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Obama’s Do Nothing Deficit Plan

April 14th, 2011 at 5:39 pm | 30 Comments |

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The deficit plan presented by Obama is atrocious. In short, view he doesn’t want to cut entitlements (so there’s no real long-term solution) and he wants to raise taxes.

Moreover, his Orwellian language about “spending reductions in the tax code” implies that all wealth belongs to the government from the start, and letting people keep a fraction of the wealth they produce is really government spending. Tax revenues may well need to be increased, but in the least destructive ways possible. Obama’s plan calls for more taxes on work and savings (while remaining silent about consumption) – and that’s the worst possible way to raise more revenue.

The perverse incentives of such tax hikes look even worse in light of probable future entitlement reforms. It is mathematically impossible that Social Security and Medicare will still exist in their current form thirty to forty years from now. They will be reformed one way or the other. Almost all potential cuts to these programs are highly unpopular (even among Republicans), and about the only popular cut is for reducing benefits for wealthy retirees.  (In effect, the only cuts most people support are the cuts that only affect somebody else – incidentally, the same principle applies to tax increases).

So it’s likely that some form of means-testing will eventually be introduced. I have mixed feelings about means-testing for retirement programs. Means-testing tends to discourage responsible behavior. Social programs for the poor discourage low income people from accumulating even modest savings and owning a reliable vehicle. Middle class programs such as financial aid for students mean, for example, that depending on your income and assets, it can make perfect economic sense for you to take an expensive vacation or have cosmetic surgery shortly before your child applies for college.

Means-tested Social Security and/or Medicare may well discourage work and savings. What’s even more discouraging is the uncertainty resulting from the Democrats’ refusal to discuss any serious reform. Today’s young people know that means-testing is likely in the future, but they have no idea what shape it may take and whether (and how much) they will be penalized for getting more education, working harder, moving to parts of the country where incomes are higher, saving and investing significant portions of their earnings etc. Piling extra taxes on work and investment on top of that uncertainty is a terrible idea.

On a different note, why do Republicans let Obama get away with rhetorical murder? He keeps talking about not extending some of the tax cuts when what he really means is raising taxes. Prior history of the tax rates is irrelevant. The Bush tax cuts can be just as accurately called “partial rollbacks of Clinton tax hikes”. Or even “partial rollbacks of Clinton tax hikes on top of Bush (H.W.) tax hikes”. Well, you can go all the way to Woodrow Wilson if you are so inclined. But what really matters is here and now.  Republicans should never have demanded to “make the Bush tax cuts permanent”. Rather they should have fought to “prevent tax increases in a bad recession”. For all practical purposes the Bush tax cuts are permanent. Yes, I know they were set to expire at the end of last year. But there’s nothing permanent in politics anyway.

And even if they do finally expire at the end of next year (this is not a foregone conclusion yet), the income tax rate structure created by George W. Bush will have lasted a full decade (2003 – 2012). In the entire history of the U.S. income tax there’s never been a longer period during which rates remained unchanged. Republicans unnecessarily ceded a lot of rhetorical ground to Democrats by treating the current tax rates as temporary and unnaturally low rather than referring to them as “current longstanding tax rates”.


Recent Posts by Andrew Pavelyev



30 Comments so far ↓

  • ottovbvs

    In short, he doesn’t want to cut entitlements (so there’s no real long-term solution)

    No he wants to cut the costs of providing healthcare which is where the problem lies. Access is not the problem, if it was why are our peer group able to provide universal access to healthcare at HALF THE PRICE it costs us. What are THEY doing right and WE doing wrong Mr Pavelyev? Of course you won’t answer this question will you Andrew? That would actually require some thinking.

    • Reflection Ephemeral

      Yep, this is the key.

      Happily, we know that the choice between raising middle-class taxes and slashing Medicare is a false one.

      That’s because we know that the rest of the world exists. When we look at our health care spending compared to theirs, we see that ours is anomalous. And we know from the CBO that the bulk of the projected increase from Medicare & Medicaid comes from *increasing costs*, not from the aging of the population.

