Allowing it to lapse has cost us billions of dollars in revenue this year.
Congress is finally turning its attention to the expiring 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. But there is one tax issue that should have long since been addressed: the federal estate tax. That tax expired at the end of last year, and there have been no estate taxes levied this year. If a new estate tax is not enacted as soon as Congress returns from its August recess, this void will continue until the end of the year.
We would recommend continuing 2009's regime, with a top rate of 45% and a $3.5 million individual exemption. Small businesses and family farms can be protected both through the exemption (which is $7 million for a couple) and through special deferred payment rules.
Sounds progressive, right? It's not. If nothing is done, the taxation will revert to the 2001 levels which has a top rate of 55%.
Last time I visited the question of judicial nominations [in June], there were 50 district court and six court of appeals vacancies for which Barack Obama had not even nominated anyone. That was two months ago. Today? District court vacancies without a nominee have reached 53; circuit court vacancies without a nominee are up to 9.
Why? No idea. (...)
The important thing to remember here is that this is in one important respect unlike Democratic obstruction while George W. Bush was president: right now, and throughout this 111th Congress, every one of Barack Obama's nominees probably has the votes to be confirmed. And I'm not talking about 50 votes plus Joe Biden; I'm talking about the Senate gold standard, 60 votes, enough to beat a filibuster and invoke cloture. Of course, that hasn't been tested on the remaining nominees, but I'm confident that there's no one nominated who would lose the votes of Snowe and Collins...in fact, I think there's a solid bloc of somewhere between 62 and 65 votes for cloture for any scandal-free liberal nominee.
The lassitude on this score by Obama demands an answer. What's going on at the White House? Filling the judiciary is a very significant part of establishing public policy. There's so little action, it makes you wonder what this administration cares about.
Traders were also encouraged by a downward revision in second-quarter economic growth Friday that wasn't as bad as economists had expected. The Dow Jones industrial average and other indexes all gained more than 1 percent. (...)
In economic news, the Commerce Department reported that gross domestic product grew at a 1.6 percent rate in the April-to-June period. That's still way down from its earlier estimate of 2.4 percent but not as bad as the 1.4 percent expected by economists.
"These are terrible numbers," Kim Caughey, equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh, said. "But they weren't frighteningly horrible."
It's over-the-top, as you might expect. Includes passages like this:
Back in 1944, Friedrich Von Hayek, who later came to receive the Nobel Prize in economics in 1974, published his most-read book -- "The Road To Serfdom" -- in which he explained that government control over the private means of production must spiral into a lack of political freedom. If people don't have control of their private property, they cannot fund political pluralism.
When you see Hayek quoted, you're dealing with a libertarian private-property character.
Look for Net Neutrality to be something the Tea Party crowd will oppose. And Republicans.
Furious Parent Blasts Senator Over Health Care Sen. Kay Hagan's 'Conversations With Kay' Turns Into Health Care Debate
KERNERSVILLE, N.C. -- "Conversations with Kay" quickly turned into "Confrontation With Kay" when Sen. Kay Hagan [D - N.C.] visited the Kernersville Senior Enrichment Center.
Hagan has been hosting "Conversations with Kay" across the state of North Carolina, meeting with constituents about their concerns and having her staff on hand to assist people who need help with federal agencies such as the IRS or Veterans Affairs.
Health care became the hot topic during Wednesday morning's event when one mother sounded off about her children's health care needs.
"My children will suffer because of this health care bill," the concerned woman loudly told Hagan . The woman said she's raising two chronically ill children who have been under anesthesia 50 times in the last 14 years.
"We live in the hospital. We don't want this," she said.
"I am glad your that children live in our country," Hagan calmly responded.
"I don't want free health care. Because I will sell everything I own to pay for my children because this is America." the concerned parent said.
"But there are so many people that don't have the ability," Hagan replied.
The four-minute confrontation ended when Hagan stopped acknowledging the woman and turned to another person attending the event to address that person's concerns.
