As reported in Huffington Post

Written by Jennifer Bendery

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans are cautiously embracing President Barack Obama’s proposal for shrinking the size of the federal government, although many are watching to see if his actions will match up with his words.

Obama announced Friday that he will ask Congress to give him new authority to consolidate government agencies. His first project would involve merging six major trade and business agencies into one and eliminating the Commerce Department. The reorganization would save $3 billion over 10 years and streamline services for businesses.

“Today, I’m calling on Congress to reinstate the authority that past presidents have had to streamline and reform the executive branch,” Obama said during remarks at the White House. “This is the same sort of authority that every business owner has to make sure that his or her company keeps pace with the times. And let me be clear: I will only use this authority for reforms that result in more efficiency, better service and a leaner government.”

Ronald Reagan was the last president who had such streamlining power. If Congress gives Obama the green light, he would gain fast-track authority — that is, the ability to bypass a Senate filibuster — for any number of government consolidation proposals aimed at saving taxpayer dollars and boosting efficiency. The House and Senate would have to hold an up-or-down vote within 90 days of receiving such a proposal.

Key Republicans tentatively lined up to support the president’s plan, which isn’t surprising given that the GOP is traditionally the party of smaller government. In fact, Obama is effectively forcing House and Senate Republicans to prove their support for paring down the federal workforce.

“I stand ready to work with President Obama on proposals to reorganize federal agencies,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“While I have been disappointed that the White House has not embraced earlier bipartisan congressional efforts seeking collaborative engagement on proposals to reorganize government, I hope this announcement represents the beginning of a sincere and dedicated effort to enact meaningful reforms,” Issa added.

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Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, praised Obama for choosing the Commerce Department as his first target. That agency is “a catch-all department of programs, ranging from weather to the census to trade,” she said, and in general, “there is no shortage of agencies and programs ripe for streamlining and eliminating duplication to save money and improve service.”

Aides to House and Senate Republican leaders also warmed to Obama’s plan, as long as he actually delivers on it.

“While we welcome the president’s reported efforts to reduce duplication [and] waste and simplify the federal bureaucracy, we hope that these strong words are followed by stronger action,” said Laena Fallon, spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

“Given the president’s record of growing government, we’re interested to learn whether this proposal represents actual relief for American businesses or just the appearance of it,” noted Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). “Eliminating duplicative programs and making the federal government more simple, streamlined and business-friendly is always an idea worth exploring.”

Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), knocked Obama for “presiding over one of the largest expansions of government in history,” but said Senate GOP leaders would take a look at what Obama wants to do. “It’s interesting to see the president finally acknowledge that Washington is out of control,” said Stewart.

Obama’s proposal aligns with the administration’s “We Can’t Wait” message, which will be invoked through Election Day. The president has been saying for weeks that he plans to use his executive authority to do whatever he can, regardless of partisan logjams in Congress, to boost the economy and bring down spending. Friday’s announcement was no different.

“With or without Congress, I’m going to keep at it,” Obama said. “But it would be a lot easier if Congress helped.”

Lawmakers won’t be back in town for another week and a half, so Obama will have to wait to see if Congress will grant this new authority.

The six agencies the president plans to target first are the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Trade and Development Agency, and the trade and business functions at the Commerce Department. Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters Friday that the plan would result in 1,000 to 2,000 jobs being lost. But those cuts would be made through attrition, not layoffs.

Obama is already meeting some resistance over this first proposal. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, issued a joint statement expressing concern about changes to the U.S. Trade Representative.

“Taking USTR, one of the most efficient agencies that is a model of how government can and should work, and making it just another corner of a new bureaucratic behemoth would hurt American exports and hinder American job creation,” said Baucus and Camp. “We certainly need to look for ways to reduce government and cut taxes, but not at the expense of programs that are helping businesses, ranchers and farmers create jobs and expand our economy.”

