Tag Archives: fiscal cliff

The Man who said “Nay” and more stories/columns on the “fiscal cliff” debacle

I’m disappointed in President Obama/Democrats re: fiscal cliff. It was supposed to be: Raise taxes on a person who makes $150,000 + a year – that’s what our prez said a few years ago. Then it went up to $250,000. Yesterday it was settled: Now it is don’t raise taxes on anyone unless they make  …. $450,000+  a year.  Insane! Where is Obama’s backbone? … And as far as Medicare goes, YES, I think we need to start cutting back in terms of benefits for folks making more than, say, $110,000 a year. We shouldn’t raise the age that folks are eligible to receive social security but if you are super wealthy, your benefits should be cut. You don’t need the dough. We DO need to look at the Great Society programs, etc. and start cutting back for the wealthy.  …  My list goes on … . Some stories/columns on the issues.  – R. Tirella

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

The Man who said “Nay”
By MAUREEN DOWD
Published: January 02, 2013

WASHINGTON

Michael Bennet was supposed to be going off a cliff in Vail.

But instead of his usual New Year’s trip to a ski lodge with his wife and three daughters, the junior senator from Colorado found himself in a strange, unfamiliar place in the middle of the night: breaking with the president and his party to become one of only three Democratic senators and eight senators total to vote against President Obama’s fiscal deal.

“I was a little surprised that the margin of the vote was so big,” said a weary Senator Bennet, who seemed a bit taken aback to be such an outlier. He was munching on a late-afternoon cheese steak sandwich at “George’s, King of Falafel and Cheese Steaks.” (The senator loves falafel, which his girls call “feel awful.”)

“I almost ordered extra cheese,” he said sheepishly, “but I would have been embarrassed.”

Long before Bennet came to work in the “land of flickering lights,” as he mockingly calls the dysfunctional nation’s capital where he grew up, Frank Capra dreamed him up. In a Congress that has become opéra bouffe, Bennet is the freckled blond choir boy singing a cappella. The 48-year-old senator looks like the Yale law student he once was, wearing a Jos. A. Bank plaid shirt, gray sweater and khakis. “These are the only clothes I have in Washington that’s not a suit,” he grins.

As Katherine Boo wrote in The New Yorker, back when Bennet was the crusading Denver schools superintendent, his open face and amiable manner “only partly masked the intensity and severity of his judgments.” He was, Boo wrote, “an overachiever. He liked to announce improbable goals, then defy expectations of failure.”

Voting to let the country fall off the cliff was an audacious, even precocious, move by the Democratic golden boy and presidential pet – one that, oddly, put him on the side of Marco Rubio and Rand Paul rather than Obama and Joe Biden. “It is an interesting group,” he deadpanned about the naysayers.

He also had to go against Majority Leader Harry Reid, who anointed the freshman to be the new leader of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. …

to read more, click on link below:

http://mobile.nytimes.com/article?a=1011824&f=28&sub=Columnist

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OP-ED COLUMNIST
David Brooks

Josh Haner/The New York Times David Brooks

Another Fiscal Flop
By DAVID BROOKS
Published: January 01, 2013

Over the course of the 20th century, America built its welfare state. It was, by and large, a great achievement, expanding opportunity and security for millions. Unfortunately, as the population aged and health care costs surged, it became unaffordable.

Public debt as a percentage of gross domestic product was around 38 percent in 1965. It is around 74 percent now. Debt could approach a ruinous 90 percent of G.D.P. in a decade and a cataclysmic 247 percent of G.D.P. 30 years from now, according to the Congressional Budget Office and JPMorgan.

By 2025, entitlement spending and debt payments are projected to suck up all federal revenue. Obligations to the elderly are already squeezing programs for the young and the needy. Those obligations will lead to gigantic living standard declines for future generations. According to the International Monetary Fund, meeting America’s long-term obligations will require an immediate and permanent 35 percent increase in all taxes and a 35 percent cut in all benefits.

So except for a few rabid debt-deniers, almost everybody agrees we have to do something fundamental to preserve these programs. The problem is that politicians have never found a politically possible way to begin. Every time they tried to reduce debt, they ended up borrowing more and making everything worse.

