By  Associated Press, Published: September 8

WASHINGTON — In an early show of optimism, Republicans and Democrats on a powerful committee charged with cutting deficits pledged Thursday to aim higher than their $1.2 trillion target, work to boost job creation and reassure an anxious nation that Congress can solve big problems.

Tax reform as well as cuts to benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare will be among the options considered, members of the so-called supercommittee emphasized, although no specific proposals were debated at an opening session than ran scarcely an hour.

While they readily acknowledged numerous obstacles to a deal, committee members said it was essential to try at a time the economy is weak, joblessness is high and the country gives every sign of intense frustration with its elected leaders.

Compromise “is the difference between a divided government that works for the country and a dysfunctional government that doesn’t,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the last of a dozen members to speak.

The panel, co-chaired by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., lawmakers from opposite ends of the political spectrum, hopes to help broker a deal somewhere in the middle — on an issue where failure is the rule.

Shortly after the session, at least one Republican member threatened to quit if the panel considers cuts in defense beyond the $350 billion over a decade that Congress approved last month as part of a package of deep spending reductions and an increase in the debt limit.

“I’m off the committee if we’re going to talk about further defense” cuts, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl said he told panel members. Speaking at a defense forum, Kyl said the military “has given enough already, and any further hit would be inimical to our national security around the globe.”

The committee, three members from each party in each house, faces a deadline of Nov. 23. Its most consequential sessions are expected to take place in closed door sessions that will give President Barack Obama and congressional leaders from both parties the opportunity to influence the outcome.

Ironically, the committee owes its existence to earlier failed attempts at sweeping deficit-cutting compromises, most recently an abortive negotiation between Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Their talks collapsed over the summer, at a time Republicans were demanding deficit cuts in exchange for passage of legislation to raise the debt limit and prevent a first-ever government default.

In the end, the two sides agreed to increase the debt limit by enough to let the Treasury pay its bills through 2012 while also cutting $1 trillion over a decade from one category of government programs.

It was a significant sum, but far less than the White House and some Republicans had been hoping for. Nor did it change the tax code or significantly affect Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, farm programs and other costly benefit programs than many lawmakers say must be part of any attempt to slow and ultimately reduce the nation’s debt.

That is particularly true of Republicans, although Democrats are largely unwilling to go along unless their GOP counterparts will agree to higher revenues at the same time.

“I approach our task with a profound sense of urgency, high hopes, and realistic expectations,” Hensarling said as he gaveled the session to order. He said the task “will not be easy, but it is essential,” and said the panel “must be primarily about saving and reforming social safety net programs that are not only failing many beneficiaries but going broke at the same time.”

A fellow Republican, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, added another item to the agenda moments later, speaking of “wasteful tax subsidies” that should be eliminated and calling for changes that can turn the tax code into an engine for more economic growth.

“When huge, iconic American corporations can pay little or no income tax, well that’s indefensible,” he said. “So I think we ought to wipe out those special interest favors, have commensurately lower rates, encourage the economic growth that will generate more revenues, generate more jobs.”

Among Democrats, Murray stressed the importance of compromise, saying that in meetings with constituents last month, they “asked why it was that every time they turn on their televisions, they hear about more political battling, more partisan rancor_but nothing more being done for people like them.”

She added pointedly that she was pleased that other members of the panel “have refrained from drawing in the sand or carving out areas that can’t be touched” as part of any deal.

The committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing next week at which Douglas Elmendorf, head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, is expected to explain the forces that have driven the annual deficits into the $1 trillion-plus range, and left the country with a debt of $14 trillion.

The legislation that created the committee also approved a $400 billion debt limit increase, and permitted Obama to request yet another $500 billion increase, with an option for Congress to block it. An attempt to do so failed in the Senate on Thursday evening.

If the committee fails to produce a 10-year package of cuts of at least $1.2 trillion, across-the-board spending cuts would take place that would and simultaneously allow the president to seek another increase in the federal debt limit of the same size.

On the other hand, any agreement on cuts totaling up to $1.5 trillion that are approved by both houses of Congress would permit Obama to request a dollar-for-dollar rise in the debt limit. There is no upper limit to the amount of deficit reductions the panel can recommend.

The committee proceedings were briefly interrupted by demonstrators who shouted “Jobs Now!” in a hallway outside the room. The group dispersed after police threatened them with arrest.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

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On Vacation

August 11, 2011

Go ahead,

 

Take a look around…

 

 

Everyone is on vacation

 

 

 

Try calling a client….

 

 

Catch up with me after
Labor Day

 

I’m taking some time
off

 

 

Why am I even writing this post?

 

 

 

I’ll probably just get a lot of

 

Out of the Office return reply messages?

 

 

For you faithful few….

 

 

 

The warriors!!!!!!

 

 

Vacation…

 

 

Humbug…..

 

 

 

I don’t care how hot
it is!!!!

 

 

 

I’m gonna work

 

 

 

Even if I can’t get
anything done

 

Because everyone is
away

 

 

 

 

I will write this post for you

 

 

 

This week….

 

 

Britain is in turmoil…

 

 

A policeman shot a teen

 

The People are rioting, burning buildings

 

 

Guess what????

