News & Notes May 17, 2012

Two large wind farm projects for the state have been canceled because federal tax credits are going by the wayside.  If we’re subsidizing fossil fuels why can’t we subsidize clean, renewable energy?  The smart policy is to support clean energy and end tax credits for dirty ones.

Speaking of smart, does the Tea Party have an IQ test for membership?  Have you spoken with any of these morons?  I bet if you score more than 90 you’re rejected.  Their signs are the most hilarious examples of illiteracy around.

I was in Shanksville in September 2010 covering the first public memorial to Flight 93.  It’s a sobering experience to see where the heroes aboard that flight cratered into the mountain.  A fundraiser in DC just raised $2 million for the memorial.

James O’Keefe has had yet another video debunked.  This time he sought to prove voter fraud and, oops, missed the mark because he didn’t check his facts.  Think Progress has the story.

Keystone Progress is putting the heat on Pennsylvania legislators who are members of ALEC.  So far 14 have resigned from the lobbying organization whose mission it is to take away your rights.  Go and sign their petition.  Surprisingly two Democrats remain on their list.

The arc of justice bends towards progress:

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest found that a section of the NDAA which gives the government powers to regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists could be used against journalists, scholars and activists to curtail their first amendment rights.

The NDAA is clearly unconstitutional and President Obama failed when he decided not to veto the bill.

VP Biden went after Romney’s days as a vulture capitalist in an appearance in Youngstown, Ohio yesterday:

Biden casts the race as one between an Obama vision that promotes fairness and a Romney ideology that helps the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. It’s a strategy that combines an attack on Romney with a sunny appraisal of the country’s future under Obama.

“Then there’s Romney economics, which says as long as the government helps the guys at the very top do well, workers and small businesses and communities can be left to fend for themselves,” Biden says, according to excerpts of his speech released by the campaign.

As the country nears the debt limit ceiling Tea baggers are again threatening to hold the nation hostage to their radical agenda.  Republicans spent all of this money and now refuse to pay the bill.  I keep hearing these people claim the government needs to live within its means just as the average family must.  First of all the average family doesn’t.  Because real wages have been stagnant ever since this Reagan Revolution began, they live on credit.  Still, they have to pay the bills when they come due.  The country must also.  Since 1981 Republican presidents have spent like drunken sailors with the approval of Congress.  Now they have to pay the bill even if it means increasing taxes on the 1%.

President Obama has nominated two Judges for the federal bench:

Matthew W. Brann:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

Matthew W. Brann has been a partner at the law firm of Brann, Williams, Caldwell & Sheetz since 1995, where he concentrates his practice in the area of tort, contract, commercial, and real property litigation.  Prior to joining the firm as an associate in 1991, Brann served as a law clerk with the Court of Common Pleas in Bradford County, Pennsylvania.  Brann received his J.D. in 1990 from the Dickinson School of Law and his B.A. in 1987 from the University of Notre Dame.

Judge Malachy Edward Mannion:  Nominee for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

Judge Malachy Edward Mannion has been a United States Magistrate Judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania since 2001.  Apart from a four-year stint as a partner at the law firm of Hourigan, Kluger, Spohrer & Quinn PC in the mid-90s, Judge Mannion spent the fifteen years prior to his appointment to the bench serving as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Middle District of Pennsylvania.  While a federal prosecutor, he served as Chief of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force from 1989 to 1993.  From 1980 to 1986, Judge Mannion was an Assistant District Attorney in the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office.  He began his legal career as an associate at the law firm of Bartels, Pykett & Aronwald.  Judge Mannion received his J.D. in 1979 from Pace University School of Law and his B.S. in 1976 from the University of Scranton.

I reported recently that prisoner John Carter was killed by prison guards at Rockview State Prison.  Now criminal complaints have been filed against the guards involved in the murder:

According to multiple, detailed witness accounts reported to the Human Rights Coalition and family of Carter, staff in riot gear filled his solitary confinement cell with an extraordinary quantity of OC chemical munitions, otherwise known as pepper-spray. Following the attack with pepper-spray, his cell door was opened and guards rushed him, assaulting Carter, who was reportedly unconscious, with electro-shock weapons and beating him.

Why is this not being investigated by the Attorney General?

In that vein a grand jury in Pittsburgh has until the end of the month to decide whether or not to indict Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin.  The testimony in her sister Sen. Jane Orie’s criminal trial has revealed extensive corruption in the use of state resources for Melvin’s two state Supreme Court races.  She continues to sit on the Court under a cloud of suspicion.

Why didn’t AG Tom Corbett investigate the obvious corruption in the Senate during his extensive probes of the legislature?   It appears they botched the Sandusky case too.  There doesn’t seem to be anywhere enough evidence to convict the former coach.  When it turns out the date of the most heinous account was off by more than a year I think there was shoddy work done by the OAG.

Congressional Republicans refused to vote for the expanded Violence Against Women Act, a signature piece of legislation pushed by Joe Biden when he was in the Senate.  Now they’ve voted for a version which actually weakens current protections.  Jim Gerlach and Mike Fitzpatrick were among state Members of Congress to weaken protections for women against violence.  Why don’t all women deserve to be protected from domestic violence?  What do these men have against women?

70’s disco queen Donna Summer had her last dance today when she died from cancer:

‘Step Right up!’ Snake Oil for Sale

by Walter Brasch

The Tea Party, mutant spawn of the Republicans, held their spineless parents and the nation hostage during the debt ceiling crisis, and is now demanding an even greater ransom.

Flushed with what they mistakenly believe is success, they have launched an all-out assault upon the presidency. Their generals, fattened by Iowa corn and midway schmaltz, are Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Herman Cain. Sarah Palin, hovering near the battlefields to soak up the media sunlight, much like a black hole absorbs all energy and light from nearby stars, is waiting to see how the war goes (and if she can write some intelligent sentences) before deciding to re-enter battle.

