|Find the “meat cleaver” sequester|
The steady drumbeat in the mainstream media about the sequestration “crisis” is getting louder by the day. With less than two weeks until the cuts go into effect it is already approaching an absurdist crescendo.
|The sequestration is coming!|
Let’s be clear. The “sequester” is not a crisis. The “sequester” is not the problem. The real problem is the massive growth in federal spending creating unsustainable deficits and debt that will be shouldered by generations to come. The “sequester” is a solution to a real problem facing America.
That said, the “sequester” is not a great solution. It’s not even a good solution. The sequester cuts are not a smart way to address the spending problem. The sequester cuts are also not adequate to solve the spending and unfunded liability disaster that looms in our entitlement programs. But the odds of getting anything smart out of this administration and congress that has even as little impact as the sequester cuts are vanishingly small. Since it’s a bad bet to rely on our leaders for smart significant cuts, let’s at least bank the cuts they already passed.
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This New York Times article lays out THE reason why the GOP got their asses handed to them last November.
In short, they’re simply behind the times. Both from a technology and messaging standpoint.
Now, their are plenty in the GOP who feel like they need to change, adopt new messaging, open the tent, run smarter campaigns, etc. One of them is GOPer Patrick Ruffini, who attended a Dem political strategy summit recently…
On Nov. 30, more than 2,000 progressives shuffled into the Washington Convention Center to participate in RootsCamp, an annual series of seminars hosted by the New Organizing Institute, where the most cutting-edge digital and grass-roots organizing techniques are discussed. The shaggy and the achingly earnest are well represented at RootsCamp, which makes it an easy target of derision from the right. A reporter from the conservative publication The Daily Caller attended the postelection gathering in 2010 and made great sport of the “unconference,” with its self-conscious inclusiveness, which the reporter termed “multilingual, multicultural and multi-unpurposeful.”
But the handful of conservatives who attended the conference this past November were in no mood to sneer. One was Patrick Ruffini, a 34-year-old leader of the G.O.P.’s young-and-restless digerati. At RootsCamp, his breathless tweets of the sessions held by top Obama organizers — “In eight years, calling people will be obsolete”; “Digital organizing director and field director will be one and the same” — set off a buzz among Republican techies. Ruffini was plainly impressed by the openness of the experience. “I’m like, Wow, they’re doing this in front of 2,000 people, and the system seems to actually work,” he told me a month later. “The thing I was struck by at RootsCamp was that in many ways, the Democratic technology ecosystem has embraced the free market — whereas the Republican one sort of runs on socialism, with the R.N.C. being the overlord.”
Wait, the GOP organizes their campaigns…like a church? You don’t say.
So that speaks to the tech gap. It’s very wide right now, but could be closed rather quickly because younger GOPers are interested in fixing it. And let’s face it…there’s money in them thar hills.
But what about the perception/message of the GOP? Check out this focus group of swing voters…
About an hour into the session, Anderson walked up to a whiteboard and took out a magic marker. “I’m going to write down a word, and you guys free-associate with whatever comes to mind,” she said. The first word she wrote was “Democrat.”
“Young people,” one woman called out.
“Liberal,” another said. Followed by: “Diverse.” “Bill Clinton.”“Change.”“Open-minded.”“Spending.”“Handouts.”“Green.”“More science-based.”
When Anderson then wrote “Republican,” the outburst was immediate and vehement: “Corporate greed.”“Old.”“Middle-aged white men.” “Rich.” “Religious.” “Conservative.” “Hypocritical.” “Military retirees.” “Narrow-minded.” “Rigid.” “Not progressive.” “Polarizing.” “Stuck in their ways.” “Farmers.”
And this is really why I’m asking the “impossible” in the title. Do we really think Dems are going to become less progressive? Republicans ALWAYS lag when it comes to social issues. So how will they attract younger voters who think the GOP is woefully out of touch?
The article is a fantastic read and really points toward some ways forward for the GOP. Whether or not they’ll pay attention is another story.
Looks like we have movement on immigration reform a lot sooner than many anticipated. And wouldn’t you know it, Rubio is front and center.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., one of the eight senators, called the new proposal a “major breakthrough” and said he hopes to turn it into legislation by March — with the goal of passing something out of the Senate “by late spring or summer.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., standing beside him, claimed 2013 is the “best chance” lawmakers will have to tackle immigration for years. [...]
The eight senators who unveiled the new principles are Democrats Schumer, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado; and Republicans McCain, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida and Jeff Flake of Arizona.
So what does their plan outline? Here are details so far…
–Creating a path to citizenship for the estimated illegal immigrants already in the U.S., contingent upon securing the border and better tracking of people here on visas.
–Reforming the legal immigration system, including awarding green cards to immigrants who obtain advanced degrees in science, math, technology or engineering from an American university.
–Creating an effective employment verification system to ensure that employers do not hire illegal immigrants.
–Allowing more low-skill workers into the country and allowing employers to hire immigrants if they can demonstrate they couldn’t recruit a U.S. citizen; and establishing an agricultural worker program.
All in all, this is good news. If this many GOP Senators can get behind it, the GOPers in the House are going have a hard time saying no. Yes, there will plenty that do…but enough to defeat it? Doubtful.
More as it develops…
And replace it with a revenue neutral sales tax?
“The bottom line is that for too long, Louisiana’s workers and small businesses have suffered from having a state tax structure that is too complex and that holds back economic prosperity,” Jindal said in a statement released by his office. “It’s time to change that so people can keep more of their own money and foster an environment where businesses want to invest and create good-paying jobs.”
