These are my links for January 18th through January 22nd:
The Inaugural: Symbols Over Substance – The liberals and the conservatives in my twitter feed seemed to be listening to different speeches. The liberals were electrified with the bold stances the president was taking, gay marriage and climate change chief among them. Conservatives read it as a lot of empty platitudes about togetherness, followed by a bit of eye-poking to make it clear that anything we did together would necessarily be directed by Obama, not his opponents.I thought the speech had some great lines, like “History tells us that while these truths may be self evident, they are not self executing.” But overall, I was neither transported with joy, nor thrown into a rage. The most emotional part was simply the awareness that our nation had re-elected its first black president, a moment that was remarkable for how little his skin color mattered. We have come a long way indeed, and whether or not you supported his re-election, that is some glad knowledge.I side with the liberals on one thing: it was arguably the most liberal speech our president has given. Which is news, of a sort. But I side with the conservatives in thinking that this was largely a big yawn. The president gave a speech which maks his base happy, but entirely on symbolic grounds. He promised nothing of substance, and covered no issue which actually commits him to delivering anything. Obama is against “perpetual war”, but also wants to support democracy and “act on behalf of those who long for freedom.” He wants shorter voting lines and “a better way to welcome” immigrants. He wants children to be safe and cared for. The last is a vague hope shared by all Americans (no really–even the ones who disagree with you about stuff!) The rest are carefully phrased to offer no actual benchmarks.
The Collective Turn – The best Inaugural Addresses make an argument for something. President Obama’s second one, which surely has to rank among the best of the past half-century, makes an argument for a pragmatic and patriotic progressivism.His critics have sometimes accused him of being an outsider, but Obama wove his vision from deep strands in the nation’s past. He told an American story that began with the Declaration and then touched upon the railroad legislation, the Progressive Era, the New Deal, the highway legislation, the Great Society, Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall. Turning to the present, Obama argued that America has to change its approach if it wants to continue its progress. Modern problems like globalization, technological change, widening inequality and wage stagnation compel us to take new collective measures if we’re to pursue the old goals of equality and opportunity.
Rubio Finds Support on the Right for Immigration Plan – With leaders from both parties calling on Congress to take up immigration reform this year, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has been meeting with news outlets and conservative opinion-shapers to lay out his vision for a plan that would offer temporary legal status to undocumented immigrants. Those applying would have to pass background checks and other tests designed to eventually lead from permanent residency to citizenship.Though he has not yet introduced legislation, in trumpeting his sweeping proposals Rubio has seized a torch that in recent years burned several similarly ambitious Republican politicians. But in a sign of how quickly the parameters of the debate on this issue have shifted since President Obama’s re-election, prominent conservatives — many of whom were vocal in their opposition to previous similar plans — have been lavishing praise on Rubio’s ideas for reform.
CNN Poll: Do Americans agree with Obama on climate change and immigration? – By a 53%-43% margin, people questioned in the poll say that main focus of the federal government should be on developing a plan that would allow undocumented immigrants to become legal residents, rather than deporting them.That’s a switch from 2011, when by a 55%-42% margin, Americans said that deporting undocumented residents and stopping more of them from coming into the country should be the main focus of U.S policy on illegal immigration.As expected, the poll indicates a partisan divide on the issue, as well as a generational divide, with younger people saying allowing undocumented immigrants to become legal should be the top priority, and a slight plurality of those 50 and older saying the emphasis should be on deportation and border security.
Reid to lay out plans for filibuster reform – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will present colleagues with options for reforming the Senate’s filibuster rules in a Democratic caucus meeting Tuesday.Reid and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) are close to reaching a deal to speed the pace of work in the Senate, but some of the details remain unresolve
Poll: White House backed on immigration – In a turnaround from two years ago, a majority of Americans agree with the White House’s second-term plan to focus on comprehensive immigration reform that allows illegal immigrants to have a pathway to citizenship to stay in the country, according to a poll on Tuesday.Fifty-three percent of Americans want the federal government to focus on developing a plan to allow illegal immigrants to become legal residents, the CNN poll found. Forty-three percent want the federal government to focus on deporting them. That’s a dramatic reversal from two years ago, when 55 percent of Americans wanted the focus on deportation. Then, only 42 percent wanted a way for immigrants to stay here permanently.
