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


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!


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.

Always low prices. Always. (With a little E. Coli for good measure.)

CDC Confirms Multistate E. coli Outbreak from Farm Rich Products | Food Safety News

Update (March 29, 5:30 PM PST): The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service has posted a distribution list of where affected products were sent. That list includes Wal Mart stores nationwide, Winn-Dixie stores in Florida, and a variety of retailers in Michigan.

At least 24 people in 15 states have fallen ill with E. coli O121 in an outbreak traced back to Farm Rich brand frozen pizzas, quesadillas, philly cheese steaks and mozzarella bites, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed, following initial reports Thursday evening. Seven people have been hospitalized in connection to the products, which were sold nationwide. One patient has developed hemolytic uremic syndrome…


When Capitalism trumps Democracy: 

  • Sequester may lead to less safe food, FDA Commissioner says: Fewer food safety inspections and an increased risk to consumers will result from the lack of a new 2013 budget from Congress and the upcoming across-the-board spending cuts, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said Thursday. The cuts are scheduled to take effect Friday unless the White House and Congress can come to a budget agreement. The reduced inspections and budget cuts could delay a new food safety law which requires the agency to boost inspections and directs farms and food facilities to ensure their food is safe. The FDA has said the so-called sequestration cuts will mean 2,100 fewer food safety inspections this year, though Hamburg said in an interview with The Associated Press that the number is an estimate. She said most of the effects wouldn’t be felt for a while, and the agency won’t have to furlough workers.
  • How ALEC Has Undermined Food Safety By Pushing ‘Ag Gag’ Laws Across The Country: Two more states are considering bills that would prevent whistleblowers from exposing cruel or unsafe practices in factory farms, joining five other states with similar “ag gag” bills. [...]  it turns out the real basis for the bills has its origins in the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative think tank that has been behind such legislative pushes as “stand your ground” gun laws, voter ID laws and laws mandating states teach climate change denial in schools. Several of the lawmakers who are pushing ag gag laws have agriculture industry ties and ties to ALEC — nearly one in four Iowa lawmakers who voted for Iowa’s ag gag law, for example, are members of ALEC. In 2002, ALEC introduced a piece of mock legislation titled the Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act, which labels people who interfere with any animal operations “terrorists” and made it illegal for anyone to enter “an animal or research facility to take pictures by photograph, video camera, or other means with the intent to commit criminal activities or defame the facility or its owner.” ALEC began pushing the legislation in 2004, and several of the bills currently being considered borrow language from AETA — Indiana’s bill aims to keep farming operations “free from the threat of terrorism and interference from unauthorized third persons,” for instance.
  • Food Safety Modernization Act Testing Requirement Axed:  At the very beginning of 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released its proposals for the most important food safety regulations in a generation. The proposed rule on “Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls For Human Food,” lays out the procedures that food manufacturers — cookie factories, grocery warehouses, frozen foods packagers — would need to implement in order to reduce the risk that their products would harbor pathogens. The proposal grew out of the landmark Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) passed exactly two years earlier, and it aimed to prevent one million illnesses a year. One strange quirk of the proposed rule, though, is that it doesn’t require facilities to conduct microbiological testing to confirm that their food safety programs are working. It says that manufacturers can swab surfaces or test samples of finished goods for microbes if they like, but it puts them under no obligation to do so. [... The FDA] is accepting public comments on the regulations until May 15, so if you want them to require food manufacturers to test their facilities and products for pathogens, speak up soon.

Here’s what Republicans are calling “tax increases” (implying *everyone’s* taxes)

How much should Boehner’s personal opinion on any matter count after the election?  The Republicans in the House and Senate are protecting the rich and powerful from paying more of their fair share by refusing to close tax loopholes used only by the very wealthy, while the paycheck-to-paycheck conservative base rubes believe they’re the ones being protected from a tax increase! Fox programming at its finest.

Steve Benen:

This sentence… “Let’s make it clear, the president got his tax hike on January 1st. The discussion about revenue, in my view, is over.”

