News and Notes June 23. 2014

PA Dems re=elected Jim Burn to a four year term as Chair Saturday.  I’ve lost all respect for the man after he refused to step aside for Gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf’s choice.  Much as I dislike Katie McGinty and all the energy money she takes she was his choice to lead the Party in November’s general election, a privilege most Governor candidates get to make.  I went kayaking instead of going to Camp Hill.  I’m sick and tired of being kicked out of Democratic Party “open” meetings while to give them coverage and get stories.  It’s a waste of my time and money.

I’ve written about Social Security for years, always pointing out that it has nothing to do with the deficit.  In fact the federal government owes Social Security trillions of dollars, not the other way around.  Regardless Republicans have cut its budget to the extent that they’re being forced to close offices.  Now many seniors will have to drive (if they can) longer distances to obtain benefits they’ve paid for over many years.

President Obama issued an Executive Order last week providing employment discrimination against LGBT persons by any federal contractor.  Kudos.

Now we have to pass an ENDA bill nationally and here in Pennsylvania.  No person should be evicted or refused service at a business due to their real or perceived sexual orientation.  From the ACLU:

House Bill 300 and Senate Bill 300 would amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression.”

“Even after the historic achievement of marriage equality in Pennsylvania, the struggle for full equality is far from over,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “When Pennsylvanians go to work, they expect to be judged based on their performance.

“But LGBT workers in the commonwealth can still be fired simply for who they are. It is past time to pass this bill and bring a greater level of fairness in the workplace, in housing, and in public services.”

The PHRA prohibits discrimination in employment, in housing, and in “public accommodations,” such as restaurants and hotels. Seventeen states include legal protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination laws, and four additional states include protections based on sexual orientation. In Pennsylvania, 34 municipalities have similar ordinances.

The legislation was introduced this legislative session with a record number of co-sponsors from both parties, with 96 co-sponsors in the state House and 25 in the state Senate. Meanwhile, polling again shows more than 70 percent of Pennsylvanians support this type of legal protection.

“The people of the commonwealth support fairness in daily life,” said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “The public is leading the way for lawmakers on this issue.”

HB 300 is currently in the House State Government Committee. SB 300 is in the Senate State Government Committee.

According to HHS the Affordable Care Act has saved 15,000 lives and $4 billion in health care spending:

The Department of Health and Human Services announced that new preliminary data show an overall nine percent decrease in hospital acquired conditions nationally during 2011 and 2012.  National reductions in adverse drug events, falls, infections, and other forms of hospital-induced harm are estimated to have prevented nearly 15,000 deaths in hospitals, avoided 560,000 patient injuries, and approximately $4 billion in health spending over the same period.

The Affordable Care Act is also helping reduce hospital readmissions.  After holding constant at 19 percent from 2007 to 2011 and decreasing to 18.5 percent in 2012, the Medicare all-cause 30-day readmission rate has further decreased to approximately 17.5 percent in 2013.  This translates into an 8 percent reduction in the rate and an estimated 150,000 fewer hospital readmissions among Medicare beneficiaries between January 2012 and December 2013.

These improvements reflect policies and an unprecedented public-private collaboration made possible by the Affordable Care Act.  The data demonstrates that hospitals and providers across the country are achieving reductions in hospital-induced harm experienced by patients.  These major strides in patient safety are a result of strong, diverse public-private partnerships and active engagement by patients and families, including efforts from the federal Partnership for Patients initiative and Hospital Engagement Networks, Quality Improvement Organizations, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Administration on Community Living, the Indian Health Service, and many others.

 

I don’t understand how some folks who call themselves “pro life” can oppose laws which actually save lives.

The White House is hosting a summit today on working families.  Opening remarks this morning were from Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden.  Other participants include SEIU, Claudia Goldin, Economics Professor at Harvard, the Center For American Progress, Rep. Martha Edwards of Maryland, Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez and closing remarks from the First Lady and Robin Roberts of ABC’s Good Morning America.

