10 most common jobs: public vs. private sector and the Republican agenda

WHAT MIDDLE CLASS? If you’re a teapartier who claims to be worried about your children’s (and grandchildren’s) futures because of the national debt, you might want to re-examine the priorities that Fox and the Koch brothers are selling you. Would you recognize a class war if you saw one?

Here are the 10 most common jobs in the public sector (federal, state, and local):

Tables above: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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And here are the 10 most common jobs in the private sector:

Table: GovExec

Here are the mean wages earned for the most common private-sector jobs.  NOTE: The poverty level for 2012 was set at $23,050 (total yearly income):

Did you know these were the 10 most common jobs? This is what we have after America’s manufacturing / retail industry was Reaganized / Bain-Capitalized. The bottom line is that out of 10 of the most common private-sector jobs in America, three pay BELOW the poverty level, and three more pay just above the poverty level — that’s 6 out of 10 of the most common jobs that pay wages near the poverty level!

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So while the 1% wealthy-elites are busy funneling all available profits and cash into their off-shore accounts (from the ever-increasing productivity and labor of their employees and from executive bonuses, corporate welfare, loopholes, and exemptions), the rest of America is transforming into a nation of Walmart workers, waitresses, and janitors who earn poverty-level wages for full-time work.

Conversely, it’s probably safe to presume that the most common public-sector jobs listed above pay a little better than poverty-level.  So when Republicans and the wealthy want to eviscerate government (and government workers) at all levels, it’s not really about spending and the deficit or fiscal responsibility. It’s about how (and to whom) tax revenue will be distributed, and it’s about engineering our expectations for employment in the private-sector.

If you employ less government workers and take tax revenue away from the social safety net, you now have a bunch of money you can funnel over to corporations and the wealthy through loopholes, corporate welfare, and exemptions (those off-shore accounts don’t fund themselves!). In turn, corporations and wealthy individuals will continue to reward their politicians with a steady supply of hefty campaign contributions and a seat on their board after retirement.

Additionally, instead of increasing private-sector wages to be more in line with public-sector wages (which would be reasonable since costs increase and so should wages), the goal of the wealthy-elite and their career politicians is to bring government wages down to more closely match what Walmart workers and janitors earn. But remember: labor unions are The Evil. Plus if there are less government jobs, there will be more competition for shitty-paying private sector jobs. Not only do they want to pay poverty-level wages to a majority of Americans (more money for themselves), but they want people to believe it’s the only fair solution.  And that’s where Fox, Rush, and astroturfs like Tea Party Patriots come into play.

To the teapartiers: look at those tables above and think about what wages you hope your kid or your grandkid will be able to earn in the future. Doesn’t that resonate more personally for you? Shouldn’t this be as important as the non-issue of the national debt? I call the debt a non-issue because if/when a Republican is seated in the White House again, it will in fact be a Non-Issue to that political party’s agenda once more. And when that day comes that they move on — because they will move on — you’ll be earning poverty-level wages, watching Fox ‘news’ and, spittle flying, defending more tax cuts and some newly manufactured reason to go to war in some other country. Wash, rinse, and repeat.

There’s no way that both sides ‘do it’ when one side refuses to compromise

Greg Sargent writes, “And so it’s now sinking in that: 1) Republicans are not getting the entitlement cuts they want without agreeing to new revenues; and 2) Republicans are explicitly confirming that there is no compromise that is acceptable to them to get the cuts they themselves say they want.

“The GOP position, with no exaggeration, is that the only way Republican leaders will ever agree to paying down the deficit they say is a threat to American civilization is 100 percent their way; they are not willing to concede anything at all to reach any deal involving new revenues to reduce the deficit, or to get the entitlement reform they want, or to avert sequestration they themselves said will gut the military and tank the economy.”

John Boehner is deeply confused about the basics of the fiscal debate

Steve Benen was alarmed by John Boehner’s press conference yesterday — especially because he read from prepared remarks. He says, “it occurred to me that I not only disagree with Boehner, I’m convinced the Speaker — or whomever is writing his speeches — is deeply confused about the basics of the fiscal debate.”

