Reluctance on the Democratic side of the deficit talks

Much has appeared in this space about conservative reaction to U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ participation in the Gang of Six effort to reach a bipartisan deal on the federal deficit.

Certain parties in Georgia have accused him of going “wobbly.”

But it’s worth noting that Chambliss’ counterpart has received similar criticism from his end of the political spectrum. ABC News today posted the interview below with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the majority whip and lead Democratic negotiator.

(ABC says the rather distracting clip is part of its “subway” series of interviews conducted on the underground trams that go back and forth between the U.S. Capitol and Senate office buildings. The technique is perhaps intended to mimic real-life Washington – constant back-and-forth, but no actual progress.)

For one thing, Durbin warns his fellow Democrats away from a resolution backed by Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., which vows opposition to any cuts to Social Security.

“I think Bernie’s gone too far with his language,” Durbin said.

And on the topic of reduced federal spending, the Illinois senator says the American left — like the American right, maybe? — is coming to grips with the situation:

“Many of my friends are…going through the stages of grief. Denial, anger, frustration, sadness, resignation. They’re going through those stages because they understand that borrowing 40 cents for every dollar you spend, whether it’s on a missile or food stamps, is just unsustainable.”

***
On somewhat the same topic, Ezra Klein at the Washington Post has a frightening take on the S&P downgrading that includes this:

[T]his is where things get dangerous. Republicans and Democrats both bear substantial blame for the country’s rising deficits. The Bush tax cuts and the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit and our various wars — none of which have been paid for, and all of which are ongoing — are major contributors to our mounting debt, and all were passed by Republican majorities.

The debt ceiling had to be raised seven times during the Bush years, and the policies that helped drive those increases — not to mention the financial crisis that followed them — have not been undone under Obama.

But the GOP wants to pin the debt on the Democrats, and it wants major concessions in return for its vote. Democrats, however, aren’t going to agree to the GOP’s plan to deny partial responsibility for the country’s debt and hold the country’s credit rating hostage in order to reshape the government along more conservative lines. Fear over exactly this sort of political gridlock is what led Standard Poor’s to downgrade the nation’s credit outlook to “negative” Monday.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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27 comments Add your comment

Centrist

April 19th, 2011
2:24 pm

Quoting a liberal Democrat like Ezra Klein and a moderate Democrat like Dick Durbin is not even close to balanced. It is partisan stuff like this that makes reaching the middle ground so hard.

the original and still the best John Galt

April 19th, 2011
2:27 pm

When both the Demopublicans and the Republicrats talk about reducing the Federal budget by 50 percent, bringing the troops home from overseas, cutting their own salaries, going back on the gold standard, and more, we will know they are serious about straightening out this country’s fiscal problems. So far they are giving us nothing but smoke and mirrors.

Jim S.

April 19th, 2011
2:31 pm

I think there is hope for progress on these issues. Both sides need to be realistic about the sustainability of the course we have set. The republicans need to quit insisting that tax cuts on the top bracket are the answer and democrats need to stop insisting that every entitlement must be maintained in its current, or even, expanded form. Durbin seems pretty level headed; I’ll refrain from comment on Chambliss, in the interest of remaining constructive;-)

Douglas

April 19th, 2011
2:50 pm

(ABC says the rather distracting clip is part of its “subway” series of interviews conducted on the trams that go back and forth between the U.S. Capitol and Senate office buildings. The technique is perhaps intended to mimic real-life Washington – constant back-and-forth, but no actual progress.)

Jim, that has got to be the funniest and most apt thing anyone has said about Washington in a loooong time. That is definately a keeper.

Centrist

April 19th, 2011
2:53 pm

45% of all households do not pay taxes, and for the first time since the Great Depression, households are receiving more income from the government than they are paying the government in taxes. Internal Revenue Service data show that the income of people who were in the lowest income tax bracket in 1996 rose by 91 percent by 2005. But people in the “top one percent” had their incomes drop by 26 percent in those same years.

Tremendous deficits abound. The poor are better off in the U.S. than most places on earth, but that is not likely to be the case when the house of cards falls. This is not likely to end well.

http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2011/04/18/Budget-Deficit-Government-Handouts-Top-Tax-Income.aspx

A consumption tax would reach the huge untaxed underground ecoomy: Here are just a few off the top of my head: Here are just a few off the top of my head: small businesses like restaurants and bars, tips, rents, drug dealers, fenced stolen property, home/boat/auto repair, maids/nannies, lawn services, and most illegal alien income.

There IS a middle ground for a road to fix our economic mess, but little political middle ground.

