David Cay Johnston urges Obama to call Republicans’ bluff on tax cuts for the wealthy (there’s quite a bit more in the original):
Call Their Bluff, Mr. President, by David Cay Johnston, Tax.com: Will President Obama cave on yet another of his captcha2cash campaign promises, this time by giving in to Republican demands to extend all of the temporary Bush tax cuts? …
Republican congressional leaders have said they will let all of the Bush tax cuts expire unless the president bows to their demand that the top 3 percent of Americans be included in any tax cut extension. Obama should call their bluff.
I don’t think the Republicans are so stupid that they would let all the Bush tax cuts expire if they cannot continue tax cuts for … the affluent… But let’s assume that the Republican leaders on Capitol Hill are that dumb…
This is a fight that Obama can win, and win handily, if he has the backbone to stand up for the vast majority and sound tax policies, and to take on the antitax billionaires who are piling up huge gains while unemployment, debt, and fear stalk our land.
A sudden reduction in take-home pay in January would seriously damage our fragile economy, not to mention provoke widespread anger and fear. The economic news would be so awful that a president half as eloquent as Obama could easily focus attention on the Republican all-or-nothing tax policies as the cause of this universal pain.
And like an extra cherry atop a sundae, the Republicans gave Obama a gift when they said they have no interest in renewing his $400 Making Work Pay tax credit. That statement alone lets the president paint Republicans as tax hikers who want to hit people who work, while shielding billionaires.
Moreover, since polls show that hardly anyone knows about this Obama tax cut, which the administration calls the largest middle-class tax cut in history, promoting it would be like getting a second free cherry from the GOP.
Can Obama do it? Back in September he spoke in firm language… Now Obama seems ready to give in to the hostage takers.
Poll after poll shows less than 40 percent of Americans support extending the Bush tax cuts for all, and that support is highly concentrated among Republicans. …
By calling the Republicans’ bluff, Obama can get us talking about taxes and the future of America, instead of protecting what the richest among us already have.
The president could speak about Wall Street handing out record bonuses this year — an estimated $144 billion to a relative handful of people… How about a presidential lecture on entitlements focused on Lloyd Blankfein, whose firm’s bad bets taxpayers paid off at 100 cents on the dollar? …
The president could change the terms of our economic debate by talking about how much the vast majority props up many of those garcinia cambogia at the very top, starting with Blankfein. He could tell people about the trillion dollars a year of tax favors for corporations and the rich…
Obama should explain how soak-the-middle-class and sink-the-poor policies damage economic growth. Obama could also talk about how America has stopped being number one in many other categories because of tax policies that are hollowing out our nation’s economy and destroying the commonwealth on which private wealth building relies. …
By winning on tax policy, the president could then renew his push for the greatest single economic growth policy around: universal healthcare financed with taxes, which could free up 5 percentage points of GDP for productive purposes. …
In our zeal to reduce taxes, we have slashed food safety inspections… Obama could tell Americans that the ideology of tax cuts as the only economic policy means that America’s rate of food-borne illnesses is now nearly 8 times that of Britain and more than 21 times that of France.
The risk of dam collapses grows with each storm, and sooner or later many, maybe thousands, will die. Roads need repair. So do bridges and water pipes and public school buildings.
If Republicans actually force a universal tax increase, the president could then focus attention on the effort by billionaire tax-favored Wall Streeters … who profit from tax tricks…
Calling the GOP’s bluff would let the president raise the issue of whether we want to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits… Obama could read to people from 1950s newspaper stories about old ladies eating cat food. The president could stop in at food banks where families who worked hard and played by the rules were crushed by the machinations of Wall Streeters.
He could talk about how a single working person making the median wage of just over $26,000 paid nearly a third larger share of her income in federal taxes than the top 400 taxpayers, who each made almost $1 million a day in 2007.
And Obama could tell taxpayers about all those people with billion-dollar annual incomes who legally pay no current income taxes, while the rest of us get dinged before we get paid. …
The question on the table for Obama is this: Will you do the job you asked people to elect you to do? … When it comes to taxes, will Barack Obama prove himself a profile in courage or a coward who lacks the courage of his convictions?
I think Obama should propose using the revenue gained from allowing the tax cuts for the wealthy to expire to fund a temporary ACLS Certification extension of (this is the “Make Work Pay” tax credit referenced above).
