Sunday, May 6, 2012

I am the 'Beast' the Republicans want to 'Starve'

"Starve the Beast" is the well-documented and radical 34-year-old plan that Mitt Romney and the Tea Party endorses for deliberately bankrupting America.

Forbes Magazine: "On July 14, 1978 the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on the Kemp-Roth tax bill, which would have cut all federal income tax rates by about one-third. A key witness was Alan Greenspan who was the first Republican to articulate what came to be called the 'starve the beast" theory'."

Alan Greenspan was also the most blamed for the financial crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession.

The GOP's plan is basically this:

  • Cut taxes on the rich,
  • which in turn would reduce government tax revenues,
  • and ultimately force cuts to programs for the poor and middle-class...programs the rich don't need (we are the "beasts" that the Republicans want to starve.)

Starving the beast is a fiscal-political strategy of American conservatives to cut taxes in order to deprive the government of revenue in a deliberate effort to create a fiscal budget "crisis" that is intended to force the federal government to reduce spending (rather than restore tax levels). The short and medium term effect of the strategy has increased United States public debt rather than reduced spending.

We saw this vividly played out last year when the Tea Party Republicans almost shut down the government, which resulted in having the United States' credit rating reduced.

The term "beast" refers to the government (the people) and the programs it funds, particularly social programs such as TANF, Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, Pell grants and public schools; and does not usually refer to spending on military, law enforcement or prisons.

You heard all the Republicans presidential candidates rant and rave about the social programs during the debates.

"Starving the beast" was the premise behind the conservative fiscal strategy, but the growth of spending and deficits (even in the face of large tax cuts) has worn down some of its former supporters, according to syndicated columnist and former U.S. Treasury official Bruce Bartlett, in an article analyzing the origins and development of the Republican fiscal strategy. “Starve the Beast” - Origins and Development of a Budgetary Metaphor (PDF)

The first rule of Starving the Beast? Don't mention it. This is not something you can speak of in polite conversation, as an Andrew Sullivan reader pointed out:

"This is the culmination of about a thirty year Republican strategy called “starve the beast,” by which Republicans have worked to reduce taxes and increase the national deficit as large as possible – all to create the supposed “deficit crisis” that we now face and to use that crisis to eliminate programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and a slew of other programs (EPA, SEC, Planned Parenthood, collective bargaining, etc.) that the Republican class has never been able to eliminate through the democratic process. This “starve the beast” Republican strategy has been openly acknowledged for years and I know you are well aware of it. And the Ryan “budget plan” is transparently an attempt to cash in on this long-standing political agenda."

Rolling Stone has a good article: How the GOP became the Party of the Rich - "Ronald Reagan put his tax plan to work on behalf of the rich in a move that GOP Majority Leader Howard Baker called a "riverboat gamble". Reagan sold the country on an "across-the-board" tax cut that brought the top tax rate on the rich down to 50 percent. According to supply-side economists, the wealthy would use their tax break to spur investment, and the economy would boom.

Bruce Bartlett recalls, "We started talking about just cutting taxes and saying, 'Screw the deficit.' We had this idea that if you lowered revenues, the concern about the deficit would be channeled into spending cuts."

It was the birth of what is now known as "Starve the Beast" – a conscious strategy by conservatives to force cuts in federal spending by deliberately bankrupting the country. As conceived by the right-wing intellectual Irving Kristol in 1980, the plan called for Republicans to create a "fiscal problem" by slashing taxes – and then foist the pain of re-imposing fiscal discipline onto future Democratic administrations who, in Kristol's words, would be forced to "tidy up afterward."

Americans for Tax Reform, headed by Grover Norquist, used an instrument for enforcement – an anti-tax pledge signed by GOP lawmakers – which quickly evolved into a powerful weapon designed to shift the tax burden away from the rich.

Newt Gingrich and the anti-tax revolutionaries who seized control of Congress in 1994 moved to eliminate taxes on investment income and to abolish the inheritance tax. Under the final plan they enacted, capital gains taxes were sliced to 20 percent (now 15 percent with the Bush tax cuts) -- a tax cut that went directly to the top one percent of income earners.

