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“How A President Paul Would Remake Society”: Rand Paul Is Building A Bridge — To The Early 1800s

The official launch of Rand Paul’s presidential campaign this week showcased an interesting blend of proposals, with the junior senator from Kentucky agitating against the forthcoming Iran deal, racially unjust incarceration, and NSA surveillance. The bulk of it, however, was dedicated to a libertarian vision of government — one drastically at odds with the last century of American governance and more.

This vision isn’t just contained to his speeches. Paul’s budget proposals provide a blueprint for how a President Paul would remake society, and the result is eyewateringly radical. When it comes to domestic policy, his views are far to the right even of Paul Ryan, whose budgets would decimate the legacy of the New Deal. It’s a vision of government from the age of Thomas Jefferson, and ludicrously unsuited to the 21st century.

And yet Paul, despite fashioning himself as an outsider, will likely be a contender in the Republican primary, which means his ideas deserve close scrutiny.

Dylan Matthews has done a deep dive into the various Paul budgets of the last three years, and the findings are jarring. “The gap between Paul’s budget and Ryan’s,” he writes, “is nearly as big as the gap between Ryan’s and Democrats.”

On one occasion or another, Paul has proposed completely abolishing the Departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Energy; the Bureaus of Reclamation and Indian Affairs; all foreign aid; and the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. On the tax side, he proposes a flat income tax and scrapping the tax on estates, capital gains, dividends, large gifts, as well as the Alternative Minimum Tax.

As Matt Bruenig concludes, this would amount to a stupendous redistribution of income from poor to rich, likely unprecedented in American history. The poor would see their taxes massively increased, while the rich would enjoy a corresponding decrease.

In Paul’s dream world, other government departments get merely eviscerated. The Interior Department is cut by 78 percent, State by 71 percent, the General Services Administration by 85 percent, and the Transportation and Agriculture departments by a comparatively modest 49 percent cut each. The military was cut by 30 percent in early budgets, though Paul has since reversed himself on that.

But wait, there’s more! Science gets gored by Paul, with 20 percent of funding taken from the National Institutes of Health, 25 percent from NASA, 20 percent from the U.S. Geological Survey, 62 percent from the National Science Foundation, and even 20 percent from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (which, you may recall, recently prevented an outbreak of Ebola in the U.S.).

These aggressive cuts to discretionary spending are the simple result of huge tax reductions combined with a balanced budget. But Paul also appears to be groping as far towards the libertarian “night watchman state” — limited to the police, military, and courts — as he dares. Though Paul’s views, tainted by roots in his father’s very long history of bigoted conspiracy nutbaggery, are far from the austere purity of Robert Nozick, it’s clear Paul thinks most of what the government has done since the 1930s is illegitimate.

He’s a supporter of the Lochner doctrine, named after a 1905 Supreme Court case that conveniently discovered an unwritten “liberty of contract” in the 14th Amendment and thus abolished most laws regulating working conditions. He’s a fan of the Supreme Court decisions against the New Deal. His latest budget argues that anything but a flat tax is likely unconstitutional. It seems clear that if he had his druthers, he really would abolish everything but the police, the military, and the courts.

This extreme suspicion of federal government is only matched by his reverence for rich people and businesses; Paul does not touch property law, special legal protections for corporations, or even the wretched mortgage interest deduction. His position would fit reasonably well in the Gilded Age or the pre-World War I era, when “due process” for workers was often non-existent.

But it was Thomas Jefferson who made the most sustained effort to bring the libertarian utopia into being. Fighting against Alexander Hamilton and his allies, Jefferson did about all he could, especially early in his first term, to implement the night watchman state. It didn’t work very well, and he began abandoning the effort by the end of his term — and he was living in an agrarian slave society. Trying it in 2016 is patently preposterous.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, April 8, 2015

April 10, 2015 Posted by | Domestic Policy, Libertarians, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“They Never Really Cared In The First Place”: Why Republicans Don’t Want To Acknowledge The Falling Deficit

An important budget memo was issued this week celebrating just how far the deficit had fallen over the last five years. But in one of the incongruities that define the political moment, the memo was issued by a Democrat, Senator Patty Murray of Washington, chairwoman of the Budget Committee, not a Republican.