Meet The Press simply isn’t  the show it used to be since David Gregory took over.  I won’t even watch it any more.  Sunday he allowed Sen. Paul to repeat debunked lies about Benghazi without challenge.  Shameful journalism.

A scientific study confirms that liberals and atheists are smarter.  I suppose this explains why conservatives don’t believe in science.

The study, published in the March 2010 issue of the peer-reviewed scientific journal Social Psychology Quarterly, advances a new theory to explain why people form particular preferences and values.  The theory suggests that more intelligent people are more likely than less intelligent people to adopt evolutionarily novel preferences and values, but intelligence does not correlate with preferences and values that are old enough to have been shaped by evolution over millions of years.”

“Evolutionarily novel” preferences and values are those that humans are not biologically designed to have and our ancestors probably did not possess.  In contrast, those that our ancestors had for millions of years are “evolutionarily familiar.”

Gov. Corbett says an on time state budget isn’t likely to pass by June 30th.  For someone who has ballyhooed the fact he has passed a budget on time every year this is but one more black eye for the vulnerable sitting Governor.  I love the fact he spent $3 million in campaign ads this spring and moved his approval number all the way from 29% to 30%.  Interestingly the Guv has given $1.5 billion in corporate tax breaks intended to create jobs.  Our current fiscal deficit is $1.4 billion.  His tax breaks haven’t created any jobs.  We rank 49th in the country in job creation so they obviously aren’t working.  Instead of making the state budget worse by privatizing the Wine and Spirit Stores and gutting pensions let’s simply repeal those tax cuts.

Meanwhile the Republican Governors Association made an illegal million dollar contribution towards Gov. gasbag’s re-election in violation of Pennsylvania election law.  Sheldon Adelson gave the money despite the fact he owns the Sands Casino in Bethlehem.  Casino owners are barred from making political contributions in Pennsylvania.

Radiation from Fukushima continues polluting the Pacific Rim.  Tuna being caught are so radioactive they cannot be consumed.

Surprise, surprise, we’re listed as the fifth most corrupt state.

News & Notes December 19. 2012

If a Democratic President cuts my Social Security I’ll never vote for another Democrat.  They ran on protecting both Social Security and Medicare and six weeks after the election they’ve put them on the table.  The “fiscal cliff” is a manufactured crisis created by Republicans and conservative Democrats.  Social Security doesn’t contribute one red cent to the deficit so why is this “chained CPI” benefit cut on the table and put there by the President?

I left the Democratic Party four years ago.  At this rate I’ll soon register as a Green.

Almost none of the “experts” discussing the deficit talks on television has been an economist.

Gun nuts arguing for arming teachers are insane.  Some are claiming Israeli teachers are armed.  They aren’t.  The few who are in the West Bank also have two years of military training and have to be certified on their arms every three years.

Sen. Bob Casey and Congressman Charlie Dent both issued statements following the Newtown Child Massacre softening their positions on guns.  Neither, however, came out for a ban on assault rifles, mandatory background checks or mandatory reporting of mental health conditions to the national database.

DPW Secretary Gary Alexander continues residing in Rhode Island and drives a state car back and forth each week at taxpayer expense.  If Gov. Gasbag can’t find someone within the Commonwealth to run the Department of Public Welfare then the Secretary should be forced to move.

AFSCME Council 13 has filed suit over the Governor’s desire to privatize the lottery.  Let’s remember what privatizing government programs does:  it transfers tax payer dollars from the public sector to the private for the sake of profit.  Public programs should be prioritized for the public good, not for private profit.

The War On Drugs failed miserably and has cost taxpayers trillions.  Now HSBC has been found guilty of laundering money for the drug cartels.  

What happened to them as a consequence?

Breuer this week signed off on a settlement deal with the British banking giant HSBC that is the ultimate insult to every ordinary person who’s ever had his life altered by a narcotics charge. Despite the fact that HSBC admitted to laundering billions of dollars for Colombian and Mexican drug cartels (among others) and violating a host of important banking laws (from the Bank Secrecy Act to the Trading With the Enemy Act), Breuer and his Justice Department elected not to pursue criminal prosecutions of the bank, opting instead for a “record” financial settlement of $1.9 billion, which as one analyst noted is about five weeks of income for the bank.

