Posts Tagged Medicare

Bush to Lay Out Healthcare Plan Alternative to Obamacare

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Bush speaks during a campaign event at the Pizza Ranch in IndianolaJeb Bush, who’s described Obamacare as a political “loser,” will unveil his plan Tuesday to replace the health insurance law with a system that he believes will cut back on regulation and lower health care costs.

The Republican presidential candidate said as recently as last week that he believes the law can be repealed, and he plans to lay out a proposal for undoing the law at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.

“I think Obamacare will collapse under its own weight,” he said in Oskaloosa, Iowa. “Politically, it doesn’t get better with time. It actually, I think, is likely to get worse.”

But, he has argued, Republicans need to offer a viable replacement.

For Bush, that means allowing state exchanges to continue to exist, if they so choose, but they would not be mandatory. He wants to enable access to affordable, catastrophic plans and provide a tax credit to purchase policies that protect Americans for costly medical events, according to his campaign.

Bush also wants to expand Health Savings Accounts, one of his elder brother’s pet programs. He would increase contribution limits and uses for these accounts, which must be paired with high-deductible health plans. Enrollees can use the funds in their accounts to pay for medical care.

“We’re going to call for moving to a system that is consumer driven with a lot more transparency,” he said in Iowa. “No employer mandate, no employee mandate, no mandated benefits.”

Bush doesn’t favor doing away with everything from the current law. He supports the continuous coverage guarantee provision for people with pre-existing conditions, and previously Bush has said he favors allowing kids to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until the age of 26.

To promote innovation, he also wants to reform the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory policies and increase funding and accountability at the National Institutes of Health, according to the campaign.

And he’d like to see more leaders in the private sector figure out ways to enable better access to patient de-identified Medicare and Medicaid claims data.

Repealing Obamacare will not be a simple task. There are more than 10 million people enrolled in the federal and state Obamacare exchanges. Some 87% of them are receiving federal subsidies averaging $272 a month, to lower the cost of their premiums. And 56% of them receive separate subsidies to reduce their out-of-pocket expenses.

Also, Bush would jettison the expansion of Medicaid to all Americans under age 65, which 31 states and Washington have adopted. Nearly 13 million people have joined Medicaid since October 2013, when expanded enrollment began. Prior to Obamacare, it was difficult for adults, particularly childless adults, to sign up for the safety net program in many states.

But in an interview this weekend Bush described Medicaid and its expansion as “one of the worse insurance programs in the country.”

Bush’s plan also shifts away from Obamacare’s focus on preventative care. Under health reform, insurers must provide so-called essential health benefits, including mental health counseling, maternity coverage and emergency services. Also, enrollees in Obamacare plans can get an array of free annual screenings for conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure and vaccines. Women can get an annual gynecological visit and mammograms.

Bush’s campaign says he would allow employers to use financial incentives to encourage wellness programs.



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Rubio Marks Birthday With Nevada Fundraiser

Marco RubioSen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) kicked off his first presidential campaign visit to the key early nominating state of Nevada on Thursday with a promise: You’re going to be seeing a lot of me.

After touring the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop with Rick Harrison, star of the TV show “Pawn Stars,” Rubio told reporters he plans to be back “quite often” as he sought to localize his “New American Century” campaign theme.

“Nevada is a state that in many ways embodies some of the challenges we have in the 21st century,” Rubio said

Rubio is the youngest 2016 candidate, though he’s just half a year younger than fellow presidential contender Texas Senator Ted Cruz, also a freshman lawmaker. But he’s 18 years Jeb Bush’s junior and more than 20 years younger than Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Harrison said during a Fox and Friends appearance that he isn’t concerned about the first term senator’s age, however.

After chatting with him over lunch in Los Angeles recently, Harrison said he was convinced that Rubio was the best candidate for the job.

‘A governor is a politician, a senator is a politician. What you need is a very strong leader,’ Harrison said. ‘Someone who’s willing to speak his mind and put the right people in charge of things and if they do a bad job, fire them.’

What impressed Harrison most about Rubio was that he didn’t mention ‘the party’ during the meeting.

‘Which was a really big deal to me,’ he said. ‘This guy honestly cares about American people and free enterprise.’

Rubio, he said, truly ‘wants to make it easier to do business. It will bring people out of poverty. It will do things for the economy, so I’m behind him.’

The Democratic National Committee mocked the union of Rubio and the Pawn Stars clan with a series of graphics depicting ‘Mario Rubio’s Pawn Shop.’