Bachmann is the winner of the strangest political non-election in the country, the Iowa Straw Poll. She won the race the old-fashioned way. She bought it.

To make sure that Iowans entered the Tents of Instant Gratification and, thus, cast their ballot the right way, the candidates, who paid $15,000-$31,000 to rent space at Iowa State, provided food, music, and carnival fun for the voters. Bachman had a petting zoo, and drew fans to a concert by country superstar Randy Travis. Cost of the banquet: $30 a ticket.

To assure there were enough votes, Bachmann’s campaign, like all other campaigns, paid the $30 admissions ticket. That would be $144,690 for 4,823 votes, plus several hundred thousand dollars in related campaign expenses. Related campaign expenses for the candidates included renting charter buses to bring voters from throughout Iowa to Ames.

But, Iowans aren’t stupid. Many wanted to see Randy Travis and eat the food of politics but didn’t plan to vote for Bachmann. About 6,000 persons took the “free” $30 tickets. Thus, she officially paid $180,000, $37.32 a vote; unofficially, with all expenses figured in, the cost could easily have been well over $200 a vote so she could be the winner and earn the title of Media Darlin’ of the Week.

The establishment media generally avoided Ron Paul, the second place winner, who “only” got 4,671 votes, 152 less than Bachmann, and 27.7 percent. Paul is a pariah in the Republican party, and something the media can’t figure out, because he actually has a core set of principles, which sometimes leads him to ally with liberals, but for different reasons.

Third place, with 13.6 percent of the vote and, according to numerous media pundits not charismatic enough to be a serious contender, went to Tim Pawlenty, who didn’t drink much of the tea and dropped out of the race after spending about $1 million in Iowa. Not dropping out were Tea Party favorites Rick Santorum (9.8 percent) and Herman Cain (8.6 percent), who lured voters into his tent with free Godfather’s Pizza. Mitt Romney, who had spent about $2 million in the 2007 Straw Poll, but skipped this year’s non-binding poll, finished behind Rick Perry, dripping tea with every statement he makes, entered the presidential race only after the Iowa Straw Poll, but did get 718 write-in votes for 4.3 percent of the vote. Nevertheless, Romney is still believed to be the front-runner.

Thus, going into the primary season, the Tea Party can arouse themselves with Bachmann, Perry, Santorum, Cain, and maybe Palin. Not identified with the Tea Party, but in its gravitational pull are Romney, Jon Huntsman, and whatever is left of Newt Gingrich’s chances.

The Tea Party began a few months after Barack Obama was elected president, with a stated purpose to reduce wild government spending. But its deep structure shows an amorphous bunch of white middle-class ultra-conservatives, aided by upper-class political consultants and media manipulators, who have developed the ability to sound impressive with only half-truths behind their rants and chants, and a zealous determination to keep President Obama out of a second term.

During the debt ceiling crisis, Tea Partiers refused to budge on a demand of not raising the debt ceiling, cutting numerous social and educational programs, and holding firm to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Everyone must cut back, especially during economic crises, they bleated. Austerity is their mantra.

But, based upon their extravagant lifestyle and the wild spending they did in Iowa, shouldn’t their mantra now be “hypocrisy”?

The Great Capitulation

I got out on the lake today to do some kayaking and clear my head because it was about to explode.  The debt ceiling “compromise” does nothing but compromise our economy and our future.  This deal makes the Ryan Budget look tame by comparison.  No one who voted against that bill can possibly support this one.  Where Ryan’s plan cut Medicare this one has the clear potential to eliminate Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  The poison pill is the balanced budget amendment which is the absolute worst piece of legislation ever introduced in Congress.

If Pearl Harbor or 9/11 happened again our only option is abject surrender.  Of course that’s what President Obama did in the face of the tyranny of the Tea baggers.  Why they didn’t simply craft a bill which went around them or invoke the 14th Amendment is beyond comprehension.  This bill seriously compromises our national security and sovereignty.  That’s without even considering the effect of eliminating programs for the poor, safe food, water and consumer products, medical research, clean energy development and everything else done by the government.  The scope of these cuts renders the federal government impotent.  It renders our national security impotent in the face of foreign threats and that fact alone will embolden our enemies.  Knowing we wouldn’t be able to finance a defense makes us sitting ducks.

Republicans are gloating saying they acheived 98% of their goals.  They are claiming the bill includes no new taxes.  The rich and the corporations will now be subsidized by seniors giving up the Medicare, Social Security and long term care, the poor (especially children) will go without any health care, unemployment insurance will disappear, transportation arteries will rot, the Centers for Disease Control won’t be able to respond to pandemics, nothing done will continue to be done effectively if at all.

$2.8 trillion in federal budget cuts will damage our economy so badly as to actually make the deficit worse.  It will spiral us deeply into recession and, perhaps depression and the federal government will be powerless to do anything.  The Balanced Budget Amendment would require a 2/3 vote to raise taxes and impose an 18% of GDP cap on all federal spending.  That eliminates all entitlement programs.

I wonder how giddy tea baggers will feel when they discover they’re losing all of their Social Security and Medicare?  These economic terrorists are beyond stupid, they’ve held the nation hostage to their extreme ideology.  This is the height of Tea Party politics and will be their downfall.

It is also the Waterloo for the Democratic Party.  Obama could have vetoed this or the other bills and forced Congress to pass something responsible.  He could have invoked the 14th Amendment and dared the House to impeach him for doing his constitutional duty.  Dems could have gone into 2012 condemning Republicans for voting for the Ryan Plan.  They can no longer do that because they OWN THIS BILL as soon as Obama signs it.   Because this is far worse than Ryan they now cannot run on that next year.  Conversely now Republicans will run against a President Obama who agreed to kill Social Security and Medicare.  They’ll place the entire onus on him and Democrats.