Remember that the next time you see a low level drug dealer busted.

 

Dishonest Republicans Look to Gut Social Security and Medicare

Senate Republicans and Tea Party House members held the nation hostage on a debt ceiling bill.  They demanded severe cuts to social programs and refused to raise taxes on the rich in order to continue paying for the out of control spending they did while in the White House.  $15 trillion of debt was run up by Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and then George W. Bush and then Republicans in Congress who voted for all that debt refused to pay it when the debt ceiling was reached.  Their failed economic policies and refusals to regulate business resulted in a global financial meltdown which has crashed the economies of countries such as Ireland, Greece and Spain.  

Now they enjoy casting the specter of Greece before us and use it to fear monger over the deficit.  A deficit they created.  The difference between America and Greece is that we can afford to pay our debt.  Greece cannot.  It isn’t comparing apples and apples.

The agreement to extend the debt ceiling was reached by setting a fiscal armageddon date:  January 1, 2013 when across the board cuts would usher in an era of austerity.  Austerity has yet to work anywhere and actually depresses economies.  Republicans are ready and willing to throw our recovering economy back into depression in order to gut entitlement programs.  They see this as their opportunity to finally gut your Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  These are programs which are the most successful in our history.  Republicans however, are hell bent, as they’ve been for decades, to end them.

Heaven help us have successful programs for the poor, elderly, disabled and orphans.  Before Social Security half of all senior citizens lived in poverty.  That has been the real success of the program.  Our elderly, disabled citizens and orphans have been able to live with some self sufficiency and dignity due to SS.  It adds not one red cent to the deficit and should have nothing to do with deficit reduction negotiations.  The only reason it is is because Republicans see an opportunity to gut and/or end the program.

We can actually expand Social Security benefits and extend its solvency for 75 years by lifting the income cap upon which payroll taxes are collected.  People who earn millions and billions per year pay FICA taxes on only the first $110,000 of that income.  Therefore you pay a higher tax rate than they do.

Republicans ran this year on the issue of Medicare by scaring senior citizens that they’d protect it against President Obama’s cuts.  While ballots continue being counted from the election Senate Republicans such as Lindsey Graham are already using extortion to gut Medicare and Social Security.  They also used the threat of Democratic cutting in 2010 then voted in the House to replace it with a privatized voucher system.

40% of senior citizens, according to exit polls, voted for the Romney/Ryan ticket dedicated to gutting both Social Security and Medicare.  They did so because the GOP lied about the issue.  This is no excuse for not being an informed voter.  There is no defense against willful brainwashing.  Still, with the electoral college not yet even meeting to be on television demanding cuts to entitlement programs is shameful.

Grover Norquist’s anti-American anti-tax pledge is shameful because it forces Senators and Congress members to violate their oaths of office.  It forces them to put partisan ideology ahead of the country.  John McCain’s “Country First” slogan was a fraud.  Any candidate who signs the Norquist tax pledge is unfit to serve.

Medicare is in financial trouble long term because our private health care system s broken.  Medicare isn’t the problem:  private health insurance is driving costs upwards.  A single payer Medicare for All system fixes everything.  Both programs need expansion, not gutting.

This entire “fiscal cliff” discussion is a failure.  The deficit isn’t the problem, a lack of jobs is what is issue #1.  Putting people back to work will eliminate the deficit by raising income tax collections.  The deficit was caused by three main factors, all Republican failures:  the Bush tax cuts for the rich, two wars which weren’t paid for and the economic collapse.  We can fix things by allowing the tax cuts to expire, ending the wars and following proven economic recovery models.  There is no need to gut entitlement programs.

They aren’t “entitlement” programs anyway.  You’ve paid into both for as long as you’ve worked.  You’re invested in Social Security and Medicare, you’ve worked for them.  The rich aren’t entitled to tax cuts or wars for which the poor fight and die.  They aren’t entitled to an unregulated, chaotic, boom and bust capitalistic economy.  Now those ARE entitlements.