‘This is a fitting theme for Mr. Rubio, as his entire campaign is pawning off old, failed GOP ideas as new,’  it said in a blog post.

It hit him for backing ‘the old, rejected GOP policy of ending Medicare as we know it,’ opposing comprehensive immigration reform, ‘marriage equality’ and so-called equal pay for equal work legislation.

‘Dusting off these old ideas and trying to pawn himself off as something new isn’t going to work,’ it said.

Rubio, notably, does support comprehensive immigration reform and was a sponsor of the bipartisan Senate bill formed by a group of lawmakers known as the Gang of 8.

He’s since said that he’d be open to a piecemeal approach that also shuts down a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants if that’s what it takes to get legislation passed – but that’s not his preferred option.

‘I still believe we need to do immigration reform,’ he said earlier this month during a Fox News appearance. ‘The problem is we can’t do it in one big piece of legislation.’

That’s because ‘the votes aren’t there’ in the House of Representatives, he explained.

Harrison’s support could give Rubio a boost in Nevada, a state that is important to both the nomination process and the general election.

He also has the backing of the state’s Lt. Governor Mark Hutchison. Hutchison, the campaign has already announced, will serve as state chair of his campaign there.

But Rubio has other, familial ties to the state, as well, that may help him.

Rubio’s family lived in Las Vegas for a six-year stretch during his formative years before ultimately returning to Florida, the state the U.S. Senator still calls home.

Politics runs in his family’s blood. His cousin, Mo Denis, is a state senator in Nevada.

Though, he and Rubio come from the same family tree, they do not share the same political beliefs. Denis is a staunch Democrat.

When his cousin Marco came to town in 2012 to headline a fundraiser for that year’s GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, Denis parked himself outside and gave a rebuttal speech.

Rubio’s walk down memory lane won’t end with his birthday party today at Harrison’s pad tonight.

He’ll talk to tech startups tomorrow morning at Nevada’s Switch Innevation Center and meet with GOP activists in the afternoon in Reno at the home of Kim Bacchus, a registered lobbyist and the chair of the Washoe County Republican Women’s Club.


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Limited Government In An Age Of Militant Progressivism

Obama Hope


Written by David Corbin and Matt Parks

President Obama unveiled a 2015 budget this week that puts an end to what he fantastically described as an “era of austerity.” (Finally: we can stop worrying about the government spending too little.)

His budget would increase spending from $3.5 trillion to $6 trillion and the national debt from $17.3 trillion to $25 trillion over the next ten years. His plan is the equivalent of the head of every American household relaying that while the fam continues to fall $1,000 short of paying its bills each month, and has $170,000 in debt, we’ll be putting solar panels on Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang, buying more Wonka bars, and hiring Mary Poppins in the next decade.

Yet, if math’s not your thing, and you quickly scanned the Washington Post‘s visual breakdown of the President’s budget, you might have thought defense spending to blame and started searching the internet for a new bumper sticker: “It will be a great day when pre-K education and the wind energy industry have all the money they need, and the Navy has to hold a bake sale to outfit its fleet.”

In perfect Progressive form, the Post failed to emphasize that its graphs only accounted for “discretionary” spending, which amounts to only about 30% of the budget. You learn a lot about the geopolitically-challenged age we live in when on the same day that the Russians are securing their military installations in Crimea, our elites sweep non-discretionary social welfare spending under the rug and throw appropriations for national defense under the bus.

The Constitution, of course, places no limits on the total amount of tax revenue raised or dollars spent by the federal government. Alexander Hamilton explains this omission in a number of Federalist essays, including Federalist 34:

There ought to be a CAPACITY to provide for future contingencies as they may happen; and as these are illimitable in their nature, it is impossible safely to limit that capacity. It is true, perhaps, that a computation might be made with sufficient accuracy to answer the purpose of the quantity of revenue requisite to discharge the subsisting engagements of the Union, and to maintain those establishments which, for some time to come, would suffice in time of peace. But would it be wise, or would it not rather be the extreme of folly, to stop at this point, and to leave the government intrusted with the care of the national defense in a state of absolute incapacity to provide for the protection of the community against future invasions of the public peace, by foreign war or domestic convulsions?

The Constitution was not written for 1787 (or 2014), but for all time. As a result, it would be “the extreme of folly” to include within it limitations on taxing or spending calculated according to the needs of the moment or on the assumption that the relative peace of that day would extend indefinitely into the future. The Constitution would not have survived the War of 1812–much less the Civil War or World War II–had its authors presumed to know the full scope of future spending needs and placed precautionary limits within the document itself.