      US health care spending vs. OECD:

      Here’s a (slightly old) chart showing where the rise in projected costs for Medicare and Medicaid is coming from:

      And public plans have been doing a better job containing prices that private ones:

      Here’s one way to balance the budget mostly by reverting to 1990s-era tax levels and knocking off our foreign occupations: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/11/13/weekinreview/deficits-graphic.html?choices=809205qv

      Here’s a paper by Kenneth Arrow explaining why the market for health care is unlike markets for normal goods like cars and bubble gum: http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/82/2/PHCBP.pdf

      Rejoice! We don’t face a choice between ending health care as we know it or surefire bankruptcy.

  • forkboy1965

    And what’s wrong with raising taxes?

    Sure, I’d rather pay less than more, but it would seem our nation has decades of experience proving higher taxes (all prior to Reagan) had no impact on the fiscal growth of our nation.

    Or has the GOP completely forgotten everything pre-Reagan?

  • crzymke

    Is Mr. Pavelyev really suggesting that consumption taxes would be a better idea than income taxes? In a recession you want to even more directly disincentivize spending?

  • ottovbvs

    He keeps talking about not extending some of the tax cuts when what he really means is raising taxes. Prior history of the tax rates is irrelevant.

    Not really Andy there was an expiry date on them. This is why prior history is NOT irrelevant!!!!!!!!!!

  • Frumplestiltskin

    Wow, what an atrocious posting. It is so beyond stupid it is barely worth commenting on.
    To say previous tax rates is irrelevant is insane, and you only state it because all of you jackasses who claimed the Clinton tax rates would cause a depression were completely wrong, now you state…hey, don’t look to the past..it was the 90′s…nothing to see there, instead lets go back to the 80′s and supply side economics even though they have never worked the past doesn’t matter.

    Andrew, taxes buy civilization, you don’t like civilization go off on some desert island and practice your voodoo economics and leave economics to the adults. Why does America always get burdened with really stupid Russians who learned all the wrong lessons from Soviet tyranny. Socialistic dictatorships are bad, therefore lets have no government…Ayn Rand, this joker, it is tiresome.

    “On a different note, why do Republicans let Obama get away with rhetorical murder?” Spoken like someone who grew up with a totalitarian mindset. What do you suggest, throw him in a gulag?
    One, look up the word murder. Obama is NOT raising taxes, he is not scheduling a vote to do so, the system was designed to sunset after 10 years by the Republicans themselves. They controlled both houses of congress and the Presidency and the reason they did not make the cuts permanent because the CBO showed that they would destroy the long term budget. Learn some damn US history sometime please. To raise taxes requires a Vote. This program was set up to return to a default setting after 10 years. Learn the difference.

    “In the entire history of the U.S. income tax there’s never been a longer period during which rates remained unchanged.” Yes, and what did it get us but a mountain of debt.
    As I said, truly atrocious posting, go back to your day job please.

  • StarSpangledSpanner

    This post really is terrible. Not based on any facts whatsoever.

    The CBO ran the numbers and it turned out that doing nothing over 10 years was better for deficit reduction that the Ryan Plan.

    So if Obama did decide to do nothing it would be an improvement over the GOP joke of a budget/ The fact is that he is doing something, and the result will be the same as other Democrat Presidents. A reduction of the debt as a % of GDP.

    Once again for Andrew, here is Terry’s chart of where the debt came from, hint it’s red shaped like an elephant and is a collection of twigs.

  • armstp

    This is the only chart that matters and look it comes from the conservative Heritage Foundation.

    The lowest tax collection as a percentage of GDP since 1950. If the economy grows this number may actually go down further, as the denominator will go up. It will depend on how much tax revenue comes back with the economic recovery and how much the numerator grows versus the increasing GDP denominator.

    All this horseshit by the GOP and their Frank Luntz talking point that it is only a “spending problem” is complete nonsense. In fact, current government spending per GDP is 24.1% (CBO), which is not far from the historic 60 year average of 20-21% of GDP. Factor out emergency economic spending from the recession (a couple of hundred billion from the stimulus, bail-outs, increased welfare, etc.) and 2010 government spending was actually down and about in the range of the 60 year historic average of 20-21%.

    There is no big jump in government spending and there is no spending problem. It is all a tax revenue problem as the chart above shows.

