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.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:
Until taxes and deficits go down, no "jobs" bill is going to solve the problems business owners like us have.
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.So the bill is "paid for" in what sense? Well:
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.
[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.