Romney voters vs. everyone else in the world.
[The GOP's] greatest political strength today is their ability to dominate heavily white areas. — Ruy Teixeira | Think Progress
The Michele Bachmann sideshow is hurting the GOP – Due to a series of gaffes, she is again on the receiving end of criticism, including from Fox News powerhouse Bill O’Reilly. The congresswoman is also, as reported by The Daily Beast’s John Avlon, “embroiled in a litany of legal proceedings related to her rolling disaster of a presidential campaign — including an Office of Congressional Ethics investigation into campaign improprieties.” It’s almost as if Bachmann were a Democratic mole embedded in the Republican Party with the purpose of chasing away a wide range of voters. Her latest sound-bite-producing comment, this time on ObamaCare, begged for audio accompaniment of the Twilight Zone theme. Try to imagine it: “Let’s repeal this failure before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens. Let’s not do that. Let’s love people. Let’s care about people. Let’s repeal it now while we can.”
Suddenly conservative Christians have a problem with politicizing religion??!? – “It’s sad when clergy egregiously politicize worship,” Mark Tooley, president of the conservative Christian organization Institute on Religion and Democracy, wrote in one of several blogs and articles that have criticized the sermon. “Is this characterization of religious conservatives as racists, chauvinists and bigots really fair and accurate? And if political critique of religious conservatives were appropriate in an Easter sermon, couldn’t León offer a thoughtful analysis rather than snide smugness?”
NRA Still Undermining Weakened Gun Legislation – Last month the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a plan to increase penalties for straw purchases, or buying a gun for someone who can’t pass a background check. According to the Post, NRA lobbyists are pushing a revision that would make it much harder to prosecute gun traffickers: The NRA’s draft language would require law enforcement officials to prove that the straw purchaser had reason to believe the buyer was prohibited from obtaining guns or knew that the buyer intended to commit a crime, according to an analysis of the NRA proposal provided to The Washington Post by the Bloomberg-led mayors group.
Leaving the massive gun-show loophole in place, on purpose – Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said closing the gun-show loophole is “a bridge too far” for most Senate Republicans. He added that the “paperwork requirements alone would be significant.” The nation would like to reduce mass murders, but for some federal lawmakers, “paperwork requirements” have to take precedence? Similarly, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was asked whether expanded background checks can survive in the Senate. “I don’t think so,” he said. “I don’t think it makes any sense. The current system is broken. Fix the current system.” …that might be possible if Senate Republicans weren’t also blocking ATF from functioning effectively…
The Republicans’ Diversity Deserts | Charles Blow – Too many House Republican districts are isolated in naturally homogeneous areas or gerrymandered ghettos, so elected officials there rarely hear — or see — the great and growing diversity of this country and the infusion of energy and ideas and art with which it enriches us. These districts produce representatives unaccountable to the confluence. And this will likely be the case for the next decade. [...] With the exception of a few districts, a map of the areas in this country with the fewest minorities looks strikingly similar to a map of the areas from which Congressional Republicans hail. In fact, although this is the most diverse Congress in history, not one of the blacks or Asians in the House is a Republican. Only about a sixth of the Hispanics are Republicans, and fewer than a third of the women are.
“My father had a ranch. We used to hire 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes. You know, it takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.” — Republican Congressman Don Young from Alaska
Top Critique of GOP is Unwillingness to Compromise – A new Gallup Poll finds rank-and-file Republicans, independents, and Democrats voice the same primary criticism of the GOP: it is “too inflexible” or “unwilling to compromise.” When asked to say what they most dislike about the Republican Party, 26% of Republicans, 17% of independents, and 22% of Democrats offer this critique — leading all other mentions.
From the Department of Outreach – Representative Steve King (R-IA) and Senator Jim InHofe (R-OK) want to ban the federal government from translating documents into other languages. An attempt to codify English as our official language and violate the Voting Rights Act.
Exxon Mobil pipeline leaks ‘a few thousand’ barrels of crude oil in Arkansas – Exxon Mobil said that one of its pipelines leaked ‘a few thousand’ barrels of Canadian heavy crude oil near Mayflower, Ark., prompting the evacuation of 22 homes and reinforcing concerns many critics have raised about the Keystone XL pipeline that is awaiting State Department approval.
Alaska Lawmaker Tells Exxon Valdez Spill Not Its Fault – Alaska is set to give oil companies, including ExxonMobil, a massive tax cut. The bill, which passed the Senate 11-9 and is endorsed by Republican Gov. Sean Parnell, is being debated by the House of Representatives. The plan raises the base tax rate that companies pay no matter the price of oil, and also gives them a $5 credit for every barrel they produce. The plan would cost the state anywhere from $3 billion to $9.5 billion over the next six years. As if that weren’t enough, Republicans in the state House want to make the tax cut even larger. And as they debated doing so, Rep. Kurt Olson (R) told a company representative that Exxon shouldn’t be blamed for the second-worst oil spill in U.S. history, the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989…
Loaded for Bear(shit): Consultants Cash In on Palin – Sarah Palin attempted to relaunch her political career this week with a new video which railed against “the big consultants, the big money men, and the big bad media.” …Seen through the lens of the invaluable Center for Responsive Politics, Palin’s PAC spent $5.1 million in the last election cycle (more than it raised in that time period, raising some questions about Palin’s claims of fiscal responsibility). But the real news comes when you look at how donors’ money was actually doled out: just $298,500 to candidates. The bulk of the rest of it, more than $4.8 million, went to—you guessed it—consultants.
