New, Major Poll Shows Again That Voters Want JOBS Not Deficit Reduction — Will DC Listen To The Public?

In the middle of the DC frenzy over a contrived “debt crisis” a new, major poll shows what other polls have shown: voters want Washington to act on jobs (and jobs fix deficits), especially in manufacturing, but don’t think that our elected officials are paying attention. By more than two-to-one, voters want Washington to focus on job creation rather than deficit reduction.
From a press release describing this poll,

The study which included eight focus groups nationwide, along with a random national survey of 1,202 likely voters, finds that across the partisan spectrum, Democratic and Republican voters ranked job creation and rebuilding the nation’s manufacturing base at the top of their list of priorities. In fact, when asked to select the most important task for Congress and the President, “creating new manufacturing jobs,” which ranked just below creating jobs more generally, saw a bigger gain from 2010 (up 9%) than any other option, including deficit reduction, lower government spending, immigration reform, or addressing healthcare. Indeed, by a more than two-to-one margin (67% to 29%), voters prefer that Washington focus on job creation rather than deficit reduction.

Key Findings
Here are some of the key findings from this poll:

  • When given an “either/or” choice, just 29% want Washington to focus on deficit reduction while 67% want job creation.
  • “Creating manufacturing jobs in the U.S.” and “strengthening manufacturing in this country” are the top voter priorities for the President.
  • Only 50% of voters believe that the President is working to create manufacturing jobs – an 11% drop from 2010.
  • Congress fares even worse – 41% say Democrats in Congress are working to create jobs, and 32% see the GOP working to create jobs.
  • 90% have a favorable view of American manufacturing companies – up 22 points from 2010.
  • 97% have a favorable view of U.S.-made goods – up 5 points from 2010.
  • 94% of voters say creating manufacturing jobs is either “one of the most important” things government can do or “very important.”
  • 90% support Buy American policies “to ensure that taxpayer funded government projects use only U.S.-made goods and supplies wherever possible.”
  • 95% favor keeping “America’s trade laws strong and strictly enforced to provide a level playing field for our workers and businesses.”

The entire poll is available as a PDF here: Findings From A National Survey And Focus Groups Of Likely 2012 Voters.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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A Bipartisan Move Against Democracy

Step back from the day-to-day, hour-to-hour details of the debt-ceiling negotiations for a minute and look at the bigger picture. Look what we’re in the middle of. Our legislators are being stampeded by a manufactured “crisis” into profoundly changing the nature of our country and who our economy is “for,” on extremely short notice, against the clear wishes of the majority of the public. They are doing so without following the long-established process for due consideration of important issues; they are not holding hearings, not giving time for public input, not going through committees… The act of negotiating with these hostage-takers at all is itself a violation of our established, democratic system. The question to ask is not, “What painful cuts should we agree to to save our country,” but rather, “Why are we engaged in this anti-democracy exercise at all?”
A Functioning Democracy?
In a functioning democracy an informed public considers and debates its options and then comes to a decision on how best to proceed. In a representative republic our representatives are called “representatives” because they represent us, and vote to implement our wishes.
The founding idea of our country is that We, the People are in charge, and our country exists to promote the common good — “welfare” — of all of us. Elected officials take an oath of office to protect and defend our Constitution, which begins with those words, “We, the People.” Over time we have built up a system of institutions, processes, procedures, traditions and mechanisms to implement this founding idea. The oath they take is to protect and defend this system.
Oath Of Office: Protect and Defend Our System
Today all of this seems all to have fallen away from us. A fanatical but extremely well-funded minority is using a manufactured “crisis” to hold the country’s economy hostage. As ransom — if we don’t want the country to go into default, destroying our economy — they demand that we force fast and dramatic changes to the nature of our country and our social safety net. These changes will take effect before the public can react and gather the forces of opposition. They will be “locked in,” creating “facts on the ground” that we have to deal with, and which are extremenly difficult to undo, no matter what We, the People want or need.
Rather than honor their oath of office to protect and defend our We-the-People system from all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to listen to “We, the People,” and to promote the common good of all of us, our leaders have instead entered into negotiations with the hostage-takers. The act of entering into these negotiations is by itself an agreement to work outside of our established system, and the result of these negotiations will be to change the equation of who our system is for.
Crisis?
Is there really a “debt crisis” necessitating such a dramatic and immediate response? Just 10 years ago the “crisis” we faced was that we were paying off the debt too fast and it was claimed this would lead to socialism as government surpluses were invested in private assets. So taxes for the wealthy were cut. At the same time, enabled by another “crisis,” the military budget was dramatically increased — in ways that enriched “private contractors.”
The result of these changes was an immediate return from budget surpluses to the dramatic budget deficits initiated by President Reagan. Then-President Bush called these deficits “Incredibly positive news” precisely because they would bring on a debt crisis that would enable today’s stampede to change our system of government. The debt “crisis” was intentional.
Cause Of Deficits and Debt
The increase of deficits beyond $1 trillion occurred in President Bush’s last budget year — the consequence of the financial collapse and the resulting drop in tax revenue combined with increases in social safety-net program payments. But the underlying cause of the deficits was the Bush tax cuts and wars. Today, in How the Deficit Got This Big, the NY Times offers charts and figures that show that:

…under Mr. Bush, tax cuts and war spending were the biggest policy drivers of the swing from projected surpluses to deficits from 2002 to 2009. Budget estimates that didn’t foresee the recessions in 2001 and in 2008 and 2009 also contributed to deficits. Mr. Obama’s policies, taken out to 2017, add to deficits, but not by nearly as much.

As for the causes of the longer-term debt picture The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has put together this chart, explaining:


Longer term most of our country’s future debt problem is from tax cuts, increases in military spending, and the effects of the economic downturn. Most of the rest is because of our private healthcare delivery system. These “debt-ceiling” negotiations are not addressing these causes of the problem at all. Instead they are about using whipped-up panic over those intentionally-created problems to move the common wealth into private hands.
Not The First Time
This tactic of whipping up panic over a “debt crisis” has been used before to stampede legislative bodies into making radical changes on short notice, moving common wealth into private hands. In the post Debt Crisis? Really? I hilighted a 1993 example from Canada that was very similar to today’s. From the source’s account,

By the time Canadians learned that the “deficit crisis” had been grossly manipulated by the corporate-funded think tanks, it hardly mattered – the budget cuts had already been made and locked in. As a direct result, social programs for the country’s unemployed were radically eroded and have never recovered, despite many subsequent surplus budgets.

There is example after of example of the use of manufactured “crises” to panic and stampede legislatures into privatizing public wealth, just as we are experiencing today.
Democracy Eroded
What is happening here is not supposed to be the process of decision-making used in a representative democracy. Instead what we are experiencing is designed specifically to engineer circumstances that persuade us to bypass established processes and safeguards. These safeguards are in place to protect us from making the very sort of panic-driven decisions that we are about to make. And they are designed to “lock in” the changes, so we can’t reverse the damage when we are able to catch our breath.
How can our leaders not recognize and resist what is being done here? Have our own leaders drifted so far from America’s traditional love of democracy that they accept this and fall into playing the game?
Elitist Mindset
It seems that our own leaders have fallen into an elitist mindset, which enables them to go along. Persuaded by decades of corporate-funded propaganda, many now believe that the public doesn’t know what is good for them, that the things democracy entitles them to — “entitlements” — will bankrupt the country, that taxing the wealthy and corporations — the “job creators” — will harm the economy. They do not seem to see how much of our wealth is now flowing to a very few at the top of the pyramid. The fact that taxes on the wealthiest have been cut from a top rate of 90% all the way to a rate of only 15% for hedge-fund managers making billions — far lower than many of the rest of us pay — is ignored. And the fact that we did not have budget deficits when the wealthy paid higher taxes is also ignored. In fact, today just 400 people now have more wealth than half of our population, and the trend is accelerating. But many of our leaders believe that the things We, the People do for each other are a problem, and we must be protected from ourselves.
One example of the slow drift away from love of democracy is the recent “Deficit Commission.” This was a commission of elites — there were no teachers or unemployed or plumbers or disabled or poor people in that room — that was assigned to come up with ways to lower our budget deficits. They did not come up with any recommendations, but the leaders of the commissions came up with a plan of their own — to cut taxes on the wealthy while cutting the things that We, the People do for each other.
Again and again our elites try to create bodies like this that act as an external force they have to submit to, allowing them to escape accountability to voters.
These commissions come up with plans that benefit the wealthy few but violate what the vast majority of Americans want. They are designed to come up with recommendations that benefit the wealthy few, and are presented to Congress with “up-or-down-vote” procedures that leave legislators and voters with no recourse – on purpose. Pre-ordained conclusions with non-democratic force-through procedures.
“Super Congress”
Another example of this kind of anti-democratic, elitist drift was a proposal floated over the weekend to establish a “Super-Congress” — a Politburo of elites, that sits above the Congress and is not accountable to the public. The idea is to save the people from themselves by creating a special 12-member panel of lawmakers who come up with proposals that the Congress must vote on, with no changes and an “up-or-down vote” to implement, thus bypassing the established, democratic system and keeping individual members from being held accountable for the results. The idea is to “tie the hands” of Congress, keep them from meddling, and get things done quickly before the public can rally opposition.
That this idea was even floated shows the extend of separation that exists between our elected officials and We, the People.
Public Will Revolt
Regular Americans are not currently following this, and are turned out because it is just one more Chicken Little coming out of DC. But the public will revolt when the final decisions are put in front of them. The public overwhelmingly supports Social Security and Medicare, and overwhelmingly want taxes increased on the wealthy.
So when the results are presented to them there will be trouble. And that is also part of the plan.
In the 2010 election Republicans campaigned on a theme that “Democrats cut $500 billion from Medicare” and won the election. In 2012 the public will be presented with hundreds of millions of dollars spent on campaign ads, crying out that “Democrats cut your Social Security and Medicare, while keeping taxes low for the rich.”
Think I’m kidding? They have already started.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Debt-Ceiling Deal’s Cuts Could Crash Economy