"Because this is America", means that people should sell everything to pay for their kid's treatment. That's what some people believe (or say they believe).
If you are wondering why this country does NOT have a health care system like that in Japan/Canada/Europe, this is one reason why.
The Democrats have been timorous in reaction to [Republican-generated] public hostility towards the mosque in New York.
And the Republicans have been unanimous in their opposition to national-interest policies such as the economic stimulus, health care, energy, climate change, financial regulation, and arms control.
So the parties are equally bad.
He really did say that. The only failure he chides the Democrats for is their stance on the mosque in New York, which he does without discussing how active Republicans have been on this topic. He mentioned by name the various policy areas, legislation, and treaties that the Republicans have worked against, all which Broder deemed to be in the "national interest". But his conclusion (which is really in his opening sentences) is that voters have no good choices for the November elections.
Makes you wonder what Broder would have written if the "mosque in New York" issue never came up. Because it did come up, Broder gets to pen a moral-equivalence editorial. If it hadn't, do you think Broder would have written a full-throated essay lambasting Republicans?
In an interview just now, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform made a point about the “ground zero mosque” controversy that I hadn’t heard before. One reason that opponents are going to have trouble legally preventing Park51 from building its Muslim cultural center is that, in 2000, a Republican Congress passed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. It’s not that this was a partisan effort. It passed by voice vote in the House and Senate, and was helped through the higher body by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). The goal of the legislation, supported by a coalition of religious groups, was to respond to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Employment Division Department of Human Resources v. Smith and give churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship more power in disputes with local and municipal authorities.
“This was one of the great victories of the religious right,” said Norquist. “And now some people want to scrap it to make this point?”
The land use provisions of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc, et seq., protect individuals, houses of worship, and other religious institutions from discrimination in zoning and landmarking laws (for information on RLUIPA's institutionalized persons provisions, please refer to the Civil Rights Division's Special Litigation Section ).
In passing this law, Congress found that the right to assemble for worship is at the very core of the free exercise of religion. Religious assemblies cannot function without a physical space adequate to their needs and consistent with their theological requirements. The right to build, buy, or rent such a space is an indispensable adjunct of the core First Amendment right to assemble for religious purposes. Religious assemblies, especially, new, small, or unfamiliar ones, may be illegally discriminated against on the face of zoning codes and also in the highly individualized and discretionary processes of land use regulation. Zoning codes and landmarking laws may illegally exclude religious assemblies in places where they permit theaters, meeting halls, and other places where large groups of people assemble for secular purposes. Or the zoning codes or landmarking laws may permit religious assemblies only with individualized permission from the zoning board or landmarking commission, and zoning boards or landmarking commission may use that authority in illegally discriminatory ways.
To address these concerns, RLUIPA prohibits zoning and landmarking laws that substantially burden the religious exercise of churches or other religious assemblies or institutions absent the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest. This prohibition applies in any situation where: (i) the state or local government entity imposing the substantial burden receives federal funding; (ii) the substantial burden affects, or removal of the substantial burden would affect, interstate commerce; or (iii) the substantial burden arises from the state or local government's formal or informal procedures for making individualized assessments of a property's uses.
In addition, RLUIPA prohibits zoning and landmarking laws that: (1) treat churches or other religious assemblies or institutions on less than equal terms with nonreligious institutions; (2) discriminate against any assemblies or institutions on the basis of religion or religious denomination; (3) totally exclude religious assemblies from a jurisdiction; or (4) unreasonably limit religious assemblies, institutions, or structures within a jurisdiction.
The Department of Justice can investigate alleged RLUIPA violations and bring a lawsuit to enforce the statute. The Department can obtain injunctive, but not monetary, relief. Individuals, houses of worship, and other religious institutions can also bring a lawsuit in federal or state court to enforce RLUIPA.
