Patterico's Pontifications

9/4/2023

Um, About “Bidenomics”. . .

Filed under: General — JVW @ 6:53 pm



[guest post by JVW]

While the assorted band of idiots and lunatics in the White House attempts to take a victory lap over the relatively low unemployment rate and a decreasing level of inflation, the real world threatens to intervene:

The federal deficit is projected to roughly double this year, as bigger interest payments and lower tax receipts widen the nation’s spending imbalance despite robust overall economic growth.

After the government’s record spending in 2020 and 2021 to combat the impact of covid-19, the deficit dropped by the greatest amount ever in 2022, falling from close to $3 trillion to roughly $1 trillion. But rather than continue to fall to its pre-pandemic levels, the deficit then shot upward. Budget experts now project that it will probably rise to about $2 trillion for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group that advocates for lower deficits. (These numbers ignore President Biden’s $400 billion student debt cancellation policy, which was struck down by the Supreme Court this year and never took effect.)

You know you’re reading the Washington Post when in the very next sentence they claim that the rise in the deficit is “unexpected,” which is absolute hogwash to anyone who had their eyes open during the Democrats’ spending orgy of 2021-22. The piece quotes former Obama Administration economic advisor Jason Furman, now a professor at Harvard naturally, claiming that our current economic growth rate of 2.1% represents “a good and strong economy.” So the Obama Administration, now manifest under Joe Biden, continues their longstanding campaign to lower economic expectations and convince the American people that mediocrity is in fact excellence, though one imagines that the chattering classes would deride this level of growth as insufficient were a Republican in the Oval Office.

The Trump Administration tax cuts of 2017 expire later this year, and though Democrats will almost certainly cooperate in renewing them for most taxpayers (this being an election year, after all), there will no doubt be a real donnybrook regarding just how far up the income ladder those cuts will be extended. Meanwhile, this rise in the deficit puts the lie to the Biden Administration’s claim that they are paying for all of their spending, which nobody with a modicum of sense should ever have believed.

So why did the deficit explode on us this year? Well gosh, it turns out that maybe the Biden economy isn’t so robust after all:

The Treasury Department is also on track to take in substantially less in new revenue this year, in part because of the stock market’s slump last year. In 2021, amid a cryptocurrency bubble and an explosion in housing prices driven by rock-bottom interest rates, investors recorded huge gains that led them to pay capital gains taxes at record levels. But then the bubble burst, leading to a sharp drop in capital gains tax revenue. Automatic adjustments to the tax brackets to account for inflation also reduced tax obligations for many Americans, resulting in less incoming revenue relative to last year.

And as anyone could have told you, the inflation spike which so flummoxed Janet Yellen had long-term consequences:

Then a number of other spending increases contributed to the rising deficit — Social Security payments increased because they are indexed to inflation; the government spent more on education, veterans benefits and health care; and the bipartisan infrastructure law, as well as the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, started sending billions of dollars out from the government’s accounts.

The usual gaggle of big-spending progressives are already arguing that this crisis is overblown and that the U.S. can easily handle these levels of debt for years to come. Yet they always are forced to acknowledge that eventually there will be a reckoning (they just hope it will be when the GOP is running things in Washington). I fear we are accelerating that date quite rapidly and it will be sooner rather than later when we have to face up to our irresponsibility.

– JVW

Jimmy Buffett, 1946-2023

Filed under: General — JVW @ 10:00 am



[guest post by JVW]

On the first evening of September the world lost singer/songwriter James William Buffett, known to one and all as Jimmy. Though no cause of death was initally announced, he had cancelled concerts in recent months and acknowledged on social media that he had been hospitalized for a spell. The family has now acknowledged that he suffered from Merkel cell cancer, a rare but aggressive type of skin cancer.

Certainly not everybody was a fan of Jimmy Buffett’s music, and a good deal of it — especially the ditties most beloved by his adoring fan club, the Parrotheads — could be kind of bland and pedestrian. I never cared for his most massive hit, “Margaritaville,” the story of a guy content to while away his life drinking and playing his guitar on his front porch, but it spawned a restaurant and resort chain and led to its author becoming a billionaire. Sadly, songs like “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and, especially, “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw” are so frat boy stupid (and this comes from an aging frat boy) that they aren’t worth even contemplating.

Yet Jimmy Buffett also wrote some heartbreakingly beautiful songs. “He Went to Paris”, from Jimmy’s third album A White Sport Coat and Pink Crustacean (itself a clever homage to Marty Robbins) turned 50 years old this year. It tells the story of an American expat in Paris in the years following the First World War, and a life of joy, grief, despair, and in the end acceptance, when the subject of the song delivers his validiction: “Jimmy, some of it’s magic, and some of it’s tragic, but I’ve had a good life all the way.” It was said that for some reason he chose not to perform the song live for years, until he found out that none other than Bob Dylan thought highly of the song.

An avid boatsman known to spend a large part of the year sailing up and down the Atlantic Coast from his home in Key West, Jimmy Buffett also wrote marvelous nautical-themed songs. “Son of a Son of a Sailor” is a tribute to his grandfather, who left his home in Nova Scotia and ultimately settled in Mobile, Alabama, where Jimmy was reared. In the song, the narrator tells us that he has “read dozens of books about heroes and crooks, and learned much from both of their styles,” and concludes that “the sea’s in my veins, my tradition remains, I’m just glad I don’t live in a trailer.”

My favorite Jimmy Buffett song also alludes to a life on the seas, but is really a meditation on reaching middle age and yearning for a world that is long lost. Like “He Went to Paris,” Jimmy’s “A Pirate Looks at 40” is a song based upon the life of a real figure, a legendary drug smuggler whom Jimmy had met at a Key West bar.

Yes I am a pirate
Two hundred years too late
The cannons don’t thunder, there’s nothing to plunder
I’m an over-forty victim of fate
Arriving too late, arriving too late

I’m done a bit of smuggling
And I’ve run my share of grass
I made enough money to buy Miami
But I pissed it away so fast
Never meant to last, never meant to last

And it contains a lovely verse about lost love, but no harm done:

I go for younger women
Lived with several awhile
Though I ran them away, they come back one day
And still can manage a smile
It just takes awhile, just takes awhile

Jimmy Buffett acknowledged this as one of his favorite songs among the hundreds that he has written.

The one time I saw Jimmy Buffett live was in May 2006 at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. This was only eight months after Hurricane Katrina had devastated the city. JazzFest itself is held at the New Orleans Fairgrounds, which saw some of the worst flooding that the city had endured. Jimmy was the final act on the main stage the second night of the second weekend, and I was surprised to hear in the introduction that as a young musician he had once busked on Bourbon Street while waiting for his big break. Performers that year were on edge, knowing that the community needed a great event to help rally the city’s spirits and return to normalcy. Jimmy took the stage with his guitar, strode to the microphone, and opened with an incredible solo acoustic version of the great Steve Goodman song, “City of New Orleans” (this version is from a performance at Wrigley Field which took place in the immediate aftermath of Katrina), and somehow — just somehow — everyone who heard it knew that the city would endure. The rest of his set was magnificent too.

Godspeed to a great performer who lived life on his own terms.

– JVW


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