Boehner and Obama are Going to Need Nancy Pelosi’s Help

A woman scorned?

I wonder if it ever dawned on the men who cut Nancy Pelosi out of their early Debt meetings that they would be needing her help to pass a bill down the road? The LA Times has a major article about the situation today.

As the clock ticks down toward a possible government default, it appears to be less and less likely that a package can be crafted that will appease the large bloc of House conservatives who either oppose raising the debt ceiling on principle or won’t vote to hike it without massive cuts in federal spending.

That means that Pelosi, the former speaker who presides over a shrunken Democratic minority in the House, likely will come into play. Any plan that passes the Senate, be it the fallback option by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell or a more ambitious proposal like the one being crafted by the so-called Gang of Six, will only be able to pass the House if Democratic votes push it over the finish line.

At least 80 Republicans have said they oppose the McConnell plan; therefore, at least 60 Democrats would have to vote yes for the bill to pass the House. Many Republicans have also rejected the “Gang of Six” plan. That puts Nancy Pelosi back in the catbird seat.

The Californian hasn’t been in this position very often this year. The Republican rout last November crippled Democrats in the House. She surprised many by deciding to stay on as minority leader, choosing to remain a lonely progressive voice in a chamber swept by “tea party” fever. The large GOP majority means that Democrats are rarely a legislative factor — and Pelosi has lost her status as conservatives’ Public Enemy No. 1.

That also has meant that the White House hasn’t had much use for her either. Earlier this month, she appeared blindsided by reports that President Obama was considering tinkering with Medicare and Social Security as a means of reaching a deficit-reduction deal with Speaker John Boehner. But she quickly became a ringing voice on the left pushing back on the proposal.

Revenge is sweet, and I hope Pelosi remembers that when the President and the Speaker come calling. Don’t believe a word they say, Nancy! We need you to stand strong on Social Security, Medicare, and taxing the rich at least a little bit.


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!! I’m going to start out with some interesting poll results that came out yesterday.

According to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, a lot of ordinary Republicans are unhappy with their GOP representatives in Washington, DC. From the WaPo:

While Republicans in Congress have remained united in their opposition to any tax increases, the poll finds GOP majorities favoring some of the specific changes advocated by the president, including higher income tax rates for the wealthiest Americans.

There is also broad dissatisfaction with Obama’s unwillingness to reach across the aisle: Nearly six in 10 of those polled say the president has not been open enough to compromise. Among independents, 79 percent say Republicans aren’t willing enough to make a deal, while 62 percent say the same of Obama.

Republicans may also be losing the war of perception about who stands with whom in the debates over the deficit and the economy. A majority view the president as more committed to protecting the interests of the middle class and small businesses, while large majorities see Republicans as defending the economic interests of big corporations and Wall Street financial institutions.

ABC’s The Note reports that based on the same poll,

Against a backdrop of broad concern about the impact of default, 80 percent of Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll say they’re dissatisfied or even angry with the way the federal government is working, up 11 points in a single month. It last was this high in 1992, during the economic downturn that cost the first President Bush a second term.

The times today are nearly as tough: The ABC News Frustration Index has risen to 72 on its scale of 0 to 100, its highest since just before the 2010 midterm elections and well into the political danger zone. The index combines dissatisfaction with the government, anti-incumbent sentiment and ratings of the president and the economy alike.

But unlike 1992 – or 2010 – the opposition party’s taking even more heat than the president. While President Obama for the first time has fallen under 40 percent approval for handling the economy, the Republicans in Congress do even worse, 28 percent approval. On handling the deficit, it’s a weak 38 percent approval for Obama, but a weaker 27 percent for the GOP. And on handling taxes, Obama has 45 percent approval, the GOP, 31 percent.

It’s good to know that some Americans are getting angry. I wish they’d get out the pitchforks and make some noise about it in the streets.

A couple of GOP governors are dropping in the polls too. Media star Chris Christie is turning off his NJ constituents.

Gov. Chris Christie’s popularity has declined significantly over the first half of 2011 and he would have a very difficult time winning reelection if voters in New Jersey went to the polls today, according to a survey by Public Policy Polling.

