A dramatic downgrade of U.S. economic growth in the first quarter revealed the economy’s lingering weakness, exposed the folly of Washington’s austerity obsession and slapped the Federal Reserve’s newfound optimism right in the face.

Gross domestic product grew at just a 1.8 percent annualized pace in the first quarter, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said on Wednesday, revising down its earlier estimate of 2.4 percent growth. Economists had expected no change in the BEA’s third effort at estimating GDP, and such sharp revisions are rare in a third estimate.

The first quarter’s dismal growth was at least better than the 0.4 percent GDP growth of the fourth quarter of 2012. But it was still far from healthy, and economists don’t see it getting much stronger any time soon. Paul Edelstein, director of financial economics at the research firm IHS Global Insight, now estimates the U.S. economy will grow by just 1.6 percent this year, down from an earlier estimate of 1.8 percent. That is well below the economy’s long-term average growth rate of 3 percent or so. It means the economy is vulnerable to shocks and that it will be much more difficult to bring unemployment down quickly from 7.6 percent.

Nevertheless, the Fed recently announced plans to slow down the pace of its bond-buying program known as “quantitative easing,” in the belief that the economy and job market will bounce back by the end of the year.

That sunny view always seemed strange, and financial markets clearly didn’t buy it. Now it is even more questionable.

“This report is a reminder that the economy is not out of the woods,” independent economist Robert Brusca wrote in an email. “We will need a lot of magic to drop the unemployment rate as the Fed members see, given the sort of economic growth that seems to be percolating. Good luck with that.”

One big drag on growth in the first quarter was a sharp downward revision in the growth rate of consumer spending, to 2.6 percent annualized from an earlier estimate of 3.4 percent. Consumer spending makes up about two-thirds of total U.S. GDP and was likely hampered by an increase in payroll-tax withholding that took effect at the start of the year. Hourly pay for U.S. nonfarm workers suffered its biggest drop on record in the first quarter, the government announced earlier this month. That took an obvious toll on spending.

That payroll-tax hike was part of a deal to help the economy avoid falling entirely off what was known as the “fiscal cliff,” an assortment of tax hikes and spending cuts that Congress and the White House set up to punish themselves for failing to reach a Grand Bargain on budget deficits — a bizarre obsession anyway, in the middle of a stagnant economy.

Though the full fiscal cliff would probably have been even more damaging, the fiscal-cliff “solution” was not a whole lot better, involving several painful austerity measures, including the payroll-tax increase and the draconian budget cuts of the “sequester,” that will likely shave 1.5 percent from GDP growth this year, economists estimate.

Federal government spending shrank at an 8.7 percent annualized rate, on top of a 14.8 percent contraction in the fourth quarter, subtracting nearly 0.7 percentage points from total GDP growth. The U.S. government has been cutting spending for most of the past two years, at the fastest pace since the end of the Vietnam War, despite the shaky recovery from the Great Recession.

Weak demand has kept businesses anxious about hiring and expanding. Business investment grew at just a 0.4 percent rate in the first quarter, contributing nearly nothing to GDP growth.

Advertisements

One Step….Two Step

December 5, 2012

Does everyone know how to do….

 

 

 

The one step….. two step?

 

 

 

Tim Geithner presented the….

 

 

Democratic

 

Reach for the sky

 

Fiscal cliff solution

 

 

 

That landed like a lead balloon

 

 

 

It was the same offer from 2011

 

 

 

I guess it took them a long time

 

 

To come up with that?

 

 

 

The Republicans huddled and….

 

 

Went to their files

 

 

And pulled out their proposal

 

 

From…..

 

 

2011.

 

 

 

That is what I call progress

 

 

 

 

It has been 1 month since

 

 

 

The presidential election….

 

 

 

 

And these are my sins….

 

 

 

 

We are still back in 2011.

 

 

 

 

I have been reading a lot about this topic

 

 

Since Finance is my bag

 

 

 

 

Nobody wants to pay more taxes….

 

 

 

 

But the Government cannot

 

 

Continue to spend

 

 

 

33% more than they take in.

