GOP Budget Cuts

Obama slams Republican budget, contrasts with his own in weekly address

Daily Kos

While those at the top are doing better than ever, too many Americans are working harder than ever, but feel like they can’t get ahead.

President Obama provided a nuts-and-bolts budget discussion this morning in his weekly address, slamming Paul Ryan’s joke of a budget presented this week, and extolling his own “Opportunity for All” budget he presented earlier this year.He outlined the four-point approach in his own plan—job creation, job training, quality education and raising the minimum wage—and then let loose on Ryan’s April Fools Day proposal:

The Republican budget begins by handing out massive tax cuts to households making more than $1 million a year. Then, to keep from blowing a hole in the deficit, they’d have to raise taxes on middle-class families with kids. Next, their budget forces deep cuts to investments that help our economy create jobs, like education and scientific research.Now, they won’t tell you where these cuts will fall. But compared to my budget, if they cut everything evenly, then within a few years, about 170,000 kids will be cut from early education programs. About 200,000 new mothers and kids will be cut off from programs to help them get healthy food. Schools across the country will lose funding that supports 21,000 special education teachers. And if they want to make smaller cuts to one of these areas, that means larger cuts in others.

He pointed out that the Ryan plan also—of course—wants to take health insurance away from the 7 million (and still counting!) now covered under Obamacare, and is full of deregulation of the financial industry: “Their budget guts the rules we put in place to protect the middle class from another financial crisis like the one we’ve had to fight so hard to recover from.”He closed, highlighting the ultimate contrasts between the two budget proposals:

Policies that benefit a fortunate few while making it harder for working Americans to succeed are not what we need right now. Our economy doesn’t grow best from the top-down; it grows best from the middle-out. That’s what my opportunity agenda does – and it’s what I’ll keep fighting for.

To read the transcript in full, visit the White House website.

GOP May Hold Debt Ceiling Hostage To Enact Paul Ryan’s Budget

Think Progress

House Republicans will hold the national debt ceiling increase hostage until President Obama agrees to mandatory spending cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, the National Journalreports, and will seek to use the leverage of default to force Democrats to enact the policies in Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget.

Since slashing discretionary spending to historic lows — the discretionary side of the ledger has grown at a slower rate than inflation since 2007 and now makes up a smaller share of the economy than it did before the Great Recession — the GOP has shifted from demanding dollar-for-dollar immediate spending cuts and is now focusing on drafting a range of options to significantly restructure mandatory benefit programs.

The idea is to throw in the “kitchen sink” and allow Obama to pick and choose the cuts. “If what makes it easier to find the deal is to go in and pick and choose among a dozen different programs and just grab a little bit from all 12 — instead of a lot from one them — then that works just fine,” Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA), who heads the Republican Study Committee’s budget and spending task force, told the Journal:

For a long-term deal, one that gives Treasury borrowing authority for three-and-a-half years, Obama would have to agree to premium support. The plan to privatize Medicare, perhaps the most controversial aspect of the Ryan budget, is the holy grail for conservatives who say major deficit-reduction can only be achieved by making this type of cut to mandatory spending. “If the president wants to go big, there’s a big idea,” said Rep. Steve Scalise, chairman of the Republican Study Committee.

For a medium-sized increase in the debt-limit, Republicans want Obama to agree to cut spending in the SNAP food stamp program, block-grant Medicaid, or tinker with chained CPI.

For a smaller increase, there is talk of means-testing Social Security, for example, or ending certain agricultural subsidies.

While the menu includes plenty of variables, the underlying strategic goal is to reduce mandatory spending — whatever the scope of the deal. Even at the smallest end of the spectrum — another months-long extension of debt-limit — there is talk of pushing back the eligibility age for Social Security by an equal number of months.

For 50 years, Congress routinely increased the debt ceiling as needed, including seven timesunder President George W. Bush. But in 2011, Republicans decided the debt ceiling was “a hostage worth ransoming. The brinksmanship caused the first-ever downgrade of the U.S. credit rating by Standard & Poor’s and cost the country a million jobs and $19 billion.

The Treasury Department has not yet said when the nation will hit its debt ceiling and has repeatedly moved back the deadline as a result of “lower spending levels and higher tax revenues.”

House Republicans Face Backlash At Home Over Medicare Vote

What planet are these  “Tea Baggers” from?

