Friday, April 22, 2011

More Friday Stuff

I couldn't let the week end without noting this development, though I'm sure we haven't heard the last of John Ensign and his scandalous garbage...

...and I once linked this video to John Edwards, so I think it fits here too.

Friday Stuff

God, I wish our beloved commonwealth could make national news for something positive for a change (here)...


...and by the way, Happy Earth Day (and this is completely predictable, of course).

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday Stuff

One way to honor Tim Hetherington is to get the word out about the movie he co-directed (here - vid should play OK)...

...and I thought this was a nice little tutorial on how we end up getting screwed into paying a higher price for gas (hint: it has nothing to do with our Kenyan Marxist pre-zee-dint, who is actually trying to do something about it here...or at least not until Obama appoints someone to the CFTC)...

...and I've been hot and cold on Bill Maher this year, but even though this is a few news cycles old, I think it still bears repeating (bad word alert)...

...and I don't know if I'm going to post tomorrow or not, but I don't want to forget to extend 75th birthday wishes to Glen Campbell (here - had a bit of a tough road, but he seems OK now fortunately).

Thursday Mashup (4/21/11)

(Posting is questionable for tomorrow, by the way.)

  • To commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf yesterday, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a typical Obama-bashing column on energy by former Repug U.S. House Rep John Peterson (here)…
    On this first anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, America's energy policy is as adrift as it was a year ago. The Obama administration has set the commendable goal of cutting oil imports by a third within a decade, but its pattern of obstruction on domestic drilling will move us in the opposite direction, toward an energy freeze of our own making.
    Oh brother – as noted here, U.S. oil production last year was the highest since 2003.

    While it's encouraging that the administration lifted a deepwater drilling moratorium last fall and has issued a handful of permits for drilling in the gulf since, scores more are languishing at the Interior Department. At least seven rigs that operated in the gulf have relocated overseas while waiting.
    I believe that claim is actually true, though, as noted here, one of the seven rigs that left returned in March, and another is due to return later this year (and somehow I think that has more to do with contractual arrangements between Big Oil and its subcontractors than any moves by the Obama Administration).

    The Energy Information Administration projects that domestic oil production will fall 240,000 barrels a day through 2012 as a result of current policies, which isn't surprising given that we get more oil from the Gulf of Mexico than from all the Persian Gulf nations combined. Even a one-year delay in development means potential losses to government revenue of about $5.5 billion, squeezing local, state, and federal budgets.
    As noted here, lower crude oil production for this year was projected last October by the Institute for Energy Research. And as noted here, this country obtains oil from diverse sources all over the world (news to me too a bit, I must say; basically, if we couldn’t “drill, baby, drill” in the Gulf tomorrow for some reason, there are still other countries who will help us feed our oil addiction...and by the way, I call this trying to get to the root of the problem by President Obama).

    I realize this is a column about oil and not the environmental impact of producing it, but I think it should be noted that, while in office, Peterson “received the lowest possible rating from the League of Conservation Voters in 2006,” as noted here.

    Interesting that the Inky chose Peterson to write a column timed for the one-year anniversary of one of the worst oil spills in our country’s history (would have been nice to include even some passing observations about the environment). What’s next, a column about good government from “Duke” Cunningham?

  • Next, this story from The Hill tells us the following…
    Republicans are attacking a group of Democrats who didn’t vote for any of the five budget proposals on the House floor last week, saying they “failed the most basic responsibility of governing.”

    The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) sent out missives with images of a blank check to the districts of 21 Democrats, many of them Blue Dogs in competitive districts.

    “Mike Ross has failed the most basic responsibility of governing by failing to even vote for a budget over the last two years, let alone see one passed,” the NRCC said in one statement targeting Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), the co-chairman of the conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition.

