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Member since: Wed Jan 30, 2008, 02:33 PM
Number of posts: 10,157

About Me

I'm a lawyer representing workers and consumers and a longtime Democratic activist. Nothing I say on here, including any comments about legal topics, should be construed as legal advice or creating an attorney-client relationship.

Journal Archives

Democrats Hint at Entitlement Program Cuts in U.S. Budget

Source: Businessweek

Two Senate Democratic leaders signaled they may have to accept cuts to U.S. entitlement programs to secure a deficit-reduction deal, after some Republicans expressed willingness to discuss higher tax rates for top earners.

Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, said he is open to alternatives including expanded means-testing -- charging higher-income seniors more -- for Medicare. Republicans are seeking limits to spending on entitlement programs. Durbin and New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the chamber’s third-ranking Democrat, didn’t rule them out while speaking with reporters today in Washington.
Regarding entitlement programs, Durbin said it would be “difficult” to change the calculation of Social Security cost- of-living increases, and raising the Medicare eligibility age could hurt poor seniors who retire early with health problems.

Higher-income senior citizens already pay more for Medicare benefits.

“The question is what other means-tests should apply,” Durbin said. “I think that is reasonable and certainly consistent with the Democratic message that those who are better off in our country should be willing to pay a little more,” said Durbin.

Read more: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-12-06/democrats-hint-at-entitlement-program-cuts-in-u-dot-s-dot-budget

The article says COLA changes and raising the Medicare eligibility age were on the table in 2011 (we already know that), and that Boehner is proposing that now. But Durbin's comments about that hurting poor seniors is somewhat encouraging.

It seems like they are also weighing proposals for increased use of means-testing, which seems like the lesser of two evils, IMO. Doesn't seem like they would take Medicare away from higher income beneficiaries, but they might make them pay more for it. Durbin makes a good point about that being consistent with Democratic values that the wealthier should pay more.

I think it's time to start showing serious resistance on the Medicare eligibility age. Not just by posting on here...send letters to the president and to your members of Congress. Consider holding rallies if necessary.
Posted by democrattotheend | Thu Dec 6, 2012, 08:42 PM (68 replies)

Can we have forums for 2014 and 2016?

2014 for those who want to get a head start on working to take back the House in 2014, and 2016 for those who want to fight about who is going to replace President Obama before he even begins his second term, so the other forums are not mucked up by that.
Posted by democrattotheend | Wed Dec 5, 2012, 06:36 PM (1 replies)

Geithner: Obama Administration Ready to Go Over the "Cliff"

Source: Political Wire/CNBC

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told CNBC that the Obama administration was prepared to dive off the fiscal cliff if Republicans do not agree to raise tax rates on the wealthy.

Said Geithner: "There's no prospect of an agreement that doesn't involve the rates going up on the top 2 percent of the wealthiest."

Read more: http://politicalwire.com/archives/2012/12/05/obama_administration_ready_to_go_over_fiscal_cliff.html

There is a video that goes with it, but I am in class and can't watch.
Posted by democrattotheend | Wed Dec 5, 2012, 05:07 PM (58 replies)

FirstRead: Republicans Ready to Fold?

*** Know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em: More Republicans and conservatives are coming to the conclusion that they have a bad hand to play in the fiscal battle with Democrats and the Obama White House (see John Podhoretz in today’s New York Post and the Washington Examiner’s Conn Carroll). And what does a smart poker player usually do when holding a bad hand? You fold to live another day. It’s what Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) pushed for last week, which got universally poo-poo’d by the GOP leadership. Now? The New York Times reports that GOP members and leaders are considering extending the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class -- but resuming the larger fight over the budget and spending when it’s time to raise the debt ceiling. “There’s always better ground, but you have to get there,” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) told the Times. The good news here: If you don’t want to go off the cliff, then it’s clear Republicans won’t dig in; they are talking about a way out. The bad news: Such a move only postpones the real fight. If Republicans do pursue this path, they’ll have a stronger hand to play politically than they currently do now (because the middle-class tax cuts would be off the table). But the White House would also still have some cards to play (over the eventual tax rates in any kind of tax reform, the estate tax, and a willingness to budge on entitlements). Remember, the debt ceiling standoff in July 2011 was bad of the president, but it was worse for the GOP’s brand.


