Tag Archive: grand bargain

Feb 26 2014

NRCC Bashing Democrats for Supporting Chained CPI

You can tell it’s an election year, all the hypocrisy comes out of the closet:

After spending weeks subjecting the public to unfounded and widely debunked claims that Obamacare contains a hidden “bailout” for private insurers, Republicans have undertaken a complete reversal, and are attacking Democrats for cutting corporate welfare for insurance companies by too much.

Specifically, they’re attacking the Affordable Care Act’s reduction in overpayments to carriers who participate in Medicare Advantage, reflected in lower payment rates for program providers, which were officially announced late last week. [..]

When confronted, they retreat from pretending to oppose the cuts on the merits, to claiming the real problem is that Democrats used the savings from the cuts to fund Obamacare. But this is a non sequitur. A diversion. The attacks specifically express outrage on behalf of seniors who, Republicans claim, will lose doctors or get stuck with higher premiums specifically as a result of the ACA’s Medicare Advantage cuts.

But remember, Republicans actually support the cuts. All of these supposedly horrible things would happen under their plan, too, regardless of how the savings are spent. So right away it’s clear that the attacks are straightforwardly deceitful.

While some the beltway deficit scolds mourn the death of “entitlement reforms,” the The National Republican Campaign Committee has begun attacking Democrats for supporting Simpson-Bowles:

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) tried a political ju-jitsu on Thursday as it sought to turn former state CFO Alex Sink’s attacks on David Jolly on Social Security against her. Sink, the Democratic candidate, takes on Republican Jolly and Libertarian Lucas Overby in a special congressional election for an open seat in Pinellas County on March 11.

On Thursday, the NRCC bashed Sink for saying she supported Simpson-Bowles.

What digby said:

I have never understood why Democrats who have to run for office are so wedded to the idea that they will be rewarded for being “the adults in the room” and doing the “hard stuff” like cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits but they do. You’d think they’d remember what happened to them in 2010 when the Republicans ran against the Medicare cuts in the health care reforms by portraying them as monsters turning old people into Soylent Green. But they didn’t.

The president may have decided to keep his proposal to cut benefits from his new budget, but it’s quite clear from the talking points that they still very much want to get “credit” for being willing to do it.

Supporting cuts the social safety net, especially in the state of Florida, is not going to fly very well with elderly voters. And, yes, they do vote. So why aren’t Democrats giving the people what they want, an expansion of Social Security and open Medicare to all?  

Nov 19 2013

Retirement in Crisis

Increasingly over the last few months the sensible people of congress have gotten on board with the idea that Social Security should be expanded. With the failure of many 401k’s and inadequate pension funds, many seniors and future retirees are more reliant on Social Security for a substantial part of their retirement plans. Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) have proposed that instead of switching to a “chained” consumer price index that cuts retiree benefits, the nation should adopt CPI-E, which measures the actual cost of living for the elderly and would raise benefits to meet actual needs.

The latest to voice support for this idea is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren who took to the Senate floor to criticize the Washington Post‘s editorial that said  called expanding Social Security “wrongheaded” and suggested the nation should instead be more concerned about the higher percentage of children living in poverty. Sen. Warren called this the “uglier side” of the debate on Social Security.

Floor Speech by Senator Elizabeth Warren (pdf)

The Retirement Crisis

November 18, 2013

As Prepared for Delivery

(Mr./Madame) President, I rise today to talk about the retirement crisis in this country – a crisis that has received far too little attention, and far too little response, from Washington.

I spent most of my career studying the economic pressures on middle class families – families who worked hard, who played by the rules, but who still found themselves hanging on by their fingernails. Starting in the 1970s, even as workers became more productive, their wages flattened out, while core expenses, things like housing and health care and sending a kid to college, just kept going up.

Working families didn’t ask for a bailout. They rolled up their sleeves and sent both parents into the workforce. But that meant higher childcare costs, a second car, and higher taxes. So they tightened their belts more, cutting spending wherever they could. Adjusted for inflation, families today spend less than they did a generation ago on food, clothing, furniture, appliances, and other flexible purchases. When that still wasn’t enough to cover rising costs, they took on debt credit card debt, college debt, debt just to pay for the necessities. As families became increase singly desperate, unscrupulous financial institutions were all too happy to chain them to financial products that got them into even more trouble — products where fine print and legalese covered up the true costs of credit. These trends are not new, and there have been warning signs for years about what is happening to our middle class. One major consequence of these increasing pressures on working people – a consequence that receives far too little attention – is that the dream of a secure retirement is slowly slipping away.

A generation ago, middle – class families were able to put away enough money during their working years to make it through their later years with dignity. On average, they saved about 11% of their take home pay while working. Many paid off their homes, got rid  of all their debts, and retired with strong pensions from their employers. And where pensions, savings, and investments fell short,

they could rely on Social Security to make up the difference. That was the story a generation ago, but since that time, the retirement landscape has shifted dramatically against our families. Among working families on the verge of retirement, about a third have no retirement savings of any kind, and another third have total savings that are less than their annual income. Many seniors have seen their housing wealth shrink as well. According to AARP, in 2012, one out of every seven older homeowners was paying down a mortgage that was higher than the value of their house.

While President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have expressed their support for cuts to Social Security as part of a budget agreement to trim the deficit, which Social Security does not contribute to, most Democrats wisely have said ruled that out in the current debate talks. We need to make sure that any cuts to the Social Security benefits of our most vulnerable citizens is taken off the table permanently.

