Barackrobatics: Dimewatch XI

One of Pun Salad's earliest touchstones for analyzing Barackrobatics (our term for our President's rhetorical stylings) was: Obama's use of the word "dime" is a reliable signal of dishonesty, deception, delusion, or general incoherence.

So, yesterday in the South Driveway of the White House, the President was shilling for (yet another) "Jobs Bill", this one allegedly targeting "small business". And, sure enough, there it is:

I'd also like to point out this legislation is fully paid for and will not add one single dime to our deficit.
You can read a summary of the bill's provisions at the NYT's "You're the Boss" small business blog here. The NYT blogger is straight-faced, but as one reads, it becomes apparent that the bill is yet another desperate agglomeration of gimmickry, tweaks, and I'm-from-the-government-and-I'm-here-to-help-you feelgood fantasy. The main effect is to expand (already ineffective) bureaucratized largess and pile on more twists and turns onto the already labyrinthine tax code. Sample:
The bill would limit the penalty for failing to report on a tax return a transaction that the Internal Revenue Service has formally identified as an abusive tax shelter. The penalty would be set at 75 percent of the tax benefit and capped at $200,000 for corporations and $100,000 for individuals.
Yeah, that'll get those entrepreneurs off their lazy duffs! "Break out the checkbook, Matilda! Our IRS penalties done been capped!"

At Business Week, Gene Marks factchecks the alleged benefits of the legislation via anecdote: how they would apply to his business and that of a local roofing contractor. You can wade through it, but you might get the gist from the headline: "The Small Business Jobs Bill: To Us, It's Meaningless". His final paragraphs are key:

We need more demand. Not government demand--people demand. Customers aren't spending money on roofs or new software if they can avoid it. They don't want to draw on their already depleted savings while they watch other countries go bankrupt and read reports from legitimate economists that if we don't stop our runaway deficits, the same thing will happen to us. They're warily eyeing upcoming tax increases from federal, state, and local governments and wondering how they're going to cover expenses. And if they do sell investments to draw on their savings, they definitely don't want to pay higher capital gains taxes, which take effect in 2011.

Until taxes and deficits go down, no "jobs" bill is going to solve the problems business owners like us have.

So: the bill is pointless, stupid, and probably counterproductive, but allows campaigning Democrats to claim they've "done something." Par for the course. But how about the "dime" thing? Is the bill "fully paid for"? At least in the (weak) sense that actual spending is being cut somewhere else? You can get a hint from a previous discussion at the NYT blog. As it turns out, the bill is "paid for" by a different set of gimmickry, tweaks, and feelgood fantasies. For example:
Senate Democrats said that while the programs in the bill would cost $10.8 billion, the legislation raises $12.7 billion separately, largely by giving people enrolled in tax-deferred employer-sponsored retirement more access to after-tax Roth accounts.

The bill also proposes additional tax reporting requirements and penalties, and new powers to collect back taxes, while closing an ethanol tax-credit loophole and raising money through interest payments from banks participating in the small-business lending program.

So the bill is "paid for" in what sense? Well:
[The proposed Roth change] is attractive politically, said Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, because "people pay more taxes today only if they choose to do so; ergo no one can complain about the tax increase. We simply pass the problem on to our children and grandchildren, who will pay the cost when we use our retirement savings in our old age."
So when Obama claims that this "will not add one single dime to our deficit," he really means our deficit. Those kids and grandkids, though… their deficit is going to be massive. They're going to have to cough up a lot of dimes, all because we can't shut off the government's spending firehose.

(Previous episodes of Dimewatch: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. )

Kick Off Your High Heel Sneakers

… it's party time:

  • Lore Sjöberg, humor columnist for Wired, comments on the recent proposal by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the National Association of Broadcasters to require the inclusion of FM radio receivers in new cell phones, PDAs, music players, etc.…

    Oh wait, you think that's one of Lore's typical made-up absurdities? Ha, ha, funny joke from the humor guy? No, that's not the joke. That's an actual proposal being readied for submission to Your Federal Government.

    What Lore does is to springboard off this proposal to come up with his own:

    Let's start with newspapers. They've been having a lot of trouble adapting to the internet, and there's no guarantee that iPads and Kindles and the like are going to help. Solution: Require companies to bundle a parakeet with every new tablet or e-reader device.

    This will create a groundswell of demand for newsprint with which to line the cages of the federally mandated house pets. I strongly suggest that all the major news consortium start talking to their representatives about making this a reality. This could have saved Cathy, dammit!

    More equally inspired ideas at the link.

  • At Michelle's, Doug Powers notes that the Thought Police Associated Press is forbidding its writers from using "Ground Zero Mosque" to describe … um … well, to describe the proposed Ground Zero Mosque.

    At the Puffington Host, Matt Sledge points out that it's actually a whole one-tenth mile away, and takes about two minutes to walk. And taking a jet is a lot faster.

  • Vince Vaughn is money, baby:
    On August 14, 2010, actor Vince Vaughn jumped from an airplane at an altitude of 12,500 feet above Chicago for that city's 52nd annual Air and Water Show. And while a jump for such a famous event would be memorable in and of itself, it was made even better by the fact that Vaughn did it with one of the U.S. Army's elite parachute teams.
    (Quote intro shamelessly stolen from article comments. I think I'll bump Four Christmases up to the top of the Netflix queue when the season rolls around.)

  • Pun Salad every so often contains Actual Punning Content, and your blogger is kind of a Star Wars fan, so when a Slashdot article is headlined "Star Wars Fans Look For Love In Alderaan Places", he groans first, then starts typing.


Last Modified 2012-10-02 3:47 PM EST

Dark City

[4.0
stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Yes, that's good old Chuck Heston mooning over Lizabeth Scott on the DVD box. This movie is from 1950, and the credit is (honest) "Introducing Charlton Heston." We're talking pre-Ben Hur, pre-Ten Commandments, pre-Greatest Show on Earth, pre even Planet of the Apes.

Darn, I miss Charlton Heston.

Mr. Heston plays Danny Haley, a guy trying to make a go of things in the postwar Big City. Unfortunately, he's running on the edge of the law, associating with a bunch of shady gambling figures and nightclub floozies. (Did I mention Lizabeth Scott?) One fateful evening, he spies a big check in the wallet of a rube (Don DeFore. For those of a Certain Age: Mr. B of "Hazel"); he and his confederates decide to lure him into a rigged poker game.

That works out not as well as expected. The rube is wracked with guilt over losing the check and hangs himself. Worse, the rube's brother turns out to be a psycho, and targets Danny and the rest of the gang in a grisly scheme of eye-for-an-eye retribution. The action proceeds to Los Angeles and Las Vegas. (It's eye candy for folks who like to spy on what cities were like back then.)

Part of the fun in watching these old movies is spotting fondly-remembered actors and actresses. In addition to the previously-mentioned Heston, Scott, and DeFore, there's Dean Jagger, Jack Webb, Harry Morgan, and Ed Begley (Senior, of course).

It's just a plain good yarn though, well-told and well-acted, with great tough-guy dialog.


Last Modified 2012-10-02 3:47 PM EST