The Loyal Opposition – Congratulations Mr. President on your second inaugural.Saying that makes some of you really enraged. I said the same on twitter shortly after his official swearing in. Several of the replies were embarrassing and atrocious. Some accused the man elected by a majority of Americans of treason. Some accused him of willfully destroying the nation.I believe the President’s policies are destructive and will harm our economy, our nation, and our sense of national self long term. I believe his policies have the effect of turning us into subjects of the government, not citizens in charge of it. Because of his expansion of the social safety net funded through class warfare, Mr. Obama’s policies will cause too many Americans’ fortunes to rise and fall with those of the government, unable to chart a course for themselves apart from government.
But I do not think the President means to do this maliciously. I do not think he is treasonous. I do not hate him. I am not outraged by it. The President has done what he set out to do. I cannot be outraged by him doing what he set out to do. I am far more outraged by the Republicans not doing what they said they would do
Is the conservative movement a mere outrage machine? – It’s Day Two of President Obama’s second term and the gloom and despondency are palpable among his opponents. There is open talk among his allies of an alleged plan to smash the Republicans and permanently render them powerless. That may be the best thing that could happen for Obama’s loyal opposition because, like the prospect of being hung at dawn, losing elections that couldn’t be lost has a way of concentrating the minds of political leaders and followers on the wrong end of the vote count. Ilusions are smashed while false promises and assumptions are exposed.Such concentration often produces victory the next time around.
Two lines that sum up Obama’s presidency – President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address was devoid of memorable lines, but for me, two of them jumped out: “We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.”Throughout his presidency, Obama has rhetorically wanted to establish himself as a transformational leader who was willing to tackle the nation’s tough problems, but when push came to shove, he has dodged them. This has been especially true than when it comes to dealing with the nation’s debt burden.
Paul Ryan Booed at Inauguration – Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee in the last election, was booed at President Barack Obama’s Second Inauguration today in Washington, D.C.”If things had gone differently in November, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) might have departed the Capitol on Monday as the vice president of the United States. Instead, he faced a chorus of boos as he left the building to attend President Barack Obama’s second inauguration ceremony,” reports the Huffington Post.
Atari U.S. operation files for bankruptcy – The U.S. operations of iconic but long-troubled video game maker Atari have filed for bankruptcy in an effort to break free from their debt-laden French parent.Atari Inc. and three of its affiliates filed petitions for Chapter 11 reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York late Sunday.Its leaders hope to break the American business free from French parent Atari S.A. and in the next few months find a buyer to take the company private. They hope to grow a modest business focused on digital and mobile platforms, according to a knowledgeable person not authorized to discuss the matter privately.
First Term: Obama Increased Debt $50,521 Per Household; More Than First 42 Presidents in 53 Terms Combined – During Barack Obama’s first term as president of the United States, the debt of the federal government increased by $5.8 trillion, which exceeds the combined debt accumulated under all presidents from George Washington through Bill Clinton.The new federal debt accumulated in Obama’s first term equaled approximately $50,521 for each of household in the country.On Jan. 20, 2009, when Obama was first inaugurated, the total debt of the federal government was $10,626,877,048,913.08, according to the U.S. Treasury. As of the close of business on Jan. 17, the last day reported by the Treasury before Obama’s second inauguration, the total debt of the federal government was $16,432,631,489,854.70.
Thus, from Obama’s first inauguration to his second, the federal government’s debt grew by $5,805,754,440,941.62.
Why Obama will be remembered as a failed president – So take a step back and what will Obama have really accomplished? A blah-economy, with unacceptable unemployment, stagnant growth and rising income inequality; a resurgent al-Qaeda, and a signature domestic accomplishment already on life-support.If that is greatness, our country is truly in trouble.
LA Times – Brown seeks to reshape California’s community colleges
Universities Bludgeon Adjuncts With Obamacare Loophole – When the Affordable Care Act passed in early 2010, many in academia—faculty and students alike—cheered on. But now that its provisions are going into effect, some of these same people are learning firsthand that Obamacare has some nasty side effects.A new piece in the Wall Street Journal reports that many colleges are cutting back on the number of hours worked by adjunct professors, in order to avoid new requirements that they provide healthcare to anyone working over 30 hours per week. This is terrible news for a lot of people; 70 percent of professors work as adjuncts and many will now have to cope with a major pay cut just as requirements that they buy their own health insurance go into effect:
These are my links for January 7th through January 8th:
Hospital Opens Emergency Tent in Midst of Increasing Flu Cases – It’s the most miserable time of the year for many people in the area. Flu season is in full effect and this one in particular is shaping up to be more extreme than usual.The State Department of Health reports that four Pennsylvanians have already died of complications from the influenza virus.In response to the early start of flu season, the Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest had to open an emergency space to care for the increased number of people with flu-like symptoms.The hospital tells NBC10’s Katy Zachry why the tent was erected.