Paul Krugman wrote an excellent column in today’s New York Times titled “The President Surrenders.”  This is must reading.  

The worst thing you can do in these circumstances is slash government spending, since that will depress the economy even further. Pay no attention to those who invoke the confidence fairy, claiming that tough action on the budget will reassure businesses and consumers, leading them to spend more. It doesn’t work that way, a fact confirmed by many studies of the historical record.

Indeed, slashing spending while the economy is depressed won’t even help the budget situation much, and might well make it worse. On one side, interest rates on federal borrowing are currently very low, so spending cuts now will do little to reduce future interest costs. On the other side, making the economy weaker now will also hurt its long-run prospects, which will in turn reduce future revenue. So those demanding spending cuts now are like medieval doctors who treated the sick by bleeding them, and thereby made them even sicker.

I heard Harry Reid on NPR saying this must be a good bill because no one on the right likes it, no one on the left likes it and no one in the middle likes it.  Therefore it’s a compromise.   No, that means NO ONE IN THE COUNTRY LIKES IT!  It means it’s what Congressman Cleaver called “a sugar coated Satan sandwich.”  Meanwhile Sen. Casey is voting for it along with most of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation.  I expect a few heroes like Bob Brady and Chake Fattah to do the right thing but the likes of Jason Altmire who votes with Republicans 79% of the time on key issues and Mark Critz already said yes.  As I write this news comes that the House has passed the bill.

VP Biden is reported to have told the Democratic caucus that Tea Party Republicans “acted like terrorists” during negotiations.  He also said the President was ready to invoke the constitution if no agreement was reached.  Why then would any Democrat vote for this bill?  Let it fail and invoke the 14th.

Sen. Jim DeMint decried the Vice President’s remarks about his fellow tea baggers and demanded an apology.  Why apologize when you’re telling the truth?  What Biden and Obama need to learn is that you don’t negotiate with terrorists.  This has now been kicked down the road to Thanksgiving and Christmas and if anyone thinks an agreement will be reached is truly delusional.  How would anyone vote for this bill before knowing the composition of this Super Committee?  That’s beyond stupid, it’s irresponsible.

I fear the our future for the future of our country.  My recommendation is that if you can emigrate somewhere go.  The future of America is as a third world country.  Our democracy is finished, our way of life is finished.  One saving grace will be that as roads and bridges crumble they’ll provide shelter for all of us condemned to live under them.

Barack Obama is a worse President than George W. Bush and that’s saying something.  He may go down in history as our absolute worst for dismantling the New Deal.  My new name for him is The Great Capitulator.

Update:  By the way I’m in Wellsboro for a few days visiting the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.

I was wrong about Brady and Fattah.  They both voted for this monstrosity.  Only Congressman Mike Doyle is a hero from PA.  

Basically the United States just got shock doctrined.  I predict open revolt within ten years.

Obama’s Saturday Night Massacre

Obama once said he’d be a one term President if it meant doing what was right for the country.  He will be a one term President because he failed to do what is right for the country.   The “compromise” forged last night is horrendous and will hurt the economy, devastate seniors and the disabled, jeopardize our national defense and kill jobs.  How is it that poison pills like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid only appear when the White House is involved?  This “compromise” includes NO revenue hikes.  No new taxes are in the bill, we will see $2.8 trillion in cuts to fund tax cuts for the rich and for corporations.

How do you think this Super Committee will find $2.8 trillion to cut without gutting Social Security and Medicare?  It can’t be done.  The penalty if they don’t is a Balanced Budget Amendment, the ultimate poison pill.  It’s time to call everyone in Washington, your Congressperson, Senators and the White House and express your outrage.  Then go to your county courthouse and leave your Party.  If they see a mass migration of voters to non affiliated status it will get their attention.  Then refuse to give any more money to any Party affiliated organization or candidate/elected official who votes for this monstrosity.  It’s time to take to the streets people.

News & Notes July 29, 2011

Congress still hasn’t addressed the debt ceiling issue.  The House is set to vote on Speaker Boehner’s plan at 7 pm after which it will be DOA in the Senate.  Why are they wasting time chasing windmills?  Why doesn’t Nancy Pelosi come up with a clean debt ceiling bill which would be supported by Democrats and enough sane Republicans and send it to the Senate?

Daryl Metcalfe, ALEC’s chief agent in Pennsylvania, was caught collecting per diems while attending an ALEC conference.  Per diems are supposed to cover legislator’s expenses while working in Harrisburg…for us not organizations like ALEC.  Sam Rohrer suddenly forgot all of his principles and agreed with Metcalfe’s theft of public funds.

Congressman Darrell Issa who began investigating Democrats as soon as Republicans got control back of the House should be investigating himself for corruption.  He has obtained earmarks which directly benefit his own business interests.  That’s as corrupt as it gets.

Tea Party Congressman Joe Walsh of Illinois has been everywhere lately decrying the government for not being able to pay its debts and demanding default.  He knows all about default having failed to pay $117,000 in child support.  Deadbeat is as deadbeat does?

May he/she without any personal debt be the first to throw stones about the national debt.  Everyone has some debt even if it is short term.  Families no more live within their incomes than government.  Some things have to be mortgaged like homes and capital projects.  Republicans chose to defund government, fight wars on the dole and collapse revenues through financial deregulation.  It’s time to pay their piper and they’re turning into deadbeats.  It turns out Tea baggers actually do believe in debt.

A domestic terror attack got almost no mention in national news week but someone threw a Molotov cocktail at a Planned Parenthood clinic in McKinney, Texas.

