"Do or Do not. There is no try."

Republicans And Taxes: Let’s Get Real About The GOP

It would be marvelous to believe that the congressional supercommittee is going to reach a bipartisan deal. Well, actually, I’m not so sure it would be marvelous, substantively. We’ll get to that. But politically, it would be nice to see Washington function for a change. Hard experience suggests to us, however, that when all the smoke clears, there will be no deal. What will happen then? The Republicans will then go in for even emptier posturing than they’re engaging in now, this time with regard to defense cuts. You think things can’t get worse? Just wait.

For a while, when the committee’s six Democrats and six Republicans were able to talk to each other in vague generalities, Washington was able to pretend that things were looking pretty hopeful. There was no precise reason for this hope. Some senators told me that their colleagues on the committee weren’t even telling them anything. But Washington elites cling to hope of bipartisan common sense winning out the way M. Night Shyamalan fans swear that he’s going to regain form in the next movie, for real this time.

But eventually and inevitably, the negotiators had to start talking numbers. And as soon as they got to specifics, two things happened. First, they realized how far apart they were. Second, the leaks started, at which point the rest of us realized how far apart they were.

Let’s compare the plans. The Democratic proposal, released by senator and committee member Max Baucus the other day, looks to cut $3 trillion from the budget. The Republican plan, leaked in parts to The Wall Street Journal and Politico after Baucus moved, cuts just $2 trillion. If it seems odd to you that Democrats are proposing more deficit reduction than Republicans, you aren’t alone. The reason is that the Republicans—surprise, surprise—are doing it all by cuts with no tax revenue, while the Democrats include $1 trillion to $1.3 trillion in new revenue.

Now, Republicans will repeat in these coming weeks that their plan does include “revenue.” And in a way, it does. It’s just not tax revenue. Or wait—it is tax revenue! But from a tax decrease! Yes: The GOP plan says the government will raise $200 billion by cutting corporate and individual taxes. You know, the way the Bush tax cuts increased revenue, which is to say, not in the real world, but in the minds of Mitch McConnell and other delusionals who think the Bush tax cuts raised revenue. So when they go around saying “our plan raises revenues,” remember their track record.

If the time comes for Pentagon cuts, will the Democrats be willing to hold the line and risk the silly accusation of being “soft on defense”? I think we know the answer.

It bears noting, once again, that the Democrats have said with the Baucus plan that they’re ready to deal if Republicans will. Their plan includes $500 billion in entitlement program cuts. They’re prepared to attach increases in Social Security benefits to the so-called chained consumer price index, which would decrease benefits, especially for those in their 80s. That’s not some token nothing. That’s a real concession, so much so that liberals are going to be up in arms about it as time marches on. That chained CPI bit probably wouldn’t make it through Nancy’s Pelosi’s caucus, but other entitlement cuts will. So the Democrats are at least showing up to play some ball.

But the Republicans are staying in the dugout. They aren’t even bothering to take the bus to the stadium. A trillion in taxes, one dollar in taxes, it doesn’t matter; Republicans will not permit a tax increase of any kind. I’m bored of writing this sentence, so you, poor reader, must be even more bored of reading it, but it has to be said, because so many others are out there peddling the falsehood that both sides are equally to blame for the impasse: No—the impasse exists because of Republicans and taxes. Period. If the GOP moved on taxes, the Democrats would give ground on entitlements, as they have now signaled yet again. And the Democrats should not and cannot accept a deal in which there are no tax increases, because they have two-thirds of the country with them and because it’s the right thing.

Put it all together and the odds of an agreement seem long indeed. Could this rump effort of 100 bipartisan House members and 40 bipartisan senators move the boulder? It’s like asking if a Boy Scout could light a fire with two sticks in the rain. Maybe. The conditions have to be just right, and no one really knows what those conditions are.

