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Letter Mr. Boehner and Mr. Cantor on defunding “Obamacare” via the budget process

Below is a scan of a letter to Mr. Boehner and Mr. Cantor recommending using the budget process to defund “Obamacare”. Here is the penultimate paragraph:

Since much of the implementation of ObamaCare is a function of the discretionary appropriations process, including the operation of the “mandatory spending” portions of the law, and since most of the citizens we represent believe that ObamaCare should never go into effect, we urge you to affirmatively de-fund the implementation and enforcement of ObamaCare in any relevant appropriateions bill brought to the House floor in the 113th Congress, including any continuing appropriations bill.

— signed by eighty Republican Congressmen

This letter should resolve any questions about GOP motives in regard to the current government shutdown.

Scan: Defund_obamacare

Paul Ryan’s Budget – the numbers don’t add up

Matt Miller from the Washington Post writes that Paul Ryan is no Ronald Reagan:

Did I mention that Ronald Reagan ran the federal government at 22 percent of GDP when the country’s population was much younger, and health care consumed about 11 percent of GDP?

Now Paul Ryan says we can run the federal government at 19 percent of GDP as the massive baby-boom generation retires and when health costs (largely for seniors) have already soared to 18 percent of GDP.

Sorry, but Ryan is either deeply confused or doing his best to snooker us.

Yes indeed. The numbers don’t add up. So what is his real aim?

Budget Crises – Are We Still a Democracy?

The title is deliberately provocative and the answer is “yes.” But we are also very dysfunctional democracy. As E.J. Dionne points out in an article in the Washington Post, the solution to the repeated budget crises is, among other things, more democracy " let bills come to a vote in both House and Senate.

The solution to the problems of democracy is more democracy, so let both houses hold votes on all the potential remedies — on Obama’s own proposal, on packages put forward by Democrats Chris Van Hollen in the House and Patty Murray in the Senate, and on anything the Republicans care to proffer, including the sequester itself.

Let the House Republican majority show that it can come up with a substantial alternative or, failing that, allow a plan to pass with a mix of Republican and Democratic votes.

In the Senate, ditch the unconstitutional abuse of the filibuster and let a plan pass by simple-majority vote. Misuse of the filibuster is a central cause of Washington’s contorted policymaking. Let’s end the permanent budget crisis by governing ourselves though the majorities that every sane democracy uses.

Federal Government: How big are tax revenues?

Total Federal Tax Revenues (ftx) as % of GDP. Source.

Federal tax revenues in 2012 are down by 23% compared to 2000. Perhaps this has something to do our deficits? Something to think about. WWED? (1)

year      ftx
2000	 20.6
2001	 19.5
2002	 17.6
2003     16.2
2004	 16.1
2005	 17.3
2006	 18.2
2007	 18.5
2008	 17.6
2009	 15.1
2010	 15.1
2011	 15.4
2012	 15.8 

(1) What would Eisenhower do?

Income Inequality

In a New York Times article, Grand Old Parity, Sheila Bair comments on and documents the continuing and sustained rise in income inequality in the US. Not good for democracy, and not good for the 99%. See the extended quote below. However, the following paragraph stood out:

Republicans should also put rebuilding the nation’s transportation and energy infrastructure high on our political agenda. From Lincoln’s transcontinental railroad to Eisenhower’s highway system, Republicans have understood that investing in critical infrastructure projects creates jobs and expands commerce.

The reference to Eisenhower reminds us of how far the Republican party has strayed from its policies of the past. Can one imagine the modern GOP advocating a program of the magnitude of the interstate highway project? Reflect for a moment on what it has done for the US economy.

The same holds for the Lincoln reference. In the midst o the Civil War, in the depths of our darkest hour, Lincoln looked to the future – and it wasn’t just transportation. Lincoln established the system of land grant colleges and also the National Academy of Sciences.

It is time for our political parties – but I must say, especially the Republican Party – to focus on the common good, the nations’s future, not on tribal warfare and knocking out the other guy. The other guy is us. We are knocking out ourselves.