The steep decline of the deficit is not something Republicans really want to talk about, even though their austerity policies were largely responsible for it. If the public really understood how much the deficit has fallen, it would undermine the party’s excuse for opposing every single spending program, exposing the “cost to future generations” as a hyped-up hoax. In fact, it would lead to exactly the conclusion that Ms. Murray reached in her memo to Senate Democrats: that the country can now afford to spend money to boost employment, stay competitive with the rest of the globe in education and research, and finally deal with the long-deferred repairs to public works.

In 2009, the deficit was more than $1.4 trillion, which was nearly 10 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. This year, the deficit will be a little more than a third that size: $520 billion, or 3 percent of G.D.P. The Treasury Department said on Thursday that the deficit fell more sharply in the last fiscal year than in any year since the end of World War II.

Some of the deficit reduction — about 23 percent — is due to tax revenue increases, mostly from the deal to raise income tax rates to Clinton-era levels on households making $450,000 or more. And some is due to lower interest costs, and the slowing growth of health care costs, which is partly attributable to the health care reform law.

But about half of the reduction, the biggest part, is the result of $1.6 trillion in cuts over several years to discretionary spending demanded by Republicans in several rounds of budget negotiations. As a recent Times editorial noted, this has become the tragedy of the Obama administration, undoing the positive effects of the 2009 stimulus, keeping the economic recovery sluggish, and hurting millions of vulnerable people who depended on that spending for shelter, food and education.

Having prevailed over all of those liberal programs, why can’t Republicans acknowledge that the deficit has been vanquished? Just yesterday, they blocked a bill to provide expanded medical and education benefits for veterans, citing the looming deficit. “This bill would spend more than we agreed to spend,” said Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. “The ink is hardly dry and here we have another bill to raise that spending again.”

The answer, of course, is that Republicans never really cared about the deficit, having raised it to enormous proportions during the administration of George W. Bush. Their real goals were to stop government spending at any cost, and to deny President Obama even a hint of political victory or economic success.

And so Republicans will resist any attempt to use their budget triumphs for Democratic purposes. As Ms. Murray writes, that will create different kinds of deficits: a deficit of people working, of students studying, of roads and bridges and research projects that can lead to prosperity instead of the gloom of austerity.

By: David Firestone, Editor’s Blog, The New York Times, February 28, 2014

March 2, 2014 Posted by | Deficits, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Congressional Enemies Among Us”: Five Ways Republicans Have Sabotaged Job Growth

New numbers released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the economy added a mere 80,000 jobs in June. That’s down from an average of 150,000 jobs a month for the first part of the year, and far too little to keep up with population growth.

Republican intransigence on economic policy has been a key contributor to the sluggish recovery. As early as 2009, Republican fear-mongering over spending and their readiness to filibuster in the Senate helped convince the White House economic team that an $800 billion stimulus was the most they could hope to get through Congress. Reporting has since revealed that the team thought the country actually needed a stimulus on the order of $1.2 to $1.8 trillion. The economy’s path over the next three years proved them right. Here are the top five ways the Republicans have sabotaged the economic recovery since:

1. Filibustering the American Jobs Act. Last October, Senate Republicans killed a jobs bill proposed by President Obama that would have pumped $447 billion into the economy. Multiple economic analysts predicted the bill would add around two million jobs and hailed it as defense against a double-dip recession. The Congressional Budget Office also scored it as a net deficit reducer over ten years, and the American public supported the bill.

2. Stonewalling monetary stimulus. The Federal Reserve can do enormous good for a depressed economy through more aggressive monetary stimulus, and by tolerating a temporarily higher level of inflation. But with everything from Ron Paul’s anti-inflationary crusade to Rick Perry threatening to lynch Chairman Ben Bernanke, Republicans have browbeaten the Fed into not going down this path. Most damagingly, the GOP repeatedly held up President Obama’s nominations to the Federal Reserve Board during the critical months of the recession, leaving the board without the institutional clout it needed to help the economy.