Benen responds to some of Boehner’s off-the-wall statements:

“The number one priority for the American people is creating jobs and getting our spending under control.”
Boehner doesn’t seem to understand that (a) spending cuts have already kept unemployment high; (b) more spending cuts will clearly undermine the strength of the fragile recovery; and (c) our spending is already under control.
 
“[T]he president and Senate Democrats have done almost nothing to address our long-term debt problems.”
Again, it seems as if Boehner has no idea that the president and Senate Democrats have already approved nearly $2.5 trillion in long-term debt reduction. How could he not know that?
“Republicans have twice voted to replace the president’s ‘sequester’ with common-sense cuts and reforms that protect our national defense.”
Perhaps Boehner missed this in Civics 101, but those votes were in the last Congress, and no longer apply. If the House intends to replace the sequester with an alternative package, that’s fine, but the Speaker will have to bring it to the floor and have the chamber vote on it — because as of now, this House hasn’t done literally anything on the issue at all.
“Americans do not support sacrificing real spending cuts for more tax hikes.”
First, he shouldn’t speak for the American public, since the American mainstream disagrees with him on nearly everything. Second, Democrats aren’t proposing tax hikes; they’re proposing closing tax loopholes — a position Boehner himself agreed with as recently as last month. Has Boehner forgotten his own positions from a month ago?
 
“Listen, the president doesn’t believe we have a spending problem. He genuinely believes that government spending causes economic growth.”
Obama believes this because (a) we don’t have a spending problem; and (b) government spending causes economic growth. That’s not even in the realm of opinion, and if Boehner can explain in complete sentences why he disagrees, he’s welcome to explain himself (John, really, call me anytime day or night.)Boehner added that he knows government spending doesn’t promote growth because “the unemployment rate is still nearly eight percent.” It’s as if the Speaker of the House is a child who finds current events confusing, so he doesn’t bother to keep up with the details. In his mind, spending has soared, and unemployment is high, ergo, spending caused higher unemployment. He doesn’t have the foggiest idea that spending isn’t up and that’s contributed to higher unemployment.
  
“Americans know that another tax hike isn’t going to help them,”
Who’s proposing another tax hike? I don’t know. Neither does the Speaker.

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Is Boehner truly confused? Is he still trying to win Ohio for Romney? Or is he counting on the perpetual confusion of the hardcore voting base — the extremists who applaud political games above everything else? To those people, it doesn’t matter that we face the sequester hitting full force in 3 weeks and that such cuts will undermine any gains made to our economy; or that Republicans could be offering alternatives like Democrats have been doing — but they aren’t.

There are only three things that are important to those few people whom Boehner appears to be addressing: 1) it’s all Obama’s fault, 2) Republicans are the victims, and 3) being reassured that what they, the fringe, believe is what mainstream America also believes. This may be the Fox formula for its loyal viewers as well.

Sequester countdown — 23 days: Democrats propose fixes, Republicans rebuff fixes

Obama Proposes Short-Term Fix to Avert Sequester

President Obama called for a short-term fix to avert across-the-board spending cuts, Roll Call reports.

To give negotiators time to pass a broader deficit and budget package, the president is asking for “a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms to avoid the economically harmful consequences of the sequester for a few months. … While we need to deal with our deficits over the long term, we shouldn’t have workers being laid off, kids kicked off Head Start, and food safety inspections cut while Congress completes the process.”

Speaker of the House John Boehner issued a statement opposing any new revenue increases to avert the sequester“President Obama first proposed the sequester and insisted it become law. Republicans have twice voted to replace these arbitrary cuts with common-sense cuts and reforms that protect our national defense. We believe there is a better way to reduce the deficit, but Americans do not support sacrificing real spending cuts for more tax hikes. The president’s sequester should be replaced with spending cuts and reforms that will start us on the path to balancing the budget in 10 years.”

Of course he did. Because the GOP prefers the sequester’s big defense cuts to any new tax revenue. The public doesn’t support that, just the GOP.

What kind of new tax revenues are Democrats and the President considering? Greg Sargent notes some sensible ideas that work.

In a nutshell, it outlines three stages of deficit reduction, two of which have already happened. The first: $1.7 trillion in spending cuts Dems agreed to as part of the 2011 debt ceiling deal that ultimately led to the sequester. The second: $737 billion in new revenues that Republicans agreed to as part of the fiscal cliff deal earlier this year.

