Deficit Supper Committee fails due to Republican refusal to roll back Bush tax beaks

I went to the gym after work this evening and watched coverage of today’s admission of failure by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. I found myself getting incredibly pissed off, to the point of inadvertently blurting out “asshole” a couple of times, and flipping up my middle finger at the television set in disgust. I just couldn’t control my anger at the Republicans, who have demonstrated yet once again that they would rather throw our country into the economic abyss than even consider letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire. And, as our friends at Think Progress remind us, it isn’t as though the Democrats on the committee didn’t try to find common ground. Here’s an excerpt from their timeline.

February 14, 2011: President Barack Obama submits budget for 2012 with about $2 trillion in deficit reduction, half of which come from spending cuts.

April 15, 2011: House passes Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget, which includes $5.8 trillion in spending cuts along with tax cuts for the richest Americans.

May 5, 2011: Vice President Joe Biden begins debt talks.

May 11, 2011: Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) says he will not raise debt limit without spending cuts that match how much the limit is raised.

June 23, 2011: Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) walks away from debt ceiling talks with Biden after refusing to consider any tax increases. The administration had offered $2.4 trillion in spending cuts for $400 billion in taxes, an 83:17 split.

July 7, 2011: Obama and Boehner begin debt-ceiling negotiations.

July 9, 2011: Boehner walks away from Obama’s “grand bargain”: $4 trillion in debt reduction comprised of $1 trillion in revenue and $3 trillion in spending cuts, including entitlement reforms.

July 19, 2011: The Gang of Six proposes a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan, including $2 trillion in revenue.

July 22, 2011: Again, Boehner walks away from negotiations after Obama offers $1.2 trillion in revenues and $1.6 trillion in spending cuts, including entitlements.

July 31, 2011: Debt ceiling agreement is reached, cutting $1 trillion in spending immediately and establishing the super committee to reduce deficits by at least an additional $1.2 trillion.

October 26, 2011: Democrats first super committee offer is $3 trillion in deficit reduction comprised of about $1.3 trillion in revenues and $1.7 trillion in spending cuts, including cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Republicans immediately reject it. Republicans’ first super committee offer is $2.2 trillion in deficit reduction, which includes no new tax revenues.

November 8, 2011: Republicans’ second super committee offer is $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. It does include $300 billion in new tax revenue, but in exchange for extending the Bush tax cuts and lowering the top tax rate. The plan would ultimately cut taxes for the wealthy and raise them for everyone else.

November 10, 2011: Democrats’ second offer is $2.3 trillion in deficit reduction, consisting of $1.3 trillion in spending cuts and $1 trillion in revenue. The revenue would be split between $350 billion in concrete measures and $650 billion in future tax reform. Republicans reject it.

November 11, 2011: Democrats agree to Republicans’ top lines including just $400 billion in revenues and $875 billion in spending cuts, but refuse to accept the GOP’s tax cut for the rich. Republicans reject it and make their final offer: $640 billion in spending cuts and $3 billion in revenues.

What this timeline shows is just how much Democrats have been willing to bend, only to have Republicans reject very generous offers. Back in June, Democrats reportedly offered a mere $400 billion in tax increases as part of a $2.4 trillion deficit reduction package — a 83:17 ratio of spending cuts to tax increases. Republicans said no.

And, now, having failed to reach a bipartisan agreement, we trigger the automatic 2013 spending cuts that were stipulated in the original agreement (half from domestic programs, and half from military spending). Republicans are already saying that they’ll find a way to work around this provision, in order to protect military spending, but Obama has come out saying that he’ll veto any such attempt… It seems to me to be a colossal failure on the part of all those involved, but maybe Russ Feingold is right. Maybe this failure today is a good thing, in that in means that Democrats didn’t cave in to Republican pressure, as they so often do. Here’s what Fieigold had to say about today’s events.

The chairs of the congressional super committee just made a huge announcement: The super committee will fail to send a deficit reduction plan to Congress before its deadline this week.

Progressives demanded that the rich pay their fair share, or no deal, and Democrats stood strong.

Democrats tried to craft a compromise with Republicans that included the 1% paying their fair share, but Republicans refused to budge. So Democrats walked away from the bad deals Republicans offered, just as hundreds of thousands of progressives asked them to do.