“If we can remove them from the main ED and put them in environment where everyone is masked and everyone can be protected, it’s safer for them and certainly safer for the staff,” said Terry Burger, hospital director of infection control
GOP may use debt ceiling to force Harry Reid to pass budget – Tuesday marks the 1,350th day since the Senate passed a budget. The law requires Congress to pass a budget every year, on the grounds that Americans deserve to know how the government plans to spend the trillions of taxpayer dollars it collects, along with dollars it borrows at the taxpayers’ expense. But Majority Leader Harry Reid, who last allowed a budget through the Senate in April 2009, has ignored the law since then.There’s no mystery why. The budget passed by large Democratic majorities in the first months of the Obama administration had hugely elevated levels of spending in it. By not passing a new spending plan since, Reid has in effect made those levels the new budgetary baseline. Congress has kept the government going with continuing resolutions based on the last budget signed into law.While Reid has forbidden action, the House has passed budgets as required. Senate Democrats have been highly critical of those budgets, designed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. But under Reid’s leadership, Democrats have steadfastly refused to come up with a plan of their own.
ObamaCare: Fast-Food Worker Hours Cut, New Health Care Law Blamed – A fast-food chain is slashing employee hours so franchise owners don’t have to pay health benefits. Around 100 local Wendy’s workers have learned their hours are being cut. A spokesperson says a new health care law is to blame.“Thirty-six to 37 hours a week.” That’s how many hours T.J. Growbeck works at the 84th and Giles Wendy’s restaurant. The money he earns helps him pay for the basics, but that’s not the case for all his co-workers. “There are some people doing it trying to get by.”The company has announced that all non-management positions will have their hours reduced to 28 a week. Gary Burdette, Vice President of Operations for the local franchise, says the cuts are coming because the new Affordable Health Care Act requires employers to offer health insurance to employees working 32-38 hours a week. Under the current law they are not considered full time and that as a small business owner, he can’t afford to stay in operation and pay for everyone’s health insurance.
Obama’s CIA nominee to face tough questions about ‘enhanced interrogation’ – President Obama’s pick to head the CIA could face a rough road to confirmation in the Senate due to his involvement in the “enhanced interrogation” techniques of the George W. Bush administration.The president on Monday announced he would nominate John Brennan, the White House’s counterterrorism chief, to lead the top spy agency following the recent departure of David Petraeus.
GOP sees Chuck Hagel pick as chance for payback – As the tactical skirmishing begins over Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be secretary of defense, the short-term political calculus from 30,000 feet clearly favors Republicans: Hagel’s confirmation hearings are a potential boon for the GOP and a source of queasiness for pro-Israel Democrats, despite the historically long odds of blunting a presidential pick.
An appreciation: Richard Ben Cramer’s masterpiece – I don’t recall the first time I read “What It Takes,” but I knew exactly where to find it on my bookshelf Monday night upon hearing the awful news that Richard Ben Cramer had died.It’s insufficient to say that Cramer’s 1,047-page tour de force on the 1988 presidential race is the best book ever written about a campaign. It is that. But what makes it so valuable, so rewarding, just so much damn fun is that it illustrates why politics and journalism is so much damn fun.
Hagel’s Views Do Matter – Suppose a president were to request an assessment of a hypothetical strike on Iran. Suppose the secretary of defense delivers to him a plan requiring the insertion of US ground forces into Iranian cities to be sure of destroying relevant facilities. That “plan” is as much a veto of a strike as any decision.Donald Rumsfeld enabled the Iraq war by producing estimates it could be won with as few as 135,000 troops. Had he instead on 300,000, the war would not have occurred: it would have seemed too heavy a lift. (As indeed it proved.)A Secretary Hagel could similarly thwart policies he disapproved of by magnifying their cost and difficulty. That’s why his views matter, and that’s why it’s so disingenuous to claim they do not.
Gabrielle Giffords launches anti-gun website – Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband on Tuesday unveiled a new anti-gun violence initiative – two years after she was shot in the head at an event with constituents in Tucson, Arizona.Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, are behind Americans for Responsible Solutions, an effort that “will encourage elected officials to stand up for solutions to prevent gun violence and protect responsible gun ownership by communicating directly with the constituents that elect them,” according to the newly launched website, which is paid for by the Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC.