The third stage is the key to the plan. It proposes to replace the $948 billion sequester with roughly the same amount in new revenues achieved by closing loopholes and deductions enjoyed by corporations and the wealthy. That makes a total of $3.3 trillion in deficit reduction when all three stages are taken together, evenly balanced between cuts and new revenues.

Meanwhile, the plan also invests in job creation — and pays for it by cutting defense spending. The total in defense cuts is $278 billion, which would then be plowed into infrastructure spending and other stimulus ideas in Obama’s American Jobs Act.

These are ideas which the GOP won’t even consider at the moment. Nope. The wealthy must be protected!  However, a majority of Americans DO support new revenue from the sources mentioned, irregardless of what the GOP says.

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Mark Thoma notes that the case for sequestration overlooks the significant deficit reduction measures that have already been passed“We have already cut around $1.5 trillion of spending from the budget… plus the $.5 trillion in tax increases in the ATRA, plus the $300 billion in interest savings amount to around a bit over $2.3 trillion in deficit reduction… to say we’ve made no progress at all is wrong and misleads about the urgency of finding further cuts.”

But, Out of Control Spending! (NOT)

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government is projected to run a deficit of just $845 billion in 2013. Furthermore, the deficit in 2014 may be as low as $616 billion.

[...] Republicans in the House will vote this week to require that the president balance the budget within five years, and the ironic thing is that, if they get out of the way, he may do so without their petty, symbolic resolutions.

Meanwhile, Paul Ryan, the GOP’s ‘ideas guy,’ is proposing a deficit-reduction plan that would require bigger cuts than the ones he ran on in the 2012 election.

Things which actually could use some major spending cuts:

Defense CEOs vs. Workers

The U.S. will never become Greece IF we reject conservative principles and austerity cuts

John Amato makes a good point about the constant threat from Republicans that America is moments away from becoming Greece because of the deficit:

“…after seeing the International Monetary Fund implore Great Britain to ease off its austerity program so their economy could heal, I had a little change of heart. See, one of the only reasons why many countries in Europe have suffered so much after the financial collapse has been because, instead of turning towards Keynesian policies that Paul Krugman has begged for, they’ve embraced the Conservative principles that the UK’s Cameron touted. And that decision ushered in very painful austerity measures upon the people of their nations. The effects of those decisions has been a non-existent financial recovery to their economy and an accompanying nightmare to their population.

[...] If we don’t want to become Greece (which can’t happen, anyway), we should never, ever consider austerity measures or conservative principles. How quickly the world forgets that it was under a conservative George Bush presidency that the global economy collapsed. Why should we ever turn to his acolytes’ beliefs to fix the problem now?”

A bad economy, another recession, high unemployment, suffering — or, in other words, the entire Republican strategy for the 2014 and 2016 elections.

House Republicans: dreaming of anarchy

House GOP eyes default, shutdown – POLITICO: “Republican leadership officials, in a series of private meetings and conversations this past week, warned that the White House, much less the broader public, doesn’t understand how hard it will be to talk restive conservatives off the fiscal ledge. To the vast majority of House Republicans, it is far riskier long term to pile up new debt than it is to test the market and economic reaction of default or closing down the government.

GOP officials said more than half of their members are prepared to allow default unless Obama agrees to dramatic cuts he has repeatedly said he opposes. Many more members, including some party leaders, are prepared to shut down the government to make their point. House Speaker John Boehner “may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system,” said a top GOP leadership adviser. “We might need to do that for member-management purposes — so they have an endgame and can show their constituents they’re fighting.”

The country would eventually default if House Republicans refuse to raise the debt limit, which the Treasury estimates will hit in late February or early March. The government would shut down if House Republicans instead were to refuse to extend the law funding current government operations on March 27.”

* * * * * * UPDATE

Appearing on MSNBC this morning, Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (TN) insisted that shutting down the government should be “on the table” as Congress and the Obama administration deal with passing a continuing resolution, raising the debt ceiling, and addressing the sequestration cuts.

CHRIS JANSING (HOST): [But are your constituents] willing to see the government shut down? Are you hearing that, Congresswoman?

