Tag Archives: economy

Big surprise – more tax issues.

Obama will head out on the road this week to begin the effort to get support for the debt reduction plan he outlined last week. He’s not doing so on the greatest footing. Last year, before elections created a Republican controlled House, a new tax plan would have had some chance to reach his desk. Not so much now. House Speaker John Boehner, even before Obama made his speech last week, spoke in opposition to any plan that would raise taxes – calling it “unacceptable” and a “non-starter”. But there are signs that Obama may get the support he needs if he focuses solely on corporations and the wealthy.

The touchiest part of Obama’s plan is his pledge to not extend the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, those making $250,000 or above. (Oh, déjà-vu! We’ve heard that before.) The GOP has always had the image of protecting the wealthy, the fat-cats, while the Democrats are often accused of an endless “tax and spend” cycle. Now, almost everyone thinks that the Republicans have pretty much cheated middle-class America while pandering to the wealthy. The wealthy aren’t paying their fair share in taxes and the middle-class is drowning in the kickback.

Nearly six in ten Americans have the belief that the wealthy aren’t paying their share of taxes and nearly seven in ten think the same about corporations. Two-thirds of those making under $100,000 a year believe that those in the upper-incomes are not paying enough in taxes. This public opinion might give Obama the backing he needs in order to get a new tax plan going. Plus, the middle-class is a huge target in any election but particularly one where the economy will be a central issue. If Obama can use quashing tax cuts for the wealthy to appeal to those middle-class voters it could be a huge advantage in upcoming elections.

That is if people can get past the knee-jerk reaction that increasing taxes hurts economic growth. Lesser known facts, like the U.S. corporate tax being the highest in the world and that ending the Bush tax cuts could impact 894,000 small businesses, could allow the Republicans to ultimately win the tax debate. But turning public opinion makes tax issues less of a sure thing for the GOP.

Obama’s winning message on taxes? – The Washington Post

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Long-term plan to drop deficit revealed by Obama today.

President Obama unveiled a framework Wednesday to reduce the deficit over the next 12 years by $4 trillion — a goal that falls short of targets set by his deficit commission and House Republicans — and called for a new congressional commission to help develop a plan to get there. This plan comes just after Capitol Hill came to a hard fought agreement over this year’s budget, which is already half over I might add. Of course, any plan Obama puts into action will be kicked to the curb with the next presidency. In fact, undoing what Obama has spent the last three years doing might be a campaign promise from any presidential hopeful. After all, Obama himself was elected with the promise of change and any other candidate can use the same song and dance.

In his most ambitious effort to claim the mantle of deficit cutter, Obama proposed sharp new cuts to domestic and military spending, and an overhaul of the tax code that would raise fresh revenue. But he steered clear of fundamental changes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — the primary drivers of future spending. The proposal includes a mixture of tax hikes, drastic spending cuts, reductions in the Pentagon’s budget, and smaller entitlement reforms. It would seek to achieve a final balance of three dollars in spending reductions for every dollar generated in additional tax revenue.

“Now that our economic recovery is gaining strength, Democrats and Republicans must come together and restore the fiscal responsibility that served us so well in the 1990s,” the president said in a speech at George Washington University. “We have to live within our means, reduce our deficit, and get back on a path that will allow us to pay down our debt. And we have to do it in a way that protects the recovery, and protects the investments we need to grow, create jobs and win the future.”

Oh, great. Were you paying attention in the 1990’s, Mr. President? That decade of “fiscal responsibility” is what got us in the mess we are in today. We lived on credit and thought plastic money meant that we would never run out of cash. Then the world blinked and it all fell to shit. I hope Obama can realize that a return to the old ways is not an option and never was. He’s saying two different things in this quote. In no way was the 1990’s characterized by living within our means and many people over extended themselves. When the housing bubble burst, people found that the one object that had pour their resources into, their house, was practically devalued.

We do need to begin to live within our means but the rest of the United States and the world have to stabilize their economies as well. As it is we can barely afford the products we need to continue basic life, like gas. The rest of world is charging full steam ahead while we flounder behind.