…makes exactly as much sense as this sentence: “Let’s make it clear, Republicans got their spending cuts in 2011. The discussion about spending cuts, in my view, is over.”

Below are some of the tax breaks that Obama has targeted for closure in the past and the ones that are in the Senate bill.


  • CARRIED INTEREST. Preferential treatment for private equity, venture capital and other financial managers that lets them pay the 20 percent capital gains rate on much of their income, instead of the higher individual income tax rate on wages.
  • OIL AND GAS SUBSIDIES. Energy sector tax breaks including the oil and gas well-depletion allowance; the domestic manufacturing deduction on oil and gas, and expensing of intangible drilling costs.
  • LAST IN, FIRST OUT (LIFO) ACCOUNTING. An accounting technique used in some industries, especially oil and gas. Companies say this change would force them to revalue old inventory to higher prices.
  • PROFIT DEFERRAL. A deduction for interest expenses on foreign earnings for deferred taxes.
  • FOREIGN TAX CREDIT POOLING. A loophole that lets companies claim more in tax credits than would be paid in U.S. taxes by altering which of their foreign units pay out dividends.
  • INTANGIBLE PROPERTY. A tax break that allows U.S. companies to shelter overseas profits derived from intangible property, such as royalties from drug patents.
  • CORPORATE JETS. A tax break used by corporate jet owners to depreciate fleets.
  • MINIMUM OVERSEAS PROFITS TAX. A minimum tax on overseas profits and using the revenues to help companies invest in the United States.


  • BUFFETT RULE. Named after billionaire investor Warren Buffett, a new 30 percent minimum tax would be applied on household adjusted gross income, phased in between incomes of $1 million to $5 million.
  • OIL FROM TAR SANDS. Oil derived from tar sands would be added to a list of petroleum products that pay into a liability trust fund to help clean up after oil spills.
  • DEDUCTION FOR MOVING OVERSEAS. This provision would end the ability of companies to take tax deductions for costs associated with moving plants and jobs overseas.

Congressional leaders went to the White House on Friday in a last-ditch effort to avert the automatic “sequester” budget cuts that will soon go into effect. After the meeting, Republican leaders Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and John Boehner (R-OH) emerged to reemphasize that the GOP will not consider any new revenues in a deal to avert the sequester.

Boehner said, “the discussion about revenue, in my view, is over.” And McConnell added, “I want to make clear that any solutions will be done through the regular order, with input from both sides of the aisle in public debate…I will not be part of any back-room deal and I will absolutely not agree to increase taxes.”

As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent noted, this position is absurd, and akin to Democrats demanding that 100 percent of future deficit reduction be achieved through tax hikes. As this chart shows, nearly three-quarters of deficit reduction that has been achieved since 2011 has been through spending cuts:

[...] And at the end of the day, all of the deficit reduction talk ignores the fact that the problem with government spending at the moment is that it is too low, not too high.

Barbara Morrill: During President Obama’s press conference on Friday morning, the most eye roll inducing moment had to be when, immediately after he had given an lengthy answer outlining the $2.5 trillion cuts already made to the deficit, the proposals he has put forth over the past two years and his willingness to reach a balanced deal with the Republican Party—who have rejected outright any sort of compromise—a member of the brain trust we call the White House press corps said:

It sounds like you’re saying that this is a Republican problem and not one that you bear any responsibility for.

Well, sure. That’s what it might sound like if you had your head up your ass. But instead of giving that obvious response, the president went with:

THE PRESIDENT: Well, Julie, give me an example of what I might do.

Q: I’m just trying to clarify your statement.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, no, but I’m trying to clarify the question. What I’m suggesting is, I’ve put forward a plan that calls for serious spending cuts, serious entitlement reforms, goes right at the problem that is at the heart of our long-term deficit problem. I’ve offered negotiations around that kind of balanced approach. And so far, we’ve gotten rebuffed because what Speaker Boehner and the Republicans have said is, we cannot do any revenue, we can’t do a dime’s worth of revenue.