    A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Jesse Ferguson, responded: “House Republicans are the last people who should be lecturing about budgets after they voted to end Medicare and raise health care costs for seniors, rather than choosing to end taxpayer giveaways for Big Oil companies making record profits or tax breaks for the ultra rich.”
    I find myself in a bit of an uncomfortable position here, given that I’m defending the “deficit peacock” Bush Dogs. However, it should also be noted here that, when they lost their congressional majority in 2006, the Repugs basically left 9 of 11 appropriations bills on the table for the incoming Democratic congressional majority.

    The Repugs don’t care about the deficit. They never have, and they never will.

  • Further, I give you last week’s Area Votes in Congress from the Philadelphia Inquirer (here)…
    Preventive-care fund. Voting 236-183, the House passed a bill (HR 1217) to repeal the health-care law's Prevention and Public Health Fund, which will grant nearly $18 billion over eight years to states and communities for preventive health care, or wellness, programs. Backers said that by promoting healthier lifestyles, the fund would reduce treatment costs. The bill awaits Senate action.

    Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.) said that Congress should terminate "a slush fund from which the secretary [of Health and Human Services] can spend without any congressional oversight or approval."

    A yes vote was to repeal the Prevention and Public Health Fund.

    Voting yes: Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Michael Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Pat Meehan (R., Pa.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), Jon Runyan (R., N.J.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

    Voting no: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), John Carney (D., Del.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), and Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.).
    Read this to learn how utterly pathetic the charge is that the Prevention and Public Health Fund is a “slush fund” from Pancake Joe Pitts (and a good comeback by Henry Waxman is here).
    Seniors' wellness fund. Voting 189-234, the House defeated a Democratic motion to HR 1217 (above) that sought to keep the new health law's Prevention and Public Health Fund in operation for the benefit of senior citizens. Pitts said the Democratic motion "guts the underlying bill and continues the runaway spending that the American people have rejected."

    A yes bill was to continue the fund for seniors.

    Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Fattah, Holden, and Schwartz.

    Voting no: Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, and Runyan.

    Not voting: Smith.
    Oh, and by the way, to get an idea of how serious Pitts actually is about job creation, get a load of this from his congressional web site (might be a good idea for PA-16’s waste of space to “get on the stick” here and provide a news update more current than last August…stop showing us a picture of a horse and buggy in Pennsylvania Dutch Country and show us instead some people getting hired and going back to work).
    Final 2011 budget. Voting 260-167, the House sent the Senate a bill (HR 1473) to fund the government for the remaining five-plus months of fiscal 2011 at an annualized level of $1.365 trillion. The figure applies to discretionary spending but not to entitlement programs or interest payments on the national debt, which account for the remainder of the $3.7 trillion federal budget for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. The bill reflects $38 billion in cuts in domestic programs agreed upon April 8 by President Obama and congressional leaders to stave off a government closure.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

    Voting yes: Andrews, Carney, Dent, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, Schwartz, and Smith.

    Voting no: Brady.
    I admire Bob Brady standing on principle here, but I suppose a yes vote is merely acknowledging what is bound to come to pass anyway.
    Planned Parenthood. The House passed, 241-185, a measure (H Con Res 36) to remove funding for Planned Parenthood from the fiscal 2011 budget. This private organization provides mostly preventive health care for women at 800 clinics nationwide, with abortions accounting for 3 percent of its services.

    The abortions are not federally funded, in keeping with the 1976 Hyde Amendment's ban on using taxpayer money to pay for abortions except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.

    A yes vote was to defund Planned Parenthood.

    Voting yes: Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.

    Voting no: Brady, Carney, Dent, Fattah, Holden, and Schwartz.

