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“An Old Lie Makes A Shameful Comeback”: John Boehner Owes The Public An Explanation For How He Can Be So Uninformed

USA Today ran an editorial today on House Republicans’ anti-Obama lawsuit, and the paper was clearly unimpressed, calling it a “political sideshow.” As the paper always does, it then ran a companion opinion piece making the opposite case. Defending the litigation was, of course, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

The basic pitch was copy-and-paste boilerplate, but it included something specific that’s worth additional attention.

I believe the president’s actions in a number of areas – including job-destroying energy regulations, releasing the “Taliban 5” from Guantanamo without notice and waiving the work requirements in welfare – exceed his constitutional authority.

Remember, Boehner – or whoever writes these unpersuasive missives for the Speaker – could have picked any examples he wanted to bolster the case. If Obama “exceeds his constitutional authority” all of the time, as congressional Republicans claim, Boehner and his office presumably have a lengthy list to choose from.

And what did the Speaker come up with? Climate regulations, in a rather literal sense, can’t be an example of the president “exceeding his constitutional authority” – using the Clean Air Act to address the climate crisis has already been authorized by the U.S. Supreme Court. A prisoner swap to free an American POW is also a bizarre example, since prisoner swaps do not require congressional or judicial approval. In other words, Boehner’s 0 for 2.

And then there’s the claim that President Obama “waived the work requirement in welfare.” This is a lie, and if Boehner doesn’t know that, the Speaker owes the public an explanation for how he can be so uninformed.

We last covered this in March, when former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) alluded to the same falsehood, but in case anyone’s forgotten, let’s quickly review reality.

In the president’s first term, a bipartisan group of governors asked the Obama administration for some flexibility on the existing welfare law, transitioning beneficiaries from welfare to work. The White House agreed to give the states some leeway – so long as the work requirement wasn’t weakened.

That’s not “waiving the work requirements in welfare”; that’s the opposite. Providing governors, including several Republicans, the flexibility they requested to help move beneficiaries back into the workforce is exactly the sort of power-to-the-states policy that Boehner and his cohorts usually like.

But in 2012, the policy inspired Mitt Romney and GOP leaders to turn this into a rather shameless lie, accusing Obama of weakening welfare work requirements. The more fact-checkers went berserk, the more aggressive Romney became in pushing the lie. One can only speculate as to the rationale behind the ugly falsehood, though the Republican presidential campaign seemed quite eager at the time to use the words “Obama” and “welfare” in the same sentence, even after the GOP candidate and his team realized they were lying.

Two years later, Boehner is echoing the racially charged falsehood for no reason. If the Speaker is struggling to defend his frivolous lawsuit, that’s unfortunate, but it’s no excuse to repeat a shameful lie.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 28, 2014

July 29, 2014 Posted by | Constitution, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Corporate Artful Dodgers”: We’re Heading Toward A World In Which Only The Human People Pay Taxes

In recent decisions, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court has made clear its view that corporations are people, with all the attendant rights. They are entitled to free speech, which in their case means spending lots of money to bend the political process to their ends. They are entitled to religious beliefs, including those that mean denying benefits to their workers. Up next, the right to bear arms?

There is, however, one big difference between corporate persons and the likes of you and me: On current trends, we’re heading toward a world in which only the human people pay taxes.

We’re not quite there yet: The federal government still gets a tenth of its revenue from corporate profits taxation. But it used to get a lot more — a third of revenue came from profits taxes in the early 1950s, a quarter or more well into the 1960s. Part of the decline since then reflects a fall in the tax rate, but mainly it reflects ever-more-aggressive corporate tax avoidance — avoidance that politicians have done little to prevent.

Which brings us to the tax-avoidance strategy du jour: “inversion.” This refers to a legal maneuver in which a company declares that its U.S. operations are owned by its foreign subsidiary, not the other way around, and uses this role reversal to shift reported profits out of American jurisdiction to someplace with a lower tax rate.

The most important thing to understand about inversion is that it does not in any meaningful sense involve American business “moving overseas.” Consider the case of Walgreen, the giant drugstore chain that, according to multiple reports, is on the verge of making itself legally Swiss. If the plan goes through, nothing about the business will change; your local pharmacy won’t close and reopen in Zurich. It will be a purely paper transaction — but it will deprive the U.S. government of several billion dollars in revenue that you, the taxpayer, will have to make up one way or another.

