Daily Archive: 01/04/2013

Jan 04 2013

Going Platinum: Sign The Petition

Sign the petition to Mint the Coin

US Mint Platinum CoinThe next “plateau” in the on going “Mythical Cliff” debate is the unconstitutional debt ceiling which the Republicans are now threatening to take hostage to demand draconian cuts to social security and other programs while sparing defense. With the settlement over the Obama tax cuts out of the way, the $1 trillion dollars in sequestration cuts are scheduled to take effect in two month at the same time authorized spending will “hit the roof,” setting up the showdown between the feral Tea Party dominated Republican held House, the roadblocked filibustered Senate and the ever capitulating White House. Still very much in danger are Social Security and Medicare which President Barack Obama has refused to take off the table and keeps offering up as sacrifice as part of an agreement. To get what they want the Republicans are willing to let the government default on its debt

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” this week, “we Republicans need to be willing to tolerate a temporary, partial government shutdown” in order to achieve spending cuts and entitlement reforms.

On Friday morning, meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told members that he was prepared to use the debt ceiling fight as leverage to get spending cuts. According to a source in the room, Boehner showed fellow lawmakers the results of a survey by the Winston Group, a GOP polling firm, which showed that 72 percent of Americans “agree any increase in the nation’s debt limit must be accompanied by spending cuts and reforms of a greater amount.”

“The debate is already under way,” the speaker said.

Elsewhere on Friday morning, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the second-ranking Senate Republican, penned an op-ed making a similar argument.

   Republicans are more determined than ever to implement the spending cuts and structural entitlement reforms that are needed to secure the long-term fiscal integrity of our country.

   The coming deadlines will be the next flashpoints in our ongoing fight to bring fiscal sanity to Washington. It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country, rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain. President Obama needs to take note of this reality and put forward a plan to avoid it immediately.

Calling this a “government shutdown,” even a partial shut down, is just plain spin that will result in an even deeper recession than the last one from which we have yet to fully recover. In a letter from Matthew E. Zames, a managing director at JPMorgan Chase and the chairman of the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee lists what will happen if the debt ceiling is not raised:

  • First, foreign investors, who hold nearly half of outstanding Treasury debt, could reduce their purchases of Treasuries on a permanent basis, and potentially even sell some of their existing holdings. [.]]
  • Second, a default by the U.S. Treasury, or even an extended delay in raising the debt ceiling, could lead to a downgrade of the U.S. sovereign credit rating. [..]

    Third, the financial crisis you warned of in your April 4th Letter to Congress could trigger a run on money market funds, as was the case in September 2008 after the Lehman failure. [..]

    Fourth, a Treasury default could severely disrupt the $4 trillion Treasury financing market, which could sharply raise borrowing rates for some market participants and possibly lead to another acute deleveraging event. [..]

    Fifth, the rise in borrowing costs and contraction of credit that would occur as a result of this deleveraging event would have damaging consequences for the still-fragile recovery of our economy. [..]

    Finally, (..) because the long-term risks from a default are so large, a prolonged delay in raising the debt ceiling may negatively impact markets well before a default actually occurs.

    Obviously, the Republicans did not learn from the last hostage threat that resulted in a market down turn and the downgrade of the US credit rating. That debacle resulted in an extension of the Bush tax cuts and, now the permanent Obama tax cuts. Without tax increases as leverage the President and the Democrats have very little wiggle room.

    That brings us to the elephant in the room that most of the MSMS, some so called progressive blogs and pundits, including Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, have laughed off as “not serious,” the “Trillion Dollar Platinum Coin Solution” (TPC). Guess what, they aren’t laughing at this any more. We may not be able to print money but we can mint coins of any denomination. From Paul Krugman:

    The peculiar exception is that clause allowing the Treasury to mint platinum coins in any denomination it chooses. Of course this was intended as a way to issue commemorative coins and stuff, not as a fiscal measure; but at least as I understand it, the letter of the law would allow Treasury to stamp out a platinum coin, say it’s worth a trillion dollars, and deposit it at the Fed – thereby avoiding the need to issue debt. [..]

