Saturday, April 30, 2011

America's Short Memory. Can Republicans Be Trusted With the Economy

Republican's Lasting Legacy and the Blame for the Deficit?

The revised deficit numbers reported by the Congressional Budget Office and the Office of Management and Budget today show a lower deficit than previously estimated for 2009, with higher deficits for 2010 and beyond. Political opportunists will be busy looking for chances to score points over these numbers—pinning the dismal fiscal picture on the Obama administration.

The real story is, however, fairly obvious. The policies of the Bush administration, which included tax cuts during a time of war and a floundering economy, are clearly the primary source of the current deficits. The Obama administration policies that are beginning to give the economy a needed jumpstart—the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in particular—place a distant third in contributing to the 2009 and 2010 deficit numbers. The deficit picture for the years beyond still needs to be painted.

To come to these conclusions, we calculated the relative importance of the several factors contributing to the 2009 and 2010 deficits by looking at the impact in those years of various policies. A detailed description of our approach is at the end of this column. Below is the percentage share of the major contributing factors to the total deterioration from the surpluses projected in 2000 to the current deficits according to our analysis. The policies of President George W. Bush make up the largest share, followed by the current economic downturn, and then President Barack Obama’s policies.

Before explaining these further, it should be said that the generally worse deficit numbers reported today aren’t all that surprising. Since the last projections in May, it’s been plain that this recession has been worse than most analysts thought. With a weak economy comes lower tax revenue and higher safety net expenditures—with the loss in tax revenue causing the lion’s share of the deficit problem. The effects of a deeper recession have a long-lasting impact. Even as growth is restored, it is growth from a reduced starting point—a smaller economy in 2009 usually means a smaller economy than previously predicted for several years hence.

Encouragingly, there have been signs of late that the administration’s policies to end the recession are starting to take hold. Without such efforts, the picture would be much gloomier, particularly in the short term. One piece of good news is that the government is no longer expecting to spend another $250 billion rescuing financial institutions through the Troubled Assets Relief Program—which explains the improved deficit picture for 2009. And the projections for deficits in future years would be far more pessimistic if the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act policies were not starting to get traction.

As for the deficit’s cause, the single most important factor is the legacy of President George W. Bush’s legislative agenda. Overall, changes in federal law during the Bush administration are responsible for 40 percent of the short-term fiscal problem. For example, we estimate that the tax cuts passed during the Bush presidency are reducing government revenue collections by $231 billion in 2009. Also, because of the additions to the federal debt due to Bush administration policies, the government will be paying $218 billion more in interest payments in 2009.

Had President Bush not cut taxes while simultaneously prosecuting two foreign wars and adopting other programs without paying for them, the current deficit would be only 4.7 percent of gross domestic product this year, instead of the eye-catching 11.2 percent—despite the weak economy and the costly efforts taken to restore it. In 2010, the deficit would be 3.2 percent instead of 9.6 percent.

The weak economy also plays a major role in the deficit picture. The failure of Bush economic policies—fiscal irresponsibility, regulatory indifference, fueling of an asset and credit bubble, a failure to focus on jobs and incomes, and inaction as the economy started slipping—contributed mightily to the nation’s current economic situation. When the economy contracts, tax revenues decline and outlays increase for programs designed to keep people from falling deep into poverty (with the tax impact much larger than the spending impact). All told, the weak economy is responsible for 20 percent of the fiscal problems we face in 2009 and 2010.

President Obama’s policies have also contributed to the federal deficit—but only 16 percent of the projected budget deterioration for 2009 and 2010 are attributable to those policies. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, designed to help bring the economy out of the recession is, by far, the largest single additional public spending under this administration.

The cumulative cost of the financial sector rescue, mostly initiated under President Bush in response to the financial markets collapse, is also significant—contributing to 12 percent of the problem. A variety of other changes, described in the methodology section, are also contributors.

For the longer term, it’s a bit disingenuous to assign any responsibility for the deficits. That’s a story yet to be told, and CBO and OMB provide a selection of numbers to choose from for the long run. Much will depend on how the economy fares. If the Bush tax cuts, scheduled to expire at the end of 2010, were to be continued in their entirety there would be large deficits. If, as the Obama administration has proposed, they are only extended for those making under $250,000, then they still contribute to the deficit but not as substantially.

There are a number of similar budget items that have a long history for which one can, with equal legitimacy, assign responsibility to either their originators or current policymakers for continuing them. New Obama program initiatives, it’s important to note, contribute little to future deficits. The administration has insisted that its additional spending, especially on health care, be fully paid for with savings elsewhere in the budget and additional revenues. In fact, to address our budget challenges it is critical to reform health care which, through Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs, is the single biggest budget headache in the long run.

Regardless of responsibility, of course, the long-run deficit situation is one that needs to be addressed.

Michael Ettlinger is the Vice President for Economic Policy and Michael Linden is the Associate Director for Tax and Budget Policy at American Progress.
Contributors to the nation’s fiscal situation in 2009 and 2010 (in billions of dollars), as measured against surpluses projected in 2001
      2009     2010
President Bush’s policies     -$923 billion     -$918 billion
Current economic downturn     -$426 billion     -$469 billion
President Obama’s policies     -$225 billion     -$497 billion
Financial rescues begun by President Bush     -$422 billion     -$123 billion
All other     -$302 billion     -$262 billion

Three times each year, the Congressional budget office releases revised estimates of its budget projections going forward 10 years. In each of these revisions, the CBO describes how its current estimate has changed from its previous estimate, and why. By studying these estimates, we can attribute the change in the federal bottom line to various factors: specific legislative policies, changing economic conditions, and technical modifications.

Specifically, in January of 2001, just as President George W. Bush was taking office, the Congressional Budget Office projected that in fiscal year 2009, the federal budget would enjoy a $710 billion surplus. Today the Congressional Budget Office says that the budget will have a $1.6 trillion deficit, a swing of $2.3 trillion. Our analysis looks at the component causes of that swing.

Note that this is somewhat different than determining the sources of the deficit—the numbers we derive add up to more than the deficit because they include loss of surplus. It is reasonable, however, to allocate the costs pro-rata between the surplus reduction and the deficit increase. Thus, the percentages presented above can be fairly characterized as the percentage contribution of each factor to the deficits for each year.

In order to determine what caused that swing, we allocated changes in CBO’s projections to one of five categories.

To President Bush we attributed all changes that CBO marked as “legislative” from its January 2002 update until its September 2008 update. We then modified this total in several ways. First, we subtracted more than $40 billion due to later revisions in CBO’s estimate of the costs of Medicare Part D. CBO categorizes these changes as “technical.”

Second, we added about $60 billion in costs stemming from the economic stimulus of 2008 that CBO also classifies as “technical.” Finally, we adjusted downward the current cost of President Bush’s tax cuts. CBO’s estimates of the cost of President Bush’s tax proposals for 2009 and 2010 were based on its economic assumptions for those years.

Because the economy is worse than CBO expected at the time it made those estimates, the cost of those tax cuts is also somewhat smaller than expected—as the tax system in general is producing less revenue, the cost of enacted tax reductions is less. To account for this, we adjusted the cost estimates of both the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act and the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act (the Job Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act had no budgetary effect for 2009 and 2010) by the same ratio as CBO’s GDP projections at the time and current projections. This adjustment has the effect of reducing the amount of the fiscal deterioration attributable to President Bush. We believe this is more generous to the former president’s contribution to the current problems than a similar analysis recently conducted by The New York Times.

The impact of the current economic downturn was calculated by summing all of the changes attributed to “economic factors” in CBO’s estimates from January 2008 through August 2009. To these we added revenue adjustments made in January and March 2009 that CBO classifies as “technical” but describes as being mostly due to economic changes.

To President Obama, we attributed all legislative changes since CBO’s March 2009 update.

The “financial rescues begun by President Bush” category consists of expenditures stemming from TARP and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and from CBO’s decision to bring Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac onto the federal books.

The remaining causes, including the economic changes from 2001 to 2007, CBO’s technical changes not accounted for elsewhere, and policies enacted at the very end of 2008 (such as Alternative Minimum Tax relief) were allocated to “all other.” We added $100 billion in additional expenditures for 2010 because CBO’s baseline does not include an additional AMT “patch” for fiscal year 2010, though such a “patch” is exceedingly likely.

