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(Reuters) – President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that boosting the amount of individual income subject to Social Security taxes should be considered as a way to put the retirement program on a stronger fiscal footing.
Obama noted that Social Security has not been a driver of budget deficits, though the program will be unable to pay out full benefits to retirees in a few decades. For that reason he said “tweaks” are needed to stabilize the program’s finances.
“For the vast majority of Americans, every dime you earn, you’re paying some in Social Security,” Obama told college students in Virginia. “But for (billionaire investor) Warren Buffett, he stops paying at a little bit over $100,000 and then the next $50 billion he’s not paying a dime in Social Security taxes.”
During the first stop of a three-day campaign-style blitz across the country promoting his vision for reducing the $1.4 trillion deficit, President Obama decried the country’s “crumbling” infrastructure and said proposed GOP cuts would lead to “potholes everywhere.”
The Republican plan, he said, would cut transportation costs by a third, leading to more deterioration of the nation’s roads and bridges, which would in turn, would hamper economic growth.
“So we have potholes everywhere….and we think that businesses are going to come here and invest?” he told a townhall gathering at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, VA. “Businesses are going to start investing in other countries because they’re gonna say it costs us too much money because our trucks going over those potholes costs us too much money to fix.”
“I cannot afford to have all of you as bystanders,” Obama said. “There are powerful interests in Washington … they are going to want to reduce the deficit on your backs.”
The Wall Street Journal reports today that Corporate America certainly isn’t doing its part to help bring America out of its economic malaise. The paper surveyed employment data by some of the nation’s largest corporations — General Electric, Caterpillar, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, Chevron, Cisco, Intel, Stanley Works, Merck, United Technologies, and Oracle — and found that they cut their workforces by 2.9 million people over the last decade while hiring 2.4 million people overseas.
The paper notes that this is actually a sharp reversal from trends in the late 1990s, when these major companies were creating more jobs in the United States than overseas. Yet by 2001, things took a turn for the worse, and these corporations have been adding more jobs abroad than at home, as is illustrated here:
As you can see from the chart, the economic recession has had little impact on Corporate America’s patriotism. In fact, in 2009, representatives of many of the nation’s most powerful corporations attended the “2009 Strategic Outsourcing Conference” to talk about how to send American jobs overseas. Conference organizers polled the more than 70 senior executives who attended the conference about the behavior of their companies in response to the recession. The majority said their companies increased outsourcing in response to the downturn, with only 9 percent saying they terminated some outsourcing agreements:
Another question asked of the executives found that the top reason for companies to outsource was to “reduce operating costs” (46 percent of respondents). Only 12 percent of respondents said their reason for outsourcing was “access to world class capabilities.” This means companies are outsourcing to save themselves money, not make better products.
Unfortunately, for some of these companies, sending American jobs overseas isn’t enough. They also want to bring the profits back into the United States with as little tax liability as possible. Cisco Systems, which had 26 percent of its workforce abroad at the start of the decade but 46 percent of its workforce abroad by the end, is currently involved in a lobbying campaign titled “Win America” calling for a tax repatriation holiday that would let big corporations “bring money they have stashed overseas back to the U.S. at a dramatically lower tax rate.” A similar tax break in 2004 actually increased the amount of money companies store overseas.
Last August, Federal Judge Jeffrey White issued a stinging rebuke to the USDA for its process on approving new genetically modified seeds. He ruled that the agency’s practice of “deregulating” novel seed varieties without first performing an environmental impact study violated the National Environmental Policy Act.
How has the Obama USDA responded to Judge White’s rebuke? By repeatedly defying it, most recently in February, when the agency moved to allow farmers to plant the engineered seeds even though the impact study has yet to be completed. Its rationale for violating the court order will raise an eyebrow of anyone who read Gary Taubes’ recent New York Times Magazine piece teasing out the health hazards of the American sweet tooth: the USDA feared that the GMO sugar beet ban would cause sweetener prices to rise. Thus the USDA places the food industry’s right to cheap sweetener for its junk food over the dictates of a federal court.