Negotiating with crazy people is always a bad idea and negotiating with hostage-takers is dangerous. But negotiating with crazy hostage-takers is worse than dangerously bad. The “debt-ceiling” deal being negotiated to keep the economy from being crashed could crash the economy anyway. Making draconian cuts could throw us into another recession — one that would be much, much harder to get out of because we have used up many of our recession-fighting tools.
Withdrawing government spending literally “takes money out of the economy.” Democrats should instead offer the country a plan to invest in We, the People by modernizing our infrastructure, improving our schools, making us energy self-sufficient, improving our social safety net and restoring our manufacturing and key industries thereby making American businesses more competitive in the world economy. Propose this instead of painful cuts the benefit only the rich and take it to the country.
From Paying Off Debt To Massive Debt In Ten Years
Ten years ago the government had huge surpluses and was on a path to paying off the entire debt. What changed? Ten years ago last week the Bush tax cuts passed. Republicans promised the tax cuts would create jobs and grow the economy. Instead the economy had one of the slowest periods in our history, creating very few new jobs and causing stagnant wages, leading to huge personal debt. (But the rich got dramatically richer.) And those cuts, along with huge military increases, two wars all leading up to an economic crash caused by deregulation and mismanagement, caused the country’s debt to exploded. Taking office with a surplus of more than $250 billion, Bush left office with a $1.4 trillion budget deficit for his final budget year.

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Debt Limit Reached
Now the United States has reached the Congressionally-authorized borrowing limit and is heading towards default. The White House is negotiating an increase in this limit with the very people who exploded the debt, people who have a vested interest in killing the economy so they can win the next election, and their budget-cut proposals would do just that. It is suddenly dawning on lots of people that this whole enterprise of austerity, taking trillions out of the budget – and therefore out of the economy – is a very, very dangerous proposition.
Cuts Make Economy Worse
Withdrawing government spending literally “takes money out of the economy.” We have a crisis because of lack of demand. Republican solutions of giving the wealthy and corporations even more money and tax cuts obviously will not work because the rich don’t create jobs, we do. The rich are already richer than ever, with a greater share of the income and wealth than ever, and giant corporations are already sitting on tons of cash.
So with the stimulus winding down, and state and local budget cuts causing layoffs of teachers, firefighters and other government employees, Republicans are demanding even more layoffs from federal budget cuts as a “cure.” But cutting government as a prescription for creating jobs sounds a lot like their claim that cutting taxes increases revenue. The problem is a lack of demand, and budget cuts taking hundreds of billions out of the economy only makes that worse.
In a front-page story last week, Economy’s Woes Shift the Focus of Budget Talks, the NY Times sounded the alarm that things are not going well,

Recent signs that the economic recovery is flagging have introduced a new tension into the bipartisan budget negotiations, giving rise to calls especially from liberals to limit the size of immediate spending cuts or even to provide an additional fiscal stimulus.
… More broadly, however, the signs of an economic slowdown in past weeks — not least Friday’s report showing weak job growth in May — have altered the climate for those talks. Amid the emphasis in Washington on significant deficit reductions, … some Democrats, economists and financial market analysts are raising concerns that too much fiscal restraint this year and next could further undermine the recovery.

Democrats are also noticing that agreeing to cuts demanded by Republicans could well have an effect on their chances in the next election.