And that’s when crickets invaded the room. Not a peep out of ‘em.

According to Boehner, the only available solution to a problem he helped create is one in which his side gets 100% of what it wants, predicated on the assumption that the massive spending cuts agreed to in 2011 have escaped Republicans’ memories altogether. At this point, most Americans want a compromise. Most Democrats want and have already proposed a compromise. But Boehner wants everyone to know there will be no compromise, and there’s nothing the president can say or do to change his mind. I’ll now look forward to pundits everywhere telling me how “both sides” are to blame.

Sequestered Saturday – Day 1: thank the Republican House and its leadership

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.

24-hour warning: By the way, red states take in more federal money than they pay in taxes

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

Some facts:

Mother JonesEven 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

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.

Source: questionall

Want to see how much your state will lose with sequestration cuts? Go here.

A kind of madness: Bob Woodward has lost it, let’s all stop indulging him.

Alex Pareene — Bob Woodward rocked Washington this weekend with an editorial that hammered President Obama for inventing “the sequester” and then being rude enough to ask that Congress not make us have the sequester. [...] Woodward’s most recent Obama book also took the position that presidents “should work their will … on important matters of national business,” though how one’s will should be worked on a congressional opposition party led by a weak leader and unwilling even to negotiate with the president is never really explained. As Jonathan Chait points out, “use mind control to get your way” is an incredibly popular argument among centrist establishment political reporters and analysts. It is a convenient way of taking a debate where most people agree that one side has a reasonable position and the other side an unreasonable position and making it still something you can blame “both sides” for. Sure, the Republicans are both hapless and fanatical, but the president should make them not be.

Jonathan Chait — The first part of Woodward’s claim — that Obama’s side came up with the sequestration idea — is very narrowly true, but it’s a meaningful point only if you ignore everything that happened before and after. [...] Woodward’s second point — “moving the goalposts” — has been torn to shreds like a hunk of meat tossed into the lion cage. Brian Beutler points out that the law didn’t call for spending cuts to be put into place, it called for “deficit reduction.” David Corn adds that Boehner himself conceded the possibility, however remote, that sequestration could be replaced with some mix of higher revenue and lower spending. Dave Weigel points out that Woodward’s own book says the same thing.

Then Bob Woodward went on Morning Joe – “Can you imagine Ronald Reagan sitting there and saying ‘Oh, by the way, I can’t do this because of some budget document? Or George W. Bush saying, ‘You know, I’m not going to invade Iraq because I can’t get the aircraft carriers I need’ or even Bill Clinton saying, ‘You know, I’m not going to attack Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters,’ as he did when Clinton was president because of some budget document? Under the Constitution, the president is commander-in-chief and employs the force. And so we now have the president going out because of this piece of paper and this agreement, I can’t do what I need to do to protect the country. That’s a kind of madness that I haven’t seen in a long time.”

Steve Benen — Woodward is outraged because the deep sequester cuts to the Pentagon have interfered with the deployment of the U.S.S. Harry Truman, which will remain stateside due to budget constraints. For Woodward, there’s no reason for the president to be limited by a “piece of paper” or “some budget document.” What the journalist is referring to, however, is a little something known as the current law of the United States. In other words, Bob Woodward — who used to go after presidents for breaking the law — went on national television this morning to condemn a sitting president for not ignoring federal law.

Daily Intelligencer — Since writing a column last weekend… Bob Woodward has become, as Politico puts it, the “unlikely darling of the right wing.” Judging from the legendary reporter’s latest move, it seems he’s embracing that role. On Wednesday Woodward told CNN that last week a “very senior person” at the White House told him his argument is factually wrong, then threatened him in an e-mail. “It was said very clearly, ‘you will regret doing this,'” Woodward said.