Some environmental groups are also dismayed that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is currently under the Commerce Department, would be transferred to the Interior Department. “This is not merely some technical, bureaucratic shift,” Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “The move could erode the capabilities and mute the voice of the government’s primary agency for protecting our oceans and the ecosystems and economies that depend on them.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) questioned Obama’s sincerity in wanting to reform government at all since he didn’t consult with Congress before making his big announcement.

“What’s disconcerting is that the president has again chosen not to work with Congress — even after I specifically asked the Obama administration to fully brief Congress if it chose to reorganize our trade agencies,” Hatch said. “As the lead Republican on the Finance Committee, I will discuss this matter with my colleagues and will expect a full accounting by the administration in short order.”

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.”

by Jesse Eisinger ProPublica,  Nov. 30, 2011, 12:12 p.m.

Note: The Trade is not subject to our Creative Commons license.

Last week, I had a conversation with a man who runs his own trading firm. In the process of fuming about competition from Goldman Sachs, he said with resignation and exasperation: “The fact that they were bailed out and can borrow for free — It’s pretty sickening.”

Though the sentiment is commonplace these days, I later found myself thinking about his outrage. Here was someone who is in the thick of the business, trading every day, and he is being sickened by the inequities and corruption on Wall Street and utterly persuaded that nothing had changed in the years since the financial crisis of 2008.

Then I realized something odd: I have conversations like this as a matter of routine. I can’t go a week without speaking to a hedge fund manager or analyst or even a banker who registers somewhere on the Wall Street Derangement Scale.

That should be a great relief: Some of them are just like us! Just because you are deranged doesn’t mean you are irrational, after all. Wall Street is already occupied — from within.

The insiders have a critique similar to that of the outsiders. The financial industry has strayed far from being an intermediary between companies that want to raise capital so they can sell people things they want. Instead, it is a machine to enrich itself, fleecing customers and exacerbating inequality. When it goes off the rails, it impoverishes the rest of us. When the crises come, as they inevitably do, banks hold the economy hostage, warning that they will shoot us in the head if we don’t bail them out.

And I won’t pretend this is a widespread view in finance — or even a large minority. You don’t hear this from the executives running the big Wall Street firms; you don’t hear it from the average trader or investment banker. From them, we get self-pity. For every one of the secret Occupy Wall Street sympathizers, there are probably 15 others like Kenneth G. Langone, who, like downtrodden people before him, is trying to reclaim and embrace a pejorative [1], “fat cat.”

The critics are more often found on the periphery, running hedge funds or working at independent research shops. They are retired, either voluntarily or not. They are low-level executives who haven’t made scrambling up the corporate hierarchy their sole ambition in life. Perhaps their independent status removes the intellectual handcuffs that come with ungodly bonuses. Or perhaps they are able to see Big Money’s flaws because they have to compete with the bigger banks for dollars.

Are these “Wall Streeters”? To civilians, they work on the Street. Bankers at the bulge-bracket firms wouldn’t think they are. But that doesn’t mean they don’t count. They know the financial business intimately.

Sadly, almost none of these closeted occupier-sympathizers go public. But Mike Mayo, a bank analyst with the brokerage firm CLSA, which is majority owned by the French bank Crédit Agricole, has done just that. In his book “Exile on Wall Street [2]” (Wiley), Mr. Mayo offers an unvarnished account of the punishments he experienced after denouncing bank excesses. Talking to him, it’s hard to tell you aren’t interviewing Michael Moore.

Mr. Mayo is particularly outraged over compensation for bank executives. Excessive compensation “sends a signal that you take what you get and take it however you can,” he told me. “That sends another signal to outsiders that the system is rigged. I truly wish the protestors didn’t have a leg to stand on, but the unfortunate truth is that they do.”

I asked Richard Kramer, who used to work as a technology analyst at Goldman Sachs until he got fed up with how it did business and now runs his own firm, Arete Research, what was going wrong. He sees it as part of the business model.