    WE HAVE A DEFICIT BECAUSE TAXES ARE TOO LOW. WHY DOES EVERY OTHER COUNTRY ON THE PLANET RAISE TAXES AS A POLICY TOOL WHEN THEY NEED TO. THE CONSERVATIVES IN THE U.K. JUST RAISED TAXES TO HELP SOLVE THEIR FISCAL ISSUES. NOT RAISING TAXES EVER IS JUST PART OF THE IDEOLOGICAL SMALL GOVERNMENT AGENDA. THE DEFICIT AND DEBT ARE LARGELY A STRAWMAN TO PUSH THE SMALL GOVERNMENT AGENDA. MOST OF THE DEFICIT WILL GO AWAY, AS THE ECONOMY GROWS AND GETTING RID OF THE STUPID BUSH TAX CUTS WILL ALMOST ENTIRELY ELIMINATE THE EXCESS DEFICIT OR AT LEAST GET US BACK TO A MORE NORMALIZED DEFICIT PER GDP, ACCORDING TO THE CBO. THE DEFICIT WILL BE BACK CLOSE TO ITS 60 YEAR AVERAGE NORM OF ABOUT 3% OF GDP BY 2014/2015 WITH NO BIG SPENDING CUTS, GETTING RID OF THE BUSH TAX CUTS AND WITH ECONOMIC GROWTH, ACCORDING TO THE CBO.

    • Reflection Ephemeral

      This one looks at income tax alone:

      If anyone’s interested and doesn’t find in-thread self-linking abhorrent, I tried to tell the story of the present crisis in 20 charts, including some that have popped up in this thread, at my blog this morning: http://poisonyourmind.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/in-the-strife-of-truth-with-falsehood/

      • armstp

        Reflection,

        Excellent link. Good to bring together all the charts that we see from all the different sources.

        The key issues are very clear:

        (1) Taxes are too low and have caused the current deficit and debt. Taxes are low because of the Bush tax cut and the great recession.

        and

        (2) It is all about healthcare costs going forward. We need to find a way to get healthcare costs lower. Cutting back on Medicare does not lower healthcare costs. All that does is shift healthcare inflation on to the backs of Seniors.

  • sparse

    Social programs for the poor discourage low income people from [...] owning a reliable vehicle.

    no, poverty does that. i will eat my own underwear if you can name a federal social program that requires you to own a car that breaks down a lot. your entire post is complete drivel.

  • think4yourself

    So many things to challenge Andrew on and so little time.

    Means-testing tends to discourage responsible behavior. Social programs for the poor discourage low income people from accumulating even modest savings and owning a reliable vehicle. Middle class programs such as financial aid for students mean, for example, that depending on your income and assets, it can make perfect economic sense for you to take an expensive vacation or have cosmetic surgery shortly before your child applies for college.”

    How about some evidence? Are food stamps and other aid to the poor the reason they are not accumulating modest savings and owning a reliable vehicle? Are sure it’s not they may have few skills or education, or are part of a culture that disincentivizes working hard to get ahead – for lots of different reasons than gov’t aid?

    Are you sure that financial aid for students is the reason someone in the middle class might choose to take an expensive vacation or have cosmetic surgery (“look honey, Jr. got a Pell Grant – let’s go get my tit’s done!” – sorry I couldn’t resist). Lot’s of people make bad financial choices in life for lots of reasons (Dennis Koslowski, former CEO of Tyco throws 2 million dollar toga party for wife on company money)- not because student aid was available (by the way Pell Grants are given to those students who have family incomes under $20K per with some exceptions up to $45K/year – not exactly lots of discretionary money for boob jobs).

    Means-tested Social Security and/or Medicare may well discourage work and savings.” Once again, is there any evidence for that? Your telling me that if someone may have an income of $40,000 per year outside of their Social Security and perhaps their benefit gets cut from $1,200 per month to $1,000 per month it means they are going to quit working now – they’ll just give up and be broke the rest of their life because of that? By the way, doesn’t the Ryan plan have means testing for senior entitlement programs?

    Frankly, this is just as bad as the GOP saying that people who make over $250K per year won’t work if the tax on their earnings over $250K is increased 4.5%. Think about it. If you own a small business and make $300K per year so you’ll pay an additional $2,250 in Federal Income tax. Because of that you’re not going to work – and what go on welfare? Or, here is a novel thought. Since that tax is on the owner’s income (after business expenses), they could hire someone with full benefits for $50,000, add value to their business and earn $250K with no tax increase!

