Daily Archive: 12/20/2011

Dec 20 2011

Congressional Game of Chicken: The House Of Unrepresentatives

House Rejects Senate Payroll Tax Deal

by David Dayen

The House of Representatives officially rejected the bipartisan agreement that passed the Senate with 89 votes for a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, extended unemployment benefits and a doctor’s fix to prevent a 27% reduction in Medicare reimbursement rates. They did so under a complicated scheme whereby members did not vote on the Senate deal itself, but on whether to move to a conference committee on the package, with the rejection of the Senate deal implicit in the exchange. The final roll call was 229-193, with seven Republicans switching sides and voting with Democrats to reject the conference committee. All Democrats present voted against the bill. [..]

The seven Republican no votes: Charlie Bass (NH), Jeff Flake (AZ), Chris Gibson (NY), Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA), Tim Johnson (IL), Walter Jones (NC), Frank Wolf (VA).

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid won’t play:

“My House colleagues should be clear on what their vote means today. If Republicans vote down the bipartisan compromise negotiated by Republican and Democratic leaders, and passed by 89 senators including 39 Republicans, their intransigence will mean that in ten days, 160 million middle class Americans will see a tax increase, over two million Americans will begin losing their unemployment benefits, and millions of senior citizens on Medicare could find it harder to receive treatment from physicians. “Senator McConnell and I negotiated a compromise at Speaker Boehner’s request. I will not re-open negotiations until the House follows through and passes this agreement that was negotiated by Republican leaders, and supported by 90 percent of the Senate. “This is a question of whether the House of Representatives will be able to fulfill the basic legislative function of passing an overwhelmingly bipartisan agreement, in order to protect the economic security of millions of middle-class Americans. Democratic and Republican leaders negotiated a compromise and Speaker Boehner should not walk away from it, putting middle-class families at risk of a thousand-dollar tax hike just because a few angry Tea Partiers raised their voices to the Speaker. “I have always sought a year-long extension. I have been trying to forge one for weeks, and I am happy to continue negotiating one once we have made sure middle-class families will not wake up to a tax increase on January 1st. So before we re-open negotiations on a year-long extension, the House of Representatives must protect middle-class families by passing the overwhelmingly bipartisan compromise that Republicans negotiated, and was approved by ninety percent of the Senate.”

A couple of point where I disagree with Barney Frank is that we are doing better than Europe and that the economy is doing better. Maybe for the 1% it is but the middle class is shriveling. The important part of this bill was an extension of the UI which is about expire.

Dec 20 2011

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”.

New York Times Editorial: The Middle-Class Agenda

Earlier this month, President Obama delivered his first unabashed 2012 campaign speech. Unlike his opponents, Mr. Obama acknowledged the ravages of income equality, the hollowing out of the American middle class. There is no hyperbole in the urgency he conveyed about “a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class.”

The challenge for Mr. Obama is to translate the plight of the middle class into an agenda for broad prosperity. Congress’s inability to cleanly extend even emergency measures though 2012 – including the temporary payroll tax cut and federal unemployment benefits – underscores the difficulty. The alternative is continued decline.

Recent government data show that 100 million Americans, or about one in three, are living in poverty or very close to it. Of 13.3 million unemployed Americans now searching for work, 5.7 million have been looking for more than six months, while millions more have given up altogether. Even a job is no guarantee of middle-class security. The real median income of working-age households has declined, from $61,600 in 2000 to $55,300 in 2010 – the result of abysmally slow job growth even before the onset of the recession.

Joe Nocera: An Inconvenient Truth

There is so much about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that we should be angry about.

In their heyday, these strange hybrids – part corporation, part government agency – were the biggest bullies in Washington, quick to bludgeon critics who dared suggest that their dual missions of maximizing profits while making homeownership affordable for low- and moderate-income Americans were incompatible. They steamrolled their regulator and pushed back at any suggestion that their capital was inadequate.

For years, they essentially wrote most of the legislation that affected them, which they larded with loopholes. In the mid-2000s, they had giant accounting scandals. Eventually, their quest for profits led them to make a belated, disastrous foray into subprime mortgages, which ended with their collapse, and which has cost taxpayers about $150 billion. Tragically, Fannie and Freddie could have led a housing recovery – if they hadn’t become crippled wards of the state instead.

Dean Baker: The Cowardly Senator Wyden: Casting His Lot With Paul Ryan on Health Care

Years ago, members of the elite showed their courage by leading troops into battle. They risked their own lives for the greater good. (Never mind that the wars being fought often did not serve anything resembling the “greater good.”)

Things are different today. In the land of the 1 percent, the way you show your courage is by demonstrating your willingness to beat up on the elderly. That gets you bucketloads of campaign contributions, high praise from The Washington Post in both its news and opinion pages, and could even get you named Person of the Year by Time Magazine.

Last week, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) stood up to do the big kick. He decided to join ranks with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) on a proposal to replace Medicare with a voucher-type system. The claim  was that with increased competition, we will be able to lower costs.

George Zornick: The Payroll Tax Cut Gets the Fox News Treatment

A now-familiar theme is playing out today in Washington. A grand bargain worked out between leaders from both parties gains significant steam and heads for passage, only to careen off the rails at the last minute when far-right members of the House of Representatives lay down on the tracks. So why does this keep happening?

On Saturday morning, the Senate passed a bill that would extend a payroll tax cut and federal unemployment insurance for two more months, while preventing doctors from losing over a quarter of their annual Medicare payments. It also contained a Republican provision to force President Obama to issue a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline within sixty days.

