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Olympia “Snowe” Keeps Falling

Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) published a joint op-ed in the Wall Street Journal the other day, calling for new measures to make the legislative process more difficult. No, seriously, that’s what they said.

For two years in a row, the Democratic-led Senate has failed to adopt a budget as required by law. Meanwhile, our gross national debt has climbed to almost $15 trillion — as large as our entire economy. Our bill puts in place a 60-vote threshold before any appropriation bill can be moved through Congress — unless both houses have adopted a binding budget resolution.

We can certainly have a conversation about the breakdown in the budget-writing process, but let’s think about what Snowe and Sessions are proposing here: they want to make it harder for Congress to approve appropriations bills, regardless of the consequences.

Jamison Foser explained, “Republicans, including Sessions and Snowe, have filibustered even the most uncontroversial of measures — and that knee-jerk opposition to just about anything the Senate majority wants to do is a significant part of the reason why the Senate hasn’t adopted a budget. Now Sessions and Snowe cynically use that failure to justify structural changes that would make it harder for the Senate to pass any appropriations bills.”

Snowe and Sessions went on to call for additional “reforms” that would make it far more difficult for Congress to approve “emergency” spending without mandatory supermajorities, too, because they’re horrified by efforts to “spend money we don’t have,” which might “bankrupt the country.”

Of course, Snowe and Sessions see no need for mandatory supermajorities when it comes to tax cuts, alleged “bankruptcy” fears notwithstanding.

But in the larger picture, have you noticed just how far Olympia Snowe has fallen lately? Last week she demanded the administration act with “urgency” to address the jobs crisis, only to filibuster a popular jobs bill just one day later. A week earlier, Snowe prioritized tax cuts for millionaires over job creation. Just a couple of weeks earlier, Snowe tried to argue that government spending is “clearly … the problem” when it comes to the nation’s finances, which is a popular line among conservatives, despite being wrong.

It’s tempting to think the fear of a primary challenge is pushing Snowe to the far-right, but the truth is, the senator’s GOP opponents next year are barely even trying. She may fear a replay of the Castle-O’Donnell fight that played out in Delaware, but all indications are that Snowe really doesn’t have anything to worry about.

And yet, she’s become a shell of her former self, leading to this op-ed — written with a right-wing Alabama senator, no less — demanding that the dysfunctional Senate adopt new ideas that make it more difficult to pass necessary legislation.

There is some prime real estate in the political landscape for genuine GOP moderates who could have a significant impact. Instead, Congress has Olympia Snowe, who now bears no resemblance to the centrist she used to be.

If I had to guess, I’d say most mainstream voters in Maine have no idea of the extent to which Snowe has moved to the right, which is a shame. I wonder how those who supported her in the past would even recognize her anymore.

By: Steve Benen, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 25, 2011

October 27, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Deficits, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Ideologues, Income Gap, Independents, Jobs, Middle Class, Right Wing, Swing Voters, Taxes, Unemployed | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rick Perry And The Texas Non-Miracle

About all those new jobs created under Gov. Rick Perry…

The Center for Immigration Studies reports some facts that should sprinkle a little cold water on over-heated claims for the low-wage/high-immigration Texas economic model.

Of jobs created in Texas since 2007, 81 percent were taken by newly arrived immigrant workers (legal and illegal).

Absorb that for a minute.

Native-born Texans have experienced a jobs catastrophe very similar to that of Americans everywhere else in the United States, reports CIS:

The share of working-age natives holding a job in Texas declined significantly, from 71 percent in 2007 to 67 percent in 2011. This decline is very similar to the decline for natives in the United States as a whole and is an indication that the situation for native-born workers in Texas is very similar to the overall situation in the country despite the state’s job growth.

What we are seeing here is not a pattern of job creation. It is a pattern of job displacement.

The large share of job growth that went to immigrants is surprising because the native-born accounted for 69 percent of the growth in Texas’ working-age population (16 to 65). Thus, even though natives made up most of the growth in potential workers, most of the job growth went to immigrants.

And by the way – it’s not just a matter of jobs “Americans won’t do.” As the decline in native-born employment shows, these are jobs natives used to do as recently as 2007. And the displacement is occurring higher and higher up the pay scale.

Immigrants took jobs across the educational distribution. More than one out three (97,000) of newly arrived immigrants who took a job had at least some college.