LAST month Emmanuel Saez, a celebrated economist at the University of California, Berkeley, issued another depressing report on income inequality. Among other things, Mr. Saez examined how real family incomes changed in the United States from 2009 to 2011, the first two years of the recovery. The richest 1 percent of Americans, he found, saw their incomes grow, on average, by more than 11 percent. As for the other 99 percent? You guessed it: incomes shrank by nearly half a percent.

The phenomenon is hardly new. The yawning gap between rich and poor has been growing since the 1970s and reached a 90-year peak in 2007, just before the financial crisis. The Great Recession narrowed the gap a bit, but now, once again, the richest Americans are vacuuming up what wealth is out there, a trend that Mr. Saez expects to continue.

I am a capitalist and a lifelong Republican. I believe that, in a meritocracy, some level of income inequality is both inevitable and desirable, as encouragement to those who contribute most to our economic prosperity. But I fear that government actions, not merit, have fueled these extremes in income distribution through taxpayer bailouts, central-bank-engineered financial asset bubbles and unjustified tax breaks that favor the rich.

This is not a situation that any freethinking Republican should accept. Skewing income toward the upper, upper class hurts our economy because the rich tend to sit on their money — unlike lower- and middle-income people, who spend a large share of their paychecks, and hence stimulate economic activity.

But more fundamentally, it cuts against everything our country and my party stand for. Government’s role should not be to rig the game in favor of “the haves” but to make sure “the have-nots” are given a fair shot. …

More information

We need a loyal opposiion

<a href=””>David Frum on the GOP gone mad</a>

Our gun madness

For now, some links I want to record:

Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings

Nicholas Kristof on gun madness

Gail Collins: looking for America

Commondreams on NRA

The N.R.A.’s Blockade on Science

Newsflash: 112th Congress is four times less popular than the IRS!

Check out this post by Ezra Klein in the Washington Post: 14 reasons why this is the worst Congress ever. Among the highlights: The IRS has an approval rating of 40%, while the 112th Congress scores only 9%. And among the 14 reasons Klein cites is the GOP’s signature accomplishment of torpedoing job growth in the US:

In 2011, congressional Republicans came closer than ever before to breaching the debt ceiling and setting off a global financial crisis. In the end, they pulled back moments before we toppled into the abyss. But by then, they had already done serious damage to the recovery.

Early in the year, the economy seemed to be gathering momentum. In February, it added 220,000 jobs. In March, it added 246,000 jobs. In April, 251,000 jobs. But as markets began to take the Republican threats on the debt ceiling more seriously, the economy sputtered. Between May and August, the nation never added more than 100,000 jobs a month. And then, in September, the month after the debt ceiling was resolved, the economy sped back up and added more than 200,000 jobs.

He presents this graph:

Job Growth During Debt Ceiling Food-Fight

This raises the question: how does one characterize a party which works against the interest of the nation? How does one characterize its members?

Health Insurance, the Alice in Wonderland Version

Matt Miller in the Washington Post explains why the Republican party has not produced a health care plan of their own, and indeed, why they cannot:

You may have noticed that Republicans have been struggling to come up with a credible alternative to the Affordable Care Act once they repeal it. Why is it so hard? Because Obamacare WAS the Republican alternative. It was the conservative-designed mandate and subsidy approach. Republicans are in such an intellectual cul-de-sac on this issue that Paul Ryan actually blasted Obamacare for being a sop to the president’s “cronies” in the insurance industry. Oy!

He then comments on the Alice-In-Wonderland character of the GOP’s health care position.

I feel like a broken record but some truths bear repeating. Only in America could a Democratic president pass Mitt Romney’s health plan and fund it partly through John McCain’s best idea from the last campaign (taxing some employer provided plans) and be branded a “socialist.”

The whole opinion piece is worth reading.

How Metrics Fail

A great deal has been written about how we need metrics to measure success, evaluate people, products, and systems in order to make rational decisions. Much less has been written about the downside of such metrics. Below is one example, the