Though many people are unaware of it, the Obama tax cut that was part of the stimulus package is set to expire in December, and when it does taxes for the middle and lower classes will go up by $60 billion. For comparison, the tax cuts for the wealthy would be around $68 billion over the same time period, so the numbers are very close. Why not use the $68 billion to fund a temporary extension of the tax cuts for people who actually need the money rather than those who don’t?
One more question, though I think I know the answer. Why are Republicans so intent on extending the Bush tax cut for the wealthy permanently, yet they oppose a temporary tax cut for the lower and middle classes of roughly the same amount?
Submitted by Wendell Potter
In advance of my appearance with on Countdown with Keith Olbermann tonight on bunk beds (8 and 11 p.m. ET), I would like to offer an apology to both Moore and his arch enemy, the health insurance industry, which spent a lot of policyholder premiums in 2007 to attack his movie, Sicko.
I need to apologize to Moore for the role I played in the insurance industry’s cura diabetes attack campaign again him and Sicko, which was about the increasingly unfair and dysfunctional U.S. health care system. (I was head of corporate communications at one of the country’s biggest insurance companies when I left my job in May 2008.) And I need to apologize to health insurers for failing to note in my new book, , that the front group they used to attack Moore and Sicko — Health Care America — was originally a front group for drug companies. wifi password hack, the PR firm that operated the front group for insurers during the summer of 2007, was outraged — outraged, I tell you — that I wrote in the book that the raison d’être for Health Care America was to disseminate the insurance industry’s talking points as part of a multi-pronged, fear-mongering campaign against Moore and his movie. An APCO executive told a reporter who had reviewed the book that I was guilty of one of the deceptive PR tactics I condemned: the selective disclosure of information to manipulate public opinion.
by Faiz Shakir, Benjamin Armbruster, George Zornick, Zaid Jilani, Alex Seitz-Wald, Max Bergmann, and Tanya Somanader
Last week, Center for American Progress President and CEO John Podesta explained that the New START treaty was a test for Republicans to see if they were ready to govern. It now appears as if the GOP is prepared to fail that test. In a sign that nothing is above partisan politics, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), the number two Republican in the Senate shocked the White House this week when he abruptly blew up months of negotiations and dismissed the prospects of a vote during the lame duck period. Republicans are stalling, either hoping to kill the treaty quietly to avoid giving President Obama a perceived victory, or to extort so much pork for the nuclear weapons-industrial complex that it makes further progress in this area impossible. Still, the vast majority of Republicans, including Kyl, refuse to say they actually oppose the treaty. The White House therefore is not backing down, as the New York Times writes today, “Mr. Obama on Thursday escalated ratification of the agreement, the so-called New Start treaty, into a public showdown.” After seven months of consideration in the Senate and more than 20 hearings on the treaty, Senate Republicans have had more than enough time to review the treaty. While back room talks with Kyl appear to be continuing, it is now up to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to force Republicans to stop their equivocating by holding a vote on the Senate floor.
ENDANGERING NATIONAL SECURITY: By delaying the treaty, Senate Republicans put U.S. national security at risk. The original treaty expired last December, and it has now been 349 days since Americans have been on the ground in Russia monitoring and inspecting the country’s nuclear facilities — a vital provision that has helped maintain post-Cold War nuclear stability. As Vice President Biden said today, “We’re blind now.” The stakes are high, which is why the treaty has the unanimous support of the U.S. military and of a wide array of Republican foreign policy officials. Delaying a vote into the next senate would require that the treaty ratification process start from scratch. This promises to upset the “reset” with Russia, potentially destroying the careful coalition against Iran, which has seen Russia back sanctions and stop the sale of an anti-aircraft missile to Iran. U.S. troops in Afghanistan are also dependent on sensitive supply routes through Russia, which would also be at risk. More broadly, the delay and presumed defeat of the treaty would weaken Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, who pushed the treaty, and strengthen Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Perhaps even worse is the impact on stopping states from acquiring nuclear weapons. Ambassador Richard Burt, who negotiated the original START treaty on behalf of President Reagan, said on PBS this week, “There are only two governments in the world that wouldn’t like to see this treaty ratified, the government in Tehran and the government in North Korea.”