 

 

Cameron came back off vacation

 

 

 

Congress and Obama have spent the last month

 

Battling over the debt ceiling

 

 

 

Each claiming they are sticking to their guns

 

“We must fight to protect the middle class”

 

 

Well….

 

They came up with the grand compromise

 

 

 

And quickly left for vacation

 

 

 

Standard and Poor’s drops our credit ranking

 

 

 

The stock market drops 600 points Monday

 

 

 

As of last week

 

The stock market was down over 2000 pints

 

in the last 30 days

 

 

 

I heard that people with 401k in the stock market

 

Lost about 12% of their value last week

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, Congress is on vacation

 

 

Their probably listening to the constituents’

 

 

Hang tough…..

 

Don’t give in…..

 

We’ve got your back…..

 

 

 

 

Who has our back?

 

 

 

 

Why am I thinking about this?

 

 

 

I should be on vacation

As reported in Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — Standard & Poor’s says it downgraded the U.S. government’s credit rating because it believes the U.S. will keep having problems getting its finances under control.

S&P officials on Saturday defended their decision to drop the government’s rating to AA+ from the top rating, AAA. The Obama administration called the move a hasty decision based on wrong calculations about the federal budget. It had tried to head off the downgrade before it was announced late Friday.

But S&P said it was the months of haggling in Congress over budget cuts that led it to downgrade the U.S. rating. The ratings agency was dissatisfied with the deal lawmakers reached last weekend. And it isn’t confident that the government will do much better in the future, even as the U.S. budget deficit grows.

David Beers, global head of sovereign ratings at S&P, said the agency was concerned about the “degree of uncertainty around the political policy process. The nature of the debate and the difficulty in framing a political consensus … that was the key consideration.”

S&P was looking for $4 trillion in budget cuts over 10 years. The deal that passed Congress on Tuesday would bring $2.1 trillion to $2.4 trillion in cuts over that time.

Another concern was that lawmakers and the administration might fail to make those cuts because Democrats and Republicans are divided over how to implement them. Republicans are refusing to raise taxes in any deficit-cutting deal while Democrats are fighting to protect giant entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

S&P so far is the only one of the three largest credit rating agencies to downgrade U.S. debt. Moody’s Investor Service and Fitch Ratings have both issued warnings of possible downgrades but for now have retained their AAA ratings.

The rating agencies were sharply criticized after the 2008 financial crisis. They were accused of contributing to the crisis because they didn’t warn about the dangers of subprime mortgages. When those mortgages went bad, investors lost billions of dollars and banks that held those securities had to be bailed out by the government.

Ratings agencies assign ratings on bonds and other forms of debt so investors can judge how likely an issuer – like governments, corporations and non-profit groups – will be to pay the debt back.

//

//

http://ads.tw.adsonar.com/adserving/getAds.jsp?previousPlacementIds=&placementId=1517131&pid=2259768&ps=-1&zw=300&zh=250&url=http%3A//www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/07/standard-and-poors-downgrade-defense-politics_n_920430.html&v=5&dct=S%26P%20Officials%20Blame%20Downgrade%20On%20%27Degree%20Of%20Uncertainty%27%20In%20Politics&ref=http%3A//www.huffingtonpost.com/&metakw=s%26p,officials,blame,downgrade,on,'degree,of,uncertainty',in,politics,business

Asked when the United States might regain its AAA credit rating, Beers said S&P would take a look at any budget agreements that achieve bigger deficit savings. But the history of other countries such as Canada and Australia who saw cuts in their credit ratings, shows that it can take years to win back the higher ratings.

Administration sources, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the debt issue, said the administration was surprised by the timing of the announcement, coming just a few days after the debt agreement had been signed into law.

Treasury officials were notified by S&P of the imminent downgrade early Friday afternoon and spent the next several hours arguing with S&P. The administration contended that S&P acknowledged at one point making a $2 trillion error in their computations of deficits over the next decade.

But S&P officials said the difference reflected the use of different assumptions about how much spending and taxes will come to over the next decade. The S&P officials said they decided to use the administration’s assumptions since the $2 trillion difference in the deficit numbers was not going to change the company’s downgrade decision.

In a Treasury blog posting Saturday, John Bellows, the Treasury’s acting assistant secretary for economic policy, said he was amazed by that decision.

“S&P did not believe a mistake of this magnitude was significant enough to warrant reconsidering their judgment or even significant enough to warrant another day to carefully re-evaluate their analysis,” Bellows wrote.

S&P officials said their decision hadn’t been rushed. They noted that S&P had been warning about a potential downgrade since April.

Some critics, the debacle of 2008 still in mind, raised questions about S&P’s actions now.

“I find it interesting to see S&P so vigilant now in downgrading the U.S. credit rating,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said Saturday. “Where were they four years ago?”

Standard & Poor’s roots go back to the 1860s. One of its founders, Henry Varnum Poor, was a publisher of financial information about the nation’s railroads. His company, then called Poor’s Publishing, merged in 1941 with Standard Statistics Inc., another provider of financial information.

S&P’s website said both founding firms warned clients well before the 1929 stock market crash that they should sell their stocks.

The company has been owned by publisher McGraw-Hill Cos. since 1966.