“If your boss suddenly decided he had a moral objection to your health insurance plan covering cholesterol medication—and had the power to act on his objection—it would be outrageous invasion of your privacy and the doctor-patient relationship. It’s the kind of thing that no politician would ever want to see happen, unless that politician were a Republican, and instead of needing cholesterol medication, you needed birth control coverage.” — Jed Lewison
Elevating the religious beliefs of some people over the civil rights of all – As in every state, residents of Kentucky already enjoy religious liberty under the First Amendment, but conservatives in the state legislature decided to craft a proposal that would empower Kentuckians with “sincerely held” religious beliefs to disregard state laws and regulations. In effect, if a law conflicted with the tenets of your faith as you interpret them, your conscience would trump your obligation to follow the law…
Tennessee Republicans pushing to cut welfare benefits if kids’ report cards don’t measure up – Tennessee has among the lowest average monthly benefits for a recipient of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in the country. But not content with that, the state legislature is pushing a plan to cut benefits for families of kids who don’t do well enough in school. [...] Now those kids are essentially asked to bear the burden of maintaining their families’ cash incomes, or putting additional burdens on their parents. The math a kid living on TANF is concerned with is likely this: How many hours ago did I have my last meal? How many days overdue is the rent or the electric bill? And, if this bill passes: What score do I need on this next test to keep my family’s income from being slashed?
We are on the precipice of the greatest retirement crisis in the history of the world. In the decades to come, we will witness millions of elderly Americans, the Baby Boomers and others, slipping into poverty. Too frail to work, too poor to retire will become the “new normal” for many elderly Americans.
That dire prediction, which I wrote two years ago, is already coming true. Our national demographics, coupled with indisputable glaringly insufficient retirement savings and human physiology, suggest that a catastrophic outcome for at least a significant percentage of our elderly population is inevitable. With the average 401(k) balance for 65 year olds estimated at $25,000 by independent experts—$100,000 if you believe the retirement planning industry—the decades many elders will spend in forced or elected “retirement” will be grim.
According to the author, the impending crisis will happen in ‘waves’ to a majority of elderly Americans:
- Wave 1: Retirees Come Back To Work
- Wave 2: Workers Delay Full Retirement
- Wave 3: Full Retirement Is Unachievable
- Wave 4: Drowning
While you reflect on how irresponsible it is to not save for retirement, take a moment to reflect on Paul Ryan’s budget (and the 95% of Republican House members who voted for it) – along with all the slicing and dicing they want to do to the social safety net, health care reform, and Medicare in order to provide more tax relief to the wealthy.
Be sure to consider all the jobs that are not being created right now because of the conservative hangups on spending cuts and the deficit. Issues which, when a Republican is in office, members of this specific political party aren’t concerned about at all. Maybe it’s time we willingly spent our taxes on infrastructure and people instead of exponentially expanding our military industrial complex each year, quit paying to have other countries blown up and rebuilt for the profit of a few.
Then consider: how are people with the low-wage Bain Capital replacement jobs, or people who are unemployed, supposed to find some money to put in a “retirement account”? Maybe they should forego eating a few times a month. Or maybe they could just save all those tax breaks they get for private jets or dancing horses. It would be irresponsible if they don’t, right?
Average income rose just $59 from 1966 to 2011 for the bottom 90 percent once those incomes were adjusted for inflation… the top 10 percent fared much better, according to a new study of tax data from David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize winner: In 2011 the average AGI of the vast majority fell to $30,437 per taxpayer, its lowest level since 1966 when measured in 2011 dollars. The vast majority averaged a mere $59 more in 2011 than in 1966. For the top 10 percent, by the same measures, average income rose by $116,071 to $254,864, an increase of 84 percent over 1966.
[...] The biggest driver in that disparity, Cay Johnston wrote, was not that the rich were working harder, “but the shift of income from labor to capital and changes in federal income, gift, and estate tax rules.” Indeed, the estate tax has been eased over recent decades and federal income taxes have become more favorable to the wealthy thanks to breaks for investment income. A recent study, in fact, found that the capital gains tax cut, which benefits the wealthy but does virtually nothing for everyone else, was “by far” the biggest driver in the growth of American income inequality.
Other important facts:
- One study found that pay for chief executives increased 127 times faster than worker pay over the last 30 years.
- Official data has shown worker wages stagnating since the 1970s.
- American income inequality now rivals rates from countries like the Ivory Coast and Pakistan.
- the rising inequality has left the bottom 95 percent of Americans saddled with more debt than ever before.