“I think Obama himself is going to have to move or he’s going to risk losing the next election,” said Mark Weisbrot, a liberal economist and a co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “He’s going to have to say clearly that the federal government has to step in when the economy is so weak,” regardless of whether his proposals can pass in the Republican-controlled House.

Republican economist Martin Feldstein’s recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, The Economy Is Worse Than You Think, also warned how bleak the economy looks and what the prospects are. (Of course, Feldstein argues for Republican plutocratic solutions: cut taxes, Social Security and Medicare.) From the op-ed:

The drop in GDP growth to just 1.8% in the first quarter of 2011, from 3.1% in the final quarter of last year, understates the extent of the decline. Two-thirds of that 1.8% went into business inventories rather than sales to consumers or other final buyers. This means that final sales growth was at an annual rate of just 0.6% and the actual quarterly increase was just 0.15%—dangerously close to no rise at all. A sustained expansion cannot be built on inventory investment. It takes final sales to induce businesses to hire and to invest.
The picture is even gloomier if we look in more detail. Estimates of monthly GDP indicate that the only growth in the first quarter of 2011 was from February to March. After a temporary rise in March, the economy began sliding again in April, with declines in real wages, in durable-goods orders and manufacturing production, in existing home sales, and in real per-capita disposable incomes. It is not surprising that the index of leading indicators fell in April, only the second decline since it began to rise in the spring of 2009.
The data for May are beginning to arrive and are even worse than April’s. They are marked by a collapse in payroll-employment gains; a higher unemployment rate; manufacturers’ reports of slower orders and production; weak chain-store sales; and a sharp drop in consumer confidence.

Feldstein even agreed that the stimulus was not enough,

As for the “stimulus” package, both its size and structure were inadequate to offset the enormous decline in aggregate demand. The fall in household wealth by the end of 2008 reduced the annual level of consumer spending by more than $500 billion. The drop in home building subtracted another $200 billion from GDP. The total GDP shortfall was therefore more than $700 billion. The Obama stimulus package that started at less than $300 billion in 2009 and reached a maximum of $400 billion in 2010 wouldn’t have been big enough to fill the $700 billion annual GDP gap even if every dollar of the stimulus raised GDP by a dollar.

The investment community is taking notice, too. From Reuters: Deficit cut would trim growth: BlackRock’s Fink,

A $4 trillion reduction of the U.S. budget deficit, if enacted by Congress, would trim economic growth by one percentage point a year for the next decade, BlackRock (BLK.N) Chief Executive Laurence Fink said.
With analysts already forecasting modest growth of 2 percent to 3 percent annually, that would leave the United States with an economy expanding at only about 1 percent a year, Fink said at the Morningstar investment conference on Friday.

Fink, however, argues that the government should do it anyway, along with cutting corporate taxes.
Cuts Make Deficit Worse
In a blog post, Thoughts on Voodoo, Paul Krugman explains (with some math) why austerity right now doesn’t help, and only makes deficits worse,

There’s a quite good case to be made that austerity in the face of a depressed economy is, literally, a false economy — that it actually makes long-run budget problems worse.
[. . .]How big do these negative effects have to be to turn austerity into a net negative for the budget? Not very big. In my example, the real interest payments saved by a 1 percent of GDP austerity move are less than .02 percent of GDP; if the marginal tax effect of GDP is 0.25, that means that a reduction of future GDP by .08 percent is enough to swamp the alleged fiscal benefits. It’s not at all hard to imagine that happening.
In short, there’s a very good case to be made that austerity now isn’t just a bad idea because of its impact on the economy and the unemployed; it may well fail even at the task of helping the budget balance.

My recent post, See WHY Austerity Can’t Reduce The Deficit links to the equations that explain the background of Krugman’s (and others’) concusion,

OK, so we have a $100 GDP with $10 deficits and we want to cut that to $5. Kash explains that a $5 spending cut means (by definition) that GDP immediately drops $5, and this (by definition) $5 drop in consumer income makes tax revenue drop as well (as well as a further drop in GDP). After some calculations (go to the post) Kash shows that a $5 cut makes deficits drop to 7.4%, not 5%, but GDP also drops quite a bit – maybe 7 or 8%. Seriously, go see the calculations, they are not difficult.