While Republican activists outside New Jersey want Christie to seek the party’s 2012 presidential nomination, only 43 percent of Garden State voters approve of the job the governor is doing to 53 percent who disapprove.

The figures represent a 13 point decline from when Public Policy Polling last surveyed voters in January, when Christie’s standing was 48 percent approval and 45 percent disapproval.

Christie’s numbers are steady with Republicans but independents have really turned on him, going from approving by a 55 percent to 39 percent margin to disapproving by a 54 percent to 40 percent margin. And his crossover popularity with Democrats is on the decline as well. Where 23 percent approved of him in January, now only 16 percent do.

Christie has been making huge cuts in government services. I guess austerity isn’t as popular with the grass roots as it is with the power elites.

Gov. John Kasich of Ohio is even more unpopular than Christie.

The latest poll released Wednesday by Connecticut’s Quinnipiac University showed that only 35 percent of registered voters approve of the job the Republican governor has done in his first six months. Exactly half say they disapprove, up 1 percentage point since May, with the remainder undecided.

“Even after the state budget has been approved as he promised without raising taxes, and even though the Quinnipiac University poll finds that 63 percent say they favor such an approach, Gov. Kasich’s name remains mud in the eyes of the Ohio electorate,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

The same poll shows that even some of those who approve of the governor’s performance are prepared to reject his signature law restricting the collective bargaining power of government employees at the ballot on Nov. 8. Fifty-six percent of voters say it should be repealed, up 2 percentage points since May.

Republicans always overreach, don’t they? It looks like the 2010 win may have been just a flash in the pan.

Michele Bachmann is surging in the polls against Mitt Romney.

The Minnesota congresswoman returned to Iowa early Wednesday morning as polls show her gaining ground nationally as a top alternative to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the early front-runner for the GOP nomination. Since formally entering the race last month, she has eclipsed other Republicans in the field, including fellow Minnesotan Tim Pawlenty, who has been actively campaigning all year.

The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll offered a statistical glimpse at their diverging fortunes. In the poll, 16% of the registered Republicans picked Ms. Bachmann as their top choice, putting her second behind Mr. Romney, who remains the first choice of 30% of the Republicans polled. In the same survey, 2% of registered Republicans chose the former Minnesota governor as their top pick, down from 6% in April.

Meanwhile, Bachmann is still being hassled about her migraine headaches. Karl Rove is calling for her to release her medical records. Boy those Republican power brokers are really scared of Bachmann, aren’t they?

A doctor who has examined Bachmann says the headaches aren’t a big deal.

A letter dated Wednesday from a congressional doctor whose office has examined Republican Michele Bachmann described the presidential candidate’s migraines as occurring “infrequently” and controlled by prescription medication.

Bachmann’s campaign distributed the letter from Dr. Brian Monahan, the attending physician in Congress. Bachmann has been evaluated by that office during her three terms in Washington.

Former NH Senator Judd Gregg thinks the Republicans in the House will push the debt limit battle to the brink. In fact, he thinks it will take Social Security checks not going out to get them to agree to raising the debt ceiling.

“My gut tells me that we’ll need a weekend of drama — maybe a weekend of the government not paying its bills — politicians need drama to make something happen. As soon as social security checks don’t go out, the politics will change. I suspect it’ll take artificial drama to get closure past the House.”

“Boehner understands that a shutdown is bad for his caucus and that there’s something viable short of a shutdown but right now… it’s a 50-50 chance that we go into a few days of disruption.”

Gregg said lawmakers don’t really care about the nation’s credit rating:

“Policy-makers only worry about a ratings downgrade at the margins. They don’t really care. The ratings agencies put themselves in a corner that’s foolish. I’ve always found them to be incredibly naive about the political process. To be so definitive is foolish.”

“For the ratings agencies to make this drop-dead date, it’s stupid and naive because we’ll straighten it out, but our process doesn’t allow it to do it overnight.”

