Weekly Audit: Wolf in Sheep's Clothing--The Myth of Fiscal Conservatism

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Fashionable pundits like to say that the Republican Party has shifted its focus from “social conservatism” (e.g., banning abortion, shoving gays back in the closet, teaching school children that humans and dinosaurs once walked the earth hand-in-claw) to fiscal conservatism (e.g., tax cuts for the rich, slashing social programs). But is that really true? Tim Murphy ofMother Jones argues that the old culture war issues never really went away. Rather, the Republicans have simply rephrased their social agenda in fiscal terms.

For example, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) is quite upfront about the fact that he hates Planned Parenthood because the group is the nation’s leading abortion provider. Yet, he seeks to de-fund the Planned Parenthood and the entire Title X Family Planning Program in the name of balancing the budget. Never mind that the federal money only goes toward birth control, not abortion, and research shows that every dollar spent on birth control saves $4 in Medicaid costs alone.

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly surveys the current crop of GOP presidential hopefuls in Iowa and agrees that reports of the death of the culture war have been greatly exaggerated.

But the key takeaway here is that fiscal issues have largely been relegated to afterthought status. That’s just not what these right-wing activists — the ones who’ll largely dictate the outcome of the caucuses — are focused on. Indeed, even Ron Paul, after pandering to a home-school crowd last week, conceded, “I haven’t been asked too much about fiscal issues.”

Budget cuts

Sarah Babbage writes in TAPPED that Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress seem poised to grant an additional $20 billion in spending cuts for FY 2011, in addition to the $10 billion in cuts they’ve already pledged for this fiscal year. Babbage notes that, after weeks of negotiations, we’re right back to the $30 billion in cuts the GOP initially demanded. She warns that these cuts will have a trivial impact on the $1.6 trillion deficit, but they could have a devastating effect on the fragile economy.

Taxes for thee, but not GE

General Electric raked in $14.2 billion in profits last year, $5.1 billion of which came from the United States, yet the company paid $0 in U.S. income tax, Tara Lohan notes in AlterNet. Despite its healthy bottom line, and its sweet tax situation, GE is asking 15,000 unionized U.S. workers to make major concessions at the bargaining table. GE wants union members to give up defined benefit pension programs in exchange for defined contribution programs.

As we discussed last week in The Audit, defined benefit plans guarantee that a retiree will get a set percentage of her working salary for the rest of her life; defined contribution plans pay the worker a share of the revenue from a pool of investments. As the fine print always says, investments can decrease in value. So, if the stock market crashes the day before you retire, you’re out of luck.

Generation Debt

Higher education is supposed to be a stepping stone to a better standard of living, but with unemployment hovering around 10%, many college graduates are struggling to find jobs to pay their student loans. Aliya Karim argues in Campus Progress that the government should compel colleges and universities to be more transparent about the realities of student loan debt:

The government should require colleges to provide information about graduation rates, college costs, and financial aid packages on college websites, enrollment forms, and guidebooks. This information should be easy to find and understand. Without such information available to them, students may not be aware that their future college has a graduation rate lower than 20 percent or that its graduates face close to $30,000 in debt.

The government has a lot of leverage over public and private schools because so much student debt is guaranteed by taxpayers. Greater transparency will enable students to make more informed choices, and give colleges with low graduation rates a greater incentive to clean up their act.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy bymembers of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The MulchThe Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Krauthammer: Obama Has Republicans Right Where He Wants Them

Pundit and perpetually dour Travelocity Gnome Charles Krauthammer, took to his token WaPo seat today to inform the world that the Compromiser-in-Chief really hornswoggled those waskly Republiwabbits with his captiulation compromise on the Bush tax cuts. A plan so clever that Obama, Democrats, and apparently judging by their reactions, Republicans too, are just too dim to see.

Yup Chuck, that wiley old Kenyan socialist has ‘em right where he wants ‘em now!

According to the Great and Glorious Oz-Hammer, Obama tricked Republicans into what the Wall St. Journal calls, “a second, stealth stimulus package” worth a $1 trillion by agreeing to tax cuts for all and extra money for those not lucky enough to be unemployed corporate titans.

Psst…don’t tell anyone that many economists see the tax cuts for the wealthy as making up the lion’s share of the trillion and providing the least stimulus – unless by stimulus you mean stimulus for yacht and corporate jet makers.

Oh wait! The wealthy already get private jet service as part of their measly compensation packages. Silly me!