The rise in wealth inequality? It’s permanent: “the advantaged [are] becoming permanently better-off, while the disadvantaged becoming permanently worse-off.” [...] If we were seeing a lot of transient inequality, that would mean the households at the bottom in any given year still have a good shot at improving their lifetime earnings. The fact that the inequality is of the permanent sort shuts the window on that optimistic interpretation: The earners at the bottom are stuck at the bottom, and their lifetime earnings are about as low as one would think. (via Ezra Klein)
With this ever-increasing, permanent inequality, now decades in the making, what’s most important to Republicans? 95% of the GOP-led House voting in favor of Paul Ryan’s Class Warfare Budget:
- Recent analyses have shown that [Ryan's] budget plan’s tax reforms, which lower top tax rates to 25 percent, would give millionaires at least $200,000 in tax cuts. At the same time, it would slash the social safety net, targeting poverty programs for two-thirds of its cuts. (via Travis Waldron)
- Ryan’s budget would end Medicare, cut taxes by over $5 trillion, take health care benefits away from millions of Americans, make “massive” cuts to in programs for low-income and vulnerable Americans, and relies on smoke and mirrors to balance the budget within a decade… It’s designed to satisfy folks who believe the wealthy are over-burdened by taxes and struggling families have too much access to affordable health care. (via Steve Benen)
Unfortunately the non-wealthy, low-info Republican base voters — who have been personally harmed by income inequality just like everyone else — have been successfully programmed to chase the regularly-scheduled and completely manufactured social outrages dangled before them (usually involving guns, God, and gays), instead of paying attention to what their party is actually doing with tax laws and budgets.
House GOP Approves Budget That Cuts Taxes For Millionaires, Slashes The Social Safety Net | Travis Waldron on Mar 21, 2013
The House of Representatives this afternoon approved the Republican budget plan authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) by a vote of 221-207, with 197 Democrats and 10 Republicans voting against it. Three Democrats and one Republican did not vote.
For the third consecutive year, the House GOP has approved a budget that ends the traditional guaranteed Medicare coverage for senior citizens, makes substantial cuts to poverty programs and the social safety net, and grants massive tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. Recent analyses have shown that the budget plan’s tax reforms, which lower top tax rates to 25 percent, would give millionaires at least $200,000 in tax cuts. At the same time, it would slash the social safety net, targeting poverty programs for two-thirds of its cuts.
House approves far-right Ryan budget plan | Steve Benen on March 21, 2013
Though there were whispers that GOP leaders had to worry about significant defections, only 10 House Republicans broke ranks and opposed Ryan’s budget — the exact same number of Republicans who voted against their party’s budget blueprint last year.
And what a plan it is. We’re talking about an ambitious plan to redistribute wealth — from the bottom up — with a healthy dose of “almost frighteningly ambitious” social engineering. Ryan’s budget would end Medicare, cut taxes by over $5 trillion, take health care benefits away from millions of Americans, make “massive” cuts to in programs for low-income and vulnerable Americans, and relies on smoke and mirrors to balance the budget within a decade.
It is, in other words, the exact opposite of what the American mainstream wants, and bears no resemblance to the platform the American electorate endorsed in national elections four months ago. It’s designed to satisfy folks who believe the wealthy are over-burdened by taxes and struggling families have too much access to affordable health care.
Despite all of this, 95% of House GOP lawmakers voted for the plan anyway.
CHART: Paul Ryan’s Massive Tax Cut For Millionaires | Sahil Kapur March 15, 2013
Ryan’s plan also cuts spending by some $4.6 trillion over the next decade, targeting programs like Medicaid and the portion of the budget that includes Pell Grants and food stamps. He insists his tax cuts will spur significant economic growth, and he promises to pay for them by closing unspecified tax loopholes, deductions and credits — ideally on high incomes.
“You can actually plug loopholes and subject more of higher earners’ income to taxation through a lower tax rate,” Ryan said. “We think that’s smarter.” His promise mirrors that of Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential election. The problem, as numerous independent experts concluded, is that finding that much revenue in tax expenditures would require raising effective taxes on the middle class.
Renewed hostage-taking | Pema Levy on March 21, 2013
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said Thursday that Republicans will require a dollar in spending cuts for every dollar that they agree to raise the debt ceiling, which the United States is expected to hit in August. “Dollar for dollar is the plan,” Boehner said at a press conference. As TPM reported Thursday, conservative House Republicans are pushing their leadership to use the debt ceiling as leverage to demand major reforms or cuts, including dollar for dollar cuts.
Remember when John Boehner and other distinguished Republicans had great fun on Twitter using the hashtag #Obamaquester when discussing sequestration cuts? This week, Boehner admitted with his own damn mouth that President Obama “didn’t want the cuts.” Watch:
More Republican good news / bad news:
- Bad: Mitt Romney / Paul Ryan didn’t win the election, and Republicans lost seats in Congress.
- Good: So? Doesn’t matter, the GOP will continue ‘patriotically’ ignoring what the majority of Americans voted for.
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.”
