Tom Friedman is such low-hanging fruit that it is probably beneath us to make fun of him. But he says such stupid things that we really can’t resist, so here we are again, making fun of Tom Friedman’s latest column, which is called “How to Unparalyze Us.” You will be shocked to learn that we can unparalyze ourselves by cutting Medicare and Social Security, isn’t that a wonderful surprise? Also, maybe if we cut corporate taxes, Apple would spend more money and that would help a lot too!
I WAS struck by one particular moment during President Obama’s State of the Union address. The president proposed a $1 billion investment to build a new National Network for Manufacturing Innovation to spur high-tech manufacturing in America. I’m sure that would be helpful, and I’m sure the president will have to beg to get any such funding out of Congress. Yet sitting up there in the balcony listening to the president’s speech was the chief executive of Apple, Tim Cook. Apple is currently sitting on $137 billion of cash in the bank. There are many reasons Apple has not spent its cash hoard, but I’ll bet anything that one of them is the uncertain economic and tax environment in this country. Think about how much better we’d all be if Apple, and the many other companies sitting on cash, felt confident enough in the future to spend it.
Let’s unpack this. Apple is sitting on $137 billion in the bank. But they won’t spend it, because the “economic environment” and also, “the tax environment.” OK, fine, the economic environment is not great but should we remind Tom Friedman that the “tax environment” has allowed Apple to evade millions of dollars in state and federal taxes every year? And that Apple pays about a 10% tax rate? And that Apple can probably afford to hire more people right this second, given that so many Apple employees are non-union retail employees making less than $15 per hour?
But it’s OK if they don’t feel like spending that cash hoard, Tom Friedman has some common-sense, middle of the road ideas on how to savage the social safety net, which will fix everything.
What to do? To be sure, the G.O.P.’s lurch to the far right has been more responsible for this paralysis than the Democrats, but Barack Obama is president…Therefore, he owes it to himself and to the country to make one more good shot at a Grand Bargain on spending, investment and tax reform before he opts for a strategy of trying to pummel the Republican Party, hoping that he can win the House for the Democrats in 2014 and then push through his second-term agenda unencumbered… First, new investments that would combine immediate jobs in infrastructure with some long-term growth-enablers like a massive build-out in the nation’s high-speed broadband capabilities. That would have to be married with a long-term fiscal restructuring, written into law, that slows the growth of both Social Security and Medicare entitlements, along with individual and corporate tax reform.
See, we COULD address the fact that Facebook got a $429 million dollar tax refund in spite of record profits, or we could cut Social Security and Medicare slow the growth of Social Security and Medicare. We COULD lift the payroll tax cap, or we could cut Social Security and Medicare slow the growth of Social Security and Medicare. We could go on, but you get the idea.
Our choice today is not “austerity” versus “no austerity.” That is a straw man argument offered by both extremes. It’s about whether we phase in — in the least painful way possible — a long-term plan that balances our need to protect the most vulnerable in this generation while funding the most opportunities for the next generation, and still creating growth. We can’t protect both generations in full anymore, but we must not sacrifice one for the other — favoring nursing homes over nursery schools — and that’s what we’re on track to do.
Sage words of advice. We CAN’T protect both generations in full anymore because we are too interested in protecting rich people from taxes, and warring Muslim countries! If you think we can do both, well suck. on. this.
Sigh. If only we were bequeathed with the special gift common-sense, middle-of-the-road ideas, then we would be columnists for the New York Times, but alas, we only know about facts, and math, so here we are at Wonkette.