I am a little bit concerned (and please note my post count and length of membership here if you think I am a troll) that we could win the battle but lose the war here. If the president gets the middle class tax cut without the cut for the top 2%, what is to stop the Republicans from then extorting either the cut on the top 2% or big cuts to entitlements when the debt ceiling is due to be raised? I have been reading David Corn's book, and while the president's willingness to accept an eventually 2 year hike in the Medicare eligibility age and changes to the COLA format are disturbing, the Republicans wanted far larger and more fundamental cuts. What is to stop them from extorting either one?

I am starting to think that a deal to avert the "cliff" that includes raising the debt ceiling is a better option, since the president arguably has more leverage now, with the tax hikes and defense cuts scheduled to hit if he does nothing. If they send him a bill that cuts taxes for the middle class and restores the defense cuts, it kind of puts him in a box, because if he signs that he gives up a lot of leverage for the debt ceiling fight.
Posted by democrattotheend | Wed Dec 5, 2012, 10:11 AM (12 replies)

GOP Sees AMT as Leverage in Fiscal Cliff Talks

Source: Reuters

Under U.S. law, taxpayers each year must pay the greater of regular federal income tax and the AMT. The latter requires taxpayers to give up certain tax breaks, typically exemptions and deductions for state and local taxes and medical costs.

Only some 4 million taxpayers pay the AMT because Congress routinely "patches" the AMT for inflation to spare middle-income taxpayers. Without a patch for 2012, up to 33 million taxpayers will have to pay an AMT liability, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

That is one in five taxpayers.

Since many taxpayers subject to the AMT live in the Democratic strongholds of California, New York and Illinois, the threat of a lapse may be the Republicans' strongest card after Obama's re-election last month on a theme of tax fairness.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/04/us-usa-fiscal-amt-idUSBRE8B311O20121204?feedType=RSS&feedName=politicsNews&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Reuters%2FPoliticsNews+%28Reuters+Politics+News%29
Posted by democrattotheend | Tue Dec 4, 2012, 04:50 PM (7 replies)

Republicans considering voting "present" on tax cuts for middle class

Source: ABC News

Republicans are seriously considering a Doomsday Plan if fiscal cliff talks collapse entirely. It’s quite simple: House Republicans would allow a vote on extending the Bush middle class tax cuts (the bill passed in August by the Senate) and offer the President nothing more: no extension of the debt ceiling, nothing on unemployment, nothing on closing loopholes. Congress would recess for the holidays and the president would face a big battle early in the year over the debt ceiling.

Two senior Republican elected officials tell me this doomsday plan is becoming the most likely scenario. A top GOP House leadership aide confirms the plan is under consideration, but says Speaker Boehner has made no decision on whether to pursue it.
Under one variation of this Doomsday Plan, House Republicans would allow a vote on extending only the middle class tax cuts and Republicans, to express disapproval at the failure to extend all tax cuts, would vote “present” on the bill, allowing it to pass entirely on Democratic votes.

By doing this, Republicans avoid taking blame for tax increases on 98 percent of income tax payers. As one senior Republican in Congress told me, “You don’t take a hostage you aren’t willing to shoot.” Republicans aren’t willing to kill the middle class tax cuts, even if extending them alone will make it harder to later extend tax cuts on the wealthy.

Read more: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/12/republican-doomsday-plan-cave-on-taxes-vote-present/

I am a little confused about the sequester. I know the tax rates will automatically go up if Congress takes no action. Will capital gains, dividend tax rates, or the estate tax also go up?

I know the estate tax cut was part of the 2010 deal but I wasn't sure if those cuts were for 2 years or permanent. Do they expire now?

