Thursday Reads: War on Women, the Fiscal Cliff, and Austerity Arriving in the USA

GWTW reading

Good Morning!!

Brrrrrrrrrr! All of a sudden winter has arrived! Can you believe it’s 4 degrees outside my house? With a wind chill factor of 6 below 0. My furnace can’t keep up in this kind of weather, so I have to bundle up. So what else is in the news this morning? Let’s see….

Today the new Congress gets sworn in and there are a record number of women in the new Senate. From ABC News: Meet the New Class: The Senate Swears in a Historic 20 Female Senators

Today the Senate will make history, swearing in a record-breaking 20 female senators – 4 Republicans and 16 Democrats – in office….

“I can’t tell you the joy that I feel in my heart to look at these 20 gifted and talented women from two different parties, different zip codes to fill this room,” Sen. Barbara Mikulksi, D-Md., said while surrounded by the group of women senators. “In all of American history only 16 women had served. Now there are 20 of us.”

Senator-elect Deb Fischer, R-Neb., becomes today the first women to be elected as a senator in Nebraska.

“It was an historic election,” Fischer said, “But what was really fun about it were the number of mothers and fathers who brought their daughters up to me during the campaign and said, “Can we get a picture? Can we get a picture?’ Because people realize it and — things do change, things do change.”

There’s a group photo at the link.

Still, the war on women continues. HuffPo reports: House GOP Lets Violence Against Women Act Passed By Senate Die Without A Vote.

Despite a late-stage intervention by Vice President Joe Biden, House Republican leaders failed to advance the Senate’s 2012 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, an embattled bill that would have extended domestic violence protections to 30 million LGBT individuals, undocumented immigrants and Native American women.

“The House leadership would not bring it up, just like they wouldn’t bring up funding for Sandy [hurricane damage] last night,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a key backer of the Senate version of the bill, in an interview with HuffPost. “I think they are still so kowtowing to the extreme on the right that they’re not even listening to the moderates, and particularly the women, in their caucus who are saying they support this.”

The Senate bill passed way back in April.

In April, the Senate with bipartisan support passed a version of VAWA that extended protections to three groups of domestic violence victims who had not been covered by the original law, but House Republicans refused to support the legislation with those provisions, saying the measures were politically driven. Instead, they passed their own VAWA bill without the additional protections. In recent weeks, however, even some House Republicans who voted for the pared-down House bill have said they would now support the broader Senate bill — and predicted it would pass if Republican leaders let it come to the floor for a vote.

“I absolutely would support the Senate bill,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) told HuffPost in late December, speculating that other House Republicans, namely GOP congresswomen, “are very supportive of that.”

Asked if he thought the Senate bill would pass in the House if it came up for a vote, Cole replied, “My judgment is yes.”

Too little, too late, Congressman. So Boehner managed to screw women yesterday too though it was the refusal to vote on Sandy relief that got all the media attention.

In India police have filed murder charges against five men in the horrific gang rape in New Delhi.

Authorities filed rape and murder charges Thursday against five men accused of the gang rape of a 23-year-old university student on a New Delhi bus, a crime that horrified Indians and provoked a national debate about the treatment of women.

Police said they plan to push for the death penalty in the case, as government officials promised new measures to protect women in the nation’s capital.

Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan filed a case of rape, tampering with evidence, kidnapping, murder and other charges against the men in a new fast-track court in south Delhi inaugurated only the day before to deal specifically with crimes against women. Mohan asked for a closed trial and a hearing was set for Saturday.

The men charged are Ram Singh, 33, the bus driver; his brother Mukesh Singh, 26, who cleans buses for the same company; Pavan Gupta, 19, a fruit vendor; Akshay Singh, 24, a bus washer; and Vinay Sharma, 20, a fitness trainer.

A sixth suspect was listed as 17 and was expected to be tried in a juvenile court, where the maximum sentence would be three years in a reform facility.

