Posts tagged ‘Paul Ryan’

FOCUS | With Deficit Hawks Circling Overhead


FOCUS | With Deficit Hawks Circling Overhead.

ith deficit hawks circling overhead, the responsibility for creating jobs has fallen by default to Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve. Last week the Fed said it expected to keep interest rates near zero through mid 2015 in order to stimulate employment.

Two cheers.

The problem is, low interest rates alone won’t do it. The Fed has held interest rates near zero for several years without that much to show for it. A smaller portion of American adults is now working than at any time in the last thirty years.
So far, the biggest beneficiaries of near-zero interest rates haven’t been average Americans. They’ve been too weighed down with debt to borrow more, and their wages keep dropping. And because they won’t and can’t borrow more, businesses haven’t had more customers. So there’s been no reason for businesses to borrow to expand and hire more people, even at low interest rates.

The biggest winners from the Fed’s near-zero rates have been the big banks, which are now assured of two or more years of almost free money. The big banks haven’t used the money to refinance mortgages – why should they when they can squeeze more money out of homeowners by keeping them at higher rates? Instead, they’ve used the almost free money to make big bets on derivatives. If the bets continue to go well, the bankers will continue to make a bundle. If the bets sour, well, you know what happens then. Watch your wallets.

The truth is, low interest rates won’t boost the economy without an expansive fiscal policy that makes up for the timid spending of consumers and businesses. Until more Americans have more money in their pockets, government spending has to fill the gap.

On this score, the big news isn’t the Fed’s renewed determination to keep interest rates low. The big news is global lender’s desperation to park their savings in Treasury bills. The euro is way too risky, the yen is still a basket case, China is slowing down and no one knows what will happen to its currency, and you’d have to be crazy to park your savings in Russia.

It’s a match made in heaven – or should be. Because foreigners are so willing to buy T-bills, America can borrow money more cheaply than ever. We could use it to put Americans back to work rebuilding our crumbling highways and bridges and schools, cleaning up our national parks and city parks and playgrounds, and doing everything else that needs doing that we’ve neglected for too long.

This would put money in people’s pockets and encourage them to take advantage of the Fed’s low interest rates to borrow even more. And their spending, in turn, would induce businesses to expand and create more jobs. A virtuous cycle.

Yet for purely ideological reasons we’re heading in the opposite direction. The federal government is cutting back spending. It’s not even helping state and local governments – which continue to lay off teachers, fire fighters, social workers, and police officers.

Worst of all, we’re facing a so-called “fiscal cliff” next year when $109 billion in federal spending cuts automatically go into effect. The Congressional Budget Office warns this may push us into recession – which will cause more joblessness and make the federal budget deficit even larger relative to the size of the economy. That’s the austerity trap Europe has fallen into.

Mitt Romney has been criticizing the Obama administration for not doing more to avoid the cliff, but he seems to forget that congressional Republicans brought it on when they refused to raise the debt ceiling. They then created the cliff as a fall-back mechanism. Romney’s vice-presidential pick Paul Ryan, chair of the House budget committee, voted for it.

It’s a mindless gimmick that presumes our biggest problem is the deficit, when even the Fed understands our biggest problem right now is unemployment. Yet even the nation’s credit-rating agencies have bought into the mindlessness. Last week Moody’s said it would likely downgrade U.S. government bonds if Congress and the White House don’t come up with a credible plan to reduce the federal budget deficit. (Standard & Poor’s has already downgraded U.S. debt.)

Hello? Can we please stop obsessing about the federal budget deficit? Repeat after me: America’s #1 economic problem is unemployment. Our #1 goal should be to restore job growth. Period.

The Federal Reserve Board understands this. And at least it’s trying. But it can’t succeed on its own. Global lenders are giving us a way out. Let’s take advantage of the opportunity.

Robert B. Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock” and “The Work of Nations.” His latest is an e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.

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+24 # Barbara K 2012-09-16 09:38
Absolutely, Mr. Reich, I’ve been wondering why the Rs are sulking so about the deficit. It cannot be fixed until people are working and paying taxes. Can’t pay down the debt until more money is coming in. End the tax cuts, that would help to take care of the deficit. It is like a family sitting around the kitchen table trying to pay its bills when it just threw out half their income. Not possible. Of course the Rs are so irresponsible, after all most of the debt was incurred before Obama even got there. We have the Rs to thank for the deficit in the first place. They howl over it now to make it look like they are really worried about it. If they were really worried about it, they would stop so much military spending. Buying things we don’t need.