Truthout reports on news about how the 2004 presidential election was hacked and rigged in Ohio.  A firm called Gov Tech was hired by Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell and provided access tot he state’s election computer system.  On election night tabulations were manipulated straight from the White House through Gov Tech and Ohio turned for Bush.

The Deficit Crisis is in Jobs

Republicans continue spreading the lie that tax cuts create jobs despite all facts to the contrary.  Tax cuts have cost us millions of jobs since 2001.  President Clinton’s deficit reduction plan which entailed tax increases created 22 million jobs.  Since Barack Obama began capitulating to extreme elements of the conservative movement half a million public sector jobs have disappeared.  The current debt ceiling debate is centered around the federal budget deficit when the real crisis is a jobs deficit.  We need to be creating jobs, an issue the GOP made central to their 2010 Congressional campaign.  Instead we are cutting government spending.  What is essential to the economic recovery is increasing spending to stimulate job creation and expand the economy.

The federal deficit isn’t the result of government spending but the result of failed Republican policies.  Three major GOP initiatives caused the drastic drop in revenues which caused this deficit:  The Bush tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the deregulation of the financial sector.  Republicans put massive tax cuts for the rich on our national credit card then loaded it up with debt from the wars.  They refused to pay for either of those programs (add in the Medicare Part D prescription program for good measure) and then refused to properly regulate Wall Street.  The global financial collapse cut tax revenues to the bone.  Now that the bill is due they are refusing to pay.

You cannot run up your credit line then simply walk away from your debts if you believe in personal responsibility.  They already saddled taxpayers with bailing out their Wall Street friends and now they’re going to jeopardize our national credit because they won’t pay their bills.  China has already lost hundreds of billions though the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing which increased the money supply by creating three trillion new dollars from thin air.  The $1.6 billion used in QE 1 & 2 equals the current annual deficit.  Instead of making that and giving it to the Treasury Department to balance the budget they gave it to banks, many of them foreign, to buy the toxic mortgage securities Congress refused to regulate.

We need jobs, not deficit reduction.  President Obama is on the wrong path and Democrats will pay mightily for his failures.  I recall vowing never to vote for another Republican, for any office, after WhiteWater and the Lewinsky scandals when they wasted $60 million trying to impeach Clinton for a consensual blow job.  I have kept that vow.  If Obama cuts Medicare and/or Social Security I will never again vote for any Democratic candidate for any office.  Anywhere.  I will vote strictly for third party progressives or write in suitable names.  I will vote for Bernie Sanders for President in 2012.  Mess with my Social Security and you lose me for life.

Debt Ceiling Talks Collapse

Speaker John Boehner walked out of negotiations on the debt ceiling today as the deadline looms for agreement.  With a drop dead default date of August 2nd ahead and a Congressional calendar and rules to which to adhere time is quickly running out.  Financial markets may very well collapse Monday if there’s no agreement.  Not just an agreement but one which can muster enough votes for passage.

President Obama was already giving away the store with substantial cuts to Social Security which contributes not one dime to the deficit.  Why this is on the table is beyond comprehension.  Any Democrat who slashed these benefits is doomed to be challenged in his own primary next year and be a one termer.  A Russ Feingold or Howard Dean would, and should, rise up and challenge Obama if that happens and no amount of fundraising by OFA will be able to offset the voter furor.

Still, the President was willing to sacrifice his second term to secure a deal.  His folly, however, is exaggerated by the fact he could have gotten a debt ceiling deal either in tandem with extension of tax cuts last year or earlier this year as part of negotiations on appropriations.  He passed and is now in this situation.  Any vote on raising the debt ceiling should be a stand alone measure not tied to any other issue.  Obama continues allowing himself to be held hostage by an extreme minority wing of the GOP hell bent on destroying the country.

Republicans have totally abandoned any notion of “Country First” and put their narrow minded ideological agenda before the good of the nation.  Members of Congress more afraid of breaking their tax pledges to Grover Norquist are blocking revenue enhancements critical to any real debt reduction.  Taxes must be raised to offset the massive borrowing done by Republicans the past thirty years.  Financing wars instead of paying for them, deregulating markets so they destroy the economy and depress revenues and enacting huge tax cuts which hurt the economy are all legacies of irresponsible Republican leadership.  They are why we are in this hole and now they want us to give them new shovels instead of ladders.

Grover Norquist is NOT the President.  He has NOT been elected to any office and whatever he wants is irrelevant.  If lawmakers don’t have the gumption to do what is right and what is necessary they should take some advice:

if you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen.

Reports say Boehner insisted on a repeal of the Affordable Care Act at the last minute and walked out when the President disagreed.  He says Obama introduced additional tax increases.  It matters neither, it was all negotiating in bad faith because neither man can muster the votes to pass a bill.  Eighty progressives in Congress have now signed a letter they will block any cuts to Social Security and Medicare.  I doubt Boehner can get enough GOP votes for any bill which includes tax increases or the closing of loopholes.

Default looms and when financial markets open Monday morning and collapse business interests will once again retake control of the Republican Party and drive the Tea baggers back to their caves.  At some point intelligent adults have to take over and avert a new Great Depression.

When you voted Republican last year this is what you wished for folks.  I hope you enjoy losing your job, home and retirement…again.

The President’s remarks are under the fold:


Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release                               July 22, 2011


James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

6:06 P.M. EDT

    THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everybody.  I wanted to give you an update on the current situation around the debt ceiling.  I just got a call about a half hour ago from Speaker Boehner who indicated that he was going to be walking away from the negotiations that we’ve been engaged in here at the White House for a big deficit reduction and debt reduction package.  And I thought it would be useful for me to just give you some insight into where we were and why I think that we should have moved forward with a big deal.

