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“Dems Won’t Be Boehner’s Cavalry”: Unlikely To Save House Speaker John Boehner From A Conservative Revolt

House Speaker John Boehner could face a leadership challenge this fall, especially if he cuts a deal with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and her Democrats to circumvent or end a government shutdown. So would Democrats ride to his rescue – vote to keep him in the speakership if enough Republicans deserted him that he was denied a majority of votes in a speaker’s race?

He shouldn’t count on a strange bedfellows twist to save his job, one key Democratic lawmaker said this morning. “I cannot say that he can count on the support of Democrats,” Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee said at a press breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor. “My view is that the Republican caucus is going to have to make its own decisions. I would have to think long and hard about [voting for Boehner], but my view is that the Republican caucus should find its leader. … I really think that those decisions should be ultimately left to the Republican caucus.”

It’s an interesting dilemma: Go with the ultimately pragmatic devil you know or let chaos reign and see if the GOP ends up giving a firebrand the speaker’s gavel – which, maybe, could help Democrats retake the House. The fact that Van Hollen said he would even consider voting for Boehner shows how weird the situation is getting.Boehner’s problem is that there are enough hard-liners in his caucus to grind everything to a halt every time they have a temper tantrum. Conservative hard-liners have rounded up signatures of more than 40 GOP House members who have vowed not to vote for any government funding that includes money for Planned Parenthood, which has recently been the subject of some deceptively edited sting videos. Either Boehner can accede to them and pass a spending bill which won’t get enacted or he can spurn them and face a challenge to his speakership. Or, arguably most likely, he can let the government shut down for a couple of days before cutting a deal with Democrats, which would still put him in the crosshairs for conservatives.

Ultimately, as Bloomberg Politics wrote yesterday, if Boehner is serious about avoiding a government shutdown (and it seems reasonable to assume that he is), he’s going to need help from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and her Democrats. It’s a fair point – it was Democrats with a few score Republicans, for example, who voted to end the 2013 shutdown (which, Van Hollen noted, incurred “$24 billion in economic loss [and] 120,000 jobs not created because of the lack of additional economic activity”). That calculus is unlikely to change.

Where do things stand? Boehner and Pelosi huddled Thursday night to talk about how to avoid a shutdown. But if any progress was made, no one has told Van Hollen. “You have a speaker who … to my knowledge has not reached out to Democrats in any way to resolve this issue,” he said, adding that “it’s unfortunate that we seem to be on a rerun of a very bad movie” in terms of repeating the shutdown that occurred two years ago.

Van Hollen speculated that Boehner “is much more worried about his own speakership than he is about shutting down the government at least as of today. … We hope that will change.”


By: Robert Schlesinger, Managing Editor for Opinion, U.S. News & World Report, September 18,2015





September 19, 2015 Posted by | Democrats, Government Shut Down, House Republican Caucus, John Boehner | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Dynamic GOP Often Bemoan’s”: Don’t Mess With Government Giveaways To The Well-Off

The Obama administration has given up on its plan to remove the tax benefits of 529 college investment accounts, which under current law allow parents to put money away, then withdraw it to pay for their children’s education without paying any taxes on the profits. Republicans not only basked in what looked like a White House defeat, but were emphatic in their defense of the 529 tax break: John Boehner called the proposal “a tax hike on middle-class families.”

As often happens with a punctured trial balloon, we say afterward, “How could they not have known this would never fly?”

If you want to know whether an idea like this has any chance of getting support in Congress, the first question to ask is, who is going to be harmed? The 529 proposal was targeted at what may be the single most dangerous constituency to anger: the upper middle class. That’s because they’re wealthy enough to have influence, and numerous enough to be a significant voting block.

The administration’s proposal may not have been policy genius, but it was certainly defensible. While 529 plans are open to anyone, they give their greatest benefit to those who have the disposable income to make substantial contributions to them, which of course are the wealthy and near-wealthy. While different surveys have produced slightly different figures (some are discussed here), it’s clear that most of the tax benefit was flowing to parents with six-figure incomes who could afford to pay taxes on the profits of their 529 accounts.