Note, however, that it is military spending (alone) that Hamilton has in view. If the Founders did not constitutionally limit the size of the federal budget, they did limit its scope. From the time of the founding until the dawn of the Progressive era in the early twentieth century, federal spending, following the Constitution, was used almost exclusively to buy things (like bullets, ships, and road-building materials) or pay salaries (elected and unelected officials and contractors).

Limited military pensions and payments to disabled veterans and the widows and orphans of those killed in action accounted for the only spending in any way analogous to the modern welfare state–and that not with a view toward redistributing wealth or overcoming natural differences in ability or achievement, but rather as compensation for sacrifices made in defense of the nation’s independence and liberty.

Today, of course, the dominant items in the federal budget are entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and various forms of welfare, which, in 2013, accounted for $2.3 trillion in federal spending–none of which were anticipated in Hamilton’s essays or derivable, without the most fatuous verbal gymnastics, from the enumerated powers of the Constitution.

The shift in governmental priorities is explained in part by an equivalent shift in American political norms, having experienced the horrors of a Civil War, two hot world wars, a cold war, and now, a war on terror. Many Americans have been won over by William James, the “father of American psychology,” who thought that the great alternative to war is not partaking in a peaceful arcadian economy under the auspices of an extensive representative republic, but in engaging in the “Moral Equivalent of War” against social and economic injustice at home and abroad:

Pacifists ought to enter more deeply into the aesthetical and ethical point of view of their opponents . . . So long as antimilitarists propose no substitute for war’s disciplinary function, no moral equivalent of war, analogous, as one might say, to the mechanical equivalent of heat, so long they fail to realize the full inwardness of the situation. And as a rule they do fail. The duties, penalties, and sanctions pictured in the utopias they paint are all too weak and tame to touch the military-minded.

James argues that the best way for utopian pacifists to make peace with the military-minded within society is by enlisting their counterparts in wars of a different kind, and in becoming militant themselves. If you doubt at all the effectivness of his psychological prescription, try to engage in a peaceful conversation with a member of NARAL, Green Peace, or about the merits of their arguments. You’ll be hard pressed to find a 19th century Jane Addams-type pacifist among them. And the co-opting of leaders of strategic institutions has been almost as successful as few in this cohort publicly challenge progressive conceptions of the moral equivalents of war.

Is it possible to give peace a chance in this political environment? Earlier in this series, we addressed the need for entitlement reform and suggested an alternative approach to helping the poor. But might a resetting of our national priorities and a cure for our fiscal ills, at least, be found in a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget?

We fear not, for at least two reasons:

1. All reasonable versions (for example) of a balanced budget amendment provide for an exception to the rule in cases of war or when a congressional supermajority (⅗ or ⅔ vote in both houses) otherwise judges it expedient. One of the predictable, if unintended, consequences of all supermajority requirements is that they open up room for factious behavior by a minority determined to name the price for its cooperation. We may go to bed dreaming of stalwart conservatives holding out against runaway spending and wake up to find stalwart progressives have made new entitlement spending their condition for supporting critical defense appropriations. We may find, in fact, that votes to override the amendment requirements simply become routine, as members of both parties find the only way to protect their cherished spending programs is to form a bipartisan super-faction that funds “all of the above.”

Do away with the overrides, then? That cure is worse than the disease, amounting to unilateral fiscal disarmament.

2. More broadly, the amend-the-constitution approach to solving our political ills carries with it several serious political risks. In the near term, it seems highly likely to fail, given that just thirteen blue states can stop any amendment approved by Congress or a newfound convention. Of course, some longshots are worth playing, but the underlying desire to embalm a final political victory in the Constitution would create a false sense of security even if it succeeds. The original Constitution has all the language and limits necessary to protect liberty if the people would have it. And no set of amendments can protect it if they won’t.

Perhaps the most powerful lure of progressivism made militant is its promise of permanent victory for its side and permanent defeat for its enemies. Progressivism isn’t going away. Victory against its excesses, never permanent, will require a return to the public square, where the case for limited government is made plainly, boldly, and vigilantly, as is ever the price of liberty.

David Corbin is a Professor of Politics and Matthew Parks an Assistant Professor of Politics at The King’s College, New York City. They are co-authors of “Keeping Our Republic: Principles for a Political Reformation” (2011).