 

Oct 21 2013

Grand Bargain Circus – Blue Clowns in Bondage

Theatre Bizarre - Scaredy Cat Club by Patricia Drury

It’s Intermission here under the Beltway Bigtop.  The house lights are back on, the Clowns are taking a brief break and the Audience is taking the opportunity to catch their breath after the remarkable performance that they’ve just been witness to as the red clowns and blue clowns faced off in the Scaredy Cat Sideshow.

For the past several days the blue clowns have been celebrating their big (temporary) win.  Audience polls have shown that the audience holds the red clowns responsible for the clown war that left the lights turned off at the Bigtop for 16 days. Despite the audience’s sentiments, the blue clowns’ big win may not be worth getting too worked up about:

Because the deal only includes minor concessions, the Beltway consensus is that it represents a resounding defeat for Republicans, who “surrendered” their original demands to defund or delay Obamacare. In the skirmish of opinion polls, that may be true, for now. But in the war of ideas, the Senate deal is but a stalemate, one made almost entirely on conservative terms. The GOP now goes into budget talks with sequestration as the new baseline, primed to demand longer-term cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. And they still hold the gun of a US default to the nation’s head in the next debt ceiling showdown.

Surrender? Any more “victories” like this and Democrats will end up paying tribute into the GOP’s coffers.

Speaking of surrender, the blue clowns’ “idea guys” in the Bigtop Office of Promotions are hot on a way for the blue clowns to “win” the next round, too…

Ezra Klein: Democrats Should Return To Being Wimps Quickly

No matter which deal ultimately resolves the U.S. government shutdown, it’s almost certain to include a new bicameral budget commission. This will be the eighth major budget commission since 2010. Until now, every single one of them has failed for the same reason: taxes. And if nothing changes, this one will fail too.

But something should change: Democrats should admit the obvious. For the time being, they’ve lost on taxes. And you know what? That’s OK. At least, it could be, if they were willing to admit it and smartly negotiate the terms of their surrender.

Then, the Ringmaster delivered a speech to celebrate the end of the shutdown and decided to blame bloggers for the trouble:

You cannot make this stuff up.

Obama gave his usual adult talking to the children, meaning American citizens, type of speech to mark the cease-fire in the budget battle so that the two sides can work out a peace accord. Of course, it goes without saying that both sides keenly want a pact that will inflict cuts on middle and low-income Americans while only imposing at most token costs on the wealthy, and in particular, secure the prize that the leadership of both parties keenly desire, namely, cuts in Medicare and Social Security, dressed up as “reforms”.

“And now that the government has reopened and this threat to our economy is removed, all of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists, and the bloggers, and the talking heads on radio and the professional activists who profit from conflict, and focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do, and that’s grow this economy, create good jobs, strengthen the middle class, educate our kids, lay the foundation for broad-based prosperity and get our fiscal house in order for the long haul. That’s why we’re here. That should be our focus.”

Oct 11 2013

Grand Bargain Circus – Red Clowns Wrangle

Jean-Léon_Gérôme_-_Duel_After_a_Masquerade_Ball

Greetings Circus fans!  Welcome back to the Circus that, like rust, never sleeps.  For the past couple of days the red clowns have separated into rival gang factions to fight out their final strategery.  Watching clowns enter into public backbiting and recriminations is always amusing for the audience and the pie has been flying.  

It seems that according to the folks at the  Beltway Bigtop Office of Promotions that the Hot Potato of Blame has fallen into Boner T. Redclown’s Ring 1 and cannot be returned to Harry T. Blueclown’s Ring 3 due to a preponderance of audience belief.  

The Beltway Bigtop Office of Promotions now says that this shutdown was planned, long in advance by a consortium of red clown groups and heavily funded by red clowns from the Koch Klowns organization:

The current budget brinkmanship is just the latest development in a well-financed, broad-based assault on the health law, Mr. Obama’s signature legislative initiative. Groups like Tea Party Patriots, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks are all immersed in the fight, as is Club for Growth, a business-backed nonprofit organization. Some, like Generation Opportunity and Young Americans for Liberty, both aimed at young adults, are upstarts. Heritage Action is new, too, founded in 2010 to advance the policy prescriptions of its sister group, the Heritage Foundation.

The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, have been deeply involved with financing the overall effort. A group linked to the Kochs, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, disbursed more than $200 million last year to nonprofit organizations involved in the fight.

Great amusement for the audience has resulted!  While the Koch Klowns have been climbing the rigging and shouting that Kochs are not to blame, the rank and file red clowns have been quite agitated at each other due to the fact that their gambit to force the Ringmaster and the blue clowns to capitulate has failed to be an early success. The blue clowns and much of the audience have had many a moment of amusement as the red clowns have piled into a clown bus and have been chasing Cruz T. Redclown around the arena:

Clown Bus by guthrieschroederRep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) on Monday echoed Peter King’s statement that the person to blame for the current government shutdown is Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

“If I had to cast blame anywhere, I would say it was Sen. Cruz and those who insisted upon this tactic that we all knew was not going to succeed,” Dent told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“What he did essentially, Sen. Cruz, basically, he took a lot of folks into the ditch. Now that we’re in the ditch, you can’t get out of the ditch, the senator has no plan to get out of the ditch, those of us who do have a plan to get out of the ditch and will vote to get out of the ditch will then be criticized by those who put us in the ditch in the first place.”

As one group of the red clowns played “chase the scapegoat,” other set to work on what the red clown leaders strategery:

Representative Pete Sessions of Texas, chairman of the Rules Committee, tells us Speaker John Boehner doesn’t yet have his debt-ceiling proposal finalized. For now, no legislation is headed toward his committee, and it’s all about messaging. … “I’d say if you ran the clock on it, 48 hours,” Sessions adds, when asked how long it’ll take Boehner to unveil the leadership’s plan.

