent angels of government who saved them from suffering. It's ok to receive help from the government if you need it. However, to gut everything else, (complaints of wasteful discretionary spending) but spare things that benefit them, and only them.

I don't see how this is reflective of the interviewees at all. Did any of them specify that they should be totally immune to cuts since their benefits were so special? I mean, the strongest defense of current retiree benefits came from someone in their forties. Most people on benefits seemed conflicted about them, and despite the gains the currently got from them felt like they were unsustainable. This seems to be more the image of commensurate responsibility than hypocrisy.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby Jahoclave » Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:23 pm UTC

sardia wrote:Some are so poor, they haven't gone out or had Christmas in years. They are against service cuts or tax raises. Another guy had the hard line view of "you promised we would only pay x amount, and we would get this many benefits". How we balance the budget isn't his problem, just don't change the "contract" he was given. Or you get those who say we should cut and cut, with no tax raises...Until you ask them if Social Security or Medicaid should be cut. Then they defend the benevolent angels of government who saved them from suffering. It's ok to receive help from the government if you need it. However, to gut everything else, (complaints of wasteful discretionary spending) but spare things that benefit them, and only them. I would be annoyed at that, but then they have the gall to vote conservative republican. That infuriates me. They're worse than a dog that bites the hand that feeds them, they are stupid dogs.

Then again, you're acting like people who subscribe to the Tea Party narrative are somehow bad at resolving contradictory points of view--it's pretty much the entire essence of their identity. Still, the vast majority of people who support the tea party are not poor, are generally decently educated, and tend to be slightly well off.

The part I think you're missing, as well is this article, is the inaccurate construction of their history. They like to view themselves as having achieved all of their success on their own, that the middle class essentially arose out of their own hard work--something that was never true and is in large part due to government spending programs, the GI Bill being a huge example. While they were young, they weren't the ones footing the tax bill to develop the middle class. Now, on the other foot, they have created a rhetoric whereby the young is this country are greedy, greedy, greedy pigs for wanting things like an access to education, etc... Just look at the various kinds of arguments they make for why kids today are so lazy and entitled--not missing the real difference is that they played out doors because it was the principle form of entertainment, and the school wasn't that far away. Or they lived in a rural community.

It's not so much hypocritical in their hatred of government spending, but hypocritical in terms of their ironical notion that they are the ones who don't see themselves as entitled when they are acting as the most entitled generation. They only want theirs and everybody else can piss off.

If they were truly responsible, they would recognize their collective debt of government spending used on them when they were younger and pay that back to society in the form of taxes. So I wouldn't call the way they frame the current debate as responsible since it lacks any recognition of history.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby buddy431 » Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:43 pm UTC

We aren't even trying to give even-handed titles? We're just looking for an article that sort of marginally lets us get in an underhanded attack on a group that we disagree with politically? This is part of the reason that political discourse is so tense in the United States right now. There's never a good reason to describe another group of people as parasites. Such language will never help improve the discourse or actually accomplish anything. What do you hope to accomplish by demonizing your opponents? The people who agree with you are already going to vote in a similar manner as you will. You're sure not going to convince many people about the correctness of your political beliefs with that sort of language. All it does is serve to further inflame the issue. People on both sides shore up their defenses, being even less willing to listen to what the other has to say. Is that the type of attitude that underlies a healthy democracy?
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby Jahoclave » Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:50 pm UTC

buddy431 wrote:We aren't even trying to give even-handed titles? We're just looking for an article that sort of marginally lets us get in an underhanded attack on a group that we disagree with politically? This is part of the reason that political discourse is so tense in the United States right now. There's never a good reason to describe another group of people as parasites. Such language will never help improve the discourse or actually accomplish anything. What do you hope to accomplish by demonizing your opponents? The people who agree with you are already going to vote in a similar manner as you will. You're sure not going to convince many people about the correctness of your political beliefs with that sort of language. All it does is serve to further inflame the issue. People on both sides shore up their defenses, being even less willing to listen to what the other has to say. Is that the type of attitude that underlies a healthy democracy?

I would say that's true, I would hope with all my being for it to be true, but sadly, name calling, denigrating your opponents and casting them in an unfavorable rhetorical light works.

But that's more a statement on the sad state of society as a whole.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Sun Feb 12, 2012 11:07 pm UTC

Jahoclave wrote:I would say that's true, I would hope with all my being for it to be true, but sadly, name calling, denigrating your opponents and casting them in an unfavorable rhetorical light works.

But that's more a statement on the sad state of society as a whole.

Well, if we really want to get meta, one could claim the number of complaints about the title here indicates it doesn't work hereabouts.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby Jahoclave » Sun Feb 12, 2012 11:09 pm UTC

Bubbles McCoy wrote:
Jahoclave wrote:I would say that's true, I would hope with all my being for it to be true, but sadly, name calling, denigrating your opponents and casting them in an unfavorable rhetorical light works.

