Archive for Saturday, December 4, 2010

Plan to cut deficit fails to advance

December 4, 2010


— President Barack Obama’s deficit commission failed Friday to forge consensus on what to do about an increasingly urgent debt problem, but the breakdown of its vote lays out the road map for how Congress might address it next year.

The 11-7 vote in favor of the panel co-chairmen’s recommendations for a painful mix of spending cuts and tax increases foretells a bitterly partisan and possibly unproductive debate in the House. If there’s a deal to be had, it will likely be reached in the Senate. Fourteen votes were needed to officially send the plan to Congress now for quick action on it.

About $4 trillion would be slashed from the budget over the coming decade — three-fourths of it through spending cuts and the other fourth from higher taxes. Deficits over the period are estimated in the $10 trillion range and are expected to require the federal government to borrow up to 33 cents of every dollar it spends.

Five of six senators on the panel — two Democratic allies of Obama and three conservative Republicans — voted for the plan’s wrenching measures, including raising the Social Security retirement age, cutting future benefit increases and rolling back popular tax breaks like the mortgage interest deduction.

But only one of the half dozen House members on the commission endorsed the proposal — Democrat John Spratt Jr. of South Carolina. And he doesn’t have to face voters in his district again; they decided last month to retire him from Congress.

No other House members were willing to swing behind the painstakingly assembled proposal by Democrat Erskine Bowles, a White House chief of staff in Bill Clinton’s presidency, and former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming. Republican Reps. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Dave Camp of Michigan and Jeb Hensarling of Texas recoiled from tax increases and said it didn’t do enough to rein in skyrocketing health care costs. Not one of them even attended the panel’s final meeting.

The ink wasn’t even dry on an earlier version of the proposal before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called it “simply unacceptable,” a move that Republicans said undercut the panel’s work.

The plan would nearly freeze the Pentagon’s budget and cut spending outright by most domestic agencies. It would nearly double the federal tax on gasoline with a 15 cents-per-gallon increase. Income tax rates would fall, but only by eliminating or scaling back dozens of popular tax breaks, including the child tax credit, mortgage interest deduction and deduction claimed by employers who provide health insurance.


Centerville 7 years, 3 months ago

Zippy's Big Idea is to run up the debt to the point that he could raise taxes to the point that the government has a crippling hold on the private sector. I mean a really crippling hold. This is all part of the ginned up hysteria. I'm with Paul Ryan. I'm not buying it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

"Deficits over the period are estimated in the $10 trillion range"

And if the Bush tax cuts to millionaires are made permanent, they alone will account for 10% of those deficits.

So much for Republican "deficit hawks."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

They were temporary, not permanent, tax cuts.

Meaning that if no action is taken at all to extend them, they will expire.

Democrats are ready to pass a second tax cut for 98% of Americans, because they will actually stimulate the economy, and increase tax collections both at the local and state levels as well as federally. If second tax cut is passed for the wealthiest 2% of Americans, it comes with a price tag of approximately $700 billion over the next ten years-- a price that Republican so-called deficit hawks believe doesn't need to be accounted for.

I know that may be "new math" to you, but for most folks it's simple addition and subtraction. Maybe you'd find a remedial math course to be helpful.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

I get it that you don't acknowledge the difference between "permanent" and "temporary."

staff04 7 years, 3 months ago

Except for the pesky little fact that budget forecasts are made considering that the tax cuts will expire, as they were intended to expire when the legislation authorizing them was passed.

So yes, it does matter for predicting future debt and deficit.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 3 months ago

Let's reduce health care costs thus reducing the cost of local,state and federal governments,universities and public school districts by getting rid of the medical insurance industry. Why? Because the medical insurance industry does not provide health care. But they are a whopping expense. And most consumers do not spend what is paid out annually per policy.

Improved Medicare Insurance for All would provide real medical insurance reform!

The United States spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on healthcare – $8160 per capita – yet performs poorly in comparison and leaves over 46 million people without health coverage and millions more inadequately covered.

Expanded and Improved Medicare Insurance for All is one of the solutions.

  • Easy to Implement: Medicare has been in existence since 1966, it provides healthcare to those 65 and older, and satisfaction levels are high. The structure is already in place and can be easily expanded to cover everyone.