Chuck Hagel: The Armed Services Committee whip list – Seven of the 12 Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee have already expressed some opposition to Chuck Hagel, mere hours after the former Nebraska GOP senator was officially nominated to be Defense Secretary.Hagel doesn’t technically need any GOP votes to advance beyond the committee, on which Democrats hold a 14-12 majority, but some Democrats have also suggested they are hesitant to confirm him.Five of 14 Democrats on the committee have so far suggested they are either going to vote for Hagel or are leaning toward voting for him. Four others have withheld judgment and the rest haven’t spoken out publicly.Here’s how it breaks down so far
Chuck Hagel’s chances — in 3 charts – As Chuck Hagel, the former Nebraska senator and now President Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense, gears up for his confirmation process in the Senate, there is at least a possibility that he won’t be cleared by the upper chamber to head up the Pentagon.Just how often does the Senate oppose a Cabinet nominee to the point that he or she is rejected or withdraws? And for what reasons? Thanks to a research paper from James D. King, who heads the political science department at the University of Wyoming, we have the answers to these questions.We encourage you to read the entire report, from which we’ve plucked out some charts illustrating three truths about the Cabinet confirmation process – two of which The Fix’s Aaron Blake also noted in a recent post — that reveal both good and bad news for Hagel’s odds:1) The vast majority of individuals whom presidents nominate to their Cabinets are confirmed by the Senate.
2) The defense secretary post has tended to be a source of very little controversy.
3) Public policy issues account for much of the opposition in the confirmation process.
Topsy-turvy Hagel politics – President Obama wants to get credit for bipartisanship, so he picks a Republican defense secretary who will garner few if any Republican votes. He walks away from a politically loyal African American woman for secretary of state (whose nomination would open up his political liabilities) but goes forward with a white, Republican man (whose nomination puts gobs of Senate Republicans in an untenable spot). The two groups of Democrats (gays and Jews) who turned out in droves for him watch a nomination proceed with someone who had tried to exclude gays from government and accused Jews of dual loyalty.
Obama’s Hagelian imperative – Presidents define themselves in large measure by the fights they pick, especially if these fights create tension with members of their own party or base. By nominating Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, President Obama has picked a fight that most would consider unnecessary, and that fight puts him in tension with some Democratic Senators and a portion of his base.He thus defines himself. Not as a president who wants to tilt away from Israel and away from confrontation with Iran; Obama can (and I would argue has) defined himself that way without nominating Hagel. Rather, he defines himself as wanting publicly to stick it to Israel and its strongest U.S. supporters – to rub their faces in his redirection of U.S. policy. As Lindsey Graham says, this is an “in your face” nomination.
Mr. Hagel and the Jews – During the hearings on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be secretary of defense, it’s clear that the views of gay rights organizations will be heard. There the issue seems to be whether Hagel’s apology for previous remarks and beliefs was sincere, or motivated solely by self-interest. He had years to apologize publicly, but did so only when opposition from gay rights groups threatened his nomination.
These are my links for January 4th through January 7th:
Democrats look for up to $1 trillion in new tax revenues this year – Democrats say they want to raise as much as $1 trillion in new revenues through tax reform later this year to balance Republican demands to slash mandatory spending.Democratic leaders have had little time to craft a new position for their party since passing a tax deal Tuesday that will raise $620 billion in revenue over the next ten years.The emerging consensus, however, is that the next installment of deficit reduction should reach $2 trillion and about half of it should come from higher taxes.
Despite New Health Law, Some See Sharp Rise in Premiums – Health insurance companies across the country are seeking and winning double-digit increases in premiums for some customers, even though one of the biggest objectives of the Obama administration’s health care law was to stem the rapid rise in insurance costs for consumers.
Red state Senate Dems face tough early votes – “I think you need to put everything on the table,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D, told ABC News ‘ George Stephanopoulos this past Sunday, “but what I hear from the administration – and if the Washington Post is to be believed – that’s way, way in extreme of what I think is necessary or even should be talked about. And it’s not going to pass.”The Washington Post article Heitkamp was referring to, reported that President Obama would soon seek to pass legislation “that would require universal background checks for firearm buyers, track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, strengthen mental health checks, and stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors.” And Obama wants all of this “by the end of January” according to The Boston Herald.While this ambition agenda and timing may be music to blue state Democrat ears, it can only be a headache for red state Democrats like Heitkamp … and she isn’t even up for reelection this cycle. A total of seven Democratic Senators from states that Mitt Romney carried in 2012 are up for election in 2014. And six of those Senators (Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Mary Landrieu, D-La., Max Baucus, D-Mont., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Jay Rockefeler, D-W.V.) hail from states that Romney carried by double-digits. Only North Carolina’s Kay Hagan will face an electorate that Obama even came close to winning in 2012 (Romney +2) … and the only other Democrat on the ballot statewide in North Carolina in 2012 lost by 11.