This news means that Congress will have no fast-track path for dismantling crucial programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Democrats’ strong stand is thanks to you and hundreds of thousands of your fellow progressives around the country who petitioned the super committee or contacted members directly.

We prevented a bad deal from the super committee, but the fight isn’t over. Republicans have shown that protecting corporations and the 1% is their top priority, despite an overwhelming majority of Americans wanting the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share.

Now we must take the fight directly to Republicans, and force them to explain why protecting corporate tax loopholes is more important than preserving Medicare; why cutting Social Security benefits is better than asking the wealthiest individuals and corporations to pay their fair share in taxes; and why coddling corporate America is more important than standing up for average working families.

We must not, and will, not let up in this important fight…

I just hope that the people of America will be able to see the truth behind this recent development, and know that Romney and others are full of shit when they say that it’s all Obama’s fault. This, as much as I’d like to blame the administration, isn’t about a failure of Democratic leadership. This is about class warfare. This is about a very powerful segment of our population that would rather see our nation destroyed than pay the same tax rate that the did under Reagan. This is about purposefully bankrupting the nation so that social programs, like welfare and Social Security, can be destroyed. This is the endgame that Grover Norquist dreamed of when he said, “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” This, in my opinion, borders on treason.

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8 Comments

  1. Meta
    Posted November 21, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Bernie Sanders agrees with Feingold that no plan is better than a bad plan. I’m inclined to believe him.

    Here is something we all can agree on: Federal deficits are a serious problem.

    Here is something no one seriously disputes: Today’s big deficits were caused mainly by big tax cuts for the wealthy, two unpaid-for wars, a horrible recession caused by Wall Street greed, and an expensive prescription drug program rigged to favor pharmaceutical companies.

    Here is something we should not agree to do: Cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

    There is surprisingly broad consensus among Americans (except inside the corporate-dominated D.C. beltway) on what to do about deficits. In poll after poll, strong majorities favor making the wealthiest Americans, who, in many cases, have never had it so good, share the sacrifice and pay a little more in taxes. Increasing taxes on the wealthy is overwhelmingly supported by Democrats and independents. A majority of Republicans and people in the Tea Party movement also support taxing millionaires to help bring down deficits. Even many millionaires say they should be paying higher taxes. At a time when many profitable corporations pay nothing in federal income taxes, there also is widespread support for closing corporate tax loopholes. Taking a hard look at mushrooming defense spending also enjoys widespread support.

    For far too long, the Washington agenda has been set by powerful corporate interests and a right wing that do not represent the needs and aspirations of most Americans. For too long, the Democrats have gone along with Republican demands and caved in to these powerful special interests. Enough is enough! The Democrats must stand tall and continue to resist Republican demands to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, while leaving the wealthiest people and largest corporations in this country exempt from shouldering their fair share of the tax burden.

    As a Thanksgiving deadline nears for action by the powerful Super Committee on deficit reduction, I am outraged (but not surprised) that Republicans refuse to listen to the American people and continue to insist on supporting their wealthy friends and corporate benefactors. I hope that Democrats will not once again capitulate just for the sake of an agreement but will instead demand that deficit reduction is done in a fair and responsible way. But that has, unfortunately, not been their pattern.

    In December — when Democrats controlled the Senate, the House and the White House — Congress and President Obama not only extended Bush-era tax breaks for the wealthy but also gave new breaks to heirs of the super-rich.

    In April — with a Democrat in the White House and Democrats still in the majority in the Senate — Republicans threatened to shut down the government and delay the processing of new Social Security benefits for senior citizens unless their demands were met. Democrats went along with $78 billion in cuts from the president’s budget request.

    In August, in an outrageous display of unprincipled gamesmanship, Republicans put the United States on the brink of bankruptcy. Instead of invoking clear 14th Amendment powers to honor our nation’s debts, the president and most Democrats agreed to a $2.5 trillion deficit-reduction package.

    That’s how we got to where we are today.

    Incredibly, throughout all of these negotiations — in December, in April, in August and again today — the wealthiest Americans and the country’s major corporations have not yet been asked to contribute one penny toward deficit reduction. That is despite huge cuts in life-and-death programs for working families.

