Friday, April 15, 2011

Where are Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell when you need them?

Unable to substantively answer Obama's budget challenge from Wednesday, Republicans are left flailing for the fainting couches:

The three Republican congressmen saw it as a rare ray of sunshine in Washington’s stormy budget battle: an invitation from the White House to hear President Obama lay out his ideas for taming the national debt.

They expected a peace offering, a gesture of goodwill aimed at smoothing a path toward compromise. But soon after taking their seats at George Washington University on Wednesday, they found themselves under fire for plotting “a fundamentally different America” from the one most Americans know and love.

“What came to my mind was: Why did he invite us?” Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said in an interview Thursday. “It’s just a wasted opportunity."

Whaaah. Sounds like these Very Manly Republican Randians need to "man-up".

Then the Post writer adds this:

The situation was all the more perplexing because Obama has to work with these guys: Camp is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, responsible for trade, taxes and urgent legislation to raise the legal limit on government borrowing. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Tex.) chairs the House Republican Conference. And Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is House Budget Committee chairman and the author of the spending blueprint Obama lacerated as “deeply pessimistic” during his 44-minute address.

Have you ventured over to the House Ways & Means Committee website lately? Let's just say it's not full of bipartisany warm and fuzzies.

But I'm sure our Beltway Media will waste no time making Republican hurt fee-fees their obsession for the next few weeks.

A Fairness Doctrine To Believe In

In a very, very shrill and totally unBrave and Not Serious column today, Steven Pearlstein lays into Ryan:

Thursday morning, before a friendly crowd on Capitol Hill, I listened as Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, his voice dripping with moral indignation, declared that by bringing up the issue of fairness in his budget speech this week, President Obama had stooped to “political demagoguery.”

Political demagoguery? In Washington? We’re shocked, shocked. Certainly we haven’t heard any demagoguery from Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) or Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) or Ryan himself? Of course not. The budget crisis is much too serious for that.

News flash for Ryan: In deciding what to spend and whom to tax, lawmakers’ fights over budgets are always fights about values and priorities in which fairness has as rightful a place as fiscal rectitude and economic efficiency.

If it’s legitimate to decry the immorality of leaving our grandchildren a legacy of crushing debt, which Ryan and the Republicans do ad nauseam, then it is no less legitimate to talk about the immorality of reducing deficits by cutting nutritional support for pregnant women and infants rather than raising taxes on millionaires.

As Balloon Juice commenter J notes:

One of the signs of the wrong turn we’ve taken as a society, is the near total disappearance of the word ‘fairness’ from our public discourse and, it seems, of the corresponding idea from our thinking. It should be front and center. I’d like to hear Democrats use it far more often than they do and far more often than the mealy-mouthed terms they tend to favor.

Truer words never spoken.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Not Taxed Enough Already (No Tea)

This is the time of year when we are treated to the dual and obviously contradictory claims that (1) Taxes are too damn high and (2) Half the country is a bunch of moochers because they don't pay any damn taxes at all. Whaaaah.

How can these two claims both be true? We know, if we didn't know before, that members of the Republican Party just hate taxes. "They kill jobs." Raising them, even to reduce a debt and deficit that is bankrupting the country, is a "non-starter." And we don't have a "taxing problem" we have a "spending problem".

Except, apparently maybe we do have a taxing problem:

On his August 30, 2010, Fox News show, Sean Hannity said, "If half of Americans now don't pay taxes, and the other half are the beneficiaries of the tax that the other half pay, at some point you say, OK, you got a full voting block and it seems like the Democratic Party ... caters to that." Hannity has repeatedly claimed that 50 percent of Americans don't pay taxes.

So, taxes are job killers, can never be raised on anyone ever, and unfairly rob from the productive in our society. But at the same time, half the country that consists of Democrats don't pay any damn federal income taxes at all!

But maybe the Taxed Enough Already party is hedging their bets a bit:

KILMEADE: I just want to go through some things. Before people raise taxes on the somewhat so-called fortunate people in this country, because that's how they were labeled over the weekend, let's take a look at this chart: 97.11 percent of the taxes comes from 50 percent of the wage earners. There's a lot of people not paying taxes. And also, about who pays taxes, only 2.7 percent of taxes come from the bottom 50 percent of wage earners. So of course they're not -- the burden's not going to be on them. It's going to be on the people that are paying most of it anyway. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/12/11]

The "bottom 50 percent of wage earners" sure are some serious deadweights, not paying their share. I wonder if any of these below-the-median hammock-laying Others are Taxed Enough Already teabag people? Are we to believe that all members of the TEA people's front of liberty are above-the-median John Galts, providing for all the rest of us?

Well, I kinda suspect that at least a few of these TEA bags belong to that despicable class of non to too low tax paying good for nothing wage earners.

I wonder when someone will point this out?

Aside: No, of course I don't believe the lower half of the wage earning distribution is a glot of no good bums. I do happen to think that even though low earners pay Social Security and Medicare taxes at the federal level and sales, income, property and other taxes at the state and local levels, that every wage earner should incur at least some post-tax-refund federal tax liability for things such as defense, national parks, food safety regulation, etc. We're all in this together. Let's just not let the reichwing, especially its supposed taxed enough already teabagging fringe continue to talk out of boths sides of its collective mouth. The country is not taxed enough already. And some of you teabaggers are lying.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Appropriations Fallout

Steve Benen notes a "pattern" that is "hard to miss":

At the time, this seemed, at least to me, like a plausible defense. Obama wanted an extension of unemployment benefits and to prevent a middle-class tax increase. With an imposing deadline, Republicans wouldn't budge on either point, so the White House struck a deal. These were "unique circumstances."

Except, the circumstances may not have been unique at all. We saw a situation in which Republicans were prepared to shut down the government, forcing the president to strike a deal he didn't want to make. We see Republicans poised to create a global crisis by blocking a debt-ceiling increase, pushing the president again into a situation where he may have to strike another deal. We see the next fiscal year's budget fight coming down the pike, and another shutdown threat.

The pattern is hard to miss -- a broad threat emerges, Republicans exploit through a hostage strategy, and the president, playing the role of responsible grown-up, takes steps to protect those who'd be "directly and immediately damaged."

Matt Yglesias has a good idea about how to approach the upcoming Armageddon over raising the debt ceiling:

It’s a two pronged strategy. The first one is a credible, repeated commitment not to surrender anything in exchange for getting congress to agree to the debt ceiling being increased. After all, why should anything be given up. Everyone knows that increasing the debt ceiling is the right thing to do. If the government were operating under uniform Republican control, the GOP would be increasing the debt ceiling. There’s nothing to bargain over. If some members of congress genuinely think that no increase in the debt ceiling is a superior options to raising it, then they’re entitled to be wrong. But there’s no reason that Obama should be trading votes with guys like John Boehner who know perfectly well that an increase is in order. This frames the issue correctly as one of whether or not Republicans who think an increase is warranted will nonetheless refuse to allow one in order to extract unrelated concessions.

The second prong, important for credibility, is to move to thinking about what happens as we reach the ceiling.