Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Super-Congress wants to have its cake and eat it too

by Linda Beale

Super-Congress wants to have its cake and eat it too

So the Democrats and Republicans on the so-called “Super-Committee” that is supposed to find $1.2 trillion in budget reductions/increased revenues within a week now thinks it has a solution–let the regular tax committees (Finance and Ways & Means) come up with the tax revenues, while the Super-Committee will go on and specify the spending cuts.  See Deficit Panel Seeks to Defer Details on Raising Taxes, New York Times (Nov. 14, 2011).

The proposal doesn’t sound like anything that the Dems on the panel should accept.  For a piddling reduction in some of the deductions available to the most affluent individuals, the GOP is willing to lower the rate on those individuals to 28%!  Just more enriching the rich.  The Dems shouldn’t agree to that.  Especially since Grover Norquist thinks that any such agreement would be undone immediately, while any stupid agreement the Dems make to “reforming” (i.e., cutting benefits from) the earned benefits programs will be allowed to take place.

Grover G. Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, whose antitax pledge has been signed by most Republicans in Congress, said in an interview, “I am not losing any sleep” over the Republicans’ latest proposal. Mr. Norquist said he was confident that, “at the end of the day, the Republican House will not pass a tax increase.”

“As a face-saving measure,” Mr. Norquist said, the deficit reduction panel “could give lots of instructions to the tax-writing committees.” In complying with those instructions, he said, the House and the Senate could pass very different bills.  Id.

It is hard to see why any cuts to the earned benefits programs should be made. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are more important now than ever because of the weak economy.  We are a rich country and we can afford these programs.Tax 100% of compensation for Social Security.   And treat all profits interests as compensation income when allocations are received, so that partnerships treat persons as partners only when they have a capital investment in the partnership business.

Let the military be cut at least $750 billion.  And raise the rest through taxes–especially through a progressive estate tax and through eliminating the character preference for capital gains income.

This country is tired of being held hostage by far-right radicals  who don’t understand that the government acts for the people and who don’t give a damn for anybody that isn’t in the top 20% of the income and wealth distribution.  We are tired of the radical right’s anarchistic actions to prevent the government from borrowing money to carry out important programs.  We are tired of the radical right’s stupidity about the economy and its reliance on ideological beliefs in “trickle down” programs to justify tax cuts no matter what situation the country is in.  We are tired of the radical right’s refusal to acknowledge the facts about the failures of the four-decade experiment with reaganomics, during which time the large multinational corporations have been allowed to function like quasi-sovereigns.  We are tired of seeing tax policies that support consolidation of corporate empires and movement of business overseas, while Americans lose jobs and watch their wages decline.

 

originally published at ataxingmatter

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All you need to know to understand President Obama

By Daniel Becker

I watched then read President Obama’s interview on 60 Minutes.  The following is the most telling quote:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: …And, you know, I can make some really good arguments defending the Democratic position, and there are gonna be some people who just don’t agree with me. And that’s okay. And then we’ve got to figure out a way to compromise.
Respectfully sir…Your job is not Debate Club.  I can make “good arguments” also.  But, I’m not the person with the pen.  You are.
This is the second most telling quote:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: …leadership isn’t just legislation.  That it’s a matter of persuading people. And giving them confidence and bringing them together. And setting a tone. And making an argument that people can understand.
Respectfully sir… You had 52.9% of the popular vote in 2008 along with 53.18% popular vote for the House and 51.3% for the Senate.   This latest election shows that people got the “tone”.
Frankly sir, you need to legislate like you actually mean the “really good arguments defending the Democratic position…”  Otherwise sir, it’s just rhetoric.  It’s just Debate Club.  
“You know…” you do actually hold as your convictions the “really good arguments defending the Democratic position…”?  

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High Heels and X-Ray Eyes

First, you hear the high heels. These are not the pretty heels of Ginger Rogers, floating in ostrich plumes for some impromptu dance across a marble floor.

No no, these are the no-nonsense high heels whose rhythmic ticktock, louder and louder, signify the approach of authority – firm, fair and with eyes that see through every excuse. It’s Dr. Warren, and she’s ticked.

Elizabeth Warren, head C.O.P. over at the Congressional Oversight Panel which is “charged with the job of reviewing the state of the markets, current regulatory system, and the Treasury Department’s management of the Troubled Asset Relief Program [and] required to report their findings to Congress every 30 days.” She is a longtime researcher of bankruptcy and professor of bankruptcy law, and she saw the crash of the middle class coming from miles away.