So Congress and President Obama set up the “fiscal cliff,” an artificial disaster scenario that would force them to do the right thing. Obviously, the fiscal cliff negotiations were not going to lead toward the deep structural reforms that will eventually be needed. But they could have begun the reform process.

They could have shown the world that the two parties can work together to avert the eventual calamity. They could have produced a balanced program that would have combined spending cuts and targeted tax increases. They could have reduced Medicare spending on the rich to free up more money for young families.

President Obama and Speaker John Boehner both earnestly wanted to achieve these things. But the deal we are heading toward is discouraging. Yes, the deal does raise $600 billion in revenue over 10 years from a tiny sliver of the population (compared with the $8 trillion in new debt likely to be accrued over that time).

But the proposal is not a balance of taxes and spending cuts. It doesn’t involve a single hard decision. It does little to control spending. It abandons all of the entitlement reform ideas that have been thrown around. It locks in low tax rates on families making less than around $450,000; it is simply impossible to avert catastrophe unless tax increases go below that line.

Far from laying the groundwork for future cooperation, it sentences the country to another few years of budget trench warfare. There will be a fight over drastic spending cuts known as sequestration, then over the debt limit and on and on. …

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Lines of Resistance on Fiscal Deal
By Jonathan Weisman
Published: January 1, 2013

— Just a few years ago, the tax deal pushed through Congress on Tuesday would have been a Republican fiscal fantasy, a sweeping bill that locks in virtually all of the Bush-era tax cuts, exempts almost all estates from taxation, and enshrines the former president’s credo that dividends and capital gains should be taxed equally and gently.

But times have changed, President George W. Bush is gone, and before the bill’s final passage late Tuesday, House Republican leaders struggled all day to quell a revolt among caucus members who threatened to blow up a hard-fought compromise that they could have easily framed as a victory. Many House Republicans seemed determined to put themselves in a position to be blamed for sending the nation’s economy into a potential tailspin under the weight of automatic tax increases and spending cuts.

The latest internal party struggle on Capitol Hill surprised even Senate Republicans, who had voted overwhelmingly for a deal largely hashed out by their leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The bill passed the Senate, 89 to 8, at 2 a.m. on Tuesday, with only 5 of the chamber’s 47 Republicans voting no.

Twenty-one hours later, the same measure was opposed by 151 of the 236 Republicans voting in the House. It was further proof that House Republicans are a new breed, less enamored of tax cuts per se than they are driven to shrink government through steep spending cuts. Protecting nearly 99 percent of the nation’s households from an income tax increase was not enough if taxes rose on some and government spending was untouched. …

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Honey, I Shrunk the Pentagon

I second this emotion! From The New York Times op-ed pages. I have made bold some sentences: R. T.

Honey, I Shrunk the Pentagon

By BILL KELLER, The New York Times

Published: November 19, 2012

LET’S imagine you are the new secretary of defense, and, wow, has Secretary Panetta left you a full docket. You have to extract more than 60,000 troops from Afghanistan without leaving behind a Mad Max dystopia. You have to carry on shadow wars against homicidal extremists, refine contingency plans for Syria and Iran, keep an eye on China’s pushiness and Pakistan’s fragility, all without being too distracted by the frat-house antics of hormonal generals.

It’s easy to overlook in all that excitement, but your best opportunity to make a major contribution to the security of your country is none of the above. It is the unglamorous, unpopular, unfinished business of right-sizing our defense budget, without putting us at grave risk. What’s that you say? You’d rather go back to reading General Petraeus’s flirty e-mails? I sympathize. Imagine trying to get people to read a column about the budget.

Yet here you are with a historic opportunity to push the “Refresh” button on our national security. One long ground war is over, another is ending, and there is no prospect of (or stomach for) new wars of occupation. No new cosmic threat has arisen, much as hawks have tried to promote China, our biggest lender and one of our biggest trading partners, into that role. And, to cap it all, your budget is headed for that dread fiscal cliff. In the absence of a budget bargain between Congress and the president, half of the automatic spending cuts that take effect in January will come from your domain – almost 10 percent applied evenly across all accounts. This is widely viewed with alarm by military experts in both parties who see it, rightly, as budgeting by meat ax. So, then, what’s the alternative?