    In reality, to pursue the thought further, the coin really would be as much a Federal debt as the T-bills the Fed owns, since eventually Treasury would want to buy it back. So this is all a gimmick – but since the debt ceiling itself is crazy, allowing Congress to tell the president to spend money then tell him that he can’t raise the money he’s supposed to spend, there’s a pretty good case for using whatever gimmicks come to hand.

    But there is a solution to preventing a real fiscal crisis and Josh Barrow at Bloomberg has an ingenious solution to both the debt ceiling and the TPC and why we need to “go off the platinum cliff”:

    This law was intended to allow the production of commemorative coins for collectors. But it can also be used to create large-denomination coins that Treasury can deposit with the Fed to finance payment of the government’s bills, in lieu of issuing debt.

    What the law should say is that the executive branch may borrow to pay whatever obligations the federal government has, but may not print. Unfortunately, when we hit the debt ceiling, the situation will be backwards: The administration will not be allowed to borrow, but it can print in unlimited quantities.

    This points toward an interesting solution.

    If Republicans start issuing a list of demands that must be met before they will raise the debt ceiling, Obama should simply say that he will issue platinum coins as necessary to pay government bills if he cannot borrow. But, to avoid causing long-term inflation expectations to skyrocket, he should pledge that he will have the Treasury issue enough bonds to buy back all the newly issued currency as soon as it is allowed to do so.

    And then he should offer to sign a bill revoking his authority to issue platinum coins — so long as that bill also abolishes the debt ceiling. The executive branch will give up its unwarranted power to print if the legislative branch will give up its unwarranted restriction on borrowing to cover already appropriated obligations.

    Here that Barack? Dare them to destroy the face and credit of this country, then flip that coin on the table along with the bill. Wanna bet they’ll bite?

    Meanwhile, we need to encourage our weak kneed president to do what Atrios said

    Sign the petition to Mint the Coin

    Jan 04 2013

    Congressional Game of Chicken: Fixing Filibuster, Part IV

    “Get out the old phone books,” as Chuck Todd suggests in the video below, if Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) are successful in bringing filibuster reform to the Senate. By using Senate rules, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) recessed the chamber at the end of Thursday’s proceedings to extend the legislative day until later this month. Debate will begin on January 22, two days after the inauguration.

    “I think the conversation is going to continue between [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell [(R-Ky.)] and Harry Reid about this. I think they’re going to see if there’s a way to reach a bipartisan agreement, they’re still talking,” said Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.).

    “We’re going to preserve our rights, we’re going to stay in the first legislative day and deal with the rules when we get back after the inauguration,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), a leading proponent of reform.[..]

    Liberals say the Levin-McCain proposal is inadequate because it would not implement their highest-priority reform, the so-called talking filibuster.

    Udall and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore), the leading advocates for filibuster reform, say lawmakers who filibuster legislation should be required to actively hold the floor and debate. This would make it more arduous for senators who want to hold up business – they would have to organize teams to hold the floor for days or even weeks on end.

    Udall said he would have to be convinced to support the Levin-McCain plan because it would not implement a talking filibuster rule, which he said is “the heart of the matter”

    He said Reid may insist on it as part of any overhaul of Senate rules.

    “The talking filibuster is still very much on the table,” Udall said.

    Real Senate filibuster reform needed

    By Frank Knapp, Jr., vice chairman, American Sustainable Business Council Action Fund

    Dysfunctional!

    Much of this problem lies with the voters rewarding extreme partisanship over cooperative problem solving and Congress making policy decisions that guarantee later stalemates.

    However, there is one self-inflicted structural problem in the U.S. Senate that magnifies both these electorate and policy decisions – the filibuster.Except for rare occasions, the Senate is ruled by the minority. With 60 votes needed to end a filibuster that can essentially be “called-in” by the minority, the American public is being deprived both of a truly deliberative body and seeing the consequences of their voting behavior.