In all this, illegal immigration remains a huge factor, despite the often-heard claim that illegal immigration has slowed since the end of the housing bubble.

Of newly arrived immigrants who took jobs in Texas since 2007, we estimate that 50 percent (113,000) were illegal immigrants. Thus, about 40 percent of all the job growth in Texas since 2007 went to newly arrived illegal immigrants and 40 percent went to newly arrived legal immigrants.

A couple of conclusions follow:

1) There was no Texas miracle, from the point of view of the people who constituted the population of Texas back in 2007.

2) Rick Perry’s permissive view of immigration is not (as I’ve pointed out before) some compassionate-conservative exception to his no-soup-for-you economic policy. A permissive immigration is the indispensable prerequisite to the no-soup-for-you economy over which Perry presided.

3) Immigration is not an issue separate from the debate over employment and growth. It’s integral. You could plausibly argue in the 2000s that immigration was ancillary to job growth for Americans – or even that it somehow spurred job growth for Americans. In today’s context however, immigration is increasingly a substitute for job growth for Americans.

4) Mitt Romney finally has his answer the next time Rick Perry attacks him for Massachusetts poor jobs ranking in the early part of the 2000s.

“The numbers show, Governor, that your economic policy was great at creating jobs – for Mexico.”

 

By: David Frum, The Frum Forum, September 22, 2011

September 23, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Economic Recovery, Elections, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Jobs, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Unemployed, Voters | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Good News!: If Top Tax Rates Return To Reagan Era, Bill O’Reilly Might Quit

Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly boasted the other day that he enjoys “more power than anybody other than the president.”

Apparently, though, this rather extraordinary degree of influence over national affairs isn’t quite enough for the conservative media personality. In fact, O’Reilly is so concerned about his potential tax burden under the “Buffett Rule,” he told his television audience last night he might just quit working altogether.

“I must tell you I want the feds to get more revenue. I don’t want to starve them as some people do. We need a robust military, a good transportation system and protections all over the place.

“But if you tax achievement, some of the achievers are going to pack it in. Again, let’s take me. My corporations employ scores of people. They depend on me to do what I do so they can make a nice salary. If Barack Obama begins taxing me more than 50 percent, which is very possible, I don’t know how much longer I’m going to do this. I like my job but there comes a point when taxation becomes oppressive. Is the country really entitled to half a person’s income?”

In case anyone’s interested in the relevant details, let’s clarify a few things.

First, we don’t know if President Obama is eyeing a top rate of 50%, and even if he did, the likelihood of congressional passage would be roughly zero.

Second, a top rate of 50% does not mean O’Reilly would lose “half” his income. I know this can seem a little complicated, but that’s just not how marginal tax rates work.

And third, a 50% top rate for millionaires and billionaires would be a departure from the recent past, but to describe it as “oppressive” is to forget much of the 20th century.

In Ronald Reagan’s first term, for example, the top rate was — you guessed it — 50%. Did Reagan’s “oppressive” tax rates prevent robust economic growth? Did “the achievers” decide to “pack it in”? No and no.

For nearly all of Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency, the top rate was 91%. That’s not a typo. Did this Republican president’s “oppressive” tax policy prevent the U.S. economy from growing in the 1950s? Apparently not.

That said, if O’Reilly is contemplating retirement to avoid helping America pay its bills, I’m not inclined to discourage him.

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 20, 2011

September 20, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Income Gap, Jobs, Media, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Press, Public Opinion, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Increases, Taxes, Teaparty, Unemployed, Wealthy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coddled Long Enough: The “Buffett Rule” Vs “Class Warfare”

Over the weekend, the White House leaked word that President Obama will push a new debt-reduction idea: the “Buffett Rule.” Named after Warren Buffett, the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, who’s been urging policymakers to raise taxes on the very wealthy. As Buffett recently explained, millionaires and billionaires “have been coddled long enough.”

We don’t yet know the details of the proposal — most notably, what the new millionaires’ minimum tax rate would be — but Republicans are already responding with predictable disgust.

Here, for example, was House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) yesterday on Fox News, making the case for coddling millionaires and billionaires for a while longer. See if you can pick up on the subtlety of his talking points.