Scary Clowns at PDC2008 Party at Universal Studios by D.Begley

But even as Boner T. Redclown was busy juggling and formulating his strategery, out of a dark corner of Ring 1 came the nearly-famous Ryan T. Redclown who was once Mittens T. Redclown’s second in a clown duel with the Ringmaster.  It appears that Ryan T. Redclown has been working on a little strategery of his own as he loaded the cannon with an op-ed from the Clown Street Journal which he fired off at the Ringmaster and the blue clowns in Ring 3.

In an editorial voice sweeter than the Circus’ cotton candy, Ryan T. Redclown turned away from the stage and projected his message at the audience in calm and reasonable tones.  Why, his message was just like that of the Ringmaster:

obama ryanIf Mr. Obama decides to talk, he’ll find that we actually agree on some things. For example, most of us agree that gradual, structural reforms are better than sudden, arbitrary cuts. For my Democratic colleagues, the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act are a major concern. And the truth is, there’s a better way to cut spending. We could provide relief from the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act in exchange for structural reforms to entitlement programs.



Who knows what this means? But it’s interesting, especially when you compare it to what the president said today:

I’ve put forward proposals in my budget to reform entitlement programs for the long haul and reform our tax code in a way that would close loopholes for the wealthiest and lower rates for corporations and help us invest in new jobs and reduce our deficits. And some of these were originally Republican proposals, because I don’t believe any party has a monopoly on good ideas. So I’ve shown myself willing to go more than halfway in these conversations, and if reasonable Republicans want to talk about these things again, I’m ready to head up to the Hill and try. I’ll even spring for dinner again.

Why, it sounds like Ryan T. Redclown is eager for yet another round of Grand Bargain Fever with the Ringmaster!  Oh, wait, what’s that, oh my, I think there’s going to be music in the air…  Yes indeed!  The Grand Calliope is being drawn in by horses to play soothing music…

Yes, the Ringmaster is cautiously optimistic that a Grand Bargain short term deal can be made and a faction of the red clowns looks like they might go for it…

Calliope,_the_wonderful_operonicon_or_steam_car_of_the_muses,_advertising_poster,_1874The Obama administration on Monday indicated it could support a temporary increase to the nation’s borrowing limit to give Republicans and Democrats, locked in a bitter fight over funding government operations, more time to negotiate a longer-term solution. …

Other Republicans said the time had come for conservatives to relent in trying to link government funding with measures to dismantle the health law. Senate Democrats have rejected multiple bills approved by House Republicans to fund federal agencies while also delaying or scaling back the health law.

“The question now is whether the people who fell for the Cruz folly will recognize that it was built on a false premise,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), referring to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and other conservatives who pushed Republicans to call for defunding the health law as a condition of financing government operations. “The whole thing was a joke from the beginning.”

Oh, looky there!  The red clowns are admitting that the whole attack on the Ringmaster’s “One Big Accomplishment” was nothing but a clownish prank to start with!  The question that is being promoted is, on whose terms will the audience be robbed, the red clowns’ or the Ringmasters?  In point of fact, since the red clowns and the blue clowns and the Ringmaster are all in the pay of the Beltway Bigtop funders, it has always been the funder’s terms that will ultimately decide the terms of the robbery of the audience.
 

The Market That Didn’t Bark

Clown dog

Speaking of those Beltway Bigtop funders, many of the red clowns are at pains to assuage their fears about the possiblilty of a default, saying that a default wouldn’t be that bad:

“It really is irresponsible of the president to try to scare the markets,” said Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky. “If you don’t raise your debt ceiling, all you’re saying is, ‘We’re going to be balancing our budget.’ So if you put it in those terms, all these scary terms of, ‘Oh my goodness, the world’s going to end’ – if we balance the budget, the world’s going to end? Why don’t we spend what comes in?”

Many of the Beltway Bigtop funders, whose entire existence revolves around the stability of markets are suddenly less than thrilled with the red clowns’ strategery:

Veteran Republican fundraisers are increasingly alarmed by the defiant stance of hard-line conservatives amid the federal government shutdown, prompting fears that many key donors may be restrained in their giving going into the 2014 midterms.

The growing unhappiness among longtime GOP check-writers and party elders underscores the deepening divisions over the ascendant tea party wing, which fueled this past week’s shutdown and is demanding Democratic concessions in exchange for reopening the government and raising the nation’s debt limit.

While the funders are nervous, it appears that the markets themselves are not.  Perhaps it is a result of the intoxication that comes of having looted the economy, gotten away with it and still being left to run rampant, but the markets are not making movements commensurate with the dangers inherent in a default:

The paralysis in Washington continued to weigh on markets. Analysts have expressed particular concern that the fight over the budget will stymie efforts to raise the budget ceiling, resulting in a US default with damaging economic consequences.

However, the market still considers a US default unlikely, said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital.

“If the markets were really fearful of a default…. we wouldn’t be down a half a percent or three-quarters of a percent,” Cardillo said. “We would be down a heck of a lot more.”

vampire squid by snigl3tPerhaps the Titans of Wall Street  are feeling secure because they have been so amply provided for by the Circus and their appointed retinue of government lackeys.   Perhaps they feel that they can rely upon the safety net that bailed them in before:

What the Fed did with Bear Stearns was highly controversial. They utilized the [exigent circumstances clause] without technically breaking any laws. Are we saying that we will bailout a stupid investment bank, but we won’t bailout the US Treasury using the same clause? That would be madness.

Or perhaps they’re not worried because, well, they pay for the clown show as a distraction and they know that their hired clowns will fall into the roles that are assigned them.