Alienating Voters for Fun and Profit
Obama gave up his objection to tax cuts for the rich – before negotiations even started – in exchange for tax cuts for everyone and unemployment money the Republicans didn’t care a whit about anyway – except to the extent that the have nots would’ve been momentarily pissed if they got nothing.

Now here’s the genius of Barack Machiavelli’s plan. Give the Republicans what they really want (tax cuts for the rich) in exchange for letting them off the hook for their most outrageous and politically embarrassing proposals (no middle class cuts and unemployment continuation).

Then, kick the can down the road so that Republicans will be in power and more easily able to strip the tax cuts down to only those for the More Money Than God tax bracket while pummeling Obama with accusations that those budget-busting middle class tax cuts and extended unemployment benefits just ruined the economy. Ruined I say!

If the Republicans gave a crap about their constituents – other than their corporate donors I mean – the unemployment extension shouldn’t have needed to be negotiated. It was a worthless bargaining chip as far as the Republicans were concerned, “Let the little people have their crumbs. Pass the $5,000 per ounce caviar Mr. Halliburton.”

As for middle class taxpayers it’s not such a ‘victory’ either. The deal could raise taxes for 1-in-3 workers. And as usual, the working poor get bupkis. The Obamicans giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other.

Lighting $100 Cigars with $100 Bills
The Bush tax cuts were passed during the period of the inflating bubble. The corporate titans could light $100 cigars with $100 bills worth $200. Middle class folks could buy homes well-beyond their means with money loaned by banks engaged in the world’s largest 3-card monty game. Most everybody, except those losing their jobs to offshoring, was working. And, we were flush enough to finance two wars – creating much of the deficit Obama inherited – “off the budget books”.

There’s an old fable that makes too much sense to possibly be true. To balance a budget you have to have more coming in than you have going out. But when your economy is built with all the stability of a Jenga game on quicksand you won’t be able to do it quickly. The economy took a long time to get so thoroughly and royally hosed.

It’ll take sacrifice and austerity by EVERYONE – yes Robber Barons and your super-citizen corporations, this means you. It also means middle class folks who won’t like to bite the bullet, but guano happens. The poor aren’t generally paying taxes anyway because the tax on zero is, oddly enough, zero.

The truly fiscally responsible way would’ve been to give no tax cuts to anyone. The rich and middle class are where the money is and are best equipped to weather the storm, even if income disparity is as equal as an elephant on the other side of a scale from a squirrel. Not a popular solution, but everyone suffers equally, if not proportionately, and the treasury is that much closer to getting more coming in than going out.

As for the extension of unemployment benefits, pass them independent of any deals. The politicians have shafted these people quite enough already, giving them a break is the least they could do. At least that money will be spent on something useful, like keeping a roof over the unemployed’s heads and food on the table. It’ll cost a little, but not as much as the cuts.

Rich folks, and those who ride their ample coattails, I know it’s tough to forgo that yacht the size of an aircraft carrier, but come on. Dig deep. Get the holiday Christmas spirit. Middle classers, you’ll have to suck it up as you always do. That sucks, but it is the way of capitalism – greed always wins.

The Republicans don’t give a damn what the electorate thinks of them. The Democrats are more disorganized than a herd of feral cats. And Barack…poor, poor Barack…got his feelings hurt because he’s become mono-partisan – that special state of grace where everyone – left, right, and center – thinks you’re an incompetent boob.

No more negotiating. No one ever negotiates anything that’s good for the country and it just depresses the hell out of the rest of us.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

Krauthammer: Obama Has Republicans Right Where He Wants Them

Pundit and perpetually dour Travelocity Gnome Charles Krauthammer, took to his token WaPo seat today to inform the world that the Compromiser-in-Chief really hornswoggled those waskly Republiwabbits with his captiulation compromise on the Bush tax cuts. A plan so clever that Obama, Democrats, and apparently judging by their reactions, Republicans too, are just too dim to see.

Yup Chuck, that wiley old Kenyan socialist has ‘em right where he wants ‘em now!

According to the Great and Glorious Oz-Hammer, Obama tricked Republicans into what the Wall St. Journal calls, “a second, stealth stimulus package” worth a $1 trillion by agreeing to tax cuts for all and extra money for those not lucky enough to be unemployed corporate titans.

Psst…don’t tell anyone that many economists see the tax cuts for the wealthy as making up the lion’s share of the trillion and providing the least stimulus – unless by stimulus you mean stimulus for yacht and corporate jet makers.

Oh wait! The wealthy already get private jet service as part of their measly compensation packages. Silly me!