Hagel’s Mideast blunder–not on Israel – Does Kaplan really think there is any case that the situation after Petraeus’ surge isn’t much better than the situation that would have existed if there had been no surge? I doubt it. And remember, Hagel didn’t just oppose the surge. He declared that it was “the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam”– the sort of emotionalized MSM-pleasing misjudgment that seems to have endeared him to so many GOP colleagues (who, as Marc Ambinder notes, ”think he’s a showboat and turncoat”).Can’t Obama find a “anti-Israel” … Likud-skeptical figure who didn’t flamboyantly and self-righteously get wrong the most important military decision since the original 2003 Iraq invasion (which Hagel, by the way, voted to authorize)? Sure, Hillary and Kerry opposed the surge too. But not everyone did–not even everyone who opposed the war. Gen. Anthony Zinni, for example, isn’t someone likely to please Bill Kristol and AIPAC–but after opposing Bush’s invasion he had the balls to say that a surge was worth trying.
Six Reasons Obama Chose Chuck Hagel – Back at the 2004 Republican convention, when then-Sen. Chuck Hagel was weighing whether to run for president, he paid a call on the Iowa delegation. His obligatory joke about his devotion to ethanol went over well. But then, to the puzzlement of some in the room, he started talking to his conservative breakfast audience about the United Nations and the need for multilateralism in tackling world problems.Needless to say, that wasn’t quite what we were hearing from the convention stage, or for that matter from anyone else in the GOP. Hagel didn’t run for president. But as it turns out, his remarks ended up laying groundwork for a different kind of future – as a potential defense secretary in the Obama administration.There are well known controversies associated with Hagel’s expected nomination, involving everything from climate change and gay rights to Israel, Iraq and Iran. But unlike the case of U.N. ambassador Susan Rice, who withdrew as a potential secretary of state nominee amid criticism from Republicans, President Obama is pressing forward with Hagel.
LA Times – Critics slam Chuck Hagel’s likely nomination as Defense secretary #tcot
Critics slam Chuck Hagel’s likely nomination as Defense secretary – With former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Defense secretary imminent, conservatives denounced his views on Israel and Iran as out of step with mainstream foreign policy, underscoring the difficulty he is likely to face winning Senate confirmation.An administration official said Sunday that Hagel — a decorated Vietnam veteran, a Republican and a former two-term senator from Nebraska — would be nominated Monday to succeed Leon E. Panetta. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House planning.
Obama Expected to Pick Chuck Hagel for Defense Post – When President Obama nominates Chuck Hagel, the maverick Republican and former senator from Nebraska, to be his next secretary of defense, he will be turning to a trusted ally whose willingness to defy party loyalty and conventional wisdom won his admiration both in the Senate and on a 2008 tour of war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
JOHN BRENNAN TAPPED TO LEAD CIA – President Barack Obama will announce Monday that he’s nominating the White House’s point person on counterterrorism, John Brennan, to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, White House officials told POLITICO.Brennan, a 25-year veteran of the CIA, currently holds the title of Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. He’s expected to appear with Obama later Monday at a White House event where the president will also announce his nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) to be the next defense secretary.
Boehner Coup Attempt Larger Than First Thought – A concerted effort to unseat Speaker John A. Boehner was under way the day of his re-election to the position, but participants called it off 30 minutes before the House floor vote, CQ Roll Call has learned.A group of disaffected conservatives had agreed to vote against the Ohio lawmaker if they could get at least 25 members to join the effort. But one member, whose identity could not be verified, rescinded his or her participation the morning of the vote, leaving the group one person short of its self-imposed 25-member threshold. Only 17 votes against Boehner were required to force a second ballot, but the group wanted to have insurance.
Mexican drug gangs dig into mining industry – On October 7, Mexican marines swooped in on one of the most powerful men in organised crime. But as the navy triumphantly announced the death of Heriberto Lazcano, leader of the Zetas gang, there was puzzlement over where he had been found. Far from the Zeta’s strongholds and practically unprotected, he had been watching a baseball game in the small mining village of Progreso.Theories abounded as to what exactly Lazcano had been doing in Progreso, a one horse town in the wide open spaces of the sorthern state of Coahuila. Humberto Moreira, ex-governor of Coahuila says that he has the answer: “Heriberto Lazcano changed from being a killer, kidnapper and drug dealer to something still more lucrative: mining coal. That’s why he lived in the coal region, in a little village called Progreso.”Speaking to Al Jazeera, Moreira says that the Zetas gang is fast discovering that illegal mining is an even more lucrative venture than drug running.