Assuming no deal, here’s what I’m told is likely to happen after everyone has acknowledged the collapse. The Republicans will, as John McCain and others have suggested, turn up the heat on the question of defense cuts. They will introduce legislation to exempt the Pentagon from cuts. Now remember—these cuts to the Pentagon, 15 percent, were agreed to by both parties in the August debt-ceiling deal. But Republicans, being the clever dialecticians that they are, will decide that the course of history has changed, and that deal will mean no more to them than one of those secret treaties Lenin routinely abrogated back in the day.

So they’ll advance a bill saying: cuts to domestic social programs, sure; cuts to Pentagon, nyet. It will pass the House. It will go to the Senate, and all the Republicans will be for it, and they’ll need 13 Democrats. So then the questions will be: will the Democrats be willing to hold the line and risk the silly accusation of being “soft on defense”? And will the White House also hold the line—bucking, of course, its own defense secretary, who agrees with the Republican position? I think we know the answer.

So the Republicans will have killed another deal with their indefensible and immoral position on taxes, and then, having stuffed that carcass in the trunk, they will retroactively work to kill the deal they agreed to last summer, and spend December demagoguing about how Democrats are going to leave America defenseless and throw hundreds of thousands of poor aeronautical engineers into the streets.

Your tax dollars at work.

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 29, 2011

October 30, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Deficits, Federal Budget | , , , , , | Leave a comment

John Boehner In GOP Fantasyland

One wonders why Congress convened its budget-reforming “supercommittee” at all; House Speaker John Boehner (R) on Thursday announced that he’d done all its members’ work for them.

At a speech to the Economic Club of Washington, Boehner articulated a hard-right line on taxes that even the most moderate of Democrats could never accept. Remove loopholes from the tax code, he argued, but “not for the purpose of bringing more money into the government.” Tax increases? Not a chance — they “are off the table,” Boehner said, repeating the dubious argument that planning to raise revenue many years down the road would hurt job creation now. If you’re looking for deficit reduction, Boehner barked, “the joint committee only has one option — spending cuts and entitlement reform.”

A new Bloomberg poll on Thursday reconfirmed voter anger at Washington’s inability to compromise — on budgets, on jobs policy, on long-term deficits. On the same day, the speaker gave a lesson by example of why it’s been so hard.

True, Boehner’s speech followed news that President Obama is scaling back the entitlement reforms he would favor in a long-term budget reform package, retreating from concessions he was willing to make over the summer to strike a debt deal. Both sides, then, are hardening their positions. But Obama’s remains politically braver than Boehner’s, since the president says he still wants to achieve some balance between raising revenue and cutting spending through reforms to Medicare, the protection of which Democrats are desperate to use as a campaign issue.

That is the key to deficit-cutting, drilled home in study after study: You can’t expect to fix America’s finances with tax increases alone or with spending cuts alone. Plans that lack this essential balance would fail either because their math doesn’t add up (the GOP’s Ryan plan) or because they would be reversed the second the other party took control of the government (the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s proposal…and the Ryan plan).

A deficit plan must also be balanced in another way — against premature budget austerity while the economy is sluggish, which Obama designed his latest jobs plan to avoid. Boehner said on Thursday there might be room for limited agreement with Obama. But not much, signalling disapproval of even the sorts of temporary tax cuts that would have been an obvious choice for Republicans for decades — until now.

Boehner might just be gearing up for further negotiations. But the speaker’s demonstration that he and his party are still in thrall to the ideological fantasies he described on Thursday aren’t going to enhance Americans’ confidence — in their leaders, or in their economic future.


By: Stephen Stromberg, The Washington Post, September 15, 2011

September 18, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Deficits, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, Federal Budget, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Increases, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Teaparty, Unemployed, Voters, Wealthy | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John Boehner Pretends He Isn’t Speaker Of The House

Perhaps my favorite GOP response to the downgrade announcement came from the Speaker of the House.

Said House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio): “Democrats who run Washington remain unwilling to make the tough choices required to put America on solid ground.” He quoted the S&P report as saying that reforming entitlement programs is necessary, but he did not mention its discussion of the potential need for new tax revenue.