In early April, the USDA made what I’m reading as a second response to Judge White, this one even more craven. To satisfy the legal system’s pesky demand for environmental impact studies of novel GMO crops, the USDA has settled upon a brilliant solution: let the GMO industry conduct its own environmental impact studies, or pay other researchers to. The USDA announced the program in the Federal Register for April 7, 2011 [PDF].
My column today was mostly about how the market would react to uncertainty about when and whether the government will raise its debt ceiling. But there’s a lot that I wasn’t able to get to in the piece, including what the government can do to stave the market off, how the budgetary process could be changed so we don’t keep getting pushed up to this abyss and why past successes at waiting till the last minute may not work this time. Luckily, this Government Accountability Office report has lots of detail on all those issues. You’ll learn, among other things, that:
l “Since 1995, the statutory debt limit has been increased 12 times to its current level of $14.294 trillion.”
l “Managing debt near the debt limit diverts Treasury’s limited resources away from other cash and debt management issues.”
l “The debt limit does not control or limit the ability of the federal government to run deficits or incur obligations. Rather, it is a limit on the ability to pay obligations already incurred.”
l “Treasury’s past success at managing cash and debt when near or at the debt limit is no guarantee that it can continue to manage successfully in the future and may be misleading. Given the size of current and projected borrowing needs, the extraordinary actions Treasury uses to manage debt near or at the debt limit will be more limited in coming years. As a result, once debt is at the debt limit, Congress will likely have less time to debate raising the debt limit before there are disruptions to government programs and services and to the Treasury market.”
In his State of the Union Address, President Obama promised that this year, for the first time ever, American taxpayers would be able to go online and see exactly how their federal tax dollars are spent. Just enter a few pieces of information about your taxes, and the taxpayer receipt will give you a breakdown of how your tax dollars are spent on priorities like education, veterans benefits, or health care.
The stimulus package helped to reverse the economic decline, but it was not nearly large enough. The package came to roughly $300 billion a year in tax cuts and new spending, roughly one-quarter the size of the shortfall created by collapse of the housing bubble. And much of this stimulus faded out by the end of last year.
This is where President Obama’s plan should have stepped in to make up for the lack of demand in the economy. Spending by the government has, in the past, helped to stimulate demand.
But instead of explaining to the public the need for the government to make up the spending gap until the private sector recovers, President Obama is now pushing the line from Wall Street that we have a huge deficit problem. Remarkably the same people who wrecked the economy in the first place are again dictating our country’s economic policy.
The reality is that cutting the deficit means cutting demand in the economy and fewer jobs. There is no storeowner or factory manager anywhere in the country who is going to hire people because the government reduced its deficit.
Kornacki has several entertaining clips, featuring remarks from Newt Gingrich (current presidential candidate), John Kasich (current Ohio governor), and a parade of like-minded Republican lawmakers, all of whom were certain Clinton — a president whose legitimacy they questioned from Day One — was making a drastic mistake. Gingrich went so far as to predict, “I believe this will lead to a recession next year. This is the Democrat [sic] machine’s recession. And each one of them will be held personally accountable.”
I like the idea of politicians being “held personally accountable” for the accuracy of projections. Indeed, it seems especially relevant in this case.
With the benefit of hindsight, we now know every GOP member of the House and Senate — literally, all of them — was wrong, and Clinton was right. Indeed, watching the clips Kornacki posted, it’s eerie how similar the rhetoric is to Republican talking points of the Obama era. The language has barely changed at all (and they’re still wrong).
In the late ’80s, many conservative Republicans said Reagan’s plan that raised taxes would hurt the economy. They were wrong. In 1993, Republicans said Clinton’s plan that raised taxes would cause a recession. They were wrong. In 2001, Republicans said Bush’s plan that cut taxes would create an economic boom and balance the budget. They were really wrong. In 2009, Republicans said Obama’s plan would make the Great Recession worse and fail to create jobs. And again, they were wrong.
I realize the political world tends to have a short memory, but shouldn’t the pattern tell us something?