Gregg says all this will means the Republicans get most of the blame for the mess. They didn’t learn anything from what happened to Gingrich, did they?

Gregg is probably right about the gang of six plan, since that is basically what the Republicans already rejected. And Brian Beutler reports that they are rejecting it again.

As time goes on, and conservative interest groups and members of Congress rip into it, support among Republicans for the Gang of Six plan to reduce deficits will begin to wane. In fact, that’s already happening.

In a publicly released memo meant to undermine support for the Gang of Six plan in its current form, House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) laments, “it increases revenues while failing to seriously address exploding federal spending on health care, which is the primary driver of our debt. There are also serious concerns that the proposal’s substance on spending falls far short of what is needed to achieve the savings it claims.”

And check this out from Politico:

A few wealthy donors have called Cantor to tell him they wouldn’t mind if their taxes are raised. During two closed meetings this week — one with vote-counting lawmakers, and another with the entire conference — Cantor told colleagues that some well-heeled givers have told them they’re willing to pay more taxes. Cantor, according to an aide, has responded that House Republicans aren’t standing up for the wealthy, but rather for the middle class, who want to see their taxes stay low.

Yeah sure, Eric. You’re standing up for the middle class. ROFLOL!

With unemployment so high, all we need is more impediments to getting hired. According to the NYT, even obscure blog comments could come into play as companies evaluate job candidates.

A year-old start-up, Social Intelligence, scrapes the Internet for everything prospective employees may have said or done online in the past seven years.

Then it assembles a dossier with examples of professional honors and charitable work, along with negative information that meets specific criteria: online evidence of racist remarks; references to drugs; sexually explicit photos, text messages or videos; flagrant displays of weapons or bombs and clearly identifiable violent activity.

[….]

Less than a third of the data surfaced by Mr. Drucker’s firm comes from such major social platforms as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. He said much of the negative information about job candidates comes from deep Web searches that find comments on blogs and posts on smaller social sites, like Tumblr, the blogging site, as well as Yahoo user groups, e-commerce sites, bulletin boards and even Craigslist.

….it is photos and videos that seem to get most people in trouble. “Sexually explicit photos and videos are beyond comprehension,” Mr. Drucker said. “We also see flagrant displays of weapons. And we see a lot of illegal activity. Lots and lots of pictures of drug use.”

I’ll end with this nightmarish story from the LA Times: Witness tells of horror as 3 swept over Vernal Fall in Yosemite

Bibee, a 28-year-old carpenter who grew up in Angels Camp, northwest of the park, had brought Amanda Lee, a visitor from Missouri, to the top of Vernal Fall on Tuesday — her first visit to Yosemite, but the latest of many for him.

They were standing behind a metal barricade, peering at the cascade….Bibee saw a man cross over the barricade. He was leaning over the 317-foot waterfall, holding a young girl, who was screaming in terror. People begged them to get back. “I’m yelling at him, ‘You SOB, get over here!'” Bibee said. Eventually, the two returned to safety.

But then Bibee noticed that three other people had also crossed over, and were “taking pictures and being stupid.”

The three people, members of a church group, fell into the water and went over the falls. All are presumed dead. Why would people go past a barricade and warning signs to stand on the edge of a raging waterfall? But it’s not the first time. The article says twelve people have gone over the falls previously–all were killed.

That’s it for me. What are you reading and blogging about today?


Obama Caves on Vetoing Short-Term Debt Limit Increase

So what else is new? After all his tough talk and veto threats, President Obama is now willing to do what Eric Cantor proposed last week–sign a short-term increase in the debt limit. From Politico:

President Barack Obama would support a short-term extension of the debt limit if Democrats and Republicans reach agreement on a broader deficit-cutting deal but need more time to move it through Congress, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday.

The White House later clarified that the extension would only be for a few days. Like the Libya effort was only going to last a couple of weeks?

Obama is now pushing the “gang of six” plan which, as David Dayen points out, consists of a bunch of vague recommendations that would need to be fleshed out after the plan passes. Can you say “pig in a poke?”