 Link to other Essays:





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Obama unveils $3.9-trillion budget

Obama BudgetPresident Barack Obama proposed new tax credits and job-training programs for U.S. workers on Tuesday in a 2015 budget that drew instant condemnation from Republicans, who dismissed the document as an election-year campaign pitch.

The $3.9 trillion blueprint for the fiscal year that begins on October 1 also would boost spending on roads and bridges and expand early-childhood education while paying for some of the additional spending by scaling back tax breaks for wealthier Americans.

The proposal has almost no chance of passage in Congress, where Republicans control the House of Representatives, but it lays out Obama’s policy priorities ahead of November congressional elections. Democrats will be fighting to keep control of the U.S. Senate and avoid losing ground in the House.

“Our budget is about choices, it’s about our values,” Obama told reporters during a visit to an elementary school.

“At a time when our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years, we’ve got to decide if we’re going to keep squeezing the middle class or if we’re going to continue to reduce the deficits responsibly while taking steps to grow and strengthen the middle class.”

While working within the overall cap of $1.014 trillion for discretionary spending that Congress set for 2015, the president proposed $56 billion in additional spending for education, welfare and defense programs, paid for in part by ending a tax break for wealthy retirees.

Republicans objected to the plan’s spending increases and said it did not address larger fiscal challenges related to the Social Security retirement program and Medicare and Medicaid healthcare for the elderly, poor and disabled.

“After years of fiscal and economic mismanagement, the president has offered perhaps his most irresponsible budget yet,” Republican House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement. “Spending too much, borrowing too much, and taxing too much, it would hurt our economy and cost jobs.”

Democrats hope to draw a contrast with the Republicans’ focus on fiscal restraint and portray themselves as better able to deliver jobs and growth.

Obama’s proposal signaled a shift from last year’s emphasis on deficit cutting to a greater focus on fighting poverty, a goal the president is highlighting as he eyes his legacy with fewer than three years left in office.

Republicans, cognizant of Americans’ slow recovery from the 2007-2009 recession, also have focused on poverty-reduction but they favor a dramatically smaller government role.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a potential Republican presidential contender in 2016, argued in a report on Monday that the government had barely made a dent in combating poverty in the past 50 years despite massive spending. He blasted Obama’s Tuesday proposal.

“This budget isn’t a serious document; it’s a campaign brochure,” said Ryan, who will unveil a Republican budget as a counter to Obama’s in the coming weeks.

Obama’s budget proposes expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, an anti-poverty measure that is meant to encourage low-income Americans to continue working.

The change would expand the program to cover some 13.5 million people who do not have children and make it available to younger workers who are not currently eligible.

The expansion, which would cost $60 billion, would be funded by closing loopholes such as the tax break for “carried interest,” profits earned by wealthy investors who run private equity and other funds.

Obama has long sought to end that tax break, which allows financiers to treat their income as capital gains, making it subject to a tax rate of 20 percent instead of the nearly 40 percent rate on ordinary income paid by the highest earners.

Representative Dave Camp, the Republican chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, also proposed last month to “clean up” the carried interest deduction, but tax reform is not expected to get traction in Congress this year.

The White House signaled last month that its new budget would not extend the olive branch to Republicans on reform of entitlement programs such as Social Security. Last year Obama proposed changing how the government calculates inflation for Social Security and other federal benefits that could have led to income drops for older Americans.

White House officials said Obama abandoned the idea after Republicans declined to offer concessions of their own.

While Obama played down the deficit issue, congressional budget analysts have warned that longer-term budget picture looks bleak because of the aging of the population, which will lead to increased costs for entitlements programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

The White House projected that in fiscal year 2015 the budget deficit would total $564 billion, or 3.1 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. That would be down from a $649 billion deficit, or 3.7 percent of GDP, in fiscal year 2014.

The Obama budget projects that annual deficits will remain in the $400 billion to $500 billion range throughout the decade, reaching a modest 1.6 percent of GDP in 2024.

The outlook from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office looks far worse, forecasting that deficits will climb back to $1.1 trillion by 2024, or 4 percent of GDP.

The Pentagon unveiled a $496 billion base budget that shifts the United States from its war-footing for the first time in a dozen years, cutting the size of the military to pay for training and new weapons systems in an era of tighter spending.

The budget set the Obama administration on a collision course with Congress by seeking to eliminate popular older weapons and reform military compensation while proposing an additional $26.4 billion in military spending to be paid for by closing tax loopholes and cutting mandatory spending.

