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Why liberal Martin Sabo is allying with the deficit hawks

Martin Olav Sabo
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
Martin Olav Sabo: "I happen to think that entitlements are very important and maintaining them as guaranteed benefits that lasts for a lifetime is vital."

Former Congressman Martin Olav Sabo popped up in the news recently as co-chair of the Minnesota branch of the national Campaign to Fix the Debt. His co-chairs are former Congressman Tim Penny and former U.S. Sen. Rudy Boschwitz.

According to the shallowest kind of ideological and partisan stereotypes, Sabo might appear to be the outlier here. Penny, whose political career was divided between the Democratic and the Independence parties, was centrist who made his reputation as a deficit hawk and serves on the board of the Concord Coalition. Boschwitz, a moderately conservative (at least by today’s standards) and pro-business Republican, are naturals for the co-chair assignments.

Sabo, who spent a combined (hold your breath) 46 years as a DFL legislator and congressman, was a solid mainstream liberal Democrat. And liberal Democrats (according to the shallowest kind of ideological and partisan stereotypes) don’t care about deficits or debt.

So I was curious to hear why Sabo was thinking about fixing the debt, particularly because (if I can belabor this introductory claptrap even longer) several prominent liberal voices (yes, you, Paul Krugman and Robert Reich, among others) have been arguing that deficit hawkery is just an excuse for the same old righty crowd that really wants to undermine Social Security and Medicare.

So I asked Sabo about all of the above this week and here’s what he thinks:

First, Sabo is something of a liberal debt/deficit hawk. He reminded me that he was chairman of the House Budget Committee in 1993 when Congress and President Bill Clinton put together the ambitious Omnibus Budget and Reconciliation Act which launched the federal budget into several years of lower deficits and extended the projected balance of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.

The Clinton era was a period of economic growth and shrinking deficits. By the 2000, the United States had balanced the budget and was entering a period when it seemed possible to actually pay off some of the debt.

Since 2001, the combination of the Bush tax cuts, unpaid-for spending and then the economic collapse of 2008 broke that virtuous cycle. Recently the ratio of the federal debt to the GDP has reached heights not seen since World II.

“We’ve got to get that ratio stabilized and then on a downward track,” Sabo said.

Sabo’s fundamental agreement with Boschwitz and Penny is that the country needs a “grand bargain” to get that ratio headed down, that to get such a bargain everything has to be on the table and both parties have to be willing to swallow some things that they will dislike.

“We have to deal with it on the revenue side and in all categories of expenditures, including entitlements, defense and discretionary spending,” Sabo said.

Arguments from the left

Sabo told me he was well aware of the arguments coming from the left that – because of the enormous concentration of wealth at the top that has occurred over recent decades – the solution to all fiscal problems is to keep raising taxes on the wealthy. He seems to favor several ideas along those lines, although he is also aware that several little-known high-end taxes were smuggled into the Obamacare law.

He also acknowledged one of Paul Krugman’s frequent arguments, that the interest rates on U.S. bonds are so low that the Treasury is almost borrowing money for free. “But those rates are artificially low,” Sabo said. When they return to normal and the United States has to pay bondholders at more normal rates, the government’s interest costs could “explode.”

Sabo doesn’t really reject Krugman’s Keynesian argument, that the best long-term cure for the debt is economic growth and the surest way to stimulate growth in the short term is to keep borrowing and spending. And it’s also true that Krugman does acknowledge, when pressed, that deficits do matter, or will someday become a problem. He just says now is not that time. Krugman points out that European countries that adopted austerity budgets over recent years have experienced double-dip recessions.

Sabo isn’t really advocating an austerity program along those lines. He is basically advocating a long-term grand bargain that will bring the debt down to more sustainable levels as the economy recovers.

Entitlements can’t be spared

As far as the effort to shelter entitlements from any cuts, Sabo is sympathetic but thinks it may turn out to be unrealistic. For one thing, what the demographers and health care experts have been saying is fundamentally true: The declining ratio of workers paying FICA taxes to retirees drawing Social Security and Medicare benefit and the development of expensive new medical treatments means that those programs can’t be sustained at their current growth rates.

