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And We Complain About Dysfunctional Iraqis!

This is what’s happening regarding the payroll tax/unemployment insurance bills.

1.  First Republican House leadership wanted to have a two month bill that would extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits.

2.  Republican House members rejected this.

3.   Meanwhile, the Senate passed a two-month extension by  89-10, an overwhelming bi-partisan  majority for a bill endorsed by Senate Minority Leader McConnell.

4.    The Senate left for the holidays and will return January 2nd.

5.     Normally, with a situation this serious and a bill passed across parties by the Senate, House members would vote to pass the Senate bill. INstead, the House did not take a vote on the bill itself, but used a procedural rule to have a joint Senate-House Committee reconcile the differences.  In this way, Republicans would be protected from the burden of having voted against the payroll cut and UE extensions.

So these are the choice:

1.  The House passes the Senate bill that gives a 2 month extension

2.   President Obama calls the Senate back to vote on a house fill for a full year extension.  The Houses passes it, too

3.   A House/Senate Committee works out the differences.  But since the House never voted on an actual bill, how that would happen is unclear.

4.   No bill is passed and unemployment insurance runs out for millions and millions more will see a significant increase in payroll taxes.

Don’t these people realize that taking money out of peoples’ pockets now is a clear and present danger to the economy?

 

 

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GOP Adds Pipeline Vote to Payroll Bill!

Although House Republicans have obstructed many of President Obama’s initiatives with fillibuster threats, amendments and block voting, their latest gimmick is the most upsetting.  Obama has called for the extension of the payroll tax holiday for the next year.  Leaders of both parties agree with the extension and were trying to work out exactly how it would work.

It looked like a bipartisan go – until Speaker Boehner decided to throw a totally unrelated issue into the extension bill.  Approval of the TransCanada pipeline is now part of the payroll legislation.  This make no sense at all

Although it would create thousands of new jobs, Mr. Obama has held up approval of the pipeline over environmental concerns.  The Administration has not vetoed the pipeline.

Dragging the pipeline issue into a debate on a crucial part of Obama’s recovery/jobs bill is a way to scuffle payroll tax relief and increase everyone’s taxes this year.

The Senate will most likely reject the pipeline issue, so either it would be taken out of the legislation during conference or be vetoed when it goes to the President’s desk.

These types of gimmicks are not restricted to the GOP.  Congressional rules allow either party to scum up the works of lawmakers.  They certainly don’t serve the electorate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Payroll Tax Cut vs. Small Business?

Supporting the payroll tax cut should be a no-brainer even for the most ideologically tilted GOP members.  But conservatives are complaining it will hurt small business.  Most politicians, from both parties, consider any legislation that hurts small business to be toxic.  Small business is as American as apple pie and motherhood.  Rightfully so.  Small business creates jobs; small business owners take huge risks and work hard to make their companies successful.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities

has an analysis that says most, except a tiny minority of small businesses will benefit not be hurt by President Obama’s proposal:

Some have argued that a Senate bill to extend and expand the payroll tax cut and pay for it through a surtax on incomes over $1 million would hurt small businesses and thus weaken job growth.

This claim overlooks the benefit of the payroll tax cut not only for working families but for small businesses as well.  It also greatly overstates the impact that the millionaire surtax would have on a relatively tiny number of small businesses.

The bill’s payroll tax cut would not only boost workers’ paychecks by hundreds of dollars or more in 2012 but also cut the taxes of every small business.  Employers would receive a tax holiday on fully half of their 2012 Social Security taxes on the first $5 million in payroll.  If employers create jobs, they would pay no Social Security taxes on the first $50 million in increased taxable payroll.

The millionaire surtax, in contrast, wouldn’t take effect until 2013 and would hit only a tiny fraction of small businesses.

With unemployment finally dropping, now is the time to rally around Obama’s job proposals.  Expect partisanship to intensify in relation to the economy picking up.  The Republicans are counting on the bad economy the justify their ‘refusnik’ strategy of the last three years by defeating the President in 2012.