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Obama insists on higher taxes in interview with Bloomberg

Obama Bloomberg

President Obama appeared resolute in his stance on the “fiscal cliff” on Tuesday, insisting on higher tax rates for the wealthiest Americans, while Republicans showed increasing disarray over how far they should go to compromise with Obama’s demands.

With less than a month left to confront the budget cuts and tax increases that will begin taking effect in January unless Congress acts, Obama dangled the possibility of lowering tax rates as part of a broad U.S. tax code revamp in 2013.

But he again insisted, in an interview with Bloomberg Television, that tax rates for the wealthiest 2 percent of taxpayers must rise in any deal by the end of the year to avert the assorted measures known as the fiscal cliff.

Obama, a Democrat, may face resistance from his own party if and when he’s forced to be specific about how he would cut the cost of entitlements, such as the Medicare health insurance program for seniors.

For the moment, however, the overall political picture Tuesday reflected a relatively solid front of Democrats versus an increasingly shaky group of Republicans.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader in the Senate, even avoided endorsing the negotiating position of his House of Representatives ally, Speaker John Boehner.

“I think it is important that the House Republican leadership has tried to move the process forward,” McConnell told reporters trying to get his views on a proposal Boehner and the House Republican leadership sent to Obama on Monday.

Outside the capital, concern mounted about how and when – not to mention if – the politicians might put their disagreements behind them and deal conclusively with an issue that economists say could trigger another recession.

Corporate chief executives were scheduled to meet with Obama later on Wednesday. The Business Roundtable, a lobbying group for corporations, has arranged the meetings. In addition to prompt action on the fiscal cliff, the group is seeking tax cuts for their companies.

Boeing Co. CEO Jim McNerney, who chairs the group, said its members want “a balanced solution to the nation’s fiscal cliff and long-term deficit and debt issues … including meaningful and comprehensive tax and entitlement reforms.”

The manufacturing sector contracted in November and posted its weakest performance in three years, a report showed on Monday. Companies taking part in the survey said uncertainty over the negotiations in Washington was a factor.

U.S. stocks slipped on Tuesday as investors fretted about Washington’s ability to avoid a year-end budget crisis.

On Capitol Hill, conservative South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint attacked Boehner, a fellow Republican, over Monday’s fiscal cliff offer, which included $800 billion (496.7 billion pounds) in revenue increases from overhauling the tax code, along with spending cuts and entitlement revisions, as part of a deficit reduction deal.

That amount, which Boehner informally accepted during previous debt-ceiling negotiations in 2011, was not enough to satisfy Obama. But it was too much for DeMint and other Republicans who have made opposition to tax increases of any kind a central part of their politics for many years.

“Speaker Boehner’s $800 billion tax hike will destroy American jobs and allow politicians in Washington to spend even more,” DeMint said in a statement on Tuesday.

Signalling some worry about fragmented sentiment in the House, Republican leaders took the unusual step of removing two hard-line Tea Party conservatives, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas and Justin Amash of Michigan, from the House Budget Committee, where elements of a fiscal cliff deal are likely to be considered.

A few House Republicans, such as Mike Simpson of Idaho and Steve King of Iowa, have said tax increases on the wealthiest may be tolerable under certain conditions.

The president pressed his agenda on Tuesday, reiterating his openness to unspecified reforms in entitlement programs.

He repeated that as part of any deal, low tax rates on 98 percent of taxpayers should be extended, but that taxes on the top 2 percent should rise. “Let’s let those go up,” Obama said, referring to a “down payment” for future negotiations.

“And then let’s set up a process with a time certain, at the end of 2013 or the fall of 2013, where we work on tax reform, we look at what loopholes and deductions both Democrats and Republicans are willing to close, and it’s possible that we may be able to lower rates by broadening the base at that point.”

Fuelling concerns among some Republicans about resisting compromise are surveys, like one released by the Pew Research Centre on Tuesday, which showed that about 53 percent of those polled said they would hold Republicans more responsible than Democrats for going over the cliff; 27 percent said they would hold Obama responsible.

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Both Sides and; Their Constituencies Aim for Fiscal Cliff Resolution

English: US Congress on Capitol Hill, Washingt...

Negotiations over the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ resume in earnest as Congress returns today. Both sides have struck cooperative tones since Obama’s re-election. Even so, he and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, the GOP’s pivotal negotiator, have spent most of the past two years in a toxic political climate in which both sides have fought stubbornly to protect their constituencies.

A big coalition of business groups says there must be give-and-take in the negotiations to avoid the “fiscal cliff” of massive tax increases and spending cuts. But raising tax rates – a White House priority – is out of the question, the group adds.