BLACKBURN: Yes, they are. Yes, they are. But they want us to be thoughtful in what is done. And this is the good thing. You know, maybe it’s better to keep it open so we can keep cutting it. [...]

JANSING: Would you be willing if you don’t get the kind of cuts that you think are necessary, would you be willing to go into default or to shut down the government?

BLACKBURN: I think that there is a way to avoid default. If it requires shutting down certain portions of the government, let’s look at that. Let’s put these options on the table, be very thoughtful, but get this spending pattern broken. We cannot afford a $4 billion a day deficit and trillion dollar plus deficits every single year.

Republicans calling for a government shutdown are getting louder

The GOP has apparently decided to just ignore the 2012 election completely — and the will of the majority who voted.

Adding to the recent crazy pronouncements from Lindsey Graham and Pat Toomey are the following additions from more members of the brain-trust known as the Republican Party:

Sen. Cornyn (R-TX): ‘It May Be Necessary To Partially Shut Down The Government’: “In an op-ed published Thursday in the Houston Chronicle, Sen. John Cornyn suggested that a partial shutdown of the federal government may be necessary in the coming months “in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country, rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain.”

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ): ‘It’s About Time’ We Had Another Government Shut Down:  “Appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation [yesterday] morning, Rep. Matt Salmon  enthusiastically called for a government shut down: SALMON: I was here during the government shutdown in 1995. It was a divided government. we had a Democrat [sic] President of the United States. We had a Republican Congress. And I believe that that government shutdown actually gave us the impetus, as we went forward, to push toward some real serious compromise. …

[Newt] Gingrich [also] claimed that the shutdown led to the misleadingly named Balanced Budget Act of 1997, but the law was so laden down with conservative pet projects that it actually increased the budget deficit. In reality, the principal policy driver of the Clinton era surpluses was something that every single Republican in Congress voted against — the Clinton tax hikes on the rich. These surpluses, of course, were wiped out almost immediately after President George W. Bush took office, thanks to Bush’s tax cuts that largely benefited the very wealthy.”

And, finally, this “very special message” from a representative of the tea party:

Tea party Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): ‘I Don’t Think What Washington Needs Is More Compromise’: “if voters sent a message to the GOP in November by reelecting President Obama and voting out Republicans in both the Senate and the House, freshman tea party Sen. Ted Cruz seems to have missed the memo. He appeared on Fox News Sunday: “I think the fiscal cliff deal was a lousy one, but moving forward with the debt ceiling and those who believe in limited spending and solving the debt…I don’t think what Washington needs is more compromise, I think what Washington needs is more common sense and more principle.”

Seems to be a growing chorus of fail. John Cole says:

“The Democrats appear to have learned and will refuse to negotiate with the terrorists, so it will be all on the GOP. When the blue hairs stop getting their SS checks and the military has former Generals on every cable channel talking about how lack of funds is impeding their ability to perform their mission, it will truly be a site to see. Can’t wait for it. Bring it on.”


image thepoliticalfreakshow

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) wants to shut down the government: Republicanland is full of denial

“We Republicans need to be willing to tolerate a temporary, partial government shutdown.” — Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.

The Hill: “President Obama has already warned Republicans, though, that he will not tolerate another extended debate over the debt ceiling… “While I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they’ve already racked up through the laws that they passed,” he said on Tuesday night. “If Congress refuses to give the United States government the ability to pay these bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy would be catastrophic — far worse than the impact of a fiscal cliff,” Obama added. Toomey disagreed with Obama’s argument that the debt ceiling is about paying past debts. “It’s to enable him to engage in the future spending that he wants,” he said.”

President Obama was re-elected just two months ago with 51% of the vote — as the first president in over 50 years to win 51% twice. Toomey, like Lindsey Graham, either needs intensive therapy or a voter intervention to remind him that there are a number of things Republicans need to be willing to do — and the first would be accepting they lost (which would include their “vision” and their “priorities”).

Washington, D.C.
502 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-4254
Fax: 202-228-0284
Twitter@SenToomey
FacebookSenatorToomey

National Lampoon’s Republican House Membership: what happens now?