PARTY ABOVE COUNTRY: Editorial pages in newspapers throughout the U.S. erupted in anger at news of Kyl’s stunt. He was described as “narrow-minded,” politically “craven,” and as putting forth “lame excuses.” West Virginia’s Charleston Gazzette noted, “What a galling situation. Kyl cares more about playing politics than about protecting America.” The New York Times editorialized, “The world’s nuclear wannabes, starting with Iran, should send a thank you note to Senator Jon Kyl. … [T]he objections from Mr. Kyl — and apparently the whole Republican leadership — are so absurd that the only explanation is their limitless desire to deny President Obama any legislative success.” The San Jose Mercury News summed it up, “If you doubted that Republicans could be so craven as to put their own political interests above national security, the proof was delivered Tuesday: Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl announced he will block New START.” Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), the leading nuclear expert in the Senate and treaty backer, unloaded on his Republican colleagues for their dithering this week: “The Republican caucus is tied up in a situation where people don’t want to make choices. … Every senator has an obligation in the national security interest to take a stand, to do his or her duty. Maybe people would prefer not to do his or her duty right now. … There are still thousands of missiles out there. You better get that through your heads.”
FORCE A VOTE: Despite much of the press reporting, Kyl doesn’t run the Senate. Majority Leader Reid does. It is now up to Reid to find the time on the Senate floor to overcome Kyl’s inevitable obstructionism, which will draw out the process taking up considerable senate floor time. Importantly, the vast majority of Republicans, including Kyl, have not said they oppose the treaty. It is time to force them to make a decision. As Podesta explained in Politico yesterday, Reid and the White House have nothing to lose by forcing a vote: “Even if Republicans are actually willing to vote against New START in the lame duck session, why would anyone think they would more cooperative next year? Delay would simply reinforce partisan stalling tactics.” Lugar sent a clear message to Reid and the White House: “I’m advising that the treaty should come on the floor so people will have to vote aye or nay [even if there's no deal with Kyl]. … I think when it finally comes down to it, we have sufficient number or senators who do have a sense of our national security. This is the time, this is the priority. Do it.” Given that 73 percent of Americans support the New START treaty, according to a just released CNN poll, the stance of Kyl and Senate Republicans is proving incredibly unpopular, and the time to have a vote is now.
Congressional Members’ Personal Wealth Expands Despite Sour National Economy
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Dave Levinthal, 202-354-0111
WASHINGTON — Members of Congress are enjoying their own financial stimulus.
Despite a stubbornly sour national economy congressional members’ personal wealth collectively increased by more than 16 percent between 2008 and 2009, according to a new study by the Center for Responsive Politics of federal financial disclosures released earlier this year.
And while some members’ financial portfolios lost value, no need to bemoan most lawmakers’ financial lot: Nearly half of them – 261 – are millionaires, a slight increase from the previous year, the Center’s study finds. That compares to about 1 percent of Americans who lay claim to the same lofty fiscal status.
And of these congressional millionaires, 55 have an average calculated wealth in 2009 of $10 million or more, with eight in the $100 million-plus range.
“Few federal lawmakers must grapple with the financial ills – unemployment, loss of housing, wiped out savings – that have befallen millions of Americans,” said Sheila Krumholz, the Center for Responsive Politics’ executive director. “Congressional representatives on balance rank among the wealthiest of wealthy Americans and boast financial portfolios that are all but unattainable for most of their constituents.”
In 2009, the median wealth of a U.S. House member stood at $765,010, up from $645,503 in 2008. The median wealth of a U.S. senator was nearly $2.38 million, up from $2.27 million in 2008.
For all members of Congress regardless of chamber, median wealth in 2009 reached $911,510, up from $785,515 in 2008. This spike in personal wealth represents a notable rebound from the period between 2007 and 2008, when overall congressional wealth slipped by more than 5 percent. Federal lawmakers’ personal wealth climaxed in 2007 – the pinnacle of nearly a decade’s worth of steady asset value expansion.
MANY CONGRESSIONAL HAVES, BUT A FEW HAVE-NOTS, TOO
By law, members of Congress are only required to report their wealth and liabilities in broad ranges. It’s therefore impossible to precisely determine how much value their assets are worth, or have gained or lost. Federal law also requires that members of Congress detail any assets owned or debts owed by their spouses and dependent children.
The Center for Responsive Politics determines the minimum and maximum possible asset values for each member of Congress to calculate a member’s average estimated wealth. Sometimes, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars separate a lawmaker’s minimum calculated wealth from his or her maximum calculated wealth.
When averaging lawmakers’ minimum and maximum potential wealth for 2009, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) tops the list with holdings exceeding $303.5 million. Issa (pictured right) is followed by a fellow Californian, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), with $293.4 million. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) places third at $238.8 million.