Republicans cannot be trusted with your financial security.  If you voted Republican then perhaps you deserve to lose your Social Security and Medicare.  Even extreme Tea Party members won’t give up their benefits.  I’ve been at their events with a small BBQ grill and signs saying I’d burn their Medicare and Social Security cards and none of them would do so.  Let’s take their benefits away since they’re hell bent on destroying the programs.  One solution is obvious:  if you’re a registered Republican you don’t get Social Security or Medicare.

Romney/Ryan Puts Medicare Front and Center

Mitt Romney didn’t play it safe and select Tim Pawlenty or Rob Portman as his running mate.  Instead he went all in and chose Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan architect of the infamous Ryan Budget.  That would gut the social safety net in place for decades.  I go back to Mitt’s statement that he wasn’t concerned about the poor because they have a safety net.  Why then would he choose someone whose goal is to shred it?

The Ryan Budget proposed ending Medicare as we know it and giving seniors, disabled people and orphans (36% of those on Social Security are disabled or survivors) vouchers to use to go buy insurance on the private market.  The biggest problem is that the vouchers aren’t enough to buy coverage.  Instead of accessing a highly efficient government program which accepts everyone regardless of health and has a 3% overhead you’d be buying private industry insurance with a 20% overhead.

While not as risky as Sarah Palin four years ago this puts entitlement programs front and center for the fall campaign.  In order to pay for additional tax cuts for the rich Romney/Ryan would raise middle class taxes an average of $2000/year.  This is further class warfare.  Is this the sort of deficit exploding fiscal policy Republicans have spent four years claiming to be destroying the economy?  You can’t declaim budget deficits then turn around and pass more tax cuts and drive it up further.

We know tax cuts for the rich don’t stimulate the economy or create jobs.  George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan both tried it and it has never worked.  Reagan had to turn around and sign one of the largest tax increases in history when trickle down failed.  The only thing that trickles down is misery.

Ryan is known as a smart guy but he has a lot of dumb ideas.

The Super Committee’s Gridlock

Congress’ self appointed Super Committee announced its failure to come to an agreement on a deficit reduction plan after the markets closed yesterday.  The Dow had already plunged 2% on reports there would be no agreement.  The closed door Politburo was appointed last August as part of the debt ceiling deal to find $1.2 trillion in additional budget cuts and revenue enhancements.  Pending no agreement a clause in that bill kicks in mandating an across the board 10% cut across federal programs.  The Pentagon is having a hissy fit saying they won’t be able to defend the country on a budget which allowed them to do so in 2007.

Pat Toomey tried pushing through an agenda calling for $1.5 trillion because he wasn’t happy just cutting $1.2T.  The cuts done earlier are already impacting the poor and these new ones will result in being dying.  Winter looms with substantial cuts to LIHEAP, food stamps, WIC and other social safety net programs for the poor, unemployed and disadvantaged.  These cuts do real damage to real people.

Republicans refused to budge on tax increases and the closing of special interest loopholes.  They proposed about $3 billion in tax increases compared with $500 billion in budget cuts and, still,t hat wasn’t enough.  Democrats put sharp cuts to both Social Security (which doesn’t add a cent to the deficit) and Medicare on the table but conservatives wouldn’t play ball.  This is the Tea Party, a fringe minority of Americans, pushing its extreme agenda on the rest of us.

Had the Committee proposed serious cuts to these critically important programs while leaving millionaires and billionaires untouched the 99% movement would have been outraged and the people taking to the streets would have been awe inspiring.  Not to mention chaotic.  Fox would have had more to pontificate about than trying to explain that pepper spray is actually a food product and so not dangerous.  In that case I’d like them to line up and allow me the pleasure of emptying a canister in their faces.  Of course perhaps they’d also allow me to serve them some mushroom soup from some food products I collect in the wild.