 

 

 

 

 

Raising the taxes from 35% to 39% for

 

 

The 2% highest earners

 

 

 

Is mostly symbolic

 

 

That does not mean they will actually

 

 

 

Be paying higher taxes

 

 

 

 

Without touching the deductions and loopholes

 

 

They will still be paying

 

 

14%

 

 

 

In order to increase revenue

 

 

 

You can’t just increase the rates

 

 

You have to close loopholes

 

 

 

 

That would bring in more revenue

 

 

 

 

Taxing the highest earning 2%

 

 

Will not solve the deficit issue

 

 

It only scratches at the surface

 

 

 

 

 

We are going to have to stick our heads

 

 

Into unchartered waters

 

 

 

 

When social security was started

 

 

The retirement age was 65 years old

 

 

 

 

The average life expectancy was

 

69 years old

 

 

 

The program was set up with the intention

 

 

 

That it had to provide benefits

 

On average for about 4 years

 

 

 

The average life expectancy today

 

 

Is 84 years old

 

 

 

 

That means that…..

 

 

Social Security is now expected

 

 

To cover

 

 

On average

 

 

 

A span of 19 years

 

 

 

 

Not…….4 years

 

 

 

 

Can you see why there

 

 

May be a problem

 

 

With this program

 

 

 

 

We all pay into it….

 

 

 

 

But as the boomers age

 

 

 

 

The support base diminishes

 

 

 

 

 

Where can we possibly look to

 

 

Save money in the budget

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s take a quick look at defense spending

 

 

 

 

1974

 

 

That was the last time we saw…

 

The defense budget under

 

 

$100 billion dollars

 

 

 

 

By the year 2000

 

 

The defense budget grew to

 

 

 

$372 billion dollars

 

 

 

 

That took 26 years

 

 

 

 

In a mere 12 years

 

 

 

 

2000 – 2012

 

 

 

The Defense Budget

 

 

Has more than doubled

 

 

 

And comes in at

 

 

 

$816 billion dollars

 

 

 

 

I think we can possibly find

 

 

 

Some savings there?

 

 

 

 

 

There has been a lot of talk about

 

 

Health Care

 

 

 

Currently the US spends

 

 

About 18% of GDP

 

 

On Healthcare

 

 

 

Other comparable nations spend

 

On average about 12%

 

 

 

A recent study by

 

 

Harvard Business Review states

 

 

 

 

“The proper goal for any health care delivery system

 

 

Is to improve the value delivered to patients.

 

 

 

Value in health care is measured

 

 

 

In terms of the patient outcomes

 

 

Achieved per dollar expended.

 

 

 

It is not the number of different services provided

 

 

Or the volume of services delivered that matters

 

 

But the value.

 

 

 

More care and more expensive care

 

 

Is not necessarily better care.”

 

 

 

 

Studies show that savings in Health Care cost

 

 

Can range from $700 billion to $1 Trillion dollars

 

 

 

Just by increasing the

 

 

Efficiencies of service.

 

 

 

 

These are just a couple examples

 

 

 

Every program should be reviewed

 

 

 

 

 

I believe there will be

 

 

A lot of finger pointing

 

 

While the Government works

 

 

Towards a solution

 

 

 

 

But it is in the best interest

 

 

Of all concerned

 

 

That a compromise

 

 

Is made

 

 

 

 

 

True saving can be found

 

 

In all programs

 

 

Without effecting

 

 

 

The integrity of any program

 

 

 

 

America is here for the long term

 

 

 

We just have to make smart decisions

 

 

 

To make sure we remain the

 

 

 

Beacon of light

 

 

 

That all other countries look

 

 

To emulate

The Huffington Post |                                                                                                

By

Bill Clinton Jobs

Bill Clinton said at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday that Democratic presidents have overseen the creation of nearly twice as many jobs as Republican presidents. This is true.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton highlighted a stunning fact during his speech at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday: Democratic presidents have overseen the creation of nearly twice as many jobs as Republican presidents since 1961.

“What’s the job score? Republicans, 24 million; Democrats, 42 [million],” Clinton said to cheers and applause.

Bloomberg Government first reported these figures in May, after analyzing growth in private-sector jobs since 1961.

On Wednesday, Clinton used the figure to justify Democratic policies.

“It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics,” Clinton said. “Why? Because poverty, discrimination and ignorance restrict growth. When you stifle human potential, when you don’t invest in new ideas, it doesn’t just cut off the people who are affected; it hurts us all.”

That said, Democratic presidents may not be able to take all the credit for the private-sector jobs created during their tenure. After all, the economy saw a big boost under Clinton in part because of the technology boom and stock market bubble that resulted — Clinton arguably was just in the right place at the right time.