TPM — So was Gene Sperling threatening to sic the black helicopters on Woodward and like fully take him out? The blog and twitter-hordes of the right think so. And they’re circling round Woodward tonight in a glorious defense. The White House denies it. A White House official tells us: “Of course no threat was intended. As Mr. Woodward noted, the email from the aide was sent to apologize for voices being raised in their previous conversation. The note suggested that Mr. Woodward would regret the observation he made regarding the sequester because that observation was inaccurate, nothing more. And Mr. Woodward responded to this aide’s email in a friendly manner.”

Daily Intelligencer — thanks to the aide’s use of the word “regret” the focus will now shift from Woodward’s argument to whether or not the White House is bullying reporters — particularly because that’s more entertaining than actually talking about the sequester.

Alex Pareene — In 2010 he said a Hillary Clinton-Joe Biden switch was “on the table,” although it was not. He suffered no professional consequences for saying made-up nonsense. Bob Woodward has lost it, let’s all stop indulging him.

Congressional Republicans return from their Sequestration Vacation

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.

Sequester week: 5 excuses the GOP is using to crash the government

Marc Ambinder looks at 5 reasons why the GOP might risk the sequester, which could also be called 5 excuses the GOP is using to crash the government (emphasis, parenthetical comments below are mine):

(PRIDE, HURT FEE FEES) 1. The White House may have oversold its victory in convincing Republicans to jettison Grover Norquist’s tax pledge and for winning tax hikes with a correspondingly miniscule amount of spending cuts when the issue first came to the foreground at the end of the year. Democratic triumphalism made Republicans feel like they had lost big-time, when in fact, there really was no alternative…

(LIES) 2. The sequester, many GOPers have come to believe (have they?), was Barack Obama’s idea. Therefore, since it was his idea, if it happens, Republicans will be able to blame him for its consequences…

(SHIRKING) 3. The sequester does not directly hit GOP constituencies at first. It hits government workers, primarily, in terms of layoffs and furloughs. Actual pain will first be felt by people who rely on government services that aren’t entitlements. So maybe, (maybe?) soft Republicans won’t be disgusted…

(HOSTAGE TAKING) 4. Maybe: The best way to force the White House to make a deal is to let the sequester happen, and then let its effects swirl around a bit, and let panic set in.

(STRAIGHT UP LAZINESS) 5. Spending has to be cut. The sequester does it summarily, but it does indeed accomplish a core goal of the revanchist wing of the GOP.

There’s actually a new excuse! #6

(STUPIDITY) 6. One of the new John Boehner sequestration talking points is that Republicans couldn’t possibly accept any new revenue, even the revenue he was publicly offering two months ago, because there are still wasteful government programs. As Boehner wrote Wednesday, “no one should be talking about raising taxes when the government is still paying people to play videogames, giving folks free cellphones, and buying $47,000 cigarette-smoking machines.”

Guess what?

  • The $47,000 smoking machine… turns out to be a piece of medical research equipment used by the Veteran Administration: “VA Researchers are using the smoking machine to cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in mice by the same mechanisms by which the disease occurs in Veterans and others who smoke cigarettes,” 
  • Paying people to play video games is not some federal grant to mail checks to good-for-nothing slackers to lounge around playing their newfangled machines while honest God-fearing Americans go to work. It’s a grant from the National Science Foundation to test the hypothesis that some cognitive loss owing to old age can be slowed through certain video games.
  • Giving folks free cell phones [to the poor] has existed since 1984, and obviously moved from landlines to cell phones, on the theory that a phone is vital for things like being able to contact police or fire departments, get a job, and so on. Recipients get 250 free minutes a month — which, at less than ten minutes a day, doesn’t leave room for lots of chatting about Justin Bieber.

Yep, you’d have to be a complete idiot to take anything the GOP says at face value – especially when they talk about “raising taxes.” In the current debate over revenue and sequestration cuts, it sounds like the President and the Democrats want everyone’s taxes raised. Nope. In reality, it means that the President wants to close tax loopholes for the wealthy to acquire some additional revenue to put towards the deficit, which would make the spending cuts less deep. Reality and the Republican Party is the difference between information and disinformation.