3. Threatening a debt default. Even though the country didn’t actually hit its debt ceiling last summer, the Republican threat to default on the United States’ outstanding obligations was sufficient to spook financial markets and do real damage to the economy.

4. Cutting discretionary spending in the debt ceiling deal. The deal the GOP extracted as the price for avoiding default imposed around $900 billion in cuts over ten years. It included $30.5 billion in discretionary cuts in 2012 alone, costing the country 0.3 percent in economic growth and 323,000 jobs, according to estimates from the Economic Policy Institute. Starting in 2013, the deal will trigger another $1.2 trillion in cuts over ten years.

5. Cutting discretionary spending in the budget deal. While not as cataclysmic as the debt ceiling brinksmanship, Republicans also threatened a shutdown of the government in early 2011 if cuts were not made to that year’s budget. The deal they struck with the White House cut $38 billion from food stamps, health, education, law enforcement, and low-income programs among others, while sparing defense almost entirely.

There have also been a few near-misses, in which the GOP almost prevented help from coming to the economy. The Republicans in the House delayed a transportation bill that saved as many as 1.9 million jobs. House Committees run by the GOP have passed proposals aimed at cutting billions from food stamps, and the party has repeatedly threatened to kill extensions of unemployment insurance and cuts to the payroll tax.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, those policies — the payroll tax cut, food stamps, unemployment insurance, and discretionary spending for low-income Americans — have the highest multipliers, meaning more job boosting potential per dollar.

 

By: Jeff Spross, Think Progress, July 6, 2012

July 9, 2012 Posted by | Economic Recovery | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How The Budget Deal Affects The Affordable Care Act

So how does this mammoth budget-cutting deal, with its congressional “supercommittee” affect health reform?

Good question, because lots of people in Washington are asking it too.

More specific answers will become clearer in the next few weeks, but here’s a first version of the road map to both the policy and the politics.

First, understand there are two different processes – and each, separately, aims at cutting more than $1 trillion over the next decade.

The one that you’ve probably heard most about is the “supercommittee” of 12 members of Congress. They are supposed to identify savings by Thanksgiving. Entitlements – Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and aspects of the Affordable Care Act – are part of their turf. So are taxes and revenue – at least in theory. It’s not so clear that the Republicans see it that way given the public statements of Congressional leaders.

If they agree on some kind of grand deal by Thanksgiving, Congress has to take it or leave it by the end of December, eliminating the usual congressional dilly-dallying. (It looks like dilly-dallying to the casual observer or much of the public, but remember that all that arcane, tedious process IS policy in Congress. If you slow something down, make it go through hoops, amend it, hold it up, etc., it doesn’t become law. That may be good or, depending on your point of view, bad politics.)

If Congress takes any recommendations that the supercommittee agrees on, that’s the law. If the committee fails, or Congress rejects it, then the “trigger” gets pulled. The official name is “sequestration.” That’s a fancy name for automatic cuts – 2 percent across-the-board cuts in Medicare, for instance, affecting all health care providers, doctors, hospitals, etc. It won’t affect beneficiaries – at least not directly.

Medicaid is not subject to the trigger. Neither, according to the preliminary interpretations I’ve received from analysts and congressional staff, are the big, key subsidies in the health care reform law – the Medicaid expansion and the subsidies that will help low-income and middle-income people afford health care in the new state exchanges.

Other parts of the health reform law are, however, subject to automatic cuts. Among them: Cost-sharing subsidies for low-income people. This isn’t the help paying the premium; this is the help with the co-pays when people do get care. But the payments are made to health plans, not directly to beneficiaries so it won’t have the direct impact of discouraging care. It may affect how health plans make decisions about what markets to participate in. Gary Claxton and Larry Levitt at Kaiser Family Foundation explain here.

