04/10/2013 archive

A Fail On Every Level

On policy Barack Obama’s proposed budget is just massively bad.  Everyone admits that it is huge cut in benefits for our oldest, poorest, and sickest Seniors.  What you don’t hear so much is that it is also a substantial slash to Veterans, you know, those guys who risked their lives and lost limbs defending our country.  Finally, it is an enormous middle class tax increase falling most hard on annual incomes between $30 – $50,000, the people who actually represent the median instead of Boyars with 6 figure salaries who merely imagine they’re poor because they can’t afford their McMansion, their winter cruise to Aruba, private school, AND a new Mercedes every year.

More than that it’s a complete and utter failure in terms of reducing the deficit, as even Peter Orzag admits

Consider what future projections look like if we instead assume that the chained index will grow just 10 basis points a year more slowly than the current indexes. In that case, the deficit reduction from switching to the chained index would be less than $150 billion over 10 years, rather than $340 billion. And the reduction in the long-term Social Security deficit would be about 7 percent, rather than 20 percent.

This would make a pretty big difference in the effect on Social Security benefits. For an 85-year-old who began receiving checks at 65, checks would be about 2 percent less, rather than 6 percent if the chained index were to grow 25 to 30 basis points more slowly than the standard index.

(I)f switching to the chained index reduces the 10-year deficit by less than $150 billion and the 75-year Social Security actuarial gap by less than 10 percent, can a “grand bargain” built around it really be all that grand?

So even if deficits were a problem (and they’re not as Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman has repeatedly pointed out), the measures in Obama’s budget are utterly ineffective at reducing them.  What does work?  Economic growth and even the pitiful little we’ve been able to achieve has succeeded in reducing the deficit to virtually nothing if you look at percentages instead of scary big numbers.

So why then?  As this Politico article points out, Barack Obama and his Administration think it will somehow get the Republicans to agree to new taxes.

For the past two years, Obama has championed what he calls “a balanced approach” to debt and deficit reduction, demanding $700 billion in high-earner tax hikes from Republicans earlier this year as a prerequisite to budget cuts and reform of runaway Social Security and Medicare costs.

The time to pay up is now, Obama’s aides say, and the White House needed to offer something to bring Republicans back to the bargaining table. They insist that he’s opposed to deeply cutting entitlements and is willing to do only the bare minimum needed to get a deal done.

A senior Democratic strategist close to the White House said Obama “didn’t have to put the chained CPI in the budget” but chose to do so as a “gesture of goodwill” to Senate Republicans, who have emerged as a recent bargaining partner.

Well, forget that $700 Billion.  Now the number is $580 Billion.

Mr. President- no amount of revenue is enough for selling out the elderly, poor and disabled; our Veterans who offered their lives; the broad middle class.

No amount of revenue is enough for you to break your promises to the millions who voted for you.

No amount of revenue is enough for you to ensure the Democratic Party faces a toxic electoral climate in 2014 and for the foreseeable future.

Who will ever trust you, or them again?

Well, but if we don’t do it now, just wait for those evil Republicans to get in.

“We’re not going to have the White House forever, folks. If he doesn’t do this, Paul Ryan is going to do it for us in a few years,” said a longtime Obama aide, referring to the 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate who proposed a sweeping overhaul of Medicare that would replace some benefits with vouchers.

What’s to stop them from doing it anyway?  Congress is not bound by the actions of a previous Congress.

But they are men of honor.

How did that Filibuster deal work out for you?

And it has always been so effective in the past.  Republicans are already backing away from this one.  From another Politico piece.

House Speaker John Boehner hit President Obama’s budget for failing to cut enough spending while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed it as “just another left-wing wish list.”

“It’s mostly the same old thing we’ve seen year after year,” McConnell said. “And that’s really too bad, because it’s not like we don’t know the kinds of things that need to be done to get our budget back to balance and Americans back to work.”

The president’s 3.77 trillion budget includes $580 billion in new tax revenue, while reducing deficits by $1.8 trillion over 10 years, White House officials contend. It does not balance the nation’s budget within the next decade, something Boehner pointed out while touting Republican budgets.

And then there’s this-


Again Politico

House Republican leaders did give Obama credit for including something known as “chained CPI” in the spending plan, which would slow the rate of growth for Social Security benefits. They were on message in calling for Obama to help them enact policies they agree on, without coming to terms on a large-scale deficit busting package.