Bush was the first modern president to not pay for his wars. Had Bush and a Republican Congress insisted on being responsible and having a pay as you go budget just for the two wars the nation would be nearly two  trillion dollars richer. Had Bush monitored Wall St and prevented half of the housing bubble and financial meltdown that would have saved the nation at least $7 trillion in wealth. NOW. RIGHT NOW. These same Republicans say they have the perfect solution to our problems - cut Medicare for seniors and give corporations that are currently reaping record profits more tax cuts. Who is more stupid - Republicans for thinking America will but more of their snake oil or the Americans that are in denial about the history of Republican malfeasance and immoral financial shenanigans.

GOP lawmakers tout Medicare reform by stretching a comparison to the health benefits they receive

Josef Stalin Breitbart Starts Big Push To "Go After Teachers" With His Trademark Deception

Michigan’s “Emergency” Financial Regime: What Fascism Looks Like

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Birth Certificates Are the Ice Berg of Republican Crazy

Birth Certificates Are the Ice Berg of Republican Crazy

Americans used to pride themselves on being a practical people, largely immune to religious and political dogmatism. Commonsense and know-how were universally seen as virtues. Crackpots and zealots of the David Koresh, Jim Jones type have abounded, but rarely commanded a mass following.

"It ain't so much the things we don't know that get us into trouble. It's the things we know for sure that just ain't so." This proverbial expression so perfectly sums up American pragmatism that it's been wrongly attributed to upwards of a half dozen wise men, ranging from Mark Twain and Will Rogers to Yogi Berra. It actually appears to have been the tag line of humorist Josh Billings, a sort of 19th century Jeff Foxworthy.

Today, Billings would be scorned as an elitist and chastised for incivility. Unfortunately, when it comes to politics a sizable proportion of our fellow Americans have abandoned reason for demonic conspiracy theories, magical thinking and miracle cures.

Increasingly, one of our two great political parties appears to be governed by what Charles P. Pierce calls the "Three Great Premises" of talk radio: "First Great Premise: Any theory is valid if it moves units ... Second Great Premise: Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough ... Third Great Premise: Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is measured by how fervently they believe it."

Maybe it's hard times, and maybe it's an African-American president with an odd name, but several leading contenders for the 2012 GOP nomination express ideas that might lead to involuntary hospitalization anywhere outside a Tea Party rally or a TV studio.

After all, it'd be one thing for me to believe I was secretly married to Juliette Binoche; quite another to fly to Paris to seek her out.

Consider Donald Trump. This preposterous self-promoter has been near-ubiquitous, expressing Looney Toons notions about President Obama previously confined to emailers who write in all caps: "WHEN ARE YOU GUYS GOING TO GET AWAY FROM THE KOOL-AID LONG ENOUGH TO START LOOKING INTO THIS MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE?"

Confronted with Obama's certified birth certificate by ABC's George Stephanopoulos, even noted flake Rep. Michele Bachmann abandoned the conspiracy theory of the president's origins. (I'm betting she already regrets this lapse into temporary sanity.) Leading Republicans such as Karl Rove and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer have argued that "birtherism" makes sensible voters think of the GOP as the Nut Party.

So naturally Trump's emerged as the odds-on favorite to win the Republican nomination, assuming he seeks it. (Trump release his income tax records? I don't think so. The man bankrupted several casinos.) So while I don't think he believes the nonsense he spouts, what's he up to? Alas, the simplest explanation is that he's running.

Prediction: Releasing Obama's long-form birth certificate will change few minds. You can't argue with crazy.

Alas that's merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg where GOP delusional thinking is concerned. Judging by my inbox, a large proportion of angry white men also believe that the burst housing bubble and financial meltdown of 2007-8 were caused by -- wait for it -- President Jimmy Carter. A version of this poisonous myth has been popularized by syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell.

Carter, see, signed the Community Reinvestment Act, supposedly requiring banks to make real estate loans to improvident ghetto dwellers who couldn't repay them. President Clinton, Janet Reno and Acorn then threatened lawsuits, forcing banks to make bad loans, selling them off to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and bankrupting the treasury.

I sometimes challenge True Believers. Never mind that no law ever encouraged bad loans, I say. Shouldn't Presidents Reagan, Bush I or Bush II have done something? Rep. Barney Frank, comes the response, prevented a vigilant George W. Bush from acting.

And how did a minority congressman do that? Frank would resent being called a "minority" one guy answered. Uh oh, I think we've touched bottom. There's no point mentioning W's advocacy of sub-prime lending to somebody with no clue how the U.S. government works.

Also contrary to Republican mythology, the infamous Bush tax cuts did anything but increase revenue, as tax cuts never do. As Fiscal Times columnist Bruce Bartlett shows, federal revenues dropped from 20.6 percent of GDP in 2000 to 18.5 percent in 2007. The 2008 recession dropped them to 14.9 percent, where they linger today -- the proximate cause of current huge budget deficits.

Ah, but here's the tricky part. GOP delusional thinking's not merely impervious to reality, it's also not confined to the Republican Party. Every public opinion poll extant shows that large majorities of voters want no reductions to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Oh, and no new taxes.

By a 2-to-1 majority, Americans also think that Congress should refuse to increase the national debt limit.

People wouldn't say that if they understood the consequences. Alas, sometimes the things you don't know can also hurt you.

The Right gave us all a good look at the insanity that drives them with two Bush terms. During which his Republican lawyers said if the president does something - anything - that automatically makes it legal. Their legal minds apparently stuck in some medieval dynasty in which rulers could do anything they like. President Obama's birth certificate was just another part of the crazy ice berg that came to the surface. There is plenty more where that came from. Most Americans think crazy is a state of mind, for conservatives it is like diesel fuel and they can't put the pedal to the floor without it..

No Class: The Supreme Court's Arbitration Ruling
I'll leave it to others to parse the details of Justice Antonin Scalia's majority opinion, which overturned the 9th Circuit, voided the intended impact of California's consumer law and case precedent, and declared that the Federal Arbitration Act allows corporations to force individuals to adhere to individual dispute arbitration no matter how unjust the results. Suffice it to say that the Court's decision completely defies the very federalism principles which are so often articulated by the very conservative members who agreed Wednesday to strike down a state's effort to level the consumer playing field for millions of its residents. This is as big a pro-business, pro-corporate ruling as we've ever seen from the Roberts' Court -- and it will take explicit Congressional action to overturn it. Paging Lilly Ledbetter!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How I Paid Only 1% of My Income in Federal Income Tax

How I Paid Only 1% of My Income in Federal Income Tax

In 2009, the median U.S. family had an income of just under $50,000, on which they would have paid roughly $2,761 (or about 5.5%) in federal income tax. I, by contrast, enjoyed an income of $207,415 in 2009, but paid only $2,173 (or 1.0%) in income tax.

In a recent newspaper interview, I mentioned my absurdly low tax rate to illustrate the extent to which the tax system is biased in favor of the wealthy (my income varies widely from year to year, but is typically north of half a million dollars). My point was that with our country facing frightening budget deficits amid an ever-widening income gap between the rich and everybody else, I consider it both unwise and unfair that a former investment banker like myself pays less in taxes than working Americans with far lower incomes.

Among the dozens of emails I received in response were many from people who assumed that rich people avoid taxes through complicated strategies devised by an army of expensive advisors (many correspondents asked for the name of my accountant). But under our current tax system, the rich don't need high-priced lawyers who exploit obscure loopholes; I wasn't even trying to minimize my taxes (and, in fact, could have paid zero tax if I was). Warren Buffett has observed that if there's class warfare in this country, the rich are winning. I offer my 2009 tax return, then, as a flare to illuminate the battlefield.

Americans are understandably angry over the government's multi-billion-dollar bailouts of reckless bankers. But low tax rates on investment income have put far more money into Wall Street's pockets than the TARP bill did. Even President Obama's proposal to let the Bush tax cuts lapse for the richest Americans would leave a top marginal rate on capital gains and qualified dividends of just 20% -- half the proposed rate on labor income.

This difference creates a loophole you can drive a Rolls Royce through. Having left Wall Street in 2002, I now earn far more money from my financial portfolio than from my job as an Adjunct Professor, and as a result I consistently pay under 15% of my income to the IRS. Still, I was astonished when my accountant told me that my tax rate for 2009 was a mere 1%.

I knew my deductions were an unusually large percentage of my income that year due to three items: $46,000 in charitable gifts, $56,000 in state and local taxes (mostly related to 2008, when my income was much higher) and $45,000 in investment expenses (basically fees paid to various money managers). Personally, I think there are reasonable arguments to be made for keeping each of these types of deduction, but the numerous "tax expenditures" that litter the tax code mean that citizens with similar incomes can end up paying wildly different amounts in tax.