The real solution is called The People’s Budget:

Our Budget Eliminates the Deficit and Raises a $31 Billion Surplus In Ten Years

Our budget protects Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and responsibly eliminates the deficit by targeting its main drivers: the Bush Tax Cuts, the wars overseas, and the causes and effects of the recent recession.

Our Budget Puts America Back to Work & Restores America’s Competitiveness

• Trains teachers and restores schools; rebuilds roads and bridges and ensures that users help pay for them

• Invests in job creation, clean energy and broadband infrastructure, housing and R&D programs

Our Budget Creates a Fairer Tax System

• Ends the recently passed upper-income tax cuts and lets Bush-era tax cuts expire at the end of 2012

• Extends tax credits for the middle class, families, and students

• Creates new tax brackets that range from 45% starting at $1 million to 49% for $1 billion or more

• Implements a progressive estate tax

• Eliminates corporate welfare for oil, gas, and coal companies; closes loopholes for multinational corporations

• Enacts a financial crisis responsibility fee and a financial speculation tax on derivatives and foreign exchange

Our Budget Protects Health

• Enacts a health care public option and negotiates prescription payments with pharmaceutical companies

• Prevents any cuts to Medicare physician payments for a decade

Our Budget Safeguards Social Security for the Next 75 Years

• Eliminates the individual Social Security payroll cap to make sure upper income earners pay their fair share

• Increases benefits based on higher contributions on the employee side

Our Budget Brings Our Troops Home

• Responsibly ends our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to leave America more secure both home and abroad

• Cuts defense spending by reducing conventional forces, procurement, and costly R&D programs

Our Budget’s Bottom Line

• Deficit reduction of $5.6 trillion

• Spending cuts of $1.7 trillion

• Revenue increase of $3.9 trillion

• Public investment $1.7 trillion

Of course our real crisis and our first deficit problem is one of JOBS.  This budget situation was caused principally by three factors, all created by conservatives:  unpaid for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush tax cuts and the failure of conservative trickle down economics.  The refusal to properly regulate markets, prosecute criminals on Wall Street and raise revenues by taxing the rich created the current deficit.

Conservatives (both Republican and Democrats) created this problem and are focused on it rather than the other one in jobs.  They have nothing to create jobs and, in fact, have made it worse by laying off hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs which support private sector employment.  The ripple effect is strangling growth and preventing a systemic recovery.

Congress needs to repeal the part of the debt ceiling agreement mandating cuts and also repeal the Bush era tax cuts for the rich.  Then they need to pass a significant stimulus designed to build infrastructure.

News & Notes September 6, 2011

More conservative myths and talking points are biting the dust under the weight of factual evidence.  First the often repeated accusation that government hiring stifles the marketplace and prevents businesses from hiring in falling.  As half a million public sector jobs have been killed by Republicans the private sector added only 17,000 jobs last month.  Add the 40,000 Verizon workers who had to strike to keep hard won health benefits and it seems that conservatives are intentionally lying to the nation.

Now yet another of their myths is being proven wrong:  that regulations and taxes stifle small businesses.  Of course if these people were honest we wouldn’t need to regulate them.  Regardless that talking point is also a lie.  McClatchy surveyed small businesses and found:

None of the business owners complained about regulation in their particular industries, and most seemed to welcome it. Some pointed to the lack of regulation in mortgage lending as a principal cause of the financial crisis that brought about the Great Recession of 2007-09 and its grim aftermath.

A conservative has finally come out of the closet and said why efforts are underway nationally to disenfranchise voters:

“It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country — which is precisely why Barack Obama zealously supports registering welfare recipients to vote.  Encouraging those who burden society to participate in elections isn’t about helping the poor,” Vadum writes. “It’s about helping the poor to help themselves to others’ money. It’s about raw so-called social justice. It’s about moving America ever farther away from the small-government ideals of the Founding Fathers.

He says allowing poor people to vote is like giving burglary tools to criminals.  At least someone on the right is finally being honest about what they believe.