This country accounts for more than 40 percent of the money spent on defense worldwide. We spend as much as the next 14 countries on the top-spender list, combined, and most of them are American allies. And that’s just the Defense Department. It doesn’t include the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons program, the C.I.A.’s drone franchise, the NASA satellites, the benefits provided by Veterans Affairs, and so on. …

To read more, click on the link below:

http://mobile.nytimes.com/article?a=997431&f=112&sub=Columnist

 

A letter to President Obama

By Michael Moore, filmmaker

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Dear President Obama:

Good luck on your journeys overseas this week, and congratulations on decisively winning your second term as our president! The first time you won four years ago, most of us couldn’t contain our joy and found ourselves literally in tears over your victory.

This time, it was more like breathing a huge sigh of relief. But, like the smooth guy you are, you scored the highest percentage of the vote of any Democrat since Lyndon Johnson, and you racked up the most votes for a Democratic president in the history of the United States (the only one to receive more votes than you was … you, in ’08!). You are the first Democrat to get more than 50% of the vote twice in a row since Franklin D. Roosevelt.

This was truly another historic election and I would like to take a few minutes of your time to respectfully ask that your second term not resemble your first term.

It’s not that you didn’t get anything done. You got A LOT done. But there are some very huge issues that have been left unresolved and, dammit, we need you to get some fight in you. Wall Street and the uber-rich have been conducting a bloody class war for over 30 years and it’s about time they were stopped.

I know it is not in your nature to be aggressive or confrontational. But, please, Barack – DO NOT listen to the pundits who are telling you to make the “grand compromise” or move to the “center” (FYI – you’re already there). Your fellow citizens have spoken and we have rejected the crazed ideology of this Republican Party and we insist that you forcefully proceed in bringing about profound change that will improve the lives of the 99%. We’re done hoping. We want real change. And, if we can’t get it in the second term of a great and good man like you, then really – what’s the use? Why are we even bothering? Yes, we’re that discouraged and disenchanted.

At your first post-election press conference last Wednesday you were on fire. The way you went all “Taxi Driver” on McCain and company (“You talkin’ to me?”) was so brilliant and breathtaking I had to play it back a dozen times just to maintain the contact high. Jesus, that look – for a second I thought laser beams would be shooting out of your eyes! MORE OF THAT!! PLEASE!!

In the weeks after your first election you celebrated by hiring the Goldman Sachs boys and Wall Street darlings to run our economy. Talk about a buzzkill that I never fully recovered from. Please – not this time. This time take a stand for all the rest of us – and if you do, tens of millions of us will not only have your back, we will swoop down on Congress in a force so large they won’t know what hit them (that’s right, McConnell – you’re on the retirement list we’ve put together for 2014).

BUT – first you have to do the job we elected you to do. You have to take your massive 126-electoral vote margin and just go for it.

Here are my suggestions:

1. DRIVE THE RICH RIGHT OFF THEIR FISCAL CLIFF. The “fiscal cliff” is a ruse, an invention by the Right and the rich, to try and keep their huge tax breaks. On December 31, let ALL the tax cuts expire. Then, on January 1, put forth a bill that restores the tax cuts for 98% of the public. I dare the Republicans to vote against that! They can’t and they won’t. As for the spending cuts, the 2011 agreement states that, for every domestic program dollar the Republicans want to cut, a Pentagon dollar must also be cut. See, you are a genius! No way will the Right vote against the masters of war. And if by some chance they do, you can immediately put forth legislation to restore all the programs we, the majority, approve of. And for God’s sake, man – declare Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid untouchable. They’re not bankrupt or anywhere near it. If the rich paid the same percentage of Social Security tax on their entire income – the same exact rate everyone else pays – then there will suddenly be enough money in Social Security to last til at least the year 2080!