Issa, Harman and Kerry realized wealth gains of nearly 21 percent, 19.8 percent and 14.3 percent respectively.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Rep. Vernon Buchanan (R-Fla.) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) round the list of lawmakers who in 2009 recorded an average wealth of at least $100 million.
In the House, there are five Democrats and five Republicans among the 10 wealthiest members. On the Senate side, six Democrats and four Republicans rank among the top 10 wealthiest.
On the other end of the wealth spectrum is Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), whose average calculated wealth for 2009 is a
bank-busting -$4.73 million. But because of the broad ranges lawmakers may use to report their assets and liabilities, Hastings (pictured right) could be even deeper in the red — -$7.35 million at worst – or a more minor anti-millionaire at -$2.11 million in the hole.
Reps. John Salazar (D-Colo.) and Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) find themselves in similar situations with average calculated wealth well below $0. But while their minimum potential wealth each dips into -$4 million territory, their maximum potential wealth rockets them each above the $3 million mark.
Matters appear more straightforward – and grim – for Rep. Louis Gohmert Jr. (R-Texas), who’s minimum and maximum calculated wealth both fall into six-figure negative territory. Gohmert’s’ average calculated wealth for 2009 is -$150,001.
Reps. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.), Artur Davis (D-Ala.), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) aren’t in much better shape, as both their minimum and maximum wealth values appear with minus symbols.
But even this may – or may not – mean that these members are financially destitute. In addition to only requiring congressional members to report their assets in ranges, federal financial disclosures don’t require members of Congress to report certain assets such as personal residences, which may represent significant stores of wealth.
“For most members of Congress, available federal data provides a pretty good sense as to who’s particularly wealthy and who’s not,” said Dan Auble, who manages the Center’s personal financial disclosure database. “But the data has its limitations, and in a few notable cases, it’s simply impossible to predict whether a member of Congress is more likely to conduct an emergency garage sale or lease a new Porsche.”
WILD SWINGS IN WEALTH FOR SOME MEMBERS
Most members of Congress witnessed only modest financial gains or losses between 2008 and 2009, a comparison of personal financial disclosures from both years indicates.
In all, more than 300 current members saw their average wealth either increase or drop by no more than 20 percent .
Outliers abound, however, such as Rep. Mary Fallin (R-Okla.). Fallin (pictured left) had an average wealth in 2008 that amounted to a paltry $32,002. In 2009, it has jumped to nearly $3.6 million – an increase of 11,141 percent – thanks in large part to her getting married and sharing in her husband’s assets.
Reps. Patrick Kennedy (R-R.I.), Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Pete Olson (R-Texas), Joseph Cao (R-La.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) also experienced between a 1,000 percent and 10,000 percent increase in their year-to-year average calculated wealth, as did Puerto Rico Del. Pedro Pierluisi. The reasons for such gains vary. Kennedy, for example, inherited significant assets from his late father, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). Murphy purchased a valuable life insurance policy.
Overall, party affiliation appeared to play little discernable role in predicting an increase in the value of lawmakers’ personal assets: 12 Democrats and seven Republicans ranked among the top 20 congressmen whose average wealth increased by the greatest percentage between 2008 and 2009. That’s roughly proportional with Congress’ partisan makeup.
Meanwhile, Diaz-Balart led all federal lawmakers with a more than 506 percent drop in his average wealth, which sunk to -$32,500 in 2009 from $8,000 in 2008.
Laura Richardson (D-Calif.), Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Howard McKeon (R-Calif.), Sanford Bishop Jr. (D-Ga.), Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Meeks each sustained 100 percent or more reductions in their year-over-year average calculated wealth.
Then there’s the curious case of Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.).
The 2009 personal financial disclosure report of Stark (pictured right) seemingly indicates his average wealth figure dropped by more than 368 percent from 2008. But portions of Stark’s handwritten federal report are illegible, making an accurate analysis impossible.
Stark’s office did not immediately return calls seeking clarification.
Meanwhile, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who a House Ethics Committee panel on Tuesday convicted on 11 counts of ethics violations – including improper disclosure of his personal finances – reported assets of $872,006 in 2009. That’s above the median amount for a House member.
POWERFUL POLITICAL PLAYERS AMONG MOST POPULAR INVESTMENTS
The most popular investment among congressional members reads as a who’s who list of the most powerful corporate political forces in Washington, D.C. — companies that each spend millions, if not tens of millions of dollars each year lobbying federal officials. Many of them likewise donate millions of dollars to federal candidates each election cycle through their top employees and political action committees.