Obama has been playing both sides of the game on Social Security.  He keeps saying he wants to keep it but he’s the one who keeps putting it in play.  As always pay attention to what a politician does, not what he says:

At least Rick Perry is honest about his position on Social Security:  he says it is a Ponzi scheme and unconstitutional.  The Strengthen Social Security Campaign disproves his argument here.  (I write for this group.)

The Truth: Social Security is the opposite of a Ponzi scheme, which is a fraud, a deceptive and totally unrealistic promise made by a swindler that your investments will reap huge returns. No one is cheated out of Social Security. Social Security is a promise made by all of us together, using the United States government to make that promise work. Just as adult children have always cared for aging parents, Social Security is a promise across generations. It is protection earned by working persons through their contributions, which insures against lost earnings resulting from severe disability, retirement or death. Social Security has delivered on that promise for 76 years. That’s why it is America’s most successful and popular federal program. Unlike a Ponzi scheme, it will always deliver on that promise, if the American people continue to elect politicians who support it.

Gov. Corbett is reorganizing DEP.  I don’t know from this article if his efforts are for the good or the bad, only time will tell.  I do know DEP is useless when it comes to protecting Pennsylvania’s environment.  The fact Corbett is owned lock, stock and barrel by the gas industry doesn’t bode well however.

Records documenting illegal extraordinary rendition of detainees for torture in third world countries proves the program begun under George W. Bush and continued by Barack Obama exists.  Interestingly the State Department official whose signature is on the docs doesn’t exist.  This can of worms opened because of a billing dispute by companies who flew the torture subjects for the CIA.  Torture is an impeachable offense.

Pelosi Vows to Protect Medicare & Social Security

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi visited Santa Fe, New Mexico yesterday and told an audience at the Mary Esther Gonzales Senior Center she will not allow the Congressional Super Committee “to be a chopping block for” the programs.  She ridiculed Texas Governor Rick Perry for calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme and said Social Security shouldn’t even be used in the same sentence with deficit reduction.  Social Security has nothing to do with the federal deficit.

The unannounced visit with local Congressman Ben Ray Lujan and others provided a forum for the former Speaker to condemn those who were silent while the deficit was being amassed by former President Bush with tax cuts for the rich and two unfunded wars.  I do recall Speaker Pelosi voting to fund the Iraq War however.  

Social Security was put on the negotiating table by President Obama during negotiations on the debt ceiling even though it is self supporting, is safe until 2037 and can be expanded by lifting the cap on contributions.  In these harsh economic times the program should be expanded instead of cut back and as more and more Americans lose their pensions more of us are dependent on Social Security.  Lifting the cap on incomes subject to taxation would solidify Social Security and allow an expansion of benefits.

Medicare is in trouble because of runaway health care costs.  The President’s bill will do little to rein them in and does nothing to provide a public option for those mandated to buy insurance from for profit, private corporations.  Expanding Medicare by adding benefits and making it a national single payer plan solves those issues, gives access to quality medical care to every person and ends the runaway costs adding to the deficit.

The solutions to both deficit reduction and health care costs adding tot he deficit are real and actual and reasonable.  They can be accomplished by passing The People’s Budget and help Americnas rather than hurting them.  Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Santa Fe was welcome and her words important.

Note:  I am visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico.

More Americans Drawing Income from Unemployment, Social Security

A blog post from Emma Lowenberg, originally published on Third and State.

The fact that the economy is still struggling is not news to anyone. The national unemployment rate has increased steadily since February. Now, at 9.2%, it is not too far from its peak of 9.9% in December 2009.

Nationally, the personal income of 20% of Americans comes from the government through programs like Social Security and unemployment benefits, according to a report in The New York Times. The percentage is even higher in the economically worst-off states – like Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and Arizona.

Those who depend on this assistance are running out of luck, though, and so is the economy at large. Extended jobless benefits are set to expire at the end of the year, leaving nearly 7.5 million unemployed Americans without an important lifeline and risking greater damage to an all too fragile recovery. The still tentative agreement in Washington, D.C. to raise the debt limit appears to rule out any additional extensions of unemployment insurance for workers in 2012.