As reported in Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — The long-term unemployed have been left out of a deal between congressional negotiators and the White House to enact massive spending cuts and raise the nation’s debt ceiling before its borrowing limit is reached on Tuesday.

Under the so-called grand bargain President Obama tried to strike with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), federal unemployment benefits would have been extended beyond January 2012, when they are set to expire.

But those negotiations collapsed in July. On Sunday, congressional leaders and the administration crafted a not-so-grand bargain that will cut spending without raising taxes or preserving stimulus programs like federal unemployment insurance.

Asked Sunday night why spending to help the unemployed had been left out of the deal, a White House official said, “because it had to be part of a bigger deal to be part of this.”

In other words, Democrats need significant leverage to get Republicans to agree to additional spending on the unemployed. Federal unemployment insurance programs, which kick in for laid off workers who use up 26 weeks of state benefits, cost a lot of money: Keeping the programs through this year required an estimated $56 billion. In December, Democrats only managed to keep the programs alive for another 13 months by attaching them to a two-year reauthorization of tax cuts.

Anyone laid off after July 1 is ineligible for extra weeks of benefits under current law. People who started filing claims in July who exhaust their six months of state benefits in January will be on their own. (People who are in the middle of a “tier” of federal benefits will probably be able to receive the remaining weeks in their tier, but they will definitely be ineligible for the next level up.) Since 2008, layoff victims could receive as many as 73 additional weeks of benefits, depending on what state they lived in.

Nearly 4 million people currently claim benefits under the two main federal programs (known as Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Extended Benefits), according to the latest numbers from the Labor Department. Another 3 million are on state benefits.

// // The White House official suggested it would be easier for the administration to preserve a Social Security payroll tax cut enacted as part of the December deal because Republicans would view its expiration as a tax increase. “The payroll tax cut will be extended because if they do not that would be a tax increase on every American, something I’m confident, if you believe Speaker Boehner when he says we will not have tax increases, it will have to be [extended],” the official said.

Asked if the White House would continue to push for a reauthorization of federal unemployment benefits, the official said, “Absolutely, we will absolutely keep pushing for that.”

The unemployment rate is not expected to come down anytime soon, and economic forecasters said earlier versions of the deal currently awaiting action in Congress would significantly slow economic growth because of reduced government spending.

Judy Conti is a lobbyist who deals with Congress and the administration for the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group. She agreed with the official that unemployment benefits would have to be part of a big deal.

“Things like the payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance are controversial and increasingly partisan issues. In order for those to be resolved so far in advance before their expiration there would have had to have been a very significant deal,” Conti said. “Once the grand bargain died, the chance for any meaningful stimulus died as well.”

Sam Stein contributed reporting.

As reported by HuffingtonPost  by Sam Stein and Elise Foley

WASHINGTON — Congressional leaders and President Obama on Sunday night announced they’ve cut a deal to avert a historic U.S. default, saying they have assembled a framework that cuts some spending immediately and uses a “super Congress” to slash more in the future.

The deal calls for a first round of cuts that would total $917 billion over 10 years and allows the president to hike the debt cap — now at $14.3 trillion — by $900 billion, according to a presentation that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made to his members. Democrats reported those first cuts at a figure closer to $1 trillion. It was unclear Sunday night why those two estimates varied.

The federal government could begin to default on its obligations on Aug. 2 if the measure is not passed.

The next round of $1.5 trillion in cuts would be decided by a committee of 12 lawmakers evenly divided between the two parties and two chambers. This so-called super Congress would have to present its cuts by Thanksgiving, and the rest of Congress could not amend or filibuster the recommendations.

But if the super Congress somehow failed to enact savings, the measure requires automatic cuts worth at least $1.2 trillion. Those cuts would be split equally between military and domestic programs. Social Security, Medicaid and programs for the poor would be spared, but Medicare providers — not beneficiaries — would take a hit.

White House officials confirmed that there would not be an extension of unemployment benefits as part of the final package. The administration had insisted that an extension be part of the grand bargain it was negotiating with Boehner. But when those discussions fell apart, so too did efforts to ensure that unemployment insurance was part of a final package. A senior administration aide added that the president would push for an extension in the months, if not weeks, ahead.

Some observers scored one victory for the president — the second round of cuts do not kick in until 2013, when the Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire. Having a fresh round of deficit reduction that is all cuts with no revenues could give the White House ammunition to end the tax cuts on wealthier Americans, as it failed to do last winter.

Though none of the leaders sounded pleased about the deal, they said they were relieved it may present a chance to avert default. President Obama seemed especially dissatisfied with the idea of the super committee, saying the leaders should have been able to accomplish all the cuts now.

“Is this the deal I would have preferred? No,” Obama said. “I believe that we could have made the tough choices required — on entitlement reform and tax reform — right now, rather than through a special congressional committee process.”

The two Senate party heads also expressed qualified support for the deal.

“Leaders from both parties have come together for the sake of our economy to reach a historic, bipartisan compromise that ends this dangerous standoff,” Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on the Senate floor Sunday night.

