Archive for December, 2010

The Tea Party discovers life upon the wicked stage

It’s one of the oldest stories around — innocence ruined, the naively idealistic getting schooled to the reality of the big bad city. Or, as Oscar Hammerstein reminds us in a tune from “Show Boat,” “Life upon the wicked stage ain’t ever what a girl supposes….”

I don’t know how many of you saw “Up in the Air,” but the young lady who played the young, innocent naif to George Clooney’s world-weary traveler plays a similar role in the video above.

But I digress. From Politico:

After agreeing to kill earmarks, some of the most conservative GOP lawmakers are already starting to ask themselves: What have we done?

Indeed, many Republicans are now worried that the bridges in their districts won’t be fixed, the tariff relief to the local chemical company isn’t coming and the water systems might not be built without a little direction from Congress.

So some Republicans are discussing exemptions to the earmark ban, allowing transportation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and water projects. …

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A real-life ‘death panel’ and its real-life victims

Randy Shepherd and his wife, Tiffany. NPR photo

Randy Shepherd and his wife, Tiffany. NPR photo

The state of Arizona, facing serious budget problems, has decided to draw the line. Gov. Jan Brewer and the Republican Legislature have sliced $1.4 million from Medicaid that covered heart transplants and similar operations.

One man, denied a bone-marrow transplant, has already died, although he was in such serious condition that a transplant may not have saved him.

Meet the next potential victims:

“Mesa resident Randy Shepherd, a 36-year-old father of three, has been living with a pacemaker for several years and now is facing what he says is his last treatment option: a heart transplant.

But Shepherd’s hopes for a transplant were dashed when the state cut Medicaid funding for certain transplants under the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System.

“Look at all of us who need these transplants,” Shepherd said, joined Tuesday by three others who say they are unable to get live-saving transplants due to the cuts. “It’s not an …

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Will angry right, angry left join to kill budget deal?

There’s a line of thought that holds that if you’ve made both sides angry, you must have done something right. Over the years, I’ve heard that theory repeated by everyone from politicians and judges to umpires and fellow journalists.

Personally, I’ve never subscribed to that theory, because in my book it’s a copout. Trying to play it down the middle — in effect, triangulating your conclusion based on public opinion — is an entirely different approach to a problem than honestly trying to determine what is right or fair or smart. And yes, maybe that attitude explains how I ended up in this particular line of journalism.

Which brings us to Washington, where the budget deal hammered out by President Obama and Republican leaders has come under attack by both liberals and conservatives. Congressional Democrats are gearing up to fight the measure, and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is talking of a filibuster against what he calls “a moral outrage” because he opposes extending …

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A one-stop history lesson in federal taxes

I haven’t surrendered to my chart obsession for several days now, and my face is beginning to twitch and my hands are shaking. It was either a chart or another post about Sarah Palin, so count your blessings that I ran across this one.

It’s actually pretty compelling:

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Yeah yeah, I know: The federal government is a leech that keeps gets bigger and bigger; it is a cancer that is spreading and spreading; it is a parasite that is consuming its host; it is a bedbug infestation in the Grand Hotel of capitalism.

Then there is the reality, as depicted in the chart above, posted initially by Felix Salmon, a Reuters blogger. As it illustrates, the federal government today takes less of our GDP than it has for most of the past 60 years.

And yet there are those who insist that we are grossly overtaxed and reject any notion that these lower revenues might be in part responsible for the deficit. In fact, merely returning to levels of taxation in existence as our parents and grandparents …

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Abolishing state income tax no magic wand

Nobody likes to pay taxes, particularly income taxes. And with the state’s tax-reform commission expected to announce its recommendations soon, the notion that Georgia might be able to cut or eliminate its income tax is apparently in play.

Christine Ries, an economics professor at Georgia Tech and a tax commission member, laid out a pro-growth argument for eliminating the income tax in an article in Sunday’s AJC.

“If you want more jobs, don’t tax the small companies that create by far the most jobs,” Ries wrote. “That’s why the fastest-growing, most prosperous states (and countries) are the ones with low tax rates.”

Ries focused much of her attention on Texas and Florida, two of seven states that charge no income tax. (Two other states, Tennessee and New Hampshire, tax only dividend and interest income.)

