Archive for the ‘Federal’ Category

What Warren Buffett didn’t mention about the ‘mega-rich’ who would pay higher taxes

Remember that op-ed Warren Buffett wrote about his “mega-rich friends” being willing to pay more taxes? Well, so did Salon’s Peter Finocchiaro. And he didn’t take the super-investor’s word for it:

To test [Buffett's] notion, Salon launched the Patriotic Billionaire Challenge. We put the question to every member of the “Forbes 400″ list, all of them with a net worth of at least $1 billion: “Are you, like Warren Buffett, willing to pay higher taxes?”

The results are in. Of 400 billionaires, only eight (including Buffett) say they are willing to pay more.

Ah, but there’s a catch: It would appear that only 12 of the 400 responded to Salon’s queries. A 3 percent response rate doesn’t mean squat.

But that’s not to say nothing interesting came of the exercise.

Finocchiaro shared some of the comments from the respondents, and they add a serious degree of nuance to Buffett’s “hey, rich people are ready to pay more” mantra.

Example One:

Todd Wagner, co-owner and CEO of 2929 …

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Another unintended consequence of the war on drugs?

Here’s an argument for ending, or at least curtailing, the war on drugs that you don’t hear every day. From the Associated Press:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says the quality of federal judges has suffered because there are too many of them. Testifying before a Senate committee Wednesday, Scalia blamed Congress for making federal crimes out of too many routine drug cases. In turn, that created a need for more judges.

“Federal judges ain’t what they used to be,” he said during a rare appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee..

The federal judiciary should be an elite group, said Scalia, who has served on the high court for 25 years. “It’s not as elite as it used to be,” he said.

He was responding to a question about what he sees as the greatest threat to the independence of judges.

The AP story says there are 874 federal judgeships. That means there are three times as many federal judges as there were in 1950 — and twice as many federal judges as there are …

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Will wonders never cease: Congress mulls immigration fixes

Those of us who have said all along that Congress ultimately has to deal with the issue of illegal immigration should be heartened by this news. From the Wall Street Journal (subscription required):

Rep. Lamar Smith (R., Texas), an immigration hardliner who now heads the House Judiciary Committee, plans to introduce a bill Wednesday that would revise an existing guest-worker program and allow up to half a million foreign farm workers a year to work in the U.S.

Rep. Dan Lungren (R., Calif.), whose district includes almond, rice and grape growers, also is seeking the creation of a new visa category for agricultural workers. He said it would allow “hundreds of thousands” of foreign farm laborers to work in the U.S. for 10 months at a time, the same time frame allotted by Mr. Smith’s proposal.

Stepped-up lobbying by farm groups on the issue amounts to a frank admission about their dependence on a foreign-born work force—whether legal or not. Their argument is that most American …

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11th Circuit says individual mandate is unconstitutional (4th update)

UPDATE at 5:10 p.m.: Rather than tackling the severability issue in this post, I’ve put up a separate item about it.

UPDATE at 3:35 p.m.: Here’s a joint statement about the ruling from Gov. Nathan Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens:

We applaud today’s ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit striking down the individual mandate as ‘a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority.’ Today’s ruling recognizes the core principles of our federalist system and reminds an over-reaching federal government that the Constitution applies to it, too.

We do not, however, agree with all findings in the decision. Unlike the 11th Circuit, we believe that the Obama administration should be taken at its word that the individual mandate is crucial to the whole bill, and that the whole bill should be struck down. But this much is certain: Federal healthcare reform is on life support, and this case will be decided by the Supreme Court of …

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If liberals agree to balance the budget, what will they give up?

The next substantive move in the nation’s debt-and-deficits debate is up to liberals. But they’re not going to like it.

That’s because they’ll have to stop pretending they can be all things to all people, and decide which parts of their National Greatness Liberalism vision to give up.

This has more to do with math than politics. But it helps that politics has brought the math into focus.

By rights, House Republicans should not have been able to dictate the terms of the debt-ceiling deal the way they did. If Newt Gingrich couldn’t govern the country from Capitol Hill in 1995, John Boehner shouldn’t have been able to do it from one side of the hill in 2011.

He managed it not due to tea-party terrorism, but because even Democrats must know most of the public finds it silly to decry $1 of cuts in a decade for $1 of new debt in 18 months. There is a limit after all.