“He does deserve some credit for some incremental entitlement reforms he has outlined in his budget. I would hope that he would not hold hostage these modest reforms for his demand for bigger tax hikes. Why don’t we do what we agree to do? Why don’t [we] find the common ground that we do have and move on that?,” Boehner asked, while accusing Obama of “backtracking” on other entitlement reforms the two had discussed in negotiations last year.

Added House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.): “Finally the president has offered his budget to the American people. And what we see inside the document is more of the same: more spending, higher taxes, more debt.”

“The speaker talked about the fact there are some things besides the tax increases that frankly we can find some agreement on,” he said. “I share the sentiment that if we ought to see if we can set aside the divisiveness and come together to produce some results for the people who sent us here.

If the president believes, as we do, that programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are on the path to bankruptcy and we can actually do some things to put them on the right course and save them, to protect the beneficiaries of these programs we ought to do so. We ought to do so without holding them hostage for more tax hikes.”

So Mr. President, you got nothing.  Nothing at all.  A fail on policy.  A fail on politics.

A fail on every level.

Same as it ever was

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”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

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Katrina vanden Heuvel: Social Security’s needed expansion

On the very day that a bleak jobs report showed how feeble the recovery is, the White House revealed that the president will propose a budget that features cuts in Social Security. This was designed to get Republicans to agree to negotiate a grand bargain on deficit reduction – or to prove that they are obstructing any deal. [..]

The exchange has Republicans salivating. Cutting Social Security becomes the president’s choice, not something extorted by Republicans. If Democrats stand for anything, it is defense of Social Security and Medicare, the United States’ most beloved and vital social programs, a proud legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society. The president’s negotiating ploy puts every Democrat supporting the president’s budget in a contested reelection race at peril in 2014. Democrats will face a flood of ads accusing them of wanting to cut Social Security and face the wrath of seniors who constitute a greater percentage of the vote in midterm elections.

If Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have any sense, they will organize their entire caucuses and pledge to oppose any deal that cuts a dime from Social Security benefits.

Lois Beckett: Voter Information Wars: Will the GOP Team Up With Wal-Mart’s Data Specialist?

The Republicans have admitted it (pdf): They need to get serious about collecting and analyzing voter data.

Well, you can’t get much more serious than talking to Teradata, the “data warehousing” company that helps Wal-Mart, Apple and eBay store massive amounts of information about the behavior of their customers.

Teradata is just one of the major data outfits with which leading Republican strategists are talking in their declared effort to match Barack Obama’s big data campaign tactics, according to one person with knowledge of the strategy discussions.  

Tory Field and Beverly Bell; Farmers and Consumers V. Monsanto: David Meet Goliath

Bordering an interstate highway in Arkansas, a giant billboard with a photo of a stoic-looking farmer watches over the speeding traffic. He’s staring into the distance against the backdrop of a glowing wheat field, with the caption “America’s Farmers Grow America.” It’s an image to melt all our pastoral hearts.

Until we read the small print in the corner: “Monsanto.”

The maker of Agent Orange, Monsanto’s former motto used to be, “Without chemicals, life itself would be impossible.” Today its tag line is “Committed to Sustainable Agriculture, Committed to Farmers.” Its website claims the company helps farmers “be successful [and] produce healthier foods… while also reducing agriculture’s impact on our environment.” It even boasts of the corporation’s dedication to human rights.

Col. Ann Wright: Families of Flotilla Dead Want More Than an Apology

Representatives of the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), the Turkish nongovernmental organization that coordinated the passengers on the ship Mavi Marmara that was part of the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla, say that families of the nine passengers killed by Israeli commandos have rejected the country’s recent apology.

The eight Turkish citizens and one American were killed during a nonviolent mission to challenge the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza, and the families do not consider either an Israeli government apology or the offer of compensation for the death of their loved ones a fulfillment of their mission.

Abby Quillen: Why the Most Powerful Thing in the World is a Seed

“The Seed Underground” is a love letter to the quiet revolutionaries who are saving our food heritage.

Janisse Ray celebrates the local, organic food movement but fears we’re forgetting something elemental: the seeds. According to Ray, what is happening with our seeds is not pretty. Ninety-four percent of vintage open-pollinated fruit and vegetable varieties have vanished over the last century. [..]