    Lastly, consumption tax versus income tax. I invite you to make an argument as to why they would be better. I’m happy to listen. I’m not closed-minded regarding consumption taxes. I do think once you let the genie out of the bottle (say add a 4% VAT) at the Federal level, it some point it will become an 8% VAT, then 15%, ect. I don’t think you’ll find too many in the GOP in favor of a VAT, and even so it will be gerrymandered to death (exempt food items because that punishes the poor, exempt real estate purchases because that punishes the prospective homeowner and the realtor, etc, etc.)

    I won’t even touch your comments about rhetoric other than, the Bush tax cuts were enacted to expire. I would have preferred to have all of them expire including those on the middle class (I would re-do the inheritance tax so that small businesses could continue to operate after their founders died without having to be closed or sold to pay the taxes).

    • armstp

      think4yourself,

      Good post.

      It really is so lame that so many of these “conservative” writers are not all that intelligent, as their analysis does not stand up to even the very basic scrutiny.

      One thing I would add on your comment:

      “If you own a small business and make $300K per year so you’ll pay an additional $2,250 in Federal Income tax.”

      If you are making $300,000 a year, you are likely not in the vast majority of small businesses. Remember taxes on income of $250,000 a year is on INCOME, not revenues.

      For a business to generate an INCOME or earnings before taxes (EBT) of $250,000 per year that basically works out to a need to generate about $3 million of revenue based on average corporate EBT or profit margin of 8.3%.

      $3 million of revenue eliminates about 90% of the small businesses in the U.S., so most small business owners will not be paying any additional taxes. This also assumes the small business owners are not taking out an income and just get paid the profits of the business. If they take out an income, it is likely less than $250,000 so they will not pay more taxes.

      “average profit margin for corporate America over last 25 years was approximately 8.3%”

      • think4yourself

        As a small business owner who consults for small businesses, you’re right that the majority do not have net taxable personal income of over $250,000. That’s why I howled at the canard from the GOP about the expiration of tax cuts killing small business owners – just not true.

        Now I’d guess (without proof at this time) that of those who make over $250K a big portion (half?), do own businesses, small or otherwise and the rest are highly paid employees (corporate executives, doctors at large hospitals, stock traders,etc.). For the business owners, you can plow profits back into your business to make it more valuable and save on personal income tax. In either case, you can probably afford a 4.5% tax increase.

        • Primrose

          Thank you both. This has always been a bugbear when this is discussed but I didn’t have the lovely business specifics to argue it.

  • tommybones

    lmao. This article is a joke, right? Right?

  • zephae

    “Social programs for the poor discourage low income people from accumulating even modest savings and owning a reliable vehicle.”

    I’ve posted regarding this specific point before, so I feel kind of obligated to respond here. First of all, that’s simply not true. As another commenter noted, it’s poverty and low incomes that prevent this kind of thing, not social programs. It’s not SNAP that causes the single mother not to have any savings, it’s that she she makes $500 every two weeks and has to pay bills and provide for her child on that minimal income.

    Now, social programs do disincentivize work in so far as they provide a predictable stability that a sometimes chaotic work environment does not. However, that is only because there are a lot of significant extraneous costs that these benefits don’t cover (child day care and housing subsidies are often difficult to qualify for and receive) and that they are structured so that they only solve immediate problems and aren’t effectively progressivized. In short, the programs don’t offer the kind of help needed to empower people to advance and get off of them. The catch, of course, is that improving social programs along those lines would cost a lot more money in the short-term.

  • Danny_K

    Below the usual standards. Most Frumforum writers at least try to make arguments instead of stitching talking points together. By the way, I agree with you – a VAT tax is better than all this nonsense. Please go and convince 10 conservatives, and each of them will convince 10 more conservatives…

  • Raskolnik

    I don’t get where all the hate is coming from. A quick glance at Pavelyev’s other articles show he’s not afraid of standing up to rank GOP partisan idiocy. Sure he made some rhetorical flourishes at the outset but even the liberal commenters here have noted that his core point, that tax reform by way of a national VAT is the only way to go in the medium/long run, is true.

    For the record I do admit that perhaps Pavelyev was overly harsh, but Obama had a perfect chance to start a national discussion about offsetting reductions in the marginal income tax rate with some sort of (small) national VAT, say 5% at first. Instead he opted to reframe the debate as “Republicans want to take grandma off her dialysis so that Moneybags McGee can renovate his place in the Hamptons,” which is great political theater, but does nothing to address our very real debt problem.

