A collection of newsworthy information as reported from newspapers, magazines, and blogs.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Republicans Contemplate Shutting Government Down

Republican 'Pledge to America': Spending caps, tax cuts - Not as Fiscally Responsible as It Claims

They vow to "hold President Obama responsible" for any one-time Guantanamo Bay detainees who engage in terrorism or other acts against the United States after their release.

To cut spending, Republicans say they are committed to canceling remaining expenditures from the 2009 stimulus law, return domestic appropriations to 2008 levels, impose "hard" budget caps on discretionary spending accounts, reduce spending for congressional operations, have weekly floor votes on winners of the "YouCut" program that allows citizens to vote online for programs that should be slashed, end the Troubled Asset Relief Program (You'll recall that TARP was a Republican program.), end government control of the secondary home-mortgage lending giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, freeze federal hiring for non-security jobs, sunset programs after a certain number of years, and use more straightforward budgeting for entitlement programs.

The jobs section includes pledges to stop all planned 2011 tax increases -- including the expiration of the 2001 Bush tax cuts for individuals and the re-establishment of the estate tax. It also calls for a small business tax deduction that allows owners to take a 20 percent deduction, roll back the so-called 1099 requirement that businesses report certain spending to the IRS and establish a requirement that new federal regulations that cost more than $100 million get congressional approval.

Republicans believe that the debate over Obama's health care overhaul has helped position them to take over the House, and they devote a substantial portion of their agenda to repealing that law and replacing it with a scaled-back version.

The line items include well-known Republican priorities like enacting medical liability reform and allowing for the purchase of insurance policies across state lines. But it also calls for keeping the prohibition on denial of insurance because of pre-existing conditions and expanding health savings accounts -- all provisions they pushed during the health care debate earlier in this Congress. In a bow to social conservatives, Republicans vow to prohibit the taxpayer funding of abortions -- although in a way that tracks with the existing Hyde Amendment.

Only one other social issue, protecting "traditional marriage," is mentioned in the document -- and it is relegated to the preamble rather than the portion addressing legislative proposals.

Republicans say they want to alter the way Congress does business by encouraging lawmakers to read bills before they get a vote and ensuring legislation adheres to the Constitution -- a role generally reserved to the courts.

On national security, Republicans stuck to some of their most popular messages of the past year. They promise to offer "clean" troop funding bills -- a nod to their opposition to Democrats attaching extemporaneous items onto supplemental war appropriations legislation. And they are pledging, somewhat broadly, to keep individuals suspected of committing terrorist acts off American soil. They say they will not offer them Miranda rights or try them in civilian courts.  Read more: 

If Republicans win the Senate and the House, some of them say they should consider threatening to shut down government to get what they want.

House Republicans are expected to unveil policy agenda Thursday, Sept 23rd. GOP leaders are expected to combine ideas that the party has proposed over the past 20 months with concepts pushed by the tea party movement. One tea party proposal under consideration for the Republican agenda calls for a requirement that before a bill is passed, Congress cite what provision in the Constitution specifically gives it the power to enact laws on that issue. "We want to show the American people we are listening and we believe Washington has run roughshod over the American people," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.).” Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, who has been involved with the development of the agenda as part of an informal six-member steering committee, said he was confident that social issues would be addressed thanks to the party’s “America Speaking Out” initiative. “If it had been left solely to politicians, it would probably have been just focused on the hot-button fiscal issues,” he said in an interview with The New York Times. But, “there is also a strong sense in the Republican Congress that we don’t want traditional allies to think we’ve abandoned them.” Keenly aware of Democrats’ intent to paint the G.O.P. as co-opted by the Tea Party, Mr. Cole emphasized that the Tea Party had become a catchall name for disgruntled voters on the right.

The hard, empirical facts:

The tax cuts did not spur investment. Job growth in the George W. Bush years was one-seventh that of the Clinton years. Nixon and Ford did better than Bush on jobs. Wages fell during the last administration. Average incomes fell. The number of Americans in poverty, as officially measured, hit a 16-year high last year of 43.6 million, though a National Academy of Sciences study says that the real poverty figure is closer to 51 million. Food banks are swamped. Foreclosure signs are everywhere. Americans and their governments are drowning in debt. And at the nexus of tax and healthcare, Republican ideas perpetuate a cruel and immoral system that rations healthcare -- while consuming every sixth dollar in the economy and making businesses, especially small businesses, less efficient and less profitable.

This is economic madness. It is policy divorced from empirical evidence. It is insanity because the policies are illusory and delusional. The evidence is in, and it shows beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts failed to achieve the promised goals.  Read More.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine released a statement condemning GOP talk of a government shutdown:  "We know they plan to use the exact same partisan strategies they pursued in the 1990s to cut off government services people rely upon and prevent our government from remedying the damage they caused. .... If Republicans get their way and shut down our government, millions of American seniors, veterans, and families will be denied access to programs, benefits, and services they rely on every day. We can't -- and won't -- let that happen."

Armey (head of Tea Party group known as Freedom Works) was House Majority Leader in 1995, when President Clinton and the GOP had such a showdown.  Armey may be reluctant to talk about a possible government shutdown because in the past, he has said that Republicans touting such a strategy months in advance was a major reason why it turned out so badly for the party in 1995:  "You're heard saying rather boldly in June that you're going to shut the government in the fall. You've set the stage for the press to report that the Republicans are now doing in October what they said they'd do in June. Even if, in fact, they thought it was the right strategy to shut down the government, they should have kept their mouths shut about it."

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