    Not voting: Andrews.
    To truly comprehend the idiocy of this vote, I would recommend this column from Gail Collins in the New York Times today (it’s about Texas, the “breeding ground for bad government,” as The Eternal Molly Ivins once called it, but it might as well be about the whole country…kudos to Charlie Dent for acting like an adult here, which stands him apart from the rest of the fools and frauds in his party including Mikey The Beloved).
    2012 Republican budget. Voting 235-193, the House approved a Republican budget (H Con Res 34) for 2012 and later years that, over time, would privatize Medicare and raise the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67; convert Medicaid to a block-grant program run by the states; permanently extend Bush-era tax cuts; reduce discretionary spending for domestic programs by more than 20 percent; increase the basic defense budget by 15 percent; and keep Social Security as it is. Additionally, the plan would simplify the tax code, close unspecified loopholes and end unspecified tax breaks, and use the revenue from those steps to cut the top corporate and individual tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.

    Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.) said: "Medicare is a promise to American seniors that we would not abandon them even as they age, even as they need medical care - until now. The Republican budget will end Medicare as we know it, offering a limited voucher and expecting seniors to find insurance no matter how sick they are or how expensive it is."

    A yes vote was to pass the budget.

    Voting yes: Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.

    Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Fattah, Holden, and Schwartz.
    If you remember no other vote from the ones listed here, remember this one. And act accordingly in November 2012 when the time comes to do something about it.

    Oh, and here's a little video reminder too.

    2012 Democratic budget. Voting 166-259, members defeated a budget (H Con Res 34) drafted by House Democrats for fiscal 2012 and later years. In contrast to the GOP blueprint (above), the measure would preserve Medicare and Medicaid in their existing forms; fully fund the new health law; end tax breaks for oil firms; end Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans; spend more on domestic programs and infrastructure projects; provide less defense spending, and reduce deficit-spending at slower pace. The plan would spend $3.69 trillion in fiscal 2012 and generate a deficit of $1.09 trillion.

    A yes vote backed the Democratic budget.

    Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Holden, and Schwartz.

    Voting no: Carney, Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.
    Interesting “No” vote from “Democrat” John Carney, I must say.
    Republican Study Group. Voting 119-136, members defeated the most conservative of five budget plans before the House, a measure that would prevent tax increases but reduce spending sufficiently to balance the federal budget in 10 years. In part, the plan (H Con Res 34) would cut nondefense discretionary spending nearly in half over 10 years, privatize Medicare, gradually raise Social Security's full-retirement age for people now 59 or younger; convert Medicaid to a block-grant program, and repeal the new health law.

    A yes vote backed the Republican Study Group budget.

    Voting no: Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.

    Not voting: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Fattah, Holden, and Schwartz.
    This was the cute little move engineered by Steny Hoyer that had the Repugs scrambling to change their “Yes” votes to “No” lest the true face of their hostility towards everyone but the “pay no price, bear no burden” bunch be revealed for all to see in passing this particularly Dickensian budget.

    Once more, every numbskull who voted to return this bunch to power in the House should be smacking themselves with an open palm in the middle of their foreheads at this moment.
    Progressive Caucus. Voting 77-347, members defeated a budget proposed by the Progressive Caucus, which is made up of the House's most liberal members. This plan (H Con Res 34) would bring U.S. troops home from Afghanistan and use the savings to balance the federal budget in 10 years. Additionally, it would add a public option to the new health law, raise the gasoline tax, and increase taxes on energy firms, crack down on corporate-tax loopholes, increase spending for education and other domestic programs, and invest in infrastructure projects such as road-building to create jobs and stimulate economic growth.

    A yes vote backed the Progressive Caucus budget.

    Voting yes: Brady and Fattah.

    Voting no: Andrews, Carney, Dent, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, Schwartz, and Smith.
    So at least we know we can count on Bob Brady and Chaka Fattah. We know what Tim Holden is, and it’s becoming more and more obvious what John Carney is also. However, Allyson Schwartz and Rob Andrews truly should know better.

    And by the way, in case anyone is inclined to think “oh, there go those nutty libs again,” remember this (Update 4/22/11: And "The Economist" likes the Dem budget alternative, as noted here? They're "serious," wouldn't you say?)

