Saturday, November 10, 2012

Stepping Gently Off The Fiscal Curb


In the video above, Chris Hayes and Lawrence O'Donnell rename the so-called "fiscal cliff," a fiscal slope or... better yet, a "fiscal curb." And no behind closed doors deal-making with GOP and Blue Dog corporate whores-- take it to twitter! When you hear someone using the term "fiscal cliff"-- other than to disparage it-- you know that person is a tool of the plutocrats, or-- if the case of most media talking heads-- too stupid to know any better or realize they're using charged, well-researched right-wing propaganda. Richard Trumka. head of the AFL-CIO certainly understands how the plutocrats work and how they've inserted the phrase into the dialogue to stampede the public and Congress. He's dedicating his union to fighting off this bullshit:
Four years ago, the leadership of the Republican Party made a cynical political gamble-- and this year they lost because they bet against America.

Instead of rethinking the failed policies that got us into this mess, the Republicans in Congress tried to drag down the American economy and stall the recovery and then pass the blame to President Obama.

Along the way, they also blamed teachers, firefighters, nurses and, quite frankly, just about anyone and everyone except the real culprit-- irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulation.

Yet here's something to remember: It wasn't until Mitt Romney's shocking and complete disavowal of everything-- everything-- he stood for during the Republican primary that he even began to close the gap with President Obama. The more he fabricated, the more he sounded like Obama, the closer to victory he came.

But a majority of working families remembered the real Mitt and turned out to reject him.

That shows how important voter education is, and the labor movement took that on as our top priority. We researched all the candidates and explained their stands on the issues. Across America, more than 400,000 volunteers shared what we learned by knocking on doors, calling from phone banks and by handing out leaflets. It was an incredible grassroots effort, like nothing I've seen before on a national scale.

The unprecedented tidal wave of secret corporate cash threatened to dilute and corrupt our democracy, but this election proved again that there is no match for the strength of people power.

I've probably said this a thousand times this year: This election came down to a choice between two very different visions for our nation and our middle class. Our vision rewards hard work and the people who do it. Their vision benefits only those at the top.

Our vision-- the future America has chosen for the next generation-- will lead America toward shared prosperity.

And the bottom line of what working people voted for is this: To rebuild America and the middle class, not tear it down. That's the lesson we have to turn into action.

Starting today, working families across the country will explain this election's message over and over again to our leaders in Washington. Working people -- union and non-union alike -- say NO to cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and YES to fair taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent.
This is the real fiscal cliff-- the one we averted on Tuesday
The guardians of the status quo and the shills of the plutocrats are running around screaming the sky is falling. But it isn't. They're ginning up a crisis to make it plausible for their political whores in Congress to keep tax rates low for the wealthy while dismantling more social programs for working families. When you see a headline like this: Washington and Wall Street are freaking out about a looming one-two punch of tax hikes and spending cuts, just roll your eyes and keep walking. This is pure nonsense: "The not-irrational fear that he [Obama] and House Republicans won't be able to avert this calamity helped send U.S. stocks plummeting on Wednesday. But just what is the fiscal cliff, why is it such a big deal, and what's the chance we'll all drive over the edge together?" Krugman had a much more salient explanation in his column Thursday, Let's Not Make A Deal. He explains that despite the huge victories for the president and in Senate races across the country, gerrymandering has kept the GOP in control of the House. "And," he wrote, "Representative John Boehner, the speaker of the House, wasted no time in declaring that his party remains as intransigent as ever, utterly opposed to any rise in tax rates even as it whines about the size of the deficit."
So President Obama has to make a decision, almost immediately, about how to deal with continuing Republican obstruction. How far should he go in accommodating the G.O.P.’s demands?

My answer is, not far at all. Mr. Obama should hang tough, declaring himself willing, if necessary, to hold his ground even at the cost of letting his opponents inflict damage on a still-shaky economy. And this is definitely no time to negotiate a “grand bargain” on the budget that snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.