Class warfare, Chris, may make for really good politics but it makes a rotten economics. We don’t need a system that seeks to divide people. […]

“[I]t looks like the president wants to move down the class warfare path. Class warfare will simply divide this country more. It will attack job creators, divide people and it doesn’t grow the economy. […]

“[I]f we are just going to do class warfare and trying to get tax increases out of this, and I don’t think much will come of it…. He’s in a political class warfare mode and campaign mode.”

So, I guess I’ll put him down as a “maybe” on the Buffett Rule?

By any reasonable measure, Ryan’s arguments aren’t just wrong, they’re borderline offensive.

For a generation, Republican policymakers have rigged national tax policy to reward the wealthy, and then reward them some more. We’ve seen the class gap reach Gilded Era levels, only to hear GOP officials again demand that working families “sacrifice” while lavishing more breaks on the very wealthy.

Remind me, who’s engaged in “class warfare” and “dividing people”?

Also note the larger policy context here. President Obama wants the richest of the rich to pay a little more, but keep tax breaks in place for the middle class. Paul Ryan and his cohorts want the polar opposite — more breaks for the very wealthy and higher taxes for the middle class.

Let’s also not forget that one of the GOP’s more common tax-policy arguments is that nearly half the country doesn’t have any federal income tax burden — and they see that as a problem that needs fixing. As a practical matter, the Republican argument on this is practically the definition of “class warfare.”

I realize much of the political establishment has come to look at Paul Ryan as a wise wonk who deserves to be taken seriously, but it really doesn’t take much to realize how spectacularly wrong the far-right Wisconsinite really is.

By: Steve Benen, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 19, 2011

September 20, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Corporations, Democracy, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Income Gap, Jobs, Labor, Middle Class, Politics, Populism, President Obama, Public, Public Opinion, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Increases, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Teaparty, Unemployed, Wealthy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Hack On The Stomp: Lindsey Graham Forgets What “Everything” Means

Lindsey Graham sure does sound confident about 2012.

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham says the 2012 presidential election is the GOP’s to lose.

“President Obama has done everything he knows how to do to beat himself,” Graham said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “The reason people have little [confidence] in President Obama’s policies is they’re just not working. Everything is worse.”

Now, as I recall, Graham’s record of election predictions isn’t exactly sterling. A week before the 2008 election, Graham was in North Carolina touting John McCain’s chances. “[McCain] fits North Carolina like a glove…. I’ll beat Michael Phelps in swimming before Barack Obama wins North Carolina.”

A week later, Obama won North Carolina. Michael Phelps was unavailable for comment.

The senator’s track record notwithstanding, I still think Republicans are making a mistake with this “everything is worse” nonsense. Sure, Graham’s a hack, more concerned with cheap shots than telling the public the truth, but he should nevertheless realize he’s making the wrong argument.

“Everything is worse”? That might make more sense were it not for the fact that:

* American job creation is better now than when Bush left office.

* American economic growth is better now than when Bush left office.

* Al Qaeda is dramatically weaker now than when Bush left office.

* The American automotive industry is vastly stronger now than when Bush left office.

* The struggle for equality of the LGBT community is vastly better now than when Bush left office.

* The U.S. health care system is better and more accessible than when Bush left office.

* The federal budget deficit is better now than when Bush left office.

* The major Wall Street indexes and corporate profits are better now than when Bush left office.

* International respect for the United States is better now than when Bush left office.

Want to try that again, Lindsey?

Whether Graham realizes it or not, he and his cohorts are inadvertently making President Obama’s pitch to voters significantly easier. By that I mean, they’re creating a standard for the debate: either conditions have improved since Obama took office or they haven’t. What the right still doesn’t understand is that this is the best of all possible standards for Democrats.

If the message to voters is, “The status quo stinks,” that’s a tough message for Dems to argue against, because as much progress as there’s been since late 2008, conditions are still awful for much of the country. We were in a very deep hole, and we’re not done climbing out.

But if the pitch is, “Obama made it worse,” that’s a much easier message for Dems to argue against because it’s demonstrably ridiculous.

Republicans, who are usually better at messaging than this, are setting up the wrong question. Instead of asking, “Did Obama make things good?” they’re urging voters to ask, “Did Obama make things worse?” Democrats much prefer the latter for a reason.

If all Obama has to do is prove he didn’t make things worse, he stands a much better chance.

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

September 19, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Deficits, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Unemployed, Voters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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