Huffington Post

House Republicans returning to their districts on Monday faced harsh criticism for voting to turn Medicare, the federal health care program for retirees, into a voucher system. GOP lawmakers faced this same constituent iremere weeks ago when they first voted to support House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget plan, which would lower tax rates for corporations and the wealthy while replacing Medicare with private-insurance subsidies for those under 55.

Speaking in his home state of Arizona Monday night, freshman Rep. Ben Quayle (R), son of former vice president Dan Quayle, took heat from constituents who demanded to know why he supported turning Medicare over to private insurers.

Quayle isn’t the only lawmaker who, after voting in favor of Ryan’s plan, faced anger at home this week. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) faced a similarly boisterous crowd at her first Vancouver town hall, while Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) weathered disapproving audiences in Worcester County.

A town hall meeting held by freshman Allen West (R-Fla.) on Monday night degenerated into a shouting match, with one person having to be removed from the meeting by police.

A recent speech by Ryan, meanwhile, was met with dozens of protesters marching outside a hotel in downtown Chicago and carrying signs that read: “Hands off my Medicare” and “Paul Ryan plan: Let them eat cat food.”

The most recent round of backlash comes just days after former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican presidential candidate, called the Republican plan to end Medicare too “radical” and “too big a jump” for Americans. He also referred to it as “right-wing social engineering.”

Related articles

Medicare dropped from GOP budget proposal

The Washington Post

Senior Republicans conceded Wednesday that a deal is unlikely on a contentious plan to overhaul Medicare and offered to open budget talks with the White House by focusing on areas where both parties can agree, such as cutting farm subsidies.

On the eve of debt-reduction talks led by Vice President Biden, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) said Republicans remain convinced that reining in federal retirement programs is the key to stabilizing the nation’s finances over the long term. But he said Republicans recognize they may need to look elsewhere to achieve consensus after President Obama “excoriated us” for a proposal to privatize Medicare.

That search should start, Cantor said, with a list of GOP proposals that would save $715 billion over the next decade by ending payments to wealthy farmers, limiting lawsuits against doctors, and expanding government auctions of broadcast spectrum to telecommunications companies, among other items.

Democrats said they were encouraged by the move, which could smooth the way to a compromise allowing Congress to raise the legal limit on government borrowing and avoid a national default.

Continue reading here…

Maine’s Madman Governor Paul LePage Strikes Again

The Daily Beast

Just 100 days into Gov. Paul LePage’s Tea Party-fueled administration, his fellow Republicans are fighting back, defeating his push to bring back toxic baby bottles. Now Maine faces a choice between the Republicanism of moderate Olympia Snowe or the more bellicose LePage, reports Colin Woodard.

After November’s election, Maine Republicans had reason to feel heady. Their candidate, Tea Party-backed conservative Paul LePage, was headed to the governor’s mansion in Augusta, where the GOP had won a majority in both legislative chambers for the first time in nearly half a century.

But a hundred days into his administration, Gov. LePage has managed to alienate legislators, invigorate his opponents, and generate more negative national press attention than any Maine politician since James G. Blaine, who retired from the U.S. Senate in 1881. On the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, he told the NAACP to “kiss my butt.”   He defended a campaign to lift a ban on the endocrine disruptor bisphenol-A in baby bottles by joking that the worst thing that could happen is “some women may have little beards.” Then he had a mural illustrating the history of Maine’s labor movement taken out of a Department of Labor waiting room after an anonymous letter compared it to murals in North Korea aimed at “brainwashing the masses.” The removal triggered large protests by artists and union members, and a possible federal Department of Labor fine in excess of $60,000, for breaching the terms of a grant that helped cover the mural’s purchase, and widespread editorial condemnation, with the Bangor Daily News describing the act as “straight out of Orwell’s world.”

“Gov. LePage has spent the early days of his administration seeking out third-rail issues,” says Ron Schmidt Jr., chairman of the University of Southern Maine’s political science department. “In traditional political math, he should be trying to grow his base”—LePage won by 1 point, with 38 percent of the vote—“but things like the mural could even erode his base.”