The homebuilding industry says it won’t tolerate even a nick in the mortgage interest deduction. It doesn’t matter, industry leaders say, if it’s part of a broad, spread-the-pain package designed to tame the soaring debt.

And there’s no ambiguity in the views of the top lobbying arm for retirees.

“AARP to Washington: No cuts to Medicare and Social Security in last-minute budget deal” the group’s Web site declares. AARP nixes the notion of slowing the cost-of-living formula for Social Security recipients, even if it’s part of a big, bipartisan compromise package. And President Barack Obama should drop his idea of raising Medicare’s eligibility age, AARP adds.

So much for the notion of shared sacrifice as Congress and the White House face a Dec. 31 deadline to craft a far-reaching deficit-reduction plan. If they fail, the government tips over the so-called fiscal cliff, at least for a time. Nearly everyone’s taxes will rise, and federal programs will be whacked. Financial markets might quake, and a new recession could begin, economists say.

In Washington, meanwhile, it’s virtually every group for itself, scrambling to protect 100 percent of each tax break and government payout it now enjoys.

America is split down the middle politically, as the last half dozen presidential races have shown. Aside from a few think tanks and civic-minded groups, there’s almost no talk of splitting the pain among interest groups, populations and professions in a manner that seems inevitable if lawmakers are to achieve the trillions of dollars in deficit-reduction both parties call for.

The old adage, “Don’t tax thee, don’t tax me, tax the man behind the tree” was never more in vogue.

Of course, some of the tough talk may be posturing. No one wants to show a willingness to compromise at the start of a long, tough negotiating season.

Still, the adamant positions that major interest groups are taking – and their insistence that sacrifices hit others, not them – underscore the difficulty Obama and congressional leaders face. The tougher a group talks to its members and the public, the harder it is to back down later when a bit of shared pain for everyone emerges as the only path to a deal.

The line-in-the-sand talk begins, of course, with top politicians themselves.

“Raising tax rates is unacceptable,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said shortly after Obama won re-election. He seemed unfazed by Obama’s campaign promise to let the Bush-era tax cuts expire for couples making over $250,000 a year.

Washington insiders think both men might bend, as they did last year when they nearly struck a “grand bargain” combining major spending cuts with tax increases. Boehner’s conservative colleagues rebelled before the package took final shape.

Boehner’s House caucus seems slightly less restive now. But outside groups are gearing up to fight virtually every idea being floated to reduce spending or raise revenues. To reach a deficit-cutting package big enough to replace the fiscal cliff, lawmakers will have to stare down these groups, which pour millions of dollars into political campaigns and flood congressional offices with constituents’ phone calls.

Interest groups, like many politicians, talk warmly of compromise in the abstract. But they dig in when the talk turns to specific ideas that run counter to their philosophies or profitability.

“There has to be give” in the negotiations, said Jade West, who heads the decade-old Tax Relief Coalition, comprised of major business groups. But on the question of raising tax rates on the rich – probably the most-discussed issue on the fiscal cliff table – West said her group is adamantly opposed.

“I don’t care what he said,” she said of Obama’s campaigning on the topic. “The sound bite, `tax the rich, tax the rich, tax the rich'” ignores the harm such a policy would do, she said.

“Taxing the people who hire is just nuts,” West said.

AARP is equally firm in opposing changes to Social Security and Medicare, the mammoth “entitlement” programs that economists say must be reined in soon to avoid disastrously large deficits in future years.

Seventeen months ago, AARP showed more flexibility. Its policy chief said the group would consider modest cuts in Social Security for future retirees, noting that such changes seem all but inevitable at some point. AARP members complained, the official left, and the organization resumed the stance it holds today: no reductions in Social Security or Medicare benefits.

Itemized tax deductions are another area where Democrats and Republicans are looking for possible ways to generate more government revenue. Here, too, powerful lobbying groups are rallying to oppose any changes that would cost their members money.

The home mortgage interest deduction saves borrowers $99 billion a year in taxes, making it easier to buy and sell houses. Should even a small portion of that tax break be eliminated, perhaps for the richest people, to help reduce federal borrowing?

No, says Jerry Howard, chief executive of the National Association of Home Builders. Home owners suffered huge losses in personal wealth during the recent collapse of the housing market and the sector should be spared any further dings, he said.

“While the rest of the nation was in a recession, we were in a depression,” he said. “Congress should be embarrassed” to even think of asking homeowners to help pay for a fiscal crisis that lawmakers brought on themselves through years of inaction, he added.