  • Simple: One entity – established by the government – would handle billing and payment at a cost significantly lower than private insurance companies. Private insurance companies spend about 31% of every healthcare dollar on administration. Medicare now spends about 3%.

  • Real Choice: An expanded and improved Medicare for All would provide personal choice of doctors and other healthcare providers. While financing would be public, providers would remain private. As with Medicare, you choose your doctor, your hospital, and other healthcare providers.

  • State and Local Tax Relief: Medicare for All would assume the costs of healthcare delivery, thus relieving the states and local governments of the cost of healthcare, including Medicaid, and as a result reduce State and local tax burdens.

  • Expanded coverage: Would cover all medically necessary healthcare services – no more rationing by private insurance companies. There would be no limits on coverage, no co-pays or deductibles, and services would include not only primary and specialized care but also prescription drugs, dental, vision, mental health services, and long-term care.

  • Everyone In, Nobody Out: Everyone would be eligible and covered. No longer would doctors ask what insurance you have before they treat you.

  • No More Overpriced Private Health Insurance: Medicare for All would eliminate the need for private health insurance companies who put profit before healthcare, unfairly limit choice, restrict who gets coverage, and force people into bankruptcy.

  • Lower Costs: Most people will pay significantly less for healthcare. Savings will be achieved in reduced administrative costs and in negotiated prices for prescription drugs.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 3 months ago

Step 2

December 2, 2010

* Why We Need to Reform the Senate Rules
* Act Now to Help Pass Public Safety Bargaining Bill
* CWA Commends FCC Chairman’s Plan on Open Internet
* Investment in Quality Jobs, Sustainable Growth Is Key to Economic Recovery
* Which Wireless Companies are Naughty and Which are Nice?
* Fortune Magazine Editor: Don’t Gamble Social Security in the Stock Market
* CWA to White House: Keep the F136 Fighter Program
* Video Editing Classes Mean New Jobs for TNG, NABET Members
* Corporate-Owned St. Louis Paper Pulls Plug – Again -- on Retiree Health Care
* Stand-Out Coverage: Local 1103’s ‘Eagle’ Takes Readers to One Nation Rally

All 42 Senate Republicans have signed a letter this week to Majority Leader Harry Reid, announcing that they will continue to delay and filibuster every piece of Senate legislative business until….they get their way on tax cuts and the federal budget.

The Obama administration and Democratic leaders support tax cuts for 98 percent of American families – those making less than $250,000 a year. But Republicans especially want a big tax cut for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans that will add $700 billion to the budget. The Republican Senators also have specific demands on the appropriations bills that fund government operations; they’re basically saying “our way or the highway.”

Just more of the same tactics that Senate Republicans have pursued throughout the 111th Congress, making debate and discussion impossible on issues important to working and middle class families. That’s why Employee Free Choice, a bill to end the tax break for companies that offshore jobs, Paycheck Fairness and other important bills went nowhere.

This strategy of “obstruct, then delay, then obstruct again” is all too obvious.

That’s why CWA and a broad coalition of organizations are pressing for crucial reform to these rules when Senators are sworn in for the 112th Congress. Specific principles call for an end to destructive secret holds, a reasonable opportunity for all Senators to express their views and a timely “yes or no” vote on every nomination and measure.


Richard Heckler 7 years, 3 months ago

More support for change:

Is It Finally Time to Reform the Filibuster?

— By Kevin Drum

| Fri Dec. 3, 2010 3:00 AM PST

The state of Oregon does a helluva job electing senators. We should all be so lucky to have the likes of Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley representing us.

Today I want to highlight Merkley and his proposal to end abuse of the filibuster. Unlike his retiring Connecticut colleague Chris Dodd, who inexplicably decided to use his farewell address this week to produce a defense of the filibuster that could only come from a DC lifer almost comically out of tune with the events of the past few years, Merkley has given the subject some real thought and recently produced some genuinely sharp thinking about it.