But that's more a statement on the sad state of society as a whole.

Well, if we really want to get meta, one could claim the number of complaints about the title here indicates it doesn't work hereabouts.

I was more annoyed with it being a rhetorical question.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby Malice » Sun Feb 12, 2012 11:13 pm UTC

Yeah, I don't think "hypocritical parasites" really describes the subjects of an article that really made me empathize with them as people who are struggling economically and also trying to figure out what the right thing is in this situation.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites?

Postby sardia » Mon Feb 13, 2012 12:21 am UTC

Malice wrote:Yeah, I don't think "hypocritical parasites" really describes the subjects of an article that really made me empathize with them as people who are struggling economically and also trying to figure out what the right thing is in this situation.

I saw some openings for a 60 vote Senate, and a House majority. Mostly around reductions of tax credits, or other tax breaks in the tax code, + some tax increases on the rich, and higher payroll taxes. Unfortunately neither the article nor Congress know the proportions of the public on their opinion. I mean we don't know what percent of America is supportive of what revenue increase. In addition, the republicans are more conservative than the public as a whole. I'm not sure if they'll realign after the 2012 elections.
Jahoclave wrote:Then again, you're acting like people who subscribe to the Tea Party narrative are somehow bad at resolving contradictory points of view--it's pretty much the entire essence of their identity. Still, the vast majority of people who support the tea party are not poor, are generally decently educated, and tend to be slightly well off.

The part I think you're missing, as well is this article, is the inaccurate construction of their history. They like to view themselves as having achieved all of their success on their own, that the middle class essentially arose out of their own hard work--something that was never true and is in large part due to government spending programs, the GI Bill being a huge example. While they were young, they weren't the ones footing the tax bill to develop the middle class. Now, on the other foot, they have created a rhetoric whereby the young is this country are greedy, greedy, greedy pigs for wanting things like an access to education, etc... Just look at the various kinds of arguments they make for why kids today are so lazy and entitled--not missing the real difference is that they played out doors because it was the principle form of entertainment, and the school wasn't that far away. Or they lived in a rural community.

It's not so much hypocritical in their hatred of government spending, but hypocritical in terms of their ironical notion that they are the ones who don't see themselves as entitled when they are acting as the most entitled generation. They only want theirs and everybody else can piss off.

If they were truly responsible, they would recognize their collective debt of government spending used on them when they were younger and pay that back to society in the form of taxes. So I wouldn't call the way they frame the current debate as responsible since it lacks any recognition of history.

Those are really good points, I'm wondering if all the talk of saving our children's future is for naught since we are paying off our debts by cutting our investment in our children.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby Arrian » Mon Feb 13, 2012 2:48 pm UTC

Jave D wrote:True. But it doesn't serve as a very persuasive argument. "Do as I say" doesn't generally convince me, especially when the person doing the saying is a mental midget with a frothing-at-the-mouth hatred for Obama.


The same is true for Warren Buffet and other pro-taxers: If he feels like he isn't doing his part, he could send a check to the treasury. Or, even more reasonably, he could just not hire an accountant to minimize his tax bill. Instead he thinks taxes should be raised despite the fact that government revenue as a share of GDP has been pretty close to steady for about 60 years.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby Heisenberg » Mon Feb 13, 2012 3:25 pm UTC

Jahoclave wrote:If they were truly responsible, they would recognize their collective debt of government spending used on them when they were younger and pay that back to society in the form of taxes.
First, the idea that children should be indebted to government instead of the voters taking responsibility for paying for whatever programs they institute is a serious assumption that I strongly disagree with. However, even if we accept that assumption, isn't it entirely reasonable for the current generation of parents to work to free their own children from the debt that they themselves accrued? If social programs create a debt, isn't it rational to want to remove programs to alleviate debt?

And I see no hypocrisy in pointing out that Social Security, for instance, is an awful program, but simultaneously wishing to see some sort of return on the thousands of dollars forcibly taken from one's paycheck over the last few decades.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites?

Postby Belial » Mon Feb 13, 2012 3:48 pm UTC

However, even if we accept that assumption, isn't it entirely reasonable for the current generation of parents to work to free their own children from the debt that they themselves accrued? If social programs create a debt, isn't it rational to want to remove programs to alleviate debt?


It certainly sounds reasonable when you put it like that. When you ignore the conveniences of timing.

Those programs helped those people succeed, and now that they've succeeded, they no longer see the point in paying for the programs. A helping hand dragged them upwards, and now that they're standing on high ground, they are taking a moral stance against helping hands. It's kindof like that time we were taking turns buying rounds at the bar, and at round 4 when I was 3 beers in and it was my turn to buy, I suddenly took a strong moral stance against alcohol.