Sen. Ted Cruz: “I’m A Conservative Because Conservative Policies Work” – SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TEXAS): The reason why I’m a conservative is because conservative policies work and they improve opportunities. They are the avenue for climbing the economic dream. And what I have been talking about for many years is opportunity conservatism, that every policy should focus like a laser on easing the means of ascent up the economic ladder. That we should be championing the 47%, to take that now infamous comment.Look, the great thing about Americans — Americans don’t want to be dependent upon government. Dependency saps the spirit, it doesn’t work. Americans want to stand on their own two feet and the best way to do that is to have policies that allow entrepreneurs and small business to thrive and to create jobs and advance the American dream.
Social Security – It’s Worse Than You Think – CONGRESS and President Obama have pushed through a relatively modest stopgap measure to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” but over the coming years, the United States will confront another huge cliff: Social Security.In the first presidential debate, Mr. Obama described Social Security as “structurally sound,” and Mitt Romney said that “neither the president nor I are proposing any changes” to the program. It was a rare issue on which both men agreed — and both were utterly wrong. For the first time in more than a quarter-century, Social Security ran a deficit in 2010: It spent $49 billion dollars more in benefits than it received in revenues, and drew from its trust funds to cover the shortfall.Those funds — a $2.7 trillion buffer built in anticipation of retiring baby boomers — will be exhausted by 2033, the government currently projects. Those facts are widely known.
What’s not is that the Social Security Administration underestimates how long Americans will live and how much the trust funds will need to pay out — to the tune of $800 billion by 2031, more than the current annual defense budget — and that the trust funds will run out, if nothing is done, two years earlier than the government has predicted.
Feud over Obama health care reforms to intensify in coming months – The spotlight on President Obama’s health care overhaul will intensify in coming months as states and businesses gear up for sweeping changes that could determine whether the public embraces the president’s signature legislative achievement or decries it as government overreach.After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the new health care law, the politics evolved from arguments over the reforms’ constitutionality to a debate over whether the massive system can be implemented effectively.The president has long assured critics that once the reforms are fully enacted, the public will embrace them. Yet, while voters gave Obama a second term in November, polls show they are wary of the looming changes. A Rasmussen poll last month showed that nearly half of the respondents expect the health care system “to get worse over the next couple of years.”
The Education of John Boehner – GOP willingness to let the spending sequester take effect – What stunned House Speaker John Boehner more than anything else during his prolonged closed-door budget negotiations with Barack Obama was this revelation: “At one point several weeks ago,” Mr. Boehner says, “the president said to me, ‘We don’t have a spending problem.’ “I am talking to Mr. Boehner in his office on the second floor of the Capitol, 72 hours after the historic House vote to take America off the so-called fiscal cliff by making permanent the Bush tax cuts on most Americans, but also to raise taxes on high earners. In the interim, Mr. Boehner had been elected to serve his second term as speaker of the House. Throughout our hourlong conversation, as is his custom, he takes long drags on one cigarette after another.Mr. Boehner looks battle weary from five weeks of grappling with the White House. He’s frustrated that the final deal failed to make progress toward his primary goal of “making a down payment on solving the debt crisis and setting a path to get real entitlement reform.” At one point he grimly says: “I need this job like I need a hole in the head.”
Video: Pelosi: More tax revenues must be part of next deficit deal – Pushing back against the Republicans’ deficit-reduction strategy, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said this weekend that more tax revenues – not just spending cuts – must be a part of Congress’s effort to rein in deficits.Pelosi said the tax hikes in the recent “fiscal-cliff” deal are a start, but don’t go far enough to generate the revenues the government needs to run the country effectively.
Genetically modified food labeling measure to qualify for Washington state ballot – A measure to require special labeling of genetically modified foods appeared virtually certain to qualify for the ballot in Washington state on Friday, two months after voters in California rejected a similar initiative.Sponsors of the measure turned in petitions signed by an estimated 350,000 registered voters – at least 100,000 more signatures than required – on Thursday, a day ahead of deadline, said David Ammons, a spokesman for the Washington secretary of state.The submission all but assures that the GMO-labeling initiative would be certified by the secretary and sent on to the state legislature, which could adopt the measure or leave it to a popular vote on the November 2013 election ballot, Ammons said.