For starters, Merkley understands the reality of the modern Republican Party: they don't use the filibuster occasionally to obstruct legislation they feel especially strongly about, they use it "on nearly a daily basis, paralyzing the Senate." What's more, the filibuster isn't just a way of requiring 60 votes to pass legislation. Rather, "the filibuster can be thought of as the power of a single senator to object to the regular order of Senate deliberations, thereby invoking a special order that requires a supermajority and a week delay for a vote."

But what to do? There's some question about whether Senate rules can be changed in the middle of a session, but none about whether they can be changed at the beginning of a session. They can be. So in January, if Democrats can muster 51 votes and Vice President Biden is willing to support them by issuing friendly rulings as presiding officer, the filibuster rules can be changed. So what would it take to persuade 51 Democrats to go along?

Merkley's proposal revolves around a single principle: the Senate should always allow debate. So the filibuster should be banned entirely on motions to proceed and on amendments because both are things that promote debate and engagement.

Filibusters would still be allowed on a bill's final vote, but it would take more than one senator to launch a filibuster (Merkley suggests a minimum of ten) and senators would have to actually hold the floor and talk. No longer would a single person be able to obstruct all business just by dropping a note to his party leader.

No longer could the majority leader "fill the amendment tree" or otherwise prohibit the minority party from trying to amend legislation. This fits with his broad principle that debate and engagement with legislation is a good thing. The minority party might choose to offer mischevious or blatantly political amendments, but that's their choice. They also have the choice of genuinely trying to improve legislation and getting a majority of their colleagues to pass it.

In January, the Democratic leadership, the rank-and-file of the party, and the White House ought to give serious thought to starting the 112th Congress with the long-overdue reforms that Merkley proposes.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 3 months ago

So the geniuses decided to freeze the military welfare and cut government services. Why don't we try it the other way around? Cut the war industry and freeze government services.

Or better yet, return our tax policy to the times when life was somewhat better in this country and require those who benefit so greatly from our government to pay a more equitable portion of the income our society provides.

notajayhawk 7 years, 3 months ago

"require those who benefit so greatly from our government to pay a more equitable portion of the income our society provides"

I'm all in favor of 'equitable', scott, but I'm surprised you're in favor of a flat tax. Who would have thought it.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 3 months ago

A flat tax is neither fair nor equitable. The tax rates are progressive today up to a certain point and then flat regardless of additional income. We have seen what that produces - concentration of wealth in the hands of the few and then perversion of the press and political process. If the wealthiest individuals use a greater share of the government services, then it is entirely fair to ask them to contribute at a higher rate to the cost of providing the services. I advocate doing so.

notajayhawk 7 years, 3 months ago

"If the wealthiest individuals use a greater share of the government services"

Too bad they don't.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 3 months ago

So you claim rich and poor use government services equally? or the rich less so than the poor?

It seems to me self evident that the wealthy use the public services provided by government to a greater degree, and therefore must pay to a greater degree to support their continued provision. To wit, a poor person and wealthy individual each pay x% of their income tax burden to support the nation's air transportation system. The poor person takes one flight a year to take a vacation. A wealthy individual takes 30 trips for both business and pleasure. Does not the wealthy individual receive far greater government services?

jafs 7 years, 3 months ago

It is also true that if they paid the same percentage of income, rich people will be paying more into the system.

It's very difficult to figure out what a "fair" system would be.

jafs 7 years, 3 months ago

A little gem in the middle of this proposal is the suggestion to lower corporate income tax rates.

I thought the idea was to raise taxes and lower spending - hmmm.

cowboy 7 years, 3 months ago

set a minimum tax rate / or obligation of tax on gross revenues , for corporations regardless of loophole utilization and then watch the dollars roll in to the treasury

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

And don't allow salaries above a certain level to be tax deductible.

I'd put that number at 7 times the average wages paid by a company.

And expenses on luxury items should be non-tax deductible. Things like Lear jets and corporate yachts, for instance.

Jimo 7 years, 3 months ago

I found the Commission's report to be a useful guide toward long-term deficit reduction.

The plan has several key flaws, however: A. A glance at a chart showing past, present, and future spending and revenue will instantly reveal that the true 'budget buster' over time are medical costs. This isn't because the government is inefficient, or fraud uniquely rampant, but reflects the explosion of such costs through-out society. Health reforms passed this year will start down the path of containing costs but absent bipartisan agreement to make changes - and take blame - no one Party will agree to say 'no' to the endless demand for care, say 'no' to corporate profitmaking on sickness, and say 'no' to providers who (understandably) don't like the additional risk of diminished returns on their investments or can't imagine a permanently lower standard of living.