Read more at the link. The New Yorker has a good article on the New Delhi story by Basharat Peer: After a Rape and Murder, Fury in Delhi. Please go read the whole thing if you can.

Back in the USA, Republican state legislatures are up to their old tricks. Irin Carmon reports in Salon: Michigan, Virginia pass backdoor abortion restrictions.

In Michigan, Rick Snyder signed a bill passed by the lame-duck Senate — the same one whose anti-union legislating dominated headlines in recent weeks — requiring clinics that perform more than 120 abortions a year to become surgical outpatient facilities, a level of licensing intended to be onerous and put clinics out of business. He also approved a bill that purports to screen for women being coerced into abortions.

Snyder did veto another bill limiting insurance coverage in private employee plans, which would have required purchase of a separate abortion rider. He objected to that on the grounds that rape victims would have to pay out of pocket if they didn’t buy the rider, and because, “As a practical matter, I believe this type of policy is an overreach of government into the private market.” Overreach of government into other realms, of course, is another matter entirely. (According to Michigan resident Emily Magner, one legislator interrupted her to cry, “THIS ISN’T ABOUT WOMEN! THIS IS ABOUT PROTECTING FETUSES!”)

Virginia’s similar, hospital-level restrictions on clinics were somewhat overshadowed by the ultrasound requirements for women seeking abortions. Under threat of forever having the word “transvaginal” attached to his name, Gov. Bob McDonnell tried to split the difference on the ultrasound legislation, but in the final days of the year signed off on the clinic regulations. This followed months of conflict between the Board of Health and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli over whether existing clinics would be grandfathered into the legislation. The governor’s office called the regulations “common-sense”; NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia said in a statement, “After two years of shocking backroom deals and bullying public health servants, Governor Bob McDonnell is clearly proving his disregard of Virginians’ opinions about women’s health care.”

Clinic regulations are the most insidious of abortion restrictions, because they’re harder for the layperson to understand and tend to incite less outrage as a result. And opposition to them tends to fall into antiabortion narratives about back-alley butchers resisting safety standards. But research has suggested that they also tend to be the most effective: It’s difficult to talk a woman out of having an abortion, but if you make access near impossible, you might take the choice off the table altogether.


On the “Fiscal Bunny Slope,” as Dakinikat refers to it, TPM reports that Simpson and Bowles of the famous Catfood Commission didn’t like the deal hammered out by the Senate and passed by the House. It seems it doesn’t cause enough suffering for the poor and elderly to satisfy them. Here’s their statement:

“The deal approved today is truly a missed opportunity to do something big to reduce our long term fiscal problems, but it is a small step forward in our efforts to reduce the federal deficit. It follows on the $1 trillion reduction in spending that was done in last year’s Budget Control Act. While both steps advance the efforts to put our fiscal house in order, neither one nor the combination of the two come close to solving our Nation’s debt and deficit problems. Our leaders must now have the courage to reform our tax code and entitlement programs such that we stabilize our debt and put it on a downward path as a percent of the economy.

Washington missed this magic moment to do something big to reduce the deficit, reform our tax code, and fix our entitlement programs. We have all known for over a year that this fiscal cliff was coming. In fact Washington politicians set it up to force themselves to seriously deal with our Nation’s long term fiscal problems. Yet even after taking the Country to the brink of economic disaster, Washington still could not forge a common sense bipartisan consensus on a plan that stabilizes the debt.

It is now more critical than ever that policymakers return to negotiations that will build on the terms of this agreement and the spending cuts in the Budget Control Act. These future negotiations will need to make the far more difficult reforms that bring spending further under control, make our entitlement programs sustainable and solvent, and reform our tax code to both promote growth and produce revenue. We take some encouragement from the statements by the President and leaders in Congress that they recognize more work needs to be done. In order to reach an agreement, it will be absolutely necessary for both sides to move beyond their comfort zone and reach a principled agreement on a comprehensive plan which puts the debt on a clear downward path relative to the economy.”