Global Education Advisors is giving Cerf some Edison-style issues – first he said he was not connected to the company, then admitted he founded it and now is leaving the door open to still financially profiting from it as it gets business from the state on studying privatizing education – more “synergies”!
So now the question becomes scope. Is this all just a quid pro quo between Christie and Cerf, a payback for years of throwing business Christie’s way? You know, typical Jersey stuff. Or is there a larger strategy at work? How does Derrell “Dangerous Minds” Bradford fit into of all of this? Why is Cory Booker giving Cerf’s company secret contracts to study privatizing Newark’s schools?
Who is going to make money if Christie, Cerf, Klein, Bradford and others get their way?
“I remain convinced we could have handled this in New York. We could have handled it in a normal court.”
Oh — just words. He should have circumvented Congress somehow — bullied his way around all of its pesky “laws” and “appropriations.” It’s not like we progressives spent eight years screaming about “the rule of law” and how the president shouldn’t be allowed to circumvent Congress to fulfill his agenda.
Unless, that is, all of our screaming was “just words.”
Snark aside, the president clearly wanted to close Gitmo and move the KSM trial to New York. Congress passed laws forbidding him from doing that. I’m not sure how progressives believe he could have discovered a legal way around those laws. But they’re laws. And the president is not above the law. Yes, we spent eight years screeching about the rule of law.
The Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky reports:
An impeccable source has provided me with a copy of a draft Executive Order that the White House is apparently circulating for comments from several government agencies. Titled “Disclosure of Political Spending By Government Contractors,” it appears to be an attempt by the Obama administration to implement — by executive fiat — portions of the DISCLOSE Act.
The draft Executive Order says it is intended to “increase transparency and accountability,” an interesting claim given the fact that federal contractors are already completely barred by 2 U.S.C. § 441c from making:
Any contribution of money or other things of value, or to promise expressly or impliedly to make any such contribution to any political party, committee, or candidate for public office or to any person for any political purpose or use.
Yet this proposed Executive Order would require government contractors to disclose:
(a) All contributions or expenditures to or on behalf of federal candidates, parties or party committees made by the bidding entity, its directors or officers, or any affiliates or subsidiaries within its control.
(b) Any contributions made to third party entities with the intention or reasonable expectation that parties would use those contributions to make independent expenditures or electioneering communications.
In his speech, Breitbart talked about the beginning of his website and how the media didn’t take him seriously. And they didn’t. So how does he get their attention? The Acorn videos.
So I’m going to have to stage a series of tricks to get the mainstream media to have to pay attention to it. So that’s what I did. I admit it, I tricked you.
The Army private suspected of giving classified data to WikiLeaks is being moved to a state-of-the-art facility at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, where Pentagon officials said more extensive mental, emotional and physical health care will be available.
But the transfer, which Johnson described as “imminent”, comes in the wake of international criticism about Manning’s treatment during his detention at the Marine Corps base at Quantico. And the conditions of Manning’s detention have been the focus of repeated protests from human rights groups and lawmakers.
But the transfer, which Johnson described as “imminent”, comes in the wake of international criticism about Manning’s treatment during his detention at the Marine Corps base at Quantico. And the conditions of Manning’s detention have been the focus of repeated protests from human rights groups and lawmakers.
But the speech went well beyond the budget. It went to the heart of progressive thought and the nature of American democracy and it gave all progressives a model of how to think and talk about every issue.
It was a landmark speech. It should be watched and read carefully and repeatedly by every progressive who cares about our country – whether Democratic officeholder, staffer, writer or campaign worker – and every progressive blogger, activist and concerned citizen. The speech is a work of art.
All politics is moral. Political leaders put forth proposals on the assumption that their proposals are the right things to do, not the wrong things to do. But progressives and radical conservatives have very different ideas of right and wrong.
With his April 13, 2011, speech, the president is back with the basic, straightforward idea of right and wrong that he correctly attributes to the founding of the country – as UCLA historian Lynn Hunt has observed in her important book “Inventing Human Rights.”