In saying this, I don’t mean to minimize the very real economic dangers posed by the so-called fiscal cliff that is looming at the end of this year if the two parties can’t reach a deal. Both the Bush-era tax cuts and the Obama administration’s payroll tax cut are set to expire, even as automatic spending cuts in defense and elsewhere kick in thanks to the deal struck after the 2011 confrontation over the debt ceiling. And the looming combination of tax increases and spending cuts looks easily large enough to push America back into recession.

Nobody wants to see that happen. Yet it may happen all the same, and Mr. Obama has to be willing to let it happen if necessary.

Why? Because Republicans are trying, for the third time since he took office, to use economic blackmail to achieve a goal they lack the votes to achieve through the normal legislative process. In particular, they want to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, even though the nation can’t afford to make those tax cuts permanent and the public believes that taxes on the rich should go up-- and they’re threatening to block any deal on anything else unless they get their way. So they are, in effect, threatening to tank the economy unless their demands are met.

Mr. Obama essentially surrendered in the face of similar tactics at the end of 2010, extending low taxes on the rich for two more years. He made significant concessions again in 2011, when Republicans threatened to create financial chaos by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. And the current potential crisis is the legacy of those past concessions.

Well, this has to stop-- unless we want hostage-taking, the threat of making the nation ungovernable, to become a standard part of our political process.

So what should he do? Just say no, and go over the cliff if necessary.

It’s worth pointing out that the fiscal cliff isn’t really a cliff. It’s not like the debt-ceiling confrontation, where terrible things might well have happened right away if the deadline had been missed. This time, nothing very bad will happen to the economy if agreement isn’t reached until a few weeks or even a few months into 2013. So there’s time to bargain.

More important, however, is the point that a stalemate would hurt Republican backers, corporate donors in particular, every bit as much as it hurt the rest of the country. As the risk of severe economic damage grew, Republicans would face intense pressure to cut a deal after all.

Meanwhile, the president is in a far stronger position than in previous confrontations. I don’t place much stock in talk of “mandates,” but Mr. Obama did win re-election with a populist campaign, so he can plausibly claim that Republicans are defying the will of the American people. And he just won his big election and is, therefore, far better placed than before to weather any political blowback from economic troubles-- especially when it would be so obvious that these troubles were being deliberately inflicted by the G.O.P. in a last-ditch attempt to defend the privileges of the 1 percent.

Most of all, standing up to hostage-taking is the right thing to do for the health of America’s political system.

So stand your ground, Mr. President, and don’t give in to threats. No deal is better than a bad deal.
And politically, new polling backs up Krugman's perspective entirely. Voters overwhelmingly want Congress to work on job creation and growing the economy and they want to see the wealthy start paying their fair share of taxes.
[V]oters disagree strongly with the priorities of the elite consensus congealing around the president’s deficit commission co-chairs, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, and his own discussions of a grand bargain with House Speaker John Boehner. Those discussions suggest a deal that trades cuts in Medicare and Social Security for tax reform that lowers rates for individuals and corporations while gaining revenue by closing loopholes-- a sort of Romney-lite tax reform.

When it comes to a deficit reduction plan, Americans have clear ideas.

They want tax rates to be raised on the wealthy. 68 percent find a plan that did not raises taxes on the rich “unacceptable.” 70 percent support a plan that raises taxes on the top 2 percent while keeping the taxes of others at the same level. 63 percent would find a plan that continued to tax investors’ income at lower rates than worker’s wages unacceptable. 75 percent would support a plan to create a higher tax bracket for millionaires. 67 percent finds a plan that lowers tax rates on corporations or the rich unacceptable.

They do not want Social Security benefits cut over time. By 62 to 31, they would find a plan that did that unacceptable.

They do not want Medicare payments cut or capped: 79 percent, nearly four out of five, find capping Medicare payments forcing seniors to pay more unacceptable.