    • ottovbvs

      Sure he made some rhetorical flourishes at the outset but even the liberal commenters here have noted that his core point, that tax reform by way of a national VAT is the only way to go in the medium/long run, is true.

      Really? Would you like to show us where even liberal commenters here have said that VAT is the ONLY way to go? I think some who may or may not be liberal said it was an option but that’s it. You have thus demonstrated some disregard for accuracy so how credible is your framing of Obama’s speech? I’m not opposed to considering VAT but it’s a regressive tax when the income tax burden in this country is one of the lowest in the developed world and income inequality is amongst the highest. Obviously correcting this situation involves a huge political battle but that would be a cakewalk by comparison with attempting to institute a national VAT. So why would you do it?

  • pnumi2

    How heartening it is to read all these positive comments. Everyone adding their two cents to what undoubtedly will be the template for the eventual compromise between the Don’t-Cut-My-Programs Democrats and the Don’t-Raise-My-Taxes Republicans. It’s been pretty contentious up till now, but never fear, the compromise will be reached in time. Right?

    The Republicans are going to have to accept higher taxes. The Democrats cuts to their favorite programs. Everybody knows that. Right?

    And the tax hikes have to be hefty and ditto the program cuts. Else the whole thing is meaningless and worthless.

    And all of this has to be agreed to by a certain time after which all heck breaks loose. Is that not the case?

    This compromise between the Democrats and the Republicans is time sensitive and no one knows the drop dead date. Right?

    And then the DeMint shall lie down with the Saunders. And there shall be an orgy of togetherness on the Floor of the House. And the Joy Jell shall be provided compliments of the American tax payer.

    • ottovbvs

      If you have something to say say it. Anyone can post partisan comments without any actual substance. The whole thing is assertions. It doesn’t mean a thing.

  • balconesfault

    armstp: It really is so lame that so many of these “conservative” writers are not all that intelligent, as their analysis does not stand up to even the very basic scrutiny.

    Not a question of intelligence. It’s that they’ve become complete result-oriented ideologues. As such, they KNOW as a first principle that radically downsizing government, radically cutting government social programs, and radically reducing taxes will produce the best lifestyle and most liberty for the largest number of Americans.

    Since this is a first principle, you can point out to them that there is no real liberty for a person who has no savings, no workplace protections, no minimum wage floor, no collective bargaining rights, and a need to deal with large private profit-seeking corporations if he wants to buy electricity or water or healthcare insurance, no matter how radically you cut his taxes …

    or at least no real “liberty” outside of Kris Kristofferson’s “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…”

    and nothing you can say will influence their thinking. Their intelligence is captive to their ideology and serves that ideology, willing to ignore all information or argument that doesn’t support it.

    And in an increasingly globalized economy with no trade barriers, a large portion, if not a large majority, of the American workforce is headed towards that “liberty”.

  • nuser

    I don’t get where all the hate is coming from.
    From republicans. Every man for himself except for the rich. Some of the charts and graphs are eye openers, and should be distributed and explained among the not so knowing. Lies and misinformation
    is a daily occurrence espoused by the GOP. People generally look to government for guidance and
    fairness. They fight or die for their country , but receive very little in return if anything. Honest and fair government is not too much to ask for. or is that socialism as well?

  • mickster99

    The Affordable Care Act had some $500billion in costs savings which Repubs demagogued as cutting Medicare for Seniors. Now they want to cut even more by basically eliminating Medicare with vouchers but now that’s ok. The Repubicans continue to lie and misrepresent everything they do.

  • Raskolnik

    Otto,

    By the way, I agree with you – a VAT tax is better than all this nonsense. Please go and convince 10 conservatives, and each of them will convince 10 more conservatives…

    I’m not closed-minded regarding consumption taxes. I do think once you let the genie out of the bottle (say add a 4% VAT) at the Federal level, it some point it will become an 8% VAT, then 15%, ect. I don’t think you’ll find too many in the GOP in favor of a VAT

    Though I have a secret love for abstruse wonkery buried deep within my heart, I think it best to avoid overly technical discussions at the outset. Regardless, I must take issue with your characterization of the VAT as a “regressive” tax. As I’m sure you are aware (though others may not be), “progressive” originally came into our political vocabulary as a way to describe marginal income tax rates that progressed as did one’s earnings, so that people earning more paid more in taxes.