The basic idea is this: Democracy is based on empathy, that is, on citizens caring about each other and acting on that care, taking responsibility not just for themselves but for their families, communities and their nation. The role of government is to carry out this principle in two ways: protection and empowerment.
Analogous moral arguments can, and should, be given constantly for all progressive policies at all levels of government on all issues: the environment, education, health, family planning, organizing rights, voting rights, immigration, and so on. It is only by repetition of the across-the-board moral principles that the voting public gets to hear how all these ideas fit together as realizations of the same basic democratic principles.
President Obama, in the same speech, laid the groundwork for another crucial national discussion: systems thinking, which has shown up in public discourse mainly in the form of “systemic risk” of the sort that led to the global economic meltdown. The president brought up systems thinking implicitly, at the center of his budget proposal. He observed repeatedly that budget deficits and “spending” do not occur in isolation. The choice of what to cut and what to keep is a matter of factors external to the budget per se. Long-term prosperity, economic recovery and job creation, he argued, depend on maintaining “investments” – investments in infrastructure (roads, bridges, long-distance rail), education, scientific research, renewable energy, and so on. The maintenance of American values, he argued, is outside of the budget in itself, but is at the heart of the argument about what to cut. The fact is that the rich have gotten rich because of the government – direct corporate subsidies, access to publicly-owned resources, access to government research, favorable trade agreements, roads and other means of transportation, education that provides educated workers, tax loopholes and innumerable government resources taken advantage of by the rich, but paid for by all of us. What is called a “tax break” for the rich is actually a redistribution of wealth from the poor and middle class, whose incomes have gone down to those who have considerably more money than they need, money they have made because of tax investments by the rest of America.
Linguists have discovered that every language studied has direct causation in its grammar, but no language has systemic causation in its grammar. Systemic causation is a harder concept and has to be learned either through socialization or education.
Progressives tend to think more readily in terms of systems than conservatives. We see this in the answers to a question like, “What causes crime?” Progressives tend to give answers like economic hardship, or lack of education, or crime-ridden neighborhoods. Conservatives tend more to give an answer like “bad people – lock ’em up, punish ’em.” This is a consequence of a lifetime of thinking in terms of social connection (for progressives) and individual responsibility (for conservatives). Thus, conservatives did not see the president’s plan, which relied on systemic causation, as a plan at all for directly addressing the deficit.
Differences in systemic thinking between progressives and conservatives can be seen in issues like global warming and financial reform. Conservatives have not recognized human causes of global warming, partly because they are systemic, not direct. When a huge snowstorm occurred in Washington, DC, recently, many conservatives saw it as disproving the existence of global warming – “How could warming cause snow?” Similarly, conservatives, thinking in terms of individual responsibility and direct causation, blamed homeowners for foreclosures on their homes, while progressives looked to systemic explanations, seeking reform in the financial system.
There is one big problem with the speech that he apparently felt he could not avoid: He stayed within Republican issue framing, keeping to the Republican’s definition of the issue as the deficit and the budget – even while the main features of the talk were his moral vision and systems thinking. The media and the politicos have mostly not been able to get beyond issue thinking, that the speech was about the deficit and the budget, missing the larger themes. And the president, since the speech, hasn’t pressed the political public on those major themes. He needs help. He needs progressives to start talking publicly about that moral vision and about the importance of systems in our lives and in our politics.
Finally, Democrats need to understand why expressing their moral views is so vital. The crucial voters in recent elections have been misleadingly called “independents,” “moderates” and “the center.” In reality, they are what I will call the “duals” – people who are conservative on some issues and progressive on others, in all kinds of combinations. They have both moral systems in the neural networks of their brains, but applied to different issues. When one moral network is activated, the other is inhibited – shut down. The more one moral network is active, the stronger it gets and the weaker the other gets. In 2008, the Obama campaign activated and strengthened the network for the progressive moral system – and won over the duals. In 2010, the Democrats stopped talking morality and kept on talking policy, ceding morality to the conservatives, especially the Tea Party radical conservatives. In doing this, they ceded the election. Policy without an understandable moral basis loses.
