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If Only Sen Snowe’s Actions Met Her Misplaced Rhetoric

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner talked to the Senate Small Business Committee, urging its members to approve jobs measures proposed by the White House. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), ostensibly Congress’ most moderate Republican and the member most likely to listen to reason, went on quite a tirade.

“Your primary mission is to craft the economic policy of this country, and at this point, it simply isn’t working,” she told Geithner. “Something’s gone terribly wrong, and what I hear over and over again is that there is no tempo, a tempo of urgency.”

“I don’t know who you’re talking to…but you need to talk to the average person,” she said later in a testy back and forth with Geithner. “Rome is burning.”

I’m delighted Snowe is pretending to care about the economy. I’m also delighted she thinks she’s in touch with what “average” people want, and would like to see policymakers to act with “urgency.”

But if Olympia Snowe thinks her actions are consistent with her rhetoric, she’s sadly mistaken.

We are, after all, talking about the alleged moderate from Maine who, just last week, voted with right-wing senators to refuse a debate on the popular and effective American Jobs Act. She’s the same senator who’s refused to endorse any of the provisions in the bill, no matter how much they’d help. What was that she was saying about “urgency”?

Snowe thinks Geithner is responsible for crafting the nation’s economic policy? Here’s a radical idea: maybe if Snowe could bring herself to stop filibustering worthwhile economic legislation, Geithner might have more success.

“Rome is burning”? And who, exactly, does Snowe believe is responsible? The party with good economic ideas that can’t overcome Republican obstructionism, or the party engaged in the obstructionist tactics, offering ideas that would make the economy worse, and by some accounts, holding back the nation deliberately?

Snowe seems to believe the status quo isn’t working. On this, she’s correct. But it’s not working because Republicans are getting their way.

In what universe does it make sense for Snowe to blame Geithner? Snowe and Republicans got the tax cuts they demanded; Snowe and Republicans saw the stimulus spending evaporate, just as they wanted; Snowe and Republicans are watching the public sector lay off hundreds of thousands of workers, just as GOP policy dictates; and Snowe and Republicans have forced the White House to accept massive spending cuts, which takes money out of the economy on purpose.

And now she’s complaining? Why, because her party is getting what it wants and she doesn’t like the results?

Arguably one of the most dramatic Democratic dilemmas of 2011 and 2012 is overcoming the realization that Republicans are getting their way on economic policy and then denying any responsibility for the results. Indeed, it’s a rather extraordinary con: GOP officials see much of their agenda implemented, then see it fail, and then blame Obama when their policies don’t work.

The nation is reading from the Republicans’ economic playbook, and thanks in part to Snowe’s filibusters, that’s not likely to change anytime soon. When the GOP agenda fails, Republicans should be prepared to accept responsibility for the consequences, instead of pretending they’re not getting their way.

By: Steve Benen, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 18, 2011

October 19, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Economic Recovery, GOP, Income Gap, Middle Class, Senate, Taxes | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Herman Cain Riding High: Dial 9-9-9 For Nonsense

Herman Cain is riding high in the polls. Among other things, his ascent is based upon a charming sense of humour, rousing oratorical skills, a story of moderate achievement in business, zero experience in elected office, which has allowed him to mould a perfectly zeitgest-matching conservative platform untainted by a record of no-longer zeitgest-matching political decisions, and, finally, the bold, clear proposition of the 9-9-9 tax plan. Now that Mr Cain is having a moment in the sun, what had seemed a gimmicky ploy is undergoing serious scrutiny, and we can expect Mr Cain to get hammered on the details of the 9-9-9 plan in tomorrow night’s Republican debate.

Mr Cain touts the simplicity of the 9-9-9 plan, but it is anything but simple. Even after reading about it on Mr Cain’s campaign site, I’m still not sure I understand it. I thought I knew that the plan proposed 9% income, sales, and corporate tax rates. But the corporate tax is not a simple reduction in the corporate tax rate, as I had thought, but a value-added-tax on “Gross income less all purchases from other U.S. located businesses, all capital investment, and net exports.” Anyway, the 9-9-9 plan is not what Mr Cain ultimately has in mind for American tax policy. It is but the first step of a two-step process to replace most federal taxes with a 30% national sales tax, a version of the so-called “Fair Tax”. Why not go directly to the Fair Tax, then? Why the transitional step? Mr Cain’s statement doesn’t really say, though it does seem to imply that the Fair Tax is at present too unpopular to implement. “Amidst a backdrop of the economic renewal created by the 9-9-9 Plan,” Mr Cain says “I will begin the process of educating the American people on the benefits of continuing the next step to the Fair Tax.”