    Final 2011 budget. Voting 81-19, the Senate sent President Obama a bill (HR 1473, above) to fund the government through Sept. 30 at a yearly level of $1.365 trillion in discretionary spending. This bipartisan fiscal 2011 budget cuts spending by $38 billion below 2010 levels. There was no debate on the measure.

    A yes vote was to give final approval to the 2011 budget.

    Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Chris Coons (D., Del.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), and Robert Menendez (D., N.J.).

    Voting no: Pat Toomey (R., Pa.).
    God, Pat Toomey is turning into the Senate’s version of Joe Pitts. And if that isn’t an insult, I don’t know what is.
    Health-law funding. Voting 47-53, the Senate defeated a measure (H Con Res 35) to deny funding for implementing the new health law. Although most of the law's major provisions are delayed until 2014, funding began this year for initiatives such as closing the donut hole in the Medicare prescription-drug plan; allowing youths up to 26 to enroll in their parents' health plans; restructuring Medicare Advantage; establishing a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation; subsidizing preventive services such as colorectal-cancer screening; reimbursing doctors and hospitals for Medicare treatments, and providing grants for community health networks that reach out to low-income people.

    A yes vote was to defund the new health law.

    Voting yes: Toomey.

    Voting no: Carper, Casey, Coons, Lautenberg, and Menendez.
    Given this vote, I dedicate the following video to “No Corporate Tax” Pat (might have to crank the volume a bit – maybe, if others could sponsor Nicole Lamoreaux once more, she might even be able to come to PA).

    This week, Congress is in Easter-Passover recess until the week of May 2.

  • Finally, it seems that those life forms at The Heritage Foundation are mad at Tina Dupuy of The Atlantic for criticizing GOP “financial expert” Paul Ryan and the supposed Heritage guru behind Ryan’s flim-flam act, William Beach (here).

    Here is a portion of the criticism from Heritage…
    When an activity is rewarded, people engage in more of that activity. When an activity is penalized, people engage in less of it. The greater the reward or penalty, the greater will be the response. If anything in the social sciences can be universally regarded as fact, it is those preceding statements.
    Uh, I would consider the rise in the price of gas to be a “penalty.” However, if I choose to “engage in less” buying of gas…well then, I don’t get to work (and neither does Mrs. Doomsy), we don’t go to the grocery store or run other errands, we don’t drive the young one to his activities, etc. Basically, when it comes to some of the items or activities we need to simply live our lives, we just have to deal with it regardless of what happens, like anyone else.

    That said, I’ll allow the following argument from Heritage…
    This absurd logic decimated the high-end boat-building industry in the early 1990s. In 1991 a 10 percent tax on luxury boats went into effect. Compared to 1990, the 1991 sales dropped 70 percent. The original tax projection (like those done by Citizens for Tax Justice) assumed sales would be unaffected by the tax. After a decade of losing sales to foreign producers the tax was dropped with bi-partisan support.
    In response, I give you the following from about 20 years ago (here - page three)…
    "The excise tax (on luxury boats) is terrible for the future of the industry, but our business was more directly affected by the war in the gulf and the recession," said Stephen Palma, owner of the New York Sailing School. "Our bookings came in late this year; the war stopped people from thinking about such things as sailing lessons.

    "And those people who formerly were our best customers -- Wall Street types who wanted to learn how to sail before buying a boat -- have pretty much disappeared." A four-day learn-to-sail program in 23-foot Sonar boats costs $395.

    But at the Offshore Sailing School, Tyler Pierce, director of operations, said the number of students was about the same as last year. "We did especially well selling learning-to-sail courses at discount to people who signed up for it at the Boat Show this year," Mr. Pierce said. His two-week sailing class, in Soling boats, costs $425.

    And with fewer people buying boats, he said, he is offering rentals.
    So when it comes to the economy, Heritage understands luxury boats. Everybody got that?