Like Obama, Sabo said, he is interested in possible structural reforms that would reduce the cost of those programs without cutting direct benefits. But he isn’t optimistic that the potential savings would be enough to sustain the programs.

“To my friends on the left who say we can spare the entitlement side and cut enough from discretionary spending,” Sabo said, “they should think about food safety programs and environmental programs and regulatory agencies and education and everything else that would absolutely get clobbered if we tried to shelter entitlements from any cuts.”

Social Security and Medicare

Sabo and I discussed another theme that circulates on the left, that those who complain about the unsustainability of entitlement programs are really just trying to panic the country into privatizing Social Security and voucherizing Medicare. A lot of this theory revolves around the work of billionaire businessman and former Commerce Secretary Peter G. Peterson, who, through his eponymous foundation, has spent billions raising the unsustainability argument.

Personally, I have never seen the evidence that this is Peterson’s secret goal. The Peterson Foundation is also substantially bankrolling the Committee to Fix the Debt.

Sabo didn’t express an opinion about Peterson’s motives. As for privatizing Social Security, Sabo has strong views and they are entirely opposed.

“I happen to think that entitlements are very important and maintaining them as guaranteed benefits that lasts for a lifetime is vital. Incredibly crucial. And the idea that Social Security is going to disappear unless we turn it into some kind of an IRA is just a myth.”

So I guess that’s one idea that Sabo would not put on the table for the grand bargain. But, other than that, the everything-on-the-table logic is fundamentally political. Neither party has the votes to enact its own preferred version of the long-term path to debt reduction so the only way to get on that path is bipartisan compromise.

“In my 28 years there [in Congress], the Democrats controlled the White House and both houses of the Congress for a total of four years,” Sabo said. So each party can have fun imagining how they would address the issue if they didn’t have to make a deal with the other side, but it’s not going to happen any time soon. To be a Grand Bargain, Sabo said, the bargain will have to be bipartisan and each party to such a negotiation has to accept that the final bargain will have some elements it dislikes, perhaps dislikes intensely.

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Comments (30)

Do "entitlements" include veteran benefits?

Given that we've been paying into Social Security all these years (and paying double FICA rates
for more than thirty years, with half our so-called FICA payments going to the general treasury to pay down the national debt):

a) When do we get those "enhanced benefits" we were promised in exchange for nearly paying off the national debt over the years 1980 to 2000?

b) When do the people who didn't have to make those payments that paid off the national debt
(i.e., recipients of "unearned income," like capital gains, dividends, and "carried interest") get to
pay their fair share?

c) Why does the military get excluded from every penny of accountability? Why aren't those inflated general officer salaries, benefits, and pensions brought in for haircuts? Especially given that so much of the debt comes from wasteful and unnecessary foreign wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, why
are these expenditures forever considered sacred cows?

Arguments

"Sabo told me he was well aware of the arguments coming from the left that – because of the enormous concentration of wealth at the top that has occurred over recent decades – the solution to all fiscal problems is to keep raising taxes on the wealthy. "

Is that really the argument tha comes from the left? I like to think that I am as lefty as anyone, and I don't think the answer to all problems is to keep raising taxes on the wealthy. Crazed ideologue that I am, I am pretty much aware that the wealthy don't have that much money, and that what we need to do is to rein in the spending that drives our budget increases. We need a way to slow the increase in health care expenditures, and we have to put Social Security on a sound fiscal basis. Those things are going to hurt, and as a crazed left wing ideologue, I am fully aware that they are going to cause far more pain to the poor and middle class, than the tax increase I would propose, would cause the wealthy.

Middle Class Values

I am 69 years old. I was a political science major at the U of M. I remember that Martin Sabo always campaigned door to door. I know that door to door campaigning wins elections. I respect Martin Sabo and his intentions. I think that he was one of our best congressmen.