“There have been repeated fines and malfeasance at literally all the investment banks, but it doesn’t seem to affect their behavior much,” he said. “So I have to conclude it is part of strategy as simple cost/benefit analysis, that fines and legal costs are a small price to pay for the profits.”

Last week, in a Bloomberg Television event, both Laurence D. Fink, the chairman and chief executive of the mega-money management firm BlackRock, and Bill Gross, the legendary bond investor, evinced some sympathy for the Occupy Wall Street movement [3].

Over the last several decades, “money and finance have dominated at the expense of labor and Main Street, and so how can one not sympathize with their predicament?” Mr. Gross said, speaking of the 99 percent. “To not have sympathy with Main Street as opposed to Wall Street is to have blinders.”

It’s progress that these sentiments now come regularly from people who work in finance. This is an unheralded triumph of the Occupy Wall Street movement. It’s also an opportunity, to reach out to make common cause with native informants.

It’s also a failure. One notable absence in this crisis and its aftermath was a great statesman from the financial industry who would publicly embrace reform that mattered. Instead, mere months after the trillions had flowed from taxpayers and the Federal Reserve, they were back defending their prerogatives and fighting any regulations or changes to their business.

Perhaps a major reason why so few in this secret confederacy speak out is that they are as flummoxed about practical solutions as the rest of us. They don’t know where to begin.

Over the next year, maybe that will change. Things are going to be tough on Wall Street. Bonuses will be down. Layoffs are coming. Europe seems on the brink of another financial crisis. Maybe from that wreckage, a leader will emerge.

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.”

As reported in Huffington Post 11/4/11

 

WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that any bipartisan agreement reached by the congressional deficit-reduction supercommittee will need to include some new tax revenue.

Most Congressional Republicans have signed a “taxpayer protection pledge” — devised by the Grover Norquist-led group Americans for Tax Reform — vowing not to raise taxes. When asked about Norquist on Thursday, Boehner dismissed him as “some random person in America” but later revised his comments to say that “Norquist, like millions of Americans, believes that raising taxes is not good for our economy.”

According to CBS News, Boehner insisted that Republicans would only compromise on tax revenue if Democrats were willing to take significant steps to shore up entitlement programs.

“Without real reform on the entitlement side, I’m not even going to put any new revenue on the table,” Boehner said. Entitlement programs include Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Any new tax revenue would not come from raising rates, he said, but from overhauling the tax code, sweeping out loopholes and deductions in order to reduce individual and corporate rates.

“I do think that our efforts to have a flatter, fairer tax system, with our targets being 25 percent top rates for corporations, 25 percent top rates for individuals, is achievable,” Boehner said. “That means you clean out all the garbage. I think it’s very important that it get done.”

Boehner says he remains committed to helping the deficit panel succeed and that Congress should approve its recommendations if it produces a plan to curb the government’s gush of red ink. He expressed confidence on Thursday that the group would meet its goal.

//

//

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“I didn’t agree to set this thing up with any idea that it wouldn’t succeed,” Boehner said. “I’d love to exceed the goal, but we have to meet the goal, and I’m going to put every ounce of effort in to make sure that we do.”

Shortly after meeting with reporters, Boehner met again with supercommittee Republicans.

The panel has three weeks to come up with recommendations that would be given an automatic vote by both House and Senate.

The deficit panel appears deadlocked over demands by Democrats that it raise substantial new revenue. Republicans are united against the idea, though a GOP proposal last week counted new Medicare premiums and larger contributions from federal workers to their retirement as revenue. Republicans also assumed about $200 billion in revenue would come from the economic growth associated with reforming the loophole-cluttered tax code.

In a surprise development, the three GOP senators in the so-called Gang of Six group that forged a bipartisan deficit proposal including about $2 trillion in new revenues signed on to a letter drafted by conservative stalwart Jim DeMint, R-S.C., that called on the supercommittee to propose a solution with “no net tax increase.”