Don’t you love the way they call for “courage” from rich Congresspeople and then tell them to cut the sole income of millions of elderly and disabled people? What about calling for the real courage it would take for them to raise the cap on Social Security contributions so that rich people could pay a little more into the system? I doubt if many of them turn down the paltry extra income they get from it.

I’m running out of space, but I have some more fiscal cliff reads for you that I’ll pass on in link dump fashion.

Paul Krugman: That Bad Ceiling Feeling

Noam Scheiber: The House Comes Around on the Cliff. Why Am I Not Reassured?

Washington Post: U.S. markets surge after Congress approves ‘cliff’ deal

George Zornick at The Nation: While Congress Plays Deficit Games, Jobs Crisis Goes Unaddressed

Joan Walsh: Biggest Fiscal Cliff Lessions

Jonathan Chait: The Big Lebowski Explains the Fiscal Cliff

Truthout: Debt Versus Democracy: A Battle for the Future

Joe Conason: The GOP Clown Car Crashes, Again

I’ll end with a couple of articles on the European-style austerity that we’re heading for right now.

Brad Plummer at the Washington Post: U.S. now on pace for European levels of austerity in 2013

For years now, economists like Paul Krugman have been criticizing countries in Europe for engaging in too much austerity during the downturn — that is, enacting tax increases and spending cuts while their economies were still weak.

But after this week’s fiscal cliff deal, the United States is now on pace to engage in about as much fiscal consolidation in 2013 as many European nations have been doing in recent years — and more than countries like Britain and Spain.

A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests Congress has enacted around $336 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts for the coming year, an austerity package whose total size comes to about 2.1 percent of GDP. (That’s merely the size of the cuts and taxes; it’s not necessarily the effect on growth.)
This includes the expiration of the payroll tax cut, which will raise about $125 billion this year. It includes $68 billion in scheduled cuts to discretionary spending from the 2011 Budget Control Act. It includes $24 billion in new Obamacare taxes and $27 billion in new high-income taxes. And it includes about $92 billion from the now-delayed sequester cuts — assuming that these either take effect or are swapped with other cuts.

Check out the graph at the link. And in Greece, the Guardian reports: Euros discarded as impoverished Greeks resort to bartering

It’s been a busy day at the market in downtown Volos. Angeliki Ioanitou has sold a decent quantity of olive oil and soap, while her friend Maria has done good business with her fresh pies.

But not a single euro has changed hands – none of the customers on this drizzly Saturday morning has bothered carrying money at all. For many, browsing through the racks of second-hand clothes, electrical appliances and homemade jams, the need to survive means money has been usurped.

“It’s all about exchange and solidarity, helping one another out in these very hard times,” enthused Ioanitou, her hair tucked under a floppy felt cap. “You could say a lot of us have dreams of a utopia without the euro.”

In this bustling port city at the foot of Mount Pelion, in the heart of Greece’s most fertile plain, locals have come up with a novel way of dealing with austerity – adopting their own alternative currency, known as the Tem. As the country struggles with its worst crisis in modern times, with Greeks losing up to 40% of their disposable income as a result of policies imposed in exchange for international aid, the system has been a huge success. Organisers say some 1,300 people have signed up to the informal bartering network.

For users such as Ioanitou, the currency – a form of community banking monitored exclusively online – is not only an effective antidote to wage cuts and soaring taxes but the “best kind of shopping therapy”. “One Tem is the equivalent of one euro. My oil and soap came to 70 Tem and with that I bought oranges, pies, napkins, cleaning products and Christmas decorations,” said the mother-of-five. “I’ve got 30 Tem left over. For women, who are worst affected by unemployment, and don’t have kafeneia [coffeehouses] to go to like men, it’s like belonging to a hugely supportive association.”

Much more at the link.

So….what’s on your reading and blogging list today. I look forward to clicking on your links.