Even after deductions and exemptions, however, I still had taxable income of $37,349, putting me in the 15% bracket (higher than the average rate I've paid in years past with income twenty times as large). If I'd been an ordinary worker, my tax bill would have been $4,764. But wait! Under the Bush tax cuts, if one's income from other sources is low enough (which mine was after deductions), certain types of investment income are subject to zero -- yes, zero -- tax. In my case, the qualified dividends I received in 2009 would have escaped taxation altogether if not for the Alternative Minimum Tax. Even under the AMT, however, I paid less than half the income tax paid by a wage-earner with the same taxable income (and less than a third of the tax burden when including social security taxes, which are not due on investment income).

Does that seem fair to you?

Advocates of lower taxes on investment income argue that they increase the incentives for folks like me to create jobs. As a long time investor, I'm skeptical. After all, job growth was much higher in the years following the Clinton tax hike in 1993 than it has been over the last decade as investment tax rates were repeatedly slashed. And lower rates on investment income also reward financial speculators, whose actions in recent years haven't exactly promoted increased employment.

Middle class anger in the Tea Party era, meanwhile, has been directed primarily at government spending. Arguing that government will simply waste whatever money it receives, Tea Party supporters oppose higher taxes on anybody (which explains why this is one populist movement which many billionaires are happy to support). But by focusing attention solely on whether government costs too much, the Tea Party ignores the completely separate question of who pays those costs. Last year, the answer was: not me.

...While the Republicans talk about the "shared sacrifices" necessary to close our government's budget deficit, their plan imposes pain mostly on the sick, the elderly, and the poor. Asking the rich to sacrifice by paying higher tax rates surely pales in comparison. I believe that having wealthy investors pay taxes at the same rate as middle-class workers would be an important step towards making sure that we all contribute to putting our fiscal house in order.

This author is facing the real dollars figures and issues head on. That will sink in with some people and not others. The other are the slash and burn Conservatives who just want to see enlivenment destroyed regardless of who or how many it hurts. Civilized society? The rabid right could care less. They want America to become Pottersville. With them living on the hill and the dirty masses toiling away without a safety net - like Medicare and Medicaid. The issue for them is not as much about money as about who they have decided should be full participants in this democracy - them of course, and who should not - everyone else, what the Right considers the "other". Taking money from working class Americans and redistributing it to the top five percent is their way of dividing what they see as the wheat from the chaff.

Read the People's Budget - Eliminates National Deficit by 2021

Sunday, April 24, 2011

What Liberal Media? Emperor Donald Trump Has No Clothes

What Liberal Media? Emperor Donald Trump Has No Clothes

For a media that loves infotainment, the horse race and spectacle—and has trouble tackling real policy issues and digging deep—Donald Trump is the gift that keeps on giving: all spectacle, all the time.

Now he’s out there on his ugly birther trip, riding it to the top of the polls [1] amidst a GOP presidential field in disarray. And other than a few notable exceptions, the media is largely playing the role of cheering spectator for Trump’s latest self-aggrandizing parade—none more so than Fox, which has treated his birtherism-based candidacy as a cause célèbre [2]. Media Matters notes thirteen Trump appearances on the network since March 20.

But the more significant issue raised by the media coverage is this: if Trump is going to portray himself as a presidential contender, and the media is going to give him mega-time to do that, then let’s take a hard look at his record and his views—particularly on “fiscal responsibility,” which Congressman Paul Ryan and the GOP say is the issue of our time.

“I haven’t seen anybody do anything for a long time that’s really tough coverage on Donald,” says David Cay Johnston, the Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter formerly with the New York Times, who has written extensively about Trump’s net worth as well as his business dealings in the gambling industry in his book Temples of Chance [3]. “He’s done exceptionally well at getting the media to treat him on the grounds that he wants—which is he doesn’t mind if you poke fun at him [4] as long as you’re writing about him and making him sound important.”

In a recent column [5], Johnston points out that in examining four years of tax returns he discovered that Trump paid no taxes in two of them.

“He pays little to no income tax because he does these real estate deals that allow him to take—as a professional real estate developer—unlimited paper losses like depreciation against income he gets from NBC for his show,” says Johnston.

He’s also had more business bankruptcies [6] than wives, and Johnston says Trump’s bravado about his wealth and business acumen contradicts his real record. According to Johnston, Trump typically does two kinds of deals: he borrows more than 100 percent of the purchase price for real estate and takes a fee off the top; or he’s paid a fee to put his name on a building.

Johnston suggests that Trump’s fortune relied on government favors and stiffing his creditors.

“Ordinary casino workers who got into debt had their licenses yanked or in one case their wages garnished, but Donald was not held to that standard,” says Johnston.

As Johnston describes in Temples of Chance, in 1990 one of Trump’s advisers told the New Jersey Casino Control Commission that Trump was one day away from uncontrolled bankruptcy. The commission then approved a privately negotiated deal that relieved Trump of millions in debts. Why did the bankers go along?

“Government rescued Trump by taking his side against the banks,” Johnston says, “telling them that if they foreclosed they would own three seaside hotels that lacked casino licenses.”

Trump’s celebrated wealth is also likely not what Trump would have the public believe. In 1990 Johnston obtained Trump’s personal net worth statement that his bankers had prepared for him. At the time, Trump was claiming it was as high as $1.4 billion. Yet the statement revealed a negative net worth of $600 million—he owed $600 million more than the value of his assets. Johnston wrote a column with the lede, “You are probably worth more than Donald Trump.”

“Donald is one of many people in public life who whatever they say at the moment is their version of the truth, and empirical reality may not support what they say,” says Johnston. “He never produced any documented evidence indicating a net worth anywhere in the range of a billion dollars or more, he only claimed it. It doesn’t take that much of an income to appear to be fabulously wealthy.  I don’t think he can sue anybody for making that observation.”

Indeed, Trump has proven litigious with those who dare question his version of the truth. He filed a $5 billion defamation lawsuit against Timothy O’Brien for estimating his net worth at between $150 million and $250 million. It was dismissed [7], but NBC investigative reporter Michael Isikoff reports [8] that Trump recently showed up at a Jersey City courtroom where he was “slipping notes” to his attorneys who are appealing the ruling. And former Newsweek senior editor Jonathan Alter recalls appearing in a documentary and saying that Trump was a “media hound” and that his claim of being “the greatest real estate developer in the world not only isn’t true—he’s not even the greatest real estate developer in New York.” Alter says he then promptly received a letter from a Trump attorney threatening him with a lawsuit.

Contrast Johnston’s hardnosed reporting with New York Times columnist David Brooks’s fawning [9] over Trump in a recent op-ed, “Why Trump Soars”: “Donald Trump is the living, walking personification of the Gospel of Success…. He labors under the belief—unacceptable in polite society—that two is better than one and that four is better than two…. In private jets, lavish is better than dull. In skyscrapers, brass is better than brick, and gold is better than brass.”

In fact, Johnston even has a word to say about that jet: “See how much a 727 three-engine jet that hasn’t been made in over 25 years goes for,” says Johnston. “If he were really rich he’d have upgraded to a G-5 or a Boeing business jet.”

Like so many corporate oligarchs, Trump has done well with the help of his armada of lawyers and accountants to avoid taxes and intimidate those who contradict him. He’s a single entity that has a lot in common with the Big Banks—reckless, highly leveraged, and a look at the books reveals he’s not what he appears: Emperor Don has no clothes.

Fire him.
Strange world when people think, and perhaps rightly so, that Charlie Sheen has nuked his last few functioning neurons, yet take Donald Trump and Sarah Palin seriously.

Andrew Breitbart, of his own accord and free will, has established himself as one of the country's biggest lying scumbags and anti-American proto-fascist propagandists. Fox, a corporate media contender in the lying scumbag category, comes to Bretibart's rescue, Fox News Rehabilitates Andrew Breitbart, Allows Him To Posture As A Uniter Not A Divider

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Paul Ryan and Republican Assault on Medicare Would Unravel the Value of Social Security Benefits

Paul Ryan and Republican Assault on Medicare Would Unravel the Value of Social Security Benefits

Amidst the furor over Rep. Paul Ryan’s new budget proposal, advocates for strong retirement programs appear to be in a bind. On one hand, Ryan subjects Medicare and Medicaid to scathing cuts and a restructuring agenda so radical that they could no longer be called real insurance for America’s workers. On the other hand, on a welcome note for Social Security advocates, the budget largely bypassed direct cuts to Social Security (though it did propose some dangerous fast-track procedures for ramming through future cuts). So, is it time for at least half a well-earned Hurrah?