Back to Politico:

The president has repeatedly told congressional leaders that he would veto any short-term debt extensions, saying once that the country is not a “banana republic” that can live in constant fear of default.

Carney said the president’s position on that point has not changed.

“We are not wavering on the president’s absolute assertion that he won’t sign a … series of provisions that temporarily or in a limited fashion raise the debt limit,” Carney said, because it is bad for the economy and sends the wrong signal to the world.

Obama would not sign an extension “without an agreement on something big, a firm commitment on something big,” Carney said.

Yeah, right. Let’s face it. The President is a wimp, and the Republicans know it.


Quickie Debt Deal Update

Jamie Dupree at the AJC has a nice brief summary of the ‘Gang of Six Details’.  I know you’re as tired of the debt ceiling drama as I am but given that every one seems willing to sell us regular folks out, I think we need to keep on top of it.  That, and I’m getting damned close to cashing out all my money market funds and buying Loonies.  I kid you not.  I’d invest in a nice cash crop at this point if I could.  Pork Bellies any one?

So this is the overriding goals which basically are in keeping with the Cat Food Commission.  These, again, come from the so-called Gang of Six.

* Slash our nation’s deficits by $3.7 trillion/$3.6 trillion over ten years under CBO’s March 2011 baseline, or $4.65 trillion/$4.5 trillion under the original fiscal commission baseline (which used the President’s 2011 budget request as the starting point for discretionary spending).

* Stabilize our publicly-held debt by 2014.

* Reduce our publicly-held debt to roughly 70% of our economy by 2021.

* Impose unprecedented budget enforcement.

Here’s some more strategic principles that include the approach to Social Security.   The so-called spending caps principle is also included.

The plan uses a two-step legislative process: (1) an initial bill that makes immediate cuts; and (2) a process for a second bill to enact comprehensive reform and put our nation on a stable fiscal path. The plan would:

Immediately implement aggressive deficit reduction down payment

* Cut deficits by $500 billion.

Dramatically cut discretionary spending

* Cut nonsecurity and security discretionary spending over 10 years.

* Maintain investments that encourage economic growth, strengthen the safety net for those who truly need it, and preserve a strong national defense.

Carefully strengthen the solvency of our most important entitlement programs

* Spend health care dollars more efficiently in order to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid, while maintaining the basic structure of these critical programs.

* Fully pays for SGR (the “doc fix”) over 10 years.

Fundamentally reform our tax code

* Reduce marginal income tax rates and abolish the $1.7 trillion Alternative Minimum Tax.

* Encourage greater economic growth.

* Enhance the competitiveness of American businesses and workers against global competition.

* Reform spending through the tax code to eliminate investment distortions and tax gaming.

* Change the debate about taxes in America from rate levels and carve outs to competitiveness, fairness and growth.

* If CBO scored this plan, it would find net tax relief of approximately $1.5 trillion.

Strictly tighten the government’s budget processes

* Impose spending caps and security/nonsecurity firewalls.

* Sequester accounts at the end of the year to recoup any excessive spending by Congress.

* Restrict the use of emergency designations that circumvent the spending caps.

* Prevent Congress from exceeding the caps by requiring a stand-alone resolution subject to a 67-vote threshold, in order to isolate that vote to increase the deficit from any other policy items.

Reform Social Security for future generations

* Ensure 75-year solvency of Social Security and provide for a decennial review of the program to ensure it remains solvent.

* Reform Social Security on a separate track, isolated from deficit reduction – any savings from the program must go towards solvency.

There’s more bullet points over there that you may want to check out.  I agree that Social Security Reform should be kept on a separate track.  Right now, it’s not the priority problem at all.  The rest are just broad strategical approaches.  The detailed plan follows these.  The details are called an ‘aggressive’ plan and you’ll see that’s exactly so.

Here’s some of the details on Social Security.

* Consider Social Security reform, if and only if the comprehensive deficit reduction bill has already received 60 votes.

* Reform must ensure 75-year solvency of the program and provide for a decennial review to ensure it remains solvent. Any savings from the program must go towards solvency, not deficit reduction.