Except that never happened because I would've been rightly brained with a stein.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites?

Postby Red Hal » Mon Feb 13, 2012 4:28 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Except that never happened because I would've been wrongly brained with a stein.
Fixed that to reflect the fact that violence is seldom the answer. As precarious as the predicament of the people in that article is, there are far worse. http://news.bbc.co.uk/panorama/hi/front_page/newsid_9694000/9694094.stm
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites?

Postby Angua » Mon Feb 13, 2012 4:30 pm UTC

Red Hal wrote:
Belial wrote:Except that never happened because I would've been wrongly brained with a stein.
Fixed that to reflect the fact that violence is seldom the answer. As precarious as the predicament of the people in that article is, there are far worse. http://news.bbc.co.uk/panorama/hi/front_page/newsid_9694000/9694094.stm

I saw that article - I'm going to watch the panorama episode tonight.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites?

Postby Red Hal » Mon Feb 13, 2012 4:30 pm UTC

Likewise.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby Ghostbear » Mon Feb 13, 2012 4:50 pm UTC

Arrian wrote:The same is true for Warren Buffet and other pro-taxers: If he feels like he isn't doing his part, he could send a check to the treasury. Or, even more reasonably, he could just not hire an accountant to minimize his tax bill. Instead he thinks taxes should be raised despite the fact that government revenue as a share of GDP has been pretty close to steady for about 60 years.

That's only true if you count a 5 point difference as "steady".

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In a broad sense it is pretty stable, but revenue dropped from about 19% of GDP to about 14% with Bush. That's a pretty significant cut; with a GDP of $14.6 trillion, that would result in about an extra $729 billion- about 75% of our recent deficits.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites?

Postby Belial » Mon Feb 13, 2012 5:57 pm UTC

Red Hal wrote:
Belial wrote:Except that never happened because I would've been wrongly brained with a stein.
Fixed that to reflect the fact that violence is seldom the answer.


Fine fine, make it all nonviolent if you want. Point is, given the timing, I'm thoroughly unconvinced by their convenient new enlightened stance.

Like if you declared the violence is not the answer starting now, just after braining me with the aforementioned stein.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby Silknor » Mon Feb 13, 2012 6:34 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:
Arrian wrote:The same is true for Warren Buffet and other pro-taxers: If he feels like he isn't doing his part, he could send a check to the treasury. Or, even more reasonably, he could just not hire an accountant to minimize his tax bill. Instead he thinks taxes should be raised despite the fact that government revenue as a share of GDP has been pretty close to steady for about 60 years.

That's only true if you count a 5 point difference as "steady".

In a broad sense it is pretty stable, but revenue dropped from about 19% of GDP to about 14% with Bush.


Some of that drop is due to Bush's tax policies, but a lot is due to the recession. It's more useful to compare averages over longer periods:

Revenues over the next decade as percent of GDP (or revenue as percent of GDP in 2021 for some):
Current Policies (extend Bush Tax Cuts, temporary tax cuts like payroll expire): 17.9%
Obama's Budget (about $1.5 trillion higher in taxes over 10 years than Current Policies, about half from Bush Tax Cuts lapsing on income over $250k): 19.2%
Bush Tax Cuts Expire (eg. Clinton era rates): 20.4%
Simpson-Bowles: 20.3%
Gang of 6: 19.9%
Romney's Plan (Which is more moderate than the other GOP contenders): 17%

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezr ... #pagebreak

@Arrian: While revenues have stayed on a fairly narrow band for a while (eg. 18.2% during Reagan's years, 19% during Clinton's), that doesn't tell us much about what revenues should be in the future. Revenues in the long term need to be pegged to spending, and spending as a share of GDP is increasing for entirely predictable and understandable reasons (not the temporary boost caused by lower GDP+stimulus): the population is aging, and health care costs are increasing. This means we'll need more revenue if we're going to keep similar levels of benefits as we've had in the past.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby Ghostbear » Mon Feb 13, 2012 6:48 pm UTC

Silknor wrote:
Ghostbear wrote:That's only true if you count a 5 point difference as "steady".

In a broad sense it is pretty stable, but revenue dropped from about 19% of GDP to about 14% with Bush.

Some of that drop is due to Bush's tax policies, but a lot is due to the recession. It's more useful to compare averages over longer periods:

How do you figure? As the recession lowers revenues, it also lowers GDP; revenue as a share of GDP should stay more or less constant during busts or booms.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby Silknor » Mon Feb 13, 2012 8:25 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:How do you figure? As the recession lowers revenues, it also lowers GDP; revenue as a share of GDP should stay more or less constant during busts or booms.


It's true that both revenues and GDP falls, but this doesn't mean they fall at the same rate.