“At this point I think I can say with a high degree of confidence that there is now a framework to review that will ensure significant cuts in Washington spending,” said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

“We can assure the American people tonight that the United States of America will not for the first time in our history default on its obligations,” McConnell added.

In spite of the guarded optimism, all sides will face quite a sales job in getting enough lawmakers in the middle to accept a deal.

Liberals were extremely displeased with the final result of the talks, which began with Democrats saying there should be no strings attached to a debt limit increase that would enable the country pay its bills.

Then they insisted that if deficit reduction was going to be linked to the debt limit, then closing loopholes and raising taxes on the rich had to be part of the deal.

They lost completely on both counts, and House Republicans managed to pull the entire deal further and further to the right, even inserting a requirement into the agreement for a vote on a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Both the Congressional Black Caucus and the Progressive Caucus in the House had called emergency meetings for Monday as details of the plan started to leak. They seemed likely to oppose the deal.

One top House aide said his boss would vote against the measure, and the aide predicted Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would not be eager to whip her members to get on board.

“This is going to be close. I think in the end, the president and Nancy are going to have to twist arms, and I’m not sure how hard she’ll work to do that,” the aide said, noting that Pelosi still remembers the infamous TARP vote where she delivered 150 of her members but Boehner did not get 100 of his.

Many of Boehner’s freshman Tea Party members also are likely to find the proposal tough to swallow, since many wanted no hike in the borrowing limit to begin with. They also wanted the passage of a balanced budget amendment to be a prerequisite for increasing the debt ceiling.

Both sides can afford to lose members if 217 representatives can still back the plan.

Boehner’s talk to his 240 members Sunday night had the greatest note of triumph.

“Now listen, this isn’t the greatest deal in the world,” he said, according to remarks his office sent out. “But it shows how much we’ve changed the terms of the debate in this town.”

He also sounded a note of vindication.

“There is nothing in this framework that violates our principles. It’s all spending cuts. The White House bid to raise taxes has been shut down,” Boehner crowed. “And as I vowed back in May — when everyone thought I was crazy for saying it — every dollar of debt-limit increase will be matched by more than a dollar of spending cuts.”

Notably, Pelosi was the only of the four congressional leaders not to pledge support for the plan.

“I look forward to reviewing the legislation with my Caucus to see what level of support we can provide,” she said in a statement.

Charley Reese’s final column for the Orlando
Sentinel…
He has been a journalist for 49 years.
He is retiring and this
is HIS LAST COLUMN.

Be sure to read the Tax List at the end.

545 vs.
300,000,000 People
-By Charlie Reese

Politicians are the only
people in the world who create problems and then campaign against
them.

Have you ever wondered, if both the Democrats and the Republicans
are against deficits, WHY do we have deficits?

Have you ever wondered, if
all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, WHY do we have
inflation and high taxes?

You and I don’t propose a federal budget. The
President does.

You and I don’t have the Constitutional authority to vote
on appropriations. The House of Representatives does.

You and I don’t
write the tax code, Congress does.

You and I don’t set fiscal policy,
Congress does.

You and I don’t control monetary policy, the Federal
Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one President,
and nine Supreme Court justices equates to 545 human beings out of the 300
million are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the
domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the
Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913,
Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a
federally chartered, but private, central bank.

I excluded all the
special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal
authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman, or a
President to do one cotton-picking thing. I don’t care if they offer a
politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or
reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator’s
responsibility to determine how he votes.

Those 545 human beings spend
much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They
cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

What separates a
politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal
human being would have the gall of a Speaker, who stood up and criticized the
President for creating deficits. The President can only propose a budget. He
cannot force the Congress to accept it.

The Constitution, which is the
supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of
Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes. Who is
the speaker of the House now? He is the leader of the majority party.
He and fellow House members, not the President, can approve any budget they
want. If the President vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree
to.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million cannot
replace 545 people who stand convicted — by present facts — of incompetence
and irresponsibility. I can’t think of a single domestic problem that is not
traceable directly to those 545 people. When you fully grasp the plain truth
that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must
follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is
unfair, it’s because they want it unfair.

If the budget is in the red,
it’s because they want it in the red.

If the Army & Marines are in
Iraq and
Afghanistan
it’s because they want them in Iraq and Afghanistan …

If they do not
receive social security but are on an elite retirement plan not available to the
people, it’s because they want it that way.

There are no insoluble
government problems.

Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to
bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose
gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to
regulate and from whom they can take this power. Above all, do not let them con
you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like “the
economy,” “inflation,” or “politics” that prevent them from doing what they take
an oath to do.

Those 545 people, and they alone, are
responsible.

They, and they alone, have the power.

They, and they
alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses.  Provided
the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees…

We should
vote all of them out of office and clean up their
mess!

What you do with this article
now that you have read it… is up to you.
This might be funny if it weren’t
so true.
Be sure to read all the way to the end:

Tax his land,
Tax
his bed,
Tax the table,
At which he’s fed.

Tax his tractor,
Tax
his mule,
Teach him taxes
Are the rule.

Tax his work,
Tax his
pay,
He works for
peanuts anyway!

Tax his cow,
Tax his
goat,
Tax his pants,
Tax his coat.

Tax his ties,
Tax his
shirt,
Tax his work,
Tax his dirt.