My concern about the country's financial and budget crisis is that we have been misled by the financial community about the causes and cures.

First, as documented most recently by PBS, but also by 60 Minutes, Reuters, Bill Black, Shelia Bair, Neil Barofsky, etc., there exists rampant criminal activity in our largest financial institutions which has resulted in the loss of investments, pensions, homes, and jobs. The financial institutions' criminal acts include securities misrepresentation, liars loans, robosigning, Libor manipulation, etc. As reported by the NY Times, the Department of Justice took the FBI off the case of preparing criminal referrals for these white collar financial crimes. Without the rule of law, there can be no trust or true economic growth.

Now, instead of trying to correct the problem of systemic crime in the financial sector, we want to impose additional austerity in the ordinary citizen whose real income had been declining for many years. Most baby boomers have less than $50k saved for retirement.

Second, Modern Monetary Theory (Stephanie Kelton) holds that, since we have a fiat currency and no gold standard (Nixon repealed the gold standard), deficits are not so important. Milton Freidman showed that the important economic matters are money supply and inflation. In our current situation, the Fed, with quantitative easing, has given the otherwise insolvent banks a lot of liquidity with no inflationary result because the banks have used the money to replace their bad mortgage loans. The banks have not increased lending to ordinary people. The average person has less money; so, there is no inflation.

In conclusion, I recommend the following: (1) throw the financial criminals in jail; (2) appropriate funds for roads, bridges, and infrastructure to create income for average people; (3) avoid costly wars.

I would recommend listening to FDR's inaugural address on UTube. FDR delivered a blistering condemnation of the greedy excesses of the financial community. He also proposed and got Congress to pass Glass Steagall, which needs to be reinstated.

Patrick Wells

I almost totally agree with this brilliant statement. Thanks for taking the time to articulate it.

My 2¢

Mr. Foster and Mr. Wells present complementary and, I think, reasoned arguments. Trying to balance the federal budget exclusively by raiding the bloated bank accounts of the wealthy seems to me a dysfunctional strategy. Of course “the 1%” should be paying more – far more – but that’s not going to fix the problem all by itself.

Health care expenditures, especially as the “silver tsunami” follows me to the other side of age 65, are primed to bury almost every other fiscal notion. It’s one among many reasons why the Affordable Care Act needs to be maintained and instituted, not as a cure-all – it’s rather far removed from that – but as a foot-in-the-door, initial step, toward some semblance of fiscal and medical sanity. Medicare is actually rather well-run, with very low administrative expense costs compared to benefits. I’m not sure any of the major private medical insurers can come close to matching Medicare’s efficiency in that regard. Certainly not providers paying their CEOs multi-million-dollar salaries, with “Golden Parachutes” in addition. Transforming medical care from a public service to a corporate model is at the root of our health care expense problem, and so far, we’re only nibbling at the edges of a solution.

Social Security is vital, and ought to be maintained. For those who like to gamble, a 401(k) has its uses, but relying on 401(k) accounts to support worker retirement across the country turns every worker – unwillingly, in most cases – into a stock market speculator, and without the necessary training and experience. They’re an egregiously poor substitute for the benefit guaranteed by Social Security, minimal though that might be. That their strongest proponents come from the financial sector and/or Republican legislators who’ve already fallen victim to bribery in the form of campaign contributions from said industry, ought to make the general public extremely skeptical from the outset about the value of a 401(k). That said, and like Mr. Sabo, I’d like to see some “structural reforms” to at least partially bridge the gap between revenue and spending for those programs.

Mr. Wells touches on a subject about which I, too, have waited in vain for some sort of appropriate retribution to take place. The financial industry is riddled with crooks and liars, and it’s telling that, years after the bursting of the latest fiscal bubble, virtually no one responsible for the most recent economic disaster to affect the country has gone to prison, despite plenty of documentation of white-collar crime up and down the relevant corporate chains of command. That some of the responsible parties have, instead, collected generous salaries and bonuses, largely consisting of taxpayer dollars, is, to use the over-used term, outrageous. As Wells suggests, this goes far to undermine the rule of law and public trust, both of which are necessary.