Death of a Salespitch

I’m really hoping that Stan Collender has got it right. He’s arguing in short form today that the Cat Food Commission is dead with a promise of further details in an upcoming column at Roll Call. His first argument seems pretty reasonable.  The Report needs 14 to pass and only 11 participants seem willing to do so.  Here are his others.

  • The 11 members of the commission who favored the plan likely overstates the actual amount of support.  It seems clear that at least two and maybe more announced their support only when they were certain the plan wouldn’t get 14 votes.  Their approval was more about political posturing for the future than actual enthusiasm.
  • Don’t read too much into the bipartisan support for some of the options.  If these same proposals are considered at all, they will next be debated in a very different political context and in a package that will look very different from the one the commission considered.  Support for them in the commission is no indication they will be supported again.
  • Don’t read too much into the enthusiastic response the plan received from various deficit hawk groups.  Many of them supplied the commission with staff, helped develop what ultimately was proposed, and had a stake in its outcome.  Under these circumstances, their enthuisastic approval and attempt to define the outcome as a success was not at all suprising.  It’s also not especially indicative of any larger movement toward what was proposed.

I’m actually finding the power of the nifty graph from Matt Ygelisias at TP an even more compelling reason.  He’s posting a response to Paul Krugman who can’t believe that the Beltway crowd is so obsessed with ruining social security.   Krugman’s blog post today also contains his thoughts and the same nifty graph.

Look at the number of seniors that rely on social security for the majority or near majority of their incomes. That’s just income quintiles.  You know that the distribution is skewed right (i.e population is largest on the lower ends.)   Who wants to turn their life savings and major income source in old age over to a bunch of Wall Street High rollers or even worse, have it diced and sliced into pieces that you may or may not receive?

Even though Social Security is only a very mildly redistributive program, inequality of wealth is such that it’s a vital element of the bottom 60 percent’s living standards but kind of small beer to the top twenty percent. But I would say the other thing here on the Medicare / Social Security contrast is that Medicare isn’t just a subsidy program for old people. It’s also a subsidy program for doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, pharmaceutical executives, etc. Those people have lobbyists, many of their professions are well-respected, and many members of the political/media elite have siblings, cousins, college buddies, and even spouses who work in those fields.

The tragedy is that this very same factor that makes it harder to cut Medicare is also why cutting Social Security is a much worse idea. Our health care sector is low productivity mess and there are a lot of health-improving things a low-income senior can buy with Social Security money but can’t buy with Medicare. Healthy food, a gym membership, home-repair, etc.

Baby Boomers may not be a monolithic group, but I have to think that since most of us had our private savings and our home values chewed up and spit out by hedge funds and investment banks, we’re not going to go quietly into the night while having our social security gutted.  I can’t imagine our remaining parents are going to be happy about it either since most of them have been paying in to the program since its initiation.  Also, remind your children that should this pass, you will be expecting a room in their house because you will need it.

The graph and a lot of good information is from Our Fiscal Security. That’s the organization that I wrote about earlier that came up with a liberal response to the Bowles-Simpson ice floes plan.  Let me just remind you of a few things from them about our Social Security.

  1. Social Security is currently in surplus and will take in more than it pays out until at least 2037, more than a quarter century from now.
  2. Raising the employer and employee payroll tax rates by just 1.1 percent each would erase the entire 75-year projected shortfall.
  3. Inequality leads to the projected Social Security shortfall: as income growth has become concentrated at the top, more income has fallen above the payroll cap of $106,800. Congress could close the entire 75 year projected funding gap by raising or eliminating the cap on taxable payroll income.
  4. Not just an I.O.U.: Income to the Social Security trust funds must be invested in guaranteed Treasury securities, which can be redeemed at any time at face value, giving the trust funds the same flexibility as cash.
  5. Social Security can never add to the yearly deficit; by law it cannot draw a single dollar from general revenues, even if payroll taxes fall short of scheduled benefits.