This is almost beautiful, in a comedic sort of way.

First, S&P blamed Boehner’s hostage strategy for the downgrade, so Boehner trying to shift the blame elsewhere is cheap and cowardly. Second, Dems were willing to make all kinds of “tough choices,” but found Boehner was too weak to persuade his own caucus to compromise.

But that’s just routine nonsense. What I especially enjoyed is the notion that, from Boehner’s perspective, Democrats “run Washington.”

I’ve noticed the Speaker has referenced that wording a few times recently, so I checked Boehner’s own website to see how many times the Speaker’s office has used the phrase. I found over 3,000 results. For a guy who’s only been Speaker for seven months, it suggests this is a phrase Boehner absolutely loves.

There is, however, one small problem, which Boehner may have lost sight of: he’s the elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. He was able to become Speaker because Republicans enjoy a House majority.

And if Republicans enjoy a House majority, it necessarily means Democrats don’t “run Washington.”

This need not be complicated. When Boehner goes to work, does he see the Secret Service agents around him? Does he notice where it says “Speaker of the House” above the door he walks through? Does he realize when President Obama negotiates with him, it’s not because the president enjoys Boehner’s company?

Obviously, I get the point of the little rhetorical exercise. Washington is unpopular, so Boehner wants voters to blame the party that “runs” things in DC. But as rhetorical games go, this one is just pathetic, even by GOP standards.

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly- Political Animal, August 8, 2011

August 9, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Debt Crisis, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Standard and Poor's, Tax Increases, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

With Deal Announced, The White House Makes It’s Case

So the final deal has been announced, pending approval by the House, and one of the key new pieces of the compromise is that the Congressional committee tasked with coming up with a second round of spending cuts in exchange for the later debt ceiling hike would be forced to act by the new “trigger.” In the event that the committee deadlocks, that trigger would force an even division of non-defense and defense cuts, and since the latter is anathema to Republicans, they would not have any incentive to deliberately sabotage the committee in order to force the deep entitlements cuts they want.

The White House’s argument is that even if the deal is far short of what liberals hoped for, Republicans have effectively surrendered the amount of leverage they were expected to have over entitlements cuts. Now that the committee — which is half Republicans and Democrats — will all but certainly advance a package of cuts in exchange for the later debt ceiling hike, the argument is that Democrats can live to fight it out another day on entitlements.

The White House is also arguing that the deal sets the stage for a re-litigation of the tax cut fight, and it’s now distributing talking points to outside allies that are heavily devoted to making that case on entitlement and taxes, an argument that seems designed to quiet angst and criticism among liberals:

* Expedited Process for Balanced Deficit Reduction: Puts in place a longer term process for additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction through a committee structure that will put everything on the table, including tax and entitlement reform. To prevent either side from using procedural tricks to prevent Congress from acting, the committee’s recommendations will receive fast track authority, which means they can’t be amended or filibustered.

* Sets the Stage for a Balanced Package Including Revenues: The American people and a growing number of Republicans agree that any deficit reduction package must be balanced and included revenue.

* Even Speaker Boehner was open to a deal with $800 billion in revenues, and nearly 20 GOP senators were supportive of the Gang of 6 framework, which had more than $2 trillion in revenue.

* If the Committee does not succeed in meaningful balanced deficit reduction with revenue-raising tax reform on the most well-off by the end of 2012, the President can use his veto pen to raise nearly $1 trillion from the most well-off by vetoing any extension of the Bush high income tax cuts.

By;: Greg Sargent, Washington Post-The Plum Line, July 31, 2011

August 1, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economy, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, Senate, Taxes, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Harry Reid Caving Or Calling The GOP Bluff?

If you can still remember the GOP position when the curtain first rose on Debt Ceiling Theater, you will recall that the Congressional Republicans had put forth two goals.