"The capital gains tax cut alone gave the top 400 taxpayers* a bigger tax cut than all the Bush tax cuts combined," says David Cay Johnston, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich – and Cheat Everybody Else.

* See the Forbes 400 List

From Occupy America in an article: "Where the Right Went Wrong"- "Bill Moyers talked with conservative economist Bruce Bartlett, who wrote the bible for the Reagan Revolution, and worked on domestic policy for the Reagan White House, and who also served as a top treasury official under the first President Bush. Now he's a heretic in the conservative circles where he once was a star. Bartlett argues that right-wing tax policies -- pushed in part by Grover Norquist and Tea Party activists -- are destroying the country's economic foundation."

"Starve the Beast," is now being championed by Irving Kristol's son, Bill Kristol (a regular on Fox News) and Grover Norquist...cutting taxes and placing funds into positions where they will have little stimulative effect, which will in fact grow the deficit or remove the dollars from positions in which they could be used for social programs or other methods of helping the poor, thereby forcing the shrinkage of government by aiding the oligarchs." - An Open Letter to Bill O’Brien – Is That Round Table Still Open?, January 18, 2012

From a doctoral dissertation entitled "Starving the Beast: Using tax policy and governmental budgeting to drive social policy," by Amy M. Hageman, Univ. Central Florida 2007:

"Strauss viewed liberalism as the crisis of modernity and felt strongly that the natural right of the gentlemen (e.g. the elite) must be protected to allow the gentlemen to rule as an aristocracy within a democratic society. Strauss also saw strong national unity as the key to a successful state. Neo-conservative theory also disdains welfarism and holds that governmental involvement in social problems should be limited, but that strong national security and defense are essential for a unified country. These tenets are fundamental to understanding why contemporary tax policy makers are focused on tax cuts that realign the equity of the tax system to favor the protection of the elite’s wealth and realign federal budgets to shift spending away from social programs that might benefit society’s vulgar."

Grover Norquist has always said of government, "I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."

Everyone, regardless of income level, can help starve the beast by drastically cutting consumption. This hits both Federal and State tax collection. By cutting consumption – or consuming ’smartly’, we actually do three things – save money, avoid paying both direct and indirect taxes, and create a downstream loss in revenue, which results in lower collection of corporate income taxes (and a loss of jobs, which is also a loss in government revenue and an increase in government social program spending --- and one step closer to ‘breaking’ the system).

The top 1 percent of American earners receive almost a fifth of the country’s income, according to Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, two economists who study inequality. According to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by the Economic Policy Institute the top 1 percent of Americans, by net worth, hold about a third of American wealth.

Compensation for chief executives at American companies grew 15 percent in 2011 after a 28 percent rise in 2010, part of a larger trend that has seen CEO pay skyrocket over the last three decades. Workers, on the other hand, have been left behind (especially those in the bottom 50% of the workforce.)

Despite previous claims that the Bush tax cuts would raise revenue, we now know the 2001 tax cuts was an attempt to starve the beast at a cost of approximately of $1.35 trillion over 10 years while the 2003 tax cuts cost another $350 billion over 10 years. We also know that the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars was pegged at $1.26 trillion through 2011 and the un-funded Medicare Part D prescription drug program stands at $272 billion so far.

In 2010 142.8 million Americans filed tax returns. The year before about 59 million tax returns were filed with either positive or negative AGI that used exemptions, deductions and tax credits to completely wipe out their federal income tax liability. Read: Who Pays Taxes and Who Receives Government Spending? (PDF)

Last year 50% of all U.S. workers earned less than $26,364 a year. This is the bottom 50% that the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundations says only pays 3% of all the [federal income] taxes. These are the people the Republicans say "should put more skin in the game".

But because half of our population makes such low wages, the bulk (if not all) of their earnings are spent on basic necessities in consumption, which is also taxed in other ways. The Republicans want to impose a VAT tax that would disproportionately tax low income people more, who are already suffering financial hardship.