There’s a few more points out there if you’d like to go read them.  It’s a data worth sending to your Congress Critterz.

Thursday Morning Reads

good morning!!!

In an interesting on-and-off again policy, the Obama administration  announced an offshore drilling ban. This has heads spinning down here in the Gulf.

“We are adjusting our strategy in areas where there are no active leases,” Salazar told reporters in a phone call, adding that the administration has decided “not expand to new areas at this time” and instead “focus and expand our critical resources on areas that are currently active” when it comes to oil and gas drilling.

In March–less than a month before the BP oil spill–Obama and Salazar said they would open up the eastern Gulf and parts of the Atlantic, including off the coast of Virginia, to offshore oil and gas exploration. On both of those new areas, the administration said it would start scoping to see if oil and gas drilling would be suitable. The eastern Gulf remains closed to drilling under a congressional moratorium, but the White House indicated it would press to lift the moratorium if necessary.

Wednesday’s announcement is sure to please environmentalists while angering oil and gas companies as well as some lawmakers from both parties who have pressed for continued offshore energy exploration in the wake of massive Gulf of Mexico spill.

While the Democratic administration pleases environmentalists with the ban, Agent Orange probably has them unhappy with this move.

Created in 2007 by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to draw attention to the causes and effects of climate change, the committee didn’t have much of a chance to survive the upcoming Republican takeover. Wednesday, the axe fell.

“We have pledged to save taxpayers’ money by reducing waste and duplication in Congress,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for incoming Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). “The Select Committee on Global Warming – which was created to provide a political forum to promote Washington Democrats’ job-killing national energy tax – was a clear example, and it will not continue in the 112th Congress.”

With the end in sight, Committee Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) organized what was billed as an “all-star” cast of witnesses to testify Wednesday on the dangers posed by climate change.

If you’d like to see what the government considers ‘no oil left’ in the Gulf, here’s a good place to start.  The blog The Gulf Oil Project, has some brand new photos up today. I see oil; lots of it.

The longtime residents of Perdido Beach are angry and frustrated; others just bury their heads in the sand and pray BP will go away.  In Gulf shore sands stretching from Louisiana to Florida amphipods are hopping mad, isopods are flatly frustrated and mobile-home dragging hermit crabs are conspicuously absent this winter.  They are just a few of the local folks that share theses beaches; make it what it is, and have become collateral damage in the war in the Gulf.

The normally tranquil beaches of the Gulf barrier islands are the kind of idyllic place where northerners flock by the thousands in winter.  They have been coming here for generations – Sanderlings and Sandpipers from the Arctic, Turnstones from Maine, Plovers from Hudson Bay, Willets from the central grasslands – all have seen there seasonal beaches turned into a battle field; a mechanical minefield for those that work the tide-line for their very lives.

Robert Fisk looks at the diplomatic cables and into U.S. attitudes towards the Middle East in this provocative piece in The Independent.

It’s not that US diplomats don’t understand the Middle East; it’s just that they’ve lost all sight of injustice. Vast amounts of diplomatic literature prove that the mainstay of Washington’s Middle East policy is alignment with Israel, that its principal aim is to encourage the Arabs to join the American-Israeli alliance against Iran, that the compass point of US policy over years and years is the need to tame/bully/crush/oppress/ ultimately destroy the power of Iran.

There is virtually no talk (so far, at least) of illegal Jewish colonial settlements on the West Bank, of Israeli “outposts”, of extremist Israeli “settlers” whose homes now smallpox the occupied Palestinian West Bank – of the vast illegal system of land theft which lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian war. And incredibly, all kinds of worthy US diplomats grovel and kneel before Israel’s demands – many of them apparently fervent supporters of Israel – as Mossad bosses and Israel military intelligence agents read their wish-list to their benefactors.

He goes through a lot of the best cables from the region so you don’t have to.  There’s some other news from the middle east.  The first of a group of soldiers accused of  killing of Afghans–for sport–has been sentenced.  I’m kind’ve speechless here on the sentence but, maybe I’m missing something.