 

 

 

 

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Jobless Rate Drops to 8.6%

The US economy added 120,000 jobs in November, as more jobs were filled in September and October than previously reported.  According to MarketWatch:

The reduction in the jobless rate, which stood at 9.0% in October, stemmed in large part from a decline in the size of the labor force. Some 315,000 people stopped looking for jobs last month, which is usually not a good sign.

Yet the decline in the labor force is belied by other evidence showing that companies continue to add workers at a modest pace. The increase in hiring in November was accompanied by revisions in the October and September data that show an additional 72,000 jobs were created.

What’s more, the labor force had increased by nearly 1 million people in the three months before November, suggesting that more jobs are available. People tend to reenter the labor force when they think they have a better chance of finding a job.

 

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Taming the Deficit (Rumors)

Recent US Federal Deficit Numbers

Obama Deficits Bush Deficits
FY 2012: $1,101 billion FY 2009: $1,413 billion
FY 2011: $1,299 billion FY 2008: $248 billion
FY 2010: $1,293 billion FY 2007: $161 billion

The federal deficit is the amount each year by which federal outlays in the federal budget exceed federal receipts. But the gross federal debt increases each year by substantially more than the amount of the deficit each year. That is because a substantial amount of federal borrowing is not counted in the budget. See here.

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Think Budget Will Get Resolved: Think Again

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Ornstein Rips Brooks (and a bit of Obama)

Norman Orstein, founder of the American Enterprise Institute and a Congressional scholar writes with Tomas Mann in The New Republic.  Ornstein is one of the clearest thinkers around:

In his continuing, illusive quest for the Grand Bargain, New York Times columnist David Brooks has now offered some free campaign advice to President Obama: Drop the angry and divisive populist talk; link your reelection to the Congressional supercommittee to tackle the deficit; lower the ideological temperature. Political independents now recoil from big government, Brooks argues, so Obama should be blurring, not highlighting, the differences between the two parties over the role of government.

Obama should say thanks, but no thanks for the advice. Based as it is on a series of tired and false assumptions, this strategy would doom whatever chance Obama has of winning reelection

Obama should likewise know by now that working with a supercommittee whose Republican members are under orders from their House and Senate leaders to oppose all revenue increases is a fool’s errand. And imagining that a substantial center in the American public will respond positively to such an approach is pure fantasy. What sense does it make for Obama embrace an agenda without any support on the other side of the aisle, and make nice to a party whose sole objective is to deny him reelection.

In other words, highlighting differences with Republicans is essential to a national consensus – or Obama winning reelection.

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$1.4 Trillion = Cost of Wars Since 9/11= Budget Cuts/10 Years

The Christian Science Monitor includes a stunning quote from Douglass Elmendorf, head of the Congressional Budget Office:

In his testimony Wednesday, Elmendorf pointed out that discretionary funding for 2011 includes $712 billion in defense spending and $566 billion for nondefense items, including education, energy, environment, and veterans’ benefits.

One point of discussion has been the military’s operation and maintenance budget (part of discretionary spending), which includes the wars winding down in Iraq and Afghanistan. The extent to which reducing those wars can be included as part of deficit reduction over the next decade is a matter of some dispute. Coincidentally, the amount of budget authority for US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since the terrorist attacks of 2001 has totaled $1.2 trillion – the same amount that lawmakers are now trying to cut over the next 10 years. (emphasis added)

It might not be so coincidental.  The Bush Administration never put the costs of the two wars in any of its budgets.  Obama thought they should be included, and it is those wars that have made the deficit balloon to the extent it has over the last 10 years.

Who cares about who touched whose shoulder in GOP debates?  Or who stumbled with answers this time?  What makes 89% of the American public not trust that the government will do the right thing are scams like the one Bush pulled off by not accounting for the cost of the Afghan and Iraq wars.  This has been known for some time.  Maybe it will now get the attention it deserves.

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