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Tag Archives: White House

An Opening for Republicans? Obama’s “Deficit Neutral” Health Care Reform Will Cost Twice As Much, Just As We Figured It Would

Back in 2009, when President Obama took advantage of Democrat control of the House and Senate and pushed through so-called healthcare reform, he assured the American people that the plan would be paid for and wouldn’t add to future deficits.  There were many people, especially those like myself who are familiar with health care costs and how health insurance works, were quite skeptical.  The plan did nothing to address rising healthcare costs.  Instead, it was nothing more than the opportunity Democrats had been waiting for get health insurers to change their rules for coverage and to get government-subsidized health insurance in the hands of Americans.  But to quote a popular line from “Thomas and Friends,” one of my toddler’s favorite shows, “then there was trouble.”

First, the administration can’t even get their act together regarding the mandate in the plan.  The White House said it isn’t a tax, but someone from within the administration testified on Capital Hill that it is.  Then, the CLASS act, which was a plan to tackle long term care, came under fire.  And for good reason–one of the accounting gimmicks used to make CLASS work was to make people pay premiums for the plan for years before the plan actually came into play.  Congress voted to remove it from Obamacare.

But the ultimate slight-of-hand used in getting the bill passed was to convince people the reform act would not add to future deficits, and in turn, to the national debt.  President Obama assured us that the plan would cost about $900 billion, and that the cost would be offset by money taken from Medicare savings and from revenue grabbed from insurers, medical device makers, etc.  Like Theo Huxtable in the episode of “The Cosby Show” when Bill tried to tell him it’s expensive to live on his own, President Obama deflected criticism by saying “noooo problem!”  What wasn’t apparent to average americans is that the cost projection used included years during which the plan would barely be implemented.

Now, the CBO has released projections on how much Obamacare will actually cost over the next 10 years, when fully in place.  The cost?  $1.76 trillion over the next decade.  And that number is expected to increase to $2 trillion next year.

On the one hand, the CBO also predicts that the government will increase revenue from taxes and penalties over those years so that *may* offset the additional costs.  But most people realize that while cost estimates typically run lower than actual, revenue estimates also tend to run lower, because as new taxes kick in, people tend to change their habits, which leads to lower revenues taken in by the government.  People will find ways to avoid paying additional taxes.

What we have here is another government implented program that is going to run over budget and need bailing out at some point in the future.  Maybe around that time people will finally realize that government can’t be trusted to be good stewards of our money.

Related link:
Obamacare to cost $1.76 trillion over 10 years

About Granting “exceptions” and Free Contraception

I saw a piece regarding President Obama and the uproar caused by saying church-sponsored institutions have to provide contraception to employees.  Today, he reversed course and said that insurance companies would be forced to provide it for free to the employees of such institutions.    What’s funny is, it still means the institutions will pay for it, because typically a company will pay for part of the benefits package provided to their employees.  So, they will still pay.  Remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch!

While reading said piece, I found something in the comments section that I found to be very interesting, and spot-on:

There is a deep and very troubling issue being missed in not only this debate, but permeating the entire Obama administration. See today and also  recall yesterday  just how often the word “exception” is now used in edicts from Obama and his administration. In manufacturing, banking, education, health care by-passed senate confirmations and now religion, we get word from Obama that “we have granted an exception”. Granting  exceptions requires one be in absolute authority over those seeking relief from an onerous government imposed obligation. We are no longer being governed with our consent, but are in fact ruled by edict through Obama’s consent. Obama has not yet superseded  that authority which the Declaration of Independence plainly says  our individual rights come from and Obama must be told that in plain and simple words.

It makes me wonder if folks realize that–if you have to grant exceptions to a rule, then maybe, your rule should be changed?

I also wondered about “free” contraception.  Why should contraception be free?  Or Viagra?  Why should the government be involved in it?  Maybe there is a good reason, but its not coming to me right now.

Do Politicians Understand What “Stimulus” Means? I Think Not.