Essentially what we had offered Speaker Boehner was over a trillion dollars in cuts to discretionary spending, both domestic and defense.  We then offered an additional $650 billion in cuts to entitlement programs — Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security.  We believed that it was possible to shape those in a way that preserved the integrity of the system, made them available for the next generation, and did not affect current beneficiaries in an adverse way.

    In addition, what we sought was revenues that were actually less than what the Gang of Six signed off on.  So you had a bipartisan group of senators, including Republicans who are in leadership in the Senate, calling for what effectively was about $2 trillion above the Republican baseline that they’ve been working off of.  What we said was give us $1.2 trillion in additional revenues, which could be accomplished without hiking taxes — tax rates, but could simply be accomplished by eliminating loopholes, eliminating some deductions and engaging in a tax reform process that could have lowered rates generally while broadening the base.

    So let me reiterate what we were offering.  We were offering a deal that called for as much discretionary savings as the Gang of Six.  We were calling for taxes that were less than what the Gang of Six had proposed.  And we were calling for modifications to entitlement programs, would have saved just as much over the 10-year window.  In other words, this was an extraordinarily fair deal.  If it was unbalanced, it was unbalanced in the direction of not enough revenue.

    But in the interest of being serious about deficit reduction, I was willing to take a lot of heat from my party — and I spoke to Democratic leaders yesterday, and although they didn’t sign off on a plan, they were willing to engage in serious negotiations, despite a lot of heat from a lot of interest groups around the country, in order to make sure that we actually dealt with this problem.

    It is hard to understand why Speaker Boehner would walk away from this kind of deal.  And, frankly, if you look at commentary out there, there are a lot of Republicans that are puzzled as to why it couldn’t get done.  In fact, there are a lot of Republican voters out there who are puzzled as to why it couldn’t get done. Because the fact of the matter is the vast majority of the American people believe we should have a balanced approach.

    Now, if you do not have any revenues, as the most recent Republican plan that’s been put forward both in the House and the Senate proposed, if you have no revenues at all, what that means is more of a burden on seniors, more drastic cuts to education, more drastic cuts to research, a bigger burden on services that are going to middle-class families all across the country.  And it essentially asks nothing of corporate jet owners, it asks nothing of oil and gas companies, it asks nothing from folks like me who’ve done extremely well and can afford to do a little bit more.

    In other words, if you don’t have revenues, the entire thing ends up being tilted on the backs of the poor and middle-class families.  And the majority of Americans don’t agree on that approach.

    So here’s what we’re going to do.  We have now run out of time.  I told Speaker Boehner, I’ve told Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, I’ve told Harry Reid, and I’ve told Mitch McConnell I want them here at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow.  We have run out of time. And they are going to have to explain to me how it is that we are going to avoid default.  And they can come up with any plans that they want and bring them up here and we will work on them.  The only bottom line that I have is that we have to extend this debt ceiling through the next election, into 2013.

    And the reason for it is we’ve now seen how difficult it is to get any kind of deal done.  The economy is already weakened.  And the notion that five or six or eight months from now we’ll be in a better position to try to solve this problem makes no sense.

    In addition, if we can’t come up with a serious plan for actual deficit and debt reduction, and all we’re doing is extending the debt ceiling for another six, seven, eight months, then the probabilities of downgrading U.S. credit are increased, and that will be an additional cloud over the economy and make it more difficult for us and more difficult for businesses to create jobs that the American people so desperately need.

    So they will come down here at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow.  I expect them to have an answer in terms of how they intend to get this thing done over the course of the next week.  The American people expect action.  I continue to believe that a package that is balanced and actually has serious debt and deficit reduction is the right way to go.  And the American people I think are fed up with political posturing and an inability for politicians to take responsible action as opposed to dodge their responsibilities.

    With that, I’m going to take some questions.


    Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You said you want the leaders back here at 11:00 a.m. to give you an answer about the path forward.  What is your answer about the path forward?  What path do you prefer, given what’s just happened?  And also, sir, quickly, what does this say about your relationship with Speaker Boehner?

    THE PRESIDENT:  Well, with respect to my relationship with Speaker Boehner, we’ve always had a cordial relationship.  We had very intense negotiations — I’m going to have my team brief you exactly on how these negotiations proceeded.  Up until sometime early today when I couldn’t get a phone call returned, my expectation was that Speaker Boehner was going to be willing to go to his caucus and ask them to do the tough thing but the right thing.  I think it has proven difficult for Speaker Boehner to do that.  I’ve been left at the altar now a couple of times.

And I think that one of the questions that the Republican Party is going to have to ask itself is can they say yes to anything?  Can they say yes to anything?  I mean, keep in mind it’s the Republican Party that has said that the single most important thing facing our country is deficits and debts.  We’ve now put forward a package that would significantly cut deficits and debt.  It would be the biggest debt reduction package that we’ve seen in a very long time.

And it’s accomplished without raising individual tax rates. It’s accomplished in a way that’s compatible with the “no tax” pledge that a whole bunch of these folks signed on to — because we were mindful that they had boxed themselves in and we tried to find a way for them to generate revenues in a way that did not put them in a bad spot.

And so the question is, what can you say yes to?  Now, if their only answer is what they’ve presented, which is a package that would effectively require massive cuts to Social Security, to Medicare, to domestic spending, with no revenues whatsoever, not asking anything from the wealthiest in this country or corporations that have been making record profits — if that’s their only answer, then it’s going to be pretty difficult for us to figure out where to go.  Because the fact of the matter is that’s what the American people are looking for, is some compromise, some willingness to put partisanship aside, some willingness to ignore talk radio or ignore activists in our respective bases, and do the right thing.