The administration’s idea was to increase other tax credits for education alongside removing the 529 benefit, so that more tax benefits would go to those who need them more. If officials had been thinking more about the potential backlash, they might have instead proposed taking away the 529 benefit only for those with incomes over some high level like $200,000 a year. But they didn’t, perhaps because that would have been another layer of complexity to the tax code, and one of their rationales for this proposal was simplifying the available tax benefits for education.

Whatever the reason, this is what they came up with, and the details of the proposal made its demise inevitable. Not only was it opposed by Republicans, even Democrats didn’t like it; Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi personally lobbied the President to drop it, and had encouragement from Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee. Is it a coincidence that both members — Pelosi from San Francisco, and Van Hollen from Montgomery County in Maryland — have lots of wealthy and upper middle class constituents who have no doubt taken advantage of 529 benefits? Probably not.

The Republicans who are crowing about the White House’s retreat ought to remind themselves that this is yet another illustration of a dynamic they often bemoan: that it’s easy to give people a government benefit, but much harder to take it away once it’s in place. And while they sneer in disgust at the moochers who get food stamps or Medicaid, the program they’re now celebrating is a government giveaway, too, just one that is mostly given away to people who don’t need it.

Here’s the real lesson from this whole affair:  If you want to create a politically bulletproof government benefit, like the 529 program or the mortgage interest deduction (which costs the government about $70 billion a year), just make sure it’s technically open to anyone, but that the chief beneficiaries will be people who are doing well. They’ll squawk if it ever gets threatened, and it’s an absolute certainty that their representatives in Congress — Democrat and Republican alike — will hear them loud and clear.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, January 29, 2015

January 30, 2015 Posted by | Education, Republicans, Tax Credits | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Biggest, Most Important 2016 Debate”: Writing The Obituary Of Supply-Side Economics

It’s now shaping up that wages and the condition of the middle class are going to be the dominant issues as we enter this first phase of the 2016 slog. Don’t take it from me, or even from Elizabeth Warren. Speaker John Boehner said as much (well, almost) on the day he opened the new session of Congress.

This is a very big deal, and it’s about more than our usual, tug-of-war politics. Boehner’s mention of wage stagnation was clearly opportunistic, because it’s a current problem that can be hung around the President’s neck. But middle-class wage stagnation is much more than an Obama problem. It’s our main economic reality for 30-plus years now.

The first chart in this article tells the basic story. Since 1979, American workers’ productivity has increased by 80 percent. The income of the top 1 percent has increased 240 percent. And the average American wage, adjusted for inflation, has gone up just a few percentage points, maybe 8 percent. It wasn’t always this way, and it isn’t nearly this bad in other advanced countries. The median wage in the United States today is around $50,000. If wages had kept pace with productivity gains, the median wage would be more than $90,000.

But look: It’s highly serendipitous that the wage problem is something the Republicans can use against Obama (at least for now). That means they’ll talk about it. What they’ll come up with in terms of solutions beyond tax cuts and deregulation is another matter, but the mere fact that they’ll talk about it means that both parties will be talking about it, and when both parties are talking about an issue, that issue tends to rise to the top of the charts.

On paper at least, this is great for Democrats, because wage stagnation is basically a Democratic issue, one that most voters would probably trust the Democrats to do a better job on than Republicans. Although of course, if it comes to be October 2016 and wages are still as flat as they’ve been since the crash, that could be a problem for the Democrats. So what they need to do is frame wages not as a post-crash, Obama-era problem, but instead to make sure Americans know that this is a deep historical problem, and that the moment to address it is right now.

To that end, you should know that this past week was a really good one for progressive economics in Washington (and none of it had anything to do with Warren!). Two major proposals were floated to address these problems. They’re real and meaty. And if events go in the direction I hope they do, their release in mid-January 2015 will be remembered as the moment when the debate turned.

First, on Monday, Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland put out a report by the Democratic staff of the House Budget Committee called “An Action Plan to Grow the Paychecks of All, Not Just the Wealthy Few.” All right, a bit cumbersome as a title. But give it credit anyway for getting to the point.

“I sat down with our team many months ago,” Van Hollen told me Thursday, “and we began to really tackle what would need to be done to deal with wage stagnation.” The plan is built around nine ideas. The one that’s gotten the most attention because of the obvious “class warfare” angle is the so-called Wall Street tax, a fee of .1 percent on financial market transactions.