Yesterday, hilariously, Boehner said, “I’m convinced the president is unwilling to stand up to his own party.” Then last night’s Plan B shitstorm happened: “The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass. Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff. The House has already passed legislation to stop all of the January 1 tax rate increases and replace the sequester with responsible spending cuts that will begin to address our nation’s crippling debt. The Senate must now act.”

What now? Brian Beutler explains:

He can return to fiscal cliff negotiations with an empowered Obama, and try to eke out the sort of deal he just rejected, then pass it through the House next week, on a bipartisan basis at but a huge risk to his Speakership.

[...] It sets up a scenario where Boehner’s old nemesis Nancy Pelosi is suddenly back in the driver’s seat, controlling the votes necessary to pass a deal.

But if a last ditch effort fails, or he chooses to rebuff Obama, he’ll set one of two unpredictable chains of events into motion.

He can still bring Senate-passed legislation to the floor, which would lock in the Bush tax cuts for income up to $250,000. That bill would face stiff resistance from many corners of his conference, but would likely pass with overwhelming Democratic support. it would leave unresolved issues like the sequester, Medicare physician reimbursement, expiring emergency unemployment benefits, annual appropriations, and the debt ceiling. And it would still leave him wounded leader, in a tough spot with his members.

Or he could turn toward the cliff, take the country over, try to breathe life back into his speakership, and grapple with the messy consequences next year.

Steve Benen says it will come down to simple arithmetic:

We know, for example, that Democratic unity is on the rise, despite concerns over President Obama’s latest offer, and that the “Plan B” fiasco has strengthened the Democratic position considerably.

Similarly, we know congressional Republicans are in complete disarray, lacking direction, vision, cohesion, and leadership. Boehner invested his stature and credibility in a pointless initiative, and after twisting in the wind for days, was left looking like a fool.

And we know that there are very limited options remaining to avoid the looming deadlines, which if unmet, may well push the nation back into a recession.

As a simple matter of arithmetic, if House Republicans aren’t prepared to follow their own leadership and support a list of right-wing goodies, Boehner and the rest of the GOP leadership must realize that the road to 218 votes runs through the Democratic caucus — if the Speaker can’t pass a bill with his own side’s support, he’s going to need Nancy Pelosi’s help.

Since Boehner has already deliberately blown up his talks with the White House, it will be very tough for the Speaker to give Obama a sheepish call, saying, “Maybe we can give this another shot?” The more likely scenario is that the president will have to quickly begin a very different set of discussions: finding a bill that can generate bipartisan support in the Senate, satisfies Pelosi and House Dems, and can generate the support of a couple dozen House Republicans.

All of this will have to happen, of course, over the course of about 10 days — two of which are Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Last night, House GOP leaders also announced they’re leaving town, possibly to return next week. After last night, there was no real point in them sticking around, anyway.

Did Boehner give the President a choice between Plan B or the fiscal cliff?

Brian Beutler reports on John Boehner’s comments to reporters yesterday at the Capitol:

“Tomorrow the House will pass legislation to make permanent tax relief for nearly every American — 99.81 percent of the American people,” he said, referring to his own so-called Plan B. “Then the President will have a decision to make. He can call on Senate Democrats to pass that bill, or he can be responsible for the largest tax increase in American history.”

That sounds like he’s giving Obama a choice between Plan B or the fiscal cliff. No more negotiations over a broader deficit reduction plan.

Boehner did not take any questions from the press, but a spokesman for the speaker affirmed that the lines of communication with the White House remain open and that Boehner was not signaling the end of negotiations.

Whether or not he’s foreclosing on further negotiations before the end of the year, Boehner did suggest that he’d entertain further negotiations over a “balanced” plan in the future.

Steve Benen thinks Boehner “is now giving ultimatums and preemptively trying to avoid blame for the increasingly likely failure.”

As a rule, officials only start preemptively trying to avoid responsibility for failure when they expect to get blamed. For that matter, it’s also a reliable rule that those saying my-way-or-no-way are not serious about working out an acceptable compromise.

One question to keep an eye on, which we do not yet know the answer to: after Obama and Boehner got awfully close to a deal over the weekend, did Republicans move away from the bipartisan agreement because Boehner deemed it insufficient or because his caucus told him to deem it insufficient? It’s been an ongoing problem in the GOP conference for two years — their leader is more often taking orders than giving them.