Sequester week: for accuracy call it the #Teaquester or the #Boehnerquester

The Republican-led House voted itself a vacation this week without one Democrat voting for it. House members will not return to work until Monday, February 25, which gives them exactly four days to work on a solution to the sequester.

Speaker John Boehner writes in the Wall Street Journal that the deep automatic spending cuts set for the end of the month were President Obama’s idea. But a July 2011 PowerPoint obtained by John Avlon shows the opposite may be true. “It’s a PowerPoint presentation that Boehner’s office developed with the Republican Policy Committee and sent out to the Capitol Hill GOP on July 31, 2011… It’s essentially an internal sales document from the old dealmaker Boehner to his unruly and often unreasonable Tea Party cohort. But it’s clear as day in the presentation that ‘sequestration’ was considered a cudgel to guarantee a reduction in federal spending–the conservatives’ necessary condition for not having America default on its obligations.” — Political Wire

At this point, it’d be a mistake to suggest the bipartisan talks have stalled, since there [are] no talks — Democrats have unveiled a sequester alternative, and Republicans have not; Democrats have said they’re open to compromise, and Republican have said they aren’t. The probably of avoiding next week’s mess is quickly approaching zero. With this in mind, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has a 900-word op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on the subject, devoted almost entirely to a desperate attempt to avoid blame. In the larger context, it’s only mildly annoying that Boehner invests more energy in pointing fingers than working on a solution, but it’s far worse that the Speaker peddles blatant falsehoods, lacking enough respect for the public and the political world to be honest with them… — Steve Benen

As the deadline nears, many Republicans are not only unwilling to look for bipartisan solutions to stop the sequester – they are gleefully looking forward to its impact on American families:

  • “It’s pretty clear to me that the sequester is going to go into effect…Read my lips: I’m not interested in an 11th-hour negotiation.” — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
  • “Sequestration will take place…I am excited. It will be the first time since I’ve been in Congress that we really have significant cuts.” — Republican Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)
  • “Sequestration needs to happen…Bottom line, it needs to happen and that’s the deal we struck to raise the debt limit.” — Republican Congressman Scott DesJarlais (R-TN)
  • “I think sequester’s going to happen…I think people want it to happen.” — Republican Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)
  • “We’re willing to let it go through till they (Democrats) respond to us.” — Republican Congressman Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA)

“That’s the biggest problem with the Republicans. They think spending is the most important thing. It’s not.” [Former Virginia governor and conservative Republican Jim Gilmore] says he has urged GOP leaders to back down and compromise to prevent the so-called sequester spending cuts from going through – “I keep telling them, you’re going to lose this” – and he has strong words for congressional leaders’ focus on deficit reduction as their primary economy goal. “Above all things,” he says, “they shouldn’t be talking about debt and deficits. Because the left’s got an answer for them.” That answer would be, raise taxes, which Gilmore says is the opposite of what the economy needs right now – and he’s quite critical of Democrats for pushing tax increases. But spending cuts won’t help the economy either, he says. — Wonkblog

President Barack Obama lashed out against Republicans, saying they are unwilling to raise taxes to reduce deficits and warning that the jobs of essential government workers, from teachers to emergency responders, are on the line. [...] Obama cautioned that if the $85 billion in immediate cuts — known as the sequester — occur, the full range of government would feel the effects. Among those he listed: furloughed FBI agents, reductions in spending for communities to pay police and fire personnel and teachers, and decreased ability to respond to threats around the world. [...] “People will lose their jobs,” he said. “The unemployment rate might tick up again. So far at least, the ideas that the Republicans have proposed ask nothing of the wealthiest Americans or the biggest corporations,” Obama said. “So the burden is all on the first responders, or seniors or middle class families.”

The most likely scenario, according to officials on both sides of Pennsylvania Ave, is that Congress will kick the can on the sequester until the government’s budget authority runs out on March 27. Congress will have to pass a continuing resolution by that date, or the government will be shut down. Indeed the shutdown is a more acute, if routine, threat — with nearly all of the government ceasing to operate immediately instead of broad-based spending reductions.

