Category Archives: the fiscal cliff

The Keystone

 
 
I sincerely wish that going forward we didn’t need to use fossil fuels ever again but that is not the case. We aren’t done with coal, gas, or oil quite yet. It is also essential that we keep trying to set America free from reliance on foreign energy resources, especially oil, because needing to keep other countries happy to insure our oil supply gives them leverage and it gives these same countries potential power to control our response to world events. Also, it is possible that we can use the pipeline as a bargaining chip to help keep the Republicans from insisting on cuts to “entitlements” before they will allow tax rates to go up.

We must accept, however, that we are walking a dangerous line between environmental catastrophes and our energy needs and this dilemma is becoming more and more obvious. Most of us accept that the climate changes we are seeing like the melting ice caps and the rising sea levels and the severe storms can be linked to burning fossil fuels and the levels of CO2emissions produced by that chemical process. Using combustion to produce mechanical energy will not work well for us for much longer unless we create domes to live under and move well away from coastlines.

 

Unfortunately we don’t have a great new source of energy waiting in the wings that will provide enough power to meet our energy needs. We have our little collection of problematic alternative energy sources:  solar, wind, nuclear, maybe some thermal – each with pluses and minuses. Right now there are more minuses than pluses.

This is why I say we should go ahead with the Keystone Pipeline. I am not really in favor of the pipeline, but I believe they have agreed to change the route so that it doesn’t cut across Nebraska’s fresh water aquifer. It’s practically a done deal and a pipeline is not as bad a risk for our fresh water as drilling offshore or fracturing shale. Sad to say, unless something comes along, we will probably end up doing those also, but let’s wait until we’re desperate. Let’s also keep pushing for the toughest rules we can possibly get to force the energy industry to protect our fresh water (and even our oceans) and to keep CO2 emissions as low as possible.

 

Fear-mongering

Every time the President asks Congress to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, John Boehner says no, offers up some of the deductions that currently lower taxes for wealthier Americans, and then drops the “entitlements” bomb. Not only will he not give the President what he wants but he demands that the President sweeten the non-deal with cuts to “entitlements”. Is John Boehner high? Has he been to that other Washington, the state, recently? Americans understand that we do not need to cut “entitlements” before December 31st. Cuts to “entitlements” do not have to be a part of fiscal cliff negotiations. The Republicans are just addicted to fear-mongering. They want the American people to blink first. Even if entitlements must be reformed, which a healthy economy might render unnecessary, we can wait until next year to do it.

Congress must stop believing that raising the age when “entitlements” become available is the answer to reform. This is just a quick and dirty approach which pays no attention to the realities of when people are actually “forced” to stop working. Unless employers find that they can keep older adults in the work force until they are 67, raising the age of eligibility for retirement benefits will create a coverage gap that will swallow up many hard-working people. The approaches that look at cutting costs and broadening the base of contributors along with means testing look much more promising.

Decide what to do about the Bush era tax cuts and raise the debt ceiling before the end of December. Finish the rest of this in the new year.

 

What Will Your Legacy Be, GOP?

I am addressing this to the Republicans who, I guess, honestly believe that they have the answers when it comes to the economy, or they believe they must honor a pledge they made, or they believe that the wealthy need protection. You need to stop holding the line on taxes. You offer to cut or privatize all services that meet the needs of the poor, the disabled, the children of the poor, our seniors and those who are ill. How nice of you! You protect the wealthy like you were set to guard the gates of a temple. You stubbornly insist that we must have smaller government, less government, even though you have lost two elections in a row. You continue to demand that everyone must do things you way even though most Americans have not chosen that path. This is very disturbing and it does amount to holding our government and the American people and our economy hostage to your agenda. Should we begin to treat this as a “bloodless coup”?

 You could earn a legacy in history for being the party that pitched in and saved the economy including the budget, the jobs crisis, our debt, and our deficit. You cannot do this until you defy Grover Norquist. Do you want to appear in history books for signing a pledge to an individual who served the American government in no capacity whatsoever? This is getting really frightening. Will this be the end of America as we have known it? Will the people lose their voice and the rich rule right up front instead of behind the scenes? Will someone become the new American royalty? Will Grover be the King, or will he be the Fool?

Raising taxes on the wealthy is not the last straw. It will not ruin America. In fact, if you cannot bring yourselves to end that unconstitutional pledge the damage will be far worse. You have the chance to go down in the history books as flexible and intelligent people who understand that there is more than one path to a desired goal and who understand that trampling the Americans who happen to be on the bottom right now will not make you proud, or famous, or brilliant statesmen; you will only live in infamy in the books that teach school children the history of America. You will not be known for helping America achieve a prosperous future for all; you will simply be known as selfish, pompous, inflexible and wrong. Surely you don’t want to be remembered like that.

Democracy in Action/The Fiscal Cliff

Have you written to your congressional representatives and senators to let them know what you would like them to do in this matter of the fiscal cliff? They are still stuck. They do not accept the results of the election as definitive proof of what the people want and perhaps it isn’t. How will they know unless we all inundate them with letters and emails that inform them of our choices in the matters of America’s finances. If you lose your Medicare or your Social Security and you haven’t talked to your reps about how you feel about entitlements then you may be left moaning and groaning about the impacts of cuts you don’t favor. If you think that the huge and widening gap between the wealthy and the poor is the result of tax laws that will keep growing this gap then we need to let our reps know that we want to revise the tax laws to change this trend. If you don’t agree with these points I really hope that you will not write to congress, but you certainly have the right to do so.