* If Finance fails to report Social Security reform meeting the instructions, allow a group of at least five senators from each party to introduce a resolution with recommendations that meet the committee’s instructions.

* Bar substitute amendments that worsen the solvency of Social Security.

* Combine any qualifying Social Security reform bill that receives 60 votes on final passage to the comprehensive bill at the desk before being sent to the House as a single bill.

* Vitiate the vote on the deficit-reduction bill if the Social Security reform bill does not receive 60 votes.

Here’s some of the highlights from the deficit reduction plan.  I am putting another one that impacts Social Security first. You can find information on the chained-CPI in my previous post here.

* Shift to the chained-CPI (a more accurate measure of inflation) government-wide  starting in 2012, along with the following specifications for Social Security: (1) exempt SSI from the shift for five years, and then phase in the shift over the next five years; and (2) provide a minimum benefit equal to 125% of the poverty line for five years. (According to CBO, the shift to chained-CPI would result in the annual adjustment growing, on average, about 0.25 percentage points per year slower than the current CPI.)

Here’s some of the discretionary spending cuts to departments.

* Finance would permanently reform or replace the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate formula ($298 billion) and fully offset the cost with health savings, would find an additional $202 billion/$85 billion in health savings, and would maintain the essential health care services that the poor and elderly rely upon.

* Armed Services would find $80 billion.

* Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions would find $70 billion.

* Homeland Security and Government Affairs would find $65 billion.

* Agriculture would find $11 billion while protecting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

* Commerce would find $11 billion.

* Energy would find $6 billion and may propose additional policies to generate savings that would be applied to the infrastructure deficit or to reduce the deficit.

* Judiciary would find an unspecified amount through medical malpractice reform.

* Require the Finance Committee to report tax reform within six months that would deliver real deficit savings by broadening the tax base, lowering tax rates, and generating economic growth as follows:

* Simplify the tax code by reducing the number of tax expenditures and reducing individual tax rates, by establishing three tax brackets with rates of 8–12 percent, 14–22 percent, and 23–29 percent.

* Permanently repeal the $1.7 trillion Alternative Minimum Tax.

* Tax reform must be projected to stimulate economic growth, leading to increased revenue.

* Tax reform must be estimated to provide $1 trillion in additional revenue to meet plan targets and generate an additional $133 billion by 2021, without raising the federal gas tax, to ensure improved solvency for the Highway Trust Fund.

There’s more details on the cuts over at the AJC article.  I think it looks like tax reform is a major part of this.  Please note that the top bracket is being adjusted downward and would be extremely generous to rich people.  Even if the Bush tax cuts sunset, this really reduces the progressivity of our tax system and I have a major problem with that.  Rich people use up more government services than normal people and these days, most of their money comes from nonproductive sources like capital gains from wherever and whatever activities. Certainly, earning money off of products that cause lung cancer or companies that go abroad and set up production in plants where suicide by workers is the norm isn’t exactly a productive use of capital.  If they feel morally unaffected by those investment decisions, that’s all well and good, but I don’t think the US treasury needs to subsidize people who create extraordinarily high social costs. It’s estimated that one pack of cigarettes creates between $40 -$70 of public health costs that are borne by tax payers, just as an example. Again,I don’t think we should be subsidizing investments in businesses with huge costs to society.

Look for more information as the details are released.


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

I’ve almost gotten shy about going out to search for links these days.  Most of the political and economic news is disheartening so I thought I’d try to mix it up today with some good stuff and disheartening stuff.  Hopefully, you can find some things to share with us too.

You may want to start out your day arming yourself with “Five Myths about Planned Parenthood” in case any one in your sphere of influence starts spewing some of the ridiculous memes passed around by the right wing. This was in WAPO over the weekend and was written by Clare Coleman worked for America’s best known provider of family planning and health services.  I liked number five.

Three million patients each year visit Planned Parenthood’s more than 800 health centers in every state, in big cities and small towns. In some areas, Planned Parenthood and the Title X-funded system are the only sexual health providers for hundreds of miles.