Is it so difficult that the idea behind a “stimulus” package, or “stimulus” spending, or “stimulus” funding would be to stimulate the economy via job creation?  Somehow, politicians aren’t getting this.  The suggestions made by them aren’t ones that include a job multiplying effect.  In other words, for stimulus to be effective, it has to go towards something that creates a job, which directly creates a need for additional jobs, and so on.

Earlier this week, during a press conference, White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked how extending unemployment benefits creates jobs.  His reply?

“There are few other ways that can directly put money into the economy than applying unemployment insurance,” Carney said.

Carney answers the question: “It is one of the most direct ways to infuse money directly into the economy because people who are unemployed and obviously aren’t running a paycheck are going to spend the money that they get. They’re not going to save it, they’re going to spend it. And with unemployment insurance, that way, the money goes directly back into the economy, dollar for dollar virtually.”

This is similar to a comment made by former Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi:

Economists will tell you this money is spent quickly. It injects demand into the economy, and is job creating. It creates jobs faster than almost any other initiative you can name because, again, it is money that is needed for families to survive, and it is spent. So it has a double benefit. It helps those who have lost their jobs, but it also is a job creator.

Back when Pelosi made the comment, as you can see from the feedback on the Media Matters page, they were more than happy to show how economists backed up what she said, while right-leaning critics were going nuts and criticizing her.

Regardless of the economists that affirmed her statement (and even the CBO), we can now agree that the assertion was wrong.

Maybe I’m out in left field here, but I am willing to wager that the majority of people who are collecting unemployment benefits are spending the money on necessities–food, power, gas, phone, ect.  While the money is technically going into the economy, its not going in for things that will create more jobs.  Listening to Carney, Pelosi, and those who agree with them, it’s as if the unemployment benefits are disposable income.  Paying the bills is not a job multiplier.

Likewise, the expressed opinion of the Left is that the stimulus was a success.  Even a CBO report says that it had some success. From Factcheck.org:

As we have written before, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a report in August that said the stimulus bill has “[l]owered the unemployment rate by between 0.7 percentage points and 1.8 percentage points” and “[i]ncreased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million.”

Simply put, more people would be unemployed if not for the stimulus bill. The exact number of jobs created and saved is difficult to estimate, but nonpartisan economists say there’s no doubt that the number is positive.

But the key words are “created and saved.” Many of the jobs that received stimulus money were to maintain exisiting positions, not create new ones. Much of the money went to states to help prevent them from firing government workers. Not to mention, as the President himself said not too long ago, some of the shovel-ready jobs were “not so shovel-ready.” (Sidenote: he chuckled after cracking this joke. Looking at the cost of the stimulus, and how those shovel-ready projects were talked about ad nauseum to get the bill passed, its not very funny.) Again, in the end, for the section of the stimulus intended to create jobs and stimulate the economy, based on the unemployment rate since then, there was no multiplier effect.

So, with calls coming for another stimulus, we should be afraid.  Be very afraid.

Random Thoughts: White House and the Ratings Downgrade, Al “global warming” Gore Unhinged, Wisconsin Recall Elections

Just a few thoughts and observations:

With the recent downgrade of the country’s credit rating by Standard & Poor’s, the White House had to blame someone for what happened.  So they complained loudly about how S&P had made a mistake with the downgrade, even pointing out an accounting error that S&P made that made things look worse than they really are.  Then, they came out and blamed the Tea Party for causing the downgrade.  I’m confused.  If S&P made a mistake, it would have nothing to do with the Tea Party, right?  Then again, everything is the Tea Party’s fault, from what I hear.

The other day, President Obama did a press conference to address the credit downgrade.  While he was giving his speech, the stock market dropped 200 points.  Ouch.

Speaking of Standard & Poor’s, how do you go forward with a downgrade even after you’re told you made an accounting error?  Simple.  Just blame the politicians!  Say it’s because Congress can’t work together.  Come up with a worthy excuse.  But just don’t own up to it.  By the way, they didn’t downgrade Lehman Brothers until AFTER they imploded…

Former Vice President and current Global Warming–uh,  Climate Change– crusader Al Gore was giving a speech recently and ran off the rails.  Seems he was calling BS on those who don’t agree with him, and called the scientists who put out anti-warming info fake.  I could’ve sworn that the main basis for the argument is whether or not the changes occurring are man made or natural.  But I digress.