Next month, our government will be subject to devastating across-the-board spending cuts, fed furloughs, and / or a government shutdown — all of which will be a disaster for most Americans, the economy, national security, future growth, and reducing unemployment. The entire country is now at the mercy of the two sides of the GOP: all the conservative extremists who were parked in Congress by tea party ‘patriots’ and Jebus freaks who live in deep red gerrymandered districts, and the Republican Establishment whose only allegiance is to the wealthy elite. As of now, the majority of us are just hostages.

GOP House votes to recess until Feb 25, leaving FOUR DAYS to deal with the Sequester

THE HILL (Feb 15): The House and Senate each voted Friday to recess for the Presidents Day week, which means lawmakers will have just four days — once they return — to deal with the $85 billion sequester due to take effect March 1… House Democrats have spent the week arguing that the House should not recess for the week, so that it can work on a sequester replacement plan. But the House voted 222-190 on Friday morning to recess next week — every Democrat voted against it, along with just four Republicans… both the House and Senate will return at 2 p.m. Feb. 25.

When they return on Feb. 25…

WASHINGTON POST / Senate Democrats propose cuts, tax hikes on rich to avoid sequester: The proposal would raise $110 billion to replace the sequester through Jan. 2, 2014, when across-the-board cuts adopted during the 2011 debt-limit showdown would kick back in for the rest of the decade. Half the new savings would come from spending cuts, including an end to direct federal payments to farmers and deeper cuts to the Pentagon after 2015. The other half would come from tax hikes, primarily on millionaires. Households earning more than $2 million a year would have to pay at least 30 percent of their income in federal taxes.

WASHINGTON POSTThere are now four big plans to stop the sequester: 1) The new plan from Senate Democrats: Replace one year of the sequester with defense cuts, domestic cuts and tax hikes. 2) The old House GOP plan: Eliminate other government programs to replace the sequester cuts. 3) The House Democratic plan: Fend off the sequester for one year by raising taxes and cutting farm subsidies. 4) President Obama’s plan to fend off the sequester for a short while with a smaller package of cuts and tax reforms.

NATIONAL JOURNAL (Feb 11): Sequestration is now the most likely scenario, according to 78 percent of National Journal‘s National Security Insiders, who are not optimistic that Congress and the White House will reach a deal to reduce the deficit by the March 1 deadline. [...]  “If Republicans cannot get a new deal involving entitlement cuts but no added tax revenue, they prefer accepting sequestration cuts to defense programs as the price of getting some cuts to civil programs. If Democrats cannot get a deal involving more tax revenue but without entitlement cuts, they prefer accepting sequestration cuts to civil programs as the price of getting some defense cuts,” one Insider said. “And neither side thinks it can get a new deal that is acceptable to it.”

THINK PROGRESS: House Republicans have yet to roll out a new plan of their own to replace the sequester, instead pointing to a sequester replacement bill that they passed in the last Congress (that they have no plans to vote on again). The Congressional Progressive Caucus has also proposed a replacement for the sequester. Here’s a comparison of the three plans:

House Republican Plan Senate Democratic plan Congressional Progressive Caucus Plan
Replaces the sequester with only domestic spending cuts. Replaces the sequester with $110 billion in deficit reduction, equally split between spending cuts and revenue. Replaces the sequester with $960 billion in new revenue, $278 billion in defense cuts, and invests in new job creation measures.
Includes no new revenue. Denies the Child Tax Credit to parents who are undocumented immigrants. Includes $55 billion in revenue, split between: a 30 percent minimum tax on millionaires (the Buffett rule), repealing subsidies for oil companies, and eliminating the ability of corporations to deduct the cost of moving jobs overseas. Reinstates the Making Work Pay tax credit. Ends the carried interest loophole that benefits wealthy money managers, closes tax loopholes that encourage corporations to send profits to offshore tax havens, cuts oil subsidies, closes loopholes that benefit buyers of private jets and yachts, and closes loopholes in the estate tax.
Voids defense cuts. Includes $27.5 billion in cuts to defense spending. Includes $278 billion in cuts to defense spending.
Cuts domestic spending via: cutting food stamps, Medicaid, and the social services block grant (which, among other things, funds Meals on Wheels). Cuts domestic spending via ending direct agriculture subsidies, “which are currently provided regardless of yields, prices, or farm income.” Invests $160 billion in infrastructure.