Here's the numbers for revenues as a percent of GDP:

Fiscal Year Individual Income Taxes, Corporation Income Taxes, Social Insurance and Retirement Receipts, Total
2005 7.5 2.2 6.4 17.3
2006 7.9 2.7 6.3 18.2
2007 8.4 2.7 6.3 18.5
2008 8.0 2.1 6.3 17.6
2009 6.6 1.0 6.4 15.1
2010 6.3 1.3 6.0 15.1
2011 7.3 1.2 5.5 15.4
2012 7.5 1.5 5.4 15.8
2013 8.3 2.1 5.9 17.8

http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/Historicals (Table 2.3)

2012 and 2013 are estimates. All data from OMB (it appears projections are based on Obama's budget). Numbers do not add up to total because I omitted excise taxes and miscellaneous (they're relatively constant, their sum ranges from 1.1 to 1.5% in the years listed, that .4% difference is significantly smaller than the changes in the total revenue.

Looking at the data it becomes clear that while some taxes (like the Social Security/Medicare taxes are relatively constant in a recession, which don't change in 2008 and 2009, going down only once temporary tax cuts go into effect), both personal and corporate income taxes as a percent of GDP are sensitive to economic conditions. Unfortunately I couldn't find a breakdown at a lower level, so I can't say how much of the personal income tax decline is due to say, capital gains versus wages and salary. There were some changes in the tax code over this period, so lets separate those changes from the impact of the recession.

CBO provides this data, but unfortunately doesn't break it down as a percentage of GDP. Still, it will be pretty clear that these changes dwarf the change in GDP (real GDP in 2009 was 3.8% lower than in 2007, and by 2011 had exceeded 2007 levels). http://www.bea.gov/national/nipaweb/Sel ... ?Popular=Y

The data we're looking for is the Changes to Revenue Projections, Subtotal, economic and technical (everything besides the legislative changes, which is principally the change due the economy not performing as expected). Before the recession really affected tax revenues, the deviation from 2001 projections (again, after accounting for tax code changes) was $28 billion in 2007 and $58 billion in 2008. For the next 3 years the average was over $650 billion, more than 20% of 2007 revenue (remember, real GDP fell less than 4%). This change was far larger than the change from post recession tax changes (2008: $190 billion, 2009: $181 billion, 2010: $226 billion. So we can safely attribute most (perhaps as much as 3/4ths) of the fall in revenue as a percent of GDP to the recession.

http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/121xx/doc121 ... ctions.pdf

So that's the how much. Now for the why (or at least the part of the why I can think of off the top of my head, given that the numbers show that there is a recession induced decline in revenues as a percent of GDP).

On the corporate side, taxes are based on profits, so a small decline in revenue can have a disproportionate effect on taxes (this can last for a while due to the ability to deduct losses from previous years).

On the personal side you have:
Capital gains (Just as above, a 5% loss in value can translate to a much larger loss in taxable value [how much it's appreciated], in addition, the stock market lost a much larger amount of its value than GDP did).
People sliding into lower brackets (or out of the AMT).
Diminished compensation in the top bracket (eg. bonuses).
Increased drawing on of savings for those who lose work or take hour/wage cuts. If you lose your job and start relying on your savings, your federal taxes might zero out, but your consumption (and thus impact on GDP) won't reduce as much.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby sardia » Mon Feb 13, 2012 8:47 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:First, the idea that children should be indebted to government instead of the voters taking responsibility for paying for whatever programs they institute is a serious assumption that I strongly disagree with. However, even if we accept that assumption, isn't it entirely reasonable for the current generation of parents to work to free their own children from the debt that they themselves accrued? If social programs create a debt, isn't it rational to want to remove programs to alleviate debt?

And I see no hypocrisy in pointing out that Social Security, for instance, is an awful program, but simultaneously wishing to see some sort of return on the thousands of dollars forcibly taken from one's paycheck over the last few decades.

The paychecks going out already exceed the taxes going in, so the current recipients already see a return on the money they paid in. The debt is caused by the benefits being given out. Are you suggesting we restrict payments, reduce benefits, or raise taxes to balance the Social Security budget? Or as the other posters imply, cut off benefits to future recipients?
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby Arrian » Mon Feb 13, 2012 8:48 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:
Silknor wrote:
Ghostbear wrote:That's only true if you count a 5 point difference as "steady".

In a broad sense it is pretty stable, but revenue dropped from about 19% of GDP to about 14% with Bush.

Some of that drop is due to Bush's tax policies, but a lot is due to the recession. It's more useful to compare averages over longer periods:

How do you figure? As the recession lowers revenues, it also lowers GDP; revenue as a share of GDP should stay more or less constant during busts or booms.


Silknor did a better job answering that than I would have.