It’s recall season in Wisconsin.  Democrats, angry that the Republican-led Legislature changed collective bargaining law, were able to collect signatures to force a recall election for 6 Republican state senators.  In order to have a chance at taking control of the state Senate, they needed to win 3 of the seats up for recall.  Unfortunately for them, they only won 2.  There are more elections coming but they will have no chance at winning control until the next election.  If the Dems had succeeded, I think it would’ve sent shockwaves nationwide.  Having said that, pay attention to the redistricting fights going on in the states.  Redistricting happens every 10 years and the party in power at the time in a particular state usually tries to stack things in their favor.  Look and see how strange some districts end up looking just to accomplish either keeping a rep in office or getting the opposition OUT of office.

Good Reasons Why the GM Bailout Was Not a Good Thing

I came across an opinion piece that reminded me of the reasons why the GM bailout was not a good thing.  Shikha Dalmia explains why in an article at Reason.com called “Driving to Delusionville.” He mentions many reasons that have been stated before, but here is my favorite:

It gave Chrysler’s secured creditors, who would have had priority in a normal bankruptcy, 29 cents on the dollar. Chrysler’s unions, on the other hand, got more than 40 cents, even though they are equivalent to low-priority lenders. This made a mockery of longstanding bankruptcy law, something that will make credit markets wary of lending to political sacred cows in the future.

The administration favored union workers not only over creditors, but also other workers. All United Auto Workers retirees at Delphi, GM’s auto supplier, got 100 percent of their pension and retirement benefits. But 21,000 nonunion, salaried employees lost up to 70 percent of their pensions, and all of their life and health insurance. The Treasury could have covered 93 percent of the benefits of all employees for the same funds it spent on full union benefits, testified Bruce Gump, a representative of the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association.

So, not only did the government meddle when it wasn’t necessary, they managed to make sure union workers (who tend to vote Democrat) got good deals, while pretty much sticking it to the non-union employees and creditors. I would love for someone (anyone!) to get the White House to explain why the unions should get special treatment. The way the non-union Delphi employees were treated is absurd and indefensible.

White House Disputes the Findings of Their Own Economic Advisors

Earlier I posted about how a group of economists picked by President Obama issued a report that showed the stimulus saved or created 2.4 million jobs at a cost of $278k per job.  Evidently the White House disagrees with those findings:

“That’s a cost to taxpayers of $278,000 per job,” according to the Weekly Standard, a Washington, D.C.-based magazine. “In other words, the government could simply have cut a $100,000 check to everyone whose employment was allegedly made possible by the ‘stimulus,’ and taxpayers would have come out $427 billion ahead.”

But the White House said that study is based on “partial information and false analysis.”

“The Recovery Act was more than a measure to create and save jobs; it was also an investment in American infrastructure, education and industries that are critical to America’s long-term success and investment in the economic future of America’s working families,” White House spokeswoman Liz Oxhorn said in a statement to FoxNews.com.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/07/05/white-house-disputes-study-saying-stimulus-cost-taxpayers-278000-per-job/#ixzz1RGDNjWuj

The story goes on to say that the WH points at a CBO report that says the number is closer to 3.6 million jobs, that the stimulus lowered unemployment, and helped spark economic growth. Republicans point out that unemployment is higher than it was, in addition to a substantial increase in the national debt. Still another person quoted says that there is no point in measuring effectiveness based on “cost per job.”

Whether or not the stimulus was effective will continue to be debated, it seems.

 

$278k Per Job “Created or Saved.” So the Stimulus Worked?

From Jeffrey H. Anderson at The Weekly Standard:

When the Obama administration releases a report on the Friday before a long weekend, it’s clearly not trying to draw attention to the report’s contents. Sure enough, the “Seventh Quarterly Report” on the economic impact of the “stimulus,” released on Friday, July 1, provides further evidence that President Obama’s economic “stimulus” did very little, if anything, to stimulate the economy, and a whole lot to stimulate the debt.