Apple, with 42 current congressional investors, edges IBM, with 41. Coca-Cola’s 39 congressional investors pop it a notch above PepsiCo, with 36.
And at least 20 current members of Congress were also last year invested in companies that found themselves the subject of congressional or federal agency inquiries, including Goldman Sachs and BP.
Furthermore, the companies behind a number of lawmakers’ favorite investments played key roles in lobbying Congress on two of the most critical legislative initiatives of the past two years: health care reform and financial regulatory reform.
Among health care-related companies, at least 20 current lawmakers reported owning stakes in Pfizer (49), Johnson & Johnson (39), Merck (27), Abbott Laboratories (25), CVS/Caremark (23), Bristol-Myers Squibb (22) and Amgen (20).
As for financial firms, Bank of American and Goldman Sachs are joined by Wells Fargo (45), JPMorgan Chase (38) and Citigroup (24).
In all, there were 50 separate stocks or investment funds in which at least 20 current members of Congress invested during 2009.
PAPER DOCUMENTS HINDER DISCLOSURE
Federal lawmakers are required to file personal financial disclosure reports with the federal government by May 15 of each year.
Because of the volume of data they contain, coupled with Congress’ practice of filing personal financial disclosure reports on paper , it takes the Center for Responsive Politics several months to fully analyze them. Reports that are illegible, such as those filed by Stark, further complicate efforts to accurately analyze lawmakers’ personal finances in a timely fashion.
The Center advocates for electronic submission of all personal financial disclosure reports in sortable and downloadable formats to provide greater transparency and more meaningful access to this valuable public data.
Complete analysis of federal lawmakers’ personal finances are contained within the Center for Responsive Politics’ updated personal financial disclosure database, available here.
This database is a one-of-a-kind resource and the product of months of research and analysis by the Center.
# # #
ABOUT THIS REPORT
This report was made possible by the generous support of the Sunlight Foundation. Additional funding was provided by the Open Society Institute and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
ABOUT THE CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS
The Center for Responsive Politics is the nation’s premier research group tracking and reporting on money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy. The nonpartisan, nonprofit Center aims to create a more educated voter, an involved citizenry and a more responsive government. The Center’s award-winning website, OpenSecrets.org, is the most comprehensive resource for campaign contributions, lobbying data and analysis available anywhere. The Center relies on support from a combination of foundation grants, individual contributions and custom data work. The Center accepts no contributions from businesses, labor unions or trade associations.
WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats were unable to overcome a Republican filibuster of the Paycheck Fairness Act on Tuesday, with the chamber falling two votes short of the 60 needed to end debate and proceed to a vote on the measure that would help combat wage discrimination on the basis of gender.
The vote broke down along party lines with the exception of sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who sided with Republicans and voted against cloture. Not a single member of the GOP broke rank.
Observers closely watched the votes of Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Tex.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), all women senators who voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which provides basic protections against wage discrimination.
“Senate Republicans had their latest opportunity to do the right thing, work with Democrats to reduce wage inequality for women, and help the American families they support,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in a statement after the vote. “This was a prime opportunity to enact the kind of common-sense, bipartisan solutions to our economic problems that the American people are demanding, but Republicans spurned it.”
“Democrats are eager to work with Republicans to address our shared challenges, but compromise is a two-way street,” he added. “I am hopeful that moving forward, Republicans put partisanship aside and focus on doing what’s right and fair for the American people.”
“Forty-five years after passage of the Equal Pay Act, it is unacceptable that women still earn, on average, 77 cents to the dollar earned by men,” said National Women’s Law Center Co-President Marcia Greenberger. “The law needs to be stronger. This persistent pay gap translates to more than $10,000 in lost wages per year for the average female worker. In this difficult economy, in which nearly 40 percent of mothers are primary breadwinners, women shoulder increased responsibility for supporting their families and cannot afford to have employers discounting their salaries.”
Among other provisions, the Paycheck Fairness Act, which has already passed the House, would ensure that a law already on the books — the Equal Pay Act of 1963 — is properly enforced. It would also make sure that women aren’t punished for seeking out information about what their male colleagues are earning in order to ensure they are being paid properly.
Opponents of the legislation, including Collins, have voiced concern that it would lead to “excessive litigation on to the small-business community.” “This bill appears to go way beyond the Lilly Ledbetter Act and I am concerned what the impact would be,” she said in September.