Last Man Standing

April 19th, 2011
2:55 pm

the original and still the best John Galt:

“going back on the gold standard”

I definitely don’t see that happening, not with the printing presses printing currency as fast as they possibly can. I don’t see much of the rest of it happening, either. From all indications, Hussein is intent on using quantatative easing, even though the very few times it has been used it has produced questionable results. Unless and until the House of Representatives legislatively forces a 180 degree turn in spending by forcing the necessary cuts, there will be no turnaround in the economy.

Jim S.

April 19th, 2011
3:12 pm

‘Centrist’,

As you point out, income tax is not the only source of revenue for our various levels of government, so the point about the percentage who pay income tax, while important, is diminished somewhat by the fact that people pay all kinds of consumption taxes, fees, property taxes (and the rent to cover the owner’s payment of those taxes), etc. I believe we should have shared sacrifice, however, I believe we have to balance the books (more than that actually to pay the debt). Shifting to a straight consumption tax (which clearly discourages purchasing; the ugly truth being that we are a consumer driven econonmy) would almost certainly have a negative impact on revenue, at minimum, in the short term. This is problematic for a society that owes so much. Paying a sales tax would make my life a lot easier, but I am not convinced it will ultimately work…unless, of course your goal is to ’starve’ the government of resources. A debate for another day, I suppose.

TrishaDishaWarEagle

April 19th, 2011
3:14 pm

@LMS and TOASTBJG

“… our terms are a moral code which holds that man is an end in himself and not the means to any end of others … ”

The liberals will never give up their dystopian desires for collective thought/action/economic distribution, thus I see NO way, nor ANY reason, to compromise with the vile creatures. Durbin , Chambliss, six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Booger Fling

April 19th, 2011
3:34 pm

@ Centrist
Seriously? A consumption tax is a tax increase to everyone except the rich. They get a cut. Stop listening to your masters and think for yourself.
Example:
A rich guy and a middle class guy go to the grocery store and buy the same groceries for a total of $100.00. This is a weeks worth of groceries. For the week, the rich guy got paid say, $4,000 and the middle guy got paid $400. They are both taxed the same amount… Who has the greater tax burdon?
The only “fair” tax is a flat tax on income. If you make a dollar you
pay a percentage of that dollar to taxes. Only “fair” way to do it.

Centrist

April 19th, 2011
3:35 pm

@ Jim S – most of those other taxes are at the local level where budgets are balanced.

While I agree that consumption taxes would certainly reduce some consumption, the fact is that the base would be more than doubled (45% of household don’t pay income taxes, and there is a HUGE untaxed underground economy). The super rich have so many loopholes, trusts, and lower capital gains to avoid income taxes – no tax rebates on yachts, multiple mansions, airplanes, cars, etc. Tax revenue would certainly increase, and cheaters/avoiders would be included.

Centrist

April 19th, 2011
3:40 pm

@ Booger Fling (disgusting) – Exempting necessities like basic groceries, electricity, and water from a consumption tax would make such a tax progressive in nature. The “Fair Tax” actually has a prebate transfer payment for the poor – but would be a nightmare to police. See above about how the super-rich would be taxed instead of using loopholes, trusts, and capital gains most others can’t use.

Booger Fling

April 19th, 2011
4:01 pm

Why go through the trouble? Flat tax across the board on what you make. No loopholes involved in this system because no one will be filling taxes at the end of the year. That way the rich will finally pay their share and the rest of us might finally see some relief. Then again, this is America and who knows what schemes are being conjured.

AngryVoter

April 19th, 2011
4:43 pm

Hey Jim, here’s an idea. Write about the budget/debt issue without framing it in terms of Republican vs. Democrat? How about presenting the story as follows: “Two Senators are working towards brokering an agreement. Here are the issues. Here are the reasons other oppose what the two Senators are trying to do.”

Presenting two sides implies there are “right” or “wrong” sides and that people need to choose one or the other. It seems that lazy reporters and columnists who either cannot or don’t want to take the time to describe might want to present the schoolyard argument, but why not take the high road and write about issues and answers. Most of us don’t care if the Reps or Dems “win” but want good common sense answers to our present problems. Reporters and columnists who pander to the parties and are partisan in presenting stories bring nothing to the table.

Why not start concentrating on issues and possible solutions and stop having to parse everything into Rep or Dem side? Try writing for a couple days without using the party names, describing the issues and alternatives, and you’ll likely be amazed at how much better and better received your articles become. I know that’s how the politicians frame things in Washington, but why not take the high road and call both parties on the carpet for this childish behavior, rather than play into it?

the original and still the best John Galt

April 19th, 2011
4:52 pm

Last Man Standing, Trisha, and others:

I don’t see any of that happening, either. This current crop of little men in Congress, coupled with The Messiah Barak the Chosen One, are never going to do what’s right for the country, as opposed to feathering their own nests. We can look for the currency printing presses to be turned into ever higher production until the U.S. dollar is worth zippo, then we can look for the Messiah backed up by the little men to try to crack down totalitarian style to quell the riots.