Democrats need to both activate their base and activate the progressive moral vision dormant in the duals among the voters. They can only do this with an overt appeal to the progressive moral vision inherent in our democracy. It’s time for the Democrats to shout their patriotism out loud.
Before he took questions, President Obama spoke about the plan he laid out last week to reduce our deficit by $4 trillion over 12 years while investing in the things that matter most to our future: funding Pell Grants, strengthening Medicare and Medicaid, and building a 21st-century infrastructure—”the best roads, the quickest trains, and the fastest broadband networks.” But shared prosperity requires shared responsibility, and solving our budget problems is going to require everyone to make sacrifices—including our government and the wealthiest among us. The President said:
“I believe the right way to do it is to live up to an old-fashioned principle of shared responsibility. That means everybody has to do their part. So what my plan does is it starts with combing the budget for savings wherever we can find them, and we had a good start a few weeks ago when both parties came together around a compromise that cut spending but also kept the government open and kept vital investments in things that we care about. …
“We are going to have to ask everybody to sacrifice, and if we’re asking community colleges to sacrifice, if we’re asking people who are going to see potentially fewer services in their neighborhoods to make a little sacrifice, then we can ask millionaires and billionaires to make a little sacrifice.”
Addressing the concerns of the students in the room, the President made it clear that reducing spending does not mean cutting education and eliminating college scholarships, saying it would be a “huge mistake to balance the budget on the backs of students.”
During a town hall event in Virginia today, President Barack Obama called out the Republicans for bemoaning higher gas prices, but offering no plan of their own to lower them. Obama called the Republican plan to cut clean energy investments by 70% a mistake, “I think that cutting clean energy investments by 70 percent — 70 percent, which has been proposed by some in Congress -– would be such a mistake.”
“Some folks in Washington also want to close the deficit by gutting our investments in things like clean energy or medical research or basic science. That’s not a viable choice. America has always been the world’s engine of innovation and discovery. That’s who we are. That’s how we’ve prospered. I don’t want other countries to lead in the industries of tomorrow. I want new technologies invented here in the United States. I want new solar panels and wind turbines and fuel-efficient cars and advanced batteries all to be made right here in the United States of America. I want us to invent them right here.”
Obama specifically took on the Republicans on the issue of gas prices, “I mean, let’s just take energy as an example. Folks are out there dealing with gas at four bucks a gallon. It’s just another hardship, another burden, at a time when we’re just coming out of a recession and things are already pretty tight for folks. Now, whenever this happens, just like clockwork, you see politicians going in front of the cameras and they’ll say they’ve got a three-point plan for two-buck-a-gallon gas. The truth is the only real solution to helping families at the pump in the medium and the long term is clean energy.”
It’s a heck of a lot easier to out-message your opponent if you’re willing to make up total bullshit to do so and Republicans are more than happy to do that. Republicans lose on policy, and they know it, which why they stick to buzz-words and catchy phrases like “government-takeover” and “job killing.” That’s where they win. They win on messaging.
That’s changing now, and not because Democrats have suddenly decided they are going to follow the Republicans playbook, but because Republican policy has gone so far to the right, and become so heinous, that the negative effects of their policies have become self-evident, self-incriminating, and self-deprecating.
“Repeal the job-killing government takeover of healthcare” is an inherently false proposition, but it is an effective message. On the other hand, “Seniors will have to resort to desperate measures” is both true and effective.
For the purposes of effective messaging, the Republicans may as well have written this new ad for us.
A new Democratic ad portrays seniors as having to engage in acts of economic desperation to pay their health care bills in a hypothetical future in which the House-approved GOP budget that privatizes Medicare becomes law.
The 30-second spot, titled “How Will You Pay?”, begins with one elderly man sitting behind a stand selling lemonade for 50 cents per cup. The next scene shows a senior mowing someone’s lawn as the resident berates him. It ends with an older man dressed up as a firefighter and stripping for young women.