    This kind of a taxation scheme (which, let’s not forget, is not even 100 years old) has certain benefits, but also certain limitations. I don’t agree 100% with Pavelyev’s diagnosis, that

    [Obama's] Orwellian language about “spending reductions in the tax code” implies that all wealth belongs to the government from the start, and letting people keep a fraction of the wealth they produce is really government spending.

    Nonetheless one prominent downside of the income tax is that, particularly as the rates get more “progressive,” there is an ever-diminishing return on one’s personal efforts. Additionally, it feeds right into the narrative of those like Pavelyev who view all taxation on income as essentially immoral, in that it amounts to the government deciding how much of your own wealth you are allowed to keep. One may agree or disagree with this point of view, as I said I have some reservations, but I don’t think that perspective should be dismissed out of hand.

    The Great Recession was caused by multiple, conflicting and competing factors, and we may never know the whole story. Greedy banking executives played a part, as did ordinary suburban families who took Bush II’s home-ownership spiel at face value. For me, though, the underlying narrative of the Great Recession is about consumption and borrowing. As Reflection Ephemeral’s charts show (from his link above), private and public debt are nearly in lockstep. In more or less exactly the same way that citizens leveraged their credit cards to make idiotic purchasing decisions (“No money down! No interest for two years!”), often of consumer electronics manufactured in China, the federal government leveraged its trade imbalance with China to borrow obscene amounts of money.

    That is why I say, with conviction, that in the long or even the intermediate term a national VAT is simply the only way to go. It is true that marginal income tax rates are near their historic lows; to my mind, that, together with a crippling revenue problem, means there is literally no better time to introduce a modest VAT. Keep the income taxes where they are; the extension of Bush II tax cuts are only a long-term problem for the budget if they aren’t offset by some other kind of revenue, i.e. the VAT. The problem that I have with rich people is not that they are rich, it is that our current tax structure rewards them for stupid, self-oriented behavior; reforming the tax code could also mean simplifying the process for charitable deductions, and removing limitations on the same. It could also eliminate tax shelters, or at least make using one much more difficult.

    In brief: taxing consumption instead of production is not only the right thing to do, it also, perhaps as a consequence, directly addresses what I view to be the root underlying problem that led to the Great Recession, i.e. mindless consumerism. Many on the right see the income tax as making some kind of a moral judgment on the biggest earners, particularly when rates have been as high as 90% for the top bracket (historically). I think it would be a good idea if we turned that around, so that instead of “punishing” big earners, we “punish” big spenders.

    On a related (if somewhat offtopic) note, yes, it is well past time to legalize & tax the bejeezus out of cannabis and cannabis products. True story: paper made out of hemp is stronger, more durable, and doesn’t involve cutting down any trees.

    • pnumi2

      “Nonetheless one prominent downside of the income tax is that, particularly as the rates get more “progressive,” there is an ever-diminishing return on one’s personal efforts.”

      Disagree.

      This is the beauty of avarice. The rich and ambitious do not mind paying $90 in taxes out of $100 they earn, if it is the only way to accumulate more than their neighbors/competitors.

      That it is an ‘ever diminishing return on personal effort’ is just a fiction created to undermine higher tax rates.

  • Primrose

    This article is astounding in its nonsense.

    This concept that people won’t work if they get help for their poverty suggests that the poor are living high of the hog. Do you really think poor people (and the elderly) like living on the knife’s edge?

    As for solving Social Security, we could try by not capping payments after a certain income. If we at the same time, dropped the required pay-in rate for lower income Americans, we would be giving reducing their taxes and therefore putting it right back into the economy.

    As for the idea that a money motivated person would stop working because they get 3% less back, that’s too ridiculous for words.

    And what on earth is the point of all that the tax cuts are permanent rambling. So because they haven’t been changed in 10 years means they can’t be changed? I advise him to revisit the constitution. Nowhere does it say if a law hasn’t been changed it becomes enshrined and unchangeable.

    And finally, I have to laugh at how angry the Republicans are that Obama speaks of raising taxes without using simple, enough language to be cut into campaign ads. Mr. Frum has told you not to underestimate Obama, but will you listen?