Home / Politics (page 18)


With a Fiscal Cliff Deadline Weeks Away Politicians Have Room for a Bargaining Impasse


“(Reuters) – Republicans in the U.S. Congress on Monday called on President Barack Obama to detail long-term spending cuts to help solve the country’s fiscal crisis, while holding firm against the income tax rate increases for the wealthy that Democrats seek.

The White House has been equally firm in its position, threatening to veto any bill that does not include the tax rate increases opposed by Republicans.

While Congress returned from its Thanksgiving holiday break amid increasing talk about long-term tax reform plans and a need to compromise, the two parties showed no signs yet of having found a way around the short-term tax obstacle necessary to head off the “fiscal cliff” on December 31, which would bring steep mandated tax-rate increases and spending cuts in the new year.

“We remain at an impasse,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said during a floor speech.”

Full article

Comments »

Dick Durban: Fiscal Cliff Talks Stalled

“U.S. lawmakers have made little progress in the past 10 days toward a compromise to avoid the harsh tax increases and government spending cuts scheduled for Jan. 1, a senior Democratic senator said on Sunday.

The United States is on course to slash its budget deficit nearly in half next year. Closing the gap that quickly, which in Washington is referred to as going over a “fiscal cliff”, could easily trigger a recession.

“Unfortunately, for the last 10 days, with the House and Congress gone for the Thanksgiving recess… much progress hasn’t been made,” Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, told ABC’s “This Week” program.

Serious negotiations are expected to resume this week. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have been trying to convince the public — and financial markets — that they are willing to compromise and can reach a deal before the end of the year.

Durbin indicated Democrats might accept a reform of the government’sMedicare health insurance program for the elderly that would make higher-income seniors pay more for their care.

Democrats traditionally oppose limiting Medicare benefits according to income, a practice known as “means testing.” Durbin said Medicaid, a public health insurance program for the poor, also could be overhauled.

But Durbin said social security, the federal government pension program, needs only small tweaks to ensure long-term solvency rather than major reforms.

A deadline looms over the talks. Without action by lawmakers and President Barack Obama, roughly $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts will start to hit households and companies in early January.

‘Test Of Political Courage’ “

Full article

Comments »

Documentary: Two for One Speceial- A Double Feature for Black Friday

Cheers on your weekend!

A Competent Democracy

A Competent Democracy presents a detailed analysis of our political systems today and asks the question throughout: Do our political systems today offer any technical approach to governing society and are our political systems socially relevant anymore?

The current economic system does not go unquestioned either.

Transitional tools on how to attain a much more efficient, healthy, socially and technically relevant social system are summarised in relation to which way we should be heading if we want to create social sustainability on a global scale – ideas which cannot come out of our antiquated political systems today.

[youtube://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgpxS–lqg8 450 300]

After Democracy

Can democracy still be saved? Can we address the shortcomings of representative democracy – failing political parties, increasing distrust of government – within the current system or are we set to embark on a journey across a border where nobody ever dared to go?

Should we explore a new political model in order to overcome the current multicrises?

In After Democracy this urgent question is addressed by Fareed Zakaria, John Keane, Hilary Wainwright, William Dobson and Cheng Li.

[youtube://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EBFLXCyM0I 450 300]

Comments »

Quotas & Free Markets

[youtube://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGOj8kBpsD4 450 300]

Comments »

Starve-the-Beast, Major Fail

” Although it is commonly believed that the Laffer curve – the idea that tax cuts pay for themselves – is the core Republican idea about tax policy, this is wrong. The true core idea is something called starve-the-beast – the idea that tax cuts will force cuts in spending precisely because they reduce revenue. But there are slight indications that some conservatives have awakened to the reality that not only does starve-the-beast not work, but it also leads to higher spending.

The notion came into being in the 1970s to allow conservative Republican economists to reconcile their support for a balanced budget with their party’s intense desire to cut taxes without worrying about the deficit. Proposition 13 in California had proven unmistakably that voters didn’t much care whether spending was cut; they just wanted lower taxes.

I have traced the origins of Republican starve-the-beast theory to testimony by Alan Greenspan before the Senate Finance Committee on July 14, 1978 – just weeks after the passage of Proposition 13 on June 6. In explaining why he supported the Kemp-Roth tax bill, which proposed an across-the-board tax rate reduction of 30 percent, while also supporting deficit reduction, Mr. Greenspan said: ”

Full article

Comments »

Obama’s Game of Chicken versus Big Ag

via Washington Monthly 

The untold story of how the administration tried to stand up to big agricultural companies on behalf of independent farmers, and lost.

By Lina Khan

In May 2010, Garry Staples left his chicken farm in Steele, Alabama, to take part in a historic hearing in Normal, an hour and a half away.

The decision to go wasn’t easy. The big processing companies that farmers rely on for their livelihood had made it known that even attending one of these hearings, much less speaking out at one, could mean trouble. For a chicken farmer, that’s no trivial thing. Getting on a processing company’s bad side can deal a serious blow to a farmer’s income—and even lose him the farm entirely. Still, Staples, a former Special Forces commander, and a number of other farmers decided to risk it. Many felt it was their only chance to talk directly to some of the highest-ranking officials in the country, including Attorney General Eric Holder and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, about the abusive practices now common in their industry. It was a chance, finally, to get some relief.