The central question in Maine politics has been whether Republican lawmakers would stand by LePage’s more contentious proposals, such as rolling back all environmental laws to match laxer federal standards. Recently it has become clear that many of them are frustrated with the governor, and that the feeling is mutual. On Monday, eight of 20 Republican state senators criticized the governor’s often bellicose behavior in an op-ed published by the state’s largest newspaper chain. The next day, LePage’s bisphenol-A initiative was rejected 35-0 in the state senate, after a 145-3 defeat in the House.

Continue here…

The last-minute budget deal: What gets cut?

I have no doubt that the Republicans won their standoff with Obama on Friday night.  I also have no doubt that the POTUS’ re-election efforts will not be as easy as it was nearly four years ago.

Rachel Maddow illustrates an excellent point in this video.  Please view it if at all possible.

(Starting at 5:04 you can view the section I’m talking about, but the entire segment is worth watching!)

The Week

Congress settled on $38.5 billion in spending reductions late Friday, mere hours before the government would have shut down. Endangered wolves are on the chopping block. What else?

[…]

High-speed rail
President Obama agreed to a $1.5 billion cut on a policy close to his heart, says Sam Stein at The Huffington Post: The planned national high-speed rail system. This represents a “major hit to one of the president’s favorite transportation priorities,” and only strengthens critics’ suspicion that high speed rail is a “pie-in-the-sky policy.”

Endangered wolves 
Wolves in Idaho and Montana will be removed from the endangered species list as part of the budget deal on the environment. While that’s “bad news for the northern Rockies,” says Glenn Hurowitz at The Huffington Post, the Democrats fared slightly better on environmental funding as a whole. The EPA’s funding was cut by $1.49 billion, not the $3 billion originally proposed by Republicans, and the agency will continue to regulate carbon emissions.

The United Nations
The bill cuts $377 million from the U.S. contribution to the United Nations. That may not seem like a significant number in the big picture, says Howard LaFranchi at The Christian Science Monitor, but it will have a marked effect on the U.N. The U.S. contributes nearly a quarter of the U.N.’s total budget, and Obama is requesting $3.5 billion for the U.N. in his 2012 budget. A “wall of Republican resistance” is likely to spur further cuts to U.N. spending.

Abortions in Washington, D.C.
Planned Parenthood may have been spared, but the GOP did manage to end taxpayer-funded abortions in the District of Columbia. The Mayor of Washington D.C., Vincent Gray, was arrested Monday on the streets of the capitol during a protest against the provision.

Summer school Pell Grants
On education, the president’s “Race to the Top” initiative was left unscathed, but the Pell Grant program will be trimmed. Scrapping summer school grants and preventing students from using two Pell grant awards simultaneously will save $493 million this year, and more than $35 billion over the next decade.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program
The government will save $3.5 billion by scrapping bonus payments to states that successfully enroll large numbers of previously-ininsured children in Medicaid. Republicans were unsuccessful in pushing for an end to all funding for President Obama’s signature health care reform law.

The Joint Strike Fighter jet
The Pentagon is one of the few government departments that did not see an overall funding reduction — in fact, it will receive a $5 billion increase — but the bill does slash $4.2 billion in military earmarks, including funds for the Joint Strike Fighter jet engine that would have been built in John Boehner’s Ohio district.

 

Democrats Have Met Republicans More Than Halfway On Spending Cuts

Think Progress

President Obama has been saying throughout the negotiations over funding for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 that he is willing to meet House Republicans “halfway” when it comes to their desired spending reductions. But Democrats have already agreed to far more than that, as House Republicans have continually moved the goalposts instead of cutting a deal to avert a government shutdown.

The original House Republican proposal for the rest of fiscal year 2011 called for about $30 billion in spending reductions from the 2010 level of spending. However, a Tea Party-inspired revolt forced Republicans to increase that total to $61 billion, which is the total that they passed in H.R.1. H.R. 1 was subsequently defeated in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said today that he would agree to $38 billion in cuts from the 2010 level, exceeding the level of cuts that the GOP asked for in its original proposal:

 

With the Democrats having moved so far, it’s clear that this “negotiation” is not about the budget at all, but about the various policy riders that House Republicans want to attach to a funding bill. These include provisions preventing the District of Columbia from using its own local funds for abortions and crippling the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases. It’s also worth remembering that even the original GOP proposal — which included cuts that are not as steep as those now on the table — included budget cuts that would undermine the economy, decreasing key investments and causing significant job loss.