On Friday, Meet the Press host David Gregory interviewed Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), asking repeatedly why he continued to blame President Obama for the automatic budget cuts that went into effect on Friday. At one point Gregory responded to Boehner’s assertions with, “Mr. Speaker, that’s just not true.” Listening to Boehner repeat the exact same stupid and completely false arguments that he’s been bleating for days, the actual meaning behind his words becomes obvious: “You’re right, David, but I have no control over my people.”
[During the interview], Boehner insisted that Obama and Senate Democrats were to blame because they did not send any proposal his way. “Even today, there’s no plan, from Senate Democrats or the White House, to replace the sequester,” he said.
But Gregory was unconvinced, pointing out that Obama had in fact outlined what he required in a compromise deal. Importantly, that framework included specific mention of entitlement and spending cuts—both of which are central to Republican demands—that he’d be willing to make. “Mr. Speaker, that’s just not true,” Gregory said. “They’ve made it very clear, as the president just did, that he has a plan that he’s put forward that involves entitlement cuts, that involves spending cuts, that you’ve made a choice, as have Republicans, to leave tax loopholes in place.”
“Well David, that’s just nonsense,” Boehner interrupted. “If he had a plan why didn’t Senate Democrats go ahead and pass it?” Senate Democrats did not pass a competing bill to avert the automatic cuts because Republicans in that chamber effectively filibustered their efforts. The bills passed by the Republican-led House were also a solely a symbolic gesture, as they did not address revenue increases, making them a non-starter for Democrats.
Gregory continued to rebuff Boehner’s claims, pointing again and again to the fact that Republicans had an offer from the president that included policies they very much support. “Why not give on this?” Gregory asked. “Why not allow some revenues to come from tax reform? You protect defense spending, and you unlock the key to getting the kind of entitlement cuts the president said he’ll give you.”
Boehner demurred once more, saying that Washington had to “live within their means,” and that the president already got some tax cuts on the last debt ceiling compromise. Again, Gregory was incredulous. “You yourself said, ‘Look we got 99% of the Bush tax cuts extended,’” he said. “That’s a pretty good deal.”
The best explanation for Boehner’s repetitively ignorant positions on the sequester comes from Charles M. Blow:
Boehner’s intransigence during the talks drew “cheers,” according to a report in The New York Times, from his chronically intransigent colleagues. But their position is a twist of the truth that is coming dangerously close to becoming accepted wisdom by sheer volume of repetition. It must be battled back every time it is uttered.
Let’s make this clear: it is wrong to characterize the American Taxpayer Relief Act as a “tax hike.” In reality, much of what it did was allow 18 percent of the Bush tax cuts — mostly those affecting the wealthiest Americans — to expire while permanently locking in a whopping 82 percent of them.
But of course, that misrepresentation fit with the tired trope of Democrats as tax-and-spend liberals. It also completely ignores that it was Bush-era spending that dug the ditch we’re in.
Republicans have defined their position, regardless of how reckless: austerity or bust. However, as economists have warned, austerity generally precedes — and, in fact, can cause — bust. Just look at Europe.
But Republicans are so dizzy over the deficits and delighted to lick the boots of billionaires that they cannot — or will not — see it. They are still trying to sell cut-to-grow snake oil: cut spending and cut taxes, and the economy will grow because rich people will be happy, and when rich people are happy they hire poor people, and then everyone’s happy.
[...] The president said Friday that “there is a caucus of common sense up on Capitol Hill” that includes Congressional Republicans who “privately at least” were willing to close loopholes to prevent the sequester.
Those privately reasonable Republicans might want to be more public before their party goes over another cliff and takes the country with them.
So this congressional Republican “caucus of common sense” must either be like some secretive religious group–don’t say their names aloud!–or they must be the most cowardly, pants-wetting group of politicians that have ever disgraced the halls of our federal government.
Not only has this common sense caucus allowed their party to be defined by a group of extremists whose work ethic is to not work (and who take pride in refusing to compromise on anything, ever), but they’re allowing it to be further defined by an annual convention in which Princess Dumbass of the Northwoods* is invited to speak while a talented and popular leader like Gov. Chris Christie is completely shunned.
The Fox-Republican Party no longer has room for a rather long laundry-list of people, beliefs, attributes and ideals. We can add common sense and courage to that list.
“This is not going to be a apocalypse, I think as some people have said. It’s just dumb. And it’s going to hurt. It’s going to hurt individual people and it’s going to hurt the economy overall.” — President Obama, at a press conference on Friday, March 1, 2013.
“Let’s make it clear that the president got his tax hikes on January 1. This discussion about revenue, in my view, is over.” — John Boehner, at a press conference on Friday, March 1, 2013.
Ezra Klein: “The bottom line on American budgetary politics right now is that Republicans won’t agree to further tax increases and so there’s no deal to be had. This is not a controversial perspective in D.C.: It’s what Hill Republicans have told me, it’s what the White House has told me, it what Hill Democrats have told me. The various camps disagree on whether Republicans are right to refuse a deal that includes further tax increases, but they all agree that that’s the key fact holding up a compromise to replace the sequester. There’s no deal even if Obama agrees to major Republican demands on entitlements. There’s no deal because Republicans don’t want to make a deal that includes taxes, no matter what they get in return for it.”
