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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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Republicans: Less Like The Joker, More Like Henchmen

5:42 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

the joker (based on a Dave McKean work)

the joker (based on a Dave McKean work) by Sick Sad M!kE

Sometimes it is easy to see the Republicans as bunch of super-villains, diabolically plotting every twist and turn to thwart the will of the American people with economic policy that only comforts the comfortable and afflicts the afflicted. After all they backed down the President and the Democratically controlled Senate and got most of what they wanted, even given that they upped the ransom demands in the middle of negotiations.

Then they go and do something like what Majority Leader Eric Cantor did yesterday. After managing to force a deficit reduction plan that will force some cuts in Medicare and will put Social Security and Medicaid in the sights of the Super Congress, they had pretty much rehabilitated their massive political malpractice of forcing a vote for the Ryan Budget.

Remember the Ryan Budget? You know, the one that wants to end Medicare as we know is and replace the program with as system of vouchers (but leave the name the same so they can claim they are not ending the program). Well, the oft confused Majority Leader does and he is still pushing the idea.

He sat down with the Wall Street Journal editorial board yesterday and said the following:

“What we have to be I think focused on is truth in budgeting here,” Mr. Cantor (R., Va.) told The Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal. He said “the better way” for Americans is to “get the fiscal house in order” and “come to grips with the fact that promises have been made that frankly are not going to be kept for many.”

There is it, the fact of the matter in one sentence. For all the talk of “preserving the programs” the reality is that the number two ranking Republican in the House is saying that they are going to break the promises that had been made.
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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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Water Cooler – Republicans Censoring Congresses Communication with Constituents

5:36 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor


Censored by merlinprincesse

There is a meme that I hate, that politics is a blood sport and that you can’t be involved in it unless you are willing to leave your opponents bleeding into the sand of the arena while you bask in the adulation of the crowd. This idea leads to a culture of anything goes and it makes the governance of our nation much much harder.

Which is where we are with the House Republicans. Having committed political malpractice by forcing a vote on the Paul Ryan Medicare killing budget the Republican leadership finds itself with a stinking, rotting albatross hung around its neck.

So what is a political party with an authoritarian bent to do? Well for one thing they are preventing Democratic Representatives from sending out any communication to their constituents that say the Ryan budget will kill or end Medicare. Even though these are factually true statements (gutting a program and then calling it Medicare does not count as keeping it, no matter what Politifact or the Washington Post Fact Checker say).

In Congress Representatives and Senators are allowed to use federal funds to communicate with their constituents. The only thing they are not allowed to do on that dime is outright electioneering. Meaning that they can tell you that the Republicans are everything but a child of God, but they can’t say “So, vote for me!” explicitly or raise money for the same in those communications.
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Robert Sameulson Tells Lies, Lies, Lies About Ryan’s Medicare Ending Budget

5:32 am in banality of evil, jerks by Bill Egnor

Paul Ryan - Caricature

Paul Ryan - Caricature by DonkeyHotey, on Flickr

It is Monday so what do I find in my in-box but another tightly coiled steaming pile of conservative idiocy by Robert Samuelson. It is a real drag to write about him because there really are no snappy pejoratives to describe him that don’t insult the people or item one compares him to. So I am not going to try that today, I am just going to call it straight, Robert Samuelson is a partisan liar.

His entire column is filled with half-truths, false comparisons and blatant lies. Let’s break it down. He starts out by trying to co-opt the “Ending Medicare as we know it” meme that not only Democrats but just about any person that can read and reason understands is the outcome of the Ryan budget. But then Robby ups the ante he says:

It is only a slight exaggeration to say that unless we end Medicare “as we know it,” America “as we know it” will end.

This is, not to put too fine a point on it, a lie. There is no chance that our taking care of the elderly has to end America as we know it. Well, unless you have been so brainwashed by the conservative movement that you are still living in the 1880’s idea of what America is. You know, white, rich and a bunch of basically peasants that are just there to turn the wheels of industry and take the crumbs the Robber Barons deign to leave behind. Then it might be end to that America, which the rest of us left behind long ago.

He then conflates health care spending for government programs (which do include the VA, but he doesn’t mention it since he wants to kill Medicare and Medicaid) and private health care spending. He says:

Uncontrolled health spending isn’t simply crowding out other government programs; it’s also dampening overall living standards. Health economists Michael Chernew, Richard Hirth and David Cutler recently reported that higher health costs consumed 35.7 percent of the increase in per capita income from 1999 to 2007. They also project, that under reasonable assumptions, it could absorb half or more of the gain between now and 2083.

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Water Cooler – Rightwing Talker Hangs Up On GOP Candidate Over Ryan Budget

5:30 pm in jerks by Bill Egnor

Like many of you I am still trying to figure out exactly why the Republicans have really doubled down on the idea of killing Medicare and replacing it with a voucher system. It is incredibly unpopular. There is a CNN poll out today that even shows half of Republicans and self-identified conservatives don’t like the idea.

However there is the half of the Republican base that loves the idea. It is the half of the base that votes in primaries and listens to Rightwing Talk Radio. These folks are the ones that are driving the Republican Party hard to the right, even though that way lies the Abyss.