Regardless, if the talks collapse, as now appears likely, it’ll be the second time in two years in which Obama offered a congressional Republicans a very generous offer — to the consternation of the president’s own allies, it’s basically a center-right package — on an issue they occasionally pretend to care about, only to have GOP officials refuse to compromise.

President Obama urged the GOP to quit playing reindeer games with the welfare of the country: “I don’t know how much of that just has to do with [the idea that] it is very hard for them to say yes to me,” Obama said at a press conference to announce a new task force to prevent gun violence. “But, you know, at some point, you know, they’ve got to take me out of it and think about their voters and think about what’s best for the country.”

The administration argues that the “Plan B” would mean that scores of wealthy earners would keep getting substantial tax breaks while 2 million Americans would lose unemployment insurance. “That violates the core principles that were debated during the course of this election and that the American people determined was the wrong way to go,” Obama said. That premise, however, has been vigorously disputed by Republican leaders, who say that the “Plan B” legislation would immediately prevent tax hikes on the middle class, which the White House has always called its top priority in the negotiations. [...]

While Obama said he understands lead negotiator Boehner faces “challenges” within his caucus from rank-and-file members fearful of a primary challenge from the right, he accused GOP heavies of keeping on their “partisan war paint” long after Election Day.

“I think an environment needs to be created within not just the House Republican caucus but also among Senate Republicans that say the campaign is over, and let’s see if we can do what’s right for the country. At least for the next month. And then, you know, we can reengage in all the other battles that they’ll want to fight.”

Jonathan Chait:

“Everybody knows what happens in January. Both sides ought to be able to anticipate it and make the deal they could make then now. Business types have therefore assumed a December deal would happen. If this was a business deal between two rational people, that’s what would happen.”

But we are not dealing with rational people here. We are dealing with House Republicans. As Republican Tom Cole gently put it, by way of describing his colleagues’ implacable hatred of taxes, ‘It’s who they are. It’s the air they breathe. It’s what the Republican electorate produces.‘”

“If Boehner strikes a deal before January, Republicans will suspect he gave away revenue he could have fought for. But if he refuses, the House Republicans will see for themselves what happens. The revenue will go away on its own, over Boehner’s objections. All Obama has to do is continue to make clear he will not under any circumstances extend any tax cuts on income over $250,000 a year. Then he has nearly all the revenue he needs, and he can offer Republicans a deal they would never walk away from. They might try to get that deal in December, but January remains the best bet.”

How close are we to a deal or the fiscal cliff?

Think Progress: The House will vote on two separate proposals to extend the Bush tax cuts for people making $250,000 and below or for people making $1 million and below on Thursday.

Steve Benen – Obama, Boehner inch closer to debt deal: “This is no small concession of the president’s part. He proposed higher marginal top rates on income above $250,000, while Boehner counter-offered with a $1 million threshold. Obama, despite a strong public mandate on the issue, has moved his figure to $400,000 in this latest offer, with the expectation that the Speaker will be similarly flexible.

“The president has also lowered his overall tax revenue target to $1.2 trillion, from his initial offer of $1.6 trillion.

“On the other side of the ledger, Obama is offering $1.2 trillion in spending cuts, including $400 billion in health care savings, $200 billion from other mandatory programs such as farm price supports, $100 billion in military spending cuts; $100 billion from domestic programs, $290 billion in savings from lower interest on the debt, and $130 billion is savings from “chaining” the Consumer Price Index. More on that in a moment.

“As part of the same package, the president would expect an extension on unemployment benefits, new infrastructure investments, another Alternative Minimum Tax extension, and a two-year debt-ceiling increase (it’d be up to the administration to do the paperwork, though Congress could try to vote for default if it wanted to).

“Is this a good deal? At a certain level, it doesn’t matter, since Boehner says it’s not good enough and it wouldn’t pass the House. But since it may very well serve as the framework for an eventual agreement, it’s worth paying close attention to its most glaring flaws.”