These are my links for January 2nd through January 3rd:
Does Eric Cantor’s no vote on the fiscal cliff bill spell trouble for John Boehner? – It’s rare for the top two members of the House leadership to split on an important vote. Bob Michel, the hapless leader of the House Republicans during a long period in the minority, and Newt Gingrich voted differently on the 1990 “read my lips” tax increase. They split again over the 1994 assault weapons ban.Even less common is a House speaker and majority leader going their separate ways on big-ticket legislation. The last major example is when the Democratic-controlled House debated funding President George W Bush’s surge in Iraq. House speaker Nancy Pelosi allowed the measure to proceed to the floor and voted no. House majority leader Steny Hoyer voted yes.House speakers typically don’t even vote at all unless it is necessary to break a tie. So it may have been a clarifying moment when speaker of the House John Boehner and House majority leader Eric Cantor parted ways on the deal that ended the long national nightmare known as the fiscal cliff. Boehner voted for the bipartisan agreement negotiated between Vice-President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell; Cantor breathed the final moments of life into the opposition.
Fiscal Cliff Deal Only Whetted Obama’s Appetite for More Taxes – Taxes: Anyone who thinks the fiscal cliff deal will end President Obama’s soak-the-rich campaign isn’t paying attention. Even before the ink had dried on his $620 billion tax hike, Obama was talking up his desire for more.Obama hinted at this on Sunday on “Meet the Press,” when he told David Gregory that “you are not only going to cut your way to prosperity” and that “one of the fallacies” was that “deficit reduction is only a matter of cutting programs.”But as the fiscal cliff agreement looked increasingly likely, Obama started talking more specifically about additional tax hikes. On Monday, he told a White House rally that “revenues have to be part of the equation in turning off the sequester.”
Translation: If Republicans want to prevent devastating defense cuts from automatically kicking in two months from now, they’ll have to choke down another round of tax hikes.
And he made it clear any future deficit cuts will have to include still more new taxes. “If Republicans think that I will finish the job of deficit reduction through spending cuts alone,” he said, “then they’ve got another thing coming.”
Nothing Is Certain Except More Debt and Taxes – Whatever ultimately emerges from the fiscal-cliff negotiations over the past 48 hours, the country will survive. But the damage can’t be undone. Taxes are going up for all working Americans. And so is the size of government.Businesses have been waiting to see whether a second Obama administration will encourage the economy. During the fiscal-cliff negotiations, however, the president made clear that his goal isn’t to get business going again but instead to expand government and redistribute income. He offered no real spending cuts and instead used the year-end deadline to divide America into classes—to the point of campaigning on New Year’s Eve against higher earners. Though the president talks about fairness, his policies penalize profit and investment. This hurts aspiring Americans more than it hurts those who have already made it.The deal that emerged from the Senate early Tuesday morning is being sold as a tax cut for the middle class, but the expiration of the two-percentage-point payroll tax holiday means that working Americans’ take-home pay will drop. The bill reduces the value of tax deductions for upper incomes and, with the new open-ended 3.8% Medicare tax that was enacted under ObamaCare, income-tax rates on families and small business owners earning over $450,000 have been pushed above 44%.
Dems will need new game plan to score tax revenue – The fiscal cliff deal handed Democrats a tax victory years in the making, but it also means the party will need a new playbook for the budget battles that lie ahead.That’s because many Democrats readily acknowledge that they’ve exhausted their ability to raise taxes on the richest Americans by jacking up their rates.The historic tax agreement passed by Congress this week raises rates on top earners from 35 percent to 39.6 percent. Meanwhile, provisions from the 2010 health care law kicked in Jan. 1, increasing rates on investment income from 15 percent to almost 24 percent for the most affluent taxpayers.
Winning these levies was hard enough. With Republicans licking their wounds in the wake of the fiscal cliff deal, Democrats know that politically speaking, there’s virtually no way to keep increasing marginal tax rates.
“This does settle the issue of rates for individuals,” Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) told POLITICO. “That’s good. That certainty and predictability is one of the gains” of the fiscal cliff legislation.
Michigan Rep. Sander Levin, the top Democrat on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, agreed. When asked whether more rate increases are in the offing, he responded, “I don’t foresee that.”