Silknor wrote:@Arrian: While revenues have stayed on a fairly narrow band for a while (eg. 18.2% during Reagan's years, 19% during Clinton's), that doesn't tell us much about what revenues should be in the future. Revenues in the long term need to be pegged to spending, and spending as a share of GDP is increasing for entirely predictable and understandable reasons (not the temporary boost caused by lower GDP+stimulus): the population is aging, and health care costs are increasing. This means we'll need more revenue if we're going to keep similar levels of benefits as we've had in the past.


This is actually where the Tea Party's politics is important. We need to make a national decision: Do we increase revenue to keep up with our spending increases, do we reduce spending to match our revenue, or do we meet somewhere in the middle. Currently we're spending like the first choice but collecting taxes like the second, and that's an untenable situation. The decision is entirely one of political values, and is something we've put off making. By couching it in terms of "revenue shortfalls" or "runaway spending" the two sides are trying to move past the decision and go straight to the implementation phase. This is somewhat disingenuous but makes honest argument against your team's propositions harder.

The Tea Party is coming in on the side of reducing spending, they (or some of them) have a reasonable argument since revenue has been pretty steady but expenditures have significantly increased over time. I agree with them more than I do with the Democrats: We have to set constraints, and I think 18%-20% of GDP is quite reasonable. There is a tremendous amount of fat in the federal budget, a lot needs to be trimmed (even fat in Medicare and Social Security, but also in defense) before I'd consider increasing revenues to be reasonable.

My political opinion is that our targetted expenditures should be based upon the constraint of revenues, not vice versa, and 18-20% of GDP is enough revenue. Therefore, we should cull back expenditures. (But yes, running deficits during recessions is perfectly reasonable. I'm not advocating New Keynesian discretionary stimulus, but pro-cyclical government expenditures can't be good either in up or down years. I could even be sold on Old Keynesian minor counter-cyclical spending (with surpluses in good years as well as deficits in bad years) or automatic buffers.) True, there may come a time when new expenses are needed but nothing old can be cut and thus revenues need to be increased, but it will be a VERY high bar to convince me of that.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites?

Postby Heisenberg » Mon Feb 13, 2012 9:07 pm UTC

Belial wrote:It certainly sounds reasonable when you put it like that. When you ignore the conveniences of timing.

Those programs helped those people succeed, and now that they've succeeded, they no longer see the point in paying for the programs. A helping hand dragged them upwards, and now that they're standing on high ground, they are taking a moral stance against helping hands. It's kindof like that time we were taking turns buying rounds at the bar, and at round 4 when I was 3 beers in and it was my turn to buy, I suddenly took a strong moral stance against alcohol.

Except that never happened because I would've been rightly brained with a stein.

And here I think you're ignoring things like consent. Sure, if I apply for disability payments, I am choosing to participate in the system, but the idea that all 4-year olds are indebted to the government as soon as they're enrolled in Head Start is clearly ridiculous.

Similarly, Jahoclave's assertion that our veterans are indebted to the government when they receive GI bill benefits misses the intention of the bill. We, the citizenry, are indebted to those who risked and lost their lives defending our country, and as such, we the citizenry elected to give them benefits in an attempt to partially repay that debt. When I talk to WWII veterans who gave years of their life in service to our country, and have been paying taxes every year since then, I don't think "Yeah, but you totally still owe me for that community college degree."

The idea that our generation is chained to the entitlement programs of the past is far from progressive.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites?

Postby Vaniver » Mon Feb 13, 2012 9:13 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Point is, given the timing, I'm thoroughly unconvinced by their convenient new enlightened stance.
Is there any evidence that their stance is new?

I mean, if someone was opposed to Social Security when it was proposed, was opposed to it while the taxes were taken out of their paycheck, and after retiring were still opposed to forcing new people into the new system, is it a "new" stance that they want a refund of the money taken from them?
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites?

Postby Silknor » Mon Feb 13, 2012 9:28 pm UTC

@Arrian: I agree with your framing of the issue, even if I disagree on what the ideal numbers are, though I'd add that there's another issue that often gets combined with discussions about the right level of revenues and spending: given a certain level of revenues we want, how should we achieve that? This is a complicated issue and bears on how progressive the tax system is, how the tax system impacts economic growth, and what side benefits we can get (eg. a carbon tax can raise revenue, but the principle goal is to make the market work more efficiently by pricing in pollution and climate change externalities, thus helping the environment). This tangling makes things like tax reform much more difficult: since the parties are sometimes using baselines that are trillions of dollars apart over 10 years, they can't agree on a revenue-neutral tax reform because even if they both want to reform the tax code in similar ways, they can't agree on what revenue-neutral would be!

What I find interesting in your post though is that while you say you agree with the Tea Party on spending more than the Democrats, the numbers you give for reasonable taxes match up with the Democrats far better than any Republican plan.