The report was written by the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors, a group of three economists who were all handpicked by Obama, and it chronicles the alleged success of the “stimulus” in adding or saving jobs. The council reports that, using “mainstream estimates of economic multipliers for the effects of fiscal stimulus” (which it describes as a “natural way to estimate the effects of” the legislation), the “stimulus” has added or saved just under 2.4 million jobs — whether private or public — at a cost (to date) of $666 billion. That’s a cost to taxpayers of $278,000 per job.

Wow.  Not very efficient, right? I would say that in corporate America, and you were running a company that was that inefficient, you’d get canned. When hiring an employee, there is the employee’s salary. Then, factor in another 30%-40% of the salary, which is what it costs the employer to train the new employee. Then, factor in another 20% of salary to account for benefits, social security, and other costs. Even if every employee accounted for in the stimulus numbers were new hires, and they were all paid $100,000 salaries, it STILL wouldn’t cost $278,000 to hire them. So one has to wonder why the cost was so high.

In the face of these numbers, as well as the fact that unemployment post-stimulus is higher than pre-stimulus, the argument made by Obama supporters that things were “worse than they thought” doesn’t justify the inefficient spending. Then again, I have to agree with Anderson–that maybe the stimulus would’ve worked better if the money had not been spent “mostly on Democratic constituencies rather than in a manner genuinely designed to stimulate the economy.”

 

GOP Claims “Reagan Conservatism” but Reagan Would Disagree

I’d written before that if Ronald Reagan ran for president, he wouldn’t make it our of the Republican primaries these days. Why? Because of his stance on taxes. You see, for all the railing today’s GOP is doing about no tax increases or ending of tax breaks, what gets overlooked is Reagan’s overall record on taxes and revenue.

Surely we’ve all heard that Reagan cut taxes. The storyline goes “Reagan cut taxes and the economy grew.” But therein lies some serious policy omission. After a massive tax rate cut in 1981, Reagan along with Congress (which included a Republican-led Senate) proceeded to pass a number of measures designed to raise revenue. Any of those measures would be criticized today as tax increases.

I’d been surprised that little has been said about this. But finally, an article in Politico spells it out:

The Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA) is the most famous, because of its historic size and timing, a dramatic course correction that quickly followed Reagan’s signature income tax cuts in 1981. But in the six years after were four more deficit-reduction acts, which combined to almost double TEFRA’s revenue impact on an annual basis.

Translated into current dollars, the total revenue increases for the five bills would then be equal to about $190 billion a year. That’s far in excess of anything that has been proposed by the White House in recent deficit talks led by Vice President Joseph Biden, yet most of these increases were approved when Republicans controlled the Senate in the 1980’s.

Democrats could really bash Republicans’ heads with this. Instead of the insipid arguments we keep hearing about “tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires” and “tax breaks for Big Oil” a simple tack of “well, Reagan did it” would be nearly impossible for Republicans to counter. After all, Reagan is patron saint of conservatism.

Forget Picking Winners in the Budget Fiasco; We All Lose in the End

Unofficial seal of the United States Congress

Image via Wikipedia

After the absurd theater that was the “oh-my-god-the-government-will-shut-down” nonsense of last week, many news sites were picking “winners” and “losers.”  Frankly, the loser in all of this is clear–the American People.  If it takes this much effort to get Congress to cut a few billion dollars from a 3-plus trillion dollar deficit, what happens going forward, with expected trillion-dollar deficits for the next ten years?

Contrary to the posturing being done by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama, Democrats came out on the losing end of the battle.  At least temporarily (since success can be fleeting in politics), many Americans scratched their heads as Democrats dug in and fought against budget cuts that make up less than one percent of the total budget.  One looks silly fighting to hold on to every penny when nearly everyone knows that the level of debt we are piling up as a country is unsustainable and a threat to national security.