Indeed, it would be of great benefit to the nation as a whole if members of Congress would actually try to think in terms of the nation’s welfare in a generation, even better would be two generations, at least as much as they currently think about reelection. Part of that thinking ought to include some consideration of the country’s debt level, and part of THAT ought to include an accounting gimmick called “transparency.” The fiscal costs of warfare, for example, have largely been hidden from the public in the past decade by managing to keep those costs “off the books.” That practice should stop.

Good points as usual!

As you say, the real problem is health care spending.
Social Security is easily fixed (raise taxable income; means test benefits).
By the way; when did being entitled to something become a bad word
(certainly "....unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." sounds like a statement that all Americans are entitled to certain things).
Medical costs are not so easy.
There is a 'simple' structural change which would make a big difference -- single payer health care (national health care effectively; there are a number of different models).
This has been tried successfully in Northern Europe. While inevitable there are some problems when the economy is bad in revenues decline, Europe appears to be dealing with them more successfully than we are; many fewer people under served in the health care area.
So it's not that we lack solutions; it's that the solutions have become politically unpalatable -despite- the fact that most Americans appear to support them, for reasons that you've pointed out.

The semantics of "entitlement"

I wish we'd get rid of that term because of all the bad baggage it drags along with it. A person with a "sense of entitlement" is seen as someone who expects things they have not necessarily earned. And that's the emotional undertone that I feel when the word is used in these contexts.

And yet, to be "entitled" to something - legitimately - is to say that thing WAS earned, and that the person has every right to expect it. Which is a far more accurate description of the situation surrounding Social Security.

Unfortunately, Gingrich-style semantics has won out here, and you can almost see the sneer on Republicans' faces as they spit out the word "entitlement" as being yet another thing expected by the "takers".

We need another term for these programs. Republicans have fully hijacked "entitlements" and it's no longer useful.

spending is the problem

"Social Security is easily fixed” - if so - why has it not been done?

Do you realize how much revenue would be confiscated from the private economy in order to fix social security as you proposed?

The answer is none.

Look up the meaning of 'confiscation'.

Health Care

Paul, I would add one more small word to your call for single payer health care: universal. The pool of insured needs to be large enough to bring the average premium down. Otherwise the healthy will opt out, leaving the pool with just the sick individuals. Some people will argue that they're young and healthy and don't need the insurance. Their cry is "why pay in to something that I'm not using?" The answer, of course, is that they may not be using it today, but they will someday.

Everyone needs healthcare at least twice in their lives: at the beginning and at the end.

I totally agree

Thanks for the addition.

Debt, interest and time

Krugman is telling only part of the story.

Yes, interest rates are low and borrowing at these rates is cheap.

But these low rates are the sign of a struggling economy. The idea is to bring back an economy where interest rates assume their historical norms.

For Treasury notes and bills, that norm is in the 5 to 6 percent rate. We are currently at an average interest rate of 2 + percent, meaning that normal interest rates are 2 or 2.5 times what they are currently

Now, consider that the average duration of federal debt is about 5 years. That means that the federal debt is, on average, rolled over into new debt with the then current interest rate every 5 years.

So any real improvement in the economy means that interest rates will rise and the interest payments on the federal debt would increase correspondingly.

So, in a relatively short term, in an improving economy, we would see interest payments on the current debt rise from $200 billion a year to $500 billion a year, if rates return to a historic norm. More, if rates rise higher than the norm.

Each year of added debt means that the rise of debt interest in a recovering economy becomes a higher and higher hurdle.

Consider Japan. The debt to GDP ratio is about 2.25. The average rate of interest on their debt is now about 1%. Debt interest payments currently consume nearly 25% of their federal budget. Any return to normal interest rates raises debt -service to an impossible percentage of their federal budget.