OBAMA/BIDEN 2012
The alternatives are liars, cheats, thieves and greed. Loss of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, just to name a few.

GOP Can’t Handle The Truth: Taxes Are Lower Under Obama Than Reagan | ThinkProgress


falo on Jun 1, 2011 at 4:30 pmPresident Obama met with House Republicans today at the White House to discuss ways to move forward on negotiations regarding the nation’s debt ceiling and the budget. During the discussion, talk evidently turned to taxes, and when Obama noted that taxes today are lower than they were under President Reagan, the GOP, according to The Hill, “engaged in a lot of ‘eye-rolling’“: Republicans attending a White House meeting on Wednesday didn’t take kindly to President Obama telling them tax rates were higher during the Reagan administration. GOP members engaged in a lot of “eye-rolling,” according to a member who was on hand to hear Obama, who invited House Republicans to the White House for discussions on the debt ceiling. [...]

GOP Can’t Handle The Truth: Taxes Are Lower Under Obama Than Reagan | ThinkProgress

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THE OUTCRY OVER MEDI*CARE


Democrat Kathy Hochul was sworn in today as the U.S. representative of New York’s 26th District — the fourth Democrat from the district since 1857. Hochul’s unexpected victory was a referendum on Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan to end Medicare. However, a recent poll also revealed that the American public is largely displeased with Ryan’s plans to eviscerate Medicaid. As TP Health editor Igor Volsky noted, Ryan’s plan to turn it into a block grant program essentially forces states to make up the funding difference by “capping enrollment, cutting eligibility, limiting mandatory benefits, and lowering provider reimbursements” or, as the non-partisan CBO put it, “provide less extensive coverage.”

Today, ThinkProgress interviewed several Democratic House members on Capitol Hill to get their reactions to the public pushback. Asked whether the GOP is just out-of-touch with public sentiment on entitlement programs, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told ThinkProgress that the Republicans actually “deserve credit” for following through on the GOP principle that dictates eliminating the social safety net:

PELOSI: I think Republicans deserve credit for doing what they believe, and they do not believe in Medicare or Medicaid. But I think as they find out what the ramifications are of their actions, you will see something different. I don’t see them block-granting medicaid. I really don’t. But you never know.

Watch it:

Several House Democrats agreed that the Republican plan for Medicaid and Medicare is destructive and ultimately won’t go anywhere. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) called Ryan’s Medicaid plan “nonsense” and told ThinkProgress that “it will ultimately fade away” in negotiations. Noting that seniors in nursing homes get most of the benefit from Medicaid, McDermott said “the new members of the Republican caucus are simply unaware of what they’re talking about. Most of them have never served, have never been involved in legislation.”

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) told ThinkProgress that the public sees Republicans trying to extract from the public “things that have helped them” at “their own peril.” “Most of these families didn’t get the Bush tax cuts, so they’re wondering ‘why do I have to lose my Medicare or Medicaid so we can pay for the deficits caused by the Bush tax cuts?’”

Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) warned that Republicans won’t stop with “terminating” Medicare and gouging out Medicaid. Highlighting several past efforts to “eviscerate” or privatize Social Security, Garamendi told ThinkProgress that Republicans are “determined to wreck the American social safety net for seniors and others.” “This is a fundamental issue about the very nature of America” and “the values that we hold,” he said. “We’re not going to throw seniors and others out the door to fend for themselves who have no ability to get the medical services that we need.”

Judge Napolitano Compares Providing Emergency Health Care To Theft And Slavery


http://cloudfront.mediamatters.org/static/flash/pl55.swf

The Judge is working hard to get off of Fox Business and onto Fox News Channel, because they have much better ratings, but he’s as charismatic as a soggy doughnut and as quacky as Glenn Beck. He’s been hammering away at not raising the debt ceiling for months now and he has the full stable of FN Pundits at his disposal.

Here’s his latest attack on our social safety nets, programs that we pay into by the way. He likes to quote the Founding Fathers quite a bit, but dismisses Presidents who saw American seniors dying in the streets and average Americans struggling to live with bad health before and after the stock market crash and were smart enough to do something about it. It took a while to do, but they’ve been tremendous for our society. The CapoNapo is making the argument that the US is stealing from you.