Boehner to David Gregory: “I don’t think anyone quite understands how it gets resolved.” House Speaker John Boehner told NBC News there “is no easy way to stop the budget cuts — known as the ‘sequester’ – that began taking effect Friday night, and voiced uncertainty over how Washington can solve the overall fiscal problems that have consumed the nation’s politics for more than two years.”
Seems pretty easy to me: close the damn tax loopholes for the rich and powerful for a balanced approach to deficit reduction. Don’t pretend it’s so hard. On the other hand, CLEARLY Boehner has lost control of his caucus.
In a 83-page letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), the Office of Management and Budget details the specific reductions each government program will face. Here are the dumbest and most painful cuts:
Health care – 4
- $20 million cut from the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs
- $10 million cut from the World Trade Center Health Program Fund
- $168 million cut from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- $75 million cut from the Aging and Disability Services Programs
Housing – 5
- $199 million cut from public housing
- $96 million cut from Homeless Assistance Grants
- $17 million cut from Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS
- $19 million cut from Housing for the Elderly
- $175 million cut from Low Income Home Energy Assistance
Disaster and Emergency – 6
- $928 million cut from FEMA’s disaster relief money
- $6 million cut from Emergency Food and Shelter
- $70 million cut from the Agricultural Disaster Relief Fund at USDA
- $61 million cut from the Hazardous Substance Superfund at EPA
- $125 million cut from the Wildland Fire Management
- $53 million cut from Salaries and Expenses at the Food Safety and Inspection Service
Obamacare – 5
- $13 million cut from the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan Program (Co-ops)
- $57 million cut from the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control
- $51 million cut from the Prevention and Public Health Fund
- $27 million cut from the State Grants and Demonstrations
- $44 million cut from the Affordable Insurance Exchange Grants program
Education – 5
- $633 million cut from the Department of Education’s Special Education programs
- $184 million cut from Rehabilitation Services and Disability Research
- $71 million cut from administration at the Office of Federal Student Aid
- $116 million cut from Higher Education
- $86 million cut from Student Financial Assistance
Immigration – 3
- $512 million cut from Customs and Border Protection
- $17 million cut from Automation Modernization, Customs and Border Protection
- $20 million cut from Border Security Fencing, Infrastructure, and Technology
Security – 4
- $79 million cut from Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance
- $604 million cut from National Nuclear Security Administration
- $232 million cut from the Federal Aviation Administration
- $394 million cut from Defense Environmental Cleanup
Republicans, who refused to raise any additional revenue to avoid the budget cuts, have described the reductions as “modest” a “homerun” and something that “needs to happen” in order to “get this economy rolling again.”
In his weekly radio and Internet address, [President Obama] argued there was still time to find a smarter solution to the nation’s debt problem.
“I still believe we can and must replace these cuts with a balanced approach – one that combines smart spending cuts with entitlement reform and changes to our tax code that make it more fair for families and businesses without raising anyone’s tax rates,” Obama said.
He said the budget deficit now exceeding $1 trillion can be reduced without laying off workers or forcing parents and students to pay the price. “A majority of the American people agree with me on this approach – including a majority of Republicans,” the president argued. “We just need Republicans in Congress to catch up with their own party and the rest of the country.”
How will it “get resoved” for Boehner? When the minority of base-rubes who support the Idiot Brigade section of the Republican-led House start feeling it personally:
During the first full week of March every year, the mountain passes of Yellowstone National Park rumble with the sounds of hulking snow plows operated by two dozen, mostly seasonal workers. This month, the plows will be silent. The costly and complex road-clearing operation that was scheduled to start on Monday will be postponed this year because of the U.S. government’s across-the-board budget cuts known as the “sequester,” which took effect on Friday.
Park managers have to trim $1.75 million from Yellowstone’s $35 million annual budget, which will delay the opening of most entrances to America’s first national park by two weeks. Park managers will give more details on Monday. [...] In staunchly conservative Wyoming — where legislators just cut most state agency budgets by 6.5 percent despite virtually no state debt and more than $15 billion in savings — the across-the-board federal cuts are raising questions.
Residents who depend on tourism for a living are already complaining to the state’s all-Republican congressional delegation, which is on record as supporting the cuts if it means the alternative is raising taxes. “I’m sorry, but in how this is affecting us, it doesn’t seem to me like it’s fiscally responsible,” Darby said. “Somebody needs to refigure this, or we need to get better advocates.”
Gosh! You think?
[Guess who will] still be getting their paychecks. (Boehner’s is $223,500). No wonder it’s so easy for the GOP to say “fuck the military, education, FAA, Meals on Wheels.” Then leave for another long weekend.
