Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Republican Congressional Priorities Reveal Their Real Agenda-- Further Concentration Of The National Wealth In The Hands Of Fewer And Fewer Families


3 transpartisan clowns of the Conservative Consensus

Darrell Issa has been tasked by the Republican Establishment with doing what's he's best at-- distracting everyone willing to pay attention to his bombastic nonsense and clown routine while the Party of Greed and Selfishness works on their financiers' real priorities. And the Member of Congress who has received greater amounts of barely-veiled bribes from Wall Street than anyone else in Wisconsin history, Big Business golden boy Paul Ryan, will be busy as a beaver while Issa juggles the bright shiny objects for the cameras. Republicans don't care that polls show that most Americans believe that "[i]ncreased taxes on high earners should be the first step toward balancing the federal budget [and that] raising taxes on the rich beats out cuts to defense spending, Medicare or Social Security as U.S. adults' top preference on how to close the deficit. In fact, it isn't even close.
Sixty-one percent of Americans said that increasing taxes to the wealthy should be the first step toward balancing the budget.

By contrast, 20 percent of respondents preferred cuts to defense spending as the first option, while four percent said that cutting Medicare would be the best way to start cutting the deficit. Three percent said they preferred cutting Social Security.

Americans who got carried away with the media hype around a Tea Party "movement" financed by a handful of avaricious and manipulative billionaires will be in for a big surprise as they watch the newly empowered-- by them-- GOP majority in the House further destroy the underpinnings of the middle class with reckless tax cuts for the wealthy and the whittling away of protections for working families. When Republicans and their media allies screech about Democrats learning the lessons of November, they create a narrative that flies in the face of any kind of objective reality.

Republican efforts in Congress are narrowly partisan and completely geared to the selfish, self-serving agenda of Big Business and Wall Street. GOP congressmen hope to do as much damage to the ability of government to act as a countervailing force on behalf of ordinary Americans as they can before voters start feeling enough buyer's remorse to do something about it. This is further complicated by a blurring of brands-- with some voters being unsure (and not because they're stupid) which party is owned by Wall Street and which party isn't. Blue America has only ever created two "Stop" pages at ActBlue, both for dangerous Wall Street shills, one Republican-- Paul Ryan-- and one Democrat-- Rahm Emanuel. Each has an unblemished record of serving the interests of their corporate masters. Click on either one, Democrat or Republican, and you can do something for the country by fighting back against a Conservative Consensus that crosses party lines.
Yesterday's Wall Street Journal made the Republican case that spending is the problem, of course spending to make the nation better has always been a problem for conservatives.
The Republican majority that takes over the House this week plans an ambitious drive to slash government spending by tens of billions of dollars in the next few months, a strategy that ensures that the capital soon will be consumed by intense debate over how and where to reduce the size of government.

...Republicans in the House say they plan to move on to offer a far more sweeping package of "recissions," or elimination of spending previously approved, that will aim to bring domestic spending back to where it was before Mr. Obama became president. The skirmish over that proposal for spending cuts, coupled with related fights over government regulation and health care, will set the battle lines for the next two years, as Washington returns to divided government.

Unlike its predecessors in the Republican Revolution of 1994, or among the Democrats who took charge of the House after the 2006 election, the new Republican majority doesn't return to power with a long to-do list of legislative priorities. Instead, party members say they were elected with one big mandate: Cut spending.