Those are the people -- those that need food stamps to eat -- the "beasts" that the Republicans want to "starve".

Reuters: “Starving the beast” is a favorite conservative strategy for forcing cuts in federal spending. The idea is to deprive the government of revenue in order to force spending cuts – and resistance to new taxes was a central feature of the Super Committee deliberations in Washington.

In fiscal 2011, Congress provided the Social Security Administration with about $1 billion less than requested by President Obama. Those cuts forced the agency to make cuts that beneficiaries have noticed. It suspended mailing of the annual statement of benefits, and it shelved plans to open new hearing offices to handle the backlog of disability claims, which has soared during the recession.

Europe is now in a recession. There was no debt crisis in Britain but it's now experiencing its first double-dip recession since the 1970s. Robert Reich says they can blame it on their austerity economics --"the bizarre view that economic slowdowns are the products of excessive debt, so government should cut spending. Germany's insistence on cutting public budgets has led Europe into a recession swamp. The danger here for the United States is clear. The Republicans have been demanding and getting spending cuts at the worst possible time -- and ignoring the economic and social consequences."

More people (with natural population growth) makes for "bigger government", and that's why taxation is necessary for domestic spending - which is needed to maintain programs like Social Security and Medicare, while maintaining what's necessary for the defense of the country and our infrastructure. The Republican's policies are putting this country into a state of decay while just enriching a few at the very top.

No one is immune from catastrophe. Most of us get old. Anyone can lose their job and health insurance. Not everyone has the physical ability to work until the day they drop dead, especially if they have a labor intensive job. Anybody can get seriously ill or become disabled. Many won't be considered for employment after they reach a certain age. Most American voters, even Republican ones, might need assistance at some time in their life. Only 1% of the population need not worry about social safety nets, most of us are just trying to get by. It's a shame that so many people vote against their own best interests, and believe the Republican propaganda, when it's common knowledge the GOP is the party of the rich.

Mitt Romney "loves" Paul Ryan's budget plan, the Social Darwinism concept of struggle for existence and survival of the fittest to justify social policies which make no distinction between those able to support themselves and those unable to support themselves.

They squeezed all they could out of us for food, gas, housing and electricity. Then they outsourced the jobs overseas. The jobs that are now available don't pay a "living wage". And now they want to cut our very last lifeline for existence.

The American people (and maybe you) -- are the "beasts" the Republicans want to "starve".


  1. UPDATE:

    Mitt Romney said, "Government is at the center of [Obama's] vision. It dispenses the benefits, borrows what it cannot take, and consumes a greater and greater share of the economy. With Obamacare fully installed, government will come to control half the economy, and we will have effectively ceased to be a free enterprise society."

    Bruce Bartlett, who served as a senior economist in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, was blunt in his appraisal of Romney's assertion that Obamacare will lead to government control of half of the economy: "This analysis is so stupid it is hard to know where to begin."

  2. One in seven seniors in America -- some 8.3 million people -- faced the threat of hunger in 2010, which rose for people age 60 and older, mainly among those earning less than $30,000 –- or one to two times the poverty level. (The federal poverty level in 2010, the period studied, was $10,830 for a single person and $14,570 for a couple.)

    The GOP wants to starve the beast and grandma!

  3. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor came out in favor of considering a tax increase — on poor people. We’ve “got to discuss that issue,” the Virginia Republican told reporters. Cantor remains opposed to any tax hike on Americans of ample means. Explains the GOP leader: “I’ve never believed that you go raise taxes on those that have been successful.”

  4. NYT reported yesterday that in 2010 37% of the increase in America's wealth went to the top 0.1%. 56% went to the rest of the top 1% and just 7% went to the bottom 99%. Even in the face of these numbers the GOP want to cut taxes on the ultra rich at the expense of the poor. They won't be happy until they have it all. The deficits are caused by a lack of revenue because of the depressed economy and safety net programs. There is no demand in the economy with such high unemployment and stagnant wages. The Republicans cut taxes then started two wars without figuring out how to pay for them. How people can vote for these criminals is beyond me.