The cuts, known as sequestration, will have no impact on the president, U.S. lawmakers and other top government officials. It is especially ironic that Congress, which has the power to avert the reductions, has nothing to lose in the negotiations, said Dan Gordon, former head of federal procurement in the Obama administration. [...]
Sequestration’s effects, including the furloughs, aren’t likely to be felt for several weeks, Gordon said. Many of the reductions won’t be felt immediately because of the 30-day notice requirement for furloughs.
The automatic cuts could slice gross domestic product growth by 0.6 percent while reducing the level of employment by 750,000 jobs, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. – Bloomberg
But don’t worry! Members of Congress will feel the pinch in other ways:
Members of Congress have taken plenty of heat for the sequester. After all, the popular strain of outrage goes, they will still get their paychecks while federal workers are furloughed, and teachers get pink slips (or not).
But hold on — lawmakers are going to feel some pain, too. A letter Friday to members and their staffs announced that the sequester will mean that some entrances and checkpoints around the Capitol complex will be closed, meaning longer lines and (gasp!) wait times to enter the buildings.
Now, members probably won’t find the lines too troublesome, as they tend to breeze by security with a flash of their coveted members’ pins. But they might find some of their favorite routes curtailed because of the door closures. And even top staffers have to go through security, so they’re likely to encounter some delays.
[...] This is just insult to injury: because of the belt-tightening, congressional travel overseas (CODELs) have been grounded, and lawmakers can’t use miljets, their most favorite mode of transportation.
So some hundreds of thousands of federal workers will see a 20% pay reduction with furloughs (one unpaid day per week through September). And some elderly people might not get a Meals on Wheels, and some teachers will get laid off. And the public won’t have a fully-functioning government. But for members of Congress, there will be some inconvenience… Okay? Boehner and his crew will have to use different doors to get into their offices. And they’ll have to stop using military jets like their own private airline company for their “fact finding” junkets. Fly commercial? Horror. Everyone suffers.
On Friday evening, President Obama issued an order putting sequestration into effect. He was required by law to do so by the end of the day in the absence of a congressional agreement to stop the $85 billion in across-the-board-cuts.
“By the authority vested in me as President by the laws of the United States of America, and in accordance with section 251A of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act, as amended (the ‘Act’), 2 U.S.C. 901a, I hereby order that budgetary resources in each non-exempt budget account be reduced by the amount calculated by the Office of Management and Budget in its report to the Congress of March 1, 2013,” Obama’s order stated. [...]
In a statement, Boehner said, “For 16 months, President Obama and his party in the Senate knew that unless they acted, the president’s sequester would go into effect on March 1. Still, despite the House doing its part on two separate occasions over 10 months, Democrats have yet to pass a plan of their own. So to my dismay, the sequester — a series of mandatory spending cuts proposed during by the White House during the debt ceiling talks of 2011 — went into place as scheduled. And it will be here to stay until the president and the Democratic-controlled Senate decide to join us in focusing on more responsible spending cuts to replace it.”
Speaker John A. Boehner, the man who spent significant portions of the last Congress shuttling to and from the White House for fiscal talks with President Obama that ultimately failed twice to produce a grand bargain, has come around to the idea that the best negotiations are no negotiations. [...] While the frustrations of Congressional Democrats and Mr. Obama with Mr. Boehner are reaching a fever pitch, House Republicans could not be more pleased with their leader. – NYTimes
The Republican Party’s single, solitary, post-Bush mission: Obama’s first term = make him a one-term president. Obama’s second term = punish America for voting for him again.
How are you supposed to negotiate with people who refuse to negotiate? It’s like Groundhog Day with the House Republicans.
Speaker John A. Boehner, the man who spent significant portions of the last Congress shuttling to and from the White House for fiscal talks with President Obama that ultimately failed twice to produce a grand bargain, has come around to the idea that the best negotiations are no negotiations. [...] While the frustrations of Congressional Democrats and Mr. Obama with Mr. Boehner are reaching a fever pitch, House Republicans could not be more pleased with their leader. – NYTimes
The sequester will be triggered before midnight tonight.
[image above: DailyKos]
Paul Begala thinks it’s a shame that sequestration cuts can’t be limited to states which take in more federal money than they pay in taxes and are represented by politicians who refuse to pay for the spending that their constituents demand (and have come to expect):
“This could be fun. Oklahoma so hates Obama’s big spending that every single county in the state voted for Mitt Romney. Oklahoma has twice the percentage of federal employees than the U.S. average, and Okies get $1.35 back from Washington for each dollar they pay in taxes. So close the massive FAA center in Oklahoma City. Move it to Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco district, where they love big government. Two years ago I made a similar argument about Kentucky, calling on Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul to put the Bluegrass State in detox for its addiction to local pork. No such luck. But perhaps the principle can apply to the sequester: enforce it only in states whose elected representatives won’t support the taxes needed to fund the spending they want.” — A pox on one of their houses
Mother Jones: Even as Republicans gripe about deficit spending, their states get 30 cents more federal spending per tax dollar than their Democratic neighbors:
It’s no secret: The federal budget is expanding faster than tax revenues, a trend that’s been fueled by the rapid growth of entitlement programs and exacerbated by the recession. As a recent New York Times article documents, even as fiscally conservative lawmakers complain about deficit spending, their constituents don’t want to give up the Social Security checks, Medicare benefits, and earned income tax credits that provide a safety net for the struggling middle class.