As it turns out, not so much. To see why the Republican plan not only violates the promise of Medicare but also of Social Security, we have to zoom out and consider the overarching goal of both these programs. Though passed in different eras, each aims to provide a certain level of economic security for seniors. And they have been wildly successful: Social Security keeps 20 million Americans out of poverty, while Medicare has improved life expectancy and access to life-saving medications across-the-board. Both of these programs are designed to avoid the horror stories of seniors having to choose between food and prescription drugs, skip family visits, or forego things that make for a decent life.

The Ryan plan’s omission of direct cuts to Social Security is no doubt a victory for the program’s advocates, whether it was due to sober electoral considerations (polling shows the vast majority of Americans strongly oppose benefit cuts) or the messaging efforts of progressive coalitions like the Strengthen Social Security Campaign. But that progress would be instantly negated if Ryan’s cuts to Medicare are enacted, since people would be forced to reallocate their Social Security income (the part that isn’t already dedicated to fixed expenses – food, mortgage payments, etc.) towards medical expenses, which can’t exactly be skimped on. Grandma, can’t that knee replacement wait until next month?

These cuts amount to a direct assault on the purchasing power of Social Security – as well as any other source of retirement savings a person has amassed. The government may as well send seniors their Social Security checks with a forwarding envelope to send right along to the private insurance companies waiting to collect! In the zero-sum world of retirement security programs, cuts in one program necessarily damage the goals of another. The Ryan plan threatens the entire foundation of programs we have established to care for our elderly for three important reasons:

    We are already experiencing an environment of decreased retirement security on all fronts. Defined benefit pension plans are becoming scarce, while personal savings like 401(k)s and Individual Retirement Accounts are subject to the whims of the stock market. These declines were exacerbated by the recession, but they started long before that. And there’s no reason to think that during the long recovery to come, the inevitable fits and spurts of growth won’t shock another wave of seniors just as they are retiring and have no time left to recover their savings. In this economic climate of insecurity and fear about the future, Social Security remains a steady stream of income that is protected from inflation and is more reliable than the market’s promise, while Medicare provides a similar degree of certainty for health care. Cutting these programs in this climate signals a supreme lack of concern about the plight of retirees.
    Seniors spend a disproportionate amount of their income on health care, and the Republican plan expects them to pay even more. Currently, elderly persons pay on average 1 in 5 dollars out-of-pocket for health care that is not covered by Medicare, Medicaid or any other insurance. That’s 20% of all disposable income in retirement – on top of the thousands of dollars they’ve already contributed to Medicare over their lifetime.

    Make no mistake: Ryan’s plan does nothing to contain the cost of health care itself, and so it will make no real savings over time: it simply increases the amount seniors will have to pay out-of-pocket for whatever is not covered by the voucher amount. Even the voucher will cover increasingly less over time as health care costs continue to increase – especially since people’s health care needs increase as they age. The White House reports that in the first year the Republican plan goes into effect, a typical 65-year-old who becomes eligible for Medicare would pay an extra $6,400 for health care, more than doubling what he or she would pay if the plan were not adopted. The sad truth is that this doesn’t even help total costs: excess payments to for-profit providers go through the roof under Ryan’s plan, expected to rise five-fold by 2030 from what they are today.
    Social Security COLA payments are far too small to keep up with these rising costs. Most years, Social Security benefits are boosted with a Cost of Living Adjustment that is supposed to keep pace with inflation. The purpose of the COLA is to retain the purchasing power of the benefit by countering inflation, making sure it stays at a neutral level. Some might believe that the yearly COLA increase could (at least partially) compensate for the increasing medical costs. But the math just doesn’t hold up.

Why do Republicans claim they are not attacking Social Security. Because by attacking it through gutting Medicare gives them plausible deniability. Oh, they're two different programs, they have nothing to do with each other. Yea sure, and there are WMD in Iraq. How many lies do conservatives have to tell before realizing that Republicans are incapable of being honest. They lie because it is an intrinsic part of what it means to be a conservative. They dream of making the US into a dystopia where rich and powerful one percent of the population says jump and the rest of us ask how high.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) Runner Up For the Malicious Republican Jerk of The Week

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) Runner Up For the Malicious Republican Jerk of The Week

It took Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) less than three months to use state-owned private planes more than former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) used them in 13 months, according to a new report from the Dayton Daily News. Despite unveiling a budget full of painful cuts to vital programs, including education and health care, Kasich has cost taxpayers $31,400 for 20 total trips in his first 81 days in office. In contrast, Strickland spent $31,849 in his first 13 months in office. Ohioans are spending $387.65 a day to support Kasich’s plane habit, compared to just $77.58 a day for Strickland.

But during his 2010 campaign against Strickland, Kasich, through spokesperson Rob Nichols, criticized the incumbent’s use of the plane and questioned whether funding the plane was justifiable at all:

    “But because [Strickland] likes hitting the snooze button, he makes a small army of people fire up his plane, get it ready and then fly it from one airport to another so he won’t have to drive an extra 15 minutes to the airport. … Putting aside the wasted money and extra wear and tear, could the guy do something more arrogant? … Frankly, there needs to be a closer review of whether the plane’s cost can even still be justified at all.”

But now Nichols has changed his tune, saying the plane is vital to keeping jobs in Ohio:

    “The lesson of the loss of NCR and its 1,600 jobs is that keeping — and growing — jobs and companies in Ohio requires a governor with the initiative to get out of the Statehouse, go meet face-to-face with leaders across the state to see what they need to be successful and then work to help them hire more Ohioans. If the trade-off for that degree of personal engagement and the jobs it seeks to create for our communities is some sniping that the governor gets around the state too much, we’re comfortable with it.”

But according to the Daily News, several of Kasich’s trips haven’t involved jobs at all. He’s flown across the state to Canton and Cincinnati to announce staff appointments; to Youngstown, Akron, and Toledo to speak to chambers of commerce and Rotary Clubs; and to Washington D.C. to meet with other governors.

Kasich’s unprecedented spending on travel at the beginning of his term comes during a period when he passed a budget that cut services beneficial to low- and middle-income Ohioans. With the state facing an $8 billion budget gap, Kasich’s budget featured steep cuts in education, children’s health, public libraries, and local governments. His union-busting legislation, SB 5, made cuts from public employee pensions and has widespread effects on teachers and public safety officials, including firefighters and police officers. And he’s attempting to save more money by making cuts to the state’s prison system, which is among the program he would like to privatize.

While Kasich cut services and programs important to millions of Ohioans, his own office wasn’t nearly as unfortunate. He pays his staff more than Strickland paid his, and the governor’s office had to swallow only $176,000 in budget cuts — a far cry from the $3.14 billion cut from education over the next two years.

Kasich tells Ohio voters that a little shared sacrifice now will ensure that “kids have a future in this state. That they can have jobs in this state and that your family can be prosperous.” But judging by his actions, everyone has to share in the sacrifice except the governor himself.

Like his ideological twin, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Kasich is owned and operated by the far right Tea Pee Party and the Koch brothers. Kasich is utterly incapable of relating to the average worker or parent in Ohio.

Priorities? GOP Governors Shift Burden To Poor, Middle Class To Pay For Tax Breaks For Rich, Corporations

Ohio: Gov. John Kasich demonstrated an early propensity for making future-losing choices when he made good on a campaign promise to kill Ohio’s federally-funded high-speed rail project — a move that will cost Ohio $400 million in badly-needed infrastructure investment, cost thousands of jobs, and derail millions of dollars in related private sector investments in economic development. Kasich, along with numerous other Ohio Republicans, has signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge that rules out any tax increases to help the state make ends meet. Even though the state has an $8 billion budget shortfall, Kasich has gone even further in proposing a variety of tax cuts that would benefit corporations and the wealthy. In addition to going after public employees (who Kasich thinks should not ever have the right to strike) and essential government programs, he has proposed a variety dubious privatization schemes to finance such massive tax breaks.

Kasich has voiced support for radical Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s assault on the middle class and workers. The Ohio Senate takes up SB5, its version of anti-union legislation, today; at least 8 Republican Ohio state senators have already come out in opposition to the current proposal. The current proposal goes even further than the Walker plan in eliminating collective bargaining rights for Ohio’s public employees.