You gave a range of 18-20% of GDP. Looking at a 10 year window, Obama's plan would raise 19.2% of GDP and Romney's would raise 17%. I don't know what a Tea Party plan would be exactly, but Gingrich's plan would raise just 13.2% in 2015 (for comparison, Obama's would raise 19% in that year, so Gingrich's likely wouldn't get much higher as the recovery finishes up). It just goes to show how far apart the parties are on some of these issues.

http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/ ... aspx#page1
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites?

Postby sardia » Mon Feb 13, 2012 9:31 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:
Belial wrote:It certainly sounds reasonable when you put it like that. When you ignore the conveniences of timing.

Those programs helped those people succeed, and now that they've succeeded, they no longer see the point in paying for the programs. A helping hand dragged them upwards, and now that they're standing on high ground, they are taking a moral stance against helping hands. It's kindof like that time we were taking turns buying rounds at the bar, and at round 4 when I was 3 beers in and it was my turn to buy, I suddenly took a strong moral stance against alcohol.

Except that never happened because I would've been rightly brained with a stein.

And here I think you're ignoring things like consent. Sure, if I apply for disability payments, I am choosing to participate in the system, but the idea that all 4-year olds are indebted to the government as soon as they're enrolled in Head Start is clearly ridiculous.

Similarly, Jahoclave's assertion that our veterans are indebted to the government when they receive GI bill benefits misses the intention of the bill. We, the citizenry, are indebted to those who risked and lost their lives defending our country, and as such, we the citizenry elected to give them benefits in an attempt to partially repay that debt. When I talk to WWII veterans who gave years of their life in service to our country, and have been paying taxes every year since then, I don't think "Yeah, but you totally still owe me for that community college degree."

The idea that our generation is chained to the entitlement programs of the past is far from progressive.

Ahem, they haven't been paying the full tax bill, or more precisely, Americans don't like to pay taxes equal to spending. They've been paying 3/4 of the taxes needed to pay for the country's bills every year, and now you understand what the problem is. You previously said that they entered an agreement when they began social security. They would only pay x amount and get y in benefits. But things change, for one thing, the government expected seniors to not live 80+ years with ballooning medical bills. If seniors aren't keeping their end of the bargain by dropping dead like they are suppose to, why does the government have to keep their end of the bargain by not raising taxes or reducing benefits? Can't the government be flexible and change with time?

Silknor wrote:@Arrian: I agree with your framing of the issue, even if I disagree on what the ideal numbers are, though I'd add that there's another issue that often gets combined with discussions about the right level of revenues and spending: given a certain level of revenues we want, how should we achieve that? This is a complicated issue and bears on how progressive the tax system is, how the tax system impacts economic growth, and what side benefits we can get (eg. a carbon tax can raise revenue, but the principle goal is to make the market work more efficiently by pricing in pollution and climate change externalities, thus helping the environment). This tangling makes things like tax reform much more difficult: since the parties are sometimes using baselines that are trillions of dollars apart over 10 years, they can't agree on a revenue-neutral tax reform because even if they both want to reform the tax code in similar ways, they can't agree on what revenue-neutral would be!

What I find interesting in your post though is that while you say you agree with the Tea Party on spending more than the Democrats, the numbers you give for reasonable taxes match up with the Democrats far better than any Republican plan.

You gave a range of 18-20% of GDP. Looking at a 10 year window, Obama's plan would raise 19.2% of GDP and Romney's would raise 17%. I don't know what a Tea Party plan would be exactly, but Gingrich's plan would raise just 13.2% in 2015 (for comparison, Obama's would raise 19% in that year, so Gingrich's likely wouldn't get much higher as the recovery finishes up). It just goes to show how far apart the parties are on some of these issues.

http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/ ... aspx#page1


The problem with Tea Party thinking is that they want to cut spending, just not spending for them. I'm not sure if they think there's more money or waste to be found in the rest of the budget, or some other misunderstanding. Maybe they really do believe in cutting out social security and medicaid, and they are ok with the consequences of dying of disease and living in poverty.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby Ghostbear » Mon Feb 13, 2012 9:41 pm UTC

Silknor wrote:It's true that both revenues and GDP falls, but this doesn't mean they fall at the same rate.

Right, and I agree that they aren't going to fall in equal proportions, but if you look at the chart, the drop off from ~19% to ~14% lines up almost perfectly with the tax cuts. Some of the revenue lost can be explained by the recession, no doubt. My opposition (which I did not state well) was with the notion that the tax cuts were a less significant contributor to revenue as a percent of GDP. Revenues were sufficient to prevent deficits, either entirely or on a large scale, then the tax cuts happened and they no longer were. The recession will explain of our current loss, but not all, and taxes have their part to play for that. You can even see the Reagan tax cuts almost perfectly on the chart.

