I had to do a double take when I looked over this afternoon's dispatch out of St. Paul, Minnesota from Patrick Condon of the Associated Press.
Readers unfamiliar with the Gopher State budget impasse to this point would fail to learn from the AP report that the dispute is all about raising taxes. Democratic Governor Mark Dayton wants tax increases on "the wealthy" (which really means high income-earners, whether or not they happen to be wealthy). The state's top marginal tax rate is already a very high 7.85%.
Dayton has chosen to shut down the government because the Republican-controlled legislature won't pass a budget containing his desired tax increases. It really is that simple. Minnesota's government is closed (actually, partially closed) because Mark Dayton chose to close it. Period.
Wednesday afternoon, BigJournalism.com editor-in-chief Dana Loesch reported that Arizona Senator John Kyl had been on the receiving end of what I would call "mis-tweetment" at the hands of someone irresponsibly chirping away at Reuters.
The Reuters tweet stated that "Republicans have agreed to $150 billion to $200 billion in increased tax revenues as part of budget talks," and claimed Senator Kyl as its source.
NBC's David Gregory challenged House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Thursday's Today show, insinuating that Republican efforts to include tax cuts along with closing tax loopholes is not an effective compromise if Democrats are willing to cut entitlement spending.
Gregory seemed to frame the debate around whether Republicans would make the "tough" choice of not cutting taxes, since Democrats were reaching across the aisle with their "tough" choice of cutting entitlement spending. The Today show co-host pressed Cantor, "if Democrats are willing to cut trillions of dollars, which is certainly what you wanted in spending cuts, what is the Republican Party prepared to do in this negotiation that is hard?"
Reuters on Thursday issued what it called an "exclusive" report about the Treasury department "secretly" weighing options to avert a default if the debt ceiling isn't raised by August 2nd.
In the piece, the authors shared with readers the amount of tax revenue Treasury projects it will collect in August as well as projected Social Security payments, but conspicuously ignored what the department expects to pay in interest costs on the federal debt:
CBS's Bob Schieffer took on the role of a left-wing activist on Sunday's Face the Nation, as he pressed all four of his guests from both parties about cuts in state and local spending. Schieffer bewailed how both Republican Governors John Kasich and Scott Walker "cut deeply into education" and asked Democratic Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa if he felt good about making "draconian cuts" [audio clips available here]
The anchor brought on the governors of Ohio and Wisconsin, as well as the mayor of Los Angeles and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat, for his half-hour program to discuss the impasse over the federal budget and the debt ceiling and its impact on their states. After an initial question to Governor Kasich, where Schieffer claimed how, apparently, "things are worse than ever" between the two political parties, Schieffer set up his first question to Governor Walker with his lament of the apparent cuts to education in the states of his two Republican guests:
Newsweek's Tina Brown compared congressional Republicans to suicide bombers on Wednesday's Morning Joe after lamenting their refusal to agree to the tax hikes demanded by Democrats. "I think they’re the suicide bombers in all of this," said Brown. Will Tina Brown be banned indefinitely from Morning Joe? Sounds harsher than a crotch reference.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin praised Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) willingness to work on entitlement reform while on the Senate floor Wednesday stating, “I don’t disagree with Paul Ryan saying we have got to look honestly at Medicare.”
CNN anchor Ali Velshi lamented Republican resistance to raising the federal debt ceiling during an interview on Tuesday's American Morning with former Pennsylvania Senator and current GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum. "It's an absolute mess what is going on in Washington right now, specifically, with respect to the debt ceiling and failure to reach an agreement is somewhat deplorable," said Velshi.
With the deadline for raising the debt ceiling looming less than a month away, there are mixed feelings about raising the debt ceiling among debt-conscious politicians who are hesitant to give more spending power to the government. The Treasury Department has given August 2 as the estimated date on which the U.S. will no longer be able to meet fiscal obligations if the debt ceiling is not raised, though.
Sen. Rand Paul explained on Sunday that Republicans would be more in favor of raising the debt ceiling if there were a balanced budget amendment in the Constitution to obligate the federal government to balance its budget each year and prohibit it from running a deficit.
Check out a video of Paul's remarks after the break, and let us know what you think in the comments.
There was a truly delicious moment on this weekend's "McLaughlin Group" that's guaranteed to please conservatives from coast to coast.