Wisconsin: Gov. Scott Walker first gained national headlines for joining Ohio’s Kasich in a future-losing decision to cancel an $800 million investment — fully paid for the by the federal government — in high-speed rail. This decision prompted train manufacturer Talgo to announce it was leaving the state and will likely cost the state thousands of jobs.

Walker is of course now famous for his high-stakes war against Wisconsin’s workers. Walker has used a very small short-term shortfall and larger shortfall to come (which is still smaller than shortfalls the state has faced in recent years) to move forward with an unpopular plan to destroy the state’s public employee unions. As Ezra Klein and many others have noted, Wisconsin’s unions aren’t to blame for the state’s budget problems and taking away their collective bargaining rights will have no impact on the state’s fiscal situation. Indeed, the unions offered to concede to all of Walker’s financial demands, so long as they could retain their collective bargaining rights. Walker balked at this offer, betraying his true motive: busting unions. Walker is also late in offering his budget, but it is believed that in spite of the supposed “crisis” and being “broke,” as Walker himself has said, his budget plans will include “a LOT more tax breaks” for the rich and corporations that will have to be balanced on the backs of workers or with painful cuts to state services and the state’s Medicaid programs, BadgerCare. It’s also worth noting that the last time Scott Walker went union busting, it turned into a massive boondoggle when he was overruled by an arbiter, wasting hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars in the process.

When Republican governors speak of “shared sacrifice,” it seems that the only thing they mean is sacrifices by the poor and middle class in order to fund massive tax breaks for the rich and corporations.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Why Do Republicans Lie About Taxes - Republicans Shed Tears Over Corporate Taxes

Why Do Republicans Lie About Taxes - Republicans Shed Tears Over Over Taxed Coporations

US Uncut launched another nationwide day of protest this week involving around forty participating chapters. The activism strategies again ranged from traditional protest to more creative forms of occupations such as San Francisco’s flash mob in a Bank of America.

This latest campaign follows a busy week for the fledgling organization. US Uncut, along with the Yes Men, have been at the center of the media’s attention following their successful pranktivist duping of the AP.

The anti-corporate tax dodging movement is growing momentum during a time when GOP leaders such as Eric Cantor, Michele Bachmann, and Tim Pawlenty propagate daily the lie that corporations are already overtaxed in America. While corporations claim they’re taxed at 35 percent, their actual effective tax rate is much, much lower after deductions, credits, and write-offs.

    During the 1950s, the decade in which more people joined the middle class than at any time in history - before or since - corporations paid 49 percent of their profits in taxes. Last year, it was about half that rate, a decidedly more modest 26 percent. In 2010, corporate tax collections totaled $191 billion - down 8 percent from $207 billion as recently as 2000.

    Perhaps a more telling yardstick, corporate tax revenue in 2009 came to just 1 percent of gross domestic product - the lowest collection level since 1936, or three-quarters of a century ago. In 2010, it edged up to a puny 1.3 percent - the second-lowest since 1940. Even worse, the shriveled tax collections came at a time when corporations were registering an all-time high in profits. At the end of 2010, corporations posted an annualized profit of $1.65 trillion in the fourth quarter. In other words, the more they made, the less they paid.

America has a revenue problem because of a two-tier taxation system that steals from the poor and offers corporate welfare to the rich. While tax evasion has always been an American business tradition, the practice has now reached frenzied proportions where the government is no longer simply turning a blind eye to the practice, but actively facilitating it.

The Fed gave hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to hedge funds and other investors with addresses in the Cayman Islands during the bailout. The addresses belong to companies with American affiliations like Pimco, Blackstone (Pete Peterson’s company that seeks to privatize Social Security,) and Waterfall TALF Opportunity, a company owned by Christy Mack, wife of John Mack, the chairman of Morgan Stanley. The government is now actively subsidizing tax evasion by using citizen dollars to fund corporate stealing for companies like Blackstone that seek to privatize Social Security, which would rob poor Americans of one of their last great social protections.

The legend of welfare kings and queens is true, but these societal parasites don’t live in the ghettos. They live in the Hamptons and on Wall Street. Many Americans now realize this and are beginning to fight back.

Thousands turned out this week to protest Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget cuts in Michigan.

    "The script Gov. Snyder has written for his Republican cronies is not the kind of Michigan we want to live in," Herb Sanders of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers told the crowd. "If the politicians won't listen to us at the Capitol, then we're prepared to take the fight to them in their home districts."

Sarah Palin graced Wisconsin with her presence for the sole purpose of stating approval of Gov. Scott Walker’s decision to strip unions of the right to collectively bargain. She was enthusiastically booed by a counter-protest, a response that so flustered right-wing mouthpiece Andrew Breitbart that he rushed the podium to scream “GO TO HELL!” at the crowd before encouraging a community that had organized the event to ironically applaud the death of community organizing.

Every week, there are more teacher and students protests opposing education cuts, labor protests demanding the right to collectively bargain (not the right to higher wages or safer working conditions, but the mere right to a seat at the table,) and more citizens gather to oppose the two-tier America where the poor suffer while rich corporations raid the Treasury.

Serial liars stick together. So it figures that serial liar Palin would be there is lie on behalf of serial liar Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) -  Scott Walker Admits Union-Busting Provision ‘Doesn’t Save Any’ Money For The State Of Wisconsin

These are poor welfare recipients Palin, wacko conservative Andrew Breitbart and the rest of the thugs of conservatism are shedding giant tears for, 12 Tax-Dodging Corporations Spent $1 Billion To Influence Washington Over The Last Decade

EXXON MOBIL: The oil giant that was the world’s most profitable corporation in 2008 has spent $5.7 million in campaign contributions over the last ten years and $138 million in lobbying expenditures. Its federal corporate income tax liabilities for 2009? Absolutely nothing. Not only did it pay nothing, but it also received a tax rebate the same year of $156 million.

    CHEVRON: Chevron spent $4.4 million in campaign contributions and $91 million in lobbying expenditures over the last decade. It received a tax refund of $19 million in 2009 while making $10 billion in profits and $324 million in government contracts in 2008.

    CONOCOPHILLIPS: The Texas-based gasoline giant spent $2.5 million in campaign contributions and $63 million in lobbying expenditures over the last decade. It received “$451 million through the oil and gas manufacturing deduction,” a special tax break, between 2007 and 2009, despite $16 billion in profits over the same period of time.

    VALERO ENERGY: Valero spent $4.1 million in campaign contributions and $4.8 million in lobbying expenditures from 2001 to 2010. It received a $157 million tax rebate in 2009 despite $68 billion in sales during the same year. It received “$134 million through the oil and gas manufacturing deduction” over the last three years.

    BANK OF AMERICA: Bank of America employees contributed $11 million to federal political campaigns from 2001 to 2010 and spent $24 million lobbying over the same period of time. It made $4.4 billion in profits in 2010 while receiving a tax refund of $1.9 billion.

    CITIGROUP: Citigroup employees contributed $15 million to federal political campaigns from 2001 to 2010 and spent $62 million lobbying over the same period of time. It made $4 billion in profits in 2010 while paying absolutely nothing in federal corporate income taxes. It also received a $1.9 billion tax refund.

    GOLDMAN SACHS: The mega-bank Goldman Sachs, which is often called “Government Sachs” in insider circles because of its clout over Washington, spent $22 million in campaign contributions and $21 million in lobbying over the last decade. It paid an ultra-low tax rate of 1.1 percent in 2008, while also receiving $800 billion in governmentloans to help weather the financial crisis.

    BOEING: The aviation and defense contractor giant gave $10 million in contributions and $115 million in lobbying expenditures over the last decade. It paid a grand total of nothing in federal corporate income taxes in 2010 and received a $124 million tax refund.

    FEDEX: FedEx spent $8.7 million in campaign contributions and $71 million in lobbying expenditures from 2001 to 2010. It paid a .0005 percent effective tax rate recently, actually spending 42 times as much on lobbying Congress as it did paying taxes. To do this it utilizes 21 tax havens.

If corporate America wants to have more money they can save billions by stopping their attempts to buy elections, largely for Republicans.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Stop The Republican Spin - Corporate America is Raking in Profits, Not Hiring and Spending Its Money To Buy Legislation

Stop The Republican Spin - Corporate America in Raking in Profits, Not Hiring and Spending Its Money To Buy Legislation - 12 Tax-Dodging Corporations Spent $1 Billion To Influence Washington Over The Last Decade

As ThinkProgress has been reporting, while Main Street Americans are having their services gutted and public investment is being slashed, some of the country’s most profitable corporations are getting away with paying little to nothing in taxes.