The first soldier to face a court martial in connection with alleged sport killings of Afghan citizens pleaded guilty to four of five charges against him Wednesday and was sentenced to nine months in military confinement.

Staff Sgt. Robert G. Stevens was also reduced in rank to private — the lowest grade in the Army — and ordered to forfeit all pay and allowances during his imprisonment.

The investigating officer, Lt. Col. Kwasi Hawks, accepted Stevens’ plea and imposed sentence Wednesday night.

Stevens had asked the court to allow him to stay in the Army; the prosecution had asked for a dishonorable discharge.

Stevens is one of seven soldiers “facing charges of serious misconduct while deployed in Afghanistan,” the Army said in a statement.

The Catfood Commission report has got seven vote of confidence now. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and retiring ranking Republican Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.) said they would  back the proposal.  Getting it any where still appears to be a long shot, but they are trying.

To appeal to Democrats on the commission, the chairmen eliminated a provision that converted the federal share of Medicaid payments to a block grant. This would have prevented federal spending from increasing alongside rising Medicaid costs.

The new proposal also does more to spur on the short-term economic recovery by proposing $22 billion less in domestic spending cuts in 2013.

In a nod to Republicans, the chairmen proposed a temporary payroll tax holiday.

But the chairmen also retained a number of politically unpalatable provisions, including the proposed elimination of popular tax provisions like the mortgage interest tax break. They also kept a proposal to reduce Social Security benefits by gradually raising the retirement age to 68 by 2050 and to 69 by 2075.

The WSJ reports that the Bush Tax Cuts will likely be extended temporarily. There’s a lot of cyber ink being written on this topic.  It appears to be the Republican Rubicon.

…conversations, described as preliminary, have taken place over the past few weeks. They have considered short-term extensions of a number of business and individual tax provisions that are expired or expiring, such as a popular research credit and middle-class protection from the alternative minimum tax. A likely outcome includes a one- to three-year extension of the Bush-era income tax rates and a two-year extension of the business provisions, according to aides. The package could include Democratic priorities such as extension of tax breaks that benefit the working poor, as well as further extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless.

An agreement on temporary extension of all the current rates and breaks would represent a breakthrough after months of partisan infighting. It would signal lawmakers’ intent to avoid the public outrage that could result if the two sides failed to reach a tax deal this month. Many retailers and economists worry that the tax increase could tamp down household spending and further weaken employment and the fragile recovery.

Underscoring that risk, the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Douglas Shulman, sent a letter to lawmakers on Wednesday, warning that postponing extension of some breaks, such as a measure to diminish the bite of the alternative minimum tax, could be “extremely detrimental” and risk significantly delaying refunds.

The CSM reports that any extension of unemployment benefits will be held hostage until the Republican give rich people their tax cuts.

Efforts in the Senate to extend the unemployment benefits were trapped in a procedural wrangle and never allowed on the floor for consideration. It fell to Sen. Scott Brown (R) of Massachusetts to object on behalf of the Republican Party to one proposed measure that required unanimous consent to move to the floor.

“We are in the midst of a historic economic crisis. I realize that,” he said. But to avoid ”burdening future generations,” the $56.4 billion measure must be offset with cuts elsewhere, he said. Senator Brown proposed tapping unspent federal dollars in other programs, such as the 2009 Obama stimulus plan.

Senator Reed objected, noting that the Republican plan to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts gives the wealthiest Americans a $700 billion tax cut that is also not offset – and, unlike the employment benefit, would not expire.

I can’t put the video here, but I can link to it.  The Economist interviewed my economist hero Joseph Stiglitz over a hot cuppa. Stiglitz says were a ‘long way’ from back to normal and has concerns that we may have a very inadequate new normal.  He doesn’t think unemployment will come down any time soon.  He sees 5-10 years of a “Japanese-style malaise” especially because of austerity cuts being suggested by policy makers.  He labels this “fiscal madness”.  Stiglitz also says that “banks are undermining the rule of law in America” and that “bad mortgages still fester”.   You’ll notice he’s not blaming the FED because that’s a red herring.

