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AFL-CIO Outlines a Debt Reduction Plan that Would Actually Work

4:56 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

AFL-CIO Headquarters

AFL-CIO Headquarters by samirluther

Here we are in mid-September with 10 weeks of the “Super-committee” drama ahead of us. We’ll be waiting to see the posturing, the demands, the breath holding, the capitulations and, most likely, the intransigence of the Republicans forcing this whole exercise into failure.

The really sad part is that there is a plan out there which would actually reduce the debt by more than the 1.2 trillion this committee is charged with. That plan was laid out by the AFL-CIO and it does not require cuts to Medicare, Social Security or Medicaid.

The Hill is reporting that the venerable union has sent around a plan that outlines where trillions in deficit reduction savings could be found. If the real goal, as both Republicans and Democrats claim, is to reduce our national debt and get our people working then these are the ideas that should be discussed before we talk about cutting Social Security (which does nothing to add to our debt) or military retirement benefits.

The proposals run the gamut and they are pretty much what you would expect from a Labor Union; establish the public option as way to control costs for health care by competition with a plan that does not put profit first. Allow Medicaid to negotiate drug costs with pharmaceutical companies (why the hell we have not done this yet is a national shame) and allow the re-importation of prescription drugs from other countries. The AFL-CIO estimates that these three measures would save a total of $299 billion over the next ten years. As they say, that ain’t hay.

But that is not all the plan suggests. There are tax revenue ideas that make sense and are perfectly compatible with economic growth. The plan includes a changing the tax code so that capital gains are taxed at a rate just like income, a millionaires surtax, and the big Kahuna a small financial transaction tax on all trades on our stock markets. These measures are estimated by the union to provide, $168 billion, $400 billion and a $1 trillion dollars respectively over the next decade. That is more than the “Super-committee” is looking for in one fell swoop!
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Conrad, Coburn and Cat Food II, Oh My!

5:49 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

(image: twolf1)


Poor Kent Conrad, he thought that announcing that he was retiring next year would make him seem like a fair broker for massively unpopular budget reduction plans. He pushed the president really hard over creating the Cat Food Commission (threatening to hold up the last debt ceiling raise if it was not created).

That went pretty spectacularly sideways, ending with no Commission report, but instead a report from the two chairs that the not enough of the rest of the Commission would sign on for. It still gets talked about like Simpson-Bowels is the actual report instead of something cooked up by a couple of old coots that it is.

Then Sen. Conrad decided that he could do better and formed the so-called “Gang of Six”. It should have been called “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” for all the success it had. They are supposed to unveil their plan for trying to implement the “old coots” plan which will invariably be misreported as the Simpson-Bowels commission recommendations. That is probably not going to go very well, which is why it is going to be presented to 60 or so Senators in private today.

Meanwhile Sen. Coburn (Douche-OK) the rogue member of the Gang, is also pushing a plan that has something for everyone to hate his own 9 trillion dollar deficit reduction plan. This plan would increase taxes by closing loopholes and would significantly change Medicare and Medicaid.

It would also hit Social Security. If you are inclined to want to change Social Security this plan might attract you. It would not use any of the savings in to reduce the deficit but rather extend the solvency horizon for it. It would increase the eligibility age by 1 month for every two years, starting in 2022. This is just a camels nose under the tent to change the program, at least to my eyes.

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Way To Go Republicans! Keep It Up!

5:48 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

mistake

mistake by doobybrain, on Flickr

Go Republicans! Go! You just keep doing what you’ve been doing this year, and by early 2013 you won’t have to worry so much about working on the problems of the nation. You will have lots and lots of time to spend with your families and at cushy jobs as lobbyist for the remaining few Republicans in the House and Senate.

After a month that has seen not one, not two but four Democratic wins in various special and regular elections that were supposed to be cake walks for Republicans, last night it was topped off with a Democrat beating a Republican in one of the reddest of gerrymandered-to-be-red districts in the entire North East.

Still, I know you guys. I have been watching you for a very long time and I know that today is not going to be about lessons learned. Nah. Today is going to be all about rationalizations found. You’ll say that it was the third party guy (though of course that does not explain losing the other four elections you expected to win). You’ll say it was outside money (which of course ignore the million or so your outside money groups spent, nice investment there Karl!). You’ll say it is anything but what it really is.

Why are you losing where you should be winning? Especially since you keep saying the American people on behind you? It is pretty easy really. You’re policies and the way you talk about them make you look like a bunch of mean assholes who want to help the rich and stick it to the poor at every turn. This has the added problem, for you, of being true.
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Water Cooler – Is Medicare/Medicaid The Debt Driver? Nah – It’s Tax Cuts!