Presidents’ economic policies clearly play some role in the job growth that results while they’re in power, however. And on that measure, both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama have performed very poorly. An average of 63,500 jobs were created per month during Bush’s tenure, according to Labor Department data. Under Obama, an average 62,500 jobs have been created per month when taking into account job losses at the beginning of his tenure.

Presidents of both parties have implemented policies that may have stifled job growth for future presidents. For example, it was Clinton who repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, which had separated investment banking from consumer banking. Some say the repeal of Glass-Steagall played a major role in the financial crisis, since it helped allow banks to become too big to fail.

The subsequent financial crisis also happened on Bush’s watch, and Obama has been saddled with much of the job wreckage that resulted.

As reported in Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — In March, the commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Labor, Mark Butler, explained how the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund had gone broke.

“In an attempt to curry favor with Georgia businesses, Gov. Roy Barnes declared a ‘tax holiday’ before Barnes’ failed 2002 re-election campaign,” Butler wrote. “Businesses stopped paying into the trust fund. By the time we hit the Great Recession –- and many, many Georgians became unemployed through no fault of their own — the $2 billion Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund had been reduced by $1.3 billion.”

“Plainly speaking,” Butler added, “Georgia had not saved for that rainy day.”

Georgia lawmakers agreed to much of Butler’s plan to restore the trust fund to solvency — cutting the duration of benefits in an effort to save money. The legislature also modestly increased the amount of wages subject to the state payroll taxes that fund the unemployment system.

While the cuts to unemployment benefits were relatively drastic, the tax cutting that preceded them was typical. Most states failed to make prudent decisions about funding their unemployment trust funds over the years, according to a comprehensive report from the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group.

States now owe $43 billion to the federal government, according to NELP policy analyst Mike Evangelist, and it’s likely lawmakers will rely more heavily on benefit cuts than tax hikes in order to get out of debt.

“Over the past 30 years, support for accepted norms in the UI program has been systematically eroded, with state lawmakers now more willing to go after long‐standing features of the program, such as the duration of state benefits or suitable work protections that were previously seen as untouchable,”  Evangelist wrote in the report.

Businesses pay both state and federal unemployment taxes for each worker on payroll — state taxes fund the first 26 weeks of benefits for laid off workers, and federal taxes pay for extra benefits that Congress puts in place during recessions. When a state unemployment trust fund runs dry, the state can borrow from the federal government to pay benefits. If a state borrows for too long, federal payroll taxes go up.

When under pressure to refill trust funds, it used to be that state lawmakers would seek savings by tightening eligibility rules. But this year Georgia joined six other states states that had cut the standard 26 weeks duration of benefits for the first time ever. While each state differed in how they cut benefits, Georgia put benefits on a sliding scale that goes up and down with the state’s unemployment rate. When the rate goes down, the duration of benefits could be as low as 14 weeks. The upper limit is 20 weeks.

The states were strapped for cash because tens-of-millions of additional people filed claims, but also because of tax cuts.

According to Evangelist, 31 states cut unemployment taxes 20 percent or more between 1995 and 2005. And from 2000 to 2009, the overall percentage of wages subject to state unemployment taxes fell to the lowest level in the history of the federal-state unemployment system. In 2007, states were collectively $38 billion shy of recommended trust fund reserves.

Doug Holmes, an unemployment insurance expert who advocates for businesses, suggested states would be unwise to try and meet funding thresholds “because to do so would require dramatic increases in state unemployment taxes that would place these states in an uncompetitive position to attract and keep businesses in their states.”

It’s unlikely states will want to hike taxes to pay for unemployment, Evangelist wrote in his report. “Realistically, it is unreasonable to believe that states will close this gap without doing further harm to the UI program’s ability to sustain unemployed workers and their families through periods of temporary job loss.”

Did I ever tell you the story

 

About trying to renew

 

 

My NJ plumbing license seal

 

 

 

It was old and needed to be

 

 

Replaced.

 

 

 

Do you have about an hour?

 

 

 

It is wayyyy tooooooo long of a story

 

 

 

Without going into details

 

 

Let me just say

 

 

After many phone calls

 

 

 

 

It only took the State a year

 

 

To mail out my new

 

 

Plumbing seal

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now the State is treading on sacred ground

 

 

 

 

Each year in late July or early August

 

The State of New Jersey

 

Mails out the

 

 

 

New Jersey Employer Contribution Reports

 

 

 

To all New Jersey Employers

 

 

 

 

This form shows you how the State

 

 

Calculates your new

 

 

Unemployment Tax rate

 

 

For the next 12 months.