And to their credit, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, the Democratic leadership, they sure did not like the plan that we are proposing to Boehner, but they were at least willing to engage in a conversation because they understood how important it is for us to actually solve this problem.  And so far I have not seen the capacity of the House Republicans in particular to make those tough decisions.

And so then the question becomes, where’s the leadership?  Or, alternatively, how serious are you actually about debt and deficit reduction?  Or do you simply want it as a campaign ploy going into the next election?

Now, in terms of where we go next, here’s the one thing that we’ve got to do.  At minimum, we’ve got to increase the debt ceiling.  At minimum.  I think we need to do more than that.  But as I’ve said before, Republican Leader McConnell in the Senate put forward a plan that said he’s going to go ahead and give me the responsibility to raise the debt ceiling.  That way folks in Congress can vote against it, but at least it gets done.  I’m willing to take the responsibility.  That’s my job.  So if they want to give me the responsibility to do it, I’m happy to do it.

But what we’re not going to do is to continue to play games and string this along for another eight, nine months, and then have to go through this whole exercise all over again.  That we’re not going to do.

Jessica Yellin.

Q    Standing here tonight, Mr. President, can you assure the American people that they will get their Social Security checks on August 3rd?  And if not, who’s to blame?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, when it comes to all the checks, not just Social Security — veterans, people with disabilities — about 70 million checks are sent out each month — if we default then we’re going to have to make adjustments.  And I’m already consulting with Secretary Geithner in terms of what the consequences would be.

We should not even be in that kind of scenario.  And if Congress — and in particular, the House Republicans — are not willing to make sure that we avoid default, then I think it’s fair to say that they would have to take responsibility for whatever problems arise in those payments.  Because, let me repeat, I’m not interested in finger-pointing and I’m not interested in blame, but I just want the facts to speak for themselves.

We have put forward a plan that is more generous to Republican concerns than a bipartisan plan that was supported by a number of Republican senators, including at least one that is in Republican leadership in the Senate.  Now, I’ll leave it up to the American people to make a determination as to how fair that is.  And if the leadership cannot come to an agreement in terms of how we move forward, then I think they will hold all of us accountable.

But that shouldn’t even be an option.  That should not be an option.  I’m getting letters from people who write me and say, at the end of every month I have to skip meals.  Senior citizens on Social Security who are just hanging on by a thread.  Folks who have severe disabilities who are desperate every single month to try to figure out how they’re going to make ends meet.  But it’s not just those folks.  You’ve got business contractors who are providing services to the federal government, who have to wonder are they going to be able to get paid and what does that do in terms of their payrolls.

You’ve got just a huge number of people who, in one way or another, interact with the federal government.  And even if you don’t, even if you’re not a recipient of Social Security, even if you don’t get veterans’ benefits or disabilities, imagine what that does to the economy when suddenly 70 million checks are put at risk.  I mean, if you’re a business out there, that is not going to be good for economic growth.  And that’s the number one concern of the American people.

So we’ve got to get it done.  It is not an option not to do it.

Q    And your degree of confidence?

THE PRESIDENT:  I am confident simply because I cannot believe that Congress would end up being that irresponsible that they would not send a package that avoids a self-inflicted wound to the economy at a time when things are so difficult.

Scott Horsley.

Q    Mr. President, can you explain why you were offering a deal that was more generous than the Gang of Six, which you seemed to be embracing on Tuesday when you were here?

THE PRESIDENT:  Because what had become apparent was that Speaker Boehner had some difficulty in his caucus.  There are a group of his caucus that actually think default would be okay and have said that they would not vote for increasing the debt ceiling under any circumstances.

And so I understand how they get themselves stirred up and the sharp ideological lines that they’ve drawn.  And ultimately, my responsibility is to make sure that we avoid extraordinary difficulties to American people and American businesses.

And so, unfortunately, when you’re in these negotiations you don’t get 100 percent of what you want.  You may not even get 60 or 70 percent of what you want.  But I was willing to try to persuade Democratic leadership as well as Democratic members of Congress that even a deal that is not as balanced as I think it should be is better than no deal at all.  And I was willing to persuade Democrats that getting a handle on debt and deficit reduction is important to Democrats just as much as it’s important to Republicans — and, frankly, a lot of Democrats are persuaded by that.

As I said in the last press conference, if you’re a progressive you should want to get our fiscal house in order, because once we do, it allows us to then have a serious conversation about the investments that we need to make — like infrastructure, like rebuilding our roads and our bridges and airports, like investing more in college education, like making sure that we’re focused on the kinds of research and technology that’s going to help us win the future.  It’s a lot easier to do that when we’ve got our fiscal house in order.  And that was an argument that I was willing to go out and make to a lot of skeptical Democrats, as you saw yesterday.    

But ultimately, that’s what we should expect from our leaders.  If this was easy it would have already been done.  And I think what a lot of the American people are so disappointed by is this sense that all the talk about responsibility, all the talk about the next generation, all the talk about making sacrifices, that when it comes to actually doing something difficult folks walk away.

Last point I’ll make here.  I mean, I’ve gone out of my way to say that both parties have to make compromises.  I think this whole episode has indicated the degree to which at least a Democratic President has been willing to make some tough compromises.  So when you guys go out there and write your stories, this is not a situation where somehow this was the usual food fight between Democrats and Republicans.  A lot of Democrats stepped up in ways that were not advantageous politically.  So we’ve shown ourselves willing to do the tough stuff on an issue that Republicans ran on.


Q    Mr. President, there seems to be an extraordinary breakdown of trust involved here.  And I wonder if you could address what we’re hearing from Republicans, which is that there was a framework and a deal that was agreed with your chief of staff, with the Treasury Secretary, about a certain number of revenues, that the Republicans had agreed to that.  And then after you brought that to your party and the discussion of that, the goal line was moved.  Is this an example of where the goal line has moved and that that’s what has led to this breakdown in trust?

