White Four-Masted Sailing Ship wallpaper. Amazing or maybe not, Wikipedia has a section on four-masted ships. Many, if not all of the ones you see were built 80 to over a hundred years ago.
I do not like to lead with obvious headline stories any more than the substance compels me to. I figure that either as a blogger you have blogged about it or already read the major news coverage. This is just difficult to avoid because of the repercussions both in pocketbook terms of the average American and as a senseless act of political wrist cutting, The fiscal cliff deal comes clearer: a 37% top tax rate and a higher Medicare eligibility age
Talk to smart folks in Washington, and here’s what they think will happen: The final tax deal will raise rates a bit, giving Democrats a win, but not all the way back to 39.6 percent, giving Republicans a win. That won’t raise enough revenue on its own, so it will be combined with some policy to cap tax deductions, perhaps at $25,000 or $50,000, with a substantial phase-in and an exemption for charitable contributions.
The harder question is what Republicans will get on the spending side of the deal. But even that’s not such a mystery. There will be a variety of nips and tucks to Medicare, including more cost-sharing and decreases in provider payments, and the headline Democratic concession is likely to be that the Medicare eligibility age rises from 65 to 67.
Krugman wonders if this is true. If it is, it is very bad news.
First, raising the Medicare age is terrible policy. It would be terrible policy even if the Affordable Care Act were going to be there in full force for 65 and 66 year olds,because it would cost the public $2 for every dollar in federal funds saved. And in case you haven’t noticed, Republican governors are still fighting the ACA tooth and nail; if they block the Medicaid expansion, as some will, lower-income seniors will just be pitched into the abyss.
Second, why on earth would Obama be selling Medicare away to raise top tax rates when he gets a big rate rise on January 1 just by doing nothing? And no, vague promises about closing loopholes won’t do it: a rate rise is the real deal, no questions, and should not be traded away for who knows what.
Considering this from Vice President Biden, it looks as though the White House is considering the possibility,
Vice President Joe Biden said Friday that the Obama administration is flexible about raising tax rates on the nation’s highest earners, as long as they do rise.
“There are two irreducible minimum requirements for us,” Biden said at a lunch with Americans who would be affected by the fiscal cliff. “The top brackets have to go up — this is not a negotiable issue; theoretically we can negotiate how far up. But we think it should go — the top rate should go to 39.6%.”
Biden’s remark is the first official acknowledgement by the White House that they are not demanding rates rise to the Clinton-era level as part of an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff, carving out space for compromise with Republicans.
As Krugman points out there is no reason for “compromise”. It is stories and tactics like this that drive the Democratic base crazy. Democrats have all the cards. Letting the top marginal tax rates go up for 4% for 10% of the wealthiest Americans is hardly a burden for them. As Ezra Klein also wrote recently an increase in the Medicare age will shift cost to people who can least afford it, Raising Medicare’s age: Saves feds $5.7 billion, costs you $11.4 billion
The new gap years from 65- and 66-year-olds would be eligible for subsidized insurance from Obamacare. While that would help, costs for that group – expected to be about 3.3 million people, would go up. While the insurance industry would have more business, the rest of the economy would take a hit. One might also consider that if these people and their employers have to come up with an extra $5 billion dollars for health insurance, that also means less to spend on rent or consumer goods. So ditto for what Krugman said, “If anyone in the White House is seriously thinking along these lines, please stop it right now.” One blogger and even the soapbox at the NYT cannot, alone, make a difference, but hopefully together we can get the White House to not throw away a win for average Americans just to placate the boneheaded centrist fever which so often infects Washington.
According to Republicans the USA must have slipped into some kind of Dr Who time-slip machine in the 1990s because bringing those tax rates back would send America down a Marxist vortex never to be seen again. I’m just trying to capture the general tenor of Republican shrill false outrage. Jonathan Chait, an analyst I usually enjoy reading, wrote a column claiming the compromise on Medicare was not a bad thing. Shame on him for that. He has rejoined the reality based community with this column, The Psychology of Defeat on the Right
Krauthammer expressed his outrage that Obama, using this oh-so-slender victory margin, opened the negotiations by asking for the extortionate sum of $1.6 trillion in higher revenue. (Less than the Bowles-Simpson plan, by the way.) This, fulminates Krauthammer, is “not a negotiating offer but a demand for unconditional surrender.” Krauthammer’s rage is unmitigated by the fact that Obama explicitly and repeatedly offered to negotiate from his opening bid, and that he’s not “demanding” anything except the extension of the tax cuts on income under $250,000, which Republicans also favor.
Krauthammer proceeds to argue that the entire point of the negotiation — or, rather, “demand” — is to humiliate the poor Republicans rather than actually reduce the deficit:
As for the alleged curative effect on debt of Obama’s tax-rate demand — the full rate hike on the “rich” would have reduced the 2012 deficit from $1.10?trillion to $1.02 trillion.
That’s a joke, a rounding error.
