Posts from November 2012

Workers & Economic Inequality

Graph: Why We Need Filibuster Reform

Post by: Benjamin Landy , on November 30, 2012

Update, 21 November 2013. The graph below has been revised to reflect data through the end of 2012.

The filibuster, once rare, has become a routine tool for partisan politicking. Between 1917 and 1970, only 58 motions for cloture were filed in the Senate (a decent proxy for filibuster threats), or about one per year. That number grew to more than 19 per year on average between 1971 and 1992 before doubling to 43 per year from 1993 through 2012. For the past three years, there has been nearly one filibuster per day that the Senate was in session.

Filibuster use since 1961 (updated, November 21, 2013)



Obama’s Opening Bid is Familiar and Sound

Blog Post by: Andrew Fieldhouse , on November 30, 2012

President Obama’s opening bid for negotiations resolving the “fiscal cliff” has surfaced, and the contours are both familiar and sound. The Washington Post and an unofficial outline drafted by Republican aides both suggest that the administration has essentially proposed its budget request for fiscal 2013. And the president’s latest budget offers a solid framework for navigating the fiscal obstacle course, as it would substantially moderate the pace of deficit reduction while making a responsible down payment on longer-term deficit reduction. 


Palestine Is a Non-Member Observer State: Why Are Israel and the United States So Upset?

Blog Post by: Thérèse Postel , on November 30, 2012

On November 30, the United Nations General Assembly voted to make Palestine a Non-member Observer State by an overwhelming number: 138 voting yes, 9 no votes, and 41 abstentions. Commentary on this latest development has ranged from potentially game-changing to meaningless and “symbolic,” while U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice called it “unfortunate and counterproductive.” The United States and Israel say they are concerned that this new recognition of Palestine at the United Nations may derail the peace process even further. Let’s unpack their stated reasons.


Since When Do We Congratulate Ourselved Just for Not Going Over a Cliff?

Blog Post by: Andrew Fieldhouse , on November 19, 2012

Washington is fixated with the so-called fiscal cliff of legislated spending reductions and expiring tax cuts scheduled for 2013, which are projected to induce a recession if they materialize. As my colleague Josh Bivens and I have repeatedly explained in a series of recent papers and blog posts, this “cliff” simply represents the macroeconomic reality that budget deficits closing too quickly—thus public debt accumulating too slowly—will, if left unaddressed deep into 2013, push the U.S. economy into an austerity-induced recession. Last week, we released a paper, Navigating the Fiscal Obstacle Course, offering our policy recommendations for moderating the pace of deficit reduction and sustaining recovery by reshuffling various components of the fiscal obstacle course (cliff is a terrible metaphor, as it implies a false dichotomy). Now it’s worth zooming out and placing this debate in its proper context: in a depression.


Workers & Economic Inequality

Graph: How We Measure Poverty

Post by: Benjamin Landy , on November 15, 2012

After declaring a "war on poverty" in 1964, the Johnson administration enlisted the help of economist Mollie Orshansky to develop an absolute measure of poverty to evaluate the success of Great Society programs. Using research from the Department of Agriculture, Orshansky defined the poverty line as the cost of an “economy food plan” multiplied by three—in other words, the amount a family would need to spend less than a third of their income on milk and bread in 1963. Other expenses—like payroll tax, transportation, housing, education and health care—were not considered, nor were non-cash benefits like food stamps or housing subsidies.

Yet almost fifty years later, the Census Bureau still measures poverty the exact same way. So while we know that 46.2 million people—nearly one in six Americans—lived below the official poverty line last year ($22,811 for a family of four and $11,702 for an individual), it’s not immediately clear what that figure really means. Some, like the conservative Heritage Foundation, have taken advantage of this ambiguity to suggest that, because 96 percent of households can afford food and 92 percent have a microwave, “real material hardship . . . is limited.” But while the price of food remains more or less the same (and 1960s-era appliances are indeed ubiquitous), the cost of traditional middle class markers like homeownership, college education, and health care have skyrocketed. The official US poverty threshold has not kept pace with other costs


The Multilateral Agenda for Obama’s Second Term

Blog Post by: , on November 14, 2012

In his victory address on election night, Barack Obama broke a year-long silence on climate change to warn of "the destructive power of a warming planet." We are headed back to the United Nations negotiating table.

Hours later, the president's delegates in the U.N.'s disarmament committee voted to launch a new round of negotiations on a proposed global arms trade treaty. Washington had sidelined those talks in July, for fear the treaty's provisions might become an issue in the presidential campaign.


Workers & Economic Inequality

Navigating the Fiscal Obstacle Course

Blog Post by: Andrew Fieldhouse, Josh Bivens , on November 14, 2012

Navigating the Fiscal Obstacle Course: Supporting job creation with savings from ending the upper-income Bush-era tax cuts provides a specific, realistic roadmap for how policymakers can navigate the fiscal obstacle course in a way consistent with the broader goal of restoring full employment. Specifically, it explains the benefits of ending the upper-income Bush-era tax cuts and devoting half the savings to job-creation policies. TCF Budget Analyst Andrew Fieldhouse and EPI's Josh Bivens author the brief.


The Road Ahead

Blog Post by: Richard C. Leone , on November 13, 2012

When candidates recognize that they are about to lose an election, they and their key staff members tend to become radicalized. During the end game, often abandoned by fair weather friends and “the smart money,” they fall back on the true believers who sometimes turn out in huge numbers at rallies that seem to give the lie to polls showing almost certain losses ahead.


Workers & Economic Inequality

Graph: How to Go Over the Fiscal Cliff, Ctd.

Post by: Benjamin Landy , on November 12, 2012

Fiscal cliff components

Last month, we highlighted a report by TCF Fellow Andrew Fieldhouse and his EPI colleague Josh Bivens that suggests policymakers could soften much of the economic blow from the year-end "fiscal cliff" if they looked at the expiration of tax cuts and stimulus spending as a "fiscal obstacle course" composed of several separable policies, each with its own economic effects and unique cost-benefit analysis.

According to Fieldhouse and Bivens's research, policies like the costly Bush-era tax cuts for high income households can be wound down with minimal impact on GDP growth or employment. Others, like the payroll tax cut and emergency unemployment benefits, have larger multiplier effects and would induce outsized economic harm for comparatively meager deficit reduction.

Since each fiscal cliff component affects the economy in a different way, Fieldhouse and Bivens conclude that Congress could achieve both deficit reduction and sustained employment growth with just $415 billion of well-targeted stimulus, rather than the full $732 billion that the government would spend if the entire fiscal cliff was simply repealed.


Stuff and Nonsense

Blog Post by: Richard C. Leone , on November 12, 2012

Fox talk show host Bill O’Reilly made waves when, in the aftermath of the President’s reelection, he opined that the incumbent had secured victory because of the new majority of voters who wanted stuff from the government thought that they would get it from Obama. His remarks included a distinction between “traditional” Americans who wanted to be left alone by government and the spreading culture of entitlement embraced by these newer participants in the political process. He also stressed that “traditional” Americans were becoming a minority in their own country.


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