Also, the supercommittee could have a partial deal – meaning there’s still a trigger, but a smaller one. Maybe they won’t reach agreement on $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in savings, which would avoid the trigger. But maybe they could agree on, say, $500 billion. That means a trigger wouldn’t have to go as deep because some of the savings would already be identified.

To recap – before we go on to the second stage of this process: The “super-committee” can do whatever it wants to health care, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, etc. – if it can agree, if it can get the rest of Congress to agree and if the president doesn’t veto it.

Will the Democratic Senate and the Obama White House agree to cuts that eviscerate health reform? Not likely. In fact, the Democrats “won” on very few aspects of the budget/debt deal. Walling off Medicaid and key parts of the health coverage expansion were two of the “wins.” That’s a bright line worth paying attention to as this moves forward.

Does that mean other health-reform related spending will be untouched? Given how many moving parts there are to any spending deal, and the fact that defense and tax policy are also part of the mix, chances are it will be affected. But expect to see that bright line remain visible – maybe not quite as bright, but visible. (The CLASS Act, the voluntary long-term care program created under health reform, is a different story; it’s quite vulnerable.)

The second part is the annual appropriations process. The budget deal provides for cuts – real cuts in spending, not just slowing the rate of growth. Health programs (aspects of the health reform legislation touching on exchange creation, prevention, community clinics, etc., and just about everything else at the Department of Health and Human Services – the FDA, NIH, CDC, etc. – will be subject to these cuts. But this isn’t an across the board process, it’s a line-by-line, or at least category/agency-by-category/agency, process. And there is some horse trading.

It’s safe to say that the Republicans will try to cut discretionary portions of the new health law. That’s not a new political dynamic, it doesn’t arise out of the debt ceiling or the Wall Street woes. It’s what we’ve seen since last fall’s elections and the repeal/defund fights of the past few months. And House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan has publicly tried to insert health care into any potential deal. So expect to see more Republican push to cut, and continued Democratic push back. Will health spending emerge unscathed? It’s too soon to know but, given the amount of savings Congress needs to find –both in this budget deal and in the perennial quest to fund the “doc fix” payments – some cuts are clearly possible. Some of it may affect aspects of exchange establishment, regulation, prevention, public health, etc. But it’s hard to see the Democrats allowing cuts so deep that they basically constitute a side door to repeal.

One further twist – some Republicans are calling for a delay in health reform implementation to save money.”Delay” may sound better to an ambivalent public worried about spending than “repeal.” What’s delayed (if anything), how it’s delayed, how long it’s delayed, and what stopgaps are created in the meantime could have an impact on how many people get covered in 2014.

Assorted committees and government agencies are still examining the new budget law and how it will affect … everything. So the perspective I’ve outlined here – and I’m writing amid all the market turbulence – may change as the economic and political climates change. But the lines in the sand around the trigger – health reform, Medicaid and Social Security – tell us something about where the White House will come down.

By: Joanne Kenen, Association of Health Care Journalists, August 10, 2011

August 11, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democrats, Economy, GOP, Government, Health Care, Health Reform, Ideologues, Ideology, Individual Mandate, Insurance Companies, Journalists, Lawmakers, Medicaid, Medicare, Politics, Public Health, Republicans, Right Wing, Social Security, Tax Increases, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Boehner’s New Proposal Could Produce Greatest Increase In Poverty And Hardship Of Any Law In Modern U.S. History

House Speaker John Boehner’s new budget proposal would require deep cuts in the years immediately ahead in Social Security and Medicare benefits for current retirees, the repeal of health reform’s coverage expansions, or wholesale evisceration of basic assistance programs for vulnerable Americans.

The plan is, thus, tantamount to a form of “class warfare.” If enacted, it could well produce the greatest increase in poverty and hardship produced by any law in modern U.S. history.

This may sound hyperbolic, but it is not. The mathematics are inexorable.

The Boehner plan calls for large cuts in discretionary programs of $1.2 trillion over the next ten years, and it then requires additional cuts that are large enough to produce another $1.8 trillion in savings to be enacted by the end of the year as a condition for raising the debt ceiling again at that time.