But there are much more interesting ideas in the paper. The most notable may be a limit on the amount of deductions corporations can take for executive pay if those executives are keeping wages stagnant or laying off workers. “From 2007 to 2010,” Van Hollen says, “corporations took $66 billion in deductions on executive pay. That’s a huge amount of money. We say here that if you want to take a tax deduction, you’d better be giving your employees a raise.”

Van Hollen unveiled his proposals at the Center for American Progress on Monday. Then, two days later, CAP president Neera Tanden led a press conference unveiling a major new report on inclusive prosperity, under a panel co-chaired by Larry Summers and Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor of the exchequer for the British Labour Party. The CAP plan, which Tanden stressed is international in the scopes of its analyses and proposed fixes (hence Balls’s inclusion), is aimed at the same basic problem Van Hollen is shooting at—the need to raise the incomes of the middle class.

Summers, speaking at the press conference, emphasized an issue he’s been talking up for a long time, a “very substantial” increase in infrastructure investment. “When we can borrow at 1.8 percent in our own currency, and when construction unemployment approaches double digits,” as it is now, Summers said, “that’s the moment when Kennedy Airport should be fixed.”

No one is under the illusion that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are going to rush out and pass these measures. That isn’t the point. The point is to influence the direction of the debate, especially the presidential campaign debate. And that, of course, raises the question of the extent to which a certain former senator and secretary of state will embrace these ideas. Tanden was a longtime Hillary Clinton staffer. The imprimatur of Summers on these progressive ideas should raise Clinton’s comfort level with them. If Clinton runs on half of these ideas, and she’s signaling that she might, she’ll be a more progressive candidate than she was in 2008.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve lived with this kind of wage picture, this kind of raging unfairness, for nearly 40 years. Of course, part of the reason that we have lived with it for 40 years is that the Democratic Party wasn’t always much good at articulating a theory of economic growth that could counter the Republicans’ trickle-down argument. They’re finally finding their voice on this. And so, the real importance of the next election is not the Supreme Court, not climate change, not foreign policy, crucial as all those things are. It’s that it could write the obituary of supply-side economics.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, January 17, 2015


January 19, 2015 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Wages, Workers | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Enormously Difficult Task”: Why Republicans Will Lose The Coming Argument Over The Economy

There may be 21 months remaining between now and the 2016 presidential election, but both Republicans and Democrats have come to an agreement on what the election should be about. They may use different terms to describe it — Democrats will talk about “inequality,” while Republicans will tout “opportunity” — but they’re both going to focus on the ways the economy isn’t doing right by Americans who aren’t rich.

In the name of pundit courage, I offer a prediction: Republicans are going to lose the argument. They’ve practically lost it already.

Let’s take a look at what we’ve learned just in the past couple of days. We all know that both sides are looking for new policy ideas they can present that will demonstrate their commitment to lifting up middle class and poorer Americans, so what’s on offer? Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, has released a plan that includes giving every working American who makes less than six figures a $1,000 tax credit, gives people further tax credits if they save money, limits corporate tax deductions for CEO compensation, and pays for it with a financial transactions tax (presented as a Wall Street “high roller” fee). Meanwhile, Republicans are trying to cut Social Security disability payments.

OK, so that’s not entirely fair — Republicans are, in fact, talking about what they can do for less affluent Americans. For instance, Politico reports today that even Mitt Romney has decided that the three pillars of his 2016 campaign will be a “muscular” foreign policy, helping the poor, and supporting the middle class. Which sounds interesting, but at this point it constitutes nothing more than talking about how this is an issue he’s going to be talking about. You have to look pretty hard to find an actual idea Republicans have.

And while they’re figuring that out, it looks like Democrats are going to keep rolling out one policy proposal after another, whether it’s Van Hollen’s tax credit (which other Democrats are also going to be advocating), President Obama’s plan to make community college free, or upcoming pushes on issues like paid family leave and more inclusive overtime rules.

Republicans start out at a significant disadvantage in this debate for a number of reasons. First, they tend to talk about the economy from a level far removed from that of ordinary people. Enact policies like low taxes and light regulation on corporations, they say, and the result will be growth that ends up benefiting everyone. But now they’re acknowledging that they have to talk about middle class and even poor people, and offer them something more specific. That runs into their second problem, that because they believe in small government, unlike Democrats they aren’t likely to support policies that offer direct, immediate benefits.