…The sequester itself, meanwhile, would devastate several important programs that have already been hurt by budget cuts. Already, the deficit reduction achieved since 2010 (which is hampering economic growth and hurting job creation) has been primarily achieved through spending cuts. In fact, just one-quarter of it has come through new revenue… Only the CPC’s plan would result in deficit reduction having been achieved through equal parts spending cuts and new revenue. The CPC plan is also the only one acknowledging that job creation, not the deficit, is the country’s most pressing problem.

Various and sundry reasons why we can’t have nice things

Feds spend $7 on THE ELDERLY for every $1 on KIDS: Funny how the blame is always on the (nonexistent) welfare moms who keep pumping out kids for more government cheese. (via) »»»»»» SENIORS TAKE NOTE: it’s impossible for the GOP to draft a budget that balances in 10 years without eating into entitlement benefits for people older than 55. »»»»»»  House GOP leaders want Obama to own the automatic cuts — the sequester (the OBAMAQUESTER) — but their budget chief, PAUL RYAN, is expected to count those cuts toward his 10 year plan.   

Kerry: Budget cuts may force reduction in aid to ISRAEL: Some $3 billion goes to Israel annually in US military aid, 74 percent of which must be spent in the US. »»»»»»  Incomes rose more than 11 percent for the TOP 1 PERCENT of earners during the economic recovery and declined by 0.4 percent for everyone else.

After a METEOR struck RUSSIA, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology announced Friday that it will hold a hearing over asteroids — that committee is chaired by THIS GUY, so maybe they’ll try to pray them away.   »»»»»»  “The REPUBLICAN PARTY was always an uneasy marriage between the Jesus freaks and the plutocrats.”  »»»»»»  Why a $9.00 MINIMUM WAGE would NOT lead employers to shed jobs or increase prices and pass the costs onto consumers. 

The NRA says regular Americans can’t protect themselves without high-capacity magazines.  »»»»»»  We’re at war, but… why did Senator JOHN MCCAIN claim he wouldn’t filibuster CHUCK HAGEL, then go ahead and do so anyway? Because Hagel hurt his feelings over five years ago.  »»»»»» SEAN HANNITY“It’s the first time a filibuster of a cabinet nominee has been used. And needless to say, this marks a major win for the GOP, and pretty embarrassing defeat for the president.”  »»»»»»  FreedomWorks produced a video of a fake GIANT PANDA having sex with a fake HILLARY CLINTON. Seriously.  

The GOP has been successful at cutting deficits to obstruct economic recovery

Brian Beutler says the GOP’s obsession with the deficit has HURT the economy: 

Here’s the buried lede from the Congressional Budget Office, which on Tuesday released its Budget and Economic Outlook for the coming decade: D.C.’s deficit obsession has been quite effective at cutting deficits at the expense of the still-struggling economy.

“[E]conomic activity will expand slowly this year, with real GDP growing by just 1.4 percent,” according to CBO’s projections. “That slow growth reflects a combination of ongoing improvement in underlying economic factors and fiscal tightening that has already begun or is scheduled to occur-including the expiration of a 2 percentage-point cut in the Social Security payroll tax, an increase in tax rates on income above certain thresholds, and scheduled automatic reductions in federal spending. That subdued economic growth will limit businesses’ need to hire additional workers, thereby causing the unemployment rate to stay near 8 percent this year, CBO projects.”

In other words, intentional efforts to reduce annual deficits and stabilize the debt are working. But if you retrain your gaze from the government’s balance sheet to the real economy, you’ll see the impact of that austerity is fewer people working and slower growth. According to CBO, the recovery won’t really pick up steam until next year, and the economy won’t have recovered until the end of 2017, when it will reach its output potential, and unemployment will fall to 5.5 percent.