The Boehner plan contains no tax increases. The entire $1.8 trillion would come from budget cuts.

Because the first round of cuts will hit discretionary programs hard — through austere discretionary caps that Congress will struggle to meet — discretionary cuts will largely or entirely be off the table when it comes to achieving the further $1.8 trillion in budget reductions.

As a result, virtually all of that $1.8 trillion would come from entitlement programs. They would have to be cut more than $1.5 trillion in order to produce sufficient interest savings to achieve $1.8 trillion in total savings.

To secure $1.5 trillion in entitlement savings over the next ten years would require draconian policy changes. Policymakers would essentially have three choices: 1) cut Social Security and Medicare benefits heavily for current retirees, something that all budget plans from both parties (including House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan) have ruled out; 2) repeal the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansions while retaining its measures that cut Medicare payments and raise tax revenues, even though Republicans seek to repeal many of those measures as well; or 3) eviscerate the safety net for low-income children, parents, senior citizens, and people with disabilities. There is no other plausible way to get $1.5 trillion in entitlement cuts in the next ten years.

The evidence for this conclusion is abundant.

The “Gang of Six” plan, with its very tough and controversial entitlement cuts, contains total entitlement reductions of $640 to $760 billion over the next ten years not counting Social Security, and $755 billion to $875 billion including Social Security. (That’s before netting out $300 billion in entitlement costs that the plan includes for a permanent fix to the scheduled cuts in Medicare physician payments that Congress regularly cancels; with these costs netted out, the Gang of Six entitlement savings come to $455 to $575 billion.)

The budget deal between President Obama and Speaker Boehner that fell apart last Friday, which included cuts in Social Security cost-of-living adjustments and Medicare benefits as well as an increase in the Medicare eligibility age, contained total entitlement cuts of $650 billion (under the last Obama offer) to $700 billion (under the last Boehner offer).

The Ryan budget that the House passed in April contained no savings in Social Security over the next ten years and $279 billion in Medicare cuts.

To be sure, the House-passed Ryan budget included much larger overall entitlement cuts over the next 10 years. But that was largely because it eviscerated the safety net and repealed health reform’s coverage expansions. The Ryan plan included cuts in Medicaid and health reform of a remarkable $2.2 trillion, from severely slashing Medicaid and killing health reform’s coverage expansions. The Ryan plan also included stunning cuts of $127 billion in the SNAP program (formerly known as food stamps) and $126 billion in Pell Grants and other student financial assistance.

That House Republicans would likely seek to reach the Boehner budget’s $1.8 trillion target in substantial part by cutting programs for the poorest and most vulnerable Americans is given strong credence by the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” bill that the House recently approved. That bill would establish global spending caps and enforce them with across-the-board budget cuts —exempting Medicare and Social Security from the across-the-board cuts while subjecting programs for the poor to the across-the-board axe.

This would turn a quarter century of bipartisan budget legislation on its head; starting with the 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law, all federal laws of the last 26 years that have set budget targets enforced by across-the-board cuts have exempted the core assistance programs for the poor from those cuts while including Medicare among programs subject to the cuts. This component of the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” bill strongly suggests that, especially in the face of an approaching election, House Republicans looking for entitlement cuts would heavily target means-tested programs for people of lesser means (and less political power).

In short, the Boehner plan would force policymakers to choose among cutting the incomes and health benefits of ordinary retirees, repealing the guts of health reform and leaving an estimated 34 million more Americans uninsured, and savaging the safety net for the poor. It would do so even as it shielded all tax breaks, including the many lucrative tax breaks for the wealthiest and most powerful individuals and corporations.

President Obama has said that, while we must reduce looming deficits, we must take a balanced approach. The Boehner proposal badly fails this test of basic decency. The President should veto the bill if it reaches his desk. Congress should find a fairer, more decent way to avoid a default.

By: Robert Greenstein, President, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, July 25, 2011

July 25, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Budget, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government Shut Down, Governors, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Medicaid, Medicare, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Teaparty, Uninsured, Voters, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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