But in a Slate article, Center for American Progress senior economist Heather Boushey argued, “[I]t strains credulity to imagine that the law would have this attenuated effect. If businesses are worried about more litigation, maybe that’s because women armed with knowledge about pay gaps would be more likely to bring suits that have merit to enforce the laws that already exist.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) also voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, but she was not present in Washington for the vote, instead in Alaska for the wrap-up of the ballot-counting process in her re-election fight against Republican Joe Miller.
UPDATE, 2:14 p.m.: Statement from the President on the vote:
I am deeply disappointed that a minority of Senators have prevented the Paycheck Fairness Act from finally being brought up for a debate and receiving a vote. This bill passed in the House almost two years ago; today, it had 58 votes to move forward, the support of the majority of Senate, and the support of the majority of Americans. As we emerge from one of the worst recessions in history, this bill would ensure that American women and their families aren’t bringing home smaller paychecks because of discrimination. It also helps businesses that pay equal wages as they struggle to compete against discriminatory competition. But a partisan minority of Senators blocked this commonsense law. Despite today’s vote, my Administration will continue to fight for a woman’s right to equal pay for equal work.
UPDATE, 2:29 p.m.: Hutchison’s office put out a statement also citing concern that the legislation would encourage more class action lawsuits and allows for uncapped compensatory and punitive damages.
“It is critical that victims of gender-based pay discrimination are given a chance to seek legal recourse through the court system,” said Hutchison. “I believe current law, including the Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which I supported in 2009, protects against wage discrimination. We must ensure that the legal system is fair to both sides in any disagreement. The bill that failed to win cloture overextends by having no limits for compensatory and punitive damages, which I believe are adequately covered by the Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act.”
In 2009, Hutchison also expressed concerns over the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and introduced an alternative bill — which ultimately failed — that she said would have “alleviated the concerns that many small business owners expressed to me.”
UPDATE, 4:15 p.m.: Collins issued a statement explaining her vote:
I support equal pay for equal work. I voted in favor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act last year because I believed the Supreme Court decision in the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company case placed an unreasonable burden on a worker’s ability to seek recourse in wage discrimination cases because it did not take into account the realities of the workplace. However, I am concerned that this particular legislation would unnecessarily impose increased costs and restrictions on small businesses in an already difficult economic climate. By eliminating caps on punitive and compensatory damages, this bill would expose the small business community to excessive litigation, force employers to devote significantly more resources toward legal protections, and could stunt job creation, ultimately hurting those its supporters say they’re trying to protect.In addition, this bill would require businesses to disclose previously confidential salary information to the government, and it relies upon faulty methods for identifying wage discrimination. That is why many business groups oppose this legislation, including the National Federation of Independent Businesses, our nation’s largest small business advocacy group, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Filed under: Hi, I'm_______and I'm unemployed, Uncategorized
Spending Worries Put Jobless Benefits at Risk
By JANET HOOK And SARA MURRAY
Congress is unlikely to agree to extend jobless benefits for two million unemployed workers by the time the program begins to lapse in two weeks, as lawmakers struggle with a packed lame-duck session and voter antipathy toward government spending.
But cutting off benefits could drag on a fragile economic recovery by reducing consumer spending, economists say, and Democrats are looking for a compromise that could put the program back on track before Christmas.
The program, which provides aid for up to 99 weeks after workers are laid off, has been extended seven times during the economic downturn. Last summer when Congress extended it, the battle was so pitched that benefits lapsed for over a month.
Democrats are under pressure from supporters to extend benefits because their prospects will likely dim after Republicans take over the House in January.
In a concession, senior congressional aides say Democrats are weighing options to scale back the program and its costs. One option would be to extend it for one year but reduce the number of weeks aid would be provided as the economy improves.
The issue could also be swept into the debate over the Bush-era tax cuts for the highest earners. Liberal Democrats, disappointed their party likely will have to compromise and allow those tax cuts to be extended at least temporarily, want that move linked to an extension of unemployment benefits.
Republicans opposed an extension last summer on the grounds it would have added to the deficit, a concern that has grown more prominent since the midterm elections. But the party’s current position is still taking shape, with most arguing for now that any extension would have to be funded.
An aide to Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) said Republicans’ leading concern will be to make sure the cost of any extension will be offset with cuts in other areas. One option, the aide said, would be to use unspent money from the economic stimulus bill.