A new report by Public Campaign examines how these major corporations have influenced Congress to craft a tax code that lets them get away with making so much money and paying so little taxes in return. In its report, “The Artful Dodgers,” Public Campaign juxtaposes the limited tax liability of dozen major corporations with the companies’ campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures, which amount to more than a billion dollars over the last decade:

    EXXON MOBIL: The oil giant that was the world’s most profitable corporation in 2008 has spent $5.7 million in campaign contributions over the last ten years and $138 million in lobbying expenditures. Its federal corporate income tax liabilities for 2009? Absolutely nothing. Not only did it pay nothing, but it also received a tax rebate the same year of $156 million.

    CHEVRON: Chevron spent $4.4 million in campaign contributions and $91 million in lobbying expenditures over the last decade. It received a tax refund of $19 million in 2009 while making $10 billion in profits and $324 million in government contracts in 2008.

    CONOCOPHILLIPS: The Texas-based gasoline giant spent $2.5 million in campaign contributions and $63 million in lobbying expenditures over the last decade. It received “$451 million through the oil and gas manufacturing deduction,” a special tax break, between 2007 and 2009, despite $16 billion in profits over the same period of time.

    VALERO ENERGY: Valero spent $4.1 million in campaign contributions and $4.8 million in lobbying expenditures from 2001 to 2010. It received a $157 million tax rebate in 2009 despite $68 billion in sales during the same year. It received “$134 million through the oil and gas manufacturing deduction” over the last three years.

    BANK OF AMERICA: Bank of America employees contributed $11 million to federal political campaigns from 2001 to 2010 and spent $24 million lobbying over the same period of time. It made $4.4 billion in profits in 2010 while receiving a tax refund of $1.9 billion.

    CITIGROUP: Citigroup employees contributed $15 million to federal political campaigns from 2001 to 2010 and spent $62 million lobbying over the same period of time. It made $4 billion in profits in 2010 while paying absolutely nothing in federal corporate income taxes. It also received a $1.9 billion tax refund.

    GOLDMAN SACHS: The mega-bank Goldman Sachs, which is often called “Government Sachs” in insider circles because of its clout over Washington, spent $22 million in campaign contributions and $21 million in lobbying over the last decade. It paid an ultra-low tax rate of 1.1 percent in 2008, while also receiving $800 billion in governmentloans to help weather the financial crisis.

    BOEING: The aviation and defense contractor giant gave $10 million in contributions and $115 million in lobbying expenditures over the last decade. It paid a grand total of nothing in federal corporate income taxes in 2010 and received a $124 million tax refund.

    FEDEX: FedEx spent $8.7 million in campaign contributions and $71 million in lobbying expenditures from 2001 to 2010. It paid a .0005 percent effective tax rate recently, actually spending 42 times as much on lobbying Congress as it did paying taxes. To do this it utilizes 21 tax havens.

    CARNIVAL: The cruise line paid $1.7 million in campaign contributions and $1.6 million in lobbying over the past ten years. Despite the relatively low amount of money it spent influencing Washington, it has gotten away with a super-low tax rate. Over the past five years, its federal corporate income tax rate has been an effective 1.1 percent.

    VERIZON: Verizon spent $12 million in campaign contributions and $131 million in lobbying expenditures over the past decade. It paid absolutely nothing in federal corporate income taxes over the past two years and $488 million in government contracts in 2008; in 2010, it made $12 billion in profits.

    GENERAL ELECTRIC: General Electric spent $13 million in campaign contributions and $205 million in lobbying expenditures over the last decade while netting a tax refund of $4.1 billion over the past five years. It made $26 billion in profits over the same time period.

The amount of money that taxpayers are losing from the tax dodging by these major corporations is enormous. For example, if five of the nation’s biggest banks paid their taxes at the full rate, we could re-hire every single one of the 132,000 teachers laid off during the recession — twice.
 Yet the Republican_Paul Ryan plan calls yet for even more corporate tax cuts. yes we have one of the highest corporate tax rates, but with all the loopholes, tax incentives, writes offs and offshoring of corporate profits very few if any corporation pays the top rate. So when right-wingers say we need to cut taxes to create jobs that is a lie. profits are sky high and corporations are just using that money to buy politicians. How much wealth is enough for these corporate behemoths. Billions in profits and it never seems to be enough. Who creates their profits - the workers who do the day to day work at those companies and the average wage earning American who buys their products. Corporations do not create jobs or wealth, average American do. Its pretty obvious Republicans are not on the side of average Americans.

Scott Walker Admits Union-Busting Provision ‘Doesn’t Save Any’ Money For The State Of Wisconsin

Ryan Budget Plan Produces Far Less Real Deficit Cutting than Reported - Plan’s $4.3 Trillion in Program Cuts, Offset by $4.2 Trillion in Tax Cuts, Yield Just $155 Billion in Deficit Reduction - Republicans either can't add or once again their pants are on fire.

Report: Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment of Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay

 Credit Rating Agencies Play Big Role in Triggering Financial Crisis

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Elitist Republican Moron of the Week - Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) Dismisses Question About Big Corporations Paying No Taxes

Barrasso Dismisses Question About Big Corporations Paying No Taxes: ‘We Don’t Need More Revenue!’

Late last week, White House and congressional negotiators struck a deal to keep the government running, cutting “$38.5 billion under current funding levels, per Republican demands,” and $78 billion below what Obama called for in his initial 2011 budget. Today, we learned that these reductions include painful cuts to programs that provide for poor infants, low-income women, veterans, and other Main Street Americans who have watched as the country has grown more and more unequal and unfair.

Yet at the very same time, poor and working class Americans are being asked to pay, some of the country’s wealthiest corporations — like Bank of America, Citigroup, Exxon Mobil, and General Electric — have gone quarters or entire years without paying any federal corporate income tax at all.

Today, during an appearance on MSNBC, host Contessa Brewer asked Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) why he is defending Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan that would privatize Medicare and hobble Medicaid at a time when these corporate tax dodgers are failing to pay their fair share. Barrasso went on a lengthy rant about his belief that Medicare and Medicaid are broken and concluded by saying that we don’t need anymore revenue:

    HOST: You’re senator, a doctor, this whole issue of taking the cuts to Medicare at a time when there are big corporate tax cuts that they’re able to get away scot-free without paying taxes, really we have to stick it to poor people?

    BARRASSO: Well, you know that Medicaid’s a broken system, there’s no real success at trying to throw more money at a broken system. So I like the idea of block grants. Medicare, we know that the president’s health care law cut 500 billion from our seniors on Medicare, not to save Medicare, but to start a whole new government program. The fundamentals are that we’re at 14 trillion in debt. We owe more and more to foreign countries and we need to make sure that we pass on to the next generation to our kids and grandkids a country without this kind of debt it’s irresponsible. We need to get the spending under control [...] We need to work for a solution that limits the amount of spending. We don’t need more revenue! The American people aren’t worried that they’re taxed too little, it’s that we spend too much.

It’s shocking for Barrasso to simply dismiss egregious corporate tax dodging in the United States, given how much money the country is losing as a result. In fact, if just five of the nation’s largest banks paid their taxes at the full rate, we could rehire each of the 132,000 teachers laid off during the recession — twice. As for Barrasso’s claim that Americans aren’t “worried that they’re taxed too little,” it appears that Americans are very worried that the wealthiest are taxed too little. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released last month found that 81 percent of Americans supported a special surtax on millionaires.

How ironic that a doctor cannot diagnose the problem. The problem is not Medicare - another word for health care for children, the disabled and seniors - the problem is the 4 trillion dollars Republicans spent on two wars without rising the revenue to pay for. Republican like airhead Barrasso voted for Bush's Medicare part D drug plan, but did not provide any revenue structure to pay for it ( Republicans used to call those unfunded mandates). From 2000 to 2008 we had Republicans run America on the spent like crazy and borrow money from China to pay for it plan. Now that they ran the economy into the ditch and caused the Great Recession they want the middle-class and working poor to pay for Republican malfeasance instead of their millionaire friends on Wall St. How arrogant and disconnected can modern conservatives be. Shame on Mr. Barrasso for playing games with the lives of millions of Americans. He should do the honorable thing and resign immediately, but like many modern cons he does not seem to understand the concept of honor.