 

 

 

 

You have to stay with me here…..

 

 

 

 

The form shows how much

 

Your Company has paid

 

Into the unemployment fund

 

Since inception

 

 

 

It also shows the total amount of

 

Unemployment claim dollars

 

The Company has paid out

 

Since inception

 

 

 

 

Confused yet?

 

 

 

Keep reading

 

 

 

 

The bottom line

 

Shows your reserve balance

 

 

Or

 

 

How much money is left

 

 

In your account

 

To pay

 

 

Future claims

 

 

 

 

Alright….. take a breath

 

 

 

 

 

To determine your new rate

 

 

 

The State looks at your

 

Reserve balance

 

 

 

 

The State also looks at your

 

 

 

3 year taxable wage base

 

 

And your

 

 

 

5 year taxable wage base

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guess which Taxable Wage Base

 

 

The State picks?

 

 

 

 

 

If you said the higher number…..

 

 

 

 

You would be correct.

 

 

 

 

Well….

 

 

 

Guess what?

 

 

 

 

 

New Jersey will not be mailing out the

 

 

New Jersey Employer Contribution Reports

 

 

 

Any longer

 

 

 

 

You will now have to go online…

 

 

 

 

Set up an account…

 

 

 

And look up the information…..

 

 

 

 

Yourself

 

 

 

 

Did I miss that memo?

 

 

 

 

Did you miss that memo?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I bet you did not know that

 

 

 

 

Unemployment is the 2nd highest

 

 

Employer mandated tax by the government

 

 

 

 

It is the only tax

 

That you are able to manage

 

 

 

 

You do have the ability to manage

 

 

What rate your company is assigned

 

 

 

 

And

 

 

 

What dollar amount will be

 

Paid into the account

 

For the next 12 months

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you know

 

 

That the national average

 

 

For the overpayment of an

 

Unemployment claim is

 

 

 

Over 10%

 

 

 

 

That means the State may be paying

 

The wrong amount for an unemployment claim

 

 

 

And the money is

 

Coming out of your account

 

 

 

How do you even know your

 

Unemployment Rate

 

Is correct?

 

 

 

How do you know if your

 

 

Reserve balance

 

Is correct?

 

 

 

 

This is one of the services

 

HBS provides

 

 

 

 

We serve as a public advocate for

 

Our clients

 

 

 

 

We hold the state responsible

 

 

 

 

We verify the assigned rate

 

Is correct

 

 

 

 

We manage the payment of claims coming

 

Out of your account

 

 

 

 

Auditing each claim payment

 

 

Verifying it is the correct amount

 

 

 

 

For companies with over 100 employees

 

 

The cost savings to

 

 

 

Manage your unemployment account

 

 

Can be seen within the first year

 

 

 

 

With the unemployment fund depleted

 

 

Now more than ever

 

 

Companies should be taking steps to

 

 

Manage their unemployment accounts

 

 

 

 

 

 

To learn more contact george@hbsadvantage.com

 

 

Visit us on the web www.hutchinsonbusinesssolutions.com

Written by Alexander Eichler Reported in Huffington Post

 

What does it mean to be poor?

If it means living at or below the poverty line, then 15 percent of Americans — some 46 million people — qualify. But if it means living with a decent income and hardly any savings — so that one piece of bad luck, one major financial blow, could land you in serious, lasting trouble — then it’s a much larger number. In fact, it’s almost half the country.

“The resources that people have — they are using up those resources,” said Jennifer Brooks, director of state and local policy at the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group. “They’re living off their savings. They’re at the end of their rope.”

The group issued a report today examining so-called liquid asset poverty households  — the people who aren’t living below the poverty line, but don’t have enough money saved to weather a significant emergency.

According to the report, 43 percent of households in America — some 127.5 million people — are liquid-asset poor. If one of these households experiences a sudden loss of income, caused, for example, by a layoff or a medical emergency, it will fall below the poverty line within three months. People in these households simply don’t have enough cash to make it for very long in a crisis.

The findings underscore the struggles of many Americans during what has often seemed like an economic recovery in name only. While the Great Recession officially ended more than two years ago, unemployment remains high and wages have barely budged for most workers. For more people, whether they draw a paycheck or not, a life free of deprivation and financial anxiety seems perpetually out of reach.