Given the complexity of negotiations over the tax cuts, aides say it’s unlikely the debate will be resolved before benefits begin to expire Nov. 30. The lame-duck Congress convened Monday amid uncertainty about a wide range of issues. Congress is scheduled to take off again Thanksgiving week and return Nov. 29.
The patchwork nature of jobless-benefits system means the impact of a lapse would roll slowly through the ranks of the unemployed. Without an extension, jobless workers in most states would receive a maximum of 26 weeks of benefits through their regular state programs.
A separate state-federal program, currently 100% federally funded, offered another 13 to 20 weeks of benefits to workers in high unemployment states. Some 800,000 workers in those programs would be quickly cut off.
Another 1.2 million jobless Americans would stop receiving benefits by the end of December. Some of those workers would exhaust state benefits and be unable to access the federal program. The majority that is already receiving federal emergency extended benefits would gradually lose them.
Congress initiated federal extended benefits in July 2008, relatively early on in the downturn. In past recessions, Congress tended to wait longer to initiate benefits and didn’t let them expire until the jobless rate had fallen further. When extended benefits expired after the 1980s recession, the jobless rate was 7.2%. Today, it is 9.6%.
The economy grew at a 2% annual rate in the third quarter, which has not been enough to bring down the unemployment rate.
Goldman Sachs analyst Alec Phillips estimated that if the extensions were allowed to expire it would shave half a percentage point from growth.
Every dollar spent on unemployment insurance has the effect of $2 spent in the economy, according to a report the Labor Department will release this week.
The report, commissioned by the Bush administration and conducted by research firm IMPAQ International and the Urban Institute think tank, showed an average of 1.6 million jobs were preserved each quarter because of unemployment insurance and 1.8 million job losses were averted in the depths of the current recession.
“When you give a dollar to the unemployed they’re the most likely to spend it,” said Betsey Stevenson, the Labor Department’s chief economist.
Capping benefit recipients at 60 weeks would be a better alternative than cutting extended benefits altogether, said James Sherk, senior policy analyst in labor economics at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
“Certainly you don’t want to be doing anything cold turkey,” he said, but “if Congress is going to pass another extension they should at least budget for this.”
Write to Janet Hook at email@example.com and Sara Murray at firstname.lastname@example.org
By James Fallows
Chuck Spinney, who spent his career as a budget analyst in the Pentagon — that’s him, on the cover of Time for his defense-reform work in the Reagan era — has an idea about the answer. The green in the chart below shows periods when America’s overall federal debt burden shrank; red, when it grew. Spinney, by the way, is no one’s idea of a standard liberal. He’s more a deficit hawk than anything else, meaning both that he’s hard-line against excess spending and that he’s pro-defense but cheap. He explains the chart he has prepared:
>>Obama inherited a federal deficit that was spinning out of control (mostly because of decreased tax take and increased expenditures for automatic stabilizers, e.g. unemployment insurance), and pressure is growing to cut Social Security (perhaps the most efficiently run program in government) while placing Defense (one of the most inefficiently run programs) off limits. These political pressures are not new and in fact have been building up for years. So, as a first cut into a complex issue, perhaps it is time for the angry masses to ask which political party put them into the fiscal straight jacket that is setting them up for this horrible choice?
B. Moderate Republicans?
C. Right Wing Republicans?
Green => Reductions in the burden of Gr. Fed. Debt (as measured by the debt to GDP ratio)
Red => Increases in the burden of Gr. Fed. Debt <<
To be clear: the middle column is how much overall federal debt grew, or shrank, as a share of gross domestic product during each administration, and the right-hand chart is the average annual rate of growth or reduction during that administration. As Spinney said in a note to me, “The idea of this column is simply to show the average annual change for the period covered in the first column — so you can compare one term administrations to two term administrations in terms of their annual performance. The first row of the second column says, for example, that the average debt burden ratio declined by 4.7% during each year of the Truman administration.”
When the economy is growing faster than the debt, that administration looks “green.” When it isn’t, red. The chart may give a slightly unfair boost to Harry Truman, whose administration coincided with the end of huge outlays and borrowing for World War II. Otherwise…
By GLENN THRUSH
A conservative Maryland physician elected to Congress on an anti-Obamacare platform surprised fellow freshmen at a Monday orientation session by demanding to know why his government-subsidized health care plan from the government takes a month to kick in.