Read more in today’s Progress Report, “Shutdown Fever.”

TRMS:GOP/Paul Ryan’s bogus budget proposal

We can always count on Rachel to decipher the smoke and mirrors games of the GOP. 

The Rachel Maddow Blog

The new Republican budget proposal by Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin leans on an economic forecast from the conservative Heritage Foundation.

You can see another, older Heritage forecast above. The predicted growth in jobs from President Bush’s economic strategy did not square with reality. Matt Yglesias dug up the chart and writes, “If you believe George W Bush unleashed an unprecedented economic boom with great jobs performance, rising incomes, and the paying off of the national debt then you’ll find a lot to like about Rep Ryan’s plan.”

Mr. Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” is now in video form, below. Bonus: Simon Johnson’s “National Debt for Beginners.”

GOP To Propose Obamacare For Seniors

Forbes

Despite the Republican propensity to compare the Affordable Care Act to something akin to the antichrist, word is that GOP budget leader, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), will propose a dramatic change in the Medicare program that will closely mirror the key features of Obamacare – only for seniors.

The proposal would do away with (for everyone presently under 55 years of age) the current single payer government system for senior medical care and replace it with a program whereby seniors would choose private health insurance coverage from a menu of approved private health insurers. The government would subsidize the program by giving seniors a voucher to be used in purchasing coverage, the amount of such payment to be defined according to need.

Does any of this sound familiar?

While the terminology may be different, it seems particularly reasonable to assume that the word “menu” is code for “health care exchange”.  And while the word “voucher” plays well with the GOP base, it is really no different from the subsidies the ACA will pay to those under 65 who purchase health insurance.

Unfortunately, while Ryan has emulated a number of features from the ACA, he’s forgotten to make the adjustments the law makes to actually ensure that health care is more accessible to beneficiaries rather than more profitable to health insurance companies.

Making private insurance work for the younger demographics is far easier than trying to make it work for the elderly due to the most basic tenet of health insurance – the insurance pool must be balanced by having 80 healthy people in the pool to pay for every 20 who are ill.

Given that most Americans 65 and older are a walking pre-existing medical condition, it is difficult to imagine how functioning insurance pools can be constructed from a universe filled with these people. It is equally hard to see how health insurers could offer such a plan without severely restricting the benefits offered or, in the alternative, charging very large premiums – unless the government is prepared to put large enough subsidy checks in the pockets of the insurers to cover the extra costs.

What Happens If Government Shuts Down?

The Daily Beast

With Republicans and Democrats deadlocked in furious negotiations over the federal budget for fiscal year 2011, the threat of a government shutdown is looming. After rumors of a last-minute deal, House Speaker John Boehner is denying that Republicans have agreed to compromise on the budget. The Daily Beast looks at why the parties can’t agree, what a shutdown could mean, and what it might cost taxpayers.

The $61 Billion Problem: How deep will the first cuts be?

How did we get here? Democrats didn’t pass a 2011 budget last year—instead, they passed a placeholder resolution. Then Republicans shellacked Democrats in midterm elections, bringing in Tea Partiers fiercely dedicated to cutting the federal budget. Both sides want to reduce the $1.5 trillion federal deficit, but Democrats suggested $10 billion in cuts, while Republican leaders proposed $61 billion in reductions. Hardliners on the Republican Study Committee tugged at the GOP from the right, demanding $100 billion in cuts. Unable to resolve the impasse, Congress has passed three “continuing resolutions” that keep the money flowing while leaders negotiate. Now it’s crunch time for a deal. If Congress can’t reach a compromise or pass another continuing resolution by April 8, the government will run out of money and be forced to shut down. The sides are frantically negotiating with a reported target of about $33 billion in cuts. 

[…]

Collateral Damage: How the 1995 shutdown changed history.

You can’t measure the effect of a shutdown in just dollars, though. During the last showdown between a Democratic White House and Republican-controlled Congress, Speaker Newt Gingrich’s career was derailed by his handling of the budget crisis. (What ever happened to that guy?) While President Bill Clinton emerged a winner, he wasn’t unscathed. During the five-day government shutdown in November 1995, an unpaid intern named Monica Lewinsky worked late at the White House because paid workers were furloughed. It was during that time that the first sexual encounters between the two, which would eventually lead to Clinton’s impeachment, occurred.

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