CBO notes that the U.S. hasn’t experienced six consecutive years with unemployment exceeding 7.5 percent in over 70 years.

If you cut spending, you slow economic growth. It’s a pretty simple cause and effect. And it’s very important for the Republican Party to try and slow economic growth when a Democrat is in the Oval Office.

Greg Sargent piles on: 

President Obama continues to demand a mix of spending cuts and new revenues via the closing of loopholes, and yesterday he called on Congress to agree on a short term package of cuts and tax reforms to temporarily delay the sequester cuts, since they could cripple the recovery. GOP leaders shot this down, because they continue to refuse to countenance any new revenues. As John Boehner put it today: “The American people believe that the tax question has been settled.”

Meanwhile, other Republicans are taking other steps to avoid agreeing to new revenues. Republicans on the Senate and House Armed Services Committee will unveil a plan today to avert the sequester for one year by paying for it with … a 10 percent across the board reduction in the federal workforce. (That would do wonders for the recovery.)

So, here’s a chart, created by House progressives, that perfectly captures just how absurd it is that Republicans insist only on spending cuts to replace the sequester, while refusing to entertain a penny in new revenues from the rich. It shows what happened during the last two Congressional rounds of deficit reduction:


The first circle represents the more than $1.5 trillion in spending cuts Dems agreed to, in exchange for zero in new revenues, as part of the debt ceiling deal of 2011. The second circle portrays the state of play after Republicans agreed to some $700 billion in new revenues as part of the recent fiscal cliff deal. As you can see, the ledger is still tilted lopsidedly in favor of Republicans: Some 70 percent of the deficit reduction we’ve seen thus far came in the form of spending cuts Republicans want, while only 30 percent came in the form of the new revenues Democrats want.

Here’s what this means: Even if the parties reach a deal in the third round of deficit reduction to avert the sequester with something approaching an equivalent sum of spending cuts and new revenues, the overall deficit reduction balance would still be heavily lopsided towards Republicans. Yet they continue to insist on resolving round three only through cuts, anyway.

As Steve Benen notes, we know this sequester would do severe damage to the economy, because the Congressional Budget Office has told us so, and because the recent economic contraction also confirmed this.



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.


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 Red State Malingerers and the Sequester

With the sequester right around the corner, it’s important to point out that it will be Democrats fighting to reduce those automatic cuts to programs that ALL Americans rely on — and who will be trying to reduce some of those cuts with new revenue sources (something Republicans are REFUSING to consider, they say, and something they might be willing to shut down the government over). On the other hand, Republicans will be fighting to slash funding for all those programs so that the military-industrial complex can grow fatter, so that the one-percent can continue opening new off-shore accounts, and so that CEO bonuses can continue to increase exponentially.

Markos reminds the GOP base-rubes that if they’re not related to the Koch Brothers, then it’s actually the Democrats in Congress who will be fighting for their personal interests whether they want to believe it or not:

“… the Right has suddenly gotten a bug up its ass about SSI, as the issue morphs into the new “welfare queen.” But like anything else having to do with federal benefits, guess who is doing the mooching?

Map showing that recipients in Red States are far more likely to be receiving federal disability benefits.

Of the 15 states that have more than seven percent of the population on disability, 10 are Red states. The two states with the biggest percentage of the population on disability—Kentucky and West Virginia—are both VERY Red at the federal level.

And thus continues the greatest of modern political ironies—if Republicans got their way and drowned the federal government in a bathtub, it would be Republicans who suffered most.”

I think we understand how GOP voters are able to twist the logic: they deserve their benefits, while everyone else does not. Sort of like Paul Ryan with his granny-starver budget vs. all those SSI checks he collected for college.

Unfortunately for red-state malingerers, these cuts will not automatically skip over people who like to demand birth certificates, misspell signs, and wear tri-cornered hats. And that’s about the only good news I can offer.

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.