Tax his tobacco,
Tax his
drink,
Tax him if he
Tries to think.

Tax his cigars,
Tax his
beers,
If he cries
Tax his tears.

Tax his car,
Tax his
gas,
Find other ways
To tax his ass.

Tax all he has
Then let him
know
That you won’t be done
Till he has no dough.

When he screams
and hollers;
Then tax him some more,
Tax him till
He’s good and
sore.

Then tax his coffin,
Tax his grave,
Tax the sod in
Which
he’s laid…

Put these words
Upon his tomb,
‘Taxes drove me
to
my doom…’

When he’s gone,
Do not relax,
Its time to apply
The
inheritance tax.

Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
CDL
license Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License
Tax
Excise Taxes
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax
(FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline
Tax (currently 44.75 cents per gallon)
Gross Receipts Tax
Hunting License
Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
IRS Interest Charges IRS Penalties
(tax on top of tax)
Liquor Tax
Luxury Taxes
Marriage License
Tax
Medicare Tax
Personal Property Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate
Tax
Service Charge Tax
Social Security Tax
Road Usage
Tax
Recreational Vehicle Tax
Sales Tax
School Tax
State Income
Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise
Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
Telephone Federal, State
and Local Surcharge Taxes
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone
Recurring and Nonrecurring Charges Tax
Telephone State and Local
Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Utility Taxes
Vehicle License
Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well
Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax

STILL THINK THIS IS
FUNNY?
Not one of these
taxes existed 100 years ago, & our nation was the most prosperous in the
world.
We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in
the world, and Mom
, if agreed, stayed home to raise the
kids.

What in the heck happened? Can you
spell ‘politicians?’

I hope this goes around THE USA at least
545 times!!! YOU can help it get there!!!

GO AHEAD. . . BE AN
AMERICAN!!!

As reported in Huffinton Post by Ryan Grim and Elise Foley

WASHINGTON — More than half the Senate was convened early Tuesday morning by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) for a briefing on a deficit-reduction plan being negotiated by group of five senators from both parties once known as the “Gang of Six.”

The gang had previously comprised six lawmakers before Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) abandoned the talks, rebuking Democrats for being unwilling to cut Social Security or Medicare. Yet Coburn had heavy praise for the plan outlined Tuesday morning, raising hopes (and fears) that the gang may be getting back together.

Senators were effusive about the plan after the briefing meeting, calling it “great” and saying it would likely gain support from a majority of the Senate. The plan includes $1.5 trillion in tax cuts, managed by spending caps and cuts to government programs.

“We’ve gone from a Gang of Six to a mob of 50,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) after the meeting.

More than half of the Senate arrived to hear about the debt-reduction plan Tuesday morning, and the general atmosphere was positive, said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

“Everyone felt a sense of relief that there was a bipartisan, carefully constructed plan before us,” she told reporters outside the meeting.

A Senate Democratic aide familiar with the negotiations with Coburn said that the Oklahoma senator had refused Democratic entreaties, even after cuts to entitlements were offered. But now that the five other Senators are moving forward without him, the aide said, Coburn is more interested in being involved again.

// “This type of a wider audience may make him less important, particularly if there are other Republicans willing to step up,” said the aide.

A different Senate aide said it remains unclear whether there is enough time to move forward with the plan before Aug. 2, the date the Treasury Department predicts the federal government could begin defaulting on its debt. But Collins said the Gang has completed enough work on their deal that it could be ready in time for a pre-Aug. 2 vote.

“They have done so much work that a lot of the issues have been gone through, and they’re in the midst of drafting statutory language,” Collins said. “I believe it should be considered in conjunction with the debt ceiling plan.”

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) said the plan could gain traction in the Senate and even in the Republican-controlled House, which is committed to major spending cuts.

“I think if you look at the details here, they will see it does lots of things they’ve called for,” Hutchison told reporters.

“They have come up with a plan that can get a majority vote in the Senate, very likely 60,” she said, adding she would vote for the plan. “The House should like this plan because it has spending cuts.”

UPDATE 1:45 p.m.: President Barack Obama expressed some support of the Gang of Six plan during remarks to the press on Tuesday, calling the plan a “very significant step” that is “broadly consistent with the approach that I’ve urged.”

“What it says is we’ve got to be serious about reducing domestic spending, both in domestic and in defense,” he said. “We’ve got to be serious about tackling health care spending and entitlements in a serious way and we’ve got to have some additional revenue so we have an approach in which there is shared sacrifice.”

UPDATE 2:10 p.m.: The Gang of Six plan is laid out in a summary flyer obtained by HuffPost and details the group’s proposal for cutting the deficit by more than $3.6 trillion over the next decade.

The plan would immediately cut $500 billion in spending to bring down the deficit. It would also include major tax cuts, with about $1.5 trillion in overall tax savings, its authors say.

But that estimate factors in a $1.7 trillion cut to the alternative minimum tax — a tax Congress already eliminates much of every year. But even with the AMT cuts, the package raises only a net $200 billion compared to cuts of more than $3 trillion — not exactly a balanced approach.

