As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Where Are The Spending Cut Calculators?

In both the Friday and Saturday editions of the Los Angeles Times, right on page A1 above the fold, there was a graphic of a "tax calculator," which projected the additional taxes an individual would pay based on certain factors like income, number of dependents and values of vehicles. They have a corresponding tax calculator on their website where users can type in the data and get the precise tax hit coming to them. The Sacramento Bee has the same thing. Talk radio was having a field day with these calculators over the past couple days, getting people to call in and disclose their statistics and telling them how much money they will owe. This led to perverse complaints like the lady making $126,000 a year ranting about an $800 tax increase.

In my life, I have never seen a "spending cut calculator," where someone good plug in the services they rely on, like how many school-age children they have, or how many roads they take to work, or how many police officers and firefighters serve their community, or what social services they or their families rely on, and how much they stand to lose in THAT equation. Tax calculators show bias toward the gated community screamers on the right who see their money being piled away for nothing. A spending cut calculator would actually show the impact to a much larger cross-section of society, putting far more people at risk than a below 1% hit to their bottom line.

But of course, people who are perceived to depend on state services probably don't log on to the LA Times and the Sacramento Bee websites very often to calculate their tax burden. In reality, we all depend on the state for roads and law enforcement and libraries and schools and county hospitals and on and on. And in Los Angeles County, one in five residents - almost 2.2 million people - receive some form of public aid. So wouldn't it make sense to portray the real cost of spending cuts in the same way that tax increases are portrayed?

Contra Dan Walters, it is completely untrue that "liberal Web sites" are unilaterally condemning cuts to education and health & welfare spending. We fully understand that a $42 billion dollar hole cannot be filled by revenue alone. We certainly condemn corporate tax cuts at a time of massive deficits, or counter-productive actions like selling the lottery, which will produce net losses in the long-term. But there is no question that the media mentality is to highlight the tax side of the equation over the spending side, and dramatically portray the tax increases - splashed across the front page - while relegating the spending cuts to further down the page. It feeds the tax revolt and distorts the debate. And it's completely irresponsible.

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