As you may know, I’m not much for TV.  But, I may try to watch ‘The Kennedy Detail’ series starting on the Discovery Channel. The program features interviews with JFK and Jackie Kennedy’s secret service detail.   It’s based on the book by Gerald Blaine.

Well, that’s enough from me this morning.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Catfood Commission Chairmen to Postpone Vote on Recommendations

Via David Dayen at FDL, Alan Simpson are seemingly on the verge of wimping out on their draconian austerity recommendations for fear they can’t get 14 votes for their efforts to turn old people out into the streets.

Dayen writes:

For most of the week, you could see the wheels coming off of the Catfood Commission. First we heard that “they may surprise us,” but then there was this moving of the goalposts. Despite the fact that 14 of the 18 panel members had to agree to secure any recommendations which would go to Congress for a vote, now insiders were saying that a majority vote would show a signal of support.

But it’s clear that Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson can’t even get that. They canceled a planned public meeting today in favor of more private negotiation. And reports emerged that the panel was simply deeply divided on the issues.

Dayen seems to think the whole plan to slash the social safety net is going down the tubes. I hope so. He ends with this:

The entire thing was an embarrassing display from two self-admiring cretins who wanted to use an economic crisis as a pretense to destroy the social safety net. Whatever they come up with will still represent a threat on that front, especially with a Republican House and who knows what in the White House, but this failure will damage the credibility for catfood. And progressive reports which show deficit reduction without touching the safety net are gaining in prominence.

“Who knows what in the White House” That’s a good one.

Truthout has information from one of the most liberal members of the Commission:

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., says that as of this morning she had not been shown the latest proposal of the White House deficit commission, even as she says it is being “shopped around” by its co-chairs in an effort to get the support of a simple majority of its 18 members—not the support of 14 members as was its original goal.

Schakowsky confirmed this shift in an interview with after giving a private briefing to members of the Tuesday Group, a meeting of progressive organization leaders convened by the Campaign for America’s Future.

Schakowsky has even proposed her own recommendations for reducing the deficit:

The Schakowsky Plan could reduce the deficit by $427.75 billion by 2015, without burdening the middle class. This would surpass the projection of the President’s target of $250 billion — an amount that the Commission’s plan would not even achieve.

Schakowsky’s plan also calls for:

•Raising taxes on the highest incomes.
•Modifying Social Security without changing benefits paid out.
•A $200 billion two-year stimulus investment, creating jobs and providing economic growth.
•Cutting farm subsidies and the Pentagon budget by more than $100 billion (both of which are also being proposed by the Commission, though Schakowsky goes further by cutting unnecessary weapons systems, reducing troop levels and other measures).
•Imposing taxes on corporations that out-source jobs and saving $132 billion from limiting or closing tax breaks on corporations.
•Letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire.
•Treating capitol gains and dividends as regular income, which could generate another $150 billion.
•Removing the caps on payroll taxes for employers and lifting the threshold above $106,000 for employees, and imposing a ‘legacy tax’ above the cap.
•And, most impressively, Schakowsky proposes a Public Option for health insurance, which would lower healthcare costs and allow the government to negotiate drug prices with the PHARMA industry to lower costs, like it does for the V.A. Drug costs could become a fraction of the amount that seniors now pay. Tellingly, both Bowles and Simpson acknowledge a Public Option may be necessary if costs don’t go down, so perhaps a P.O. could finally be on the way? There is certainly no indication health care costs will decrease in 2011.

In addition, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, a Republican, says he’s not voting for the plan.

“It’s tough to ask anybody to support something that they just got, that’s this big,” Ryan said in an interview. The panel needs agreement from 14 of its 18 members to forward a plan to Congress.