Wait.  I digress.  Based on the number of people who actually supported the Dems position in all of this, either “nearly everyone” is far from accurate, or there are a lot of people in denial.  They are convinced the way to fix this is to maintain the spending and only increase taxes.  But that’s a different story.

Since we’re talking budgets, and in Washington, its always about the baseline, let’s look at the baseline of the budget battle.  If Democrats had passed a budget back in 2010, while controlling Congress and the White House, none of this would’ve happened.  It was the first time in many years that there was no budget submitted.  Even worse, the fact that the Dems punted in June of 2010 in order to go into butt-covering mode for the upcoming elections seems to have been swept under the rug.  I’m very surprised some person within the Democrat machine didn’t point out that if they didn’t get it done, it could possibly be out of their hands in 2011.

Meanwhile, the Tea Party, whose focus is and always has been spending cuts (don’t be fooled by accusations to the contrary), powered an election that sent new people to Congress with the mission of reigning in spending.  I’ve actually gotten a kick out of watching how people who were quick to defend the ramming through of Obamacare by saying “that’s what we elected them to do” turn around and actually criticize members of Congress for being beholden to the Tea Party!  It’s more important to demonize the TP than to recognize that their criticism of spending is legit.

But back to the budget fight.  Republicans aren’t without criticism here.  This was no time to inject social issues into the fray.  A fight over funding for Planned Parenthood had no business occupying time and space in this.  Or did it?  One analysis of the battle said the Democrats fell for the okey-doke in that regard; that really, defunding Planned Parenthood wasn’t really the big priority that Democrats thought it was, and when they agreed to give up something in return for a dropping of that issue by Republicans, they were suckered.  Further, as part of the final agreement, Obama and Reid agreed to allow a debate and vote on defunding PP to be brought up in the Senate.  Still, any future fight over defunding Planned Parenthood just because they are an abortion provider is a waste.

There is one upside to the way the deal went down.  Democrats hoped to achieve cuts by simply delaying some projects (which did happen) and/or freezing funding for certain programs and refunding them in the next budget.  Republicans didn’t play ball.   Instead, many programs were terminated in order to get to the nearly $40 billion in cuts.  For the other programs with reduced budgets, they have a new baseline to start from in the 2012 budget.  In other words, even if there is a programmed funding increase, they will still spend less going forward.  This serves to reduce the monsterous deficits already projected for the next 5-10 years out.

So, after all of that, why do I say we all lose?  Because this bears repeating:  we nearly had a government shutdown over cuts amounting to less than 2% of the overall budget!  So much hinged on so little.  In order for the country to win, spending has to come down.   Is that so hard to understand?

What Was That About Toning Down Rhetoric? Biden Uses Rape to Describe Repubs

Not too long ago there was so much talk about toning down rhetoric.  Even before that, using rape or things related to rape to describe your opponents was darn near taboo.  But today, Vice President Joe Biden pulled that one out at a fund raiser.  His logic?  According to an account in at thehill.com, “Republicans who want to cut spending while at the same time cutting taxes for the wealthy are similar to rape apologists:”

“When a woman got raped, blame her because she was wearing a skirt too short, she looked the wrong way or she wasn’t home in time to make the dinner,” Biden said.

“We’ve gotten by that,” he said. “But it’s amazing how these Republicans, the right wing of this party – whose philosophy threw us into this God-awful hole we’re in, gave us the tremendous deficit we’ve inherited – that they’re now using, now attempting to use, the very economic condition they have created to blame the victim – whether it’s organized labor or ordinary middle-class working men and women.”

The countdown clock has started to see how long before the women’s groups yell about this. It’s so off the wall, I won’t even go into how crazy he sounds still talking about an “inherited deficit” when we are going into year 3 of the Obama administration, especially with the amount of money that has been spent in the last 2 years alone.

White House sparks controversy over Defense of Marriage Act–and I’m Torn

In 1996, President Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which allowed states that did not allow gay marriage to refuse to honor such marriages done in other states.  On Wednesday, the White House sparked some major controversy when Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Department of Justice would stop defending DOMA:

President Obama has instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which has since 1996 allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex partnerships legally recognized in other states.