Does this mean President Obama is wrong to describe companies engaging in inversion as “corporate deserters”? Not really — they’re shirking their civic duty, and it doesn’t matter whether they literally move abroad or not. But apologists for inversion, who tend to claim that high taxes are driving businesses out of America, are indeed talking nonsense. These businesses aren’t moving production or jobs overseas — and they’re still earning their profits right here in the U.S.A. All they’re doing is dodging taxes on those profits.

And Congress could crack down on this tax dodge — it’s already illegal for a company to claim that its legal domicile is someplace where it has little real business, and tightening the criteria for declaring a company non-American could block many of the inversions now taking place. So is there any reason not to stop this gratuitous loss of revenue? No.

Opponents of a crackdown on inversion typically argue that instead of closing loopholes we should reform the whole system by which we tax profits, and maybe stop taxing profits altogether. They also tend to argue that taxing corporate profits hurts investment and job creation. But these are very bad arguments against ending the practice of inversion.

First of all, there are some good reasons to tax profits. In general, U.S. taxes favor unearned income from capital over earned income from wages; the corporate tax helps redress this imbalance. We could, in principle, maintain taxes on unearned income if we offset cuts in corporate taxes with substantially higher tax rates on income from capital gains and dividends — but this would be an imperfect fix, and in any case, given the state of our politics, this just isn’t going to happen.

Furthermore, ending profits taxation would greatly increase the power of corporate executives. Is this really something we want to do?

As for reforming the system: Yes, that would be a good idea. But the case for eventual reform basically has nothing to do with the case for closing the inversion loophole right now. After all, there are big debates about the shape of reform, debates that would take years to resolve even if we didn’t have a Republican Party that reliably opposes anything the president proposes, even if it was something Republicans were for just a few years ago. Why let corporations avoid paying their fair share for years, while we wait for the logjam to break?

Finally, none of this has anything to do with investment and job creation. If and when Walgreen changes its “citizenship,” it will get to keep more of its profits — but it will have no incentive to invest those extra profits in its U.S. operations.

So this should be easy. By all means let’s have a debate about how and how much to tax profits. Meanwhile, however, let’s close this outrageous loophole.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, July 27, 2014

July 29, 2014 Posted by | Corporations, Tax Evasion, Tax Loopholes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Ted Cruz Leads GOP To Disaster (Again)”: Marketing And Posturing To Drive The Base Crazier Than Usual:

Ted Cruz (R-TX), cast in the mold of a spotlight-grabbing Sarah Palin on the way to a reality show, was accurately described by Rachel Maddow as a “brand on legs.” This explains why he has gone after the most uncontroversial program Obama passed unilaterally in wake of the failure of legislation to pass; that is, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

As far as ethics goes, using asylum-seeking children “warehoused” in facilities that look like part Katrina shelter/part dog kennel, as an excuse to attack DACA, falls somewhere between heartlessly passing by the desperate victim robbed in The Good Samaritan, and Frank Underwood sociopathically throwing a reporter in front of a subway car… if both victims were dehydrated little girls desperately trying to escape sex traffickers.

Women and children fleeing violence is nothing new: while some of the stories of how my family came here are likely tall tales, the truth seems to be that my great, great grandmother and great grandfather came here, fleeing Northern Ireland. I had family on both sides of the Ulster Plantation divide, which meant my cousins were likely killing each other in alleys: a condition that would continue for years to come.

When my Protestant great, great grandfather disappeared one day, my Catholic great, great grandmother and my then-12-year-old great grandfather were left to both go through Ellis Island, and find jobs in a New York City that was not happy with it’s current influx of immigrants: they faced openly-bigoted laws and hiring practices. The headwinds they faced, however, seem modest compared to what the border children face today.

The child refugees and asylum-seekers of today, unfortunately, fall perfectly into a difficult, complicated and heated political narrative at a time when everyone is already at each other’s throats: after much delay, Obama finally announced that he would be giving additional unilateral relief around the end of the summer. Everything we see now from Ted Cruz is just marketing and posturing to drive the base crazier than usual:

“The staggering conditions that children are being subjected to are a direct result of the amnesty that President Obama illegally and unilaterally enacted in 2012 [DACA],” said Cruz.