Just cutting people out of the economy doesn’t fix the problem, it shifts the problem and eventually will kill the economy.
Stimulus Worked — But Was Not Enough

Private Sector Jobs - May 2011

Here is the timeline you see on this chart:

  • First, there is the Bush freefall, from the policies Republicans want to return to
  • then the effect of the stimulus spending reverses the decline, bringing back job growth
  • then the stimulus winds down, and job growth levels out
  • and combined with state & local budget cutbacks — spending cuts, which Republicans want more of — job growth stalls. (Note that this chart is private sector only doesn’t show effect of government job losses.)

Jobs Fix Deficits
Jobs fix deficits. Restoring good-paying jobs starts to restore the tax base and stops the emergency spending on the unemployed. The increased demand as people find work and paychecks revives retail and manufacturing. Housing recovery, for example, depends on more jobs. But with unemployment high and wages are low, so many people just can’t afford to buy — or keep — a house.
Only The “Pain Caucus” Benefits From Cuts
In the recent op-ed, Rule by Rentiers, Krugman explains that these budget-cut austerity policies help a small, select group. He calls them “the pain caucus.”

The latest economic data have dashed any hope of a quick end to America’s job drought, which has already gone on so long that the average unemployed American has been out of work for almost 40 weeks. Yet there is no political will to do anything about the situation. Far from being ready to spend more on job creation, both parties agree that it’s time to slash spending — destroying jobs in the process — with the only difference being one of degree.
. . . Consciously or not, policy makers are catering almost exclusively to the interests of rentiers — those who derive lots of income from assets, who lent large sums of money in the past, often unwisely, but are now being protected from loss at everyone else’s expense.
. . . While the ostensible reasons for inflicting pain keep changing, however, the policy prescriptions of the Pain Caucus all have one thing in common: They protect the interests of creditors, no matter the cost. Deficit spending could put the unemployed to work — but it might hurt the interests of existing bondholders. More aggressive action by the Fed could help boost us out of this slump — in fact, even Republican economists have argued that a bit of inflation might be exactly what the doctor ordered — but deflation, not inflation, serves the interests of creditors.
[. . .] No, the only real beneficiaries of Pain Caucus policies (aside from the Chinese government) are the rentiers: bankers and wealthy individuals with lots of bonds in their portfolios.

Cuts Cold Cost Election
Policies of austerity cause large-scale suffering — done now to avoid restoring tax rates at the top. Budget cuts are asking the public to take the hit, through cuts in programs for us, for among other things the cost of bailing out Wall Street.
Republicans understand that the public will blame Obama for the cuts and are certainly planning on using the resulting lack of jobs in the next election. Remember, in the 2010 midterms they campaigned and won using a theme that Democrats were to blame for “$500 billion in Cuts to Medicare”.
The conservative noise machine is already claiming that Obama is harming Social Security. For example, see last week’s Obama busting Social Security by conservative Don Surber,

Having cut employee contributions by one-third, the president now wants to cut employer contributions in a desperate CYA to cover up the Obamess Economy.

Public Wants A Different Solution
The American Majority wants the same solutions that economists agree work better for more people. The public wants tax increases on the rich. They want direct job creation by government. They want a revival of American manufacturing. They want a national industrial/economic policy. They understand that growing the economy reduces the deficits.
Austerity is about intentionally causing suffering, so a wealthy few benefit. But investing in our country to create jobs, modernize our infrastructure, improve our schools, make us more energy self-sufficient will not only make our country more competitive in the world economy will improve the lives of We, the People. Obviously this is the better choice, and a significant percentage of the public will have Democrats’ back if they offer this plan.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus’ People’s Budget is the template for a job-creating deficit solution. The Progressive Caucus is a group of progressives in the Congress who have put together a budget that fixes the deficit and grows the economy, providing jobs. It is called The PEOPLE’S Budget Plan. You can read the plan at: Congressional Progressive Caucus : FY2012 Progressive Budget,

The CPC proposal:
• Eliminates the deficits and creates a surplus by 2021
• Puts America back to work with a “Make it in America” jobs program
• Protects the social safety net
• Ends the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
• Is FAIR (Fixing America’s Inequality Responsibly)
What the proposal accomplishes:
• Primary budget balance by 2014.
• Budget surplus by 2021.
• Reduces public debt as a share of GDP to 64.1% by 2021, down 16.5 percentage points from a baseline fully adjusted for both the doc fix and the AMT patch.
• Reduces deficits by $5.6 trillion over 2012-21, relative to this adjusted baseline.
• Outlays equal to 22.2% of GDP and revenue equal 22.3% of GDP by 2021.