The policies they do support, furthermore, will immediately be characterized by their opponents as being one of two types: attacks on the poor being deceptively offered as efforts to help them (like devolving responsibility for safety net programs to the states) or moves to help rich people being deceptively offered as a boon to the middle class (like most Republican tax cuts).

Republicans will, of course, say that these criticisms are unfair. But the default assumption voters have is that the GOP is the party of the rich. That means that in order to persuade them, Republicans can’t just come up with some reasonable policy ideas, they have to offer something twice as compelling as what Democrats are proposing. And when Democrats are saying something straightforward, like “Our plan is to give you a thousand bucks and pay for it by taxing Wall Street,” while Republicans are trying to explain how block grants would bring a more efficient allocation of benefits, it isn’t hard to see who’s going to win the argument. Just try to imagine how much work someone like Mitt Romney — he of Bain Capital and the “47 percent” — is going to have to do to convince voters that he’s really the one who’s on the side of the middle class.

If we look back at the recent history of presidential campaigns, we see that Republicans win the argument on the economy under three conditions. The first is when there’s a Democrat in the White House and the economy is terrible, as it was in 1980. The second is when there’s a Republican in the White House and the economy is doing well, as it was in 1984 or 1988. And the third is when the economy is doing so-so, but the election turns on an entirely different set of issues, as in 2004 — in other words, when there really isn’t much of a discussion on the economy.

The 2016 election doesn’t look (at the moment anyway) like any of those three. Unless there’s a dramatic change, the economy will be doing well in broad terms like growth and job creation, but voters will want to hear what the parties are going to propose to improve wages, working conditions, and the fortunes of the middle class and those struggling to join it. Winning that argument will be an enormously difficult task for the GOP, and they aren’t off to a promising start.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, January 13, 2015

January 16, 2015 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Economic Policy, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Your Call Republicans”: Either Job Creation Is The Top Priority Or It Isn’t

I’d very nearly given up trying to convince the political world that sequestration cuts still matter. But then yesterday, something changed my mind.

For those who still care about the policy that was designed to hurt the country on purpose, there’s been quite a bit of news lately, all of it showing the sequester doing what it was intended to do. In addition to the voluminous list of documented problems, just over the last few days we’ve gotten a better sense of the ways in which the policy is hurting the military, public schools, parks, and the justice system. The poor and minorities are disproportionately suffering.

Did the political world care about these stories? Not really. Generally speaking, the slow-motion disaster on auto-pilot just keeps plodding along, with little more than indifference from the Beltway.

So what made yesterday different? This did.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Thursday estimated that keeping the spending cuts from sequestration in place through fiscal 2014 would cost up to 1.6 million jobs.

Canceling the cuts, on the other hand, would yield between 300,000 to 1.6 million new jobs, with the most likely outcome being the addition of 900,000, the CBO said.

The full CBO report, requested by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), is online here.

And why might this part of the sequestration story matter, even after the other elements of the story were largely ignored? Because it offers the political world an important test.

A month ago, several congressional Republican leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), insisted publicly that job creation is their “number one priority.” If those claims were true, I have good news — now they can prove they meant it.

After all, we now have independent confirmation that this one policy, if it remains in place, will cost the nation about 1.6 million jobs through next year. End the policy, on the other hand, and the U.S. economy adds 900,000 jobs.

For those who say the job market is their “number one priority,” this is what’s commonly known as a “no-brainer.”

Let’s make this incredibly simple for Congress: either job creation is your top priority or it isn’t. If it is, then the House and Senate could take five minutes, scrap the sequester, and help the U.S. job market. A lot.

Is it really that simple? Well, yes, actually it is that simple.

But won’t that mean slightly higher spending levels? And won’t that mean slightly less deficit reduction?

Perhaps, but either job creation is your top priority or it isn’t. If someone says, “I’d like to end the sequester, but not if it means increased spending and higher deficits,” then we know, in a very literal sense, that the jobs are not their “number one priority.”

It’s a straightforward, binary choice. Your call, Republicans.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 26, 2013

July 29, 2013 Posted by | Jobs, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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