“I don’t think there’s 14, and I don’t think I’ll be one of those 14,” Ryan said.

He said panel co-chairman Alan Simpson, a Republican former Wyoming senator, gave him an “oral Cliff notes” version of the plan today. Ryan said it didn’t include major changes from the panel leaders’ earlier draft proposal. Members will receive the plan in writing tomorrow, he said.

How soon can we send Alan “310 million tits” Simpson and Erskine “Sourpuss” Bowles packing? If I never have to see either of their disagreeable faces again, I’ll be very happy.

UPDATE: The Catfood Commission has postponed the vote until Friday.

Simpson Strikes Again

Alan Simpson, Co-chair of President Obama’s Catfood Commission has opened his mouth again, attacking seniors:

…because they are unhappy with his ideas for reducing the deficit by cutting Social Security benefits while reducing corporate taxes.

“I’ve never had any nastier mail or [been in a] more difficult position in my life,” Simpson told Jeremy Pelzer at the Casper Star-Tribune. “Just vicious. People I’ve known, relatives [saying], ‘You son of a bitch. How could you do this?'”


“We had the greatest generation,” Simpson said. “I think this is the greediest generation.”

Maybe you all have heard about this already–I wasn’t following the news too closely yesterday–but I just had to frontpage it. The nerve of this man! And why isn’t President Obama responding to his ugly slurs of elderly people who paid into Social Security for their entire lives? Why should we take cuts in Social Security so that rich people like Simpson can take more money for themselves?

From TPM:

The problem, Simpson explained, is the “polarized” country we live in, and the media that exemplifies it. He then to reeled off the media figures ruining America for deficit commissioners like him.

“You don’t want to listen to the right and the left — the extremes,” he said. “You don’t want to listen to Keith Olbermann and Rush Babe [Limbaugh] and Rachel Minnow [sic] or whatever that is, and Glenn Beck. They’re entertainers. They couldn’t govern their way out of a paper sack — from the right or the left. But they get paid a lot of money from you and advertisers — thirty, fifty million a year — to work you over and get you juiced up with emotion, fear, guilt, and racism. Emotion, fear, guilt, and racism.

Simpson refers to Rachel Maddow as “that.” Is that because she’s a lesbian or because she’s a woman or both?

At FDL, Jon Walker writes: Is Simpson an Obama-Appointed Bully or Sexist?

While I don’t know former Republican Senator Alan Simpson personally and can’t say definitively whether or not he is a sexist, his behavior says a lot about him. He’s repeatedly behaved and spoken in a manner completely consistent with sexists who have strong disdain for intelligent women. His schoolyard attempts at bullying women, the strange terms he uses, and his incredibly childish attempts at demeaning women who dare criticize with name calling are all trademarks of a sexist.

Walker ends with this:

I could care less about Simpson’s behavior if it weren’t for the fact that President Obama appointed him co-chair of the bipartisan President’s Deficit Commission. It’s disconcerting that Obama tolerates this sexist behavior. Why would he appoint Simpson and stay silent as Simpson used the perch Obama gave him to lash out in such a childish manner and pointedly against women?

The fact that President Obama has not yet countered any of the ugly words that have come out of Simpson’s mouth strongly suggests that Obama himself agrees with Simpson’s views. And Obama dares to call himself a Democrat?

But should Jon Walker or anyone else really be surprised? Obama is the same person who during the primaries in 2008 characterized Hillary Clinton’s experiences as First Lady as drinking tea with foreign ambassadors. He’s the same guy who suggested that Hillary’s “claws come out” if you “challenge the status quo,” and that when Hillary “is feeling down” she “periodically launches attacks.”

No one should be surprised at Obama supporting attacks on the elderly or gays either. Here at Skydancing, we can easily cite the many previous examples of President Obama’s disrespect for seniors and gays.

Alan Simpson is simply saying aloud in very crude language what the President of the United States apparently believes in his heart–if he has one.