Texas, Ries wrote, shows the wisdom of that approach. “Their unemployment rate is a whole percentage lower than the national average and they grew 3.5 percent faster than the …

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As such things go, Obama/GOP deal not bad

As deals go, it isn’t a bad one.

The supposedly temporary tax cuts are extended two years across the board, as Republicans demanded. Benefits for the longterm unemployed will continue at 60 weeks, and at 99 weeks in particularly hard-hit states such as Georgia,  for another 13 months, which Republicans opposed. The payroll tax is temporarily reduced by two percentage points, to boost middle-class buying power, and a modified 35 percent estate tax is reinstated, affecting estates worth more than $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples.

Obama got a few things for middle America; the GOP got something big for the wealthy.

“I am not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare here in Washington,” Obama said last night in announcing the deal. “The American people didn’t send us here to wage symbolic battles or win symbolic victories.”

It was a compromise, in other words, but a compromise reached by allowing …

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George W.’s job approval now higher than Obama’s

Even President Bush is flummoxed by the news

Even President Bush is flummoxed by the news

From Politico:

George W. Bush’s job approval rating as president has spiked to 47 percent, according to a Gallup poll released Monday.

That’s 1 point higher than President Barack Obama’s job approval rating in a poll taken the same week.

This is the first time Gallup asked Americans to retrospectively rate Bush’s job performance. And it was a stunning turnaround from his low point of 25 percent in November 2008. The 47 percent number is 13 points higher than the last Gallup poll taken before Bush left office in 2009 and the highest rating for him since before Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

I don’t think history is going to reach that same conclusion, but time will tell. And I don’t know how to explain it as anything but a case of willful mass amnesia.

Others. I suspect, will reach a different conclusion.

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A lot of irony crammed in one little sentence

My favorite sentence of the day comes from a New York Times article reporting that Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms may move up their bonus payments from early in 2011 to late in 2010. You see, they don’t want to risk that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy somehow won’t be renewed.

Here’s the sentence in question:

“If Congress does not extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the highest income levels, a typical worker who earns a $1 million bonus would pay $40,000 to $50,000 more in taxes next year than this year, depending on base salary.”

“… a typical worker who earns a $1 million bonus…”

Those additional taxes saved by that “typical worker” would cover unemployment benefits for a year for three Americans left jobless in the wake of the fiscal crisis, a crisis created in large part because of Wall Street greed and carelessness, a crisis eased considerably because the U.S. taxpayer and the Federal Reserve lent Wall Street firms hundreds of billions of dollars at …

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It’s scary to imagine President John McCain

President Obama has had a rough-and-tumble couple of years and no longer looks like the shiny, just-out-of-the-box politician who took the oath of office on that bright, cold Washington morning in 2009.

He’s got some dents and chipped paint now. A lot of people, including some liberals, aren’t real happy with him at the moment.

On the other hand, even a beaten-up Obama looks pretty good compared to what’s happened to his 2008 opponent, the increasingly petulant John McCain. The senator’s unsettling behavior in that election — his selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate, his bizarre decision to abandon the campaign trail and rush to Washington to “rescue the economy” — at first seemed out of character. But in the last two years that odd behavior has continued and even accelerated, cementing an impression that a person of his temperament and stability would have been a real problem in the White House.

in fact, even John McCain doesn’t seem all that happy with John McCain …

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Senate rules: No help for jobless, $700 billion for wealthy

The Senate this morning voted 53-36 in favor of extending Bush-era tax cuts for 98 percent of American households while allowing tax cuts for the wealthy to expire. The move would have cut the deficit by an estimated $700 billion over the next 10 years.

But under the arcane rules of the United States Senate, a vote of 53 in favor and just 36 opposed means the proposal has been defeated, having failed to achieve the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster.

Five Democrats voted against the measure, as did every single Republican senator who voted (Georgia’s two senators missed the vote). For a couple filing jointly, the bill would have allowed tax rates on income above $250,000 to rise by three percentage points, to the level in effect prior to 2001.

A second measure, allowing taxes to rise only on those with an income of $1 million or more, failed by a vote of 53 in favor to 37 opposed.

During debate, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, posed the pertinent question on the Senate …

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