    The poor? The unemployed? Women and family issues? Not so much.
  • Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    Wednesday Stuff

    Hopefully back to posting tomorrow, by the way...

    Great news about Patrick Murphy running for PA Attorney General here; somehow, I think that will be a pretty important job given what probably will be the cascading misery from thoroughly unregulated drilling in the Marcellus Shale...all the best of course - it also generates some interesting possibilities in the matter of who will run against Mikey The Beloved next year (wonder if Andy Warren will try to become a Democrat again - hey, if it's the third week of a month with an "R" in it, which is fitting...)...

    ...and it looks like the budget guru of the Repugs got a taste of what people really think when his facade of moderation is ripped off here ("oh, but Paul Ryan is SERIOUS! He's a "game changer"! Yeah, go get some tea and sympathy from John Harwood or some other corporate media a commenter noted, when confronted, the GOP always falls back on the "it will hurt small business" garbage - of course, a "small business" to them is Koch Industries because of that "S-Corp" stuff - one more thing: where is Ryan getting that number about Obama wanting the top tax rate at 44 percent?)...

    ...and don't look now, but those zany French have more guts standing up to art that is judged to be "controversial" than we do...

    ...and when it comes to our corporate media infatuation with Ryan and the Repugs, I can't help but think of a song like this.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    Tuesday Stuff

    Here's a video dedicated to our PA-08 rep, who voted for "RyanCare" in lieu of actual Medicare for real last week along with his pals...

    ...and with Washington's preoccupation with deficit reduction and raiding Social Security (and a good question in that vein is posed here), I think it's important for our politicians and our media to be reminded that people are still unemployed, as noted here (and that's a bipartisan criticism, by the way - and this played no small part also)...

    ...of course, as far as PA governor Tom "Space Cadet" Corbett is concerned, "the jobs are there" (And isn't this charming also? Kind of goes along with the mentality of someone who refused to comply with PA’s Right to Know Law. Then, he has remained cloistered from public view, meeting only with his contributors and their friends, before imposing pretty much one-man rule over Marcellus Shale drilling matters)...

    ...and given the Springsteen criticism from Bucks County's big mouth earlier today, I think a number from The Boss is called for here (had it in mind for this post from awhile back).

    Tuesday Mashup (4/19/11)

  • The next time Gary Weckselblatt or someone else from the Bucks County Courier Times decides to fluff “Mikey The Beloved” Fitzpatrick over his opposition to “Obama care,” I’d appreciate it if they’d mention this story to him. It has to do with recovering U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her plea for our soldiers who have suffered a traumatic brain injury on the battlefield to receive something approximating the care she has received while recovering from her gunshot wound to the head (it speaks volumes to me, by the way, that someone dealing with the difficulties faced by Congresswoman Giffords can find a way to advocate for others facing struggles similar to what she is facing).

    As the Daily Beast story by Peter J. Boyer tells us…
    Most military personnel, however, are covered by an insurance plan called TRICARE, which does not cover key elements of cognitive rehabilitation therapy. As revealed in a series of investigative reports by the non-profit news enterprise, ProPublica, TRICARE claims that the benefits of cognitive rehabilitation therapy are not well enough established to warrant providing it to troops. TRICARE bases this assertion on the findings of a study commissioned by TRICARE itself, and which ProPublica’s reporting has found to be “deeply flawed.”

    Coverage of treatment for brain-injured patients has inevitably become a political issue. On the military side, money is an ongoing worry for the Pentagon, which is being “eaten alive,” as Defense Secretary Robert Gates put it, by health-care costs.

    The case for civilians was made earlier this month by the office of (Congresswoman) Giffords, which joined in a plea to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, to include brain trauma rehabilitation among the essential benefits mandated by the health-care reform law. Immediate action seems unlikely.