Japan is reaching the far end of where we do not want to be. Japan shows that there is indeed a limit to borrowing because recovery of the economy and return to historic norms is pretty much an economic and governing impossibility.

That is the crippling effect of a recession that is allowed to linger too long.

Debt eventually matters.

Considering the Respect I Hold for Him

I can only hope that Rep. Sabo will not discover, in time, that he is being used as "See! We're bipartisan!" window dressing for a process and outcomes that were predetermined and with which he will find precious little to agree.

These are VERY different times than when Rep. Sabo was in congress.

Sabo sounds just like Obama

As I read these comments, Sabo's talking points sound just like Obama. A more progressive tax system, some defense cuts, some adjustments to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, some cuts to other federal spending after the economy picks up steam.

Put these concepts into a bill and most democrats in Congress would vote yes. The problem is getting one-third of the GOP house and senate members to vote yes so it could pass the House and avoid a filibuster in the Senate.

We have only been waiting for four plus years for this to happen. Not sure that it will happen any time soon.

The democrats should put this framework up for a vote each week just to make their point - or at least every time some Tea Partier puts up the repeal Obamacare legislation up for a vote.

adjustments?

Could you please explain to me the "adjustments to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid" that Obama and Amy K proposed during the last election?

The sacred elephant in the living room is

military spending. It is the rare deficit hawk who thinks that military spending, larger than that of the next ten countries combined, is a problem. Noooo, it's always Social Security and Medicare, two programs that actually help ordinary Americans.

Anything to spare the military-industrial complex. Anything to spare the unearned income of the super wealthy.

It was unfortunately before the age of the Internet when the New York Times carried an article about what could be done with just Reagan's INCREASES in the military budget. I don't remember all the items, but they were surprisingly massive, such as providing safe wells for every village in sub-Saharan Africa.

When I go overseas, I am always impressed with the modern, up-to-date, and convenient the infrastructures of other Western countries (with the exception of Britain, the other country that spends more on its military than its size would justify).

I understand that slashing military spending to the level of actual defensive (not interventionist) needs would cause severe disruptions in the economy, but what I see now is that militarism is driving U.S. foreign policy, so that our country is making more enemies than it can suppress. It would be prudent to cut the military budget gradually and divert the savings to fixing our decaying infrastructure. This would not only create jobs but we'd have something to show for the investment afterwards.

Raising the cap on Social Security assessments to $200,000 would solve the problem in perpetuity. Opening Medicare to younger, healthier people would put it on a sounder financial footing, because younger people are less likely than older people to get strokes, heart attacks, cancer, or have hip replacements, by-pass surgery, or other expensive medical needs.

The currently fashionable Beltway proposals to raise the ages of eligibility for both Social Security and Medicare would be disastrous on many levels.

It should be a matter of simple arithmetic to figure out that raising the age of Medicare would make its financial situation even worse. Fewer people would be paying premiums, and they would be less healthy. The age should be lowered, perhaps by five years every year, until everyone is eligible. More people would pay premiums, and they would be healthier than the current Medicare recipients. Presto! Instant public option and some much-needed competition for the insurance company vultures.

I know too many people who lost their jobs after age 55, never worked full time again, and were saved from homelessness by finally qualifying for Social Security at age 62, but because of the low level of benefits, they have had to continue working part time, but only so much before their benefits are reduced.

I know that Martin Sabo used to be considered kind of a radical, but I think he has gotten too thoroughly socialized into the Beltway mindset, which seems to have nothing to do with the experiences of ordinary Americans.

No lefties here

Look, health care costs in this country are 30% higher than they should be because we have a market driven system that's about making money, not delivering health care. It's simply absurd and immoral to force additional financial burden on seniors in order to cut government costs and maintain profits. The liberals I know advocate creating a universal national health care system that will draw health care costs down by 25%-30%. The medicare "crises" is an artificial crises created by the health care market.