What about the 2003 Bush tax cut on dividends? Doesn't that also expire?
Posted by democrattotheend | Mon Dec 3, 2012, 03:21 PM (8 replies)

HEADS UP: President Obama will take questions on the "fiscal cliff" on Twitter, today at 2 PM

Just saw this on Twitter:

Obama to take Twitter questions on fiscal cliff at 2 p.m. ET http://reut.rs/SH1nzf

First of all, this should hopefully be a good opportunity to try to ask some of the questions that have been floating around here about his position on entitlement cuts.

Second, how cool is it that we have a president who uses Twitter? I don't remember having the opportunity like this to ask questions of the president in any previous administration. I know the chances of your question being picked are probably small, but still, I think it's really cool.

According to the Reuters blurb, Spokesman Jay Carney said Obama would take questions at 2 p.m. ET/1900 GMT under the hashtag #my2k.
Posted by democrattotheend | Mon Dec 3, 2012, 01:46 PM (8 replies)

WashPost: How Obama would cut Medicare spending in a deficit deal


ThinkProgress' chart of the cuts that comprise the $400 billion the administration is proposing to cut:

The two cuts that generate the biggest savings are applying Medicaid drug rebates to the Medicare Part D program and reducing the reimbursement rate to post-acute care providers, like nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Let’s dig into those a bit more since together they account for more than half of the White House’s proposed savings.
Right now, Medicaid gets a really good deal on prescription drugs: Manufacturers have to sell their prescriptions to the entitlement program at the very best price they offer private insurance plans or 23.1 percent lower than the average price. This has lead to big discounts for the program: The Office of the Inspector General at Health and Human Services estimates that this provision has reduced Medicaid spending on drugs by 45 percent.

All in all this doesn't seem terrible, although I have a few concerns about the cuts to skilled nursing. But there is no proposal to raise the eligibility age at this point, or to significantly cut benefits.
Posted by democrattotheend | Mon Dec 3, 2012, 09:30 AM (2 replies)

NYT: Pushing GOP to Negotiate, Obama Ends Giving In


Mr. Obama, scarred by failed negotiations in his first term and emboldened by a clear if close election to a second, has emerged as a different kind of negotiator in the past week or two, sticking to the liberal line and frustrating Republicans on the other side of the bargaining table.

Disciplined and unyielding, he argues for raising taxes on the wealthy while offering nothing new to rein in spending and overhaul entitlement programs beyond what was on the table last year. Until Republicans offer their own new plan, Mr. Obama will not alter his. In effect, he is trying to leverage what he claims as an election mandate to force Republicans to take ownership of the difficult choices ahead.

His approach is born of painful experience. In his first four years in office, Mr. Obama has repeatedly offered what he considered compromises on stimulus spending, health care and deficit reduction to Republicans, who either rejected them as inadequate or pocketed them and insisted on more. Republicans argued that Mr. Obama never made serious efforts at compromise and instead lectured them about what they ought to want rather than listening to what they did want.

I, for one, am very glad to see the president being tougher. On the other hand, I am a little worried about this narrative developing about him overreaching. It's important that if we do go over the cliff, people blame Republicans. If the president is seen as the intransigent one that won't happen.

Also, I hope what they say at the end of the article is not true, about tax increases for the rich being the only thing he cares about. I think protecting the social safety net and making sure any reforms happen on our terms is equally important.
Posted by democrattotheend | Sun Dec 2, 2012, 10:13 PM (5 replies)

Poll: Which made you happier on Inauguration Day 4 years ago?

I was just thinking back to when I got home from the inauguration and put on the news, and how exciting it was the first time I heard them say "President Barack Obama." And a couple minutes later, I heard them say "Former President George W. Bush." I couldn't decide which sounded better.

Which made you guys happier?
Posted by democrattotheend | Sun Dec 2, 2012, 02:43 PM (8 replies)
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