    The American people have had it. The Occupy Wall Street movement is growing, and energizing young people in particular in a way that we have not seen for many years. A virtual popular uprising forced Bank of America to drop an unpopular $5 monthly debit card fee. On Election Day 2011, in Ohio and many other states the American people said NO to right-wing extremism and corporate greed.

    The American people are very clear. They do not want Democrats to reach another ‘grand bargain’ with representatives of the rich and powerful that eviscerates the most successful and popular social programs in the history of this country. They want Democrats to stand up for the 99 percent, not the 1 percent.

    If the president and Democrats on the Super Committee go along with cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the three pillars of the New Deal and the Great Society, and permanently extend the Bush tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent, the American people will shake their heads in disbelief. They will arrive at the reasonably valid conclusion that there are no significant differences between the two parties controlled by corporate interests.

    I think that Democrats, as the Super Committee deliberations near conclusion, may finally have gotten the message.

    This is a pivotal moment in American history. The rich and large corporations are doing phenomenally well while the middle class is collapsing and poverty is increasing. Now is the time to answer the question that the Woody Guthrie song poignantly asked, “Which side are you on?” The Democrats must answer boldly that they are on the side of working families and the middle class and that they will fight to protect their interests.

    What if the Super Committee ends in stalemate? Across-the-board, automatic cuts are set to kick in. That so-called sequestration wouldn’t start, however, until 2013. That would make 2012 one of the most important election years in modern American history.

    If Democrats stand with ordinary Americans and make it clear that they are prepared to take on the wealthy and the powerful, they could win both houses of Congress. They could give Obama a fresh infusion of boldness as he enters a second term in the White House.

  2. Edward
    Posted November 22, 2011 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    On one side of the coin, we have the top 1% keeping their tax cuts. On the other, we have the American workers, who will undoubtedly be asked to pay more.

    The congressional “super committee” officially admitted failure, but even as it did so, Congress plunged toward a new budget battle that carried an immediate punch: A year-end fight could bring a tax increase of nearly $1,000 to the average American worker.

    The current payroll tax holiday for workers expires Dec. 31, and unemployment benefits run out for some 2 million Americans shortly after that. Economists warn that a tax increase on Jan. 1 combined with an end to the jobless benefits could cut the economy’s already weak growth almost in half.

    The rest of this LA Times article can be found here.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-congress-next-20111122,0,6053596.story

  3. Mr. X
    Posted November 22, 2011 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I heard Jeff Sessions on the television this morning saying that they would have come up with an agreement, but that Obama never told them that was what what he wanted. It was unbelievable. I’m trying to find video of it. In the meantime, here’s a story from yesterday in which he says pretty much the same thing, blaming the President for not showing leadership.

    http://www.newsmax.com/InsideCover/fineman-no-leadership-obama/2011/11/21/id/418771

  4. Meta
    Posted November 22, 2011 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    From the Progress Report.

    The fiscal super committee created by last summer’s deal to raise the debt ceiling was charged with crafting a $1.5 trillion deficit reduction package by Thanksgiving. However, moments ago, the committee’s co-chairs issued a statement officially conceding that “it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee’s deadline.” For weeks, the GOP has been refusing to even consider new revenue, pairing modest attempts to close loopholes in the tax code with giant new tax cuts centered on the very rich that would add trillions to the deficit. The committee’s co-chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) even said the GOP would not consider “any penny” in new revenue (a statement that he later walked back). Without a deal, automatic cuts are supposed to be scheduled for 2013, but several congressional leaders have been discussing canceling the cuts, leaving the super committee the latest in a long line of deficit commissions to unable to succeed in their attempt to alter the U.S. budget.