The announcement was made in a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder to congressional leaders in relation to two lawsuits, Pedersen v. OPM and Windsor v. United States, which challenge a section of DOMA that defines marriage for federal purposes as only between one man and one woman.

President Obama believes that section – Section 3 — “is unconstitutional” given the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment (including its equal protection component), Holder wrote, and the president has instructed the Department of Justice to no longer defend the law in those two lawsuits.

Here is where I am torn. On the one hand, I have an issue with the AG saying they are not going to defend a law just based on the President deciding its unconstitutional. That’s for the courts to decide. Per the article, a judge did rule it unconstitutional in 2010, but I don’t think that one judge is able to stop the enforcement of the law. If a sitting president can make such decisions, then it makes laws moot. What other laws could a president decide was unconstitutional?
On the other hand, I must confess–I don’t support DOMA. Contrary to the belief of many, traditional man-woman marriage is not under threat from the prospect of same-sex marriage. I have yet to see how allowing gays to marry (or civil unionize) has had a negative effect on marriage. It puzzles me that many on the right advocate for the government to stay out of folks’ personal business–then want the government to “protect” marriage.
So, as much as I would love to say “right on, mister prez!” my respect for the law says “not so fast.”

So Much for Transparency…

One of the pledges made by then-Senator Obama on the campaign trail was a new era of unprecedented transparency.  And in some ways, he has kept that promise.  But a recent article puts a dark mark on that record:

Caught between their boss’ anti-lobbyist rhetoric and the reality of governing, President Barack Obama’s aides often steer meetings with lobbyists to a complex just off the White House grounds — and several of the lobbyists involved say they believe the choice of venue is no accident.

It allows the Obama administration to keep these lobbyist meetings shielded from public view — and out of Secret Service logs kept on visitors to the White House and later released to the public.

Read more: Lobbyists: White House sends meetings off-site to hide them

Neither party is serious about debt, and the joke is on us

As of today, to pay off the entire US debt would require every US citizen to write a check for $45,400.  EVERY citizen.  The total debt is right at $14.1 TRILLION.  And neither party is really serious about doing something about it.

On the right, they are making a lot of noise, but as the saying goes, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  First, after promising to cut $100 billion in spending from the next budget, they are only able to come up with about $65 billion.  After being called to task by the Tea Party, they are able to dig and find the promised $100 billion.  The problem?  Not only are the cuts based on a budget that President Obama never sent to the House, but they also used the infamous “baseline budgeting” tricks.

Quick refresher:  Baseline budgeting is a technique where by the budget of a particular department or organization is projected years in advance.  Typically, those budgets include an already-applied increase in funding.  So, a department may already have on paper that in 2011, they will be funded at $10 million, but due to a budget increase already factored in, they may know that their budget in 2012 will have $10.3 million due to an expected 3% increase in funding.

What republicans have done is to say “we are going to cut x billions,” not acknowledging that instead of truly cutting funding, they are simply reducing the already scheduled budget increase.  So instead of cutting a department’s funding from $10 million to $9 million, they are simply advocating cutting the 3% increase to 2% or some other number.  The cut isn’t really a cut.

Further, in the “fraud waste and abuse” category, some republicans are on board with funding a 2nd, alternative engine for the F-35 Lightning II project.  The F-35 is slated to replace thousands of fighter jets in the US inventory, and the building effort is being shared across many countries, including the US, Canada, the UK, and Turkey.  The engines for the plane are made by Rolls Royce, but there is an effort in Congress to secure funding for a second engine.  The reasoning given is “in case the first one has problems,” but the real reason is to secure jobs and a contract for an American firm.  Even the Pentagon has said they don’t want it.

Democrats aren’t helping.  Even thought the White House has proposed cutting funding to some programs (like a heating oil assistance program), many Dems refuse to go along with any proposed cuts in “entitlement” spending.   Though everything should be on the table, dems are resisting anything that might touch Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Obama and the democrats have also been using the baseline budgeting trick, especially with the healthcare reform bill.  Once again, a cut isn’t really a cut.