This gap between political perception and fiscal reality is also reflected in the distribution of tax dollars at the state level: Most politically “red” states are financially in the red when it comes to how much money they receive from Washington compared with what their residents pay in taxes.
A look at 2010 Census and IRS data reveals that the 50 states and the District of Columbia, on average, received $1.29 in federal spending for every federal tax dollar they paid. That means that some states are getting a lot more than they put in, and vice versa. The states that contributed more in taxes than they got back in spending were more likely to have voted for Obama in 2008 and were more likely to be largely urban. (There are some clear exceptions: For instance, New Mexico, a rural, Democratic state, gets more federal money per tax dollar than any other state.)
Added to that is “the world’s least surprising chart” from Brad Plummer:
A new survey from the Pew Research Center finds that most Americans like the idea of cutting federal spending in the abstract — they just can’t agree on any specific areas they’d actually like to cut…
[...] Foreign aid is far and away the most popular suggestion for the chopping block, but even here, it’s a close call — 48 percent of respondents said cut it, 49 percent said keep it the same or increase it. (Foreign aid makes up less than 1 percent of the federal budget.) In no other spending area is there majority support for cuts.
The tide has turned… and it’s turned away from career war profiteers in Congress:
Think Progress: A new poll released by the Hill newspaper has found that more voters favor slashing military spending versus cutting spending on domestic programs like Medicare and Social Security in order to reduce the debt and deficit.
Voters are tired of funding the GOP’s Forever Wars and think there should be spending cuts — but they think the cuts should be to all those other programs and services they personally don’t like or use (like foreign aid — only 1% of the budget). And while everyone in the country continues to subsidize the red states’ appetite for federal cheese, red state conservatives will continue to tell themselves that they deserve more federal cheese than blue states (or that it’s not federal cheese – it’s freedom cheese!). So we’ll see how long Teapublicans can hold out on their belief that only Democratic states and Democrats will be ‘hurt’ by the sequester.
Want to see how much your state will lose with sequestration cuts? Go here.
The only thing the Republican Party has going for it right now is the hope that the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts set to take effect on Friday won’t be felt immediately by very many people:
On Sunday, the White House released 51 fact sheets describing the effects a sequester would have on every state and the District of Columbia.
Republicans have questioned whether the nation would feel the cuts as much as the Obama administration suggests. They’re essentially gambling that the public outcry will be slight, giving them leverage to call for more spending reductions during the months ahead.
Democrats, on the other hand, know that a public backlash could bolster their cause to replace the sequester with increased tax revenue and more discriminate cuts. GOP leaders have said they won’t accept a proposal with new revenue after they already agreed to more taxes under the Jan. 1 deal to avert the fiscal cliff. A White House budget official last week acknowledged that the impacts of the sequester will “get worse over time” but that “the pain points are there,” according to an article in Sunday’s Washington Post.
Democrats wouldn’t have much time for the public to grow weary of the cuts. Another big budget battle looms next month, with lawmakers required to approve a new spending plan before Congress’s last short-term funding measure expires on March 27. Failure to pass a new budget — or at least another temporary plan — before that deadline would result in a government shutdown.
Congress could stop the sequestration cuts with an alternate plan, a compromise by both parties. Republicans could agree to close tax loopholes for the wealthy as a source of income and a more balanced approach to deficit reduction. Austerity hasn’t worked in Europe and it won’t work for us. But without a public outcry, it just doesn’t appear that the teaparty wing of the GOP has any reason to consider a compromise.
And even if there were a public outcry, it would have to come from these members’ own deep-red districts which elected them to office in the first place. Many of these “Republican” congressmen have no interest in what’s good for the entire nation or what ‘most’ people wanted or voted for in 2012. They’re in Congress to collect a paycheck and get re-elected (worst, most do-nothingest, congress in history). Republicans seem to feel pretty confident that there will be no political repercussions now or later if the sequester kicks in. They’re partly right — for now, not a lot of people are paying attention to the landslide of terrible that’s set to begin rolling on Friday. But Democrats think that will change sooner rather than later:
Administration officials insist the pain will be immediate and acute. Though furloughs of federal workers won’t begin in earnest until April, notices could begin rolling out before the March 1 deadline. On Friday, cash-strapped governors and mayors will be notified of cuts to social-service grants and reductions in education funding that will impact the coming school year. And actual federal payouts will decline immediately for at least two programs: Emergency unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed and nutrition assistance for women, infants and children, known as WIC.
“We have a very diverse parade of horribles,” said a top White House budget official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss implementation plans. “It’s going to be all over the map . . . and it’s going to hit both Democratic and Republican constituencies in a significant way.”