B. For a plan that toots its shared sacrifice ("no whale left unharpooned") I see zero sacrifice from the Banks (no surprise since the key "Democrat" is just a Banker). A similar plan has recently been put into place in Britain (albeit, wrongfully demanding immediate rather than systemic change). One key element there was a Bank Tax, to recapture the excess profits that the banking industry reaps from governmental actions to keep them solvent and expand liquidity. Banks don't just owe the taxpayer the cash lent but the value of the taxpayer literally having saved their very existence. A trillion dollars over a decade should make us reasonably square.

C. Freezing the military isn't enough. You hardly have to be a Ron Paul isolationist so grasp that we cannot afford - monetarily and otherwise - a global Empire! Having increased 119% over the last decade, the idea that there aren't hundreds of billions in cuts over a decade that can be chopped out of the Pentagon is absurd. (I'd redirect a small portion back to avoiding the cuts in military personnel assistance this Commission has earmarked.)

Other concerns: D. Too bad the Commission didn't think bigger on taxes. This is a great opportunity to shift from an emphasis on income taxation to consumption taxation.

E. Left wing criticism of raising retirement ages by 2075 are silly. There's not a person with a say in Congress who won't be dead by then. Maybe the proposal will be unworkable, who knows? But let's leave something for future generations to worry about. We can't bind the actions of our children let alone grandchildren and if they wish some other course then they'll shake their heads at our foolishness and take their own action.

F. The single biggest change that would constrain future deficits is to fund political campaigns generously via the Treasury and disallow personal and private expenditures on elections. Even spending billions of taxpayer money on these bozos would produce budgetary savings at a ratio of 1:100.

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 3 months ago

I have never understood a tax system that encourages companies to not make a profit.

It always makes me stop and ponder when a guy tells me how he and his accountants worked overtime to make sure they did not make a profit so that they would not have to pay taxes.

I even sat and listened to a go for hours about how he laid off 40% of his employees so that he would not make any money and have to give it to Obama. He explained that he was upset because of the health care law. Up until this point, I marveled at how smart and talented this man was in the particular field we both shared.

At the end, still impressed by his business success, I was very curious to educate myself about the real problem of this bill that everyone was complaining about. With great anticipation I asked him,"So what are the really bad things about this bill," to which he responsed, "Well I don't really know but I know its bad. I have my people looking at it right now."

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 3 months ago

Sorry for my typos.

This was an unusual case. A guy could actually make more money with more employees and chose not to.

I have to wonder if there are more situations like this.

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 3 months ago

The great expansion of China and the support they are getting from our wealthiest companies at the expense of the American people is a frightening thing.

But it is even more unsettling to realize that these people see nothing wrong with what they are doing. They think it is just good business while life in America for the vast majority of citizens is getting much more difficult.

How can we compete in the global economy when our most successful business leaders don't care what country benefits as long as they maximize their own profits, even to the point of paying little or no taxes?

Jimo 7 years, 3 months ago

I recently pointed this out to a Kool-aid drinking laissez faire type--

Even - IF- cutting taxes for the wealthy - CAUSED - them to invest in job creating enterprises (presumably after the hangover from their six month round the world, yacht-sailing, champagne-swilling binge), why would any fool make that investment - IN - the U.S., a nation with a dysfunctional political system incapable of moving even ordinary, non-controversial legislation? Invest in America? Really? Supposedly for sentimental reasons or something? What would our counter selling point be? Well regulated financial markets? LOL

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 3 months ago

In Kansas, when you see a wall cloud coming from the West, you know what that means. Before long you hear the thunder and you see the lightning and you know that soon, you will feel the wind. It is a time to take shelter.

Our Congress needs to see the wall cloud that is the global competition we have been facing. They need to stop playing in their sandboxes and instead of being led around by Wall Street and large International Companies like cattle with rings in their noses, they need to get desparate to help this country or they need to get the hell out of Dodge and let somebody else lead us out of this mess.

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