    There is no transparency or accountability under today’s Senate filibuster rules. Consequently we have had an abusive and undemocratic use of filibusters in recent years at every step in the legislative process. The Senate has become frozen in its ability to address the nation’s problems, especially when it comes to promoting a healthy economy. That is why many business organizations like the American Sustainable Business Council, a national coalition of business organizations that together represent over 150,000 small and medium businesses, strongly supports filibuster reform.

    Merkley, Udall Escalate Criticism Of Scaled-Back Filibuster Reform

    by Sahil Kapur, TPMLiveWire

    Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Tom Udall (D-NM) held a briefing with reporters Thursday to make the case for adopting their “talking filibuster” proposal with 51 votes via the constitutional option. [..]

    Udall said the Merkley-Udall plan has “good momentum” and said he believes it has the necessary 51 votes to pass under what Republicans call the “nuclear option.” Changing the rules ordinarily requires 67 votes.

    On Filibuster Reform, Advocates Claim Momentum

    by Ryan Grim and Sabrina Siddiqui, Huffington Post

    The Senate postponed debate on reforming the filibuster Thursday, as advocates cited the support of 48 senators for eliminating the silent filibuster using the so-called constitutional option, a measure that requires 50 votes plus that of the vice president. [..]

    The main component of the Merkley-Udall approach is the talking filibuster, which still enables the minority to filibuster legislation but would require them to do so by actually standing and speaking on the floor. Additionally, the proposal would also streamline conference committee assignments and nominations, and eliminate the motion to proceed — a motion typically offered by the majority leader to bring up a bill or other measure for consideration.

    On this morning’s The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd, Sen. Merkley appeared to discuss why what he and Sen Udall propose is better filibuster reform and where the negotiations stand.

    Jan 04 2013

    Punting the Pundits

    “Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

    Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

    Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

    Paul Krugman: Battles of the Budget

    The centrist fantasy of a Grand Bargain on the budget never had a chance. Even if some kind of bargain had supposedly been reached, key players would soon have reneged on the deal – probably the next time a Republican occupied the White House.

    For the reality is that our two major political parties are engaged in a fierce struggle over the future shape of American society. Democrats want to preserve the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – and add to them what every other advanced country has: a more or less universal guarantee of essential health care. Republicans want to roll all of that back, making room for drastically lower taxes on the wealthy. Yes, it’s essentially a class war.

    The fight over the fiscal cliff was just one battle in that war. It ended, arguably, in a tactical victory for Democrats. The question is whether it was a Pyrrhic victory that set the stage for a larger defeat.

    Why do I say that it was a tactical victory? Mainly because of what didn’t happen: There were no benefit cuts.

    New York Times Editorial: Misplaced Secrecy on Targeted Killings

    For years, President Obama has been stretching executive power to claim that the authorization to use military force against Al Qaeda gives him the unilateral authority to order people killed away from any battlefield without judicial oversight or public accountability – even when the target is an American citizen.

    On Wednesday, a federal judge in Manhattan came down on the side of preserving secrecy regarding how this dangerous view of executive power gets exercised. Judge Colleen McMahon refused to require the Justice Department to disclose a memorandum providing the legal justification for the targeted killing of a United States citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen. [..]

    President Obama, who pledged more government transparency in his first campaign and early days in office, should heed those sentiments and order the legal memo released along with other information that would shed light on the government’s legal reasoning and the evidence leading to Mr. Awlaki’s killing.

    It is past time he did so.

    Richard Eskow: Our Deficit Debate’s “Sick Secret” Is Killing Us … Literally

    Imagine a nation with a terrible problem – one its leaders refuse to discuss. The problem will needlessly drain trillions of dollars from its economy in the next ten years.

    Now imagine that this problem also robs that nation’s citizens of life itself, draining years from their lifespans while depriving them of large sums of money. Imagine that it sickens and disables countless others, drives many people into bankrupcty, and kills more than two newborn infants out of every thousand born.

    Imagine that fixing this problem would make result in a dramatic decline in publicly-held debt. It wouldn’t just “help” the debt problem, mind you – it would cause that debt to plunge.

    And now imagine a national “deficit debate” which completely ignores this problem.