How bad is it? Well not only are the supposedly “serious” Republican presidential candidates all having to queue up to drink the poison Kool-Aide (Jon Huntsman just yesterday said he’d support the ‘Throw Grandma from the Train” budget) but even other candidates for lower office are being grilled and then discarded if they don’t answer correctly.

Below is the audio from the Ray Junior show today. Junior is interviewing a Florida Republican Senate hopeful named Mike Haridopolos. Take a listen:

Haridopolos dips and dives and tries not to say yes or now and Ray Junior hounds him and hounds him, when the hapless Haridopolos won’t answer, the host actually hangs up on him!

You have to have a little sympathy for the guy. Florida is full of people that depend on Medicare; it is a retirement state after all. Having the Paul Ryan budget hung around his neck like a stinking, decaying albatross is not something that anyone wants right now, especially in a state filled with old folks.

This is the problem for the Republicans. They have put themselves in a political corner by directly pursuing their goals of dismantling the safety net. That is bad enough, but they are not doing it to reduce the debt, which might, might get some folks to accept their gutting of a program that keeps old folks from choosing between health care and food and shelter, but they are doing it so they can finance another massive tax break for the wealthy!

There is just no win here, but they are also hamstrung because they have taught their base to be maximalists. It is all or nothing all the time for them. The Ryan budget has become the first of a series of litmus tests for Republicans.

The problem is if you can pass the litmus test, then you are probably dooming yourself in November. What they have done is put up a very effective screen that will prevent anyone that might have broad based appeal from actually being able to win the Republican nomination. But the question still remains, why the hell would they do that?

I am stumped. What is on your minds tonight Firedogs? The floor is yours!

Water Cooler – Let The Political Self-Immolation Begin! – Ryan Budget Edition

5:05 pm in 2012 election, Elections by Bill Egnor


Whoomp! Whoosh! That was the sound of Tim Pawlenty self-immolating. T-Paw (what kind of presidential candidate gives himself a nickname like that?!?) was thought to be one of the “serious” candidates. While he had been a very conservative governor, there was still this impression that he was one of the smart ones, if also one of the most boring ones.

However today he drank the Republican Jonestown Kool-Aid. This is what ABC News is reporting he said:

“First of all, I applaud Congressman Ryan for his courage and his leadership in putting his plan forward. At least he has a plan. President Obama doesn’t have a plan. The Democrats don’t have a plan. And I really applaud his leadership and his courage in putting a plan on the table. Number two, we will have our own plan; it will have many similarities to Congressman Ryan’s plan, but it will have some differences, one of which will be we’ll address Social Security. He chose not to; we are addressing Social Security. And the Medicare part of our plan will have some differences, too. It will have some similarities also. So we’ll have our own plan. But if I can’t have my own plan — as president, I’ll have my own plan – if I can’t have that, and the bill came to my desk and I had to choose between signing or not Congressman Ryan’s plan, of course I would sign it.”

You know he is trying. You really have to give him that, he is trying. He takes a disingenuous swipe at the President and the Democrats by saying they don’t have a plan. It is true, the White House and the Democrats have no plan to privatize Medicare or Social Security. Those ideas are strictly Republican ones.

Still he has done it, he has signed on with the suicide pact that is the Ryan Budget. He has said out loud and in front of reporters that if he were president and the Ryan budget came to his desk he’d sign it.

It is more than a little astounding that Republicans are starting their campaign season by defending and doubling down on a plan that is massively unpopular. No one is willing to see Medicare cut to give more tax breaks to the wealthy. We should always keep sight of the fact this plan does not just cut funding for Medicare so drastically that seniors would have to pay an estimated $6,000 year in out of pocket expenses, it does it so that we can give the wealth another massive tax break.

For a long time I and others have talked about epistemological closure in the Republican Party. It is the idea that no new information or information that contradicts a pillar of Republican orthodoxy is allowed into the world of Conservatives/Republicans or Teahadists. For a long time is was a question of having a very little opening to the real world where some new data could slip in through the cracks.

Now it seems the Republican informational horizon has sealed itself and is cut off from most of reality, like the other dimensions that are rolled up smaller than the Plank length and can’t really be seen.
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Way To Go Republicans! Keep It Up!

5:48 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor


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 – What Is Going To Happen In The NY 26th?

4:52 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Poor Jane Corwin! When the New York State Republicans picked her to be their nominee in the 26th Congressional District it must have felt like she was being crowned prom queen. After all the 26th has only elected 3 Democrats in the last 130 years.

Now she must feel like a developmentally disabled child who has been handed a rubber bon-bon. She knows it should be a treat but the more she chews it, the worse it seems to get.

As the results start to trickle in tonight, State Rep. Corwin knows one thing for sure, no matter what the vote is, it won’t be certified. How does she know that? Because today she went to court to ask for just such an injunction. Now in New York State this is not that uncommon a move but again it should not be one that a Republican in the NY-26th should have to take.

How did this come about? You probably know but I am going to run it down. There is a third party (Teahadist) candidate in the race who is splitting the Republican vote. But more important than this is the fact of Paul Ryan’s Medicare killing coupon program. You see the NY-26th CD is mainly older folks. They are not too keen on any talk of cutting Medicare or worse replacing it with a voucher program.

This is where Republican unity really cuts the other way. Instead of making them more effective by them all voting like a bunch of robots, the fact they voted for something that no one in America wants really allows someone like Corwin a chance to wiggle out.
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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:


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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