In videos like “The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class” (early 2008) and her various net-based reports, TV appearances, and appearances before Congress, she combines absolute clarity of message with a mildness that tempers that message, often dismaying in its implications, enough so it can be heard and digested.

Messages like this graph. And those numbers are from 2001.

She’s just been named the ‘Bostonian of the Year‘ by the Boston Globe, complete with an interesting video that catches her offstage persona. It’s a lot like her camera persona, but madder. Worth watching, if only to see her berating Timothy Geithner, (about 3.02) whose smirking response should infuriate anyone who sees it. Read the accompanying article, too.

A few Elizabeth-quotes from the Globe video:

“The mortgage lenders have behaved abominably.”

“It seems to me that far to often women are the people who do what needs to be done. It’s about how the old boys club who brought us not just to the brink of ruin, but beyond that, they still want to play the same way. And, well, somebody’s got to say no. If all the old boys want to roll their eyes over it, well then let them roll their eyes over it.”

“AIG was not a bank!”

“Here we are in the middle of a financial crisis. The market is broken. We have a system where very large financial institutions systematically take advantage of hardworking American families. The role of government is just to level that playing field a little bit, and the financial institutions are fighting that tooth and nail. They’re willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to block that kind of legislation, and I’ll just tell you, I find that deeply and profoundly shocking.”

“I am not looking for jobs with these guys. My job is not to get out there and kowtow to these guys so they’ll be nice to me. I figure this is the one time I will have a true public-service job. I’m going to do everything I can to execute this job the way it ought to be done. If there’s some politician, Republican or Democrat, who has a problem with that, I just don’t care.”

Every couple of weeks I scan the internet looking for new reports and video from our COP on the beat. So should we all.

Bravo, Dr. Warren.

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Tic Tac Toe, Supreme Court style

Bribes, payola, favor of the physical kind? Forget-about it. Just put the right person in the appropriate agency, preferably a person from the line of business the agency is to regulate. But, for extra insurance over the long haul, with a little luck of timing you get to fix the legal issue almost permanently: supreme court justices.

Justices Make it Tougher to Sue Makers of Medical Devices

The case has significant implications for the $75 billion-a-year health care technology industry, whose products range from heart valves to toothbrushes. In a recent three-month span, federal regulators responded to over 100 safety problems regarding medical devices.

At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the estate of Charles Riegel could sue a company under state law over a device previously cleared for sale by federal regulators. State lawsuits are barred to the extent they would impose requirements that are different from federal requirements, said the ruling by Justice Antonin Scalia.

In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that Congress never intended “a radical curtailment of state common-law lawsuits seeking compensation for injuries caused by defectively designed or labeled medical devices.”

But Scalia, in response, said, “It is not our job to speculate upon congressional motives.”

The Bush administration sided with industry, saying unfavorable state jury verdicts would compel companies to alter product designs or labels that had already gotten FDA approval.

Hey, the government said it was good, what the f#$k is your problem?

Well, besides lending its self to a commentary of fascism , or that all the court is saying is that congress needs to do a more complete job, or that this represents another major blow for our constitution in that the government is failing to respond to the people, this is the manifestation of gamesmanship having fully ascended to our final stop gap measure. I forget who, but a commenter stated that law suits are the free market response to a lack of government regulation (I think I have it corret). If true, then the free market is truly dead and it has been killed by the most effective means of all; legal tic tac toe. We have been observing it in congress for years, with it most refined and skillfully played currently.

Here’s how you play it. I ask you a question literally: X. You respond literally: X. I say no, I was asking figuratively: O. Everyone knows that you can not win it. But, and it’s a big BUT, the purpose of this version of tic tac toe is not to win. It is to perpetually play the game. Just keep on blocking. It can be played with me asking a question: O, feeling you out. You respond: X. I think Ok and ask it again as you have responded: X. You respond: O.

Think I’m wrong? Then think about the hearings for the supreme court justices. Think about the AG performance concerning torture. Think about the definition of “is”.

This form of tic tac toe servers a very specific purpose. It forever releases the player from being responsible. You can never fully come to terms with a person who’s entire approach to life is to perpetually play tic tac toe because there is no way to win the game of tic tac toe. You can only move beyond them. Stop playing the game. For a society with a form of governance like ours, it means voting. Voting not to approve those who do not answer the question as a responsible person. Holding in contempt, etc. For me it was a divorce.

updated to finish the last paragraph.

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