THE PRESIDENT:  Norah, what I’ll do is we’ll do a tick-tock, we’ll go through all the paper.  We’ll walk you through this process.  What this came down to was that there doesn’t seem to be a capacity for them to say yes.

Now, what is absolutely true is we wanted more revenue than they had initially offered.  But as you’ll see, the spending cuts that we were prepared to engage in were at least as significant as the spending cuts that you’ve seen in a whole range of bipartisan proposals, and we had basically agreed within $10 billion, $20 billion — we were within that range.

So that wasn’t the reason this thing broke down.  We were consistent in saying that it was going to be important for us to have at least enough revenue that we could protect current beneficiaries of Social Security, for example, or current beneficiaries of Medicare; that we weren’t slashing Medicaid so sharply that states suddenly were going to have to throw people off the health care rolls.  And we were consistent in that.

So I want to be clear.  I’m not suggesting that we had an agreement that was signed, sealed and delivered.  The parties were still apart as recently as yesterday.  But when you look at the overall package, there’s no changing of the goalposts here.  There has been a consistency on our part in saying we’re willing to make the tough cuts and we’re willing to take on the heat for those difficult cuts, but that there’s got to be some balance in the process.  What I’ve said publicly is the same thing that I’ve said privately.  And I’ve done that consistently throughout this process.

Now, with respect to this breakdown in trust, I think that we have operated aboveboard consistently.  There haven’t been any surprises.  I think the challenge really has to do with the seeming inability, particularly in the House of Representatives, to arrive at any kind of position that compromises any of their ideological preferences.  None.

And you’ve heard it.  I mean, I’m not making this up.  I think a number of members of that caucus have been very clear about that.

Q    But they were willing to move on some revenues, apparently.

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.  But what you saw — and, again, you’ll see this from the description of the deal — essentially what they had agreed to give on is to get back to a baseline — this starts getting technical, but there were about $800 billion in revenue that were going to be available.  And what we said was when you’ve got a ratio of $4 in cuts for every $1 of revenue, that’s pretty hard to stomach.  And we think it’s important to make sure that whatever additional revenue is in there covers the amount of money that’s being taken out of entitlement programs.  That’s only fair.

If I’m saying to future recipients of Social Security or Medicare that you’re going to have to make some adjustments, it’s important that we’re also willing to make some adjustments when it comes to corporate jet owners, or oil and gas producers, or people who are making millions or billions of dollars.

Wendell.  Where’s Wendell?  Wendell is not here.

Lesley.  Is Lesley here?

Q    Yes, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  There you are.

Q    Thank you.  You’ve said that your bottom line has been the big deal; that’s not going to happen.  Are you going to be willing to go back to just raising the debt ceiling still?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think I’ve been consistently saying here in this press room and everywhere that it is very important for us to raise the debt ceiling.  We don’t have an option on that.  So if that’s the best that Congress can do, then I will sign a extension of the debt ceiling that takes us through 2013.

I don’t think that’s enough.  I think we should do more.  That’s the bare minimum; that’s the floor of what the American people expect us to do.  So I’d like to see us do more.  And when I meet with the leadership tomorrow I’m going to say let’s do more.  But if they tell me that’s the best they can do, then I will sign an extension that goes to 2013, and I will make the case to the American people that we’ve got to continue going out there and solving this problem.  It’s the right thing to do, and it’s time to do it.  We can’t keep on putting it off.

    Q    You suggested that Speaker Boehner didn’t return phone calls this afternoon.  Could you elaborate a little bit on that?

    THE PRESIDENT:  You know, I’m less concerned about me having to wait for my phone call returned than I am the message that I received when I actually got the phone call.

    I’m going to make this the last question.  Go ahead.

    Q    Yes, the markets are closed right now, obviously.  What assurances can you give people on Wall Street?  Are you going to be reaching out to some people on Wall Street so that when Monday comes we don’t see a reaction to the news that’s developing right now?

    THE PRESIDENT:  I think it’s very important that the leadership understands that Wall Street will be opening on Monday, and we better have some answers during the course of the next several days.

    Q    What can you say to people who are watching who work on Wall Street who might find this news a bit alarming, perhaps?

    THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think what you should say — well, here’s what I’d say:  I remain confident that we will get an extension of the debt limit and we will not default.  I am confident of that.

    I am less confident at this point that people are willing to step up to the plate and actually deal with the underlying problem of debt and deficits.  That requires tough choices.  That’s what we were sent here to do.

    I mean, the debt ceiling, that’s a formality.  Historically, this has not even been an issue.  It’s an unpleasant vote but it’s been a routine vote that Congress does periodically.  It was raised 18 times when Ronald Reagan was President.  Ronald Reagan said default is not an option, that it would be hugely damaging to the prestige of the United States and we shouldn’t even consider it.  So that’s the easy part.  We should have done that six months ago.

    The hard part is actually dealing with the underlying debt and deficits, and doing it in a way that’s fair.  That’s all the American people are looking for — some fairness.  I can’t tell you how many letters and emails I get, including from Republican voters, who say, look, we know that neither party is blameless when it comes to how this deft and deficit developed — there’s been a lot of blame to spread around — but we sure hope you don’t just balance the budget on the backs of seniors.  We sure hope that we’re not slashing our commitment to make sure kids can go to college.  We sure hope that we’re not suddenly throwing a bunch of poor kids off the Medicaid rolls so they can’t get basic preventative services that keep them out of the emergency room.  That’s all they’re looking for, is some fairness.