Last Man Standing

April 19th, 2011
4:53 pm

TDWE:

” I see NO way, nor ANY reason, to compromise with the vile creatures. Durbin , Chambliss, six of one, half a dozen of the other.”

You’re correct, as usual. There can be no compromise on this if we, as a nation, are to survive. I listened to Limbaugh today, and he had an excellent idea. In Hussein’s speech yesterday to a college group, he spoke of “shared responsibility” and stated that we could spend no more than we took in (in taxes). Congress now needs to prepare a budget meeting that criteria and give Hussein the credit for it!

Last Man Standing

April 19th, 2011
4:55 pm

the original and still the best John Galt:

Your analysis is accurate. That is exactly what I anticipate.

TrishaDishaWarEagle

April 19th, 2011
5:10 pm

@LMS excellent Idea!!! The only thing stopping it is the republican leadership, afraid that they will be unwelcome at the lobbyists fundraising trough, and losing the power they wield thru the economic extortion of the current budgeting process….ain’t that the b*tch of it!

Eli

April 19th, 2011
5:10 pm

ah…did somebody complain about my comment? Too bad.

You guys know that Atlas Shrugged and John Galt are fake, right? Nothing about that fictional story is true. It is all made up.

TrishaDishaWarEagle

April 19th, 2011
5:11 pm

BTW I say the problem is the republican leadership, because I utterly discount the idea that democrats are ever EVER going to be a party to budget cutting of actual substance.

Eli

April 19th, 2011
5:38 pm

Trisha, remember the attempt to repeal the Bush Tax cuts in December? That was a ten year $4.5trillion budget cut proposal.

td

April 19th, 2011
5:50 pm

Eli

April 19th, 2011
5:38 pm
Trisha, remember the attempt to repeal the Bush Tax cuts in December? That was a ten year $4.5trillion budget cut proposal.

A repeal of a tax cut would mean that it was the governments money to start with. This was a straight attempt for a tax hike. BTW: It was not just a tax hike on the “rich” but it would have also hurt me (and I am far from rich) and probably most posters on hear. If you have a IRA, 401K or a retirement account your long term capital gains in the plan would have increased from 15% to 30%. This would have meant you would have had less money in gains after you paid the taxes.

TrishaDishaWarEagle

April 19th, 2011
6:03 pm

Substantive SPENDING cuts

TrishaDishaWarEagle

April 19th, 2011
6:06 pm

Government needs to have LESS reach, LESS say in our lives, DO less with LESS revenue ..the government has plenty of revenue. Federal government revenue has TRIPLED since 1965..$2.15 TRILLION ‘fing dollars..If you can’t do what you want to do with $2.15 Trillion dollars, it does not need doing!!!!

TrishaDishaWarEagle

April 19th, 2011
6:08 pm

Yes, You will have less services, yes you will have to plan retirement on your own for the most part (the smart do already). Yes you will have more responsibility for your own life (food , shelter, medical)..Yes this is the way it needs to be and, economically, will be..one way(thru orderly cuts and goverment cuts), or the other(economic collapse).

MDX

April 19th, 2011
9:54 pm

The Dems, starting in the White House, don’t wan’t to cut anything. Their answer is just keep raisung taxes to pay for more deficits. Long as the federal government has the ability to print money nothing much is going to get done.

Most of the experts say it’ll never happen, but I believe the government will eventually have to abrogate at least some of the federal debt to get us out of this mess.

Anger management

April 20th, 2011
8:15 am

Durbin and Chambliss want to forge a concensus. We are assured that’s what a responsible politicians do. But watch how Chambliss will not allow significant cuts to our bloated military budget and Durbin will cave-in to requests by Chambliss to cut social programs.

Senator Bernie Sanders is correct, we should not allow this budget issue to derail our social safety net. What Durbin, Chambliss and Obama seem to be forgetting is that if they had correctly addressed the jobs crisis back in 2009, we wouldn’t have this current budget crisis. This jobs crisis persists, it has to be addressed. We need more jobs programs!

Also, someone has to inform Chambliss that corporations and the wealthy are currently paying a lower actual tax rate than at any other time in the past 100 years. If low taxes generated jobs, we wouldn’t have 10% unemployment. Trickle-down is a fraud and by extension so are its proponents.