10 States With the Most Shocking Anti-Woman Legislation

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why Do Republicans Hate America - The Newest Conservative Attack on The Middle-Class

Why Do Republicans Hate America - The Newest Conservative Attack on The Middle-Class

By law, a statutory limit restricts the total amount of debt the federal government can accumulate. Only Congress can raise this limit. On the heels of the worst recession since the Great Depression, this “debt ceiling” is projected to be reached sometime early next year. Increasingly, conservatives are pledging to vote against any increases to the debt ceiling—even if this means shutting down the federal government. This reckless pledge would have disastrous consequences for the U.S. economy and the global financial markets, and would severely worsen the long-term budget situation to boot.

This conservative pledge has historical antecedents. In the fall of 1995, congressional Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling for a period of about six months, until they reversed course in March 1996 in response to plummeting poll numbers. This original “debt ceiling crisis,” as it’s become known, was extraordinarily costly, roiling the financial markets and forcing two government shutdowns.

The consequences of refusing to raise the debt ceiling would be even more costly today, given the precarious state of the U.S. economy and global financial markets, and potentially could be disastrous. Unlike in 1995, when our economic outlook was good, we are currently fighting our way out of the Great Recession and coming off of the worst financial crisis since the 1930s.

Nonetheless, led by the advice of Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker who was the architect of the 1995-96 debt ceiling crisis, many conservatives are clamoring for a repeat of this past episode in recklessness.

The budgetary consequences of this conservative pledge would be catastrophic and far-reaching, forcing the immediate cessation of more than 40 percent of all federal government activities (excluding only interest payments on the national debt), including Social Security, military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, homeland security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance. This would not only threaten the safety and economic security of all Americans, but also have dire impacts for the economy and job growth.

In short, the economic consequences of such a large and precipitous drop in spending would be crushing, and almost certainly result in a severe drop in economic growth and employment at a time when we can least afford it.

Moreover, such a move could lead to a panic in the international financial markets. Following the 2008 financial crisis, we have seen debt crises hit Ireland, Greece, and Italy, with fears that this could spread further and cause a global economic downturn. The financial markets are on edge today, with U.S. Treasury bonds being the safe haven for most investment capital. Refusing to raise the debt ceiling would recklessly disrupt the sale and purchase of new Treasury bonds, and could potentially cause a run on outstanding Treasurys as well, as investors sought other investments. This could have catastrophic consequences for our economy as well as the economic stability of the rest of the world.

Refusing to raise the debt ceiling would also exacerbate the problems with our long-term budget outlook. The budget deficit right now is the result of two distinct sets of changes since 2001, when we last had a budget surplus. First, a series of long-term policies enacted by the Bush administration—most notably the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, the decision to fight two major wars without raising taxes, and the passage of an unfunded Medicare Part D prescription drug program—created permanent structural budget deficits that will remain with us over the long term unless they are addressed. Second, the poor economy caused a drop in tax receipts alongside higher “countercyclical” spending, such as for unemployment insurance and food stamps.

Implementing a debt ceiling freeze ignores the first set of issues and makes the second set of issues worse by forcing a massive multitrillion dollar hit to an already struggling economy and threatening to take us into a second Great Depression. This is hardly responsible policymaking. So let’s delve a little deeper into the consequences of such conservative folly. As we will demonstrate, the results of a replay of 1995 in 2011 would be the height of recklessness for our economy and global financial markets.
A replay of 1995

The most recent pledge to freeze the federal debt ceiling is notable because congressional Republicans tried the same thing following their takeover of Congress in 1995. That fall, Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling unless then-President Bill Clinton agreed to enact major planks of the radical “Contract with America” proposed by the Republican Party, such as a $270 billion cut to Medicare, steep cuts to education funding, and massive deregulation measures. Indeed, then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich at one point threatened to force a default on the national debt if Republicans did not get their way.

This standoff, which lasted until March 1996, ended with the Republicans backing down as the public increasingly became turned off by the government shutdowns that resulted.

The “1995-96 debt ceiling crisis,” as it is known, caused significant turmoil for our economy, forcing the Department of Treasury to suspend all new debt issuances and causing two temporary shutdowns of all “nonessential” federal government activities, including a cessation of toxic waste cleanups, disease control activities, and a suspension of many law enforcement and drug control operations, among many others. Ultimately, this episode cost the American taxpayer over $800 million, and rattled the confidence of international investors in U.S. government bonds.

Indeed, it was only through the use of some fairly extraordinary measures by President Clinton’s Treasury Department, including a temporary use of retirement funds for former government employees, that the United States managed to avoid defaulting on its national debt during this period. Unfortunately, such measures would not be as effective today, as analysts at Deutsche Bank found. They worry that if it happened today the federal government would “not be able to stave off a government shutdown (or possible suspension of bond payments) for long.”
The precarious budget situation

Conservatives’ call for a debt ceiling freeze looks even more senseless when one considers that our economy is struggling to recover from a severe recession. Because economic growth remains anemic, tax receipts are flat after falling sharply, which makes it particularly difficult to balance the budget. Refusing to raise the debt ceiling would essentially force the federal government to balance the budget immediately, at a time of cyclically low revenues. While this may sound appealing to deficit hawks and deficit peacocks alike, it would actually have catastrophic consequences, both in the short term and the long term.

A $1.3 trillion deficit is projected for FY 2011, on a total budget of $3.8 trillion. If we assume that the Obama administration did not want to default on the national debt, and thus continued to make interest payments on outstanding U.S. Treasury obligations ($244 billion), then being forced to balance the budget next year would mean cutting over 40 percent of all other expenditures.

But some federal spending is more important than others, right? Let’s assume that we keep certain “sacrosanct” programs whole, not cutting Social Security ($728 billion), defense spending during a time of war ($701 billion), Medicare ($507 billion), Medicaid ($262 billion), and benefits for military veterans ($126.5 billion). If we did that and then eliminated spending on all other government programs, we would still be looking at a small deficit. Yet such a move would mean no FBI, no Department of Justice, no Homeland Security, no border security, no education funding, no unemployment insurance, no school lunches, no national parks, no food stamps, no student loan funding, no air transportation safety, no drug enforcement, no food and drug safety, etc. etc. etc., ad nauseum.

Such severe expenditure cuts would be devastating in two ways. First, they would eviscerate the basic services and protections offered by our federal government, leaving our country in perilous danger from a myriad of threats and many of its most vulnerable citizens without a safety net. Americans would be vulnerable to increased crime, drugs, terrorism, food safety, and air traffic safety, to name just a few. And these spending cuts would slash the social obligations we have promised to military veterans, the elderly, and students, among others. Such large spending cuts couldn’t simply be confined to nonessential services. They would cut to the very core of the protections and core benefits provided by the federal government.

Second, these large spending cuts would increase unemployment and severely dampen economic growth, destroying any prospects of a sustained economic recovery. The resulting job loses and the steep cuts to unemployment insurance, food stamps, and other federal safety net expenditures would create a reverse “multiplier effect” that would cause a large dip in economic growth.
The precarious state of the global financial markets

The conservative pledge to freeze the debt ceiling would also lead to some fairly momentous problems in the world’s financial markets. Following the financial crisis of 2008-2009, which exposed problems with many private financial instruments that were previously thought to be safe, such as money market funds and AAA-rated asset-backed securities, investors sought safe haven by investing in sovereign debt. Unfortunately, sovereign debt crises in Greece and Ireland have caused significant uncertainty in European financial markets, and as a result, investors have flocked to the perceived safety of sovereign debt issued by the United States, which has never defaulted in its history.

A freeze on the debt ceiling could erode confidence in U.S. Treasury bonds in a number of ways, creating further and wider panic in financial markets. First, by causing a disruption in the issuance of Treasury debt, as happened in 1995-96, a freeze would cause investors to seek alternative financial investments, even perhaps causing a run on Treasurys. Such a run would cause the cost of U.S. debt to soar, putting even more stress on our budget, and the resulting enormous capital flows would likely be highly destabilizing to global financial markets, potentially creating more asset bubbles and busts throughout the world.

Second, the massive withdrawal of public spending that would occur would cause significant concern among institutional investors worldwide that the U.S. would swiftly enter a second, very deep, recession, raising concerns about the ability of the United States to repay its debt. Finally, the sheer recklessness of a debt freeze during these tenuous times would signal to already nervous investors that there was a significant amount of political risk, which could cause them to shy away from investing in the United States generally.