Alienating Voters for Fun and Profit
Obama gave up his objection to tax cuts for the rich – before negotiations even started – in exchange for tax cuts for everyone and unemployment money the Republicans didn’t care a whit about anyway – except to the extent that the have nots would’ve been momentarily pissed if they got nothing.

Now here’s the genius of Barack Machiavelli’s plan. Give the Republicans what they really want (tax cuts for the rich) in exchange for letting them off the hook for their most outrageous and politically embarrassing proposals (no middle class cuts and unemployment continuation).

Then, kick the can down the road so that Republicans will be in power and more easily able to strip the tax cuts down to only those for the More Money Than God tax bracket while pummeling Obama with accusations that those budget-busting middle class tax cuts and extended unemployment benefits just ruined the economy. Ruined I say!

If the Republicans gave a crap about their constituents – other than their corporate donors I mean – the unemployment extension shouldn’t have needed to be negotiated. It was a worthless bargaining chip as far as the Republicans were concerned, “Let the little people have their crumbs. Pass the $5,000 per ounce caviar Mr. Halliburton.”

As for middle class taxpayers it’s not such a ‘victory’ either. The deal could raise taxes for 1-in-3 workers. And as usual, the working poor get bupkis. The Obamicans giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other.

Lighting $100 Cigars with $100 Bills
The Bush tax cuts were passed during the period of the inflating bubble. The corporate titans could light $100 cigars with $100 bills worth $200. Middle class folks could buy homes well-beyond their means with money loaned by banks engaged in the world’s largest 3-card monty game. Most everybody, except those losing their jobs to offshoring, was working. And, we were flush enough to finance two wars – creating much of the deficit Obama inherited – “off the budget books”.

There’s an old fable that makes too much sense to possibly be true. To balance a budget you have to have more coming in than you have going out. But when your economy is built with all the stability of a Jenga game on quicksand you won’t be able to do it quickly. The economy took a long time to get so thoroughly and royally hosed.

It’ll take sacrifice and austerity by EVERYONE – yes Robber Barons and your super-citizen corporations, this means you. It also means middle class folks who won’t like to bite the bullet, but guano happens. The poor aren’t generally paying taxes anyway because the tax on zero is, oddly enough, zero.

The truly fiscally responsible way would’ve been to give no tax cuts to anyone. The rich and middle class are where the money is and are best equipped to weather the storm, even if income disparity is as equal as an elephant on the other side of a scale from a squirrel. Not a popular solution, but everyone suffers equally, if not proportionately, and the treasury is that much closer to getting more coming in than going out.

As for the extension of unemployment benefits, pass them independent of any deals. The politicians have shafted these people quite enough already, giving them a break is the least they could do. At least that money will be spent on something useful, like keeping a roof over the unemployed’s heads and food on the table. It’ll cost a little, but not as much as the cuts.

Rich folks, and those who ride their ample coattails, I know it’s tough to forgo that yacht the size of an aircraft carrier, but come on. Dig deep. Get the holiday Christmas spirit. Middle classers, you’ll have to suck it up as you always do. That sucks, but it is the way of capitalism – greed always wins.

The Republicans don’t give a damn what the electorate thinks of them. The Democrats are more disorganized than a herd of feral cats. And Barack…poor, poor Barack…got his feelings hurt because he’s become mono-partisan – that special state of grace where everyone – left, right, and center – thinks you’re an incompetent boob.

No more negotiating. No one ever negotiates anything that’s good for the country and it just depresses the hell out of the rest of us.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

Krauthammer: Obama Has Republicans Right Where He Wants Them

Pundit and perpetually dour Travelocity Gnome Charles Krauthammer, took to his token WaPo seat today to inform the world that the Compromiser-in-Chief really hornswoggled those waskly Republiwabbits with his captiulation compromise on the Bush tax cuts. A plan so clever that Obama, Democrats, and apparently judging by their reactions, Republicans too, are just too dim to see.

Yup Chuck, that wiley old Kenyan socialist has ‘em right where he wants ‘em now!

According to the Great and Glorious Oz-Hammer, Obama tricked Republicans into what the Wall St. Journal calls, “a second, stealth stimulus package” worth a $1 trillion by agreeing to tax cuts for all and extra money for those not lucky enough to be unemployed corporate titans.

Psst…don’t tell anyone that many economists see the tax cuts for the wealthy as making up the lion’s share of the trillion and providing the least stimulus – unless by stimulus you mean stimulus for yacht and corporate jet makers.

Oh wait! The wealthy already get private jet service as part of their measly compensation packages. Silly me!

