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“Repeated Unforced Errors”: The House GOP’s Big Gamble

In for a dime, in for a dollar. Or, in this case, $260 billion. That’s the amount of spending cuts in a bill Paul Ryan and House Republicans are preparing today for floor action later this week. The bill is meant to avert the deep cuts in defense spending mandated by the failure of the deficit supercommittee. But more broadly, this is the continuation of a fascinating gamble.

Here’s the story. If Congress doesn’t act, across-the-board cuts required by the supercommittee go into effect in January 2013 — cuts to both the Pentagon and domestic programs that both parties find unacceptable. There’s general agreement that the earliest Congress will agree on how to prevent those cuts will be in a lame duck session after the election. And yet what the two parties are doing about this fact couldn’t be more different.

The Democrats, who prefer smaller cuts paired with tax increases on upper-income taxpayers, have been in no hurry at all to advance that agenda in actual legislative terms. Senate Dems, as Republicans will shout until they’re blue in the face, did not pass a budget resolution this year. House Democrats, too, are reported to be leaning against offering an alternative to this new GOP bill.

By contrast, Republicans are holding vote after vote on their agenda — voting on unpopular measures that are the stuff of opposition researchers’ dreams, even though those bills are going nowhere. The measure they’ll be dealing with in later this week, if they stick to plans, slashes (among other things) “food stamps, funding for the 2010 healthcare and financial regulatory laws and the refundable child tax credit.”

Republicans appear to be taking these votes in order to give their Members a chance to go on record in favor of deep spending cuts before the real negotiations between the parties on averting the supercommittee-mandated cuts start in earnest. The only votes Dems are taking are against GOP initiatives. That may seem cowardly, but it’s also quite sensible, since anything they propose isn’t going anywhere, and those future talks will decide what really happens.

The real mystery is why Republicans are constantly voting on bills containing unpopular provisions (attacking the child tax credit???), especially since these votes are merely symbolic. It’s possible that it’s because they believe their own rhetoric and mistakenly believe voters will reward them for “courage.” It’s possible that inexperienced Members simply trust Ryan, and that he doesn’t think his agenda is unpopular. But whatever the motive, it’s hard to see what the House GOP is up to as anything other than a repeated unforced error that Democrats will likely exploit during the fall campaign.

By: Jonathan Bernstein, The Washington Post Plum Line, May 7, 2012

May 8, 2012 Posted by | Congress | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Attack Of The Right”: Ryan Budget A Disappointment To Conservatives

The conservative group Club for Growth said Wednesday that a Republican House budget plan authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) is a “disappointment” to fiscal conservatives that falls short of making necessary cuts to balance the nation’s budget.

The group’s president said in a statement that Ryan’s plan does not put the country on a path to chop deficits quickly enough.

Chris Chocola also complained that that the budget largely waives massive cuts that are set to go into effect in January as a consequence for the failure of Congress’s special deficit reduction “supercommittee.”

According to the Budget Control Act — the hard-fought law that raised the nation’s debt ceiling over the summer — failure of the supercommittee was to trigger about $1.2 trillion in cuts over the next decade, split between military and domestic spending.

In Ryan’s budget, the so-called sequester–deeply unpopular to Republicans because of its powerful hit to defense–would be replaced. Tackling only the first year of the cuts—about $110 billion—his budget calls for instructing Congressional committees to come up with $18 billion in trims the first year and $116 billion over five years.

“It is hard to have confidence that our long-term fiscal challenges will be met responsibly when the same Congress that passed the Budget Control Act wants to ignore it less than one year later. On balance, the Ryan Budget is a disappointment for fiscal conservatives,” Chocola said in a statement.

Ryan’s budget also seeks to eliminate deficits by 2040. The Club for Growth has called for a budget that balances within the decade. Chocola said the budget contains “several important reforms and pro-growth policies” but is not enough.

“The Club for Growth urges Republicans to support a budget that balances in the near future and complies with the Budget Control Act,” he said.

The attack from the right comes as Ryan is facing a far more vigorous outcry from Democrats—who believe this plan slashes programs for the poor and elderly even while cutting taxes for the wealthy.

They have also complained that the Ryan plan slices agency budgets by $18 billion more than a year-long cap agreed to in the debt deal—a key concession made to conservatives whom Ryan will need to get his budget plan through the House.

With Democrats unified against Ryan’s plan, the Club for Growth statement could pose problems for its passage in the House if it persuades the GOP’s restive caucus to waver in its support.

Some centrist Republicans are also anxious about Ryan’s plan—fearful it will set the House on a path to another nasty clash with the Senate just weeks before the November election.

 

By: Rosalind S. Helderman, The Washington Post, March 21, 2012

March 23, 2012 Posted by | Budget, Deficits | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

With Economic Plans, GOP Abandons Middle Class Entirely

I have watched with a truly curious sense of amazement as the Republicans, especially the presidential candidates, have stuck it to the middle class.

What have they been thinking with their tax plans and their  relentless pursuit of even greater tax-cut largess for the very  wealthiest of Americans? What do they have against the middle class,  those who have seen their incomes drop by 4.8 percent this past decade,  according to a report in the Wall Street Journal?

The latest Republican proposal made to the Senate’s Gang of 12  “supercommittee” is to lower the tax rate on the top wage earners from  35 percent to 28 percent; this on top of the temporary tax cut that Bush  provided. The Republicans propose various revenue increases to help  reduce the budget deficit but take them away with this giveaway to the  wealthy.

Once again, the middle class is left holding the bag, watching as  they get stuck with less take-home pay and more expenses for rent,  mortgage, college tuition, basic essentials.

Let’s look at the Republican presidential candidates‘ tax proposals.  Governor Perry has proposed a huge tax windfall for those whose income  averages over a million dollars. For those millionaires and  billionaires, he would give them a $512,733 average tax break! How can  that possibly be justified since these wage earners have seen a 385  percent increase in their wealth over the last 20 years?

Perry’s plan would actually see tax rates go up for those who make less that $50,000, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Herman Cain’s pie in the sky 9-9-9 plan would see the poor and middle  class lose with a 15.8 percent drop; those families who make the  average of $49,445 would see their effective tax rate go from 14.3  percent to 23.8 percent, according to the Tax Policy Center.

The Romney tax plan is more of the same. More tax cuts for the  wealthy: 67 percent of his lower capital gains taxes would go to  millionaires; 50 percent of the continuation of the Bush tax cuts go to  the top 5 percent of wage earners.

The policy prescriptions we are seeing from Republicans as we  approach 2012 are coupled with a complete lack of explanation of why it  is important to help middle-class families. All their rhetoric is  ideological—anti-Washington, anti-government, anti-taxes. They have  drunk the Grover Norquist Kool-Aid, even to the detriment of those  families struggling to make it in a tough economy.

The benefits go to Wall Street, not Main Street; the analyses of all  the tax plans clearly point to giveaways to those top 2 percent of  Americans, with the squeeze put on those in the middle.

As they campaign in the next 12 months, the Republicans will find it  increasingly difficult to make the case that they stand for  hard-working, middle-class families. This could well be their downfall  come next November.

By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, November 9, 2011

November 10, 2011 Posted by | GOP, Taxes | , , , , , | 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

   

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