Past the ‘cliff,’ debt ceiling promises a more brutal fight – As a weary Washington assesses the “fiscal cliff” deal, a debt-ceiling showdown looms on the horizon. There are a number of reasons to believe that the standoff — expected sometime in February or March — will be even more difficult to resolve than the last debt-ceiling impasse in the summer of 2011.In the 2011 showdown, House Speaker John Boehner established the principle that every dollar increase in the debt limit would have to be accompanied by a dollar cut in government spending. The final deal allowed for at least $2.1 trillion in debt-limit increases offset by promised spending cuts and did not raise taxes.
McConnell: Fiscal cliff deal not great, but it shields Americans from tax hike – The first day of a new Congress always represents a fresh start. This year, it also presents a perfect opportunity to tackle the single-greatest challenge facing our nation: reining in the out-of-control federal spending that threatens to permanently alter our economy and dim the prospects and opportunities of future generations of Americans.Earlier this week, I helped negotiate an imperfect solution aimed at avoiding the so-called “fiscal cliff.” If I had my way taxes would not have gone up on anyone, but the unavoidable fact was this if we had sat back and done nothing taxes would have gone up dramatically on every single American, and I simply couldn’t allow that to happen.By acting, we’ve shielded more than 99% of taxpayers from a massive tax hike that President Obama was all-too willing to impose. American families and small businesses that would have seen painfully smaller paychecks and profits this month have been spared. Retirement accounts for seniors won’t be whittled down by a dramatic increase in taxes on investment income. And many who’ve spent a lifetime paying taxes on income and savings won’t be slammed with a dramatically higher tax on estates.
Was it a great deal? No. As I said, taxes shouldn’t be going up at all. Just as importantly, the transcendent issue of our time, the spiraling debt, remains completely unaddressed. Yet now that the President has gotten his long-sought tax hike on the “rich,” we can finally turn squarely toward the real problem, which is spending.
Predictably, the President is already claiming that his tax hike on the “rich” isn’t enough. I have news for him: the moment that he and virtually every elected Democrat in Washington signed off on the terms of the current arrangement, it was the last word on taxes. That debate is over. Now the conversation turns to cutting spending on the government programs that are the real source of the nation’s fiscal imbalance. And the upcoming debate on the debt limit is the perfect time to have that discussion.
We simply cannot increase the nation’s borrowing limit without committing to long overdue reforms to spending programs that are the very cause of our debt.
How corporate tax credits got in the ‘cliff’ deal – The “fiscal cliff” legislation passed this week included $76 billion in special-interest tax credits for the likes of General Electric, Hollywood and even Captain Morgan. But these subsidies weren’t the fruit of eleventh-hour lobbying conducted on the cliff’s edge — they were crafted back in August in a Senate committee, and they sat dormant until the White House reportedly insisted on them this week.The Family and Business Tax Cut Certainty Act of 2012, which passed through the Senate Finance Committee in August, was copied and pasted into the fiscal cliff legislation, yielding a victory for biotech companies, wind-turbine-makers, biodiesel producers, film studios — and their lobbyists. So, if you’re wondering how algae subsidies became part of a must-pass package to avert the dreaded fiscal cliff, credit the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s lobbying last summer.
White House eases path to residency for some illegal immigrants – The Obama administration eased the way Wednesday for illegal immigrants who are immediate relatives of American citizens to apply for permanent residency, a change that could affect as many as 1 million of the estimated 11 million immigrants unlawfully in the U.S.A new rule issued by the Department of Homeland Security aims to reduce the time illegal immigrants are separated from their American families while seeking legal status, immigration officials said.Beginning March 4, when the changes go into effect, illegal immigrants who can demonstrate that time apart from an American spouse, child or parent would create “extreme hardship,” can start the application process for a legal visa without leaving the U.S.
Once approved, applicants would be required to leave the U.S. briefly in order to return to their native country and pick up their visa.
Why the Obama tax hikes have only just begun – But what leverage will Obama have to make good on his tax-hike threats? As The Wall Street Journal editorial page notes today, “The President has had unusual leverage over Republicans because he just won re-election and because taxes were going to go up even if they did nothing.”One potential Obama bargaining chip is the sequester, particularly the $500 billion in defense cuts that many GOPers loathe. So perhaps Obama can offer to turn off the defense cuts in exchange for $500 billion from limiting tax breaks for the rich. And then maybe another $300 billion in corporate tax hikes for agreeing to change how Social Security benefits are calculated. Many scenarios are possible. What’s for sure is that the Obama desires vastly higher taxes to pay for his expanded welfare state. Desires and needs them. And it’s now Democrat economic theology that tax rates could return to pre-Reagan levels without hurting growth.Tax hikes? Obama is only just getting started.