    “We greatly appreciate the thoughtful ideas provided by Congresswoman Giffords’ staff and will certainly take them into account as we work to develop rules describing an essential benefits package,” says Richard Sorian, HHS assistant secretary for Public Affairs. “HHS will be engaging in a public process later this year to get broad input for the process of establishing essential benefits.”
    So, in the event that cognitive rehabilitation therapy was to be covered for our military, it would be provided by TRICARE. And seeking that our PA-08 rep voted against expanding TRICARE access on behalf of thousands of Reservist and National Guard members, even though 20 percent of all reservists do not have health insurance, and 40 percent of reservists aged 19 to 35 lack health coverage, as noted here...well, let’s just say that I’m not optimistic.

    And by the way, I would consider the fact that the Pentagon is being “eaten alive” by health care costs as another good reason to end the damn wars and bring everybody home, wouldn’t you say?

  • Next, it seems that Ramesh Ponnuru of Irrational Spew Online haz a sad over those nasty Dems targeting GOP House members and their votes for “RyanCare” (here).

    Well, at least the Dems would be pointing out the truth, unlike what the Repugs and their pals did in the last election, targeting Democrats for supposedly cutting Medicare, a tactic used by the thoroughly odious Ron Johnson, among others (here).

  • Finally, if it’s one of three days of the week, then that means that it’s time for more local pundit sludge from J.D. Mullane of the Courier Times (here – today’s subject is the abuse of New Jersey’s 1964 Farmland Assessment Act by one of Long Branch, New Jersey’s most famous sons)…
    The story about "fake farmers" using the Farmland Assessment Act of 1964 to decrease their property taxes was laid out in the Asbury Park newspaper in December. In February, a TV news station in New York City revealed how Springsteen is among the fake farmers and pays a fraction of taxes on prime real estate in one of the most affluent neighborhoods in the Garden State.

    Fox 5 New York found that while (Bruce) Springsteen pays $138,000 in taxes on his house on three acres, the surrounding 200 acres of buffer, owned by Springsteen through a trust, paid just $4,638.67.

    That's less tax than working stiffs in blue collar Willingboro pay on their quarter-acre estates along Levitt Parkway.

    Springsteen gets the tax break by having a farmer grow organic vegetables on part of the land, according to the news report.

    Who knew organic arugula could taste so sweet?

    Springsteen's other working class neighbor, Jon Bon Jovi, has a similar deal, Fox 5 found.

    Bon Jovi pays $296,000 in taxes on his house and some of the land it's on. But he pays a mere $104 on an additional seven surrounding acres. Bon Jovi pays someone to raise honeybees on his property, triggering the lower assessment.

    It must be swell to be Bruce Springsteen, living an idly rich life in horsey country, knocking around your mansion, strumming your guitar, pondering the poor.

    But where do economic geniuses like The Boss think New Jersey is going to get the money to pay for social programs? Honeybees?

    New Jersey has an $11 billion budget deficit - the largest of any state.
    Shockingly, J.D. has stumbled into the truth regarding New Jersey’s deficit. However, as noted here, Governor Bully and his pals allowed a surcharge to expire on those making $400 grand or more anyway (more “do as I say, not as I do” Repug self-entitlement...and when it comes to Christie-related hagiography, let's not forget this).

    And yes, the situation with the Farmland Assessment Act is a legitimate issue. That’s why New Jersey State Senators Stephen Sweeney (Dem) and Jennifer Beck (Repug) have promised to do something about it.

    And as noted here, many others have taken advantage of the Farmland Assessment Act, including “Steve” Forbes, magnate Vernon Hill formerly of Commerce Bank, and the husband of former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman.

    Oh, and do you know who else takes advantage of the Farmland Assessment Act? Why, none other than Ol’ Jon Runyan, that’s who. As noted here…
    (Runyan) was the owner of a 25 acre estate which legally qualified for reduced property taxes under farmland assessment. Runyan's qualification for farmland assessment amounted to four mules, and about $800 in profit selling firewood. Four mules and $800 in annual profit may sound like a poor excuse for a farm, but according to the current law it does qualify for assessment as a farm.
    I have a lot less of a problem with a rock star taking advantage of a bogus law than I do with a sitting member of the U.S. Congress.