It is hard to believe an Ivy-League Senator would be so ignorant, so I really do think he’s simply knowingly lying: the influx is caused by the highest murder rate in the world in these Central American countries, where people flee areas where gangs murder and rape with impunity; the DACA program will not benefit a single child at the border because you must have been in the country continuously since 2007 to qualify; a president’s administration is not responsible for the lies told by the drug cartels often murdering and raping the desperate children they lure into the desert like a giant windowless van full of candy; they aren’t being drawn by the American Dream, they’re fleeing the Central American nightmare as best they can, and other countries have seen large increases in asylum applications as those fleeing Guatamala, Honduras and El Salvador jump up as much as 700 percent.

While the anger on the Left has been slow in coming, it is still coming: the visuals of children in those horrible shelters aren’t leaving any time soon. The harsh rhetoric around this issue is more of the short-sighted politics we have come to expect of the GOP — they do whatever they can to get through the week, and a lot of it makes absolutely no sense from the outside, i.e. the government shutdown.

The big problem that the GOP either isn’t registering, or it’s very independently-minded characters like Ted Cruz and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) don’t care about, is that the GOP brand is being burned to the ground for them to send out another fundraising letter, or for Rick Perry to take another Putin-esque photo op at the border — with many Latinos believing “there but for the grace of God goes me” as the immigration narrative is very much a Latino one, both in popular perceptions as well as in the surge of asylum-seekers, saying things that boil down to “these kennels are too good for these people” isn’t the way to go.

While the course that the Ted Cruz-controlled portion of the GOP is heading down toward is a predictable one, the results are not. During the last big controversy, he led the GOP-controlled House into the street and encouraged them to play in traffic, and I expect more of the same. What kind of car will blindside the more ambitious, less savvy members of the House is anyone’s guess.

 

By: Ryan Campbell, The Huffington Post Blog, July 28, 2014

 

 

July 29, 2014 Posted by | Immigrants, Refugees, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Paul Ryan’s Stale Ideas On Poverty”: Retreaded Idea’s Surrounded With The Language Of Innovation

Paul Ryan is counting on this: Because he says he wants to preserve a safety net, speaks with concern about poor people and put out a 73-page report, many will elide over the details of the proposals he made last week in his major anti-poverty speech.

The Wisconsin Republican congressman is certainly aware that one of the biggest political difficulties he and his conservative colleagues face is that many voters suspect them of having far more compassion for a wealthy person paying taxes than for a poor or middle-income person looking for a job.

So Ryan gave a well-crafted address at the American Enterprise Institute in which the centerpiece sounded brand spanking new: the “Opportunity Grant.” The problem is that this “pilot program” amounts to little more than the stale conservative idea of wrapping federal programs into a block grant and shipping them off to the states. The good news is that Ryan only proposes “experiments” involving “a select number of states,” so he would not begin eliminating programs wholesale. Thank God for small favors.

Ryan surrounds his retread idea with the language of innovation. “The idea would be, let states try different ways of providing aid and then to test the results — in short, more flexibility in exchange for more accountability,” he declared. “My thinking basically is, get rid of these bureaucratic formulas.”

Who can possibly like those “bureaucratic formulas”? The phrase is another disguise. Among the programs Ryan would block grant are food stamps (now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP). Food stamps are one of our most valuable initiatives because people are automatically eligible for them when they lose a job or their income drops sharply. Studies have amply documented how important food stamps are to the well-being of children.

For the economy and for the disadvantaged, curtailing SNAP would be devastating. While providing nutrition help to families in desperate need, food stamps also offer an immediate economic stimulus at moments when the economy is losing purchasing power. Economists call such programs “automatic stabilizers.”

Ryan’s block grant would not be nearly as responsive to economic changes. If Congress would have to step in, its reaction would be slow. And the history of Ryan’s own budgets shows that increasing spending for poor people is not exactly a priority on his side of politics.