For there to be real solutions, someone on both sides needs to wake up and wake up their fellow politicians to the real threat they all know about but are afraid to do something about (don’t want to mess up their reelection chances!).  The recommendations of the Debt Committee would be a good place to start.

Another ruling against the healthcare bill

As has been widely reported, U. S. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled on Monday that the requirement to make individuals purchase health insurance is unconstitutional. Not only did he rule against that provision, he ruled against the entire law:

“I must conclude that the individual mandate and the remaining provisions are all inextricably bound together in purpose and must stand or fall as a single unit,” Vinson wrote.

As expected, the White House announced they would appeal. But what does this mean for the law?
Republicans announced right after the bill was passed that they would do whatever they could to repeal it. The House has already voted to repeal, and conservatives believe they can use procedural techniques to force a repeal vote in the Democrat-held Senate. But somewhere, Dems are nervous. While there have been two judges that upheld the new law, and now two that have ruled against, it’s highly likely the argument will not be settled until reaching the Supremes. Currently, the court leans conservatively, with no change in sight. This would seem to bode well for the right and not so well for the left–though stranger things have happened in regards to the court and their judgements (look up “Kelo” and “imminent domain“).

This picture is priceless!

Chinese president Hu Jintao is on an official visit to Washington this week. While they were giving a joint press conference, this picture was taken:

There are so many possible captions for this one, I don’t know where to start.  President Obama looks like he is about to backhand President Hu for talking about his mom or something!

Obama can’t win for losing

Last night, the President announced a compromise on tax rate cut extensions and unemployment benefits.  He threw in a few other pieces (including a Social Securit

Barack in Cedar Rapids, IA 10/29/07

Image by Barack Obama via Flickr

y rate cut) and implored his party to come on board.

It seems he’s not getting the love.

Members of the right are furious.  For them, its not enough to get the desired tax rate cut extensions and an extension of unemployment benefits.  In their eyes, Obama has sold out for agreeing to extend the tax rate cuts for “millionaires and billionaires.”  Add that to how he increased troops in Afghanistan and hasn’t closed Guantanamo Bay yet, and he has some liberals apoplectic.  Searching Google for “liberals furious with Obama” brings up a ton of links that popped up in less than 24 hours, all at various levels of ticked off-ness and disbelief.  Comments range from “fight harder” to “Obama got rolled” to “Obama caved so hard it scared the bats!” (the last one from the Huffington Post).  It will be interesting to see the intraparty fight that will follow in the coming days.

Debt reduction: Andy Stern wants MORE taxes!

Who is Andy Stern?

Andy Stern is one of the people President Obama appointed to the Debt Reduction commission.  In the final vote, Stern voted no.  But this shouldn’t be surprising.  Stern is the past president of the Service Employees International Union (if you didn’t know unions are one of Obama’s favorite special interests, now you know).  His take on the plan?  from the NY Post:

“This is the issue of our time that must be solved,” said labor leader Andy Stern, who nonetheless voted “no” because he favored fewer spending cuts and more tax increases.
Unfortunately (and my left-leaning friends can’t deny this), it is a trait of the left that the answer to all revenue problems is to increase taxes.  Nevermind that there is proof from history that lowering taxes raises revenue in many cases.  The further problem is, even if the tax revenues did increase from higher tax rates, history has shown that often, the Democrat way is to increase spending instead of cutting spending.
As for Stern, do a search on him and the SIEU.  He didn’t leave the union in the best shape financially, so one has to wonder how he ended up on the commission.  Then again, he is one of the most frequent visitors to the White House…

At this rate, we’ll NEVER fix the issues

Today is the final vote on recommendations from Obama’s deficit panel.  For those who missed it, President Obama put together a bipartisan panel of 18 appointees, tasked with producing solutions for debt reduction.  The commission did its job, recommending multiple ideas that, if enacted, would help move the country towards fiscal stability.