Arrian wrote:Silknor did a better job answering that than I would have.

Yes, but that still leaves the loss of 5 points of revenue immediately after the tax cuts. They noted how part of it will be the recession. Taxes still have their part to play. Even ignoring revenue, taxes are also used to help shape society the way we wish- in Buffet's case, it's partially to help fix income inequality, and partially to plug up revenues. Asking him to freely pay extra in taxes does absolutely nothing to address part of his stance, so saying he's being hypocritical is inaccurate.

Vaniver wrote:I mean, if someone was opposed to Social Security when it was proposed, was opposed to it while the taxes were taken out of their paycheck, and after retiring were still opposed to forcing new people into the new system, is it a "new" stance that they want a refund of the money taken from them?

Their opposition to it is heavily blunted by them having benefited from it, then becoming more political active about removing it after they are no longer a significant beneficiary. Whether they opposed it just as heavily from the start or not, they still enjoyed the benefits and then want to remove those same benefits for other people.

Also, I would somewhat snarkily state that I expect anyone that opposed social security when it was proposed is now dead, and that the few of them still alive are unlikely to make up a significant portion of the tea party.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites?

Postby Triangle_Man » Mon Feb 13, 2012 10:21 pm UTC

1) Asserting that cutting spending will lead to crippling and horrible poverty in every case would be an exaggeration.

2) That being said, the thing I'm seeing in this article is that it's easy to talk about what should be done but harder to make those same stances when you realize how you'd be effected by them (specifically, the article mentions people becoming indecisive when asked about what should be done to deal with the debt). I'm also seeing a group of people who want to be 100% self-reliant but, for various reasons, find this impossible. Their frustration over this state of affairs and anger at other groups could be motivated/compounded by the perception that they never got a hand up (which wouldn't be true) and their observations of both their own lives and the lives of others.

In other words, there is despair that goes along with realizing the difference between your ideal world and what the world is truly like, and that schism can make you look like a massive hypocrite.

...Or not. The other major point here, however, is that something has to give, and whether it's a reduction in spending or increased taxation is stands a large chance of sucking for everyone involved. I figure that increased taxation would be the preferable hit at this juncture if only because it will increase revenue without the deprivation of important social programs.

Still, such a move will suck (assuming that America needs more revenue then what a tax increase on the Upper-Class can provide).
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby Silknor » Mon Feb 13, 2012 10:54 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:if you look at the chart, the drop off from ~19% to ~14% lines up almost perfectly with the tax cuts. Some of the revenue lost can be explained by the recession, no doubt. My opposition (which I did not state well) was with the notion that the tax cuts were a less significant contributor to revenue as a percent of GDP. Revenues were sufficient to prevent deficits, either entirely or on a large scale, then the tax cuts happened and they no longer were. The recession will explain of our current loss, but not all, and taxes have their part to play for that. You can even see the Reagan tax cuts almost perfectly on the chart.


We don't get down to under 15% till 2009. Looking both at this data (revenues post-Bush Tax Cuts and before any tax increases take effect rise to over 18% of GDP before the recession), and at the numbers I quoted earlier (17.9% was the average revenue over the next 10 years as a percent of GDP under current policy, eg. extending all the Bush Tax Cuts and letting the temporary other cuts expire on schedule), it seems hard to say the the long term trajectory of the Bush Tax Cuts pushes us that far below 18%. Yes, they were big tax cuts, and we did have a projected surplus (though the economy underperformed anyway, so it might not have been as large a surplus as expected) turn into a deficit. But we also had a lot of spending increases during the Bush years (2 wars, Medicare Part D). It just wasn't the Bush Tax Cuts that pushed revenues anywhere near 15%.

CBO agrees. Their 2001 projection showed a surplus of $5.6 trillion over the next 10 years (2002-2011). We ended up with a 10 year deficit of $6.2 trillion. They helpfully break down the change by category, and come up with just over $1.5 trillion lost due to the Bush Tax Cuts (on the chart it's EGTRRA and JGTRRA). You might get to $2 trillion if you include tax cuts signed by Bush that aren't lumped in with what we call the Bush Tax Cuts (it depends on the breakdown of the other category, it's not clear how much of that was signed by Obama).