Food stamps aren’t the only programs that get wrapped into the grant. Housing vouchers go there, too, which could lead to more homelessness. So does money for child care. Ryan says there would be rules barring states from using funding from his Opportunity Grant for purposes other than helping the needy. But it’s not clear from his outline how he’d stop states from using their new flexibility to move spending away from the needy indirectly by substituting block grant money for existing expenditures.

Ryan might reply: You just don’t trust the states! And my answer would be: You’re absolutely right, there are some states I don’t trust to stand up for their poor people. I’d point specifically to the 24 states that are depriving roughly 5 million Americans of health insurance because they refuse to participate in the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

In his speech and report, Ryan movingly described two hypothetical Americans, “Andrea” and “Steven,” and how much they could benefit from intense counseling by a case worker. There may well be something to this, but it’s expensive. How much would states have to cut basic assistance to the poor to hire additional case workers?

And by the way, one of the programs Ryan would eliminate to pay for an undoubtedly positive part of his plan — a roughly $500-a-year increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for childless workers — is the Social Services Block Grant, which helps pay for the kinds of interventions he wants for Andrea and Steven.

There is such a hunger for something other than partisanship that the temptation is to praise the new Ryan for being better than the old Ryan and to leave it at that. It’s good that he moved on the EITC and also that he embraced sentencing reform. I also like his suggestion that we re-examine occupational licensing rules.

But forgive me if I see his overall proposal as a nicely presented abdication of federal responsibility for the poor. “Experimenting” with people’s food-stamp money is not something we should sign onto.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 27, 2014

July 29, 2014 Posted by | Paul Ryan, Poor and Low Income, Poverty | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Republicans Are Gonna Be Really Mad!”: Boehner Sues Obama In Order To Implement Health Law Faster

When I learned that House Speaker John Boehner is suing President Barack Obama, I thought about a number of good reasons for something to limit executive actions. Would it be to limit NSA spying on its citizens? Could it have something to do with limiting IRS hazing of liberal and conservative groups (the Tea Party gets most of the attention, but the Congressional panel revealed that all new groups got special scrutiny)?

Would it end executive orders by the executive branch, or terminate signing statements, something done by Obama and George W. Bush (who did both with more frequency)? Might it require less immunity for advisers in the presidential administration?

Actually, it wouldn’t involve any of these good reasons for a lawsuit.

Instead, House Speaker Boehner wants to sue President Obama to implement the health care law, known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), sooner.

Huh?

That’s right, Boehner claims that the Obama administration overstepped its legal bounds by delaying the employer mandate for a year. Businesses won’t be mandated to provide health care for their employees for a year.

What’s ironic is that House Republicans, when they weren’t voting to repeal the ACA, they also tried to vote for the exact same delay in the employer mandate.

So the lawsuit clearly isn’t about policy. It is about who has the power.

Boehner claims that the Obama administration shouldn’t have the power to write the law. But isn’t the executive branch allowed to implement the law? Is the timing part of writing a law, or implementing a law?

Actually, there’s a long history of delays in implementing the law, even about health care. And I don’t remember Boehner filing a lawsuit, or even objecting, when President George W. Bush delayed the implementation of his prescription drug law 10 years ago (passed by Congress, of course).

Boehner also claims that the White House has been abusing the executive actions, even though Obama has used the fewest executive actions since Grover Cleveland, according to the Washington Post. Granted, Boehner admitted that he thinks presidents should be allowed to use executive orders, but that the president has been abusing such authority with recess appointments.

If that term sounds familiar, it’s something President George W. Bush would use when making appointments that weren’t approved by Congress. Nobody remembers Boehner suing Bush over these, or even objecting to them.

When making his case for the lawsuit in his op-ed in a CNN article, Boehner didn’t say anything about implementing the health care law sooner, or even that he supported some recess appointments made by Obama’s predecessor. Instead, he cited Senate Democrats and President Obama refusing to pass House Republican jobs bills.

I don’t remember that being unconstitutional.

When Republican voters realize that the lawsuit has nothing to do with illegal immigration, the IRS, the NSA and spying, or repealing the health care law, but making the mandates occur faster, how will they react? I foresee a lot of disappointment in GOP ranks when they read the lawsuit.

 

By: John A. Tures, Professor of Political Science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga: The Huffington Post Blog, July 27, 2014

July 29, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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