The ratio of job growth to job seekers remains dismally low. In Arizona, for example, there are 10 job seekers for every job opening. According to economist Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics, the amount of transfer dollars being paid out has increased by 35% since 2007.

Some cash-strapped states are shortening the length of unemployment benefits by as much as 20 weeks. To counter the effects of benefit cutoffs, we would need to see massive job creation, but that’s just not on the horizon.

The data below show the change in percentage of income comprised of transfer payments by county in Pennsylvania from 2007 to 2009 (the data is sorted by the percent change in transfers). While some of this change can be attributed to naturally aging populations, much is undoubtedly the result of higher unemployment rates.

TRANSFERS AS A SHARE OF TOTAL PERSONAL INCOME 2007 TO 2009
County 2007 2009 Change % Change
Fulton 20% 27% 7.6 38%
Cameron 28% 37% 9.9 36%
Adams 16% 22% 5.5 33%
Elk 23% 30% 7.2 31%
Huntingdon 24% 30% 6.1 25%
Bucks 11% 14% 2.7 25%
Lancaster 15% 19% 3.7 25%
Franklin 17% 21% 4.0 24%
Columbia 22% 27% 5.1 24%
York 15% 18% 3.5 23%
Juniata 20% 25% 4.7 23%
Montgomery 9% 11% 2.1 23%
Berks 17% 21% 3.8 23%
Monroe 17% 20% 3.6 22%
Cumberland 13% 16% 2.9 22%
Erie 22% 26% 4.6 21%
Bedford 24% 29% 5.1 21%
Wayne 23% 28% 4.9 21%
Perry 17% 21% 3.6 21%
Dauphin 16% 19% 3.2 21%
Lehigh 17% 20% 3.3 20%
Wyoming 21% 26% 4.3 20%
Mifflin 26% 32% 5.3 20%
Union 17% 21% 3.4 19%
Crawford 26% 30% 4.8 19%
Northampton 17% 20% 3.1 19%
Jefferson 26% 31% 4.9 19%
Centre 14% 16% 2.5 18%
Lebanon 17% 20% 3.2 18%
Carbon 23% 28% 4.2 18%
Snyder 26% 30% 4.6 18%
Potter 25% 29% 4.5 18%
Armstrong 24% 28% 4.3 18%
Mercer 26% 30% 4.6 18%
Butler 16% 19% 2.8 17%
Clearfield 27% 31% 4.6 17%
Clarion 26% 30% 4.4 17%
Lycoming 22% 25% 3.6 17%
McKean 25% 29% 4.1 16%
Lawrence 27% 31% 4.4 16%
Warren 24% 28% 3.9 16%
Tioga 26% 31% 4.2 16%
Schuylkill 25% 29% 4.0 16%
Luzerne 23% 26% 3.5 15%
Pike 17% 19% 2.6 15%
Indiana 22% 25% 3.3 15%
Northumberland 24% 28% 3.7 15%
Bradford 23% 26% 3.4 15%
Delaware 14% 16% 2.1 15%
Blair 25% 28% 3.7 15%
Allegheny 17% 19% 2.4 14%
Lackawanna 22% 25% 3.1 14%
Clinton 24% 28% 3.4 14%
Washington 20% 22% 2.7 14%
Westmoreland 20% 23% 2.8 14%
Fayette 30% 34% 3.9 13%
Somerset 26% 29% 3.2 12%
Beaver 24% 27% 2.9 12%
Sullivan 30% 34% 3.6 12%
Susquehanna 22% 24% 2.5 11%
Montour 19% 21% 2.0 11%
Cambria 28% 31% 3.0 10%
Venango 32% 35% 2.9 9%
Philadelphia 26% 28% 2.3 9%
Chester 8% 9% 0.5 6%
Greene 28% 30% 1.4 5%
Forest 38% 39% 1.6 4%

Source. Keystone Research Center analysis of Bureau of Economic Analysis Data

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:

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

_______________________________________________________________

For Immediate Release                               July 22, 2011

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

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.

    Ben.

    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.

Norah.

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:

STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY

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.