That’s not to say that everyone who is liquid-asset poor spends all their time fretting. On the contrary, because many have regular paychecks coming in, they may not grasp the precariousness of their situation.

“They don’t necessarily realize how close people can be to one interruption to income or one interruption to health benefits,” said David Rothstein, the project director for asset building at the non-profit Policy Matters Ohio. “They’re one paycheck away from being in debt.”

Rothstein, who also serves on a steering committee at the Corporation for Enterprise Development, told The Huffington Post that payday lenders — who loan money to desperate borrowers at high interest rates, drawing people into hard-to-escape cycles of debt — are “a huge problem” in Ohio, as in many other states. People often turn to payday lenders to cover one-time, unexpected expenses, but can end up in a long and costly relationship.

“People say things like, it’s just one mechanical problem with their car,” said Rothstein. Before they know it, he said, “every other week, they’re back at the payday lending shop.”

The Corporation for Enterprise Development findings echo other recent studies showing that many Americans are ill-prepared for financial emergencies. Analysts said the reasons include flat wages, the high cost of medical treatment and the nationwide drop in housing values leaving homeowners with less wealth than they believed they had.

Andrea Levere, the president of Corporation for Enterprise Development, told HuffPost that greater financial literacy might have helped prevent the current situation.

People can “graduate high school and not know how to write a check,” Levere said, adding that an increased emphasis on personal responsibility for budgeting and spending sould be an important part of any step forward.

At the same time, Corporation for Enterprise Development officials were quick to argue that public policy needs to address the scope of the problem. Levere cited the example of asset limits in public benefit programs, which restrict services like food assistance and public health insurance to households with few or no assets — a policy that critics say denies help to many people in need.

“In some cases,” said Levere, “it means they can’t even own a car that is in good enough shape to get them to work.”

Brooks agreed. “A family that loses its job, that was maybe solidly middle class, in a state where they have restrictive asset tests, is going to have to liquidate all their assets, all their savings for the future” in order to qualify for benefits.

The report maintains that there are a number of measures that could alleviate liquid asset poverty, from strengthening consumer protections against payday lenders to making greater assistance available to first-time homebuyers. Levere said even minor policy adjustments could have “revolutionary implications.”

“There’s a lot of ways forward. It doesn’t mean it’s not tough,” Levere said. “I’m a great believer in one step at a time.”

 

As reported in Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — House Republicans on Tuesday rejected a Senate bill that would have prevented a payroll tax cut from expiring on New Year’s Day, saying they wanted a year-long extension or no extension at all.

House Republicans accomplished that with a convoluted motion to reject a Senate compromise that would have extended the 2 percent payroll tax break for two months, voting 229 to 193 to send the measure to a conference committee.

Seven Republicans voted with Democrats, and no Democrats crossed the aisle. They were Reps. Charles Bass (R-N.H.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), Tim Johnson (R-Ill.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.).

Senate leaders also were hoping for a year-long deal, but sources told The Huffington Post that Republicans and Democrats could not agree on how to fund about half of the $200 billion needed to pay for the bill for a full year. The measure would also extend unemployment insurance benefits and would prevent a 27 percent cut to Medicare payments to doctors with a “doc fix” provision. Those also expire Jan. 1.

So instead, the Senate voted 89 to 10 on Saturday for a two-month extension to buy time to bridge the gap. The upper chamber then recessed, apparently confident that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had the go ahead from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to cut a deal.

But Boehner’s members rebelled against the bill, even with 39 Senate Republicans backing it, and scrambled to oppose it. At first, the GOP had set a vote on the bill, but late Monday changed it to an unusual motion to reject the Senate compromise. If they had held the first vote, and it had passed, the bill would have gone straight to President Obama.

But under the new version, House leaders accomplished their goal of sending the bill to a conference committee instead, even though Senate and House Democratic leaders insist they will not appoint members to the committee.

Democrats argued that the parliamentary gymnastics were just a way to prevent a clear vote on a bill that they believe would pass.

“The Republican majority in this House of Representatives is refusing — it is refusing to allow a vote in this House on the Senate bipartisan compromise,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “What are they so afraid of? It is very clear that the Republican leadership is afraid that the same bipartisanship that took place in the Senate will take place right here in the House… otherwise we’d have a vote on it.”