We screen people for high blood pressure, anemia and diabetes; we counsel them about smoking cessation and obesity; we connect them to other primary-care providers and social services. The huge response to the attack on family planning and on Planned Parenthood — hundreds of thousands of Americans signing petitions, showing up at rallies, calling Congress – is extraordinary. But it doesn’t surprise me. One in five American women has gone to Planned Parenthood at some point in her life, for respectful, compassionate, quality care. And now those Americans are going to have our back.

I feel like I’ve turned into an IMF groupie by putting up yet another link to them shortly after featuring one of their studies on the dominance of the finance sector, but here I go again.  I do spend time gleaning data from their site so maybe it’s just that I keep bumping into things.  The IMF says we have a Global Job Crisis.

At the end of his magnum opus, The General Theory, Keynes stated the following: “The outstanding faults of the economic society in which we live are its failure to provide for full employment and its arbitrary and inequitable distribution of wealth and incomes”.

Not everyone will agree with the entirety of this statement. But what we have learnt over time is that unemployment and inequality can undermine the very achievements of the market economy, by sowing the seeds of instability. In too many countries, the lack of economic opportunity can lead to unproductive activities, political instability, and even conflict. Just look at how the dangerous cocktail of unemployment and inequality—combined with political tension—is playing out in the Middle East and North Africa.

Because growth beset by social tensions is not conducive to economic and financial stability, the IMF cannot be indifferent to distribution issues. And when I look around today, I am concerned in this regard. For while recovery is here, growth—at least in the advanced economies—is not creating jobs and is not being shared broadly. Many people in many countries are facing a social crisis that is every bit as serious as the financial crisis.

Unemployment is at record levels. The crisis threw 30 million people out of work. And over 200 million people are looking for jobs all across the world today.

The jobs crisis is hitting the young especially hard. And what should have been a brief spell in unemployment is turning into a life sentence, possibly for a whole lost generation.

In too many countries, inequality is at record highs.

As we face these challenges, remember what we have accomplished. Under the umbrella of the G20, policymakers came together to avoid a financial freefall and probably a second Great Depression.

Today, we need a similar full force forward response in ensuring that we get the recovery we need. And that means not only a recovery that is sustainable and balanced among countries, but also one that brings employment and fair distribution.

This is part of a speech given by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund. He argues that financial sector reform is central to the problem of getting back on track.  It’s worth reading the entire thing or you can watch the video here.  Occasionally, I remember why I thought it was important to study economics.  This is one of those times.

The so-called “Gang of Six” is still anxious to put social security on the bargaining table. I still can’t figure out why every time some politician wants to talk about the Federal Deficit--in this case Senator Mark Warner–they mistakenly include the stand-alone program.

Including Social Security in the Gang of Six package appears to be a concession by Democrats made in exchange for agreement to raise some revenue by Republicans. But liberals in the Senate and House have made clear they will not stand for any cuts to benefits.

The 2012 budget passed by the House on Friday does not include reforms for Social Security. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) instead called for a trigger in the budget whereby the president and Congress would have to propose solutions once the Board of Trustees certifies the program is in trouble. Presidet Obama in his 2012 budget and in a speech last week did not lay out plans to reform Social Security.

Warner said the Gang is “very close” to an agreement that includes spending cuts and tax increases such as be eliminating the home mortgage tax deduction.

“We are going to make everybody mad with our approach,” he said.

Warner made clear he is opposed to the House Republican 2012 budget’s reliance on cuts to Medicare—he called it a “massive transfer of responsibility onto our seniors”– but he did not say how the Gang of Six will approach the massive entitlement program.

Please join me as I scream.  How stupid do they think we are?

Ninety-one year old Pete Seeger will be joined by David Amram, 80, and Peter Yarrow, 73 on the stage to inspire young people to be active in political and social justice movements.  Yarrow had just returned from a series of rallies in Wisconsin.

The three artist-activists say they are fired up by recent protests — from Egypt to Wisconsin — and by the enthusiasm of their youthful kin, who will join them onstage.