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Just how much did the GOP give and how much did the Democrats take?

Still, Obama and his Democratic allies accepted $600 million in cuts to a community health centers program, $414 million in cuts to grants for state and local police departments, and a $1.6 billion reduction in the Environmental Protection Agency budget, almost $1 billion of which would come from grants for clean water and other projects by local governments and Indian tribes. The National Institutes of Health, which funds critical medical research, would absorb a $260 million cut, less than 1 percent of its budget, instead of the $1.6 billion cut sought by House Republicans. Family planning programs would bear a 5 percent cut rather than being completely eliminated. Homeland security programs would see their first ever cut, although mostly to first responder grants given to state and local governments, and the IRS budget would be frozen.

About $10 billion of the cuts comes from targeting appropriations accounts previously used by lawmakers for so-called earmarks, those pet projects like highways, water projects, community development grants and new equipment for police and fire departments. Republicans had already engineered a ban on earmarks when taking back the House this year. Republicans also claimed $5 billion in savings by capping payments from a fund awarding compensation to crime victims. According to an arcane bookkeeping rule, this allows the government to claim the entire contents of the fund as budget savings. Renewable energy programs are cut $407 million, almost 20% of their budget, and The Army Corps of Engineers, which funds flood control and inland waterway projects, will suffer a $578 million cut, about 10% of its budget.

Conservative Republicans and Tea Party people are already expressing their displeasure with the budget plan, saying that the almost $38 billion in cuts barely make a dent in the country’s budget woes. They are also upset that policy “riders” added by the Republicans, like those on abortion, were dropped during negotiation. These little add-ons included attempts to block the EPA’s ability to issue global warming rules, moves to stop the implementation of Obama’s healthcare overhauls, new rules to govern the Internet, and an attempt to chop an initiative aimed at catching people running guns to Mexican drug lords off at the knees.

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Government shutdown will affect more than just some paper pushers.

The list of services the potential government shutdown will affect keeps growing and citizens of the United States are none too happy about it. Along with many offices, national parks would be closed, leaving some 800,000 daily visitors high and dry. About $32 million a day in national parks revenue would stop during the shutdown. Places such as Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona would be closed. The Smithsonian National Museums in Washington would lock their doors and the National Cherry Blossom Festival parades, which draw roughly 1 million visitors, would be canceled. Park service employees, about 17,000, would be furloughed.

The threat of lost revenue from tourists is staggering, worrying those participating in the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War and the reenactment in Charleston, South Carolina. The reenactment of the battle will happen Tuesday regardless of the shutdown but the hundreds of re-enactors in blue or gray uniforms will be unable to camp at the historic Fort Sumter as usual. If the shutdown does happen, trash service in the DC area will stop as well. This prompted a Facebook event by angry residents pledging to take their trash to House Speaker John Boehner’s house. The organizers of the event, Jonah Goodman, who is listed in the Democratic National Committee network, and Nolan Treadway, the political and logistics director for the liberal group Netroots Nation, plan to continue the event even if a shutdown doesn’t occur.

10 things that could ruin your day if the government shuts down – CNN

Facebook event: Let’s dump trash at Boehner’s pad – Politicalticker

Shutdown would take away $32 million a day from national parks – CNN

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Looks like a rusty tinker toy rather than a government to me.

Raise your hand if you saw the government shutdown after Friday coming from a league away? (can almost feel the breeze from people raising their hands) Yeah, me too. For once it looks like the Democrats are sticking to their guns and digging in their heels. If there is no deal by midnight Friday, when the current spending authorization measure expires, parts of the government will close down. The IRS will stop processing paper tax returns, the Small Business Association will stop making loans and federal home loan guarantees are on hold.