The blue clowns will, rather than making their own demands and fighting for what 99% of the audience wants, claim to be battered spouses in a relationship with an awful abuser:

Remember how Republicans “won” the 2000 election? Remember how they tricked the country into going to war in Iraq? They used non-democratic means to get what they couldn’t get legitimately, and it worked, so they did it more. They got used to getting their way using bullying, so they did it more. Now it’s flat-out hostage-taking. And they’re doing it more.

Again and again, Republicans take a hostage and demand something they could not get through elections or the legitimate constitutional legislative process. … They continue these tactics because it is getting them what they – and the billionaires and giant corporations who fund them – want. They do it because it works. And then they do it again, because it worked.

But who do the blue clowns’ actions serve?  When time after time, they “compromise” with the red clowns, who are, after all, only doing what their funders demand, are they not giving the funders what they want, just more slowly than they want it?

Perhaps the market’s failure to react in horror to the horrors that are being presented is merely a reflection of the fact that they own the Beltway Bigtop and the clowns work for them.

Who should the audience root for, red clowns?

When Paul Ryan talks about “reforming” entitlements, he’s talking about eliminating them, because he does not now believe — nor has he ever believed — that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are legitimate functions of the national government. He will get rid of them piecemeal if he has to do so, but he is as dedicated to their elimination as he ever was when he was mooching off my money. When Paul Ryan talks about “reforming” the tax code, he doesn’t mean making sure the people to whom all the money has been shoved upwards over the past four decades start paying their fair share again. He means “broadening the base” — You pay more. Jamie Dimon doesn’t. — and he means “lowering the rates” — on the people who buy him his $4000 bottles of wine — and he means “simplifying the code” — eliminating loopholes for the 20 minutes it takes before tax lawyers open up a hundred new ones.

Or blue clowns?

“This is a confidential document, last offer the president – the White House made last year to Speaker Boehner to try to reach this $4 trillion grand bargain.  And it’s long and it’s tedious and it’s got budget jargon in it.  But what it shows is a willingness to cut all kinds of things, like TRICARE, which is the sacred health insurance program for the military, for military retirees; to cut Social Security; to cut Medicare. And there are some lines in there about, “We want to get tax rates down, not only for individuals but for businesses.”  So Obama and the White House were willing to go quite far.”

Colourful Clowns

Oct 03 2013

Grand Bargain Circus – Red Clowns Ready?

Jugglers_Circus_Amok_by_David_Shankbone

There’s a big deal brewing in the Beltway Bigtop that’s been years in the making.  The Grand Bargain is now officially on the red clown leadership’s radar.  But can they get their ducks in a row?  Will the rank and file blue clowns have an attack of conscience?  And what about the audience – will they meekly accept the shears as the Ringmaster and clowns together begin to fleece them?  Or will they bombard the clowns with rotten tomatoes, imprecations, incantations and entreaties frightening them away from yet another of the Ringmaster’s big plans as they did with the Ringmaster’s recent plan to engage in yet another stupid and expensive war of choice?

Here’s a wrap up of the past couple of days under the Beltway Bigtop.

Bigtop Blame-a-Rama – Juggling the Hot Potato of Blame

The lights have been doused under the Beltway Bigtop as the red clowns and blue clowns could not come to agreement over how best to rob the audience.  The blue clowns adamantly protected the Ringleader’s plan to demand tribute of the audience for his donor cronies in the insurance and pharmaceutical industries in return for health care insurance products of dubious utility.  The red clowns would not give up their demands to kill the Ringleader’s program as well as demands for a smorgasbord of environmental destruction, means-testing for medicare, limitation of court awards for medical malpractice, repeal of taxes on some of their cronies and a contraceptive-free dessert bar.

Killer-Klowns-from-Outer-Space-pies

As the sun came up on the Beltway Bigtop Tuesday morning there were lines of circus employees leaving the parking lot as the tall order of the day began – the search for a scapegoat.

While both the red clowns and the blue clowns stayed up until the wee hours juggling the hot potato of blame back and forth between the red clown-controlled Ring 1 and the blue clown-controlled Ring 3, the Ringmaster called the red clowns “irresponsible” and upbraided them for their, “ideological crusade.”

The US government shut down early Tuesday for the first time since 1996 after lawmakers divided over Obamacare failed to reach an agreement to fund federal agencies through the next fiscal year.

President Barack Obama called it the “height of irresponsibility.”

Speaking Tuesday afternoon, Obama slammed Republicans for shutting down the government as part of an “ideological crusade” designed to kill his signature health care law.

“I urge House Republicans to reopen the government,” Obama said at the White House Rose Garden, while surrounded by Americans he said would benefit from the Affordable Care Act.

Meanwhile one of the red clowns’ leaders, Boner T. Redclown, did impressions of the Ringmaster over in Ring 1 as he passed juggling potatoes back and forth with Harry T. Blueclown over in Ring 3.  Harry T. Blueclown, for his part, returned the relentless hail of hot potatoes with all of the speed and bravado he could muster.

House Speaker John Boehner imitated the president on the House floor as he described their ultimately fruitless conversation Monday evening in the hours before a U.S. government shutdown.

“I talked to the president earlier tonight,” the Ohio Republican said before dropping his voice to sound more like President Barack Obama. “‘I’m not gonna negotiate. I’m not gonna negotiate. We’re not gonna do this.’ Well, I would say to the president, ‘This is not about me. This is not about Republicans here in Congress. It’s about fairness for the American people.'”