Greg Sargent – Should progressives accept emerging fiscal cliff deal? The big picture: With this deal Obama will have broken the GOP’s fundamentalist opposition to raising tax rates on the rich (albeit only on income over $400,000) something that would have been deemed very unlikely a year ago. He will have held the line against the GOP demand for two years of Medicare — a victory. Debt ceiling hostage taking will have been deferred for two years, meaning it won’t get tied up in the next elections. He will have obtained stimulus spending — on infrastructure, and in the form of an extension of unemployment benefits — and as Paul Krugman notes, that wouldn’t happen if we go over the cliff. (I’m told the talks have not focused on the exact sum of stimulus spending the White House wants.) The price: The expiration of the payroll tax cut and the cut in Social Security benefits. That’s bad, but the damage could be limited, if the White House insists on it. Obama told us both sides would have to get out of their “comfort zones” in the quest for a deal, and it has been apparent for some time that he prefers a deal to going over the cliff. We now are beginning to see what getting out of that comfort zone looks like.

Paul Krugman – Rumors of a Deal: But the cuts are not nearly as bad as raising the Medicare age, for two reasons: the structure of the program remains intact, and unlike the Medicare age thing, they wouldn’t be totally devastating for hundreds of thousands of people, just somewhat painful for a much larger group. Oh, and raising the Medicare age would kill people; this benefit cut, not so much.The point is that we shouldn’t be doing benefit cuts at all; but if benefit cuts are the price of a deal that is better than no deal, much better that they involve the CPI adjustment than the retirement age. But is this rumored deal better than no deal? I’m on the edge. It’s not clear that going over the cliff would yield something better; on the other hand, those benefit cuts are really bad, and you hate to see a Democratic president lending his name to something like that…

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No cuts to Social Security: 

 

The Republican side of the fiscal cliff

Image

We are living in strange times

“This is not a negotiation in the normal sense, in which each side makes proposals and they dicker over the details; instead, Republicans are demanding that Obama read their minds and produce a proposal they’ll like. And Obama won’t do that, for good reason: he knows that they’ll just pronounce themselves unsatisfied with whatever he comes up with, and are indeed very likely to campaign in 2014 attacking him for whatever cuts take place. But then, should we be surprised? Remember that all the Republican budget “plans” of recent years—very much including the Ryan plan—have been built largely out of magic asterisks…We are at a strange and dangerous place in American political life.”

— Paul Krugman 

Poll: majority of Americans want taxes raised on the wealthy, Republicans continue to stall

Reuters: “Negotiators warned the showdown could drag on past Christmas. A Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll released late on Wednesday …held the potential to shake up the stalemate. Three-quarters of those surveyed, including 61 percent of Republicans, said they would accept raising taxes on the wealthy to avoid the so-called cliff, as Democratic President Barack Obama is demanding.

“With Republicans in Congress already divided, that rejection by their own supporters of the core demand of Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner could further weaken his position.

“Both sides refused to give any ground in public, one day after what Boehner described as a “frank” conversation with President Barack Obama about the remaining hurdles to a deal.”

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I’m quite sure the Republicans in Congress don’t give a damn what their base wants if it interferes with the happiness of their wealthy benefactors.

Also why isn’t there more discussion about cuts to defense spending — why are we now only discussing cuts to the safety net? And that goes for both Republicans and Democrats.

Bill Maher on the difference between the debt ceiling and “the fiscal cliff”

I think most people have “the fiscal cliff” confused with the debt ceiling crisis. Really, they’re opposites. Not raising the debt ceiling means not paying our debts. Going off the fiscal cliff means paying off our debt by raising taxes and cutting government spending. Well-advertised is the CBO saying going off the cliff could lead to a recession next year. Less advertised is that it also says it could get us into a more sound fiscal position in the long-term.

All this fiscal cliff panic is just proof that we are all Keynesians. Everybody knows that more government spending — whether it’s in the form of tax expenditures or social services, helps the economy grow. But you have to balance that with not letting your budget get out of hand.

Since we’re looking for new revenue streams that aren’t income taxes, Obama should use this budget crisis — if you can call it that — to do something about global warming with a carbon tax. This may be his last and only chance to do something big since cap and trade didn’t work. And it would be just desserts for the oil and coal industries that went all in for Mitt Romney, a nice little personal fuck you to the Koch brothers.

— Bill Maher