Mike Huckabee, a Fox News presenter and former governor of Arkansas, plumped for the Fair Tax during the 2008 race for the Republican nomination and the plan came in for a lot of abuse by economists and commentators across the ideological continuum. Perhaps Mr Huckabee’s failure to get far with the Fair Tax explains Mr Cain’s choice to campaign on an altogether different tax plan. Perhaps the idea is that he can capture the allegiance of the Fair Tax’s many conservative fans while ducking the criticisms of the Fair Tax by pushing a fresh plan with a catchy name implying super-low rates. But this can only work if (a) the media and Mr Cain’s competition let him get away with advocating the Fair Tax while running on his transitional plan, and (b) the transitional plan stands up to scrutiny better than the Fair Tax has. And this seems unlikely.

The National Review today ran a blistering critique of Mr Cain’s 9-9-9 plan. A selection:

This tripartite scheme makes for a succinct slogan but has little else to recommend it. In particular Cain’s inability to choose between a sales tax and a VAT is puzzling. The two are very similar in their economic effects. The chief advantage of the sales tax over a VAT is that the latter is considered easier for governments to raise, because it is hidden. The chief advantage of the VAT over the sales tax is that it is easier to enforce without stimulating black markets. (Another is that it reduces the risk of taxing business-to-business purchases.) Opting for both as a transitional step means courting the danger of a VAT with none of its rewards: In the first stage, the government would get a new money machine, and in the second it would supposedly destroy that machine and opt for something hard to enforce.

The two-stage scheme is self-defeating in another respect as well. The 30 percent national sales tax, whatever its other merits, would be significantly softer on the poor than the 9-9-9 transitional step, since the larger sales tax includes a “prebate” check to all Americans to exempt the basic necessities of life from being taxed, while 9-9-9 includes no similar provision. Leaving aside whether a major tax increase on people at the bottom of the income scale is a good idea, what is the point of first raising their taxes and then cutting them?

In the last debate, only Rick Santorum noted that Mr Cain’s plan involves the danger of even temporarily handing the government “a new money machine”, a point one would expect to resonate with conservative voters. I expect we’ll hear a lot more of this line of argument in upcoming debates. More generally, the fact that Mr Cain apparently believes it is politically feasible to wipe out the entire status-quo federal tax system in order to move to the 9-9-9 scheme, and then wipe out the entire 9-9-9 scheme in order move to a 30% national sales tax seems to me to draw attention to Mr Cain’s policy inexperience and dazzling political naivete.

That the 9-9-9 plan would cut taxes on the rich while raising them on the poor led Bruce Bartlett to call the proposal “a distributional monstrosity”, a phrase you could imagine Barack Obama using to good effect in a general election. Why would you propose to raise taxes on the poor, making yourself vulnerable to charges of monstrous callousness, when, as the NR editors note, your ultimate plan would only cut them later? Well, you wouldn’t, if you knew what you were doing. It requires only superficial examination to see that Mr Cain’s 9-9-9/Fair Tax scheme is more an ill-considered, hand-waving improvisation than a serious plan from a serious policymaker. He’s winging it, which I supposed makes it all the more impressive that he’s been able to wing it all the way to preeminence in a few polls. But now he’s made himself a target, and an easy one at that, so I doubt Mr Cain will wing it all the way to the nomination.

By: Will Wilkerson, Democracy in America, October 17, 2011

October 19, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Elections, GOP, Republicans, Taxes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rep. Cantor: Bought And Paid For By Wall Street Investors

Why has Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) been “increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street,” while defending the Tea Party protests as an organic movement?” It’s all about the money.

Rep. Cantor’s campaign committee and leadership PAC have been bankrolled by Wall Street since he was elected in 2000. The financial industry has been his largest contributor, increasing donations to the congressman by 1,326% between the 2002 and 2010 election cycles.

So while Rep. Cantor may believe the Occupy Wall Street movement is “the pitting of Americans against Americans,” the reality is the movement is pitting Americans against his campaign contributors.

Then, of course, there is Rep. Cantor’s wife, Diana, a fixture on Wall Street. Ms. Cantor served as a VP at Goldman Sachs, a Managing Director at New York Private Bank & Trust, and currently is a partner at Alternative Investment Management, LLC – a firm that “invests mainly in hedge funds and private equity funds.”

According to Open Secrets

Thus far in the 2012 election cycle, Rep. Cantor is the second largest recipient of financial industry donations to House members.

In the 2010 election cycle, he was the third largest recipient of Wall Street cash. In fact, ever since his election to Congress, Rep. Cantor has been in the top 16 recipients of financial industry contributions.

Up to now in the 2012 election cycle, five of Rep. Cantor’s top 10 donors to his campaign committee and leadership PAC were in the financial industry.

Rep. Cantor is currently the second largest recipient of Securities and Investment contributions (which includes hedge funds, private equity and venture capital money).

During the 2010 election cycle, six of Rep. Cantor’s top 10 donors to his campaign committee and leadership PAC were from finance related industries.

During the 2010 election cycle he was the fourth largest recipient of Securities and Investment contributions.

By: PR Watch, Center for Media and Democracy, October 18, 2011

October 19, 2011 Posted by | Banks, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Corporations, Elections, GOP, Middle Class, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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