House Republicans repeatedly sent bills that would have temporarily funded the federal government but cut funding or delayed the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The Senate’s Democratic majority repeatedly stripped those bills of their anti-Obamacare provisions and sent them back to the House for approval, setting up the impasse that led to the first U.S. government shutdown in 17 years.

Audience reaction was mixed to the impressions and the rapid-fire juggling spectacle, however, the Beltway Bigtop Office of Promotions was quick to assign responsibility for Boner T. Redclown’s performance to a subset of the most effusive and animated of the red clowns.  Some in the Beltway Bigtop’s Office of Promotions claim that a conspiracy is afoot amongst some of the red clowns to force Boner T. Redclown into his behavior, while others claim that Boner T. Redclown and his leadership group

held a meeting outside of the Bigtop and stole the schtick of the more animated red clowns.

Bozos_Circus_postcard_1960sMonday was a frantic day on Capitol Hill, though all the activity ultimately came to nought: A flurry of last-minute legislative feints failed to prevent the government from shutting down at midnight. But in the process, House Republicans’ total crackup was on full, public display.

The breaking point was Speaker John Boehner’s penultimate proposal, a bill that would have funded the government — and Obamacare — while delaying the health-care law’s individual mandate and canceling congressional staffers’ insurance subsidies. To Boehner, this was a major concession from the House’s previous offering — a delay of the entire law. To the White House and Senate Democrats, it was just as unacceptable and no concession at all.

But within the GOP, it provoked a freakout on both Boehner’s right and left flanks. Moderate Republicans, long silent for fear of the party’s angry base, correctly viewed the proposal as inexorably leading to shutdown, and threatened to rise up and block it. “This is going nowhere,” New York Representative Peter King told National Review. He claimed to have 25 members on his side and demanded that Boehner instead put a “clean” government-funding bill — one that didn’t touch health care — on the floor of the House.

Meanwhile, conservatives were also in revolt. The Senate Conservatives Fund sent an email to its supporters denouncing “the Republican establishment in Washington” for telling “lies to help them fund Obamacare.” It accused GOP leaders of using the mandate delay as cover to disguise the fact that they were allowing the rest of the law to go into effect — something the group called unacceptable.

Many in the Beltway Bigtop Office of Promotions are eager to sell the narrative that the clowns have cracked up and become completely dysfunctional, creating new norms for governance.

Many of the contributing media outlets in the Beltway Bigtop’s Office of Promotion apparently can’t seem to remember previous government shutdowns as they swoon from the vapors from their, “discovery” of the, “new governing norms.”

In the past the blue clowns have been quite willing to press their advantage as a majority to protect their constituency just as the red clowns are doing now:

There were four shutdowns over abortion funding in the 1970s, a Democratic-led shutdown over funding for the notorious MX missile in 1982, a Democratic-led shutdown over a Supreme Court civil rights ruling in 1984, a Democratic-led shutdown over expanding Aid to Families with Dependent Children (that’s welfare) in 1986, and a Democratic-led shutdown over aid to the Contras and the Fairness Doctrine(!) in 1987. So shutdowns were for quite a while part of the normal business of government. And as I said, there’s a cruel logic to them. When Congress and the White House are held by different parties, Congress has no bigger chip at their disposal than the power of the purse. So they use that, over and over again, to extract often unrelated policy concessions from the executive branch. It may have stopped for a while for various reasons, but it’s back because it’s a very inviting way for a Congressional majority to assert their will.

Weirdo with a hula hoop.

Why Can’t the Blue Clowns Play the Game?

While one set of red clowns stalks the Ringmaster holding out hoops for him to jump through, another group of red clowns is sneaking out towards the fringes of the tent brandishing torches and threatening to burn the Bigtop down.

The Ringmaster remains impassive and, out of one side of his mouth refuses to negotiate, while out of the other makes promises to negotiate, but, on his terms:

Placing blame squarely on House Republicans, Obama said “the bottom line is that the Senate has passed a bill that keeps the government open, does not have a lot of extraneous issues to it, that allows us then to negotiate a longer-term budget and address a range of other issues but that ensure that we’re not shutting down the government and we’re not shutting down the economy at a time when a lot of families out there are just getting some traction in digging themselves out of the hole that we’ve had as a consequence of the financial crisis.

Given that the blue clowns control both the Main Ring and Ring 3, one would assume that the party of the Four Freedoms and the Great Society, friend of the working man and the underprivileged, would have pressed their advantage to make some serious gains for their constituency.

Instead, the blue clowns, in concert with the Ringmaster have been working to apply increasing levels of austerity to their constituency while their policies reward the Beltway Bigtop funderswho want austerity.

And the blue clowns aim to please their masters:

Virtually all of the services that will go unfilled during this shutdown, for example, are services for the poor or near-poor. A sclerotic governing system empowers a status quo that is biased toward elites, who are often the only ones able to break the gridlock, when it suits them and their pocketbooks.

Consider also how the nature of the gridlock itself empowers elite goals in this case. Democratic pundits and allies have talked themselves blue about the doomed Speakership of John Boehner, the lunacy of Ted Cruz, and whether the Republican fever will break. Precious few words, by contrast, have been written about the fact that the SOLUTION here, the position that Democrats have been pushing, is a “clean” continuing resolution, which will enforce sequestration limits, a spending cap below societal need and economic demand, into Fiscal Year 2014. And while that would only hold for a couple months, anyone who thinks sequestration will somehow be cancelled (or even “replaced,” which does the economy next to no good from a macro standpoint) by the same people who just shut down the government over “defunding” Obamacare, which is by its nature mandatory spending and not defunded today, is nuts. But Democratic politicians benefit from the virtual silence about how the country is doomed to austerity spending caps for what could be an entire decade. And elites enjoy advantages from such a state of affairs as well.