Boehner discussed a potential deficit deal with President Barack Obama this summer that would have allowed up to $800 billion in new revenues as part of a comprehensive tax overhaul bill that would have eliminated many tax breaks and used the savings to lower income tax rates.

However, the Boehner-Obama talks fell apart.

Boehner said Thursday that “all kinds of discussions” are going on now.

“I think there’s room for revenue but there’s clearly a limit to the revenues that may be available,” Boehner said.

What’s Going On

November 3, 2011

What’s going on?

 

That seems to be the big question…..

 

Everyone is asking

 

 

Marvin Gaye sang about it back in the 70’s

 

Yet we still are asking the same questions, today….

 

 

The economy almost collapsed

 

People started looking at….

 

How the government reacted…

 

 

Why did they not see it coming?

 

 

The stimulus failed…

 

 

And the people started saying…..

 

 

No More …….

 

 

The Teaparty came from a grass roots effort

 

And have grown to be a voice

 

 

They have endorsed……

 

Reducing government spending

 

Opposition to taxation in varying degress

 

Reduction of the national debt…

 

And the reduction of the Federal Budget Deficit

 

 

Their message resonated during the 2010 elections

 

As a result we saw a total shake up in Congress

 

 

Did we get any results???

 

 

The result was total gridlock!!!!!

 

 

I do not think that is what the Teaparty had in mind…

 

 

Closing down the government….

 

 

That will not resolve anything

 

 

 

Agreed…… the Government has grown too big

 

Agreed…… the Government must be held more accountable

 

 

The stimulus was needed…

 

 

But it was mismanaged

 

There was no accountability

 

It should not have been

 

 

Carte Blanche

 

 

 

All these events leading to the collapse

 

Did not happened overnight

 

 

We put faith in our elected officials

 

 

We too, turned a blind eye

 

 

Borrowing against inflated housing values

 

 

Margining accounts

 

We all allowed this to happen

 

 

We all drank the Kool-Aid

 

 

And must take responsibility

 

 

 

Now the voices are growing

 

We are the 99%

 

 

What started in New York City

 

Has grown not only throughout the US

 

But has seen its’ presence grow around the world

 

 

There is just not 1 message

 

 

They are saying enough is enough…

 

 

 

What happened to the American Dream?

 

The land of opportunity got up and went

 

 

Overseas….

 

 

 

They are calling for the end of corporate greed

 

 

Corruption and influence over Government

 

 

No more too big to fail

 

 

Where are the jobs

 

 

 

 

How long will this go on?

 

 

Is anybody listening?

 

 

 

I do not believe anybody is protesting

 

Against the successes of the few

 

 

In the past there was an unwritten law…

 

 

Let’s make this a win / win

 

 

The more you help us to become successful

 

We will work

 

To share those successes with you

 

 

That is how the American Dream grew

 

 

Each generation working to improve

 

The Quality of life

 

For the next generation

 

 

The United States was a beacon

 

Everybody wanted to come to America

 

 

 

 

We took our eye off the ball

 

After 911,

 

 

America was united

 

Patriotism was at an all-time high

 

 

Then we got involved in several wars

 

 

Without figuring out how to pay for them

 

 

There was no shared sacrifice

 

 

President Bush told everyone to go out and shop

 

 

The deficits started rising….

 

 

It took over 200 years to get to a $1 trillion dollars
deficit

 

 

Yet in less than 30years

 

It has ballooned to just under

 

$15 trillion dollars

 

 

 

There are hard and difficult decisions to be made

 

 

Not everyone is going to be happy

 

 

But are we all prepared to start sacrificing?

 

 

Are we going to commit ourselves to a worthy goal?

 

 

 

What will be the quality of life we pass on?

 

 

To our Children….

 

 

And our Grandchildren…..

 

 

 

Will we be known as the lost generation?

 

 

How did we ever….

 

 

 

Let it go so far?

