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Monday, December 10, 2012

Puppetry And Guarantees


While our readers in the Northern Midwest really began feeling the freezing temps of winter this weekend, the annual news freeze also began for those of us working in the national media.

About this time every year, as Americans and others around the world become more involved in the holiday season, the number and type of news stories are all but guaranteed to significantly slow down. Not surprisingly, this is also when the 'countdown stories' - many of which were likely written the week before Thanksgiving - are also dumped into the media, by journalists who may have already headed out for an early vacation.

For our staff, this is still a work week, as it also is for President Obama and Congress. Even so, we can guarantee that many Congressional Republicans, like many of our friends in the media, are "mailing it in" this week - and we can guarantee we've seen their puppet show on taxes before.

Many Americans seem to have missed two key facts in all the 'fiscal cliff' drama: the fact that President Obama and Congressional Democrats have already made massive spending cuts, and the fact that the actual problem is tax revenues being too low.

Suzy Khimm of Wonkblog pointed out over the weekend something we've also noticed most in the major media have missed. The 2011 Budget Control Act that President Obama and Congressional Democrats pushed past Republicans last year included $1.5 trillion in cuts to non-defense discretionary Federal programs. As confirmed by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, items like VA medical care and Pell Grants were already cut by Obama and Democrats in 2011, past points that are fiscally sound over the next decade.

Regardless of the facts regarding responsible fiscal policies, a handful of Congressional Republicans and others on the weekend talking-head shows continued to scream for more budget cuts this weekend, blasting anyone who disagreed with their faulty logic.

Surprisingly, some Republicans even openly admitted on those same shows that raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans will need to be part of any 'fiscal cliff' deal, as President Obama has said from the start.

However, raising income tax rates on the wealthiest Americans is only one tool in the revenue-raising toolbox.

To truly make a difference in the nation's overall budget issues, dividends will also need to be taxed like regular income, and capital gains taxes will need to go up - both of which will also hit the wealthy harder than the middle and lower classes. Loopholes that have allowed a growing number of corporations to pay lower tax rates than they should pay will also need to be closed.

We're almost positive that all of these items were discussed this weekend when President Obama and Speaker Boehner met privately to attempt to push budget and tax negotiations along.

But we can also guarantee that no matter what Boehner may be saying to the President in private, the politics of the extremists in the Republican party - people like the ├╝ber-wealthy, anti-worker Koch brothers - will make Boehner spout more of their extreme anti-tax rhetoric in public this week.

As we noted earlier, we can just about guarantee who's really pulling Boehner's strings.
We've seen this performance before.

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