When the Ringmaster speaks of, “negotiat[ing] a longer-term budget and address a range of other issues,” he’s not talking about a bold plan to meet his constituency’s demands.  The Ringmaster is talking about another round of his “Grand Bargain” negotiations.  

The Ringmaster’s base constituency is certainly not demanding cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare or other similar cuts to social programs.

American People Fight Obama’s Treacherous Cuts to Social Security and Medicare

The vast majority, left, right and in-between, have repeatedly made it clear that they do not want cuts to either of these vital programs. A CBS News poll conducted last month shows that 80 percent of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, opposed cutting spending on Medicare to reduce the budget deficit, while 79 percent were against cutting Social Security for that reason.

The people don’t want the cuts, and the facts don’t support them. There are certainly no economic excuses: The federal deficit politicans howl about is shrinking, as none other than Goldman Sachs’ chief economist has attested. And even if it wasn’t, Social Security doesn’t affect it – a fact that many Americans have copped onto despite the best efforts of politicians to deceive them. Clearly, in a time of growing economic inequality, there is no justification for taking more money out of the hands of the elderly and the vulnerable.

 

The only people demanding entitlement cuts are, hmmmm… the Beltway Bigtop funders:

Mark Thoma has an excellent column at the Fiscal Times linking the fight over the debt ceiling to the larger issue of extreme inequality. … I’d like, however, to suggest that the reality is even worse than Thoma suggests.

Here’s how Thoma puts it:

Rising inequality and differential exposure to economic risk has caused one group to see themselves as the “makers” in society who provide for the rest and pay most of the bills, and the other group as “takers” who get all the benefits. The upper strata wonders, “Why should we pay for social insurance when we get little or none of the benefits?” and this leads to an attack on these programs.

How, then, are things even worse than he says? Because many of the rich are selective in their opposition to government helping the unlucky. They’re against stuff like food stamps and unemployment benefits; but bailing out Wall Street? Yay! …

The point is that the superrich have not gone Galt on us – not really, even if they imagine they have. It’s much closer to pure class warfare, a defense of the right of the privileged to keep and extend their privileges. It’s not Ayn Rand, it’s Ancien Régime.

And this just in… the red clown leadership is taking the bait!

Boehner to GOP: Grand Bargain in the Works

House Republicans tell me Speaker John Boehner wants to craft a “grand bargain” on fiscal issues as part of the debt-limit deliberations, and during a series of meetings on Wednesday, he urged colleagues to stick with him.

The revelation came quietly. Boehner called groups of members to his Capitol office all day, taking their temperature on the shutdown and the debt limit. It became clear, members say, that Boehner’s chief goal is conference unity as the debt limit nears, and he’s looking at potentially blending a government-spending deal and debt-limit agreement into a larger budget package.

“It’s the return of the grand bargain,” says one House Republican, who requested anonymity to speak freely. “There weren’t a lot of specifics discussed, and the meetings were mostly about just checking in. But he’s looking hard at the debt limit as a place where we can do something big.”

But can the red clown leadership bring along the rank and file?

The Red Clowns Try To Put Their Scary Monster Back In the Closet

The Ringmaster is clearly ready to do the business and the bidding of the Beltway Bigtop funders.  

In order to signal this to one and all, the Ringmaster has taken to the center ring, lit a fire and is sending up smoke signals to announce that he has appointed his former “opponent,” Mitt T. Redclown’s policy director, currently a fellow at the Hoover Institution Clown College, to the Social Security Advisory Board.

Given the red clowns’ expressed desire to “roll back the new deal,” will they come to the table to take down the programs that red clown funders and the blue clown funders both want gone?

It looks like the red clowns will have to deal with the remnants of a rather unweildy stage prop that they made for previous shows in order to get down to business:

Frankenstein 1 by Mazzastick[T]here is no doubt that the Republican right in the age of Obama, and to some extent before that, in its desire to roll back what’s left of the welfare state, what’s left of the New Deal, and back in the Reagan era, in order to crush what was left of the New Deal era, did call, has called into being an almost Frankenstein-like monster in the form of Fox News, a far right-wing talk radio network, and has really created a kind of almost frothing constituency in these very tightly gerrymandered, often rural, white congressional districts. …

And these people seem to have gone just completely off of the reservation. And it’s gotten to the point that the big capitalist elites that called them into being are now sort of horrified of them. And you see The Wall Street Journal in particular, and some of the old-line more centrist type of Republicans like John McCain and Senator Corker from Tennessee, calling them “wacko birds” and being horrified by them. But, you know, the GOP establishment created all of this in many ways. …

[T]hey’ve really cultivated a group of people who are motivated by some pretty dark, almost proto-fascistic, certainly racist … people who don’t seem to know where to stop and really are just sort of, you know, Ted Cruz stand your ground, who are willing to go all the way, you know, go to the wall to stop this horrific Obamacare, which they have been told by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the right-wing talk machine noise machine is some sort of incredible socialist government intervention in the health care system, which is, of course, completely preposterous, ’cause Obamacare is a fairly center-right corporate-friendly health care intervention. It was designed in part to head off the real social democratic and majority-supported health reform, which was single-payer.

Ironically it is the red clowns’ “Frankenstein Monster” (courtesy of the Koch Clowns, Rupert T. Redclown and Rush T. Redclown among others) that has so far saved the audience from the implementation of cuts to “socialist” entitlement programs which are opposed by the vast majority of the audience.

As the clock ticks down to the Debt Limit Doomsday, can the red clowns tame their Fractious Frankenstein monster?