During a heated discussion about President Obama's call to end tax breaks for corporate jet purchases, Pat Buchanan and John McLaughlin literally silenced Newsweek's Eleanor Clift much to her dismay (video follows with transcript and commentary):
There are times when the idiocy oozing from the mouths of America's television commentators sickens me.
Consider Fareed Zakaria, who after telling NPR Friday, "CNN is getting smarter," actually said on the program bearing his name two days later that allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire "would provide the federal government with $3.9 trillion in revenues over the next decade and basically solve the deficit problem" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
As he normally does on "Inside Washington," PBS's Mark Shields Friday was waxing moronic about Republican plans to balance the budget.
Not pleased by the fictional account on display, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer challenged his fellow panelist saying, "Democrats have not even produced a budget for 2012. What’s their budget?" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Weekend coverage emanating from Minnesota via Reuters and the Associated Press is doing its level best to run interference for Democratic Governor Mark Dayton, who has chosen to shut down the government rather than sign a budget which does not include tax increases.
On Thursday's CBS Evening News and Friday's Early Show, CBS glossed over President Obama's aim to break a campaign promise with a proposal to raise taxes on people who make less than $250,000 a year. Both Chip Reid and Bill Plante noted that "the White House is also insisting on...a limit on deductions for people...making more than $200,000 a year," but didn't reference the Democrat's 2008 tax pledge.
Near the end of his report, which aired 44 minutes into the 6 pm Eastern hour, Reid highlighted the Obama administration's push for tax hikes:
With a month to go before the next supposedly "drop dead date" regarding the nation's debt ceiling, liberal media members are out in force with hysterical claims about the world ending if Congress isn't free to spend more money it doesn't have.
Ever the faithful shill, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman did his part Friday cautioning that any spending cuts at this time "would destroy hundreds of thousands and quite possibly millions of jobs":
NBC's Today and CBS's Early Show on Thursday turned to Obama advisor David Plouffe on Thursday to offer his spin on the President's 67-minute presser on Wednesday, instead of interviewing Republicans. Both shows failed to press their guest about Obama's part in raising the nation's debt. NBC's Matt Lauer did toss some hardball questions at Plouffe on the President's "ownership" of the economy.
During her interview of the White House political advisor, which aired eight minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour, Jarvis raised how, in the midst of his anti-Republican press conference, the President compared his congressional opponents negatively to his own kids in her second question. Plouffe replied by foisting all of the blame for the debt on the GOP in his answer:
At the top of Thursday's NBC Today, co-host Ann Curry proclaimed: "President Obama calls out Congress to strike a deficit reduction deal during a feisty news conference." Moments later, fellow co-host Matt Lauer added that the President "gave Congress a pretty good tongue lashing on Wednesday."
Curry further described how Obama "rebuked Congress for taking recesses instead of tackling legislation to try to help turn around the economy." In a later report on the press conference, White House correspondent Chuck Todd announced: "On issues ranging from taxes, the debt ceiling, even Libya, President Obama issued a blistering critique of Republicans in Congress. And essentially in blunt terms said it's time to step up and stop complaining."
Jon Stewart Wednesday finally stopped responding to the aftermath of his performance on "Fox News Sunday" and tried to make amends with a somewhat bipartisan segment bashing the President for his budget solutions as well as both parties for not getting anything done.
Toward the end of the opening "Daily Show" sketch, after a video clip of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying, "My Republican friends seem to be living in a fantasy world," Stewart smartly quipped, "If they were living in a fantasy world, would you still exist?" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
“The problem is this issue with the House Republicans,” NBC’s Chuck Todd declared Wednesday night in naming the culprit blocking help to Americans whom anchor Brian Williams asserted “are hurting every day and hoping for a result to make their lives better.”
In a story on President Barack Obama’s press conference, Todd maintained Obama and the Senate could come together, but he blamed the conservatives for preventing a debt ceiling deal, fretting over “that new conservative, the Tea Party caucus” which rejects “anything that even remotely looks like a tax hike on anybody.”
Apparently, a pledge to reduce the deficit and cap spending long-term and vote for a strict balanced budget amendment is an extreme measure. CNN correspondent Jim Acosta, reporting on the conservative "Cut, Cap, Balance Pledge," quipped that "it's not exactly cut, cap, and balance. It may be more body-slam and pile-driver."