MORE: FrumForum excerpts from a Salon timeline about how Pamela Geller stoked the mosque "outrage". What's happening over at FrumForum? If you visit the website today, you couldn't be sure if it was conservative or liberal. (Of course, Frum is still for low taxes and shredding the safety net, but when a bizarro story like the mosque takes hold, allegiance to conservative/Republican talking points doesn't always happen.)
Republicans, fueled by record fundraising, are poised to win most of the state governorships in November, which would give them an advantage in congressional redistricting and a new pool of talent for national office. ...
The Republican Governors Association, which is coordinating the campaigns, points to its fundraising numbers as evidence it has the advantage. The group has raised $58 million between Jan. 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010, compared with $40 million for the Democratic Governors Association, Internal Revenue Service filings show. Both groups say the amounts are records.
Unlike the national political parties and federal candidates, the governors’ associations can take in unlimited amounts from corporations, and companies are showing their interest. News Corp., the media company controlled by Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch, gave the RGA $1 million in June. Wellpoint Inc., the biggest U.S. health insurer, contributed a total of $500,000 to the Republican group.
Fox News already provides valuable promotion for Republicans. It's worth tens of millions (and possibly up to a couple hundred million, judging from recent campaign expenditures).
For a measly one million dollars, why make News Corp. stand out as a partisan outfit? Of course, many see it as partisan, but there is value in never conceding that point. It's as if the News Corp. - at least at the top level - is so ideologically committed that they are desperate to throw additional money at Republicans even though they already were providing colossal value to the party.
That's what one of the Balloon Juice gang has a post about. Perhaps one of the best examples of that is professor Glenn Beck's tutorial where he ties George Soros, Elana Kagan, the mosque in New York, Bill Ayres, and many other people together. (11 minutes of insanity)
Kudos to Fox News for all the work they do "informing" the public.
John Aravosis over at Americablog has a stimulating (and long) post about why progressives are in a funk over Obama. The post was in reaction to Robert Gibbs' recent statements. Some excerpts: (emp add)
The left isn't upset with the President because we're just too darned demanding. We're upset with Barack Obama because he never seems to try. He talks a good talk, but when it comes time to actually follow through on his promises, he winces.
Take health care reform. The President was AWOL for a good year while health care reform floundered in the Congress. Rather than get his hands dirty, and spend some political capital actually pushing for what he promised - a public option, which Barack Obama himself had repeatedly said was the best way to increase competition and lower prices - the President, other than a few speeches here and there, disappeared for a year.
Gibbs talks about how difficult it is for the White House to get anything done in the face of a uniform Republican opposition. Except, of course, the GOP wasn't uniform at all in February of 2009, when the White House caved on the stimulus and showed its true colors to the Republican party. If anything, this White House helped unify the Republicans by constantly, and unnecessarily, pandering to them at every turn.
The country was on the verge of economic collapse. We were on the verge of another Great Depression. And rather than fight for the correct amount of medicine that was needed to save our nation, this President decided to opt for less than what was needed to save our nation. And he didn't opt for less at the end of the negotiation, after pushing really hard for the full amount. He opted for less at the beginning, because he didn't want to fight for it. Which is his usual pattern. Cave first, negotiate later, then act surprised when people are upset when the final agreement is so weak, and accuse them of being politically naive and unrealistic.
[Re White House comment that]
He’s also added diversity to the Supreme Court by nominating two female justices, including the court’s first Hispanic. Yet some liberal groups have criticized his nominees for not being liberal enough.
Clarence Thomas added diversity to the Supreme Court too. The substance of the nominees' beliefs really don't matter?
This comment, about the Supreme Court diversity, is illustrative of a larger problem this White House has. They tend to prefer symbolism over substance. Better to appoint a woman to the court than someone who would actually advance the President's worldview (if he has one).
What caught my eye was the assertion that Obama helped unify the Republicans by pandering to them. Is that true? Would Obama have succeeded in fragmenting the Republicans (enough to get legislation passed faster and without compromises) if he had played hardball? Difficult to say. Until now, the story was that Republicans' unity was of their own making. But maybe Obama's stance towards them - always reaching out - may have been a component as well.