2. END ALL THE WARS NOW. Do not continue the war in Afghanistan (a thoroughly losing proposition if ever there was one) for two full more years! Why should one single more person have to die FOR NO REASON? Stop it. You know it’s wrong. Bin Laden’s dead, al Qaeda is decimated and the Afghans have to work out their own problems. Also, end the drone strikes and other covert military activities you are conducting in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Colombia and God knows where else. You think history is going to remember the United States as a great democracy? No, they’re going to think of us as a nation that became addicted to war. They’ll call us warlords. They’ll say that in the 21st century America was so in need of oil that we’d kill anyone to get it. You know that’s where this is going. This has to stop. Now.

3. END THE DRUG WAR. It is not only an abysmal failure, it has returned us to the days of slavery. We have locked up millions of African-Americans and Latinos and now fund a private prison-industrial complex that makes billions for a few lucky rich people. There are other ways to deal with the drugs that do cause harm – ways built around a sense of decency and compassion. We look like a bunch of sadistic racists. Stop it.

4. DECLARE A MORATORIUM ON HOME FORECLOSURES AND EVICTIONS. Millions of people are facing homelessness because of a crooked system enacted by the major banks and Wall Street firms. Put a pause on this and take 12 months to work out a different way (like, restructuring families’ mortgages to reflect the true worth of their homes).

5. GET MONEY OUT OF POLITICS. You already know this one. The public is sick of it. Now’s the time to act.

6. EXPAND OBAMACARE. Your health care law doesn’t cover everyone. It is a cash cow for the insurance industry. Push for a single-payer system – Medicare for All – and include dentistry and mental health. This is the single biggest thing you could do to reduce the country’s deficit.

7. RESTORE GLASS-STEAGALL. You must put back all the rigid controls on Wall Street that Reagan, Clinton and the Bushes removed – or else we face the possibility of another, much worse, crash. If they break the law, prosecute them the way you currently go after whistleblowers and medical marijuana dispensaries.

8. REDUCE STUDENT LOAN DEBT. No 22-year-old should have to enter the real world already in a virtual debtors’ prison. This is cruel and no other democracy does this like we do. You were right to eliminate the banks as the profit-gouging lenders, but now you have to bring us back to the days when you and I were of college age and a good education cost us little or next to nothing. A few less wars would go a long to way to being able to afford this.

9. FREE BRADLEY MANNING. End the persecution and prosecution of an American hero. Bush and Cheney lied to a nation to convince us to go to war. Manning allegedly hacked the war criminals’ files and then shared them with the American public (and the world) so that we could learn the truth about Iraq and Afghanistan. Our history is full of such people who “break the law” for the greater good of humanity. Army Specialist Bradley Manning deserves a medal, not prison.

10. ASK US TO DO SOMETHING. One thing is clear: none of the above is going to happen if you don’t immediately mobilize the 63,500,000 who voted for you (and the other 40 million who are for you but didn’t vote). You can’t go this alone. You need an army of everyday Americans who will fight alongside you to make this a more just and peaceful nation. In your 2008 campaign, you were a pioneer in using social media to win the election. Over 15 million of us gave you our cell numbers or email addresses so you could send us texts and emails telling us what needed to be done to win the election. Then, as soon as you won, it was as if you hit the delete button. We never heard from you again. (Until this past year when you kept texting us to send you $25. Inspiring.) Whoever your internet and social media people were should have been given their own office in the West Wing – and we should have heard from you. Constantly. Need a bill passed? Text us and we will mobilize! The Republicans are filibustering? We can stop them! They won’t approve your choice for Secretary of State? We’ll see about that! You say you were a community organizer. Please – start acting like one.

The next four years can be one of those presidential terms that changed the course of America. I’m sure you will want to be judged on how you stood up for us, restored the middle class, ended the s***ting on the poor and made us a friend to the rest of the world instead of a threat. You can do this. We can do it with you. All that stands in the way is your understandable desire to sing “Kumbaya” with the Republicans. Don’t waste your breath. Their professed love of America is negated by their profound hatred of you. Don’t waste a minute on them. Fix the sad mess we’re in. Go back and read this month’s election results. We’re with you.