It’s the same tune at universities and other institutions that rely on charitable gifts. They want to fully exempt the charitable gift deduction, which costs the government about $51 billion a year, from a role in the fiscal cliff talks.

“We urge you and House leaders not to impose any limits or caps to the charitable deduction,” the Charitable Giving Coalition said in a recent letter to Boehner and others.

Like other interest groups, this one says it has special attributes that set it apart.

“The charitable deduction is different than other itemized deductions in that it encourages individuals to give away a portion of their income to those in need,” the letter said.

And so it goes, group by group, tax break by tax break, payout by payout. Everyone is special. Everyone is deserving.

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Republican response to President Obama’s SOTU address


Following is the full text of Indiana Gov Mitch Daniels’ Republican Address to the Nation, as prepared for delivery:

“The status of ‘loyal opposition’ imposes on those out of power some serious responsibilities: to show respect for the presidency and its occupant, to express agreement where it exists.

“Republicans tonight salute our president, for instance, for his aggressive pursuit of the murderers of 9/11, and for bravely backing long overdue changes in public education.  I personally would add to that list admiration for the strong family commitment that he and the first lady have displayed to a nation sorely needing such examples.

“On these evenings, presidents naturally seek to find the sunny side of our national condition.  But when President Obama claims that the state of our union is anything but grave, he must know in his heart that this is not true.

“The president did not cause the economic and fiscal crises that continue in America tonight.  But he was elected on a promise to fix them, and he cannot claim that the last three years have made things anything but worse: the percentage of Americans with a job is at the lowest in decades.  One in five men of prime working age, and nearly half of all persons under 30, did not go to work today.

“In three short years, an unprecedented explosion of spending, with borrowed money, has added trillions to an already unaffordable national debt.  And yet, the president has put us on a course to make it radically worse in the years ahead.  The federal government now spends one of every four dollars in the entire economy; it borrows one of every three dollars it spends.  No nation, no entity, large or small, public or private, can thrive, or survive intact, with debts as huge as ours.

“The president’s grand experiment in trickle-down government has held back rather than sped economic recovery.  He seems to sincerely believe we can build a middle class out of government jobs paid for with borrowed dollars.  In fact, it works the other way: a government as big and bossy as this one is maintained on the backs of the middle class, and those who hope to join it.

“Those punished most by the wrong turns of the last three years are those unemployed or underemployed tonight, and those so discouraged that they have abandoned the search for work altogether.  And no one has been more tragically harmed than the young people of this country, the first generation in memory to face a future less promising than their parents did.

“As Republicans our first concern is for those waiting tonight to begin or resume the climb up life’s ladder.  We do not accept that ours will ever be a nation of haves and have nots; we must always be a nation of haves and soon to haves.

“In our economic stagnation and indebtedness, we are only a short distance behind Greece, Spain, and other European countries now facing economic catastrophe.  But ours is a fortunate land.   Because the world uses our dollar for trade, we have a short grace period to deal with our dangers.  But time is running out, if we are to avoid the fate of Europe, and those once-great nations of history that fell from the position of world leadership.

“So 2012 is a year of true opportunity, maybe our last, to restore an America of hope and upward mobility, and greater equality.  The challenges aren’t matters of ideology, or party preference; the problems are simply mathematical, and the answers are purely practical. “An opposition that would earn its way back to leadership must offer not just criticism of failures that anyone can see, but a positive and credible plan to make life better, particularly for those aspiring to make a better life for themselves.  Republicans accept this duty, gratefully.

“The routes back to an America of promise, and to a solvent America that can pay its bills and protect its vulnerable, start in the same place.  The only way up for those suffering tonight, and the only way out of the dead end of debt into which we have driven, is a private economy that begins to grow and create jobs, real jobs, at a much faster rate than today.

“Contrary to the president’s constant disparagement of people in business, it’s one of the noblest of human pursuits.  The late Steve Jobs – what a fitting name he had – created more of them than all those stimulus dollars the president borrowed and blew.  Out here in Indiana, when a businessperson asks me what he can do for our state, I say ‘First, make money.  Be successful.  If you make a profit, you’ll have something left to hire someone else, and some to donate to the good causes we love.’

“The extremism that stifles the development of homegrown energy, or cancels a perfectly safe pipeline that would employ tens of thousands, or jacks up consumer utility bills for no improvement in either human health or world temperature, is a pro-poverty policy.  It must be replaced by a passionate pro-growth approach that breaks all ties and calls all close ones in favor of private sector jobs that restore opportunity for all and generate the public revenues to pay our bills.