On the matter of Social Security. Here are some excerpts from today's editorial:
Whatever the deniers say, Social Security needs reform soon (title)
The current focus of the Social Security denialists' ire is President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which they view as a stalking horse for gutting Social Security.
What does not make sense is preemptively bashing the debt commission. Social Security is not a cause of the current or future debt, but putting it on a sustainable footing is essential to getting the nation's fiscal house in order. Doing so quickly is a condition for making the changes as painless as possible for those who rely on Social Security the most. The debt commission would perform an important service by ignoring the denialists and tackling this topic.
Odd that the Post would care so much about Social Security nearly 30 years in the future while other programs are causing substantial problems for the federal budget today. It's almost as if they want to get at the Social Security money to pay for other things (wars, tax cuts, medical) that are supposed to come out of the general fund.
See, e.g., historian Paul Johnson's book about the 20th century, and the article written by liberal law professor Laurence Tribe as allegedly assisted by Barack Obama. Virtually no one who is taught and believes relativity continues to read the Bible, a book that outsells New York Times bestsellers by a hundred-fold.
See, e.g., historian Paul Johnson's book about the 20th century
I've read that book, and read it many times. It's well written and lots of fun if you keep in mind some of Johnson's biases. But that aside, what Johnston writes about Einstein is nothing but praise. Praise for Einstein not being satisfied that his theory is correct until serious testing of it was performed (in this case, the light shift from stars seen near the sun during an eclipse). Praise for Einstein doing his damnedest not to mislead.
At no point does Johnson have anything negative to say about Einstein, or his (General) Theory of Relativity. Johnston praises Einstein for, basically, following Popper's notion of falsifiability (which Johnson says Freudian theory doesn't use as an arbiter, and hence, is squishy or worse). Johnson did use Einstein's theory as a dramatic spring-board, by saying that shortly after the start of the 20th century the world was changing a lot and basic certainties were being challenged, most notably following the disaster of World War One.
Johnson did not link Einstein's theory to social or political developments, nor did liberals in Johnson's book use Einstein's theory in any way to further their own "moral relativism" - whatever that's supposed to mean.
Conservapedia could just as well have cited the Doppler effect as something liberals love because, hey, the pitch of sound is not absolute. So there are no absolutes and the next thing you know all crime is situational and nobody is guilty. Or something like that.
As to the other part of the footnote:
Virtually no one who is taught and believes relativity continues to read the Bible, a book that outsells New York Times bestsellers by a hundred-fold.
After the 2008 election, many liberals saw the recession as an opportunity for change. Rahm Emanuel's statement that "you never want a serious crisis to go to waste" was widely quoted, and comparisons to Franklin Roosevelt's first term proliferated.
In reality, though, recessions lead to illiberal populist nationalism, not progressive reform. ...
What's often forgotten about the New Deal is that 1934-37 was the fastest four-year run of economic growth in American history, outside of World War II. In other words, it was the steep recovery from the Depression, not the Depression itself, that powered FDR's agenda forward.
Let's review FDR's agenda and when it was put into law:
While the recovery may have started in 1934, a general feeling of well-being was not in place as early as 1935, the year which marks a boundary for enacting almost all of the New Deal agenda. Sometimes you do get results when times are bad.
Fareed Zakaria writes in Newsweek why the mosque should be built and he also tells us that he's returning an award he received from the ADL because of their stance opposing the mosque. Yglesias liked what Zakaria did, and Atros (linking to Yglesias) declares Zakaria "Antiwanker of the Day". Meanwhile, in reaction to Zalaria's letter to the ADL, Steve Benen comments, which was how Greg Sargent found out about it, and Sargent's critique got John Cole to highlight the issue.
Despite President Obama's pledge to retain more hi-tech jobs in the U.S., a federal agency run by a hand-picked Obama appointee has launched a $22 million program to train workers, including 3,000 specialists in IT and related functions, in South Asia.
