09/07/2011 archive

Please, Sir, More Cuts

Despite the clear evidence that austerity budgets will hurt the stagnating economy, that tax cuts and focusing on the debt and deficit do not create jobs, President Barack Obama will present a $300 billion program that will propose more of the same. The Democrats on the bipartisan Congressional Super Committee that was created to solve the problem of the deficit, taxes and job stimulus, has taken a lead from Obama, more cuts, please:

The key dilemma facing President Obama and Congressional Democrats is that Republicans are wholly unwilling to support any new job-creating spending projects — even projects with bipartisan support — unless they’re offset with spending cuts or savings elsewhere in the budget.

Thus, Democrats on the new joint deficit Super Committee will seek more than the $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction they’ve been tasked with finding, in order to help offset some of those costs.

Guess where those cuts will come from? Social Security (which does NOT contribute to the deficit), Medicare and Medicaid with President Obama leading the way:

In the speech Thursday, Obama will challenge the 12-member congressional supercommittee to exceed its $1.5 trillion goal for budget savings – setting a higher target that would allow the additional money to fund tax breaks and other stimulus spending. But the “very specific” deficit recommendations that Obama promised last month won’t come until after the speech, although the exact timing is unclear, White House officials said.


The deficit plan will be more specific than the framework the White House released in April. It is likely to include some unpopular measures that, until now, Obama backed only behind closed doors during the July talks with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), according to Democratic officials familiar with proposal.

Before the “grand bargain” fell apart over tax revenues, Obama and Boehner agreed on about $250 billion in proposed cuts to Medicare, including gradually raising the eligibility age to 67 and hiking co-pays and premiums for wealthier beneficiaries. They also agreed to change the inflation calculator for Social Security and other federal programs . . . .

Most polls indicate Americans believe the country is on the wrong track and that the president is doing a poor job handling the economy and yet all that is being put forward are the same ideas that put this country into this hole. Contrary to what Obama seems to think, his plan will not attract moderate and independent voters he so desperately needs in next year’s elections.

The Same Old Water

So unpredictable, and by that I mean totally…

Dictable I guess.

A Campaign Challenge: Defining Obama

By JEFF ZELENY, The New York Times

Published: September 6, 2011

Mr. Obama stands at a precarious moment of his term. Public pessimism is at its highest point in nearly three years, and his approval rating has fallen to its lowest, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News Poll, which also found that more than 60 percent of those surveyed disapprove of how he is handling the economy and jobs.

The White House can no longer take comfort in comparing the approval ratings for Mr. Obama with Ronald Reagan’s or Bill Clinton’s in the months after their stinging midterm election defeats. By the time their re-election efforts were intensifying after Labor Day, their respective repositioning had helped elevate their approval above 50 percent.

“If this is just a referendum on economic conditions, then any incumbent is going to struggle with that, but it’s not just that. It’s a contest about what to do about it,” said David Axelrod, the chief strategist to the president’s re-election campaign. “I’d be more worried if I saw some compelling new argument for how to lead the country, but these guys are carrying the same old water.”

Speaking of carrying the same old water-

The president intends to offer at least some progressive proposals to help regain a fighting posture that he has not had since the health care debate, but a provision is also being discussed to place a new moratorium on some regulations that affect the economy, excluding health care and financial rules. The proposals are likely to infuriate an already unhappy Democratic base.

So he is going to be Endorsing The Rick Perry Jobs Program.

What else?  The same old, same old tax cuts that are 1) not new and will therefore not improve the economy OR create jobs and 2) are tax cuts which have been consistently proven over the last thirty years do not improve the economy OR create jobs.

Obama Jobs Plan: $300 Billion, Half to Tax Cuts

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Wednesday September 7, 2011 6:10 am

We can divvy it up into five separate components:

  1. tax-side stimulus. There you have the extension of the payroll tax cut, with a new employer-side cut, perhaps targeted only to firms that hire more workers on aggregate, as has been discussed.
  2. infrastructure. Included in this is some amalgam of the surface transportation bill and the national infrastructure bank, along with Jared Bernstein’s FAST proposal for fixing and upgrading American public schools.
  3. direct state aid. This is slightly new for this round, but still desperately needed. Jobs statistics for the past two years routinely show cuts in the public sector offsetting whatever gains exist in the private sector. Teachers and firefighters and cops and nurses are being laid off across the country. Stopping this corrosion is one of the best things the federal government can do right now.
  4. help for the unemployed. Re-upping extended unemployment insurance benefits would be part of this, but also you can expect a program for long-term unemployed modeled after Georgia WORKS, which allows long-term jobless to collect benefits (as well as a small stipend) and essentially intern at local companies for a short-term assignment. This is controversial, as the benefits of Georgia WORKS are mixed at best, and labor leaders have questioned whether it violates federal laws to allow free labor for corporations. If you pushed this envelope further and made it a wage-subsidy policy, you might have something, but this appears tailored to catch the eye of Republicans.
  5. mortgage relief. It’s possible some kind of mass-refinancing scheme gets announced, although there are hurdles, mainly FHFA Acting Director Ed DeMarco, who is reluctant to refi many borrowers who wouldn’t normally qualify as well as negate any representations and warrants liability on the part of the banks. There’s also the fact that banks don’t appear to be able to keep up with the refinancing applications at present, and there should be no faith that they would be able to support a surge in such work.