Taken together, these factors would almost certainly result in a significant increase in the interest rates we currently pay on our national debt, currently just above 2.5 percent for a 10-year Treasury note. If in the near term these rates moved even to 5.9 percent, the long-term rate predicted by the Congressional Budget Office, then our interest payments would increase by more than double, to nearly $600 billion a year. These rates could climb even higher, if investors began to price in a “default risk” into Treasurys—something that reckless actions by Congress could potentially spark—thus greatly exacerbating our budget problems.

The U.S. dollar, of course, is the world’s reserve currency in large part because of the depth and liquidity of the U.S. Treasury bond market. If this market is severely disrupted, and investors lost confidence in U.S. Treasurys, then it is unclear where nervous investors might go next. A sharp and swift move by investors out of U.S. Treasury bonds could be highly destabilizing, straining the already delicate global economy.

Imagine, for example, if investors moved from sovereign debt into commodities, most of which are priced and traded in dollars. This could have the catastrophic impact of weakening the world’s largest economies while also raising the prices of the basic inputs (such as metals or food) that are necessary for economic growth.

In short, a freeze on the debt ceiling would cause our interest payments to spike, making our budget situation even more problematic, while potentially triggering greater global instability—perhaps even a global economic depression.

The very idea of a federal debt freeze among the radical right in our country, while they continue to ignore responsible deficit reduction measures and continue to focus on the wrong policy solutions, exemplifies their obstinacy as much as their short-sightedness. A freeze on the debt ceiling, or shutting down the federal government will not reduce the federal budget deficit and will in fact increase it over the long run by tipping the global economy into depression. Voters may assume that conservative candidates will not live up to their pledge of recklessness once they understand the consequences. This is a risky gamble, particularly given the precedent already set by conservatives in 1995.

Who will suffer from Republican's insane economic priorities - Not House leader John Boehner (R-OH) or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) they both make around $195k per year and they both have wealthy elitist friends on the wing-nut welfare circuit..

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Radical Republicans Tried to Hold Government Hostage for Crazy Cultural Agenda, Not Balancing the Budget

Radical Republicans Tried to Hold Government Hostage for Crazy Cultural Agenda, Not Balancing the Budget

With a possible government shutdown looming, many right-wing media figures have falsely suggested that the negotiations are centered solely on spending. However, according to news reports, conflicts over policies -- such as Republican demands to defund Planned Parenthood and restrict the Environmental Protection Agency's regulatory abilities -- are currently more responsible for the lack of a budget deal.

HANNITY: So, we are headed for a government shutdown or are we? And I personally think, first of all, we'll get to Paul Ryan's budget. I love the budget, $6.2 trillion is serious cuts. These are serious times. But the $61 billion matters to me.

    PERINO: That's why I actually think the timing of Congressman Ryan's budget coming out was brilliant. It was I think that they were even going to kick it to next week. And I think they were smart to bring it forward. Because it put into perspective what we are really talking about.

 Could it be that the brilliant budget wonks Hannity and Perino are wrong or spinning like rats in a cage? Yep, it is very possible they were just mak'n stuff up.

But Policy, Not Money, Is Reportedly More At Fault For The Budget Delay

Washington Post: "Disagreements About Money Are No Longer Really The Issue." An April 7 Washington Post article reported:

    [A]ides privately said that disagreements about money are no longer really the issue. Negotiators have identified an array of spending cuts, enough to meet Boehner's and Reid's demands -- if they can agree on which of those cuts to make.

    Publicly, Boehner and Reid continue to argue over Republican demands that any deal include restrictions on abortion funding and environmental regulations. Democrats oppose such restrictions. Privately, both sides acknowledge that these may turn out to be bargaining chips that the GOP will ultimately remove from a final agreement in exchange for deeper cuts or other concessions. [The Washington Post, 4/7/11]

NYT: "It's Not Really About Spending ... Republicans Are Refusing To Budge On These Ideological Demands." An April 7 New York Times editorial, headlined, "It's Not Really About Spending," highlighted some of the issues that continue to hold up an agreement on the budget, stating that "if the federal government shuts down at midnight on Friday ... it will not be because of disagreements over spending. It will be because Republicans are refusing to budge on these ideological demands." From the Times:

    • No federal financing for Planned Parenthood because it performs abortions. Instead, state administration of federal family planning funds, which means that Republican governors and legislatures will not spend them.

    • No local financing for abortion services in the District of Columbia.

    • No foreign aid to countries that might use the money for abortion or family planning. And no aid to the United Nations Population Fund, which supports family-planning services.

    • No regulation of greenhouse gases by the Environmental Protection Agency.

    • No funds for health care reform or the new consumer protection bureau established in the wake of the financial collapse.

    Abortion. Environmental protection. Health care. Nothing to do with jobs or the economy; instead, all the hoary greatest hits of the Republican Party, only this time it has the power to wreak national havoc: furloughing 800,000 federal workers, suspending paychecks for soldiers and punishing millions of Americans who will have to wait for tax refunds, Social Security applications, small-business loans, and even most city services in Washington. The damage to a brittle economy will be substantial.

    Democrats have already gone much too far in giving in to the House demands for spending cuts. The $33 billion that they have agreed to cut will pull an enormous amount of money from the economy at exactly the wrong time, and will damage dozens of vital programs.

    But it turns out that all those excessive cuts they volunteered were worth far less to the Republicans than the policy riders that are the real holdup to a deal. After President Obama appeared on television late Wednesday night to urge the two sides to keep talking, negotiators say, the issue of the spending cuts barely even came up. All the talk was about the abortion demands and the other issues. [The New York Times, 4/7/11]

NYT: "No Accord In Budget Talks As Policy Fights Hamper Deal." An April 7 New York Times article cited policy disputes as the reason for the ongoing budget conflict. From the Times:

    The policy disputes involved a handful of provisions. One would greatly limit financing for Planned Parenthood and other family-planning providers, in the United States and overseas, and prevent the District of Columbia from using its tax dollars to help poor women pay for abortions.

    Also at issue were measures that would restrict the regulatory powers of the Environmental Protection Agency, a favorite target of Republicans since they took over the House, by preventing the agency from enforcing significant portions of the Clean Air Act and regulating carbon emissions. [The New York Times, 4/7/11]

LA Times: "Republican Policy Demands Threaten Budget Talks." An April 8 Los Angeles Times article reported:

    Boehner is fighting to retain provisions that were included in House-passed bill in February. Those provisions would restrict abortion services and limit the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate pollutants.
    To many rank-and-file Republicans, those hot-button issues are just as important as spending cuts. But they are also nonstarters for many Senate Democrats, including Reid.

    Five separate provisions related to family planning and abortion were being pursued by the Republicans, including one that would prevent federal funding for Planned Parenthood, a long-sought goal for many socially conservative lawmakers.


    Other family-planning-related provisions pursued by the GOP would halt foreign aid funding to health organizations that promote or provide abortion services, a measure known as the Mexico City rule, as well as to the U.N. Population Fund, which provides reproductive, AIDS prevention and women's health services.
    Another provision would ban the District of Columbia from sending local tax revenues to groups that provide access to abortions. [Los Angeles Times, 4/8/11]

McClatchy: Republicans, Democrats Close On Spending Cuts, Not On Social Policy. An April 7 McClatchy article reported that "throughout Thursday, the two sides were close on spending cuts, but not on social policy restrictions favored by Republicans." [, 4/7/11]

Not to mention that the provisions of the Ryan plan would have amounted to an end to Medicare and the creation of health insurance company "death panels".

Bill O'Reilly continues to be one of the most arrogant out of touch elitist in the USA, Oh, No He Didn't! Bill O'Reilly Says "Nobody's Life Is Affected By Planned Parenthood"

Bill O'Reilly is a very wealthy, anti-choice Catholic conservative whose wife, if she's using birth control (and we know she wouldn't because she would going straight to hell!), gets her prescriptions from her gynecologist who is covered by Bill's gold plated Fox News health coverage. For sure, she doesn't have to run a gauntlet of those anti-choice crazies who try to shame and harass women entering a Planned Parenthood clinic. Bill and his wife will never know the anguish of low income/unemployed women and families, with no health insurance, for whom an unplanned pregnancy might mean returning to the poverty from which they are trying to escape. If Bill needs STD testing (and we know, as a strictly monogamous Catholic, he wouldn't!) he would merely go to his own doctor. But for many low income Americans, Planned Parenthood provides necessary, reproductive health care which includes abortion - which is still legal, despite the best efforts of O'Reilly's anti-choice soulmates, to criminalize it. If anything, the contraception, provided by Planned Parenthood, prevents more abortions and keeps women and families off of social safety net programs - which O'Reilly's GOP soulmates want to abolish.