    Eugene Robinson: Our Clown-Around Congress

    To say that Congress looked like a clown show this week is an insult to self-respecting clowns.

    Painful though it may be, let’s review what just happened. Our august legislators — aided and abetted by President Obama — manufactured a fake crisis. They then proceeded to handle it so incompetently that they turned it into a real one.

    The bogus “fiscal cliff” — and please, let’s never, ever use those words again — was designed as a doomsday mechanism to force Congress and the president to make tough decisions. But resistance to the very concept of decision-making was so fierce that our leaders could only manage to avoid hurtling to their doom, and ours, by deciding not to decide much of anything.

    Richard D. Wolff: Fiscal Cliff Follies: Political Theater Distracts From Key Problems With the Fix

    Extremely unequal distributions of wealth and income continue to enable the richest and largest individuals and enterprises to manipulate the economy and control the political parties. The result is an economic structure disinterested in a democratically focused way out of crisis and decline.

    The last-minute deal reached in the final hours of 2012 continues the sham political theater that dominated the mass media for months. One phony issue was “stalemate” between the parties. In fact, they achieved and sustained consensus all year. Both parties agreed to raise taxes and cut government spending. The fiscal cliff did that and so did the last-minute deal. In Europe that policy is called “austerity.” Republicans and Democrats merely bickered over details of austerity: who would be taxed how much more and who would obtain how much less government spending.

    Europe’s austerity policies since 2010 worsened the economies of Greece, Britain, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Italy and so on. They likewise provoked the most massive and coordinated protests of the last half-century. Capitalism itself is among the protests’ targets. The US in 2013 thus looks set for perhaps Occupy Wall Street (OWS) Round 2.

    David Sirota: The Truth Behind the Fiscal Cliff’s Reality TV Show

    During the halcyon 1990s, we labeled annual congressional temper tantrums for what they were: standard, if boring, budget impasses. Now, though, in a hilariously non-ironic flail for ratings, news outlets have taken Nigel Tufnel’s famous line from “Spinal Tap” seriously, turning the volume up to 11 by portraying the latest standoff as a harrowing “fiscal cliff,” replete with doomsday countdown clocks, gaudy NFL-quality graphics, and endless Twitter hashtags.

    If anyone outside the Beltway was paying attention (a big “if”), they probably thought the title referred to an old episode of “Cheers” in which the goofy mailman does his taxes. After all, replaying reruns would have been more compelling content than this latest installment of “Real World: U.S. Capitol.”

    Reality TV, of course, is this moment’s perfect metaphor. That schlocky format’s foundational oxymoron – it is “real” but not real – also defines contemporary politics.

    Jan 04 2013

    On This Day In History January 4

    This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

    Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

    January 4 is the fourth day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 361 days remaining until the end of the year (362 in leap years).

    On this day in 1987, Spanish guitar great Andres Segovia arrives in the United States for his final American tour. He died four months later in Madrid at the age of 94.

    Segovia was hailed for bringing the Spanish guitar from relative obscurity to classical status. Born in Spain’s southern region of Andalusia–the original home of the guitar–Segovia studied the piano and cello as a child but soon became captivated with the guitar. Knowing of no advanced teachers of an instrument that was generally banished to the cafes, he taught himself and in 1909 gave his first public performance at the age of 15. To successfully render classical material, Segovia invented countless new techniques for the guitar, and by his first appearance in Paris in 1924, he was a virtuoso. His American debut came four years later in New York City.

    Jan 04 2013

    Scooping Atrios!

    Philadelphia Tries Out Condom Vending Machines To Combat ‘Epidemic’ STD Rates

    By Tara Culp-Ressler posted from ThinkProgress Health

    Jan 3, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    Reuters reports that more than 400 public schools across the country currently make condoms available to students through a nurse, guidance counselor, or other school personnel. Less than ten percent of schools make condoms directly available to teens without an adult intermediary – in a basket, bowl, or vending machine – as Philadelphia’s schools have started to do.

    It’s Philly, he’ll get to it.

    Jan 04 2013

    The Colbert Report: A Year In Review Part 2

    July

    August

    September

    October

    November

    December