Here is the letter I sent to Congress:

Your address
 Congressperson’s address

Dear                                    :

I think many of us are perplexed by the complexity of the issues involved in dealing with all of the following issues at one time:


·         decide what to do about taxes,
·         decide what to do about budget cuts,
·         decide what to do about the debt,
·         decide what to do about the deficit,
·         decide what to do about tax loopholes,
·         decide whether or not to simplify the tax code,
·         decide how best to stimulate job growth,
·         decide what to do about “entitlements”,
·         how to make sure we keep inflation low while we tackle and solve all these issues.

 Solve them? That could take several lifetimes. Pick a direction and see how it works while keeping in mind that we may have to try something else? That’s probably more like it. Why are we trying to accomplish all of these things at once?


Let’s deal with one or two things at a time.


·         Raise the debt ceiling and raise top tax rates. Please start there.
·         Make some careful cuts to the budget but leave “entitlements” alone for now.
·         Tackle education and infrastructure to help grow jobs, but make sure to chose projects that really will help. In terms of education spend money to train people for those jobs that are going unfilled. In terms of infrastructure, look at how to get the most bang for our buck. What parts of our infrastructure will help jobs or trade or business. If we have solved the problem of the water resources in Nebraska build that Keystone Pipeline the Republicans want so much.
·         Then make some more cuts and begin work on “entitlements” only if necessary.

I am hoping that we can leave entitlements alone except for making Medicare and health care in general less costly. Raising the age when Medicare and even Social Security become available is harmful to senior Americans as employers are often not willing to continue to employ older workers. Workers are “encouraged” to retire early in order to save employers from paying the high salaries such workers earn. Once retired these older workers may find another job but it will not pay what they are used to earning and, therefore, not having social security or Medicare will present a real hardship. Also studies show that age gains are not as great for lower income workers as they are higher income earners. Let’s see if we can improve our economy without changing entitlements first. I thought the rhetoric was that Washington intended to strengthen entitlements rather than cut them.


I am counting on you to prioritize these tasks that you all face on behalf of Americans and deal with them in their proper order and with proper seriousness and care. I am certain that you cannot address all of these issues properly before the end of the year, but I am equally certain that you can deal with finding revenue through raising the top tax rates and raising the debt ceiling.
Sincerely
Or just send them this:
 
Here are the links for the addresses for our Congresspeople in Washington. These lists will change in January, but for now they are accurate:
 
                                                                                                                             

                                                                                                                             

Revenue, Budget Cuts and Mandates

 
This interesting chart from the Tax Policy Center was published in the Syracuse Post Standardon Sunday, November 11, 2012. Of course, since we are hoping to cut $4 trillion dollars from our debt, the $535.90 billion does not really come close to what we owe. Republicans are still opposed to raising taxes on the wealthy and even when they speak of “finding common ground” they don’t really mean it. They want to ”revise the tax code to lower rates and eliminate some tax breaks,” according to John Boehner who also said, “I’m proposing that we avert the fiscal cliff together in a manner that ensures that 2013 is finally the year that our government comes to grips with the major problems that are facing us.”  He said that cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps, known as entitlement programs in Washington-speak have to be part of the equation. He also suggested we raise the debt limit.

The Post-Standardarticle says that “the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in a report Thursday that failing to act on the fiscal-cliff components could shave half a percentage point off of the growth in the first half of 2013, raise the jobless rate to 9.1 percent and probably trigger another recession. The CBO also said that addressing the components of the fiscal cliff results in a 3 or 4 percentage point swing between contraction and growth.” (talk about hedging your bets)

Lately we are arguing about “mandates”. The Democrats claim they have a mandate to raise taxes on the wealthy because they won the Presidency and the Senate. The Republicans say they have a mandate for their economic proposals because they won the House. They claim that people reelected the Republicans to the House to keep the country from adopting the Democratic agenda for avoiding the fiscal cliff. They obviously continue to protect the rich and try to find ways to cut that bunch of deadbeats (called the poor, the disabled, and children who make up the 47% of people) who use Medicaid and food stamps. I have never heard so much talk of mandates. Believe me the Republicans cannot claim any kind of mandate.  I suppose someone could figure out exactly what percentage of however-much-a-mandate is that the President holds, how much the Senate holds, how much the President and the Senate hold together, and how much the House of Representatives holds, of course taking into account the powers as delegated in the Constitution. Does the President hold 62% of “the mandate” because he got 332 electoral college votes? Or do we go with the popular vote? Would this qustionable math get us any closer to avoiding the fiscal cliff or solving our debt and deficit problems, our tax problems, or our economic difficulties?

Paul Krugman, an economist who writes in the Opinion section of the New York Times, believes that the Republicans are using their fear tactics once again and that we can call their bluff and go over the fiscal cliff if we need to without inviting total disaster. He agrees with a plan that includes both revenue and cuts. Others say that Krugman is wrong and that the dangers of cliff leaping are real. How will we know unless we go over that cliff? I picture us holding hands and jumping. But I hope we don’t do that. We have never needed adults more than we do in Washington right now, and they still seem to be missing. (We won the mandate! No we won the mandate!) Some people are saying get rid of all the Bush tax cuts. I wish I could say that but I have looked at my budget and it says no way! Across the board cuts sound fair, but so many people are appalled by the idea that I have to accept that I do not know enough about the economics of the Federal budget to insist that I am right about cuts. Obama says he wants $1.6 trillion in revenues over the next ten years.(WSJ, 11.14.2012) Is he likely to get it? Is he just settng a high startng point for the horse trading yet too come? What will those GOP scoundrels do? Is it time to make signs and march on the Federal Buildings (with permits of course)? Soon, perhaps, soon.