“That means a dramatically simpler tax system of fewer loopholes and lower rates.  A pause in the mindless piling on of expensive new regulations that devour dollars that otherwise could be used to hire somebody.  It means maximizing on the new domestic energy technologies that are the best break our economy has gotten in years.

“There is a second item on our national must-do list: we must unite to save the safety net. Medicare and Social Security have served us well, and that must continue.  But after half and three quarters of a century respectively, it’s not surprising that they need some repairs.   We can preserve them unchanged and untouched for those now in or near retirement, but we must fashion a new, affordable safety net so future Americans are protected, too.

“Decades ago, for instance, we could afford to send millionaires pension checks and pay medical bills for even the wealthiest among us.  Now, we can’t, so the dollars we have should be devoted to those who need them most.

“The mortal enemies of Social Security and Medicare are those who, in contempt of the plain arithmetic, continue to mislead Americans that we should change nothing.  Listening to them much longer will mean that these proud programs implode, and take the American economy with them.  It will mean that coming generations are denied the jobs they need in their youth and the protection they deserve in their later years.

“It’s absolutely so that everyone should contribute to our national recovery, including of course the most affluent among us.  There are smart ways and dumb ways to do this: the dumb way is to raise rates in a broken, grossly complex tax system, choking off growth without bringing in the revenues we need to meet our debts.  The better course is to stop sending the wealthy benefits they do not need, and stop providing them so many tax preferences that distort our economy and do little or nothing to foster growth.

“It’s not fair and it’s not true for the president to attack Republicans in Congress as obstacles on these questions.  They and they alone have passed bills to reduce borrowing, reform entitlements, and encourage new job creation, only to be shot down time and time again by the president and his Democratic Senate allies.

“This year, it falls to Republicans to level with our fellow citizens about this reality:  if we fail to act to grow the private sector and save the safety net, nothing else will matter much.  But to make such action happen, we also must work, in ways we Republicans have not always practiced, to bring Americans together.

“No feature of the Obama presidency has been sadder than its constant efforts to divide us, to curry favor with some Americans by castigating others.  As in previous moments of national danger, we Americans are all in the same boat.    If we drift, quarreling and paralyzed, over a Niagara of debt, we will all suffer, regardless of income, race, gender, or other category.  If we fail to shift to a pro-jobs, pro-growth economic policy, there will never be enough public revenue to pay for our safety net, national security, or whatever size government we decide to have.

“As a loyal opposition, who put patriotism and national success ahead of party or ideology or any self-interest, we say that anyone who will join us in the cause of growth and solvency is our ally, and our friend.  We will speak the language of unity.  Let us rebuild our finances, and the safety net, and reopen the door to the stairway upward; any other disagreements we may have can wait.

“You know, the most troubling contention in our national life these days isn’t about economics, or policy at all.  It’s about us, as a free people.  In two alarming ways, that contention is that we Americans just can’t cut it anymore.

“In word and deed, the president and his allies tell us that we just cannot handle ourselves in this complex, perilous world without their benevolent protection.  Left to ourselves, we might pick the wrong health insurance, the wrong mortgage, the wrong school for our kids; why, unless they stop us, we might pick the wrong light bulb!

“A second view, which I admit some Republicans also seem to hold, is that we Americans are no longer up to the job of self-government.  We can’t do the simple math that proves the unaffordability of today’s safety net programs, or all the government we now have.  We will fall for the con job that says we can just plow ahead and someone else will pick up the tab.  We will allow ourselves to be pitted one against the other, blaming our neighbor for troubles worldwide trends or our own government has caused.

“2012 must be the year we prove the doubters wrong.  The year we strike out boldly not merely to avert national bankruptcy but to say to a new generation that America is still the world’s premier land of opportunity.  Republicans will speak for those who believe in the dignity and capacity of the individual citizen; who believe that government is meant to serve the people rather than supervise them; who trust Americans enough to tell them the plain truth about the fix we are in, and to lay before them a specific, credible program of change big enough to meet the emergency we are facing.

“We will advance our positive suggestions with confidence, because we know that Americans are still a people born to liberty. There is nothing wrong with the state of our Union that the American people, addressed as free-born, mature citizens, cannot set right.  Republicans in 2012 welcome all our countrymen to a program of renewal that rebuilds the dream for all, and makes our ‘city on a hill’ shine once again.”

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