First, an agreement whereby every dollar permitted to be borrowed by a raise in the debt ceiling would be matched by a dollar of cuts in the federal budget; and Second, there could be no tax increases as a result of the process.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is now offering up a plan that ostensibly meets the GOP demands by proposing a $2.7 trillion cut in federal spending to be matched by a like increase in the debt ceiling – with no tax increases or revenue boosts required.

That certainly sounds like a win for the GOP, doesn’t it?

Maybe it is – maybe it isn’t.

If the Republicans take the deal, they will accomplish a few important things.

For starters, in a country where few people read beyond the headlines and often believe what they are told by Fox News, a GOP declaration of victory would likely hold up – even if that victory proves to be little more than a cosmetic win.

Such a deal would also leave many on the left dispirited, believing that the President and the Democrats – by allowing the GOP to wriggle off the hook on revenue increases – will have, once again, caved to the opposition. This would threaten to split the Democrats at the worst possible time as we head into an election year.

But the devil is always in the details – and the details very much skew to the Democratic Party perspective.

Much of the cuts in the Reid plan are tied to reductions in spending on our two wars along with discretionary spending cuts. By structuring the cuts in this way, Reid is creating an incentive for the war supporters in Congress, and the President, to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan once and for all.

Accomplishing this would likely be perceived as a ‘win’ by many American voters who think it is time to bring these wars to a conclusion. Of course, those who are focused on achieving true and well defined cuts to our federal budget would likely see this maneuver as an example of budget trickery intended to create the appearance of a cut where no cut is really is going to take place if we continue our battles overseas.

More importantly from a political perspective, none of the budget reductions in the Reid proposal touch the entitlement programs that are sacrosanct to both the left and the rank-and-file members of Democratic Party, not to mention – if the polls are to be believed- Independents and many Republicans.

Finally, the Reid proposal provides a large enough raise in the debt ceiling to take us beyond the 2012 elections.

While the failure to get any revenue increases would, no doubt, be a black mark against the Democrats and the President, the Reid proposal would permit the Senate Democrats to argue that they succeeded in solving the debt ceiling crisis without impacting on entitlements – something the President was clearly ready to do in trade for revenue increases.

Preserving entitlements will make a lot of people happy and very possibly balance the anger of those who want the Democrats to hang in there until they accomplish some revenue increases by cutting corporate subsidies from the tax code and raising the rates on the wealthiest Americans.

The deal would also preserve to the Democrats the substantial political advantage they gained through the public revulsion to the Ryan budget plan and its dramatic impact on Medicare and Medicaid.

All of this puts the Republicans in a tricky spot.

If they accept Reid’s deal, they can claim a victory and go home.

But they will know that they really have won very little beyond the appearance of a win and some continued protection for the wealthy by holding off any tax increases – for now. Remember that the Bush tax cuts once again expire at the end of 2012. Should Obama win the election – and bring along some Congressional Democrats with him -the story could be very different than it was when Obama was forced to leave the Bush cuts intact in 2010 in order to protect the unemployment insurance payments so badly needed by the millions of out-of-work Americans.

Because of the questionable value of such a deal to those in the Tea Party Caucus, the group that very much appears to be in the driver’s seat these days, the Reid proposal could be a non-starter, forcing Boehner to, once again, pass up a compromise opportunity.

If Boehner is forced to say no, it would seem impossible for the Republicans to avoid blame after having passed up yet another effort on the part of the Democrats to compromise – this time by offering the GOP what they say they wanted in the first place.

You can also expect Democrats to be quick to point out that the war savings Reid is offering in his deal also show up as a budget cut in the Ryan budget – making it look all the worse for the GOP who would appear willing to claim war savings as budget cuts in their own budget but refuse to consider them valid when offered as part of a deal in this instance.

Harry Reid may be showing us that there is more to his strategy skills than what has previously met the nation’s eye.

Stay tuned. There is a long way to go.

By: Rick Ungar, The Policy Page, Forbes, July 25, 2011

July 26, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Independents, Lawmakers, Politics, President Obama, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Increases, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Teaparty, Unemployment Benefits, Voters, War, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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