5:15 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

It’s all about the debt. That is what the Republicans have managed to get Washington thinking. There is no doubt that we have a lot of it and that we do have to pay for it, eventually. Personally I thin that any attempt to deal with it before we fix our employment problem is going to make things worse not better, but no one in Washington is asking me.

But just as the Republican idea about what is important now is wrong so is the area they are looking to fix the problem. The Republicans have been telling us that it is the spendthrift ways of the Obama administration and its desire to for stimulus and it’s insistence on preserving Medicare and Medicaid that is making us broke, but the reality is, of course, something different.

Everyone has seen the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities chart showing what is blowing a hole in our budget, mainly the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact they have put out a new chart that shows where our problems are going to be over the next 8 years or so.

Is anyone surprised by the fact that by 2019 40% of our debt will be the Bush tax cuts and the costs of the wars (including interest since we did put the cost of two wars on our credit card). Look at the chart for yourself:

5-12-11bud2

The Chief Economist at CBPP had this to say about the chart:

Altogether, the economic downturn, the measures enacted to combat it (including the 2009 Recovery Act), and the financial rescue legislation play a smaller role in the projected debt increase over the next decade. Public debt due to all other factors fell from over 30 percent of GDP in 2001 to 20 percent of GDP in 2019.

We focus here on debt held by the public, which reflects funds that the federal government borrows in credit markets to finance deficits and other cash needs. That’s the proper measure on which to focus because it’s what really affects the economy. We compare it to GDP because stabilizing the debt-to-GDP ratio is a key test of fiscal sustainability.

As Kathy and Jim note, simply letting the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule (or paying for any portions that policymakers decide to extend) would stabilize the debt-to-GDP ratio for the next decade. While we’d have to do much more to keep the debt stable over the longer run, that would be a huge accomplishment.

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Water Cooler – Paul Ryan, Ending Medicaid And The Death Of A Joke Pathology

4:50 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Paul Ryan - Caricature

Paul Ryan - Caricature by DonkeyHotey, on Flickr

 

I had a friend who had ambitions of being a comedian, the problem was that he wasn’t always that funny, even though he was convinced he was. This led the rest of his friends to develop the “Death of a Joke” pathology; which described how a not funny joke descended into an excruciating experience.

If joke does not get a laugh, tell it again.
If it still does not get a laugh tell it again, louder.
If it still does not get a laugh, tell it again and explain it.
Still no laugh, try telling it in a funny (as in odd not as in ha-ha) voice.

It was kind of sad to see Ricky do this, but it is going to be even sadder to see Rep. Paul Ryan doing his version of this with the Medicaid killing provision of his regressive budget.

He genuinely fails to understand that people don’t like the idea of changing the existing fee-for-service system of Medicaid into a voucher program that won’t actually cover the cost of insurance going forward. Rep. Ryan seems to think that people just don’t get the plan, just like Ricky thought that we did not understand the joke.

Today we saw part one, of this theater of the absurd where Rep. Ryan went and tried to re-spin the plan by retelling his “joke” saying that it his plan was going to give seniors more choice while the Dems plan will deny them health care.

This is of course the same BS that all the Republicans tried to spin about “choice” when they went home and got that grandma and granddad beat down at the Town Halls. What they seem to always fail to include is that this choice means a choice not just of plans (that won’t want to cover them because they are older and more expensive) but between Fancy Feast and that blood pressure medicine. But Grandma and Granddad weren’t fooled the first time, so don’t expect them to be fooled this time.
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Robert Samuelson And The “Serious Trickle Down Fairy”

5:52 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

I am having a problem with a word, it is one that we’re hearing a lot lately, seriousness. Now having been ‘round the block a few times I have come to the conclusion that when I hear Right Wing talkers like Robert Samuelson and Republicans using a word over and over then I tend to think they are in the process of redefining it.

Today’s little nugget of nothing from Samuelson is all about the false equivalence between the supposed lack of seriousness on both sides. Of course La Samuelson goes after the Dems first insisting that we look at cutting entitlement programs like Medicaid and Medicare and then conflating those two expensive and troubled programs with the much more solvent and non-deficit producing Social Security.

He does take a half hearted swipe at the Republicans and their abject failure to even consider increasing taxes at all to bring down our deficits. But Samuelson has a point that he wants to make in this “A pox on both your houses” column. Here, I’ll let him make it:

Our budget problem is conceptually simple. Government’s spending commitments, driven by more retirees and uncontrolled health costs, vastly exceed the existing tax base. There is an argument about how fast changes should be made to protect the economic recovery.

He is right as far as he goes. The problem is that Samuelson is not really, um, err, serious about this issue himself. Yes we do have a problem that we don’t have enough money for our commitments and yes health care costs are going up and that is squeezing the budget more as we keep our commitments to the poor and elderly to provide them with health care.