    GOP REFUSED TO TAX MILLIONAIRES & BILLIONAIRES: The GOP, in lockstep with anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist and his radical Americans for Tax Reform no-taxes pledge, adamantly refused to include new revenue in a deficit reduction deal. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), one of the super committee’s members, released a plan to raise $300 billion in revenue via closing loopholes in the tax code, but at the same time lowering income tax rates, including taking the top tax rate from its current 35 percent down to 28 percent. A second, smaller plan put forward by the GOP included $640 billion in deficit reduction, with just $3 billion coming from closing tax loopholes. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted, the Toomey plan would result in a “shift in tax burdens from households at the top of the income scale to low- and middle-income households.” “The Toomey plan still results in the biggest tax cut since the Great Depression. It would be the biggest tax cut since Calvin Coolidge, and we all know how that turned out,” said Sen. Jon Kerry (D-MA) on NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday. “Now, we didn’t come here to do another tax cut for the wealthiest people while we’re (asking) fixed-income seniors to ante up more, people on Medicaid, who are poor, to ante up more.” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who is Hensarling’s co-chair on the super committee, added, “as long as we have some Republican lawmakers who feel more enthralled with a pledge they took to a Republican lobbyist [Norquist] than they do to a pledge to the country to solve the problems, this is going to be hard to do.”

    DEMOCRATS PUT SACRED COWS ON THE TABLE, GOP STILL SAID NO TO TAXING MILLIONAIRES: While Republicans have offered merely gimmicks in terms of revenue, Democrats on the super committee offered concession after concession in an attempt to cut a deal. The final Democratic offer included the same level of cuts to Medicare and Medicaid and the same level of reductions in government programs as the Toomey plan, along with $400 billion in revenue, for a total package that included $5 in spending cuts for every $1 in revenue. For comparisons sake, compared to a current policy baseline (that assumes all the Bush tax cuts get extended), the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction plan included a one to one spending cuts to revenue ratio. The $400 billion in revenue that Democrats offered in the super committee was half what House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) reportedly offered during the debt ceiling negotiations. The Democrats’ rightward-leaning offers came at the same time that the public has shown, in poll after poll, that it favors increasing taxes on the rich and preserving the social safety net in any deficit reduction deal. In fact, even supposedly anti-government Tea Partiers oppose cuts to Medicare and Social Security by a 76-22 margin, while 68 percent of millionaires favor raising their own taxes.

    AUTOMATIC CUTS UNDONE?: According to the terms of the debt ceiling agreement ,the inability of the super committee to agree to a deal triggers $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts in 2013, split about evenly between discretionary spending and defense. However, conservatives have already begun plotting a way to negate those cuts. “The sequestration is not engraved on golden tablets. It is a notional aspiration,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said earlier this month. “And I think we’d have sufficient support to prevent those kind of cuts from being enacted because of the impact it would have on national security.” Rep. Buck McKeon used 9/11 imagery to warn against the cuts actually taking place. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has also gotten in on the action, saying that if the defense cuts in the deal were enacted, “in effect, it invites aggression.” However, as Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Larry Korb writes, “Panetta grossly exaggerates when he says it would be disastrous if projected levels of defense spending are reduced by an additional $500 billion if the bipartisan “super committee” deadlocks and automatic cuts go into effect. Adding $500 billion (from the super committee) to the $450 billion already being cut would mean total reductions of $950 billion over the next decade, or about 15 percent. Since the defense budget has grown by more than 50 percent over the past 10 years, it can easily absorb a 15 percent reduction — which would be about half the defense cuts of Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon and less than that of George H. W. Bush.” President Obama has said he ”will not accept any measure that attempts to turn off the automatic cut trigger.”

  5. Occupy the Highway
    Posted November 22, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Occupiers are taking the Capital in a few minutes.

    From their press release:

    Their journey was timed to coincide with the announcement of the so-called Super Committee; to bring a message to Congress to end corporate welfare and tax breaks for the rich and to stimulate the economy by rebuilding the country’s infrastructure and investing in education, clean-energy and public health; items that are supported by the vast majority of Americans in poll after poll.

    ‘Occupy the Highway’ participants expect to arrive at McPherson Square at around 2:30pm today, where they will hold a General Assembly-style press conference. From there they will march to Freedom Plaza, and from there to the Capitol steps, where they will discuss the failure of the U.S. Government to be accountable to its people.

    http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/737143/everything_you_want_to_know_about_what_ows_is_up_to_now_%28and_why_it_just_had_its_biggest_media_week_ever%29

  6. Posted November 22, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    I accuse the Republicans of treason, and I only get 5 comments? I got three times as many comments for a single sentence about a dog eating its own testicles. I’ll never figure you guys out.

  7. Posted November 24, 2011 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    No Treason.

  8. Posted November 24, 2011 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Don’t worry, Mark. I never get any comments, either.

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