Following their training, the tech workers will be placed with outsourcing vendors in the region that provide offshore IT and business services to American companies looking to take advantage of the Asian subcontinent's low labor costs...
The outsourcing program (is) sure to draw the most fire from critics. While Obama acknowledged that occupations such as garment making don't add much value to the U.S. economy, he argued relentlessly during his presidential run that lawmakers needed to do more to keep hi-tech jobs in IT, biological sciences, and green energy in the country.
Who is helped more by this, corporations or workers?
The Obama administration is failing to connect with many who are losing out in this economy.
For a while, conservatives will make arguments defending their policy preferences that involve some sort of theory (e.g. Laffer curve, unregulated market is superior, people can invest better with a 401K than professional pension managers) that eventually is shown to be invalid.
What then? Do they admit they are wrong and abandon those policies?
No. In fact, they roll out the argument that was, deep down, what they really believed. But it's not pretty and hence, the flim-flam noted above. This week, Limbaugh does us the favor by spelling it out: (emp add)
"I want to say something. I know this is not going to go down well among those who have knee-jerk reactions and I know this is not going to go down well among people who have this notion that fairness is the overriding objective of any society. I've made the point throughout my career, the undeniable truths of life, many monologues on this program, that life is not fair by definition. Life isn't fair. I mean, it just isn't, and there's no way that you can change certain aspects that make life unfair to make them fair. Life is not equal. Sometimes people earn more than others. Some people have children when other people can't. There's nothing unfair about that. That's just the way it is. Unspeakable tragedies happen to some families; they don't happen to others. Some people live a long time; some people don't. There's no explaining any of this. Nobody's in charge of this. There's no government that can change this, although we have plenty of busybodies trying to on this "living longer" business. (imitating busybody) "Oh yeah, some people are living longer because they don't smoke, drink, eat trans fats," and go down that ridiculous road. But the vast majority of things that occur in the process of living life are unequal and unfair."
There you have it. Interested in regulating coal mines so that workers don't get killed? Forget it, since the universe has decreed that life is unfair, and there's no point trying to counter that with mine inspections or mandatory safety procedures.
Unemployed? Since life is unfair, there's no point it trying to remedy that with unemployment insurance or a stimulus. Sick? No need to have a health plan for you. Instead, pay what you can until you lose all your money and then be destitute (and possibly die). It's the way it should be.
Saying "life is unfair" works for all situations: Under despotic rule. While slavery was practiced. For unnecessary wars. When thieves loot.
Of course, it could be used the other way. If the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire and the Fox News crowd is complaining, they could be told to shut the hell up and accept that life is unfair. But somehow this never happens.
[Obama] should say the truth, which is decent Muslims are appalled by this. This isn't helping Muslim relations in the United States. It's terribly damaging to them. He should say to his imam if you care all about [comity] and decency in the U.S., build this mosque elsewhere.
Guest poster at Yglesias, puts it well: (orig emp)
I agree with Matt that the deficit commission’s recommendations are unlikely to be actually implemented. But I just don’t understand the politics at all. This is the Democratic White House’s Deficit Commission which will be making these recommendations, which are shaping up to be highly unpopular. Republican leadership in Congress will simply wash their hands of it all, as they did when the idea of creating the commission came up for a vote. On top of that, since the recommendations are likely to be voted down, the country doesn’t even get the benefit of a reduced deficit. If the headline over the holidays in December is “Republicans Successfully Block Obama Plan to Cut Military Pay,” the White House will have no one to blame but themselves.
The Deficit Commission is a mess which, whatever it comes up with, will be used as a cudgel by Republicans to cut entitlement programs - even Social Security, which is mostly paid for - and reject any tax increases. You can argue about those issues, but the commission isn't going to do that. Its priorities are already set.
I’m starting to have a sick feeling about prospects for American workers — but not, or not entirely, for the reasons you might think.