Napolitano Asks Why The US Should Provide Emergency Health Care, Compares It To Theft And Slaveryor won’t pay for it themselves, that’s slavery.

Napolitano: When the government forces hospitals and physicians to provide free health care for those who can’t. That’s why we have constitutionally chaos now. The government steals and enslaves and we outlawed that a long time ago.

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Despite What Boehner Says, Republicans Have Voted To Cut Medicare, Repeatedly


The words “voted to” could come back to haunt House Speaker John Boehner.

In his weekly Capitol briefing with reporters Thursday, Boehner made an unmistakably false claim. “The only people in Washington, DC who have voted to cut Medicare have been the Democrats when they voted to cut $500 billion in Medicare during Obamacare,” he said. Given a chance to walk it back, Boehner’s spokesman did not.

Even if you leave out the key modifier “voted to” this is far from true. Both parties have actually “cut” Medicare many times over the years. Republicans in particular haven’t just voted for cuts, but passed legislation that presidents either signed or vetoed.

That happened repeatedly in the 1990s, as laid out in detail here. In late 1995 and early 1996, it precipitated a government shutdown. In 1997, it resulted in the Balanced Budget Act.

But if you leave the modifier in, this turns into a huge whopper.

Not only did Republicans vote aspirationally to cut Medicare — in both the near and short term, and by huge amounts — in their dead-on-arrival budget this year, they’ve arguably made cutting Medicare a hallmark of what it means to be a Republican.

Here’s a brief, incomplete recap of how that’s played out in recent years.

The House GOP budget — which an overwhelming majority of Republicans in both chambers voted for — would cut Medicare in the near-term by repealing the new health care law. That would re-open the prescription drug donut hole, and rescind new guaranteed wellness benefits for seniors. It would also maintain the health care law’s $500 billion Medicare cuts — principally over-payments to private insurers participating in Medicare advantage.

It would impose much, much larger cuts in the long term. Setting aside the privatization scheme, the government saves money under the plan principally by capping Medicare spending (the value of the subsidies to private insurers) and pegging that cap to inflation — way below the rate of growth of medical costs. That’s a cut no matter how you slice it.

They’ve been at this very plan for some time.

In 2009, 137 or their 178-member minority, including Boehner, voted for the Republican alternative budget, authored by — whom else — Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). That budget will sound familiar. It “[p]reserves the current Medicare program for individuals 55 and older. For those under 55, the resolution gradually converts the current Medicare program into one in which Medicare beneficiaries receive a premium support payment — equivalent to 100 percent of the cost of the Medicare benefit — to purchase health coverage from a menu of Medicare-approved plans, similar to options available to members of Congress.”

The plan also reduced the prescription drug benefit for seniors with household incomes over $170,000

Despite the similarities to the current GOP budget, dozens of Republicans defected from this plan, including many members — like Dean Heller (R-NV) and Pete King (R-NY) to name two — who just walked the plank on the 2011 version.

In 2007, a similar story played out when 159 of their 202-member minority, including Boehner, voted for Ryan’s alternative. That version of his plan would have capped Medicare spending and cut it relative to the growth of health care costs, and would have imposed further means testing of the program. It didn’t lay out the precise privatization scheme included in the 2009 and 2011 Republican budgets, but it envisioned “a reform strategy that will advance the transformation of Medicare into a vital and flexible program that can meet its mission without imposing unmanageable burdens on the Nation’s medical community, and its economy.”

Republicans have been at this about as long as there’s been Medicare. But from time to time they make it obvious. In the 1990s, then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich proposed a milder version of the current Medicare phase out policy. His version would have preserved traditional Medicare as an option alongside a privatized program, and incentivized seniors to drop out of the government plan. Here’s how he famously described it in a speech to Blue Cross in 1996. “[W]e don’t get rid of it in round one because we don’t think that’s politically smart and we don’t think that’s the right way to go through a transition. But we believe it’s going to wither on the vine because we think people are going to voluntarily leave it.”

These votes were mostly about positioning. To the extent that they could succeed, they would have loved to, but the main ideas were to stake out bargaining stance, and draw a distinction between the GOP and the Democrats. But that’s precisely the point: if they had their way — if Congress was a parliament and Boehner was Prime Minister– this is what they would do.

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