The Ringmaster and most of the blue clowns are happy to enact much of the red clowns’ agenda (because it is also the blue clowns’ agenda) so long as the red clowns can conveniently be the final recipient of the hot potato of blame. The blue clowns are just too cowardly to enact the corporate agenda of the Beltway Bigtop funders all at once; they mean to implement it in tiny pieces, much like the effect of the Ringmaster’s chained cpi, in hopes that the slow implementation will suppress audience outrage.

Stay tuned! And stay tuned after the main event, because the  blue clowns and the red clowns are already making plans for a joint project to benefit the Union of Pickpockets and Banker Bozos just as soon as the center ring goes dark between acts.

Wall Street Deregulation Bills Likely To Attract Bipartisan Support After Shutdown Negotiations

Attention aux PickPockets (dans La Tour Eiffel) by dullhunkWhen the drama surrounding a government shutdown abates, the House of Representatives expects to take up legislation to expand taxpayer support for derivatives, the complex financial products at the heart of the 2008 meltdown. And while traditionally straightforward tasks like funding the federal government have become raucously contentious in recent weeks, a bill subsidizing Wall Street banks is likely to garner significant bipartisan support.

Also on the post-shutdown agenda is legislation that would prevent the Department of Labor and the SEC from implementing new consumer protection standards for 401(k) accounts and other retirement funds.

Both bills are efforts to roll back reforms that passed under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. A small cadre of liberal Democrats are marshaling opposition to the bills, but still expect dozens of Democrats to join a united Republican Party in passing the legislation.

“As we’re trying to forestall a government shutdown, we’ve got these ugly financial services bills on the horizon,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus. “It’s a multi-pronged attack on the middle class.”

Sep 30 2013

Grand Bargain Circus – Midnight on the Highwire

Midnight on the Highwire

tight rope bike

Welcome back circus fans!  The drama under the Beltway Bigtop is rising ever higher as the antics of the red clowns have captured the show.  The clowns are still refusing to get in their car and leave the stage.  

Sep 27 2013

Grand Bargain Circus – Red Clowns Gone Wild!

Dogs and horses in usual circus act

Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

Step right up! Come one, come all to the continuing Grand Bargain Circus!  

Just as when last we checked, the red clowns are still refusing to get in the car and leave the ring until the Ringmaster makes an enticing offer.  Some of the red clowns have been imbibing in the fermented popcorn and their demands are becoming increasingly delusional.  Today the red clowns are going wild, making all of the outrageous demands that they can think of to force the Ringmaster to beat more concessions out of the audience.  

All the rage for the past couple of days has been the red clowns saying that they won’t get in the car if the Ringmaster reduces the number of those in the audience without health insurance to about 30 million and provides a sizable return to the Ringmaster’s donors in the health care sector rewards the insurance and pharmaceutical industries handsomely.

That simple demand which the Ringmaster refuses to countenance has festered into a raging torrent of demands, among them that the audience fork over more taxes to offset the tax liability of the rich and also acquiesce to more environmental destruction.

The drama here under the big top is growing as the demands rise…

Sep 25 2013

The Grand Bargain Circus Is Back In Town

Under The Big Top

The Circus Is Open

Hey looky, the circus is back in town – and here come the two lead clowns, one red clown and one blue clown – specially chosen by the Ringmaster:

Like harbingers of a hard winter, anti-entitlement spokesmen Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles have returned to the nation’s capital. These constituentless advocates for a widely disliked set of policies were given their usual unwarranted level of press coverage. Somewhat messianically, Simpson told Politico that “we have to be in reserve” in case politicians “put their country at risk” – by failing to impose the destructive austerity policies favored by Bowles and Simpson’s backers.

“But don’t use our names,” adds Simpson, “because that might be too volatile. We’re both on the witness protection program now.” …

It’s all part of a wider Washington offensive. As another recent Politico news item reported, “Fix the Debt is ramping back up its lobbying efforts as government funding fights become the topic du jour on Capitol Hill.” Politico listed a group of Republican and Democratic politicians who “met Monday with Maya MacGuineas, head of the campaign, and members of the group’s CEO council and small business members.”

The Ringmaster is busy as hell trying to pack all of the clowns into the car.  The red clowns and the blue clowns keep complaining about each others flatulence while in the car and continuously stream in and out of it.  The clowns all agree that they want to get into the car and get on with the show, but the Ringmaster needs to come up with the correct enticement.  The Ringmaster proposes to rob the audience and distribute the proceeds amongst the clowns and their cronies; the clowns don’t trust the Ringmaster to take enough from the audience to make it worth their while.

GOP-White House ‘Grand Bargain’ Talks Collapse

Senior Republican US senators say talks with the White House about a sequester-addressing fiscal deal have broken down, and they say any future talks must include Democratic members.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., was the first among a group of GOP senators with whom senior White House officials had been talking all summer about a “grand bargain” fiscal deal to reveal those talks had stalled. Corker told reporters the White House has lost credibility with Republican senators on several issues, including pursuit of a big fiscal deal. …

Several participants confirmed efforts with the White House to strike a deal that lessens or voids sequestration have been scuttled, and signs of hope for a Pentagon and defense sector eager to avoid more cuts to planned military spending began to recede. …

Democrats from states with a large defense-sector presence are eager to find a way to turn off the next round of cuts to planned defense spending.