Why are we talking about cutting earned benefits instead of military spending? No one in this article even mentioned military spending.

Finally, I remind everyone that we as a nation are NOT broke. We have a $16 trillion economy that has grown from a $12 trillion economy in the last four years. We can afford our government, we just to pay for it.

This is what the "lefties" I know are saying.

The dirty word is taxes

If everyone is so fired up to reduce the deficit, why did we just lock in the Bush tax cuts for 98 percent of the population? If Social Security is an issue, why did Obama negotiate a payroll tax cut for two years?
The level of taxation on our citizenry has become absurdly low relative to American historical norms and no one in Washington has the courage to propose more.
There are only two fundamental ways to reduce the deficit: Spend less and/or tax more. It is amazing to me that one of those elements is almost totally off the table, to the point where we are seriously talking about painful cuts in important social programs as inevitable.

Please, raise my taxes so the next generation has a decent future. And for those of you on the right who say speak for yourself and donate on your own, I answer, sure, just as soon as you back up your "spending cuts for all" by refusing to take medicare and social security.

Because

the innumerates in the population (and those who cater to them, which is most politicians) believe that they can somehow get something for nothing: cut taxes without actually giving up anything that -they- benefit from.

The dirty word is taxes

Perfect response:
Tax laws have been jiggled for the well to do and corporations for years,now when there is an attempt to jiggle them the other way, any discussion is off the table!
Sounds like we got ours, and we are going to make sure you don't get yours!

Issues

Martin Sabo is focusing on the deficit/debt crisis because he understands arithmetic.

Although all issues in the sphere of economics are intertwined, Sabo and others recognize the need to separate the issue of deficits/debt from that of exploding economic inequality. The quickest and easiest way to ameliorate both issues is though increasing taxes on the most wealthy. But any change to the widening gap between the most wealthy and the least wealthy (say just to what the demographics showed in the 1960's) cannot be solved in the long run through tax measures alone -- it will take a greater recognition of the responsibility that the most fortunate - in wealth, talent, intelligence, etc. - have to those least advantaged.

The deficit

VP Dick Cheney said in 2002 that "deficits don't matter" when he was questioned about financing the planned war in Iraq. These words have been thrown back at him so many times, I wonder if he doesn't regret these words, I think deficits do matter in the long run but as Keynes also famously said, "in the long run we're all dead".

Social security is one of the surviving elements of the New Deal, such as the GI Bill of Rights and the FHA and VA mortgage guarantee laws,that functioned to maintain the purchasing power of the dollar. The "purchasing power of the dollar" here is another way of saying, "maintaining consumer demand" to buy the goods and services being produced by those who are engaged in that facet of the economy. Describing these programs as "entitlements" is only to identify these transfers to certain members of the public is only to highlight their importance in this regard. It is not that any individual has any specific "entitlement" to whatever they might obtain, it is that as a matter of government accounting, they need to be treated as if they were, much like the assets would be if the government were simply a corporate entity that needed to balance its assets with its liabilities over a period of time.

Expenses vs Liabilities

"Spending" for wars is an expense. "Spending" for Social Security is debt repayment. Social Security is a creditor who must be repaid. If we did not want such a big bill to be repaid, we should not have cut taxes and gone to war. Unneeded Wars eventually contributed to the end of the Roman Empire, and unneeded wars could also ruin us.

Expenses, created by wars, are funded by current income and by borrrowing. In the past, because we wanted to go to war without taxes to pay for the war, we created expenses in excess of our income; so, we end up borrowing from Social Security. Social Security is now the largest creditor of the U.S. Treasury.

To be very clear, Social Security is not welfare. Social Security is a bona fide debt, which has been funded by the contributions of citizens and their employers. Any suggested confusion through the use of the word "spending" to cover both expenses and debt repayment should be considered a deceptive description of the role of Social Security in government funding.

In conclusion, the deficit was created, not only by wars and by tax cuts, but also by the economic slow down. I think that it is important to repeat that Social Security is funding the deficit, not creating the deficit.