Beyond the people’s budget we need a massive investment in infrastructure modernization. This infrastructure work has to be done anyway, no matter what. The longer we delay it the more our country falls behind. It is millions of jobs that need doing at a time when millions need jobs! (And by the way the government can borrow at nearly zero interest rates right now — one more reason to do it now.)
The Republicans are demanding that we cut and gut our government and therefore our economy in exchange for keeping the country from defaulting on its debts. The deal they are demanding will do just as much harm as default. Instead we need to invest in We, the People with jobs and infrastructure that enable us to grow our way out of this mess.
Actions
Tell President Obama to put the People’s Budget on the table.
10 years of Bush tax cuts is enough! Click here to demand your representative supports the Fairness in Taxation Act so the rich contribute their fair share.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Dems Should Vote For Clean Debt Limit Bill

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The House is voting on a “clean” debt ceiling bill today — a bill to raise the debt ceiling without any “hostage-taking” conditions. This is the right thing to do for the country and every Democrat should vote for this. Voting for a clean bill will draw the contrast for the public between those who are doing the right thing, and those willing to hold the world’s economy hostage to a make-the-rich-richer plutocracy agenda. Democrats who do not vote for a clean bill should lose committee assignments, parking places, even bathroom keys.
The Debt Ceiling
The country’s “debt ceiling” has been reached. This means that the government’s authority to borrow money has reached its limit. The Treasury Department is engaging in gimmicks and schemes to keep the country going but time is running out. The Congress must extend this limit, or the government will default on its bonds.
If our government defaults on its bonds it would initiate a worldwide financial crisis that dwarfs the Wall Street meltdown of a few years ago.
WHY We Have This Debt
In 1981 the Reagan administration dramatically changed the course of the country. They defunded government by passing huge tax cuts for the rich and massively increasing military spending, and began cutting back on the things We, the People (government) do for each other. The country cut back on maintaining — never mind modernizing — our infrastructure, our schools, colleges and universities, scientific research and other things that make us competitive in world markets. We began cashing in our factories and moving the jobs out of the country. As a result of Reagan-era changes our trade deficits soared, wages stagnated, pensions disappeared, and a few extremely wealthy started getting much, much richer.
One major result of these changes, of course, was the huge budget deficits that accumulated into today’s massive debt. This was the plan from the start, to “starve the beast” by defunding government and forcing the debt to reach a level where there was no choice but to cut back on democratic government’s protections for the people, unleashing plutocracy.
Hostage-Taking Enabled: The Tax Cut Extension
This debate over the debt ceiling and hostage-taking follows the recent extension of the Bush tax cuts — another product of hostage-taking. At the end of the last Congress unemployment benefits for the millions of unemployed were running out. Republicans — having filibustered much of the legislation of the prior two years — held the extension of benefits “hostage” saying they would not let it pass unless the deficit-creating Bush tax cuts were extended.
Enough Democrats caved and passed an extension of the Bush tax cuts. This validated hostage-taking as a successful tactic while making the deficit much worse, setting the stage for today’s debt-ceiling fight.
The Vote Is A Trick
Today’s vote has been scheduled by the Republican leadership as a trap, trying to get some Democrats to vote with Republicans to support their hostage-taking agenda and create the appearance of bipartisan support for plutocracy. If the Republican position gets the support of enough Democratic members, Republicans can then demand deep cuts in Medicare and other programs that help people and hold corporate power in check, in exchange for their votes to allow the world’s economy to continue to operate.
From TPM: First Debt Limit Vote Today As GOP Looks To Divide Dems,

The vote is intended to expose fault lines within the Democratic caucus, with Republicans counting on sizable number of Democrats to side with them and bolster their case that Democrats need to agree to deep spending cuts as a condition to raising the debt limit.

Vote For A Clean Debt-Ceiling Bill
Voting for a clean bill stops government-by-hostage-in its tracks. Voting for a clean bill saves the world’s economy. Voting for a clean bill fights the plutocracy agenda. Voting for a clean bill saves Medicare, Social Security and the things We, the People do for each other. Voting for a clean bill is the right thing to do and doing the right thing is the right thing politically.
Call your member of Congress NOW and demand a vote for a clean debt-ceiling bill.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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“Gut Or Shut” — Is America Ready?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Republicans are saying they are going to either gut the government or shut it down. They mean it. It’s gut or shut, and they are not going to allow a third choice. This is not just posturing and they are not likely to engage in bipartisan bargaining. Their rhetoric has painted them into a corner with their base. We should take them at their word and prepare.
On TV Sunday Lindsey Graham, a supposedly “centrist” US senator said he is willing to let the United States default on its Treasury obligations, saying,