Harry Reid believes that both parties are agreed on the numbers portion of the budget and that the real sticking point between the Republicans and the Democrats is the GOP’s insistence on including provisions related to abortion and environmental protection. House Speaker John Boehner doesn’t think so, saying that there is “no agreement on numbers and no agreement on underlying policies.” Republicans are, among other things, pushing to strip all funding from Planned Parenthood as well as trying to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

At the moment, the Republicans are offering another week long extension bill, which both the Democrats and Obama himself states is not an option. The Republicans are being pressured from their conservative Tea Party members to make deep cuts, to the tune of $61 billion, while the Democrats say such cuts will harm the recovering economy. They would rather pass a resolution with only $10 billion in cuts. Both sides of the government is trying to paint the other party as the bad guy and depending on who is holding the “hot potato” come midnight on Friday will end up being the villain in this story.

Poll: Americans split on shutdown blame game.

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Anti-Union legislation is pushed through in Wisconsin in a stunning move by GOP members.

Two things happened yesterday in our government. One was that the Senate voted down both the proposed budget bills, calling the Republican plan too much and the Democrat plan not enough. We knew this would happen. I don’t know why they even bothered turning on the lights. This sets the stage for new negotiations between the parties and, since temporary funding runs out next week, almost certainly another stop-gap bill to keep the federal government running while they debate the issue.

The other big event that happened in our government was that the Wisconsin Assembly was able to pass the anti-union rights legislation after discovering a way to outmaneuver the missing Democratic members. The legislation introduced by Republican Governor Scott Walker to plug the $137 million budget shortfall would strip collective bargaining rights from most public workers. To stop the vote, 14 Senate Democrats fled to Illinois three weeks ago, preventing the chamber from having enough members present to pass it. At least 20 members must be present to take up any measures that spend money but by taking out all the spending measures in the legislation the Senate was able to approve it without the missing members.

The measure forbids most government workers from collectively bargaining for wage increases beyond the rate of inflation unless approved by referendum. It also requires public workers to pay more toward their pensions and double their health insurance contribution, a combination equivalent to an 8% pay cut for the average worker. Walker’s proposal touched off a national debate over union rights for public employees and prompted tens of thousands of demonstrators to converge on Wisconsin’s capital city for weeks of protests.

Protestors take over the State Capitol after the Republican controlled Senate, without Democrats present, abruptly voted to eliminate almost all collective bargaining for most public workers in Madison, Wisconsin.

Within hours of the Senate passing the plan, a crowd of hundreds of protesters grew to about 7,000 in the Capitol, a crowd as large as any seen inside the building in three weeks of demonstrations. Walker and his Republican colleagues have shown their true colors with this move. By removing the spending measures from the bill and pushing through the portion eliminating collective bargaining rights of public employees, they have shown that this was never about the state budget but was an effort to bust unions. Labor leaders insist that they emerge energized and eager to continue fighting. They say that efforts to recall Republican Senators will continue, although Governor Walker cannot be recalled until he’s served a full year next January.

A recall election, also called a recall referendum or representative recall, is a procedure by which voters can remove an elected official from office through a direct vote, initiated when sufficient voters sign a petition.

Wisconsion union curbs head for final vote amid protests – Yahoo! News

Wis. GOP bypasses Dems, cuts collective bargaining – Yahoo! News

Governor Walker’s Coup D’Etat – Robert Reich

Labor Vows To Step Up Recall Effort Against Wisconsin GOP, Challenge Anti-Union Bill in Court – Huffington Post

Eight GOP State Senators in Wisconsin Can be Recalled Right Now; Gov. Walker Can Be Recalled in January

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The Republicans and the Democrats still can’t agree on budget.

Richard Nixon espoused what he called “the madman theory.” It’s a negotiating approach that induces the other side to believe you are capable of dangerously irrational actions and leads it to back down to avoid the wreckage your rage might let loose. That’s what the Republicans are doing right now; using the crazy reputation the Tea Party and the freshmen politicos have gained to terrorize the Democrats, who apparently have no backbone.

The GOP is holding the specter of a government shut-down over the heads of the Democrats like the sword of Damocles. After pushing through the short-term spending measure that allowed the government to continue to function until March 18th, the GOP is now holding out for even more cuts and it looks like the White House might go for another ‘compromise’. Both sides are trying to avoid looking like the evildoers here and keep the government running. However, they might be running it into the ground. Democrats have offered to cut an additional $10.5 billion but Republicans want $61 billion. Meeting in the middle will result in around $35 billion in additional cuts to so-called non-defense discretionary spending.