Democrats wanted more-they originally asked for a year-long payroll tax cut, at a lower rate, and paid for with a surtax on incomes over $1 million. And even if the Keystone provision could kill the project, as the Obama administration is now signaling, Democrats didn’t want that in there, either.

John Nichols: “Occupy Iowa Caucus” Rejects Obama, Urges “Uncommitted” Vote

President Obama faces no serious challenge from an individual on the left in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.

But that does not mean that Obama will get all the votes cast by Democrats on January 3.

Peace and economic justice activists, some of them associated with a newly launched “Occupy Iowa Caucus” campaign, are arguing that caucus goers should reject the president and instead vote for “uncommitted” slates.

“Uncommitted” slates have won Iowa caucuses before. In 1972 and 1976, more Democratic caucus votes were cast for the “uncommitted” option than for any of the announced candidates. As recently as 1992, “uncommitted” beat Bill Clinton.

Neal Peirce: President Obama’s Puzzling Silence on Marijuana Policy

WASHINGTON – “Dance with the One that Brought You” is the title of a well-known song. But the Urban Dictionary offers a deeper meaning: “The principle that someone should pay proper fealty to those who have gone out of their way to look after them.”

Barack Obama should pay attention. In 2008, young voters were enthused and turned out for him by the millions.

But now? The campus/youth enthusiasm factor has declined sharply. The deficiency seriously imperils Obama’s re-election effort.

There’s one issue, though, that might reignite youthful enthusiasm. That issue is marijuana – partly its medical use, but especially Americans’ right to recreational use free of potential arrest and possible prison time.

Dec 20 2011

Pobrecitos

As atrios says- LEAVE THE RICH ASSHOLES ALOOOOOOONE!

Bankers Seek to Debunk Attack on Top 1%

By Max Abelson, Bloomberg News

Dec 20, 2011 12:01 AM ET

The top 1 percent of taxpayers in the U.S. made at least $343,927 in 2009, the last year data is available, according to the Internal Revenue Service. While average household income increased 62 percent from 1979 through 2007, the top 1 percent’s more than tripled, an October Congressional Budget Office report showed. As a result, the U.S. had greater income inequality in 2007 than China or Iran, according to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook.



“Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs,” Nick Hanauer, co-founder of aQuantive Inc., an online advertising company he sold to Microsoft Corp. for about $6 billion, wrote in a Dec. 1 Bloomberg View article. “Let’s tax the rich like we once did and use that money to spur growth.”

Two out of three Americans support raising taxes on households with incomes of at least $250,000, according to a Bloomberg-Washington Post national poll conducted in October.



“It’s simply a fact that pretty much all the private- sector jobs in America are created by the decisions of ‘the 1 percent’ to hire and invest,” Rosenkranz, 69, said in an e- mail. “Since their confidence in the future more than any other factor will drive those decisions, it makes little sense to undermine their confidence by vilifying them.”



Cooperman, 68, said in an interview that he can’t walk through the dining room of St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida, without being thanked for speaking up. At least four people expressed their gratitude on Dec. 5 while he was eating an egg-white omelet, he said.

And here I thought jobs were created by “Small Businesses.”

Update: lambert @ Corrente.  Krugman.  Felix Salmon.

Dec 20 2011

On this Day In History December 20

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.

December 20 is the 354th day of the year (355th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 11 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1803, the French hand over New Orleans and Lower Louisiana to the United States.

In April 1803, the United States purchased from France the 828,000 square miles that had formerly been French Louisiana. The area was divided into two territories: the northern half was Louisiana Territory, the largely unsettled (though home to many Indians) frontier section that was later explored by Lewis and Clark; and the southern Orleans Territory, which was populated by Europeans.

Unlike the sprawling and largely unexplored northern territory (which eventually encompassed a dozen large states), Orleans Territory was a small, densely populated region that was like a little slice of France in the New World. With borders that roughly corresponded to the modern state of Louisiana, Orleans Territory was home to about 50,000 people, a primarily French population that had been living under the direction of a Spanish administration.

The Louisiana Purchase (French: Vente de la Louisiane “Sale of Louisiana”) was the acquisition by the United States of America of 828,800 square miles (2,147,000 km2) of France’s claim to the territory of Louisiana in 1803. The U.S. paid 60 million francs ($11,250,000) plus cancellation of debts worth 18 million francs ($3,750,000), for a total sum of 15 million dollars for the Louisiana territory ($219 million in today’s currency).

The Louisiana Purchase encompassed all or part of 14 current U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. The land purchased contained all of present-day Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, parts of Minnesota that were west of the Mississippi River, most of North Dakota, nearly all of South Dakota, northeastern New Mexico, the portions of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the Continental Divide, and Louisiana west of the Mississippi River, including the city of New Orleans. (The Oklahoma Panhandle and southwestern portions of Kansas and Louisiana were still claimed by Spain at the time of the Purchase.) In addition, the Purchase contained small portions of land that would eventually become part of the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The purchase, which doubled the size of the United States, comprises around 23% of current U.S. territory. The population of European immigrants was estimated to be 92,345 as of the 1810 census.

The purchase was a vital moment in the presidency of Thomas Jefferson. At the time, it faced domestic opposition as being possibly unconstitutional. Although he felt that the U.S. Constitution did not contain any provisions for acquiring territory, Jefferson decided to purchase Louisiana because he felt uneasy about France and Spain having the power to block American trade access to the port of New Orleans.

Napoleon Bonaparte, upon completion of the agreement, stated, “This accession of territory affirms forever the power of the United States, and I have given England a maritime rival who sooner or later will humble her pride.”