Let’s briefly look at the numbers. A $300 billion scheme would amount to around 2% of total GDP, and that’s being charitable by saying that this would all be used up in one year. That would have an impact, but half of this would be supply-side solutions that haven’t inspired much confidence during the recession. The question of whether temporary tax cuts are spent is a good one to ask. Especially on the employer side; if minimum wage increases have no effect on jobs, then surely tax subsidies to make hiring cheaper wouldn’t either.

What’s more, $112 billion of this $300 billion would come just from that extension of the payroll tax cut, which is already in place. That’s not stimulative, it’s just an extension of current law. So would be the $55 billion or so for unemployment benefits. Letting them expire might be undesirable, but just keeping them in place would just maintain the status quo, which last month created something on the order of zero jobs. The rest of the items amount to $130-$140 billion, not nearly enough to fill the demand gap hole. Actual direct public works spending is scant, and the supply-side faerie dust irrelevant to the actual problem.

If this is a policy document, it’s both inadequate and dangerous. If it’s a political one, it stays within well-drawn lines, rather than screaming what even the bond markets say the world needs – a complete reordering of fiscal policy to deal with a raging crisis. Yet we still have a Democratic Administration playing mostly on Republican turf.

(h/t lambert @ Corrente)

Obama Selling His Republican Agenda

President Obama is going to lay our his jobs plan before Congress on Thursday night and most will not even bother to listen. Why? it seems the President has a credibility gap. He says one thing and does another. His plan to pump $300 billion into the economy with tax cuts, infrastructure spending and direct aid to state and local governments.

WASHINGTON — The economy weak and the public seething, President Barack Obama is expected to propose $300 billion in tax cuts and federal spending Thursday night to get Americans working again. Republicans offered Tuesday to compromise with him on jobs – but also assailed his plans in advance of his prime-time speech.


According to people familiar with the White House deliberations, two of the biggest measures in the president’s proposals for 2012 are expected to be a one-year extension of a payroll tax cut for workers and an extension of expiring jobless benefits. Together those two would total about $170 billion.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan was still being finalized and some proposals could still be subject to change.

The White House is also considering a tax credit for businesses that hire the unemployed. That could cost about $30 billion. Obama has also called for public works projects, such as school construction. Advocates of that plan have called for spending of $50 billion, but the White House proposal is expected to be smaller.

Obama also is expected to continue for one year a tax break for businesses that allows them to deduct the full value of new equipment. The president and Congress negotiated that provision into law for 2011 last December.

Though Obama has said he intends to propose long-term deficit reduction measures to cover the up-front costs of his jobs plan, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama would not lay out a wholesale deficit reduction plan in his speech.

The majority of the tax cuts are payroll tax cuts that will siphon off more from the social safety net feeding the Republicans rhetoric that the big three are broken and adding to the deficit. The rest of the plan would only put less than $50 billion into jobs.

Does any of this sound familiar? As Atrios puts it:

The problem that arises is that if you start beating the deficit drum, then you haven’t made voters “trust you” on the deficit, you’ve made the case to voters that they should elect the Republicans who will be better on this very important issue … If you make the case that Republican issues are important, you’re making the case for … Republicans.

Much like Matt Taibbi: “I just don’t believe this guy anymore, and it’s become almost painful to listen to him”

There’s a football game you can get ready to watch instead.

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”.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Stopping Bashing Government Workers

Two thousand and eleven has been one of the toughest years for public workers that I can remember. Every month until this past one, the private sector has added jobs, and every month the public sector has lost them. The August employment report shows that the public sector got hit hard again, loosing 17,000 jobs. In states across the country, public workers aren’t just being laid off: they’re being made into economic scapegoats. These workers deserve to be treated fairly any time. But in the wake of Hurricane Irene, as we watched teams of federal, state and local government workers tirelessly saving lives, and on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, they deserve much better.

The last decade has been marked by both peril and possibility, and in all of it there has been no shortage of American heroes. Many, if not the majority, worked for the government, as firefighters and police, as teachers and rescue workers. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, men and women proudly wore hats and shirts labeled “FDNY” and “NYPD.” When we wept for our nation, it was the bravery of the first responders that reminded us of our national character. There was a new found respect for [public service and a heartening change in how Americans viewed their government. Fire and police departments, and organizations such as the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps, saw a surge in applicants. We didn’t just want to believe in those workers. We wanted tobe them.

Mary Bottari:Nurses to Obama: Heal America, Tax Wall Street!

