Blog Post by: Benjamin Landy, on July 31, 2012
(Updated post July 31) The Senate on Wednesday took a symbolic up-or-down vote on both parties' proposals to replace the Bush tax cuts, narrowly passing the Democratic plan to extend low rates for the middle class while letting them expire for earnings over $250,000 a year. The Republican "Tax Hike Prevention Act," which would preserve the Bush-era rates for another year but eliminate tax credits that benefit roughly 20 million low income families, was defeated 45-54. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to filibuster the vote because "it doesn’t pass constitutional muster and won’t become law" (the Constitution requires all tax measures to originate in the House) and has little chance of success in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Nevertheless, the Senate vote was a revealing look at the extraordinarily polarized and dishonest battle that lies ahead.
Blog Post by: Benjamin Landy, on July 24, 2012
It says a lot about today’s hyperpolarized political climate that a bipartisan movement to include new revenues in a long-term deficit reduction plan should be considered newsworthy, even radical. And yet, when Fix the Debt, a newly-formed coalition of America’s top CEOs, descended on Washington last week to pressure President Obama and Congress to embrace a balanced deficit reduction strategy along the lines suggested by the Bowles-Simpson Commission (which called for $2 trillion in new revenues), they made waves for breaking with their traditional Republican allies:
The reality now facing practical, pragmatic corporate executives is that their Washington lobbying apparatus has become one with a Republican caucus on Capitol Hill that is dominated by ideological zealots and uncompromising partisans. So if they have now concluded that the most important issue for American business, and the economy, is getting a reasonable bipartisan compromise on taxes and spending, their only choice is to bypass that apparatus.
It should not be surprising that America's corporate titans, having crunched the numbers, decided to reject the GOP position. There is nothing conservative, in the true sense of the word, about Paul Ryan's 2013 budget or Mitt Romney's tax plan, which would cost the government $4.6 trillion and $3.4 trillion respectively over the next decade. That's not including the $5.4 trillion cost of extending the Bush tax cuts, which would bring the total revenue loss for either proposal to nearly $10 trillion.
Both Ryan and Romney insist they will more than make up for these deficits by eliminating loopholes in the tax code (although neither can name a single deduction they would cut) and generating incredible "trickle down" economic growth through lower taxes on the rich—an assumption completely unsupported by historical evidence. Both propose draconian cuts to social programs, especially Medicare, to make up the remainder.
Blog Post by: Harold Pollack, on July 19, 2012
It is beyond foolish to spend $2.8 trillion on health care without examining the quality of medical services, without exploring the link between services provided and subsequent patient outcomes.
Blog Post by: Benjamin Landy, on July 17, 2012
For many Americans, going to college is a crucial stepping stone to the middle class. But the cost of higher education has risen dramatically in the last thirty years, outpacing inflation, health care premiums and median family income. To make up the difference, nearly two-thirds of today's undergraduates go into debt—over one trillion dollars worth combined. They are also paying a greater share of the costs themselves, according to a new survey by Sallie Mae.
According to the report, undergraduates covered 30 percent of the cost of college themselves last year—the highest percentage since 2007. Most of their contribution came from student loans, of which they borrowed about one thousand dollars more than in 2009. Last year, students spent an average $2,555 from their own income and savings and took out $3,719 in loans.
Blog Post by: Benjamin Landy, on July 8, 2012
Earlier this week, I explained how the majority of new revenue raised by the Affordable Care Act will come from the richest 5 percent of households; hardly the apocalyptic middle class tax hike Republicans have described. But end-times rhetoric (“Obama lies; freedom dies”) is more exciting than wonky explanation, as Fox News has discovered. “Democrats can fight back,” writes Mother Jones’s Kevin Drum, “but only by explaining that the mandate tax will only be paid by about 4 million people, not everyone, and then explaining that the other taxes in Obamacare mostly fall on high earners and corporations. This is, needless to say, a losing strategy. If you’re explaining, you’re losing; and if you’re explaining about taxes, you’re digging yourself a big fat grave.” In other words, good policy doesn’t always make good politics.
Blog Post by: Richard C. Leone, on July 6, 2012
Nearly fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson rallied the nation in support of a “War on Poverty.” It was a goal widely accepted as necessary and realistic. While total “victory” might not have been unachievable, the effort was embraced and pursued by many leaders of both parties. The Nixon administration, for example, played a key role in advancement of the earned income tax credit, and Ronald Reagan reached an agreement with the then-Democratic Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill, to strengthen Social Security’s finances for another generation (today, about half of the nation’s elderly would fall below the poverty line without Social Security).
Blog Post by: Benjamin Landy, on July 3, 2012
Within hours of the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the GOP-Fox News messaging complex had settled on a new line of attack: rebranding President Obama's landmark health care reform as "the largest tax increase in history" and a massive burden on the middle class. This latest spin is so outrageous it hardly passes the laugh test, let alone any serious analysis. Yet Republicans appear determined to repeat this falsehood until, as tends to happen in our postmodern media, it takes on the veneer of truth. Or at least truthiness.
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