Republican Andy Harris, an anesthesiologist who defeated freshman Democrat Frank Kratovil on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, reacted incredulously when informed that federal law mandated that his government-subsidized health care policy would take effect on Feb. 1 – 28 days after his Jan. 3rd swearing-in.
“He stood up and asked the two ladies who were answering questions why it had to take so long, what he would do without 28 days of health care,” said a congressional staffer who saw the exchange. The benefits session, held behind closed doors, drew about 250 freshman members, staffers and family members to the Capitol Visitors Center auditorium late Monday morning,”.
“Harris then asked if he could purchase insurance from the government to cover the gap,” added the aide, who was struck by the similarity to Harris’s request and the public option he denounced as a gateway to socialized medicine.
Harris, a Maryland state senator who works at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and several hospitals on the Eastern Shore, also told the audience, “This is the only employer I’ve ever worked for where you don’t get coverage the first day you are employed,” his spokeswoman Anna Nix told POLITICO.
Under COBRA law, Harris can pay a premium to extend his current health insurance an additional month.
Nix said Harris, who is the father of five, wasn’t being hypocritical – he was just pointing out the inefficiency of government-run health care.
Harris hammered Kratovil on health care throughout a bitter fall campaign, despite the fact that the conservative Democrat voted twice against the reform package backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), a close Kratovil ally.
“Although he voted against Obamacare, Mr. Kratovil refuses to commit to its repeal. Dr. Harris understands that the Obama-Pelosi-Hoyer agenda threatens to pull the plug on America’s long-term health,” Harris said in an Oct. 30 statement. “”In Washington, I will never vote to raise taxes, I will fight to repeal health-care reform, and I will work to balance the budget.”
By Nick Wing
Members of the National Socialist Movement were heavily outnumbered by protesters who confronted the Neo-Nazi parade on its way to the federal courthouse. Police arrived in riot gear to separate the two factions, a move that was followed by multiple injuries and the arrests of two protesters who threw rocks at officers.
In the video, the Neo-Nazi march organizer, J.T. Ready, can be seen explaining to a group of protesters that the assault of his members is not acceptable.
Ready reportedly shares a connection to SB-1070 architect and Arizona state Rep. Russell Pearce (R).
Though Pearce denied having knowledge of Ready’s involvement with the National Socialist Movement during his alleged proximity to the group’s organizer in 2007, when Ready was in the midst of being ousted from a low-level GOP post, a video released last year showed Pearce in attendance at a 2009 rally headlined by Ready.
As ThinkProgress points out, the alliance between white-supremacy groups and Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration legislation appears to be more than a matter of personal associations.
According to an immigration report from change.org earlier this year, numerous groups linked to white nationalist causes have provided monetary support to Arizona’s SB-1070, both in its early stages as well as to its legal defense fund.
Barely a day after she appeared in a gay-rights video urging the repeal of the military’s gay ban, Cindy McCain announced she supports her husband’s efforts to keep the policy in place.
“I fully support the NOH8 campaign and all it stands for and am proud to be a part of it,” Ms. McCain Tweeted Friday. “But I stand by my husband’s stance on DADT.”
In a video released this week by gay-rights campaign NOH8, the wife of Sen. John McCain took a direct swipe at the 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prevents gays from serving openly in the military.
“Our political and religious leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future … they can’t serve our country openly,” McCain said.
Reporters and bloggers were quick to point out the awkwardness of McCain’s stance in favor of repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” when her husband led a filibuster of the repeal in the Senate this fall. He has promised to filibuster any future attempts at repealing the law as well.
Now some political observers are suggesting that Ms. McCain may have caved to pressure by the senator.
“McCain has apparently been knocked into line by her husband,” suggests Joe.My.God.
“With all due respect, Cindy McCain is a liar,” a clearly angry John Aravosis writes. “The only question is when she lied – today, or yesterday.”
The question still outstanding is where the McCains’ daughter, Meghan, stands on the issue. Meghan McCain was also part of the NOH8 campaign, and has spoken out in favor of gay marriage.
Political observers note that time is running out to repeal “don’t ask.” With a Republican House about to convene, chances of a repeal past the current session are considered nonexistent. But the current lame-duck session appears only marginally more hospitable to the idea.
The result could be that the repeal is stripped from a defense appropriations bill currently before Congress, but some activists see a chance to add the repeal to another “must-pass” bill before the end of the current session.
The following video was released by the NOH8 Campaign.