But, according to Ray, when the dwindling number of farmers who stayed on the land gave up on saving seeds and embraced hybridization, genetically modified organisms, and seed patents in order to make money, we became slaves to multinational corporations like Monsanto and Syngenta, which now control our food supply.

Jill Richardson: A Recipe for a Sounder Diet

There are ways to make healthy food affordable that don’t require abusing farmworkers.

Healthy food is expensive and telling people to eat organic, local food is elitist. Have you heard that argument before?

It’s true. Healthy, organic, local food is expensive. Calorie for calorie, you get more for your money at a fast food drive-thru than at a farmer’s market. And the fast food will be cooked and ready to eat, whereas you might need to take your fresh, organic produce home to cook it.

Now, you might say, that’s only a short-term calculation. Today, a $5 burger, fries, and large soda looks like a better deal than a few ounces of spinach, a handful of dried beans, and a bunch of carrots for the same price. But that overlooks the health consequences of either meal. One of these meals, if eaten regularly, will land you in the hospital someday. The other won’t

On This Day In History April 10

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.

April 10 is the 100th day of the year (101st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 265 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1970, Paul McCartney announces the breakup of the Beatles.

The legendary rock band the Beatles spent the better part of three years breaking up in the late 1960s, and even longer than that hashing out who did what and why. And by the spring of 1970, there was little more than a tangled set of business relationships keeping the group together. Each of the Beatles was pursuing his musical interests outside of the band, and there were no plans in place to record together as a group. But as far as the public knew, this was just a temporary state of affairs. That all changed on April 10, 1970, when an ambiguous Paul McCartney “self-interview” was seized upon by the international media as an official announcement of a Beatles breakup.

The occasion for the statements Paul released to the press that day was the upcoming release of his debut solo album, McCartney. In a Q&A format in which he was both the interviewer and the interviewee, Paul first asked and answered a number of straightforward questions involving the recording equipment he used on the album, which instruments he played and who designed the artwork for the cover.

Foreclosures: a Nationwide Crime Scene

The foreclosure fraud perpetrated by the banks and private mortgage companies that was given a pass by the Obama Department of Justice.

Foreclosure Review Finds Potentially Widespread Errors

by  Shahien Nasiripour, Huffington Post

Nearly a third of all foreclosed borrowers who faced proceedings brought by the biggest U.S. mortgage companies during the height of the housing crisis came to the brink of losing their homes due to potential bank errors or under now-banned practices, regulators have revealed. [..]

The estimates, disclosed Tuesday, far exceed projections made over the past few years after document abuses known as robosigning gained widespread attention in late 2010. [..]

They reveal that nearly 700 borrowers who faced foreclosure proceedings had actually never defaulted on their loans (pdf).

More than 28,000 households that faced foreclosure proceedings were protected under federal bankruptcy laws, while roughly 1,100 had been meeting all the requirements of so-called forbearance plans that their mortgage companies had agreed to, which allow for delayed payments.

Some 1,600 borrowers who faced foreclosure proceedings were protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003, which forces mortgage companies to cap interest rates and follow special procedures when foreclosing on homes belonging to active-duty members of the armed forces and their families.

4 million people wrongfully foreclosed on. Can they get their houses back?

Banks are foreclosing on military members, on people who had been approved for a loan modification, and even on people who were never behind in their payments–all part of an astounding settlement that shortchanged millions of homeowners and left hundreds of thousands wrongfully ejected from their homes.  Former Governor Elliot Spitzer; Alexis Goldstein, former Vice President at Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank, now an Occupy Wall Street activist ; and Faith Bautista, who was the victim of wrongful home foreclosure in 2009, join Chris Hayes and paint a stark picture of what happened, who is responsible and why there isn’t more justice from the government.

The big banks continue to receive %83 billion a year in tax payer money to bail them out. Where is the justice for these homeowners?

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament 2013: Final


Seed Score Team Record Seed Score Team Record Region
(1) 65 Notre Dame 35-2 South * (1) 83 Connecticut 34-4 East
(2) 57 California 26-10 West * (5) 64 Louisville 29-8 Midwest


Time Network Seed Team Record Region Seed Team Record Region
8:30 ESPN (1) Connecticut 34-4 East (5) Louisville 29-8 Midwest