The pledge, sponsored by numerous grassroots conservative groups, entails signers promising to oppose an increase on the debt limits unless three conditions are met. The conditions are that the spending cuts must reduce the deficit "next year and thereafter," caps on spending must be instituted to bring about a balanced budget, and Congress must pass a balanced budget amendment.
On Wednesday's NBC Today, correspondent Kelly O'Donnell declared that Michele Bachmann "faces new candidate scrutiny, including financial records for a family business" and proceeded to hype a non-controversy of a mental health clinic run by Michele Bachmann's husband accepting Medicaid reimbursements for treating low-income patients.
O'Donnell implied such reimbursements conflicted with the Minnesota Congresswoman calling "for less government spending and opposes an expansion of Medicaid." Appearing on the broadcast minutes later, left-wing MSNBC host Rachel Maddow cited O'Donnell's report and proclaimed:"Michele Bachmann is trying to make this case that she's a purist Tea Party candidate despite the fact that she has this hypocrisy problem with having benefitted herself from so much government spending."
The United States is in debt up to its eyeballs - or more realistically the Statue of Liberty's eyeballs. On May 16, America hit the debt ceiling. which is slightly less than $14.3 trillion. That works out to about $46,000 for every man, woman and child in the nation.
Despite those staggering numbers, the broadcast networks have relegated their coverage primarily to the politics involved, rather than the economics. Reporters have complained about the "partisan sniping" over spending cuts or tax hikes, but have barely included any economists in their coverage.
CNNMoney.com described the debt ceiling as "a cap set by Congress on the amount of debt the federal government can legally borrow." The Obama administration wanted a "clean" (read unconditional) vote on raising the debt limit and got its wish on May 31, when the House voted down such a debt limit increase with a large bipartisan majority (318 nays, 97 yeas).
Chris Matthews Tuesday once again showed that his tenuous grasp of reality is getting dangerously weak.
During the final segment of "Hardball," the host unequivocally blamed the 2007 financial crisis and resulting recession on George W. Bush just moments before he said, "Okay, Obama hasn't been able to get us out of it yet, but...there’s no sense blaming one Party or the other" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Something astonishing happened in New Jersey last week. A majority Democratic legislature and a Republican governor agreed on a measure that will cut benefits for the state's 750,000 employees and retirees.
Like Wisconsin and other states that are being forced to deal with large budget deficits caused mostly by sweetheart deals struck in more prosperous times between politicians who need votes and labor unions who deliver them, New Jersey couldn't afford to go on like this.
I'll make you a deal: I'll quit accusing Democrats of obstructing spending and entitlement reform when they quit obstructing spending and entitlement reform.
Now we even have the nonpartisan, sterile, unflappable Congressional Budget Office virtually predicting a "fiscal crisis," yet the Democratic Senate hasn't passed a budget for 785 days. There ought to be a law.
Susan Haigh's report Friday evening on the current status of budget negotiations between Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and the state's public-sector unions contains two glaring errors which mar the entire enterprise.
Haigh conveniently withheld the fact that the Nutmeg State's legislature has already approved $2.6 billion in new taxes over two years until her report's final paragraph, while giving voice in a much earlier paragraph to an absurd union demand that "big businesses and wealthy taxpayers would be asked to pay more if they agreed to givebacks." Uh, the taxes have already happened, guys. She also dramatically understated the objections of state residents to the over 75(!) new taxes which have been imposed.
Here are excerpts from Haigh's hijinks (bolds are mine):
On Sunday’s This Week, ABC’s Christiane Amanpour repeatedly hit Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell with the White House’s plea for “revenue raising” measures, often the new euphemism for tax hikes, but when she talked to Democratic Congressman Jim Clyburn, the Assistant Minority Leader in the House, she failed to press him about agreeing to GOP spending cut proposals and instead only asked him about prospects for a deal.
Amanpour began with how reasonable President Obama and Democrats, who “need revenue,” are acting: “Democrats are saying they’re not putting, for the moment, tax hikes on the table, but they need revenue, they’re talking about closing loopholes, subsidies for wealthy corporations. Is that out of the question for you, or are you willing to entertain that?”