Seniors As Strippers: House Dems Target GOP On Medicare Vote (VIDEO)
From The Political Carnival:
Earlier, Paddy posted the Rachel Maddow video in which Rachel reported on King Ricky Snyder of MichiganLand’s financial martial law enforcement. That law would be your actual, gen-u-ine, real live big intrusive government, GOP style, as opposed to, say, legally upholding laws for legal abortions, that are, you know, legal.
Nothing hypocritical about that at all.
But then reader Wizardkitten kindly left this comment under the video post, along with a link:
I’m glad this is getting the publicity it is, but the real action is going to come when someone tosses a union contract, or messes with retirement funds and so on. That hasn’t happened yet. Benton Harbor may be the fuse that leads to a major blow-up, say, in Detroit.
IMO, the story everyone has missed is the lawsuit that was filed by Detroit’s pension boards in federal court over the new EFM [emergency manager statute] law.
This is why your voices are important. Many of us would have been unaware of this had it not been for Wizardkitten.
All our previous Rick Snyder posts here, including recall progress.
[I urge you to watch Maddow’s opening segment last night on this, because it is CHILLING.]
A listing of events on the umbrella group Tea Party Patriots’ website for Monday and Friday showed a total of 145 events — the same listing shows 638 events on tax day 2010.
One example finds rallies in Tulsa went from 5,000 attendees in 2009, to “several thousand” in 2010, to “less than 30” in 2011.
In the survey, 47 percent approve of the job Obama is doing, down seven points since January. Half of all Americans disapprove of his job performance, with 37 percent saying they “strongly disapprove,” nearly matching the worst level of his presidency.
Driving the downward movement in Obama’s standing are renewed concerns about the economy and fresh worry about rising prices, particularly for gasoline. Despite signs of economic growth, 44 percent of Americans see the economy as getting worse, the highest percentage to say so in more than two years.
The toll on Obama is direct: 57 percent disapprove of the job the president is doing dealing with the economy, tying his highest negative rating when it comes to the issue. And the president is doing a bit worse among politically important independents.
If Obama is running into headwinds, however, his potential Republican opponents face serious problems, as well. Less than half of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they are satisfied with the field of GOP candidates.
That field is still taking shape, but the sentiment is a big falloff from four years ago, when nearly two-thirds of Republicans were satisfied with their options.
The case about global warming scheduled to be argued on Tuesday before the Supreme Court is a blockbuster. Eight states — from California to New York, plus New York City — sued six corporations responsible for one-fourth of the American electric power industry’s emissions of carbon dioxide.
Rather than seeking money or punishment for the defendants, they seek what everyone should agree is the polluters’ responsibility: abatement of their huge, harmful part in causing climate change. The purpose is not to solve global warming or usurp the government’s role in doing so. It is, rightly, to get major utilities to curb their greenhouse-gas emissions before the government acts.
Because there is no federal regulation of this problem in force, it is fortunate that there is a line of Supreme Court precedents back to 1901 on which the plaintiffs can build their challenge. When this lawsuit began seven years ago, one of the defendants’ main defenses was that, because the Clean Air Act and other laws “address” carbon dioxide emissions, Congress has “legislated on the subject” and pre-empted the suit. The pre-emption claim was spurious when they made it and remains spurious now.
Seven years ago, neither Congress nor the Bush administration showed interest in pushing comprehensive laws or rules to curb these gases. Since then, the Environmental Protection Agency has found that greenhouse gases endanger public health as “the primary driver” of climate change and has regulated vehicle emissions.
But the electric power industry is working to scuttle this regulation, with the help of the Republican-controlled House. In court, the industry pushes for letting the E.P.A. regulate. On Capitol Hill, it tries to torpedo that authority.
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
Both go-arounds and errors by air traffic controllers are not uncommon. Controllers at Potomac TRACON, who direct more than 1.5 million flights a year to area airports, made a record number of errors in 2010.
Nationwide, recorded errors by controllers increased 51 percent last year to 1,869.
Sign our petition and stand against Republican extremism. It’s simply immoral to take crucial health care away from seniors and the most vulnerable among us and use the proceeds to pad corporate pockets – and score political points.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
I never think of the future – it comes soon enough. ~Albert Einstein