Republican leaders insisted they were preventing a vote to pass the Senate deal because approving a bill for just two months creates uncertainty. They cited a payroll business trade organization that said a two-month extension is problematic for electronically processed payrolls.

And they contended that the sides were “90 percent” of the way to a deal, even though $100 billion separated the GOP and Democrats in the Senate. The original version of the House bill also adds a string of “poison pill” riders on top of the differences over funding. Democrats initially wanted to tax the rich to pay for the bill, but dropped that surtax in the compromise.

“We need to come together in a responsible manner to find common ground,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

Cantor and others argued that the Senate had only been interested in going on vacation.

“We stand ready to work over the holidays to get this done,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas). “That’s the question, are you willing to work over the holidays, or are you not willing to work over the holidays,” Hensarling said, suggesting that Democrats need to watch Schoolhouse Rock to figure out how Congress’ conference committees work.

Democrats didn’t buy it, and none budged to the GOP side, even though at least a handful usually do.

“If you’re so sure of your argument, why not vote on the Senate bill?” asked Rep, Sander Levin (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee. “Because everything you said is a smokescreen,” he said.

The House could still hold a separate vote directly on the Senate bill if GOP leaders relent.

However, they seemed intent on trying to make the president or Democratic leaders blink on their position, and restart negotiations.

Democrats insisted they would not budge, leaving the Senate bill as the only standing proposal.

“It is unconscionable that Speaker Boehner is blocking a bipartisan compromise that would protect middle-class families from the tax hike looming on January 1st – a compromise that Senator McConnell and I negotiated at Speaker Boehner’s own request,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a statement just after the vote.

“I would implore Speaker Boehner to listen to the sensible Senate Republicans and courageous House Republicans who are calling on him take the responsible path, and pass the Senate’s bipartisan compromise,” Reid added. “I have been trying to negotiate a yearlong extension with Republicans for weeks, and I am happy to continue doing so as soon as the House of Representatives passes the bipartisan compromise to protect middle-class families, but not before then.”

 

As reported in Huffington Post 12/08/11 by Andrew Taylor

WASHINGTON — Conservative flashpoint issues from abortion and abstinence education to President Barack Obama’s health care law are the biggest obstacles to Congress completing a massive year-end spending bill next week that would keep the government running through next September.

Going into end-game negotiations this weekend on the $900-plus billion bill, Republicans expect to lose on most of the policy provisions, or “riders,” they added to House versions of the must-do spending measures. But the White House and Democrats are poised to make concessions on some environmental rules, wetlands regulations and, in all likelihood, on continuing a ban on government-funded abortions in the nation’s capital city.

“We’re meeting heavy resistance from the White House and Democrats in the Senate,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., who is pressing for provisions to help the coal industry. “So, we’ll get as many as we possibly can.”

Among most popular targets for Republicans are environmental regulations they say hamper the economy, such as proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules on coal ash, large-scale discharges of hot water and greenhouse gases from electric power plants, and emissions from cement plants and oil refineries.

If past is prologue, most of the issues will end up on the chopping block. That’s what happened last spring during negotiations on a spending bill for the budget year that ended in September.

“There’s a lot of opposition to these and they know they need Democratic votes in the House to pass it,” said Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington, senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. “So we have made this very clear to the other side. … If you expect our votes you’ve got to get rid of the controversial riders.”

But some riders will be needed to win GOP support for the measure in votes next week. And many of the provisions are important to powerful members of the appropriations panel in both parties.

“We don’t want to be wholly inflexible,” said Rep. James Moran of Virginia, top Democrat on the spending panel responsible for the EPA’s budget. That measure is studded with riders.

“Virtually every rule the EPA has come up with, they’re trying to come up with a rider to stop it,” said Scott Slesinger, legislative director of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

// // The roster of environmental riders is indeed lengthy.

For coal interests, there is a rider to block clean water rules opposed by mining companies that blast the tops off mountains as well as a rider to block proposed labor rules to limit miners’ exposure to coal dust, which causes black-lung disease. Electric utilities would benefit from delays of rules on traditional air pollution and emissions of carbon dioxide. Painting contractors would benefit from a delay in a 2008 rule that requires them to be certified by the EPA in order to remove lead paint.

“We’re pretty clear that we find these riders as unacceptable,” said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. “We’re being very emphatic.”