    Just chalk this up to more failed punditry by J.D. (recalling Springsteen songs, I have a hard time considering which is more appropriate for Mullane, “Brilliant Disguise,” “You’re Missing,” or “I’m Goin’ Down,” but after careful consideration, I settled on “Part Man, Part Monkey”).
  • Monday, April 18, 2011

    Monday Stuff

    Actually, Representative "Puppy Dog Eyes" from Wisconsin is right, but not in the way he imagines (here)...

    ...and no, I don't really have a lot to say in response to this either...

    ...except to wonder if The Sainted Ronnie R would be good enough for his own party if he were still with us (here)...

    ...though I suppose, when you get down to it, this is all that matters to the former "party of Lincoln" (the name of this song, I mean...and many Dems too, I know).

    More Money-Mad Monday Mikey Musings

    Our PA-08 U.S. House rep doled out some king-sized helpings of “conventional wisdom” yesterday in the Bucks County Courier Times (here...glad to see the push-back Mikey is getting in the comments, by the way)…
    Since Congress convened in January, no issue has dominated the national discussion and congressional debate more than spending and the deficit.
    This actually might be a record of sorts for Mikey – he’s wrong from his very first sentence; I don’t know about “congressional debate,” but when it comes to “national discussion,” as noted here, jobs are the number one concern on a list of five issues (and on that list, the deficit came in last).

    From tea party patriots to President Obama, there is now nearly unanimous agreement that government spending is out of control. The time and attention finally being paid to this issue is long overdue.
    As is usually the case with Mikey, there is a substantial amount of gall in his umbrage about reducing deficits when, as a member of the dreaded 109th Congress, he helped to make the deficit substantially worse, as noted here.
    Over the past three years, the United States has added $5 trillion to our national debt, bringing the total to $14.3 trillion. With nearly 42 cents of every dollar spent by the federal government being financed, we are borrowing trillions each year to feed our spending addiction. Perhaps the most sobering fact is that after July 27, every cent the government spends through the rest of the year will be borrowed.

    While the debate in Washington on the size and types of cuts has been vigorous and at times tense, it has failed to focus on the harm out-of-control deficit spending has caused and will continue to cause among private sector job creators.
    Get ready for the return of “the confidence fairy” (a good response to that from Professor Krugman is here)…
    In order for new companies to start-up or existing companies to grow, certain elements are essential. Three of the most important are availability of capital, economic confidence and predictability of future costs. Deficit spending at the levels we have seen over the last three years has undermined all three.
    I wonder if it has occurred to Mikey that cutting government spending can actually increase the deficit? Ezra Klein tells us how here…
    Every dollar the Internal Revenue Service spends for audits, liens and seizing property from tax cheats brings in more than $10, a rate of return so good the Obama administration wants to boost the agency's budget.

    House Republicans, seeing the heavy hand of a too-big government, beg to differ. They've already voted to cut the IRS budget by $600 million this year and want bigger cuts in 2012...IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman told the committee Tuesday that the $600 million cut in this year's budget would result in the IRS collecting $4 billion less through tax enforcement programs.
    And as noted here (about halfway down the page) H.R. 1, the Full Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 passed in February…(included) drastic spending cuts throughout, including to the Treasury Department and IRS (and as noted here, Mikey voted Yes..."Aye" actually).

    (Oh, and speaking of the IRS, get a load of this bill Mikey is sponsoring with “Moon Unit” Bachmann, the “Innocent Spouse Relief Act”; Fitzpatrick and Bachmann claim that two years isn’t enough time for an “innocent spouse” to file a return when “an abusive or manipulative spouse does not tell the other person about collection proceedings.”