“I will not vote for the debt ceiling increase until I see a plan in place that will deal with our long term debt obligations starting with Social Security, a real bipartisan effort to make sure that Social Security stays solvent, adjusting the age, looking at means tests for benefits. On the spending side I’m not going to vote for a debt ceiling increase unless we go back to 2008 spending levels, cutting discretionary spending…”

Sen. Graham said the threat to destroy the economy unless Social Security is cut is “a great opportunity to change the course of America’s future.” Yet there is little widespread shock or outrage or calls for his resignation from the so-called “responsible” leaders among the D.C. elites. So it appears that willingness to destroy the economy of the country and the world to score an ideological victory has moved into the realm of acceptability. This tells us how much our politics has changed in recent years.
One after another Republicans — the very people responsible for the massive debt — have been outlining their “conditions” for a vote to prevent default and allow the country’s economy to survive. They maintain they are not going to pass a budget that does not gut the government, and if the Senate and President do not go along with this they will just let the government default. They say they “can’t want” for a “bloodbath.” Senator Jim DeMint, for example, said today,

“We need to have a showdown at this point that we are not going to increase our debt ceiling anymore,” he said. “We are going to cut things necessary to stay within the current levels, which is over $14 trillion. This needs to be a big showdown.”

This “gut or shut” threat is so far beyond anything the country has experienced that the country really has no idea what is about to happen in the next few months. But this is just the next step in a 30-year plan and we should understand it that way.
The Huge Debt Was The Plan
The huge deficit and accumulated debt was intentional. It was the plan all along: cut taxes on the rich, grow the debt into an emergency and then use that emergency to force cuts in things our government does for We, the People. Do not forget this and do not let the country forget this, either. This is not an emergency, it is just the next step in their plan.
Making this very point, President George W Bush called his deficits “incredibly positive news” because the resulting debt would force a debt crisis. And he left behind a $1.4 trillion deficit in his last budget year to clinch the deal. Now Republicans are gloating that they can gut or shut the government with the debt ceiling vote. This is not an emergency, it is just the next step in their plan.
It Is About WHAT To Cut
The huge debt was caused by tax cuts for the rich and military spending increases. But those are not what the Republicans are talking about fixing in the name of cutting the deficit. Far from it.
When they say they are “cutting spending” what they mean is they are cutting the things that government does for US – for We, the People. They are keeping the things that government does for the wealthiest 1% – the ones who got the bailouts and tax cuts. They are not talking about cutting the military even though we spend more than all other countries combined. They are not talking about cutting subsidies for big corporations – especially not for oil and coal companies. They are not talking about restoring top tax rates to where they were when the economy (more or less) worked.
They are talking about gutting the things that we do for each other and that protect us from the power of predatory corporate wealth – consumer protections, worker safety, environmental protections, health care, retirement, and the rest.
The Social Security Trap
It appears form Senator Graham’s remarks, and others, that the #1 target is Social Security. While conservatives have had the program in their sights since its inception, today’s focus on Social Security is also a trap aimed at the 2012 Presidential election.
Republican leadership are trying to trap President Obama into agreeing to cut Social Security and then use this to drive him from office. They plan to campaign that Obama cut Social Security, just as they successfully campaigned that “Democrats cut $500 billion from Medicare” in the 2010 midterms. In the 2010 campaign anonymous-donor organizations aligned with the Republican Party ran ad after ad after ad after ad in district after district after district claiming “Democrats cut $500 billion from Medicare.” Seniors abandoned the Democratic party, and Republicans swept the election.
The Public Does Not Want Social Security Touched
This Social Security trap is one pillar of the 2012 plan, and the White House and party leadership should pay attention. Poll after poll after poll warn that the public does not want Social Security touched. Even Tea Party rank-and-file do not want Social Security touched.
Wall Street’s Central Role
Wall Street is also at risk in this game, and should pressure the Republicans to stop threatening to let the country default on its debts. Economist Dean Baker, in Saving Social Security: Stopping Obama’s Next Bad Deal, points out that Wall Street would be destroyed by a debt default, while the rest of us wold survive. For this reason the President should call the bluff.