On social issues, there are proposals to ban needle exchange programs that help stem the spread of HIV among drug users; cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider of abortions; and adopt an abstinence-only approach for grants to reduce teen pregnancy.

Those riders, in addition to GOP efforts to block implementation of the new health care law – a nonstarter with Democrats and the White House – are among the reasons the labor, health and education chapter of the omnibus spending measure is at risk of being left out of the final bill.

“It’s from soup to nuts,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. “They just designed an ideological agenda.”

In addition to proposing to eliminate federal family planning funding, Republicans would block the District of Columbia government from providing abortions to poor women, which is a top priority of anti-abortion activists.

The D.C. abortion rider was in place when Republicans controlled the White House but was lifted after Obama took office. He reluctantly agreed to reinstate the funding ban this year, prompting Washington’s mayor and city council members to march on Capitol Hill. Democrats continue to fight the rider, but GOP leaders are likely to insist on it.

At the same time, Republicans are trying to reverse a loss earlier this year when they tried to block taxpayer money from going to Washington’s needle exchange program.

Some of the riders aren’t contentious. For instance, even though the EPA has no interest in regulating methane emissions from cow burps and flatulence, there’s a rider to block the agency from doing so. That’s fine with Democrats.

Then there are riders that have no practical effect but set a precedent that agencies would prefer to avoid. One would block the EPA from officially delineating any new wetlands in counties affected by flooding this year. It turns out that the agency has no plans to do so, so this might be a rider Democrats and the White House would accept.

Another battle involves an attempt to block the Obama administration’s 2009 policy lifting restrictions on travel and money transfers by Cuban-Americans to families remaining in Cuba. That provision drew an explicit Obama veto threat earlier this year and will probably be dropped in end-stage negotiations.

The White House warned last week it’ll play a strong hand in trying to keep the final measure as free of riders as possible. “There should be no miscalculation about the intensity of (Obama’s) feelings,” White House budget director Jacob Lew told reporters.

 

Reported by Sam Stein

 

WASHINGTON — As the United States Senate considers yet another variation of the payroll tax cut, there appears to be little common ground over how the measure should be paid for. Democrats, along with one Republican, continue to argue for a small surtax on millionaires. Republicans either balk at that proposal or say they don’t support extending the payroll tax cut at all.

The impasse is unlikely to be bridged by the time the newest bill comes to the floor on Thursday, leading operatives to suggest that it would simply be easier to pass the payroll tax cut extension without paying for it.

Longtime anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist said he would prefer to see the tax cut accompanied by an equivalent reduction in spending to make up for the decrease in revenue. He and other conservatives said that if spending offsets do not accompany the tax cut, it would be harder for Democrats to argue against other such tax cuts, including a repatriation holiday on corporate taxes.

“No to a tax increase, yes to extending it without a quote, unquote ‘pay for,’ and the preference is to do it with spending cuts as the offset,” said Norquist. “The worst thing you can do would be to extend it with a permanent job-killing marginal tax increase. You would end up with permanent marginal tax rates in exchange for a temporary reduction in tax rates on Social Security.”

When the payroll tax cut was first introduced at the end of 2010, there was no talk about how it would be offset. Instead, it was passed as part of an agreement to extend the Bush tax cut for an additional two years. The estimated $860 billion price tag was simply put on the books.

So why not do the same now, when the price tag is significantly lower — $185 billion to reduce the employee’s share from 4.2 percent to 3.1 percent of wages, along with other tax policy changes — and Republicans have, as a matter of ideological principle, argued that tax cuts pay for themselves?

The question was posed to two senior Obama administration officials during a briefing with reporters yesterday. And while they continued to argue that there were easy ways to cover the payroll tax cut — while needling Republicans for suddenly insisting that tax cuts be offset — they never explicitly said it had to be paid for.

// // “So we still think that the payroll tax, unemployment insurance, any other jobs measures can be paid for in a responsible way,” one said. “The important thing here, though, is that this get done.”

Reminded that, at least as far as unemployment insurance is concerned, the president has consistently held that such emergency expenditures don’t need to be offset, the official replied: “I don’t think the president’s longstanding position on that has changed. But there is a way of paying for it that was put forward in the American Jobs Act.”

And therein lies the problem. While both Republicans and Democrats privately admit that they have been and would be comfortable with letting tax cuts continue without offsets, neither will say so publicly, lest their commitment to deficit reduction be questioned.