As President Obama gets ready for his big jobs speech Thursday, America’s nurses have a message for him. “Heal America, Tax Wall Street!” the signs read as nurses rallied in front of 61 Congressional offices this week. The nurses are proposing a bold alternative to the “cut, cut, cut” rhetoric emanating from Washington, D.C

Their proposal? “It’s time for the Wall Street financiers who created this crisis and continue to hold much of the nation’s wealth to start contributing to rebuild this country and for the American people to regain their future,” explained Rosanne DeMoro the Executive Director of National Nurses Union (NNU) in a press release. The nurses are joining groups across the nation and around the world who are calling for a financial transaction fee on high-volume, high-speed Wall Street trades, to tamp down dangerous speculation and to raise revenue for heath care, jobs and other critical needs.

Amy Goodman: 9/11 Victim 0001: Father Mychal’s Message

The body bag marked “Victim 0001” on Sept. 11, 2001, contained the corpse of Father Mychal Judge, a Catholic chaplain with the Fire Department of New York. When he heard about the disaster at the World Trade Center, he donned his Catholic collar and firefighter garb and raced downtown. He saw people jump to their deaths to avoid the inferno more than 1,000 feet above. At 9:59 a.m., the South Tower collapsed, and the force and debris from that mass of steel, concrete, glass and humanity as it hit the ground is likely what killed Father Mychal. His was the first recorded death from the attacks that morning. His life’s work should be central to the 10th anniversary commemorations of the Sept. 11 attacks: peace, tolerance and reconciliation.

Phyllis Bennis: Headlines or Not, the Iraq War is Not Over

It might seem like cause for celebration after reading the New York Times headline, “Iraq War Marks First Month with No U.S. Military Deaths].” But the smaller print on the page reminds us why celebrating is not really in order: “Many Iraqis are killed…” The cost of this war is still way too high – in Iraqi lives and in our money.

With so much attention and so many billions of our tax dollars shifting from Iraq to the devastating and ever more costly war in Afghanistan, it is too easy to forget that there are still almost 50,000 U.S. troops occupying Iraq. We are still paying almost $50 billion just this year for the war in Iraq. And while we don’t hear about it very often, many Iraqis are still being killed.

Credibility Gap

Obama and Jobs: Why I Don’t Believe Him Anymore

Matt Taibbi, Roling Stone Magazine

POSTED: September 6, 9:17 AM ET

I remember following Obama on the campaign trail and hearing all sorts of promises before union-heavy crowds. He said he would raise the minimum wage every year; he said he would fight free-trade agreements. He also talked about repealing the Bush tax cuts and ending tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas.

It’s not just that he hasn’t done those things. The more important thing is that the people he’s surrounded himself with are not labor people, but stooges from Wall Street. Barack Obama has as his chief of staff a former top-ranking executive from one of the most grossly corrupt mega-companies on earth, JP Morgan Chase. He sees Bill Daley in his own office every day, yet when it comes time to talk abut labor issues, he has to go out and make selected visits twice a year or whatever to the Richard Trumkas of the world.

Listening to Obama talk about jobs and shared prosperity yesterday reminded me that we are back in campaign mode and Barack Obama has started doing again what he does best – play the part of a progressive. He’s good at it. It sounds like he has a natural affinity for union workers and ordinary people when he makes these speeches. But his policies are crafted by representatives of corporate/financial America, who happen to entirely make up his inner circle.

I just don’t believe this guy anymore, and it’s become almost painful to listen to him.

On This Day In History September 7

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.

September 7 is the 250th day of the year (251st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 115 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1813, the United States gets its nickname, Uncle Sam.

The name is linked to Samuel Wilson, a meat packer from Troy, New York, who supplied barrels of beef to the United States Army during the War of 1812. Wilson (1766-1854) stamped the barrels with “U.S.” for United States, but soldiers began referring to the grub as “Uncle Sam’s.” The local newspaper picked up on the story and Uncle Sam eventually gained widespread acceptance as the nickname for the U.S. federal government.

In the late 1860s and 1870s, political cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902) began popularizing the image of Uncle Sam. Nast continued to evolve the image, eventually giving Sam the white beard and stars-and-stripes suit that are associated with the character today.


On this day in 1813, the United States gets its nickname, Uncle Sam. The name is linked to Samuel Wilson, a meat packer from Troy, New York, who supplied barrels of beef to the United States Army during the War of 1812. Wilson (1766-1854) stamped the barrels with “U.S.” for United States, but soldiers began referring to the grub as “Uncle Sam’s.” The local newspaper picked up on the story and Uncle Sam eventually gained widespread acceptance as the nickname for the U.S. federal government.

In the late 1860s and 1870s, political cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902) began popularizing the image of Uncle Sam. Nast continued to evolve the image, eventually giving Sam the white beard and stars-and-stripes suit that are associated with the character today.

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 NASA mulls ‘what-ifs’ of unmanned space station

By Kerry Sheridan, AFP

2 hrs 6 mins ago

NASA is mulling the worst-case scenarios of leaving the $100 billion International Space Station unstaffed for a period of time following the crash of a Russian rocket, US astronauts said Tuesday.

Two Americans aboard the ISS, Ron Garan and Mike Fossum, told reporters in a video press conference from space that they have begun minimal preparations, namely taking video of some tasks in order to quickly train future station staff.

However, NASA mission managers in Houston are hard at work on contingency plans after both Russia and the United States admitted that abandoning the research outpost, at least temporarily, is a possibility.