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“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

Don’t Like The Facts, Stop Collecting Them”: The Conservative Quest To Eliminate Facts

The very first post at FactCheck.org referenced that great line from the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion — but not their own facts.”

During the years I spent at FactCheck, I certainly wittnessed my share of politicians trying to make up their own facts. And while I wasn’t allowed to say this at the time, it was always pretty clear (to me, anyway), that one side was making up a lot more facts than the other. Republicans have happily embraced half-truths and outright falsehoods. From “Death Panels” to climate change denialism to the austerity discussion to Paul Ryan’s budget math, the GOP appears to have embraced a policy of Making Stuff Up.

But now it seems that conservatives’ War on Facts has entered a new phase. If the facts are against you, just stop collecting them.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, a South Carolina Republican, has introduced a bill that would prevent the federal government from collecting data about the economy.

That’s right. The bill would require that the Census Bureau stop collecting the information that economists use to calculate (among other things) the unemployment rate, the labor force participation rate, housing construction rates, trade deficits, and much more.

So you might well be saying, “This sounds like a pain for economists, but why should I care if a bunch of stuffy economists are inconvenienced?”

The answer is that without this information, it will be impossible to tell how much any legislation coming out of the Congress costs.

When the Congressional Budget Office calculates the cost of a particular piece of legislation, they have to have something to compare it against. They do this by calculating a budget baseline—that is, they look at how much the federal government will spend and how much revenue it will collect under current law. It’s that last part that’s important here.

To know how much money the government will collect in taxes, you have to know a lot of things about the economy generally. Much of this is incredibly complicated, and a whole lot of extremely smart CBOers spend hundreds of person-hours each year trying to produce an economic forecast. Not being an economist, I can’t tell you exactly what goes into all of those models, but I do know one thing for sure. If you want to know how much tax revenue you’ll collect, you pretty much have to know how many people have jobs.

But, then, if you’re just planning to make up your own numbers anyway, you probably don’t much care whether the CBO has the data it needs to produce accurate estimates.

By: Joe Miller, Director of Digital Communications,  Century Foundation, The National Memo, May 2, 2013

May 4, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A-Dynamic Scoring”: Republicans Don’t Like The CBO, Except For When They Do

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) has no shortage of charts, bullet points and studies to back up the GOP’s tax strategy, all of which he laid out Tuesday afternoon before a room of reporters. But, perhaps most prominently, Price wielded numbers from the Congressional Budget Office to make the case for extending all the Bush tax cuts permanently, as the House is poised to vote on this week.

“As the Congressional Budget Office has said, the growth rate if these [tax hikes] go into effect is 0.5 percent,” Price told reporters. “If we’re able to keep the rates the same, the growth rate is 4.4 percent.”

It’s not surprising that a legislator would rely on numbers from the CBO, given the office’s long-standing reputation as a non-partisan, independent scorekeeper. But in the next breath, Price dismissed another major finding from the very same number crunchers.

When asked how the GOP would make up for the huge increase in the deficit that would result from making the Bush tax cuts permanent—which the CBO estimates will reduce revenues by $4.6 trillion—Price flatly denied that the numbers were valid. “We don’t believe that keeping tax rates as they are right now costs money,” he said. Instead, he explained, preserving all of the Bush tax cuts would spur tremendous economic growth that would quickly fill the deficit gap. “What happens when the economy grows, is the federal government actually gets more tax revenue.”

So how is it possible to tell which CBO numbers to trust? I asked Price, pointing out the discrepancy. “The CBO is constrained by rules, in some instances,” he explained. “Sometimes the rules allow them to have more accurate information, in others they don’t.” When it comes to analyzing tax revenue, the CBO must follow the guidance of the 1974 Budget Act, which Republicans like Price believe is flawed. Instead, they’ve long advocated for what’s known as “dynamic scoring” to account for the revenue impact of the economic growth they believe that tax cuts will accelerate.

Why, then, were the 1974 rules for scoring taxes imposed in the first place? Were people just misinformed? Price shrugged, pointing out that Republicans on the Budget committee have tried to change the rules 10 separate times.