The prospect of the U.S. government defaulting on its debt creates the sort of end of the world scenario in which Congress rushed to pass the TARP in 2008. Back then … luminaries told members of Congress and the public that we would have a second Great Depression if the Wall Street banks were not immediately bailed out, no questions asked. And the money flowed.
The prospect of defaulting on the debt will create a similar outbreak of shrill warnings of disaster. … privatization of Social Security and Medicare and major cuts and/or elimination of other important programs. The argument from the administration will be that they have no choice.
[...] not only Democrats, but also independents and even Tea Party Republicans overwhelming support Social Security and Medicare. Furthermore, the gun, in the form of a potential debt default, is actually pointed at the Wall Street banks, not the public.
… the day after the default, the country would still have the same capital stock and infrastructure, the same skilled labor force and the same technical knowledge as it did the day before the default.
One thing that would not be around the day after a default is Wall Street. The default would wipe out the value the assets of the Wall Street banks…
For this reason, the threat of a default is a gun pointed most directly at Wall Street. Given the power of Wall Street over Congress, is inconceivable that they would ever let the Republicans pull the trigger.
This means that if President Obama is prepared to take the right and popular position of supporting Social Security and Medicare, he will win. This is both good policy and great politics.

Guy Saperstein, in The Looming Debt Ceiling Shakedown, writes that the President should call the bluff,

The Republicans are running a total bluff. They don’t want the government to default on government bonds anymore than Obama. It would cause economic chaos, cost Wall Street trillions and lead to a civil war within the Republican Party between the Wall Street Wing and the Lunatic [aka, Tea Party] Wing …

Wall Street is supporting the Republicans because they want a weaker, more controllable government — and a piece of that Social Security money. They are convinced that President Obama will cave and agree to gut government and Social Security. But, as Baker points out, this game of default threats puts Wall Street at greater risk than the rest of us. President Obama should use that to draw a line in the sand: He won’t sign anything other than a clean debt ceiling bill. Gutting Social Security should never be discussed as a budget-cutting strategy, and especially not at the barrel of a gun. Back off, send a clean bill, and then let’s talk about all the corporate sacred cows that members of both political parties have been protecting, that long ago needed to be weaned from the federal teat, as well as the unnecessary spending on defense and wasteful tax giveaways. And at the same time, let’s embrace the common sense that only in a growing economy that pays its workers well can we ever hope to repair the damage done by reckless conservative policies.
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Prevent Hostage-Taking: Add Debt Ceiling To Tax Deal!

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
If you like your Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, courts, roads, trains and the rest of what government does for We, the People, then you should pay attention to this. Early next year the Republicans will demand severe cuts to everything or they will allow the country to default on its debt. They mean it and they are planning for it. The coming “debt ceiling” fight can be averted by increasing the debt ceiling as part of this tax-cut deal.
A week ago, in Stop The Next Bad Deal: The Debt Ceiling Fight, I wrote about this,

If you think the tax cut fight led to a bad deal… it may also lead to an expectation by conservatives they will finally be able to cut, gut or shut the government in the coming fight over raising the debt ceiling. The President and Democrats in Congress should take steps now to keep them from thinking they can win that.
Early next year the country’s debt ceiling has to be raised – or else. Conservatives are likely to push for “or else” and hold the “full faith and credit of the United States” hostage to their demands to gut the middle class and democratic government.

Here is what Democrats can do: add the debt ceiling increase to this tax-cut deal or say no deal. Adding huge amounts to the deficit in this tax-cut bill is setting the Republicans up to take hostages again. But adding the debt ceiling increase to this deal prevents them from doing that.
Democrats in the House, at the maximum point of leverage, should add this to their demands for passing this tax-cut deal.
The Next Hostage-Taking Opportunity
It’s coming for sure. Conservatives see the debt ceiling fight as an opportunity to cut, gut or shut the government and are planning for it. They are planning to create a crisis — possibly the worst the country has faced — to force panic and then impose severe “Shock Doctrine” reforms. Here’s what The Hill is reporting:

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Tuesday he’s hoping to assemble a bloc of senators who will demand tax and spending reforms before agreeing to vote to raise the U.S. debt ceiling next year.

The very idea that they might not vote to increase the debt ceiling — and allow the US government to default — tells you what is coming. But if you want more proof:

“The debt ceiling, obviously, is going to have to be increased if we’re not going to default, so the question is, what do we get in exchange for that, and what kind of fiscal controls?” said Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the incoming chairman of the House budget panel, last week on Bloomberg Television.

They are going to do this. They are going to take the biggest hostage ever. You can stop this. Democrats in the House are at the maximum leverage point. You can stop this. You can literally save the country by demanding the debt ceiling be increased in exchange for this tax-cut deal and the huge amount of debt it adds.
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