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Sun., April 22, 2012

Smart Bombs: Politics produces puzzlers

What state am I?

The lowest 20 percent of earners have the highest tax burden. Tax revenue as a share of the economy has dropped from 7.6 percent in the early 1990s to 5.4 percent in 2010. The state payroll will soon shrink by 7,143 workers from its peak during the 2007-09 budget cycle.

Mississippi? Alabama? Nope. Idaho? You’re getting warmer.

Here’s another hint. The state is run by politicians accused of being tax hikers and big spenders.

What president am I?

Raised taxes several times, including a large increase that rescued Social Security for decades to come. Never once submitted a balanced budget. Signed tax reform that equalized rates for income from capital gains and paychecks. Strengthened the earned income tax credit, which shielded millions of low-income earners from federal income taxes. Endorsed an amnesty bill that provided a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

JFK? LBJ? Nope.

Hint: A conservative political group in North Idaho is named after this man, who signed a bill making abortion legal in California.

What party am I?

The key budget writer suggests that a federal agency has underestimated its needs by nearly a half-trillion dollars and that it ought to have more taxpayer money. He suspects mendacity lies behind its leaders’ failure to ask for more.

“We don’t think the generals are giving us their true advice. We don’t think the generals believe their budget is really the right budget.”

If you guessed Republican, congratulations. That was U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., explaining to the National Journal why the House Budget Committee chose to reverse the $487 billion in cuts in the Pentagon’s budget over the next decade.

Referring to the proposed cuts, Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said, “They will not lead to a military in decline. Rather, this budget will maintain our military’s decisive edge and help sustain America’s global leadership.”

Easy for him to say. He’s merely defending the country, not running a government jobs program.

Appetite for Destruction. My reading this week has been dominated by “The Buffett Rule” and “The Hunger Games,” which reminds me of a guy I used to know in Las Vegas who would take a book to those all-you-can-eat offerings and make a day of it.

But I digress.

The Buffett Rule, as proposed in Congress, would ensure that millionaires pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes. Proponents won a majority of votes in the Senate, but the rule was shot down, because it seems supermajorities are needed to pass anything these days.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are moving aggressively to cut food stamps, noting that government is tapped out. This is part of their Guns Without Butter strategy to starve the government beast until all that’s left is a massive arsenal. It’s a hunger game of a different sort, but not nearly as entertaining.

What they ought to do instead is make the children of food stamp recipients square off against each other for their suppers. This would teach valuable lessons in competitiveness and resource management. Plus, it would create jobs, particularly in the archery sector.

Thanks for Nothing. President Barack Obama is gumming up the works by calling for Congress to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire on only the wealthy. Doing this would require new legislation, which is highly unlikely to pass since you need 60 votes in the Senate.

So, here’s a better plan: Let all of the Bush tax cuts expire. Yes, this would raise taxes slightly on the middle class, but since 47 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax, that’s fair. More importantly, it would raise taxes significantly on high earners, including those the president is targeting with the Buffett Rule, which would help reduce the deficit. To accomplish this, Obama need only call on Congress to do what it does best.


Prank calls. So Laurie Roth, a local talk show host, says she’s been called by God to run for president. My favorite online comment on Friday’s article about her candidacy came from huskerinwa, who wrote: “Didn’t ‘God’ already pull this trick on Bachman, Perry, Santorum?”

Perhaps Bart Simpson should start placing this call:

“Is your refrigerator running?”


“Gonna vote for it?”

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.

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