Much of the Gang of Six plan would require other agencies and Congressional committees to work to find savings, setting up guidelines for $80 billion in armed service cuts and $70 billion from health, education, labor and pensions. Under the plan, the Budget Committee would be required to set spending caps that would extend over the next decade.

UPDATE 3:10 p.m.: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) threw some cold water on the Gang of Six plan Tuesday, voicing doubts that the plan could be scored and passed before the Aug. 2 deadline for raising the debt ceiling.

Reid said he got a call from Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf, who said the plan would take at least two weeks to score for cost and savings, putting the completion of that work just beyond the Aug. 2 deadline. Reid called the plan “wonderful” and said he does not want to diminish enthusiasm over it, but said alternatives still must be considered.

Reid said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), a Gang of Six member, would meet with him in the next 24 hours with parts of the plan that can be incorporated into a deal brokered by Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to raise the debt ceiling.

Michael McAuliff contributed to this report.

Reported by Sam Stein for The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — Sunday night’s much anticipated debt ceiling meeting between the president and congressional leadership managed to produce an outcome, just not the desirable one. Attendees did not find agreement on a package of cuts, revenues, or entitlement reforms. Instead, they settled on the decision to meet again and, perhaps after Monday’s meeting, again after that.

As the government approaches the August 2 date at which it will run out of cash, the need to hold meetings is the only thing both sides can agree on.

Sunday night proved no different, as lawmakers met in the Cabinet Room with no apparent budging from either end. According to multiple attendees, the discussion began with President Obama pressing, once more, for lawmakers to consider a “grand” bargain to end the debt ceiling debate, something that would combine $1 trillion in revenue raisers with $3 trillion in cuts, including reforms to Medicare and Medicaid and smaller tinkers to Social Security.

“The basic thrust of the meeting was the president making the case for why to do a big deal and putting it to everyone around the table: if not now, when? And if not the big deal, then what is the alternative, particularly given that it is the Republicans who have said we need to use this opportunity to do something serious about the deficit,” said a Democratic official briefed on the meeting. “The president is a bit frustrated too … He is out there. He is ready and willing to take political heat. He is already taking some heat.”

Less than 24 hours earlier, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had formally rejected the very offer that Obama was pressing for, insinuating that it was too heavy a political lift and that negotiators would be better served building on the $2.4 trillion deal that Vice President Joseph Biden had been crafting in a series of bipartisan meetings with congressional leaders. Obama’s pitch did little to chip away at that opposition. The speaker, according to several sources briefed on Sunday’s meeting, did not say much during it, deferring instead to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). But a Boehner aide made it clear after the fact that his boss hadn’t exactly been won over.

“The speaker told the group that he believes a package based on the work of the Biden group is the most viable option at this time for moving forward,” said the aide. “The speaker restated the fundamental principles that must be met for any increase in the debt limit: spending cuts and reforms that are greater than the amount of the increase, restraints on future spending, and no tax hikes.”

And so it went for roughly 75 minutes, as the eight congressional attendees, along with the president and vice president, spoke at varying lengths about not just the economic logic of their respective plans but the political arithmetic behind them.

Cantor and Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the Senate minority whip, both insisted that a grand bargain did not have the votes needed to pass. “We should start talking about the Biden-type framework instead,” they added, according to a GOP source briefed on the meeting.

Biden, for his part, reminded the Republican attendees that the package they were now touting was one they had previously abandoned (both Cantor and Kyl walked away from the negotiating table when the talks turned to revenues). Besides that, he argued, it wasn’t really a package at all, but rather a list of goals with blanks requiring filling.

“The one really important point Biden made is that it is a bit of a fallacy to talk about the Biden framework as something that could just be taken off the shelf, because nothing was agreed to in those conversations and the vice president made it very clear that we weren’t going to [reach a deal] without revenues,” said the Democratic official briefed on the meeting.

If lawmakers wanted to go even smaller — say, take the $1 trillion in cuts that Biden and Republicans had pinpointed – they would have to convince the president first. Obama, according to a GOP aide, told attendees on Sunday that he would not sign a debt deal that didn’t go through 2013. He and Biden also made it clear that even the smaller packages would have to have a revenue component to earn their support.

For all the intractability, there were relatively few moments of tension on Sunday evening. According to those briefed on the exchanges, lawmakers took turns talking about their preferred approaches. There were some jabs thrown. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), according to a Hill aide, accused the Republican Party of falling far short of their rhetorical bluster when the topic came to deficit reduction. He pointed to the fiscal commission, the Gang of Six negotiations, the Biden deal and Boehner’s refusal to craft a grand compromise with Obama as instances in which Republicans simply left the table when it came time to make tough choices. “Every time we try to do something big on this, you walk away,” the aide paraphrased him as saying.

By and large, however, the conversation was, as one Democratic official acknowledged, “cordial.” And that may be where the problem lies. With ten days to go before the president wants a bill presented — so that it can go through the legislative process in time to pass by August 2 — the sides are still dealing in broad strokes. Additionally, there isn’t a clear sense of what type of package could garner the necessary support. The president will be hosting a news conference on Monday before he meets with congressional negotiators once more. He left the meeting on Sunday telling them to have their schedules cleared or flexible for the full week.