    Now far be it for me to oppose the rights of “innocent” spouses (determined so by a court of law, I would assume), but if two years is not enough time for such a person to file a return, then what would be an appropriate period? Five years? How much projected revenue would be lost if this bill were to be signed into law, I wonder?)

    Continuing with Mikey…
    Of all the elements, access to capital is the most essential. Like a car loan or student loan, when the government borrows money, it has to make regular payments or risk default. The difference is that government has someone else to pick up the tab - taxpayers.

    Last year, interest payments on the national debt totaled $414 billion. This constitutes nearly 3 percent of GDP, the entire economic output of the United States.
    As noted here, though, 3 percent is actually pretty low; it was actually around 14 percent in 1980, for example.

    Massive debt also reduces the available capital because as our national debt explodes, lenders lose confidence in our ability to make interest payments on time. As Greece and Portugal learned last year, this leads to lower credit ratings, which makes loans even more expensive for U.S. taxpayers. The deficit-driven spending cycle continues.
    As noted here, a big part of Greece and Portugal’s problems had to do with the fact that they both traded in their country’s currency so they could be denominated on the Euro; as a result, “to regain competitiveness, (Greece needs) massive deflation; but that deflation, in addition to involving an extended period of very high unemployment, worsens the real burden of their outstanding debt” (and more on Portugal, which faces a similar problem, is here).

    Lenders are not the only ones losing confidence in America's fiscal health. A key economic barometer is consumer confidence. When you and I feel that our nation is on firm financial footing, we are more likely to buy a car, replace an old refrigerator or try out the newest smart phone. The same is true for employers. If we expect businesses to buy new equipment, open a new office, or most importantly hire a new employee, they must have confidence in the economy and the government's fiscal stability.
    As noted here, consumer confidence is down not because of the debt, but because of “inflation creep” and climbing food and gas prices (and I don’t have a clue as to when, or if, I’ll even consider buying a “smart phone,” Mikey, regardless of the economy).
    Employer confidence is linked closely with the final factor: predictability of future costs. Chief among costs are labor, taxes and regulation. Having a clear understanding of what these costs will be tomorrow allows employers to expand and hire new employees today. Rather than begin hiring, many companies are still waiting on the sidelines because of continued uncertainty about future tax rates and related costs.
    Unbelievable – as noted here, tax receipts to the government are at their lowest level in 60 years (and if a business isn’t smart enough to shield itself from tax liability to the maximum extent possible with all of the myriad loopholes in our tax code big enough to drive a Cadillac Escalade through, then they don’t deserve to be in business…also, here are more depressing numbers on how the richest 400 individuals in this country have seen their income quadruple because of the disparity in our tax rates).

    And speaking of business, I found this link at Fitzpatrick’s web site where he encourages anyone who views it to “share your job creating solutions.” I would be highly interested to see what kind of feedback he has received, if any.

    I think it is ridiculous anyway for Fitzpatrick to act as if he is some fiscal savings guru when he has supported tax cuts for the rich, which, as noted here, have done more to explode the deficit than any of the proposed cost-cutting measures between Obama and the congressional Repugs.

    What the Repugs in Congress are doing has nothing to do with trying to pay down the deficit. It is all about pursuing a course that will forever enshrine a new Gilded Age of profligate wealth for the very few and ever-more-wrenching poverty and desperation (to say nothing of ever-bleaker job prospects) for the very many.

    The trick isn’t to keep this in mind now, though that is important. The trick is to remember it in November 2012 when Mikey runs for re-election, enjoying typically full-throated support from the Bucks County Courier Times and “nod-and-a-wink” approval from the Catholic Church, with their campaign placards for “pro-life” Mikey that will appear near their parishes (but not close enough to church grounds to legitimately endanger their tax-exempt status…I sometimes wonder if one of the oldest institutions on earth has the slightest idea of what it is that’s happening with our economy).

    Where are the jobs, congressman?