Alienating Voters for Fun and Profit
Obama gave up his objection to tax cuts for the rich – before negotiations even started – in exchange for tax cuts for everyone and unemployment money the Republicans didn’t care a whit about anyway – except to the extent that the have nots would’ve been momentarily pissed if they got nothing.

Now here’s the genius of Barack Machiavelli’s plan. Give the Republicans what they really want (tax cuts for the rich) in exchange for letting them off the hook for their most outrageous and politically embarrassing proposals (no middle class cuts and unemployment continuation).

Then, kick the can down the road so that Republicans will be in power and more easily able to strip the tax cuts down to only those for the More Money Than God tax bracket while pummeling Obama with accusations that those budget-busting middle class tax cuts and extended unemployment benefits just ruined the economy. Ruined I say!

If the Republicans gave a crap about their constituents – other than their corporate donors I mean – the unemployment extension shouldn’t have needed to be negotiated. It was a worthless bargaining chip as far as the Republicans were concerned, “Let the little people have their crumbs. Pass the $5,000 per ounce caviar Mr. Halliburton.”

As for middle class taxpayers it’s not such a ‘victory’ either. The deal could raise taxes for 1-in-3 workers. And as usual, the working poor get bupkis. The Obamicans giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other.

Lighting $100 Cigars with $100 Bills
The Bush tax cuts were passed during the period of the inflating bubble. The corporate titans could light $100 cigars with $100 bills worth $200. Middle class folks could buy homes well-beyond their means with money loaned by banks engaged in the world’s largest 3-card monty game. Most everybody, except those losing their jobs to offshoring, was working. And, we were flush enough to finance two wars – creating much of the deficit Obama inherited – “off the budget books”.

There’s an old fable that makes too much sense to possibly be true. To balance a budget you have to have more coming in than you have going out. But when your economy is built with all the stability of a Jenga game on quicksand you won’t be able to do it quickly. The economy took a long time to get so thoroughly and royally hosed.

It’ll take sacrifice and austerity by EVERYONE – yes Robber Barons and your super-citizen corporations, this means you. It also means middle class folks who won’t like to bite the bullet, but guano happens. The poor aren’t generally paying taxes anyway because the tax on zero is, oddly enough, zero.

The truly fiscally responsible way would’ve been to give no tax cuts to anyone. The rich and middle class are where the money is and are best equipped to weather the storm, even if income disparity is as equal as an elephant on the other side of a scale from a squirrel. Not a popular solution, but everyone suffers equally, if not proportionately, and the treasury is that much closer to getting more coming in than going out.

As for the extension of unemployment benefits, pass them independent of any deals. The politicians have shafted these people quite enough already, giving them a break is the least they could do. At least that money will be spent on something useful, like keeping a roof over the unemployed’s heads and food on the table. It’ll cost a little, but not as much as the cuts.

Rich folks, and those who ride their ample coattails, I know it’s tough to forgo that yacht the size of an aircraft carrier, but come on. Dig deep. Get the holiday Christmas spirit. Middle classers, you’ll have to suck it up as you always do. That sucks, but it is the way of capitalism – greed always wins.

The Republicans don’t give a damn what the electorate thinks of them. The Democrats are more disorganized than a herd of feral cats. And Barack…poor, poor Barack…got his feelings hurt because he’s become mono-partisan – that special state of grace where everyone – left, right, and center – thinks you’re an incompetent boob.

No more negotiating. No one ever negotiates anything that’s good for the country and it just depresses the hell out of the rest of us.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

Tax Cuts: why are average Americans so "blind?"

While I will always believe that the legacy of the Bush Administration has truly destroyed American democracy through their addition of far right-wing Supreme Court Justices Roberts and Alito. Moreover, their right-wing jilted Citizens' United decision has allowed -- and will continue to allow -- far more Republicans to have gained offices in November's past election than should have gained office.

Notwithstanding, it continues to "boggle my mind" how the average American continues to be blind to the Republican Party's consistent neglect and contempt of their needs on the Congress floor in exchange for always voting in favor of the wealthy. This was evident this past summer when ever Republican senator voted against extending unemployment benefits for the hard-working American who lost their job(Olympia Snow may have been the lone exception).

Yes, I would have loved to see tax breaks die for the wealthiest Americans, but I realize the Republican Party ALWAYS chooses party over country, and it may have not been possible.

What would have been really, really nice during Obama's first year in office when he had both Senate (non-filibuster) and House majorities was for him to have brought back the Fairness Doctrine for media. He could have shut-up those big mouths at Fox News and AM radio for good. I really don't know why he didn't do it.

 

 

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