“The president ended the meeting by saying we will come back here tomorrow and that we should be prepared to be here every day,” recalled the Democratic official briefed on the meeting. “He said, I want people to come back here tomorrow with an answer to the question: If not this, what is your plan and how are you going to get 218 votes [in the House] for it?”

By  Bruce Bartlett, Published: July 7

 

In recent months, the federal debt ceiling — last increased in February 2010 and now standing at $14.3 trillion — has become a matter of national debate and political hysteria. The ceiling must be raised by Aug. 2, Treasury says, or the government will run out of cash. Congressional Republicans counter that they won’t raise the debt limit unless Democrats agree to large budget cuts with no tax increases. President Obama insists that closing tax loopholes must be part of the package. Whom and what to believe in the great debt-limit debate? Here are some misconceptions that get to the heart of the battle.

1. The debt limit is an effective way to control spending and deficits.

Not at all. In 2003, Brian Roseboro, assistant secretary of the Treasury for financial markets, explained it best: “The plain truth is that the debt limit does not affect the deficits or surpluses. The critical revenue and spending decisions are made during the congressional budget process.”

The debt ceiling is a cap on the amount of securities the Treasury can issue, something it does to raise money to pay for government expenses. These expenses, and the deficit they’ve wrought, are a result of past actions by Congress to create entitlement programs, make appropriations and cut taxes. In that sense, raising the debt limit is about paying for past expenses, not controlling future ones. For Congress to refuse to let Treasury raise the cash to pay the bills that Congress itself has run up simply makes no sense.

Some supporters of the debt limit respond that there is virtue in forcing Congress to debate the national debt from time to time. This may have been true in the past, but the Budget Act of 1974 created a process that requires Congress to vote on aggregate levels of spending, revenue and deficits every year, thus making the debt limit redundant.

 

2. Opposition to raising the debt limit is a partisan issue.

Republicans are doing the squawking now because there is a Democrat in the White House. But back when there was a Republican president, Democrats did the squawking. On March 16, 2006, one Democratic senator in particular denounced George W. Bush’s request to raise the debt limit. “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure,” the senator thundered. “Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. . . . Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren.”

That senator was Barack Obama, and he, along with most Democrats, voted against a higher limit that day. It passed only because almost every Republican voted for it, including many who are now among the strongest opponents of a debt-limit increase.

 

3. Financial markets won’t care much if interest payments are just a few days late — a “technical default.”

Some Republicansbelieve that bondholders know they will get their money eventually and will understand that a brief default — just a few days — might be necessary to reduce future deficits. “If a bondholder misses a payment for a day or two or three or four,” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told CNBC in May, “what is more important [is] that you’re putting the government in a materially better position to be able to pay their bonds later on.”

 

This is nothing but wishful thinking. The bond-rating agencies have repeatedly warned that any failure to pay interest or principal on a Treasury security exactly when due could cause the U.S. credit rating to be downgraded, which would push interest rates up as investors demand higher rates to compensate for the increased risk.

J.P. Morgan recently surveyed its clients and asked how much rates would rise if there was a delay in payments, even a very brief one. Domestic investors thought they would go up by 0.37 percentage points, but foreign buyers — who own close to half the publicly held debt — predicted an increase of more than half a percentage point. Any increase in this range would raise Treasury’s borrowing costs by tens of billions of dollars per year.

Some may think that a rise in rates would be temporary. But there was a case back in 1979 when a combination of a failure to increase the debt limit in time and a breakdown of Treasury’s machines for printing checks caused a two-week default. A 1989 academic study found that it raised interest rates by six-tenths of a percentage point for years afterward.

 

4. It’s worth risking default on the debt to prevent a tax increase, given the weak economy.

While Republicans’ concerns about higher taxes are not unreasonable, most economists believe that any fiscal contraction at this time would be dangerous. They note that a large cut in spending back in 1937 brought on a sharp recession, which undermined the recovery the country was making after the Great Depression.

Republicans respond that tax increases are especially harmful to growth. However, they made the same argument in 1982, when Ronald Reagan requested the largest peacetime tax increase in American history, and again in 1993, when Bill Clinton also asked for a large tax boost for deficit reduction. In both cases, conservative economists’ predictions of economic disaster were completely wrong, and strong economic growth followed.

 

5. Obama must accept GOP budget demands because he needs Republican support to raise the debt limit.

Republicans believe they have the president over a barrel. But their hand may be weaker than they think. A number of legal scholars point to Section 4of the 14th Amendment, which says, “The validity of the public debt of the United States . . . shall not be questioned.”

Some scholars, including Michael Abramowicz of George Washington University Law Schooland Garrett Epps of the University of Baltimore Law School, think this passage may make the debt limit unconstitutional because by definition, the limit calls into question the validity of the public debt. Thus Treasury may be able to just ignore the debt limit.

Other scholars, such as Michael McConnell of Stanford Law School, say the 14th Amendment will force Obama to prioritize debt payments and unilaterally slash spending to pay bondholders. But this would involve the violation of laws requiring government spending.

Either way, a failure to raise the debt limit would force the president to break the law. The only question is which one.