Staples and other farmers described a system that is worse in certain respects than sharecropping. It works like this: to do business nowadays, most chicken farmers need to contract with a processing company. The company delivers them feed and chicks, which farmers raise into full-size birds. The same company then buys those same birds back when they are full grown. The problem is that the big processing company is usually the only game in town. So it can—and usually does—call all the shots, dictating everything from what facilities a farmer builds on his farm to the price he receives for his full-size chickens.


Comments »

GOP Describes Fiscal Cliff Talks “Constructive” , Meeting More Symbolic Rather Than Substantive

“House Speaker John Boehner offered a “framework” including new revenue to reduce the U.S. budget deficit during talks with President Barack Obama and Congress leaders on averting a year-end fiscal crisis.

Boehner joined White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in describing today’s meeting, the first in a series, as “constructive.” The session featured the same actors, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, both Democrats, who failed to reach a $4 trillion debt compromise in mid-2011.

Democrats and Republicans agreed the meeting was more symbolic than substantive. It was “a photo op for the president, so be it,” said Georgia Republican Tom Price.

“I wouldn’t expect a lot of movement,” Peter Orszag, Obama’s former director of the Office of Management and Budget, said today on Bloomberg Television. “That’ll come after Thanksgiving.” ”

Full article

Comments »

White House in Talks to Replace Spending Cuts

“White House officials are in advanced internal discussions about a plan to replace the sweeping spending cuts set to begin in January with a smaller, separate package of targeted spending cuts and tax increases, people familiar with the planning said.

The spending cuts, known as the “sequester,” will begin in January unless the White House and Congress intervene. They would cut spending by roughly $100 billion next year, and then for eight additional years, hitting a number of federal programs, including military programs, embassy security and state aid.

Critics of the cuts, which were put in place by last year’s Budget Control Act deal to raise the debt ceiling, have said they could derail what remains a weak economic recovery. Democrats and Republicans have separately tried to design plans to replace the sequester.

The discussions are just one part of a complicated set of possibilities as Washington deals not only with the looming spending cuts but also the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and other traditional year-end priorities, such as finding a way to halt the scope of the Alternative Minimum Tax. While moving along separate tracks, it is also possible these three policy issues could be wrapped up into one universal deal.

The White House is set to start negotiations with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders Friday.”

Full article

Comments »

The Senate Seeks to Reduce the Deficit Through More Spending

Senate Democrats, feeling confident from their net gain of two seats in last week’s election, say any deficit-reduction package negotiated in the coming weeks must include stimulus measures.

Read the rest here.


Comments »

China’s Communist Party Anoints New Leaders

“HONG KONG (CNNMoney) — China’s ruling Communist Party named seven men to its powerful Politburo Standing Committee Thursday in a highly orchestrated ceremony that emphasized party unity and held out little immediate prospect of bolder economic reforms.

The ritual, which took place in Beijing amid heavy security, caps the 18th Communist Party National Congress. The selection of the seven, who can serve for a decade, provides a glimpse into the thinking of party officials and contains hints about government priorities as well as the political machinations behind the choice of China’s next generation of leaders.”

Full article and video

Comments »

CEOs Wrong To Promote Dangerous Budget Cuts, 350 Economists Say

More than 80 high-profile CEOs just penned a letter calling for deep budget cuts to avert to reduce the deficit, but hundreds of economists warned on Wednesday that such austerity measures are medieval medicine that will exacerbate the economy’s underlying ailment: high unemployment.

On Wednesday, 350 economists, many left-leaning, signed a letter calling for “jobs and growth, not austerity.” The letter, written by Robert Borosage and Roger Hickey, co-directors of the Institute for America’s Future, and Robert Kuttner, founder of The American Prospect, emphasizes that mitigating long-term unemployment is the key to ensuring higher economic growth, lower unemployment and lower deficits.

“The budget hawks have the sequence backwards…. Budget cuts in a deep slump lead only to a deeper slump,” the economists said. “We need jobs first. With recovery, deficit reduction will come of its own accord thanks to increased revenues in an improving economy.”

Economists that signed the letter include Jared Bernstein, a former Obama economic adviser; Justin Wolfers, an economics professor at the University of Michigan; and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. Paul Krugman’s wife and collaborator Robin Wells signed the letter, but Krugman himself did not, even though he has madesimilar arguments in his pieces for The New York Times.”

Full article

Comments »

Senate Delays Vote On Bill That Would Banish Financial Regulation To Cost-Benefit Analysis Hell

“Financial reformers have won a small battle in their fight with Wall Street over financial regulation, but they’re still at risk of losing the war.

It appears that heavy pressure from an unusual coalition of financial regulators and reform advocates has convinced the Senate Committee On Homeland Security And Governmental Affairs to delay a vote on a controversial bill, the Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act (S. 3468), that would give the White House unprecedented power to frustrate independent regulatory agencies trying to make new rules, including rules meant to prevent another financial crisis.

Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) reportedly had planned to push the bill out of committee on Thursday for a quick vote on the Senate floor. But it is not on the agenda now, according to a Lieberman spokeswoman. The bill is not dead, however; it has merely been delayed. And other, potentially more dangerous, bills designed to gut financial reform are still lurking in Congress.

“I would expect them to keep pushing it,” said Marcus Stanley, policy director of Americans for Financial Reform, a nonprofit advocacy group. “But there was a tactical victory won in pushing this timing back.”

The bipartisan IARAA, supported by the bank lobby and sponsored by Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), gives the president authority to force regulators to jump through 13 different analytical hoops when writing new rules. Regulations that might affect the economy by $100 million or more per year have to go through even more stringent analysis.”

Full article

Comments »