As expected, the response was chilly at best.  Folks on both sides took the expected approach–“we need cuts, but don’t cut programs that I support!”  Republicans didn’t like the idea of tax increases on gas.  Democrats didn’t like the notion of raising the retirement age or lower tax rates.  Neither side wanted to sign on to doing away with popular tax breaks (even though lowering tax rates would offset it).

So, unless there is some sanity injected into things, we will continue on the rocky road to fiscal disaster.

Tax cuts, small businesses, and the $250k line

During the long drawn out battle regarding the Bush Tax cuts.  Democrats have drawn the line at $200k/yr for individuals and $250k/yr for families as the dividing line between those who should get permanent tax cuts and those who shouldn’t.  The main argument is that the $700 billion in lost revenue over the next 10 years is unaffordable.  Republicans counter that not only should there be no tax increases in these economic times, lots of small businesses will be negatively affected.  Of course, the truth (as I see it, of course) is somewhere in the middle.

A logical approach would be to extend them all temporarily (give it a year or 2), then let them expire.  Now, people are right now saying I’m crazy.  But if we’re going to be for real about getting the deficit under control, that should be option 1 on the table.  Republicans like to say “no tax increases” but there has to be a middle ground where folks aren’t overtaxed and the government is getting more revenue.  If anything, add a new bracket for folks making a million per year or more.  Either way, its illogical to completely remove the idea of a tax increase of some kind to combat spending.

Democrats, on the other hand, have established $250k as the line in the sand.  Mind you, no one has any idea why this number is the magic number.  But as Dems often do, it becomes an emotional issue.  That approach started from the beginning, when the tax cuts were enacted.  Despite the easily researchable facts that the cuts actually removed a number of lower income taxpayers from the tax rolls, reduced the lowest tax rate, and shifted the overall tax burden to the highest income levels (look it up), the cuts have often been referred to as “tax cuts for the rich” simply based on the sheer amount that an upper income earner got to keep (not “was given to them” as is often used as yet another argument).  What’s often heard is that folks making that much money either “don’t need a cut” or “won’t spend it.”  Or, that they cost too much.  I usually wonder how it can be said that the estimated $700 billion over 10 years is considered unaffordable, when the rest of the cuts are estimated to cost over $2 billion over the same time.   This is why if anything should be done, ALL should be rolled back.

I predict that the White House will give in to all cuts being renewed for 2 years in order to avoid all of them expiring on 12/31/10, which would be a political disaster.

Politicians aren’t serious about fixing problems

President Obama has installed a Debt Commission in order to come up with ways to reduce the deficit.  The report of the commission is due in December.  Everyone knows going into this that there will be some hard decisions that will have to be made, and not everyone is going to be happy.

Wednesday, an initial copy of the Commission’s report was released.  In it they suggested many ways to get the deficit down.  Among them:

As expected, folks on both sides have gone nuts.  The idea is, yes cut the money–but not for the folks that I support!

I’ve linked to a breakdown, as done by radio host Neal Boortz.  Some don’t like him, but read it anyway, since he breaks down each of the suggestions:
Let the Games Begin.
As mentioned, the negative responses weren’t slow in coming:
Response to deficit plan–tepid to “unacceptable”.
They just aren’t serious about fixing things.

The sky is falling!!

Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock, you have heard or seen that republicans took over the House, gained seats in the Senate, and won a few governors races.  From the reactions of many of my left-leaning friends, one would think the world is about to end, or that something large, dark, and ominous is coming (Think the dark planet in “The Fifth Element” or a comet or asteroid in “Armageddon” or “Deep Impact”).

While I’m sure this puts a wrench in the plans of Dems to get certain things passed, its not the end of the world.  The government has gone back and forth between the major parties for years and the country has yet to fall off the edge of the flat planet and drift into outer space.  Its not even the first time that one house was controlled by one party, while the other (and the White House) was controlled by another.  Republicans and Democrats will have to figure a way to work together.

Now we get to see if President Obama really meant all those nice bipartisan things he said before getting elected.