Jindal said the plan would be revenue-neutral and that the goal would be to keep sales taxes “as low and flat as possible.”
The governor’s office has not yet confirmed or denied an article in The Monroe News-Star that reports eliminating the state income tax could require increasing the state sales tax from 4 percent to 7 percent.
As most of you know, this is hugely regressive for lower income folks who pay very little income tax in the first place and live from paycheck to paycheck. The sales tax goes up on all the essentials they buy. It’s merely tax replacement. Because guess what the tax rates are in Louisiana for individuals? 2% for income up to $12,500 for individuals and up to $25K for couples. 4% for income up to $50K for individuals and $100K for couples. And over $50K for individuals and over $100K for couples…it’s 6%. You don’t need to be a numbers expert to see which income brackets are getting their income taxes cut in half and which will see theirs raised.
Listen, I get that Republicans think that people will spend more if they have more in their pockets. And they will. But only if they’re closer to the bottom. Those who benefit from it the most (the wealthy) do not spending it to drive the economy. Sure, they spend some, but they are much more likely to either invest (which may or may not help the overall economy…I’ll get to that soon) or they save. That’s great for them, but when our economy relies pretty much solely on consumer spending…you can see how tax cuts like these do not help stimulate job growth.
Let’s look at this in a different way. What do wealthy people do with tax cuts? Invest. A lot. So they become shareholders. Partial owners of a company, so to speak. What do they expect that company to do for them? Make them money. How do companies make money? By maximizing profits. How do you maximize profits? By running an efficient business. How do you run an efficient business? By producing the most amount of revenue with the least amount of overhead. What is always the most expensive overhead? Employees.
See how investment doesn’t necessarily provide a clear line to jobs?
And remember, private companies are holding the biggest amount of cash reserves they have EVER had. They’re not spending. They claim that it’s because of economic uncertainty, but if you’ve ever worked in a corporate environment…waiting is not rewarded. Never. Ever. The corporate culture demands plans, action, now! These companies are keeping that money because they don’t need to spend it, not because they don’t want to spend it. At the same time, they’re squeezing every last hour out of their smaller workforces because all of that economic uncertainty makes it harder for workers to ask for better pay for the extra work they’re doing, thus benefitting all of those companies bottom lines even more. And once companies start hiring again…that’s a signal to workers to demand more pay. So it doesn’t benefit any of these companies to hire unless they absolutely need to.
What this all boils down to is that what Jindal is saying makes a decent sound bite…but does it make economic sense? On paper, no. It doesn’t. At least it doesn’t appear to make sense. And it’s not like Louisana’s poorest is in any great shape to begin with. And I personally care much more about them than those near the top. Because those near the top will always do well. They’ll find a way, tax cuts or not, to try and make as much money as is humanly possible. Our focus should be helping those who don’t have those skills to find a way up out of their situations. And raising their taxes isn’t going to do that.
Looks like Obama doesn’t want to go over the cliff after all.
Here’s more from NBC News…
So, the heads of the Senate went to work…
After weeks of fruitless negotiations between the president and Speaker John A. Boehner, Mr. Obama turned to Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader — two men who have been fighting for dominance of the Senate for years — to find a solution. The speaker, once seen as the linchpin for any agreement, essentially ceded final control to the Senate and said the House would act on whatever the Senate could produce.
“The hour for immediate action is here. It is now,” Mr. Obama said in the White House briefing room after an hourlong meeting with the two Senate leaders, Mr. Boehner and Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader. He added, “The American people are not going to have any patience for a politically self-inflicted wound to our economy, not right now.”
But what are they not addressing?
Despite the new optimism, it was clear that any deal in the next three days would only alleviate the worst aspects of the “fiscal cliff” while leaving big decisions on taxes and spending to the next showdown, most likely by February when Congress must raise the government’s debt limit. A Republican aide briefed on the meeting said the speaker told the other negotiators that House Republicans would not turn off $100 billion in automatic military and domestic spending cuts in 2013 without equivalent cuts elsewhere. Also likely to be left out of a deal is any agreement to raise the debt limit.
Those three things could really grind this fledging recovery to a halt if they don’t get figured out…especially raising the debt ceiling. But just remember who brought all of this on our heads. We could easily raise the debt ceiling, but Tea Party House members refuse to do it. And if we default…wow. Bad news.
More as it develops…
If Boehner can’t get House Repubs to play ball on a bill that Obama didn’t even agree to…what can we expect for something that’s worse in their eyes?
Hopes of a grand-bargain — to shave trillions of dollars off the deficit by cutting entitlement programs and raising revenue — are shattered. House Republicans already failed to pass their “Plan B” proposal. And now aides and senators say the White House’s smaller, fall-back plan floated last week is a non-starter among Republicans in Senate — much less the House.
On top of that, the Treasury Department announced Wednesday that the nation would hit the debt limit on Dec. 31, and would then have to take “extraordinary measures” to avoid exhausting the government’s borrowing limit in the New Year.
So how is this going to get done? I see a couple different scenarios.
First, Republicans realize they’re giving Obama a huge political win and pass a stop gap measure to make sure unemployment insurance and tax cuts for those making under $250K don’t expire, while not cutting military spending, etc. Then they can do additional deals down the road.
Second, we wait until after the first of the year…and a new deal is cut. This also gives Obama a political win because now these are the “Obama tax cuts” and the word “Bush” is wiped away.
But the big looming question in all of this is the debt ceiling. Republicans are going to fight tooth and nail to not raise it…and that’s the truly catastrophic situation we’re facing.
More as it develops…