Redistribution

All of these are redistributions of society's resources.
The question is whether society as a whole benefits from them.

An old buffalo running with the bulls?

If one looks at the big finance reps behind the Republican laced Campaign-To-Fix-the-Debt, I do wonder if Martin S. knows where he is...an old buffalo with a populist, independent past to some degree... running with the big buck bulls, investors?

Does age carry a curse here...a mellowing of the soul; a fallowing of the landscape of the mind?

Then again I would never call Sabo a progressive. And lately, 'liberal' is a too often a mere generic term suggesting one is not a conservative?

Wellstone was a progressive. Ellison is a progressive.

Now I do wonder too what Sabo thinks of fracking his home state into a pothole of toxic waste? What about polluting the water, wrecking the roads...farmers being swamped by the growing oil wells and their resultant flaming the countryside?

North Dakota used to be the fly-over state for tourists...now it's in the news everyday with land as oil bonanza and wind trees, solar giants covering up the sunsets.Sad indeed is this one issue. There are so many more to question of a past prairie state populist statesman?

What does he think of drones as a growing tool of military security; here, there? Is he against overt military spending when money is needed elsewhere? Does he support; believe in the military in a state cocooning too many nuclear warheads?Who needs a bulemic supply of the same, while we tell others to get out of the missile business?

"We go old, we grow old we wear the bottoms of our 'trousers' rolled? TS Eliot...who knows?

...or call it Sabo's duo-citizenship, plains state imperative?

Martin Sabo is a plainsman with his roots in the soil of North Dakota and his political ambitions, Minnesota...and has gained respect as a 'liberal' among Progressives from his past liberal allegiances.

Maybe he has to do a little more explaining?

Austerity by design.

When we foster an economic system that rewards corruption we all pay and it's intentional. Multinational corporations, hedge fund managers, corporate insurance companies, corporate hospitals, defense industries and investment banks empty our "entitlement" programs and tax revenue coffers intentionally. They know the average tax payer will be powerless to change anything if our local, state and federal governments and "entitlement" programs are weak. It's the real motivation behind the Grover Norquist "Taxpayer Protection Pledge". It keeps the honest wage and honest taxpaying citizen enslaved to a conditioning that tells them that "no you are not 'entitled' to the things you paid for over the course of your working years" and "no we can't allow minimum wages to increase because it will drive up inflation".

Deficits

Taxing any group more will cause behavioral changes. With regards to asking the rich to do more of the heavy lifting, while nearly half the filers do not pay any federal taxes, may not produce the additional taxes forecast. We just do not know.

I agree 100 percent with Martin regarding explosive costs in the future to service our rising long term debt. To ignore this reality now, to improve economic expansion in the short term, knowing what will be a wallop to our budget in the long term seems foolish.

This week some EU members saw some economic improvement with a slowing of what has been a contraction of their economies.

We are repeatedly told that it is small businesses that will create the majority of jobs in the future. However if you look at the stats regarding newly created businesses, those numbers have been declining for about a decade. We need to ask why, and be ready to assess any policies that are hindering creation.

People become rich because they understand how money works. They exploit opportunities, with most people not even recognizing that opportunity. Our kids should graduate from high school with basic understanding of markets, credit, etc. Right now they are not prepared. Recently a college student reflected back about taking out a college loan at 18 feeling she simply was too uninformed to have taken out that loan. Let's give our future generations the skills needed to make personally strong fiscal decisions.

Actually

Most rich people were born at least well-to-do, and thus had a socio-economic-educational jump start on their careers. Social mobility in the United States is relatively low compared to other developed nations.

And there's plenty of data on tax rates and revenue; it's clear that raising tax rates does not depress the economy.

Likewise, the '47%' includes people like retirees who have already paid their share into the system.

Plenty of money

When the baby boomer generation are gone and but a memory, there will be a lot of money to pay down any debts.The birth rates have gone down during the recession so lots of jobs left from the boomers demise.