However, the solution is not finding a way to slash these programs so that they provide less care and do nothing to control costs. The solution is to fix the underlying problem, that our health care markets are fundamentally flawed.

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Time For A Bold And Ideological Democratic Budget!

5:32 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

FY2011 Budget

FY2011 Budget by TalkMediaNews, on Flickr"

So, now that House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan has unveiled his steaming tightly coiled pile of a budget the argument in the media is starting. It is to be strongly hoped that the Traditional Media outlets will look at the facts of this budget.

You know the little problems like the draconian cuts are not going to actual deficit reduction because they are being used to pay for tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. Just to raise your blood pressure a little this morning, let me give you and example. Under this budget a single person making $75,000 a year (a nice chunk of change) would pay the same tax rates as people who make multiple millions a year.

Another issue that has to be brought up again and again is that this budget would gut the newly minted financial regulations, would gut the EPA, would gut the Social Security Administration (setting up the argument that it is poorly run and needs to be ended all together) as well as ending Medicare and Medicaid as we know them within ten years.

As if all that shite were not enough, there is the fact that like all of the proposals that Rep. Ryan puts forward, the numbers don’t work. He assumes that if we pass his budget in 4 years, just 48 months, the unemployment rate will fall to 4%.

I’d love that to happen, but I have this mental defect, I can’t get behind something that has no basis in reality, or as in this case is actually counter factual. Over the last two years the only thing that has kept the economy afloat was major federal spending. Business is sitting on 1.4 trillion in cash and has shown no sign of wanting to use it to stimulate demand. Rep. Ryan wants to slash hundreds of billions from the budget every year for the next decade. Is there really anyone out there who thinks that the resultant loss of jobs is going to improve the growth rate or the unemployment numbers?
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Gov. Barbour Tries To Retool “Welfare Queens” Meme

6:27 am in 2012 election, banality of evil, Elections by Bill Egnor

BMW apline wrecked car

BMW apline wrecked car by Kingfisherblue2009 Liz Callan, on Flickr

Mississippi Governor and probably presidential hopeful Haley Barbour is a real piece of work. With his Boss Hogg good looks and his penchant for idolizing Jim Crow groups like the Citizens Council (who enforced an economic apartheid on Southern Black citizens)  but thus far that has not stopped him from looking like he might be a viable candidate.

Still the level of mendacity and crypto-racism from the Deep South Governor is not something I think will play in the larger election. Sure whoever the Republican candidate is will be going up against an African American in the general election and the racist minority in this nation is going to be wanting to line up behind anyone (who is white) who will run against him, but the vast majority of the nation is not going stand for that kind of thing.

Still Gov. Barbour can’t seem to help himself when it comes to making statements that are not only false but also laced with more than a hint of racism. At the recent governors conference Barbour was front and center in trying to get the Federal Government to relax the requirements for coverage in Medicaid that went with the stimulus money which boosted the state coffers.

He went so far as to say:

“We have people pull up at the pharmacy window in a BMW and say they can’t afford their co-payment.”

When arguing that States should be allowed to make Medicaid recipients pay for some of their medication. If that statement sounds familiar to you, it did to me too. It is right along the lines of the infamous story of the “Welfare Queen”.

For those who have heard the term but forgotten the story, let me refresh your memory. It was President Reagan who told the anecdote about one woman who defrauded the welfare program for $150,000 dollars, and driving a Cadillac. The only problem with this story is that it was $8,000 not 150K, and the woman went to jail on fraud charges.
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Borrow And Spend Republicans Unveil Tax Cut Package

6:37 am in Politics, Republican Party by Bill Egnor

There is something about Washington and taxes that seems to destroy the ability of law makers to do simple math. This seems to afflict Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats the worst. The Washington Post is reporting about the roll out of the Republicans Orwellianly named tax plan, the Tax Hike Prevention Act. Sen. Mitch McConnell (the man voted most likely to turn into a snapping turtle in our lifetimes) has put the idea on the table permanently extend all of the Bush era tax cuts, including the ones for the ultra wealthy, that top 2% of all earners.

From the WaPo :

"We have a spending problem. We spend too much. We don’t have a taxing problem. We don’t tax too little," McConnell told reporters Tuesday. "And if we want to begin to get ourselves out of this economic trough that we’re in, the only way to do that is to grow the private sector."

This is insane. We are currently collecting tax revenues at the same we did in 1950. In 2009 taxes were 9.2% of all personal income, just like it was when Harry Truman was president. A lot of things have changed since that time, the population has doubled and unlike now, in 1950 the United States was running a surplus. For Senator McConnell to say we are taxing too much is just another example of Republican bizzaro world, where black is white and up is down.

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