 

Bruce Bartlett, a former adviser to President Ronald Reagan and a Treasury official in the George W. Bush administration, is the author of “The New American Economy: The Failure of Reaganomics and a New Way Forward.” He will be online at 11 a.m. on Monday, July 11, to chat. Submit your questions and comments now.

Want to challenge everything you know? Visit our “Five myths” archive, including “Five myths about interest rates,” “Five myths about the Bush tax cuts,” “Five myths about defense spending,” and “Five myths about the deficit.”

As reported in Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is renewing an old fight with the business community by insisting that $400 billion in tax increases be part of a deficit-reduction package. His proposals have languished on Capitol Hill, repeatedly blocked by Republicans, often with help from Democrats.

Some would raise big money. Limiting tax deductions for high-income families and small business owners could raise more than $200 billion over the next decade. Others are more symbolic, such as scaling back a tax break for companies that buy corporate jets.

The corporate jet proposal would raise $3 billion over the next decade, according to GOP congressional aides. That’s a relatively small sum in the big scheme of Washington budgets, but Obama and Democrats call attention to it repeatedly in their effort to portray Republicans as defenders of corporate fat cats.

No matter how Democrats characterize their proposals as revenue raisers or plugging tax loopholes, GOP leaders oppose them all, arguing that raising taxes in a bad economy would only make matters worse.

“If we choose to keep those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, if we choose to keep a tax break for corporate jet owners, if we choose to keep tax breaks for oil and natural gas companies that are making hundreds of billions of dollars,” Obama said this week, “then that means we’ve got to cut some kids off from getting a college scholarship, that means we’ve got to stop funding certain grants for medical research, that means that food safety may be compromised, that means that Medicare has to bear a greater part of the burden.”

The White House has identified about $600 billion in tax increases it wants over the next decade. About $400 billion of them were offered as part of deficit-reduction talks led by Vice President Joe Biden. That would be paired with more than $1 trillion in spending cuts.

Some of the tax proposals are vague and budget experts have yet to calculate just how much they would raise. For example, limiting deductions for high-income families and small businesses could raise anywhere between $210 billion and $290 billion, depending on what threshold is established as high income.

Obama is proposing to eliminate $41 billion in tax breaks for oil and natural gas companies, raise taxes on investment fund managers by $21 billion and change the way many businesses value their inventories for tax purposes. The change in inventory accounting would raise an estimated $70 billion over the next decade, hitting manufacturers and energy companies, among others.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has given Congress an Aug. 2 deadline for raising the current debt ceiling, currently $14.3 trillion, to avoid defaulting on the government’s financial obligations for the first time in the nation’s history. He warns that a default could trigger potentially dire consequences for an already anemic economy, including higher interest rates, tighter credit and new rounds of job layoffs. The government hit the debt ceiling in May and has been juggling accounts since then to make all its payments.

Obama says he is proposing a balanced approach that spreads the pain among people who rely on government services and those most able to finance them.

While Republican leaders argue that raising taxes is bad policy, bad politics and too unpopular to pass the Republican-controlled House, several GOP senators have said they are willing to consider eliminating unspecified tax breaks to reduce the deficit.

Two weeks ago, 33 Republican senators joined a 73-27 majority to repeal a $5 billion annual tax subsidy for ethanol gasoline blends. On Wednesday, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said, “I would like to do away with special tax breaks but not legitimate business deductions.”

But GOP leaders insist there is no support among Republicans to impose the kind of tax increases Obama is proposing.

“The president is sorely mistaken if he believes a bill to raise the debt ceiling and raise taxes would pass the House,” Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “The votes simply aren’t there, and they aren’t going to be there because the American people know tax hikes destroy jobs.”

Among the tax increases proposed by the White House and the amount they’d raise over the next decade:

_ Limit itemized deductions, including those for charitable contributions and mortgage interest, for families and small business owners making more than $500,000. Under current law, if a taxpayer’s top income tax rate is 35 percent – the highest rate – a $100 deduction is worth $35 in tax savings. For several years, Obama has proposed limiting itemized deductions for people making above $250,000 to 28 percent, meaning a $100 deduction would be worth only $28 in tax savings at most. That would raise $293 billion. Increasing the income threshold to $500,000 would raise “in the ballpark of $210 billion,” said Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, one of the House Democratic negotiators in the Biden talks.

_ Change the way businesses value their inventory, raising an estimated $70 billion. Current law allows businesses to lower their taxable profits – and their tax bills – by using an accounting method that can inflate the cost of goods sold. Obama proposes to phase out the practice, known as last-in, first out, or LIFO.

_ Increase taxes on investment fund managers, mainly hedge funds and private equity firms, raising about $21 billion. Investment managers typically pay capital gains taxes on their fees, with a top rate of 15 percent. Obama wants to tax the fees as regular income, with a top tax rate of 35 percent.

_ Eliminate about $41 billion in tax breaks for oil and natural gas companies. Obama has called for eliminating tax breaks for all oil and gas companies every year since he took office in 2009. The biggest is a deduction for production expenses that is available to all manufacturers. In May, the Senate rejected a smaller proposal that targeted the five biggest companies: Shell Oil Co., ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, BP America and Chevron Corp.

___

Associated Press writers Jim Kuhnhenn, Andrew Taylor and Laurie Kellman contributed to this report.