“I do have the feeling that the kind of energy we felt in the ’60s is in the air now,” Mr. Yarrow said. “That energy seems to be reigniting itself.”

That concert should be a treat.  It’s nice to see these guys seem to never tire of singing songs of justice. It’s important that a new generation hear these truly American songs.  I was interested in reading that many kids and grandkids of these folk singers are now in the family business and may show up on stage with them now and then.

Okay, this is something that kinda surprised me from the WSJ: “Greenspan Steps Up Call to End Bush-Era Tax Cuts”.  I still haven’t figure out why any one thinks he’s still relevant, but oh, well.  At least, he’s on the right side of this one.

Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan is stepping up his call for Congress to let the Bush-era tax cuts lapse.
In an appearance Sunday on ABC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Greenspan used his strongest words yet to urge lawmakers to let them expire. The risk of a U.S. debt crisis, he said, is just too big. Mr. Greenspan, who retired from the Federal Reserve in 2006, had endorsed the cuts back in 2001 championed by then-President George W. Bush.

“This crisis is so imminent and so difficult that I think we have to allow the so-called Bush tax cuts all to expire. That is a very big number,” he said, referring to how much the U.S. government could save from letting income taxes go back up to levels last seen under former President Bill Clinton.

Mr. Greenspan was talking about re-imposing the taxes for all Americans. The Treasury has estimated that a permanent extension of all the Bush tax cuts would cost $3.6 trillion over the next decade. Allowing taxes to increase on those in the top income brackets would take the cost to the government down to $2.9 trillion, according to White House estimates.

CBS news has done some data gathering on taxes as part of its Tax Day coverage: Wealthy Americans see drop in federal taxes; High-earning Americans pay less in taxes than in previous years; nearly half of U.S. households will pay no income taxes at all.

The Internal Revenue Service tracks the tax returns with the 400 highest adjusted gross incomes each year. The average income on those returns in 2007, the latest year for IRS data, was nearly $345 million. Their average federal income tax rate was 17 percent, down from 26 percent in 1992.

Over the same period, the average federal income tax rate for all taxpayers declined to 9.3 percent from 9.9 percent.

The top income tax rate is 35 percent, so how can people who make so much pay so little in taxes? The nation’s tax laws are packed with breaks for people at every income level. There are breaks for having children, paying a mortgage, going to college, and even for paying other taxes. Plus, the top rate on capital gains is only 15 percent.

There are so many breaks that 45 percent of U.S. households will pay no federal income tax for 2010, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank.

The sheer volume of credits, deductions and exemptions has both Democrats and Republicans calling for tax laws to be overhauled. House Republicans want to eliminate breaks to pay for lower overall rates, reducing the top tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. Republicans oppose raising taxes, but they argue that a more efficient tax code would increase economic activity, generating additional tax revenue.

The row of shotguns featured on the first season DVD set of Treme are set to be demolished as blight.

New Orleans is abuzz with the second season of Treme about to start up on HBO.  I have to admit that I have not watched it since I’m still working through my dose of PTS from Katrina and the aftermath. However, for those of you that are fans of the show, you can get it now on DVD and you can get a bit of a taste in what’s in store for you in season two from this story from the TP.  The show evidently ended last season with the city’s evacuation.  That’s something I will NEVER forget.  The show has been great for the city, overall and it’s producers have taken on a lot of causes around here including a fight to save some historic properties featured in the series’ promotions.  Just thought I’d add some insight into what the production brings to the city including its musicians.  Here’s a little drama from Hollywood South.

… production money is being spent daily in New Orleans for locations, for equipment, material, labor and talent. In the first two seasons, for example, about $2 million in music licensing money was paid for the rights to songs by New Orleans artists, alone. Such expenditures — with or without any charity component — are the crux of the real economic relationship between a film company and the community in which it works. It is a straight-up transaction. We come here to shoot a movie. We pay a variety of local vendors, government fees and individuals to do it. And for virtually every other movie shot in Louisiana, that is it — end of story.

Thought I’d end with a treat from Pete Seeger to get you through your coffee:


What’s on your reading and blogging list today?