By 50 percent to 41 percent, they favor a deficit reduction plan that starts with closing loopholes and raising tax rates at the top, and excludes cuts to Medicare and Social Security over one that closes loopholes but “gets entitlement spending under control, including reducing the growth of Medicare and Social Security.”

The public is very skeptical of the $1.5 trillion in across-the-board cuts in discretionary spending over the next 10 years that Congress has already passed Most Americans do not share the scorn of Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan for poverty programs providing a “hammock” for the lazy.

Seventy-five percent-- three-fourths of the country-- find a plan unacceptable if it requires deep cuts in domestic programs without protecting programs for infants, poor children, schools and college aid.

Moreover they embrace the president’s argument that we should reduce the deficit and invest in areas vital to the economy at the same time. By 70 percent-27 percent, they support a plan to cut “wasteful spending and abolish special interest tax breaks and subsidies so that we can invest in infrastructure and technology and make sure we support education, Medicare and Social Security which are key to the middle class, over a statement that we have to cut spending seriously and that will require across the board reductions in the size of government…including education, Medicare and Social Security.
Here's President Obama talking about it yesterday:

Media Matters wrote about Tuesday's real mandate from the voters to the political class in Washington. They need to put regular working families first, not the billionaires who tried-- and failed-- to replace Obama with Romney and to defeat champions of working families like Sherrod Brown (OH), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Mazie Hirono (HI), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Debbie Stabenow (MI), Bob Casey (PA) and the rest of the Democrats targeted by the would-be plutocrats. And here's what these newly mandated senators and congressmen need to do about the impending Grand Bargain:
Define the choice: Voters faced a clear choice between two very different visions for America-- and chose a country that puts regular Americans who work for a living ahead of just the wealthiest few.

Define the win: The President won a decisive victory because of who had his back: Families living paycheck to paycheck and Americans striving to build a better life for themselves.

Contrast: Republican politicians like John Boehner are pushing the same trickle down agenda America rejected, starting with the Romney tax plan to make the middle class pay more so the rich pay less.

Brand: They should quit trying to force European-style austerity on America. We should fix the deficit the American way: put people back to work and grow our economy by getting rid of tax breaks that don't.

Lead: The greatness of our leaders is judged by who they fight for when the chips are down, whose backs they have when there aren't perfect choices. Who that is should be clear from the mandate from the American people.
Republicans made their bed; let them sleep in it-- with each other. It's time for Democrats to acknowledge why they won and start acting like Democrats.

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At 2:37 PM, Anonymous robert dagg murphy said...

It's only make believe. Let's put another $1.5 trillion into the Social Security Trust Fund. Now the program will be solvent until the end of the century so Republicans will not have to worry about it for a few years.

We could even increase the amount paid out to the beneficiaries so the economy would work even better. And if we lowered our retirement age to 50, that would help our unemployment situation.

We invented all this game of money and money making. Since we invented it we can do whatever we want. First we must establish a debt free system of economy. We don't owe the Sun.

You will start getting your check soon as we wake up and if you can't have a good life out of it, ask for an increase.

At 11:38 PM, Blogger John said...

First, note, the president and his party had a MUCH larger electoral mandate in 2008 and managed to efficiently piss it all away by rehabilitating the very opposition party they were swept into office to obliterate.

Second, two years ago, Obama signed the bill to extend the Bush tax cuts for the obscenely wealthy. This was in deference to the miserable 2010 mid terms. At that time he said, "in 2012, I will work hard to make these cuts expire."

Now HIS party has the electoral mandate, once again.

He is actually now SAYING the Bush cuts should be retained (in their relatively microscopic amounts) for the middles class and and allowed to expire for the wealthy. This is much more difficult, of course, as it requires new legislation as opposed to simply doing nothing (as the Dems were unable to do in 2010!?!)

But what he finally DOES before the end of the year (lame duck session) will set the tone for his second term.

John Puma


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