The clowns all agree that the audience hasn’t brought enough stuff with them into the tent to make it worth their while.  The Ringmaster has proposed to steal their retirement securities.  Will he now agree to drop his demand for taxes on the clowns and their cronies to sweeten the deal?  Stay tuned…

“All the cuts they need are there to avoid a possible shutdown”

It’s impossible to know what will happen in a fluid situation like this, of course. But it pays to be a bit paranoid. When you find yourself in a position of counting on your enemies to be so stupid as to keep saving you from your friends, you are in a precarious position. …

[I]t’s important to remember that the earlier deals didn’t fail to materialize because the two sides disagreed on cutting Social Security. They didn’t. It failed because the president refused to give up on some sort of tax hike in exchange. … Republicans have added another demand: defund Obamacare. If they want to come up with some sort of agreement in which the GOP saves face, to me the logical way to do that would be for the Democrats to agree to drop their demand for tax hikes if the Republicans drop their demand for defunding Obamacare. What’s left of the deal? You guessed it.

Special Bonus – What Happened Last Time The Circus Was In Town

Remember the last time the circus was here?  Yes, that’s right, you got fleeced by a bunch of carnies!  One of the big clowns, Pete Peterson, paid a couple of academic con-persons to shill for austerity and the Ringmaster got away with the con.  Take a look at what it cost you last time.  Are you ready to let the Ringmaster do it again?

Once again, the Beltway fell for cherry-picked data-and you paid the price.

So what has austerity cost us in the United States? The full price is hard to calculate, but the Congressional Budget Office figures that sequestration alone has cut GDP growth by about 0.8 percentage points. Since sequestration accounts for less than half of total belt-tightening over the past couple of years, a rough guess suggests that our austerity binge has cut economic growth by something like 2 percentage points-about half the total growth we might normally expect following a recession. Ironically, this means that we have indeed suffered the halving of economic growth that Reinhart and Rogoff estimated we’d get from running up the national debt above 90 percent. But we got it from not running up the debt. …

The obvious question at this point is: Why? It’s not as if we needed the skills of Nostradamus to predict the consequences of austerity. It’s pretty much textbook economics.  … Reinhart and Rogoff were pushing on an open door. There were lots of powerful actors-Pete Peterson, Grover Norquist, the Washington Post editorial page-ready to leap at the chance to pretend that their pursuit of austerity was motivated not by politics or self-interest, but merely by a virtuous desire for economic growth. The 90 percent paper provided them that cover.

So have we learned our lesson from all this? Of course not. No further stimulus is even remotely on the table, either in the United States or in Europe, and Republicans are already promising another debt ceiling crisis unless Obama agrees to yet more spending cuts. The inmates took over the asylum three years ago, and they show no sign of leaving.

Austerity is working out fine for the 1 percent: Their jobs are safe, their investments are growing, and their taxes are low. But the rest of us are paying a high price in the form of slow growth, high unemployment, and stagnant wages for years to come. All things considered, we’ve been remarkably tolerant of our fate. The folks who run the world might do well to ponder how long that’s going to last.

May 22 2013

John T. Harvey: Austerity Leads To… Austerity!

In the real world and the reality based community, there is talk about austerity from people who understand the nuances of it and macroeconomic accounting identities. They point out the undeniable fact that there is austerity in the UK, the Eurozone, and yes, the United States. This interactive chart will show this, though I can’t embed it here. So instead, I will add a small snapshot of some of the data.

Net spending in the United States has steadily declined since it rose from 2008 to 2009 when the inadequate stimulus(only $500 billion of direct spending at about 1.5 percent of GDP) was passed. Stimulus packages don’t exist in a vacuum, and you have to count all government spending, which basically shows how exactly the numbers, including the stimulus as this does, didn’t close the output gap. And since the numbers didn’t, that is actually austerity. After all, spending went up in the UK and Eurozone from 2008 to 2009 as well, and since then, their spending has declined. Even though it is on a higher level, it is being cut at an even more alarming rate with its fate set to go below our miserable level by 2017.

I have pointed this out before. Sometimes I get frustrated, and point this out harshly, because some pride themselves on denying this established data to support whatever a politician in their party says or does. I don’t know why. Denying reality is not going to give resources to people who need them. There is a reason my last diary has been cited by the reality based Post Keynesian MMT community, in which I am truly grateful for and humbled by; it is the truth.

The real economy of jobs and wages continues to go nowhere thanks to the lack of deficit spending and an illogical debate in DC about how much austerity we need to appease the invisible bond vigilantes and confidence fairies. It is neoliberal deficit terrorist economic insanity based on lies. And on that note, it is my pleasure to republish a piece by someone in the reality based economic community whom I can now proudly say is a friend of mine, Post Keynesian MMT economist John T. Harvey. He, once again, brings clarity to these matters in a way that only he can.  

Feb 27 2013

The Sequester: Bipartisan Craponomics at Its Worst

Yes, because no one listened to those that warned(including myself) this would happen in 2010 with the Bush tax cut sellout leading to the debt ceiling debacle in 2011 to now, it looks like the sequester created by this White House and Congress is going to happen. Back then, there was leverage with the Bush tax cuts expiring for using the High Value Platinum Coin, invoking the 14th amendment, or legislating the debt ceiling away entirely. None of this was considered even as a temporary measure to avoid this epic failure fixing to hit our shores.

It’s insulting to the public that none of this was even tried, because this sequester will be painful and more painful in the future. The political damage as we create more miniature crisis will be even costlier than what is projected as more bills have to be passed every few months which always get worse the more they are revisited, all needlessly created all in the name what I call deficit terrorism. Through each bipartisan crisis more austerity is brought out in these miniature Shock Doctrine scenarios especially on the debt ceiling. This austerity will eventually terrorize the public because a failure to govern or understand our economy.

Sure, it will take awhile to be phased in and each federal agency will implement its cuts differently, on its own timeline, but by April 4th, 2013 some real pain is likely to be felt by the public.

Older posts «

Fetch more items