Determining what that limit is, and what fits under it, are the next big questions. What’s the limit? Let’s return to …

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The national debt: A civil war every week and a half

From Power Line, something to ponder as you read more about Washington’s deal to borrow more money now in exchange for increasing spending slightly less quickly in the future:

The best estimate of the expenditures made by the federal government to wage [the Civil War], expressed in 1860 dollars is $1,805,597,000. Expressed in 2010 dollars, this amount is 27.1 times as large: that is, $48,931,678,700. The public debt of the United States of America increased, in 2010, by this amount every ten and a half days. Consequently, the United States of America adds to its public debt the equivalent of the expenditures for fighting the Civil War 35 times every year.

That’s a red-ink badge of…well, not courage.

No wonder debates about the debt are so contentious. But do you still think the people who were pushing for steeper cuts, and not the ones who wanted to block them, are the “extremists”?

– By Kyle Wingfield

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After the debt ceiling, what comes next?

Let’s assume for now that the House and Senate will pass the debt-ceiling deal brokered by their respective leaders. What happens next?

In the context of the debt deal, a joint committee will get to work on the $1.5 trillion in further deficit reductions envisioned in the deal. The expectation here is that entitlement reform and tax reform will be tried first. Both were on the table during the debt-ceiling negotiations. But it was probably unrealistic to expect a resolution on either — much less both — during such a relatively short time frame, especially with such a hard deadline (by congressional standards, anyway).

Because Republicans are likely to demand entitlement reform in exchange for the tax reform Democrats want, and vice versa, it may be that both need to happen at the same time. Can the committee members agree on such a plan by their deadline of Nov. 23? We’ll see.

In the meantime, Washington’s 2012 fiscal year begins two months from today. I don’t think there’s …

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Debt-ceiling deal: An incremental but indisputable win for GOP

The details are still rolling in, and probably will be for the better part of Monday. But based on what we know now, House Republicans drove the harder bargain on the debt-ceiling deal. (See the White House’s talking points here and Speaker John Boehner’s, via Hot Air, here — and note right off the bat a discrepancy in how they’re describing the stages in which the ceiling will rise.)

There was a lot of hand-wringing over the past couple of weeks that the federal government might default. For the most part, I think it was overblown. And that’s not just because a failure to reach a deal probably would have resulted in something more akin to a partial government shutdown than an actual default. I just don’t think there were enough members of Congress prepared to take the chance of finding out exactly how that result would have played out. (Here, a knock-on-wood acknowledgment the House and Senate rank and file still have to ratify this deal struck by their leaders.) Nor do I …

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On debt crisis, the rating agencies show up late — again

At the risk of establishing a precedent for fortnightly references to Robert Reich, I was intrigued by another piece the former labor secretary wrote for the Huffington Post. But unlike last time, I actually agree with much of what Reich says about the credit-rating agencies, the financial collapse and the current national-debt crisis.

In particular, Reich blasts Standard & Poor’s, which is warning it may downgrade Washington’s credit rating if Congress and the White House can’t agree to $4 trillion in deficit reduction:

Who is Standard & Poor’s to tell America how much debt it has to shed in order to keep its credit rating?

Standard & Poor’s didn’t exactly distinguish itself prior to Wall Street’s financial meltdown in 2007. Until the eve of the collapse it gave triple-A ratings to some of the Street’s riskiest packages of mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations.

Standard & Poor’s (along with Moody’s and Fitch) bear much of the responsibility for what …

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Debt limit: Obama stands alone as Reid crafts cuts-only plan

There are a lot of reports out there about what’s happening with the debt-ceiling negotiations:

  • This report, if true –that Speaker John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid agreed to a two-stage plan which Reid took to the White House, only to have President Obama reject it — reflects poorly on Obama.
  • Reid is now working on his own plan to raise the debt ceiling by $2.7 trillion (has anyone else noticed the figure has gone from $2 trillion to $2.4 trillion to now $2.7 trillion?) and cut spending by a commensurate amount, with no tax increases.
  • It seems the chief result of the “Gang of Six” plan, so far, is to embolden Obama to increase by half what he wants in higher taxes.

It appears Obama is now the lone holdout at this point on two key elements of a deal: whether taxes have to rise, and whether a two-step process is acceptable.

Reid, by deciding to work on an all-spending-cuts-no-tax-hikes plan, is essentially — ahem — …

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