It is certainly true that Obama’s proposal would have minimal effect on revenue in year one. In part that’s by design — if it sucked a huge amount of revenue up immediately, Krauthammer would (justifiably) complain that Obama was proposing to induce a new recession. But Obama’s revenue plan would leave a serious dent in the long-term deficit. If Krauthammer doubts this point, I would refer him to six paragraphs earlier in his own column, in which he bemoans the vast $1.6 trillion in higher revenue Obama’s proposal would raise.
Krauthammer fleshes out his charge by noting that “Obama has never shown interest in genuine debt reduction.” The reference to “genuine” debt reduction is Krauthammer way of turning the question from the mathematical definition of debt reduction — the gap between revenue and outlays — to his more congenial one, in which revenue is irrelevant:
Obama has never once publicly suggested a structural cut in entitlements. On the contrary, he created an entirely new entitlement — Obamacare — that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will increase spending by $1.7?trillion over 11 years.
Krauthammer notes that Obamacare “increases spending,” which is true. But he doesn’t note that it reduces the budget deficit, which is a relevant point in the context of Krauthammer’s larger contention that Obama does not care and has never cared about deficits.
Chait notes that Krauthammer is the most influential conservative columnists in the US. Krauthammer has been called crazy many times, and malevolent a few. Considering that those are both somewhat subject – though in Chuck’s case good arguments can be made for both – let’s consider another metric. That Chuck Krauthammer is a shameless hypocritical propagandist. Chuck has been both for and against the infamous Paul Ryan (R-WI). In this column he makes it sound as though the Ryan plan was not just some neat accounting tricks, but holy writ, Ryan’s Leap: The budget chairman is right, bold, and vulnerable to demagoguery.
(3) The final charge — cutting taxes for the rich — is the most scurrilous. That would be the same as calling the Ronald Reagan–Bill Bradley 1986 tax reform “cutting taxes for the rich.” In fact, it was designed for revenue neutrality. It cut rates — and for everyone — by eliminating loopholes, including corrupt exemptions and economically counterproductive tax expenditures, to yield what is generally considered by Left and Right an extraordinarily successful piece of economic legislation. ( in this context, by the Left he probably means Joe Lieberman)
Ryan’s plan is classic tax reform — which even Obama says the country needs: It broadens the tax base by eliminating loopholes that, in turn, provide the revenues for reducing rates. Tax reform is one of those rare public policies that produce social fairness and economic efficiency at the same time. For both corporate and individual taxes, Ryan’s plan performs the desperately needed task of cleaning out the myriad accumulated cutouts and loopholes that have choked the tax code since 1986.
First, whenever a conservative describes something as “bold”, grab the kids and head to the basement. Second, let’s remember that a wacky tea smoking Republican House voted on and passed the Ryan plan twice. What was in the numbers, the wow i cannot believe how great the Ryan plan is for deficit reduction and Obama sucks, Ryan Budget Plan Produces Far Less Real Deficit Cutting than Reported. Plan’s $4.3 Trillion in Program Cuts, Offset by $4.2 Trillion in Tax Cuts, Yield Just $155 Billion in Deficit Reduction. Chuck and other conservatives would rather vote for a deficit reduction plan by a Republican that does less to reduce the deficit than the Obama plan, just out of pure childish spite. Obama’s plan reduces the deficit about $3.1 trillion over ten years. Chuck and Congressional conservatives are still selling the tax increase for millionaires hurts the economy snake-oil. They’re driven more by the desire to create a let them eat cake America. The economy sucks, oh well, let the median income family suck it up or die. The death by ideology prescription. Republicans are concerned about keeping a few lazy elitists rich and dis-empowering workers, not about deficits. That is the way to create a plutocracy and undermine a democratic republic, GOP, Koch Brothers Sneak Attack Guts Labor Rights in Michigan
After Republican leaders announced Thursday morning that they intended to enact so-called “right to work” legislation—which is always better described as “no rights at work” legislation—the Michigan state House voted Thursday afternoon to eliminate basic union organizing and workplace protections that generations of American workers fought to establish. Several hours later, the Michigan state Senate did the same thing, as part of a bold anti-labor initiative launched in coordination with a Koch Brothers–funded Americans for Prosperity project to “pave the way for right to work in states across our nation.”
As the Republicans launched the attack on unions and their members, Americans for Prosperity—a group developed and funded by right-wing industrialists and billionaire campaign donors Charles and David Koch—was in the thick of things. AFP recruited conservatives to show up at the state Capitol in Lansing to counter union protests and prepared materials supporting the Michigan initiative, including a fifteen-page booklet titled “Unions: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: How forced unionization has harmed workers and Michigan.” Within minutes of the announcement by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder that Republicans would ram through the “right to work” legislation, AFP was hailing the move in formal statements “as the shot heard around the world for workplace freedom.”
This is a textbook example of how the far Right defines freedom, crashing the rights of ordinary Americans is a freedom that plutocrats like the Koch brothers should be able to enjoy. The Orwellian freedom to destroy the freedom of others. That is how Kentucky senator Rand Paul rationalized his opposition to civil rights law. Basic equality in the commons of commerce is a burden on the freedom of discriminators. Worker rights are an infringement on the rights of bosses. If there is any liberty in this twisted formula it is the freedom to go home and spend your money on more crap like carpet made from plastic to make the Koch brothers richer.