Top congressional Republican aides argue that a payroll tax cut extension without offsets isn’t necessarily easier to pass than one paid for by a millionaire’s surtax. But the reasoning behind that argument has more to do with timing than philosophical disputes.

Congress will be voting on major appropriations bills before the Christmas recess. To have them turn around and stack $185 billion on the deficit would be too much to ask, the logic goes.

“The president said in his speech to Congress and in speeches since, that ‘everything’ in the bill will be paid for,” Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said in an email. “I think it will be MUCH easier to pass it if they take out the poison pill of a tax hike on job creators; a tax hike, by the way, that has bipartisan opposition.”

A top House aide was more blunt. “I don’t think either would pass the House,” the aide explained, when asked about a payroll tax cut extension without offsets and one that was paid for with a millionaire’s surtax. “So it’s a ‘would you rather burn to death or drown’ type of question.”

as reported in HuffingtonPost 11/30/2011

WASHINGTON — For the second year in a row, Congress must decide during the holiday season whether to renew federal jobless benefits for people out of work six months or longer. While Democrats have been making a huge fuss, with a press conference Wednesday featuring hundreds of unemployed workers, Republicans have been relatively quiet — but that doesn’t mean they’re against reauthorizing the benefits.

Republican leaders in both Houses of Congress have expressed support for continuing the benefits, saying the holdup is just a matter of how the legislation is put together.

“We’re going to be discussing between the House and Senate ways to deal with both continuation of the payroll tax reduction and unemployment insurance extension before the end of the year,” Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday. “And in the end, it will have to be worked out in a joint negotiation between a Democratic Senate and a Republican House.”

If the benefits are not reauthorized, 1.8 million jobless will stop receiving checks over the course of January, according to worker advocacy group the National Employment Law Project. The federal benefits kick in for laid off workers who use up to six months of state-funded compensation without finding work. Congress routinely provides extensions during recessions and hasn’t dropped extended benefits with the national unemployment rate above 7.2 percent.

Yet the need to reauthorize benefits has been overshadowed by the looming expiration of a payroll tax cut put in place last December, which would result in a tax hike on every working American — an average hike of $1,000 — a scenario Republicans would like to avoid. And Congress also needs to pass a so-called “doc fix” by the end of the year to prevent a 27 percent cut in pay for doctors who see Medicare patients.

“Nobody is coming out with any definitive statements on [unemployment insurance]. Last year they were happy to,” Judy Conti, a lobbyist for NELP, told HuffPost. “I think it’s indicative of the fact that on a bipartisan basis people understand that workers families and the economy need these programs to continue.”

HuffPost readers: Worried your benefits will stop because of Congress? Tell us about it — email arthur@huffingtonpost.com. Please include your phone number if you’re willing to do an interview.

// // The sticking point over renewing the benefits through next year will be their roughly $50 billion cost. Republicans typically insist that the aid must be “paid for,” but that calculation may not apply if the benefits can be attached to something attractive like a tax cut. Republicans blocked renewed unemployment aid last year until President Obama agreed to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for two more years — at a cost much greater than unemployment. Earlier this year President Obama pressed Congress to pass a jobs package that included many items Republicans favored — for instance a “Bridge to Work” training program — but so far congressional Democrats have not signaled support for those programs.

Many members of Congress expected the deficit reduction super committee to craft a deal that included the benefits, but the committee turned out to be less super than advertised.

“Any kind of grand deal that we’ve been after has eluded us,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday, referring to the failed broader talks on the budget and debt. “So let’s try and work incrementally towards a conclusion this session that can benefit all Americans. Because we Republicans do care about people that out — that are out of work. We don’t want to raise taxes on anybody. We want to provide the help to the physicians and the providers in the health care arena in this country, and we want to make sure this country has a sound national defense policy.”

Even Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who suggested during a standoff on jobless benefits last summer that unemployed people blow the money on drugs, sounded sympathetic to jobseekers on Wednesday.

“Nobody really has a real quick answer. We’re studying it, looking at it. We’re clearly going to have to do something — nobody wants to see people suffer,” Hatch told reporters outside the Senate floor on Tuesday. “There’s a huge underemployment rate as you know, of 16, 18 percent, somewhere in that area. People don’t even want to look for jobs anymore. There oughta be some incentives to find jobs, to get to work. It’s easier said than done. I think there’s a general consensus that we need to help people.”