Yes, growth is slowing, and the odds are that unemployment will rise, not fall, in the months ahead. That’s bad. But what’s worse is the growing evidence that our governing elite just doesn’t care — that a once-unthinkable level of economic distress is in the process of becoming the new normal.
And I worry that those in power, rather than taking responsibility for job creation, will soon declare that high unemployment is “structural,” a permanent part of the economic landscape — and that by condemning large numbers of Americans to long-term joblessness, they’ll turn that excuse into dismal reality.
A (pretty good) article in the Financial Times about the crisis of middle class America:
The slow economic strangulation of the Freemans and millions of other middle-class Americans started long before the Great Recession, which merely exacerbated the “personal recession” that ordinary Americans had been suffering for years. Dubbed “median wage stagnation” by economists, the annual incomes of the bottom 90 per cent of US families have been essentially flat since 1973 – having risen by only 10 per cent in real terms over the past 37 years. That means most Americans have been treading water for more than a generation. Over the same period the incomes of the top 1 per cent have tripled. In 1973, chief executives were on average paid 26 times the median income. Now the multiple is above 300.
The trend has only been getting stronger. Most economists see the Great Stagnation as a structural problem – meaning it is immune to the business cycle. In the last expansion, which started in January 2002 and ended in December 2007, the median US household income dropped by $2,000 – the first ever instance where most Americans were worse off at the end of a cycle than at the start. Worse is that the long era of stagnating incomes has been accompanied by something profoundly un-American: declining income mobility.
And from last month (noted previously, 15 July) this story:
The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer at a staggering rate. Once upon a time, the United States had the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world, but now that is changing at a blinding pace.
So why are we witnessing such fundamental changes? Well, the globalism and "free trade" that our politicians and business leaders insisted would be so good for us have had some rather nasty side effects. It turns out that they didn't tell us that the "global economy" would mean that middle class American workers would eventually have to directly compete for jobs with people on the other side of the world where there is no minimum wage and very few regulations. The big global corporations have greatly benefited by exploiting third world labor pools over the last several decades, but middle class American workers have increasingly found things to be very tough. (...)
The truth is that the middle class in America is dying -- and once it is gone it will be incredibly difficult to rebuild.
A little protectionism (against low-wage countries) would help a lot, but protectionism increases domestic labor's strength, and that's anathema to big business. And Congress is the servant of big business, so there's no protectionism and instead, full-throttle globalization.
WALLACE: I'm curious, Governor, why are you targeting women? Are you trying to create a women's movement for this November and possibly for 2012?
PALIN: Well, it just so happens that these common sense constitutional conservative women are willing to put it all on the line, and they're going to make a lot of sacrifices in order to serve their country.
They have a lot of common sense. They just happen to be women. And I support them strongly and wholly. They have common sense. They know that we have to extend the Bush tax cuts. They have to repeal the budget- busting bills like "Obamacare" and talk of cap and tax energy taxes. They have to rein in spending in Congress. They have to adopt policies that will allow us to be energy independent to get us back on the right track.
That video was all about supporting those women, men too, with common sense, with a desire to protect our Constitution and the free market in America and turn some things around in this country.
Now, everything that I just mentioned, what we need to do, those things that have not been doing, are resulting in the congressional approval rating being in the tank, you know, 11 percent, which is a reflection, too, on what's coming out of the White House.
That video was about supporting people who want to get the country back on the right track just using some common sense, using some wisdom and not underestimating the wisdom of the people.
Hard to disagree with what he says in this New York Times op-ed. He says that the new breed of Republicans (approx post 1990) have been a big factor in the current deficit mess. Also notes that the growth in the financial sector has harmful effects, and blames globalization for the hollowing out of U.S. economy. Pace Stockman, it should be noted that he's something of a hard money guy, unhappy that Nixon took the U.S. off the gold standard. But tying your money supply to gold - while it may have some advantages - can severely constrain the freedom of governments to manage their budgets.
Stockman is another person in the parade of Republican apostates who, like Bruce Bartlett, have no sympathy for today's Republican policy goals..