[...] Scott Lilly, a budget expert at the Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank says, “I think Social Security will have to close a lot of offices. And the ones that make sense to close are the ones in the smallest communities. Which, by the way, happen to be predominantly Republican.” While Social Security benefits are protected, Lilly said, “the White House would be advantaged to let people know that they’re going to have to drive 40 miles to put in their application or get information about their benefits.”
Maybe when the federal government has to cut back on the programs and services that the WeThePeople-Real-’Merican crowd holds sacred (and stops handing out Scooter Chairs like candy) the Republican Party will finally feel some pressure to “work” on an alternative, and maybe they’ll be less inclined to blow off the other half of the country. Time (and individual congressional district suffering) will tell.
Aviva Shen at Think Progress notices that while “Congressional Republicans are refusing to consider new tax revenue as part of a deal [while others are insisting] that the across-the-board sequester cuts should be allowed to kick in… some Republican governors [like Jan Brewer (Teaparty-AZ)] are bracing for the devastating impact these cuts will have on their states.” Shen reviews the facts of how we arrived here:
House Republicans’ refusal to consider tax increases echoes the 2011 debt ceiling fight that created the sequester deal in the first place. That fight led to a downgrade of US credit for the first time in history and billions of wasted taxpayer dollars. The sequester could have even farther reaching consequences; the $85 billion in cuts will slow economic growth and gut essential programs in areas including education, food safety, disaster relief, and law enforcement — while doing little to actually reduce the deficit. For truly balanced deficit reduction, a budget deal would need to be comprised mostly of tax revenue.
Ezra Klein reminds the media — and the GOP – of where the goalposts should be on this issue and WHO moved them:
… The sequester was a punt. The point was to give both sides a face-saving way to raise the debt ceiling even though the tax issue was stopping them from agreeing to a deficit deal. The hope was that sometime between the day the sequester was signed into law (Aug. 2, 2011) and the day it was set to go into effect (Jan. 1, 2013), something would…change.
There were two candidates to drive that change. The first and least likely was the supercommittee. If they came to a deal that both sides accepted, they could replace the sequester. They failed.
The second was the 2012 election. If Republicans won, then that would pretty much settle it: No tax increases. If President Obama won, then that, too, would pretty much settle it: The American people would’ve voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes.
The American people voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes.
In fact, they went even further than that. They also voted for a Senate that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes. And then they voted for a House that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes, though due to the quirks of congressional districts, they didn’t get one.
Here in DC, we can get a bit buried in Beltway minutia. The ongoing blame game over who concocted the sequester is an excellent example. But it’s worth remembering that the goalposts in American politics aren’t set in backroom deals between politicians. They’re set in elections. And in the 2012 election, the American people were very clear on where they wanted the goalposts moved to.
As President Obama explained in his weekly address: this disaster can be averted by closing loopholes, doing selective “smart” cutting and entitlement reform in a way that doesn’t stall the economic recovery and that boosts job creation:
“After all, as we learned in the 1990s, nothing shrinks the deficit faster than a growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs. That has to be our driving focus. That has to be our North Star. Making America a magnet for good jobs.”
If Republicans really cared about deficit reduction (and if a Republican were president right now), they’d be taking a completely different approach to this discussion. They’d be talking about a balanced approach (Ronald Reagan raised taxes numerous times). They wouldn’t be trying to drown anything in a bathtub (GWB increased the federal workforce to offset slower private job growth) — nor would they even consider slowing a just-recovering economy with these drastic cuts. The simple fact of the matter is that the GOP doesn’t care about the deficit. It’s a political ploy they use to talk about what they always talk about when a Democrat is president: spending (programs they dislike), big government (drown it!), and taxes (they must not be raised! ever!).
Paul Krugman points out the obvious:
To say what should be obvious: Republicans don’t care about the deficit. They care about exploiting the deficit to pursue their goal of dismantling the social insurance system. They want a fiscal crisis; they need it; they’re enjoying it. I mean, how is “starve the beast” supposed to work? Precisely by creating a fiscal crisis, giving you an excuse to slash Social Security and Medicare.
Kevin Drum agrees:
Republicans haven’t cared about the deficit for decades. They got a bit worried about it when Ronald Reagan’s 1981 tax cut didn’t pay for itself the way he promised, and this prompted them to reluctantly pass Reagan’s 1982 tax increase. But they very quickly sent that 1982 bill down the memory hole, pretending to this day that Saint Ronnie never increased taxes. Since then, they’ve cared about deficits only when Democrats were in office.
As it happens, I don’t think there’s anything nefarious about this. Republicans don’t like Democratic spending priorities, and yelling about the deficit is a very effective way of objecting to all of them without having to waste time arguing about each one separately. [...] That said, it’s still worth keeping the truth in mind. What frustrates me isn’t so much that Republicans do this—that’s just politics—but that the press so routinely lets them get away with it.
I disagree with Drum. I think there’s a lot of things that could be considered “nefarious” about what tea party extremists in Congress would like to do to our country. Especially when it comes down to wanting millions to suffer for 1) politics and 2) to preserve the wealth of a few.