In fact, the Bush administration tried using the GOP’s preferred dynamic scoring method to look at the very same Bush tax cuts in 2006. But the results disappointed conservatives: There wasn’t the strong correlation between growth and tax cuts they had expected, and there were far lower levels of growth attributed to the tax cuts than Republicans had claimed, particularly when they weren’t offset by other budget cuts. Even Doug Holtz-Eakin, then a GOP-appointed CBO director, didn’t clamor for more dynamic scoring thereafter.

But that hasn’t stopped Republicans from using the logic of dynamic scoring to make the case for tax cuts that aren’t offset by anything else, as they’re proposing once more. It’s a position that everyone from Tom Price to Mitt Romney has embraced, whatever CBO says to the contrary.

 

By: Suzy Khimm, The Washington Post, August 1, 2012

August 2, 2012 Posted by | Deficits | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GOP Super Committee Co-Chair: Lawmakers Failed Because Democrats Refused To Privatize Medicare

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) faults the Democrats’ refusal to accept partial Medicare privatization for the super committee’s inability to come up with a bipartisan plan to lower spending in today’s Wall Street Journal. He writes, “Democrats on the committee made it clear that the new spending called for in the president’s health law was off the table” and pretends that the spending in the Affordable Care Act added to the deficit (it actually reduces it). “Republicans offered to negotiate a plan on the other two health-care entitlements—Medicare and Medicaid—based upon the reforms included in the budget the House passed earlier this year,” he continues and lays out the premium support proposal offered by Alice Rivlin and Pete Domenici:

The Medicare reforms would make no changes for those in or near retirement. Beginning in 2022, beneficiaries would be guaranteed a choice of Medicare-approved private health coverage options and guaranteed a premium-support payment to help pay for the plan they choose….These seniors would be able to choose from a list of Medicare-guaranteed coverage options, similar to the House budget’s approach—except that Rivlin-Domenici would continue to include a traditional Medicare fee-for-service plan among the options.

This approach was also rejected by committee Democrats.

The Congressional Budget Office, the Medicare trustees, and the Government Accountability Office have each repeatedly said that our health-care entitlements are unsustainable. Committee Democrats offered modest adjustments to these programs, but they were far from sufficient to meet the challenge. And even their modest changes were made contingent upon a minimum of $1 trillion in higher taxes—a move sure to stifle job creation during the worst economy in recent memory.

Hensarling doesn’t mention that the Rivlin-Domenici premium-support proposal doesn’t so much lower national health care spending as it shifts it to the beneficiary. The plan reduces the federal contribution to Medicare by capping costs for each beneficiary and offering premium support credits that won’t keep up with actual health care spending. The federal government spends less, but seniors will pay more out of pocket for health care benefits every year. The proposal also breaks up the market clout of traditional Medicare and rather than ratcheting up some of efficiencies and payment reforms in the Affordable Care Act, it sets the nation on an untested path of private competition — leaving seniors vulnerable to the manipulations of for-profit health insurers.

Democrats, for their part, offered rather substantial concessions on Medicare spending. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argued, the Democrats’ $3 trillion deficit proposal to the super committee “stands well to the right of plans by the co-chairs of the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson commission and the Senate’s ‘Gang of Six,’ and even further to the right of the plan by the bipartisan Rivlin-Domenici commission.” The plan contained “substantially smaller revenue increases than those bipartisan proposals while, for example, containing significantly deeper cuts in Medicare and Medicaid than the Bowles-Simpson plan.” For instance, Bowles-Simpson offered $383 billion in Medicare and Medicaid, while Democrats put $475 billion on the table.

President Obama introduced $320 billion in health care savings, mostly from the pharmaceutical industry and other providers, including rural hospitals, teaching hospitals, and biotechnology firms. But the plan even incorporated the GOP’s push for greater means testing in Medicare, asking some wealthier beneficiaries to pay more for coverage and sought to give beneficiaries “skin in the game” — as the GOP puts it — to discourage over treatment.

All of these are significant concessions — as are the health cuts included in the trigger mechanism — but Hensarling and Republicans aren’t interested in bipartisan agreement. They’re not accepting anything short of Medicare privatization.

By: Igor Volsky, Think Progress, November 22, 2011

November 23, 2011 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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