That will be another big hit to the middle class. Non-defense discretionary spending is 12% of the federal budget and includes most federal education programs as well as programs for the poor outside of Medicaid. A third of the targeted spending is handed over to states and locales and cutting it even more would put the squeeze on municipal government. The protests in Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio highlight just how enraged the middle working class is at being targeted by the governmental wolves.

What appears to be going to happen now is a series of short-term funding bills in which the GOP will take small chunks out of the budget until they reach their $61 billion goal. Each two, three, or four week stopgap created to keep the government going through prolonged negotiations would contain another set of cuts. The Republicans continue to push and the Democrats continue to give ground in this situation. This is not a compromise, it’s a hostile takeover.

The Senate will vote on the two versions of the spending bill tomorrow. The budget proposed by the Republicans will cut $61 billion while the Democrats’ version will cut only $6 billion. Neither bill is expected to get the 60 votes required to advance but the vote will set the stage for additional negotiations. In other words, this is all for show.

America’s grim budget outlook – Washington Post

How Boehner is playing the Democrats – Washington Post

House GOP Plans for More Short-term Funding Extensions – Huffington Post

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The government will keep on running but running to where is the question…

You know, I’ve been trying for weeks to find a good Republican blog or newsfeed since everything I’ve seen so far is bashing the GOP and is generally anti-Republican at the moment. It may seem like the Republicans are hell-bent on attacking the government with a sharp pair of scissors but the GOP is not completely happy with what is going on either. To quote an analogy from the First Read NBC News site, “It may be hard to understand why a person might jump off a cliff, unless you understand they’re being chased by a tiger.” The bulk of the Republicans are being driven by the Tea Party and those core Republicans that are being herded are just as concerned about spending cuts as everyone else. The Republican Party is like a nesting doll and the more layers you pull off the doll, the crazier it gets.

The more popular ways of generating new revenue are placing a surtax on federal income taxes for those who make more than $1 million per a year, eliminating spending on earmarks, eliminating funding for weapons systems the Defense Department says aren’t necessary, and eliminating tax credits for the oil and gas industries. Over 70% of people polled say that those are acceptable ways to reduce the federal budget deficit, with a whopping 81% supporting the tax on high incomes. Unsurprisingly, cutting funding for Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and education were less popular.

Obama signed the stop-gap measure to keep the government up and running for another two weeks yesterday. Now the White House looks eager to find the same type of compromise that was accomplished during the lame-duck session on taxes last year (that would be the continuation of the Bush tax cuts everybody is crying over right now). Vice President Biden will be the one to negotiate with the Republicans on a long-term solution for the deficit and to keep the government running. But the GOP leaders insist the Senate Democrats come up with their own plan first. At the moment we are not hearing a lot about a plan from the Democrats or how they wish to counter the $61 billion in cuts created by the House Republicans. Republicans are scheduled to meet with Biden and other officials today at 4pm ET to begin talks.

First Thoughts: Chased by a tiger

Congress: Ready to compromise?

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The government still limping along.

The House on Tuesday approved a stopgap measure that would keep the federal government funded through March 18 and cut $4 billion in spending by targeting programs that President Obama has already marked for elimination.

The measure, which passed the House on a 335 to 91 vote, now goes to the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that the measure is likely to be approved in the Senate within the next 48 hours. If Congress does not pass a funding resolution by Friday, the federal government would be forced to shut down, but the apparent agreement between the two chambers seems likely to avert that possibility in the short-term.

The Senate on Wednesday approved a stopgap measure that would keep the federal government funded through March 18, sending the bill on to President Obama for his signature. The bill passed on a 91 to 9 vote, one day after it was approved by the House. Obama must sign the bill by Friday or else the federal government will be forced to shut down.

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Protests in Wisconsin still continue.

A silent protester walks with a skull through the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin on February 23, 2011. The Wisconsin budget proposed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker includes cuts in benefits for state workers and takes away many of their collective bargaining rights. UPI/Brian Kersey

Please be a Halloween decoration.

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