Is that so? Not only is it not borne out in public opinion polls, it isn't even borne out when you look into the blatant Republican Party hypocrisy since the election. The NY Times got it right, for a change, pointing out that Boehner and his cronies may seem busy with a symbolic anti-healthcare jihad, while they are actually trying to kill the Pay As You Go reform.
It was not long ago that Republicans succeeded in holding unemployment benefits hostage to a renewal of the high-end Bush-era income tax cuts and-- as a little bonus-- won deep estate tax cuts for America’s wealthiest heirs. Those cuts will add nearly $140 billion to the deficit in the near term, while doing far less to prod the economy than if the money had been spent more wisely.
That should have been evidence enough that the Republican Party’s one real priority is tax cuts-- despite all the talk about deficit reduction and economic growth. But here’s some more:
On Dec. 22, just before they left town for the holidays, House Republican leaders released new budget rules that they intend to adopt when they assume the majority in January and will set the stage for even more budget-busting tax cuts.
First, some background: Under pay-as-you-go rules adopted by Democratic majorities in the House and Senate in 2007, tax cuts or increases in entitlement spending must be offset by tax increases or entitlement cuts. Entitlements include big health programs like Medicare and Medicaid, for which spending is on autopilot, as well as some other programs for veterans and low-income Americans. (Discretionary spending, which includes defense, is approved separately by Congress annually.)
The new Republican rules will gut pay-as-you-go because they require offsets only for entitlement increases, not for tax cuts. In effect, the new rules will codify the Republican fantasy that tax cuts do not deepen the deficit.
It gets worse. The new rules mandate that entitlement-spending increases be offset by spending cuts only-- and actually bar the House from raising taxes to pay for such spending.
Say, for example, that lawmakers want to bolster child credits for families at or near the minimum wage. One way to help pay for the aid would be to close the tax loophole that lets the nation’s wealthiest private equity partners pay tax at close to the lowest rate in the code. That long overdue reform would raise an estimated $25 billion over 10 years, but the new rules will forbid being sensible like that.
Even worse, they direct the leader of the House Budget Committee to ignore several costs when computing the budget impact of future actions, as if the costs are the natural course of politics for which no payment is required.
For example, the cost to make the Bush-era tax cuts permanent would be ignored, as would the fiscal effects of repealing the health reform law. At the same time, the new rules bar the renewal of aid for low-income working families-- extended temporarily in the recent tax-cut deal-- unless it is fully paid for.
House Republicans obviously believe they have a good thing going with voters by sanctifying tax cuts and demonizing spending. That’s been their approach for 30 years after all, and it unfailingly rallies their base.

It's also been great for the wealthy and it has certainly done a great deal towards creating a jobs explosion... in China and India. On Sunday the Washington Post noticed the same hypocrisy coming out of the GOP.
Are House Republicans serious about dealing with the deficit? You could listen to their rhetoric - or you could read the rules they are poised to adopt at the start of the new Congress. The former promises a new fiscal sobriety. The latter suggests that the new GOP majority is determined to continue the spree of unaffordable tax-cutting.

The ominous signs come in the wording of the new majority's version of its pay-as-you-go rules, which normally require that new programs or tax initiatives be covered with cuts to other programs or new revenue. In the GOP concept, pay-as-you-go applies only to spending programs. When it comes to tax cuts, it's all go, no pay. Taxes can be cut, and the national debt increased, without any offsetting savings.

If you thought the sticker shock of the latest tax deal served as a useful reminder that tax cuts cost the Treasury money, think again. Deficit financing is fine, it seems, when it comes to tax cuts. But that's not all. Under the new rules, not only are tax cuts exempted from the pay-go concept, but the only way to pay for spending increases is with spending cuts elsewhere. No tax increases allowed-- not even in the form of eliminating loopholes or cutting back on tax breaks. Of course, if you wanted to expand the loopholes, no problem. No need to pay for that.

Having made clear that no tax cuts need be paid for, the rules then take the extra step of specifying which deficit-busting tax cuts the new majority has in mind. They assume the continuation of all the Bush tax cuts; extension of the new version of the estate tax; and the creation of a big tax break to let "small businesses," which can be expansively defined, take a deduction equal to 20 percent of their gross income.

Tax cuts for the wealthiest are fully protected. But tax help for those at the other end of the income spectrum? Forget it. The expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, programs that help keep low-income working parents and children out of poverty, are not assumed to continue and would have to be paid for - with, of course, spending cuts. This is about as upside-down a set of priorities as can be imagined.

When Democrats rail against this, one will have to wonder why they have consistently failed to challenge Paul Ryan, who represents a Democratic district in southeast Wisconsin and has never been seriously challenged by the DCCC. It will be interesting to see if Steve Israel continues the hands-off policy in regard to Ryan that was enforced by Emanuel and Van Hollen. Meanwhile, Blue America will work diligently on helping any credible progressive who decides to take him on.

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