Now, what you’re going to hear, I suspect, is, well, if you — if the Senate is prepared to pass the cap, cut and balance bill, the Republican plan, then somehow we can solve this problem — that’s serious debt reduction.  It turns out, actually, that the plan that Speaker Boehner and I were talking about was comparable in terms of deficit reduction.  The difference was that we didn’t put all the burden on the people who are least able to protect themselves, who don’t have lobbyists in this town, who don’t have lawyers working on the tax code for them — working stiffs out there, ordinary folks who are struggling every day.  And they know they’re getting a raw deal, and they’re mad at everybody about it.  They’re mad at Democrats and they’re mad at Republicans, because they know somehow, no matter how hard they work, they don’t seem to be able to keep up.  And what they’re looking for is somebody who’s willing to look out for them.  That’s all they’re looking for.

    And for us not to be keeping those folks in mind every single day when we’re up here, for us to be more worried about what some funder says, or some talk radio show host says, or what some columnist says, or what pledge we signed back when we were trying to run, or worrying about having a primary fight — for us to be thinking in those terms instead of thinking about those folks is inexcusable.

    I mean, the American people are just desperate for folks who are willing to put aside politics just for a minute and try to get some stuff done.

    So when Norah asked or somebody else asked why was I willing to go along with a deal that wasn’t optimal from my perspective, it was because even if I didn’t think the deal was perfect, at least it would show that this place is serious, that we’re willing to take on our responsibilities even when it’s tough, that we’re willing to step up even when the folks who helped get us elected may disagree.

    And at some point, I think if you want to be a leader, then you got to lead.

Thank you very much.

                       END                6:36 P.M. EDT


Obama Will Veto GOP Budget Bill

Calling it “the Ryan Plan on steroids” White House officials held a conference call this afternoon concerning Republican proposals to extort huge spending cuts as part of debt ceiling negotiations.  This followed this statement issued by the White House earlier in the afternoon:


H. R. 2560 – Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011

(Rep. Chaffetz, R-UT, and 87 cosponsors)

The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 2560, the “Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011.”  Neither setting arbitrary spending levels nor amending the Constitution is necessary to restore fiscal responsibility.  Increasing the Federal debt limit, which is needed to avoid a Federal government default on its obligations and a severe blow to the economy, should not be conditioned on taking these actions.  Instead of pursuing an empty political statement and unrealistic policy goals, it is necessary to move beyond politics as usual and find bipartisan common ground.

The bill would undercut the Federal Government’s ability to meet its core commitments to seniors, middle-class families and the most vulnerable, while reducing our ability to invest in our future.  H. R. 2560 would set unrealistic spending caps that could result in significant cuts to education, research and development, and other programs critical to growing our economy and winning the future.  It could also lead to severe cuts in Medicare and Social Security, which are growing to accommodate the retirement of the baby boomers, and put at risk the retirement security for tens of millions of Americans.

Furthermore, H. R. 2560 could require even deeper cuts, since it conditions an increase in the Federal debt limit on Congressional passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment.  H. R. 2560 sets out a false and unacceptable choice between the Federal Government defaulting on its obligations now or, alternatively, passing a Balanced Budget Amendment that, in the years ahead, will likely leave the Nation unable to meet its core commitment of ensuring dignity in retirement.

The President has proposed a comprehensive and balanced framework that ensures we live within our means and reduces the deficit by $4 trillion, while supporting economic growth and long-term job creation, protecting critical investments, and meeting the commitments made to provide economic security to Americans no matter their circumstances.  H.R. 2560 is inconsistent with this responsible framework to restore fiscal responsibility and is not an appropriate method of reducing the Nation’s deficits and debt.  The Administration is committed to working with the Congress on a bipartisan basis to achieve real solutions.

If the President were presented this bill for signature, he would veto it.

The White House says the Cut, Cap and Balance Act would not only enshrine the Ryan Plan into law but greatly expand it through a Balanced Budget Amendment.  The trouble is the proposed Amendment wouldn’t simply require a balanced budget every year but would require fixed spending caps resulting in $400 billion in cuts every year.  Non defense federal programs would be cut 12% per year and programs such as clean energy development would see cuts of 70%.  There would be a one third cut for infrastructure spending when the need is critical for such investment and is essential for expanding jobs and kick starting the stalled economy.

The fact is we need increased spending funded by tax increases on the rich and corporations rather than spending cuts.  The stalling economy and falling employment figures are the direct result of forced budget cuts imposed by the Republican minority.  The total absence of leadership from President Obama on this is shocking.

I had several questions to ask during the call but didn’t get the opportunity.  I’d like to know if there are any changes to Social Security, why the President doesn’t simply send a clean up or down debt ceiling bill to Congress for an on-the-record vote, and what the national security implications are of a default and its resultant depression.

A default, of course, would be unconstitutional and the Tea Party radicals insisting upon it must have discarded their precious copies of that document.  How easily they dismiss it when it doesn’t suit them.  Failure of the United States to pay its obligations, ones made by Congresses and GOP Presidents (93% of our debt was rung up by Reagan and the Bushes) means a sharp increase in the cost of our obligations.  This may come sooner than August 2nd if the ratings agencies don’t foresee a solution.  As interest rates on our Treasury Bonds rise so will interest rates for everything else since they are all tied together.  Consumer credit, home mortgages, auto loans and every other type of loan will begin to increase dramatically.

Just as our auto industry is seeing a healthy revival we’ll kill it and execute what is left of the housing and real estate industries.  All the money spent stimulating the economy and turning us around from the brink will have been for naught.  

The proposed Balance Budget Amendment is dangerous.  If we were to fall into another Great Depression there would be no way to end it, no way to borrow funds to defend the country if we were attacked.  If another World War were to occur we’d be defeated immediately due to a failure to be able to mobilize.  A default will turn the United States into a Third World country.