 

 

 

We are the people

 

 

We must all take on a shared responsibility

 

 

Do what needs to be done

 

 

To right the ship

 

Steady the course

 

 

Fulfill the promise America

 

Has brought to all generations

 

 

 

Like our forefathers before us

 

 

 

When asked….

 

Is the quality of life we are passing on….

 

Better than that which we have experienced

 

 

Let us stand proud and say

 

 

YES!!!

As reported by Jennifer Bendary from Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — Senate Democratic leaders have settled on which piece of President Barack Obama’s jobs plan they want to move on first: $35 billion for state and local governments to rehire teachers, police and firefighters.

“Our expectation [is] that the first measure will be teachers,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said during a Monday press gaggle aboard Air Force One.

“I didn’t want to get ahead of Senator Reid,” Carney said of breaking the news. “We have been in consultation with him, but it’s his prerogative and we’re very pleased that he will be taking it up.”

During a conference call, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he plans to unveil the Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act later Monday and decide “in the next day or two” when to hold a vote on it. He said the bill would keep 400,000 teachers and first responders on the job, and would be paid for by imposing a 5 percent tax on millionaires.

Asked which pieces of Obama’s jobs plan are next in line for Senate votes, Reid demurred. But he said he has already settled on the next four votes on pieces of Obama’s bill and is waiting to meet with the Democratic Caucus on Tuesday before discussing his plan publicly.

“There is no reason we cannot finish the appropriations bills before the end of the week, and have a vote on this jobs bill,” Reid told reporters on the call. “I am happy to keep the Senate in session as long as needed to make sure we get a vote on this jobs bill.”

Reid’s office also sent out a fact sheet that highlights past votes and statements by Republicans in favor of jobs bills similar to the teacher/first responders aid bill. The fact sheet cites a May 2010 press release by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) saying he was “proud” to help secure funds for first responders. It also points to a March 2007 vote to fully fund the COPS program; it included the support of 16 GOP senators.

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During a speech earlier Monday in Fletcher, N.C., Obama knocked Senate Republicans for voting down his entire $447 billion jobs package last week. All Republicans opposed a procedural vote to begin debate on the bill, along with two Democrats. Obama said his push to break out pieces of his bill and hold individual votes on them gives Republicans “another chance” to act on jobs.

“Maybe they just couldn’t understand the whole thing all at once,” Obama said, drawing laughs from the crowd of supporters. “So we’re going to break it up into bite-sized pieces so they can take a thoughtful approach to this legislation.”

“So this week, I’m going to ask members of Congress to vote on one component of the plan, which is whether we should put hundreds of thousands of teachers back in the classroom and cops back on the street and firefighters back to work.”

Of course, the reality is that Republicans are poised to vote against any piece of Obama’s plan because they don’t like how it is paid for: by raising taxes on millionaires and ending subsidies for the oil and gas industry. But with the 2012 elections in mind, Obama and Democratic leaders plan to keep lining up votes anyway to build the case that Republicans are voting against jobs and the economy in the name of protecting corporate interests.

This story has been updated with information on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s conference call Monday.

As reported in Huffington Post 10/14/11

Written by Al Gore

For the past several weeks I have watched and read news about the Occupy Wall Street protests with both interest and admiration. I thought the New York Times hit the nail on the head in an editorialSunday:

“The message — and the solutions — should be obvious to anyone who has been paying attention since the economy went into a recession that continues to sock the middle class while the rich have recovered and prospered. The problem is that no one in Washington has been listening.” 

“At this point, protest is the message: income inequality is grinding down that middle class, increasing the ranks of the poor, and threatening to create a permanent underclass of able, willing but jobless people. On one level, the protesters, most of them young, are giving voice to a generation of lost opportunity.”

 

From the economy to the climate crisis our leaders have pursued solutions that are not solving our problems, instead they propose policies that accomplish little. With democracy in crisis, a true grassroots movement pointing out the flaws in our system is the first step in the right direction. Count me among those supporting and cheering on the Occupy Wall Street movement.

You can support the protests by clicking here.