So out of $11.8 trillion dollar swing, the Bush Tax Cuts get credit for about $1.5 trillion of that. For comparison's sake, tax policies besides the Bush Tax Cuts cost about $1.3 trillion (this breakdown lumps the extension of the Bush Tax Cuts at the end of 2010 in with the $1.3 trillion, the vast majority of the $1.3 trillion was various temporary tax cuts). So those were some costly tax policies. And yet, the lost revenue due to the economy being weaker than projected in 2001 was even greater, $3.4 trillion. A little over $2 trillion of that was in 2009-2011. So while the Bush Tax Cuts are an important driver of deficits over the coming years (once the economy has recovered fully), it's not accurate to attribute to them even half of current deficits, or a larger share than is due to the recession (keep in mind that $2 billion lost over 3 years is revenues only, it doesn't include increased automatic or discretionary spending due to the recession). For example in 2010 the deficit was around $1.3 trillion and the Bush Tax Cuts cost $180 billion (coincidentally, that's exactly how much tax cuts in the stimulus cost that year).

You can find all these numbers here: http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/121xx/doc121 ... ctions.pdf

Note: If those numbers seem a little low for the Bush Tax Cuts, that's because they are. Two reasons for that. First, unlike the oft-quoted $3.8 trillion dollar cost for extending them the next 10 years, the Bush Tax Cuts weren't fully phased in for the entirety of the period (they were almost entirely phased in before the recession), and many of those years featured a recession so the losses from the tax cuts were lower than if the economy was strong, by contrast, the $3.8 trillion assumes that once the economy recovers it'll keep going nicely. Second, CBO doesn't include the increased interest payments on the debt under lost revenue, but instead under spending. Those totaled just under $1.4 trillion over 10 years. A back of the envelope calculation suggests we should add about 15% of those costs to the cost of the Bush Tax Cuts, which would push the cost from about $1.5 trillion to $1.7 trillion.

I've included revenue as a percent of GDP numbers below since it's easier to read than a chart.

1998 19.9
1999 19.8

2000 20.6
2001 19.5
2002 17.6
2003 16.2
2004 16.1

2005 17.3
2006 18.2
2007 18.5
2008 17.5
2009 14.9
2010 14.9
http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts ... ?Docid=205
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites?

Postby Dauric » Mon Feb 13, 2012 11:27 pm UTC

The thing I have to wonder about is the apparent 'disconnect' between the political positions and the life stories, as though their life events had no bearing on their political views. Even in cases where during the interview the people being interviewed said that without government help they would have died, then the interview after that their responses were essentially trying to cope with the cognitive dissonance.

It's like they had never plugged the two concepts together until the interviewer asked about how their political stance would have effected their personal situation.

It's left me wondering how that compartmentalization occurred. Assuming for the moment that not everyone who suffers from this is an inherent asshole that requires a beer-stein to the head, I'm left with a few possible sources:

1) Political party as community identity. It's not that the policies are attractive, but the groupthink of the community is largely conservative, and as social creatures we strive to fit in. This may be especially pronounced in communities with strong ties to religious institutions.

2) Disconnect between "Politics" and "Reality". Politicians lie about their stances, it's 'conventional wisdom', taken to an extreme in enough situations it places political discourse as a theoretical exercise with no bearing on an individual's experience of 'real life'.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites?

Postby sardia » Mon Feb 13, 2012 11:39 pm UTC

I took a psychological view of it. They are angry at themselves for needing a handout in the first place, so they lash out at governmental policies. Hence my example of closet gay conservatives who rail against homosexuals.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites?

Postby Zcorp » Tue Feb 14, 2012 12:51 am UTC

I took some of the interviews as a disagreement that they should of be alive. That it isn't worth the cost to society for what they have been given.
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites?

Postby Triangle_Man » Tue Feb 14, 2012 1:42 am UTC

Zcorp wrote:I took some of the interviews as a disagreement that they should of be alive. That it isn't worth the cost to society for what they have been given.

...

Could you please explain your stance a bit more?
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Re: Tea Party, Hypocritical Parasites? Yes.

Postby Ghostbear » Tue Feb 14, 2012 1:51 am UTC

Silknor wrote:CBO agrees. Their 2001 projection showed a surplus of $5.6 trillion over the next 10 years (2002-2011). We ended up with a 10 year deficit of $6.2 trillion. They helpfully break down the change by category, and come up with just over $1.5 trillion lost due to the Bush Tax Cuts (on the chart it's EGTRRA and JGTRRA). You might get to $2 trillion if you include tax cuts signed by Bush that aren't lumped in with what we call the Bush Tax Cuts (it depends on the breakdown of the other category, it's not clear how much of that was signed by Obama).

Right, but this is all the deficits sum total. I was speaking to revenue as a percent of GDP. Not saying that the tax cuts are the sole part of the deficit, just that the revenue as a percent of GDP will be mostly tied to them, and that as of late that percent has been lower. I only mentioned the deficit as an example of how tax rates do contribute to revenue; before tax cuts, surplus, after tax cuts, deficit. Over the past decade other factors will have had a huge contribution to the debt, I don't disagree with you in that in the least.

What I disagreed with was that US revenue stay in a narrow band effectively no matter what. A 5 point difference is not minor in this case.
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