The GOP’s Gift To Henry Waxman — Part I

Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and John Boehner (R-OH) took a bow when the House passed a $141 billion health care bill. But Henry Waxman deserves the credit. [Credit: Politico]

Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) took a bow when the House passed a $141 billion health care bill. But Henry Waxman deserves the credit. [Credit: Politico]

“What a way to celebrate a birthday!”  — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) after the House passed bipartisan health care legislation

Sorry, Nancy.  It’s not about you.

The $141 billion health care bill that cleared the House last month and that is expected to win Senate approval next week is a tribute from the GOP-controlled Congress to former Congressman Henry Waxman, a man who worked tirelessly – and with great success – to expand health care-related welfare spending. Continue reading

Debt And The New American Exceptionalism

Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen plans to increase interest rates.  Can government and households survive the shock? [Credit: Huffington Post]

Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen plans to increase interest rates. Can government and households survive the shock? [Credit: Huffington Post]

The American economy is back.  After years of tepid growth and a first quarter contraction, GDP grew by a robust 4.6 percent in the third quarter of last year.  The unemployment rate remained at 5.8 percent in November, and analysts expect the Labor Department to announce tomorrow that the economy added substantially more than 200,000 jobs in December.  Inflation is low, the dollar is strong, oil prices have tumbled, and federal deficits are lower.  Nearly six years after the recession ended, the long-awaited recovery appears at last to have arrived.

That recovery has in part been driven by a force that could be its undoing: debt.  Nearly $46 trillion of it, or more than 2-1/2 times our annual economic output. Continue reading

When Dead Men Rule

G.K. Chesterton worried that our predecessors would have too little influence on our politics. But Gene Steuerle says that they have too much. [Credit: christiancompletely blog]

G.K. Chesterton worried that our ancestors would have too little influence on our society. But a new book by the Urban Institute’s Gene Steuerle says that they exert too much control over our politics. [Credit: christiancompletely blog]

“Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors.  It is the democracy of the dead.”G.K. Chesterton

Chesterton fretted that modern democracies might show too little deference to past generations.  But according to the Urban Institute’s Gene Steuerle, the very opposite is true: in American democracy, dead men rule. Continue reading

How The Budget Deal Could Threaten Obamacare

An angry John Boehner (R-OH) lashed out at conservative groups who opposed the budget deal.  The deal strengthens his hand with his caucus and in negotiations over changes to Obamacare.  [Credit: Washington Post]

An angry John Boehner (R-OH) lashed out at conservative groups who opposed the budget deal. The deal strengthens his hand with his caucus and in negotiations over changes to Obamacare. [Credit: Washington Post]

“Frankly, I think they’re misleading their followers. I think they’re pushing our members in places where they don’t want to be. And frankly, I just think that they’ve lost all credibility.” — House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), commenting on opposition by conservative groups to the budget deal.

Last week’s overwhelming House vote to ratify a modest budget agreement has been variously depicted as a defeat for the Tea Party, a rare instance of bipartisanship, and a moment of rationality in an otherwise chaotic and dysfunctional budget process. It is all of those things and something more: a new threat to the already troubled implementation of Obamacare. Continue reading

Politics as the Art of Spurning Compromise

It may take a bigger gavel for House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his Senate counterpart Patty Murray (D-WA) to hammer out a budget agreement.  (Credit: Swampland Times)

It may take a bigger gavel for House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his Senate counterpart Patty Murray (D-WA) to hammer out a budget agreement. (Credit: Swampland Times)

Budget negotiators have struggled for nearly two months to find agreement on the outlines of a spending bill that would fund the government after January 15.  The target date for a deal is next Friday. They hope to meet it.

The agreement that continues to elude them, if it comes at all, would be a small one. Gone are aspirations for a “grand bargain” that would reform entitlements and the tax code and replace future across-the-board cuts with something less mindless. Changes to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other “mandatory” spending programs, which together constitute 63 percent of non-interest government spending, are off the table.  So, too, are taxes. Continue reading

Could A Wealth Tax Solve the Problem of Government Debt?

A recent IMF report suggests that this man's enormous wealth might help resolve the government's debt problem. [Credit: NY Post]

A recent IMF report suggests that this man’s enormous wealth might help resolve the government’s debt problem. [Credit: NY Post]

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently reported that European governments could reduce their debt back to pre-Great Recession levels by confiscating 10 percent of the wealth held by their richest citizens. IMF isn’t recommending that, of course.

They’re just sayin’. Continue reading

In Washington, All Is Well

The faces of Congressional leaders are hardly etched with joy, but they did manage to avert a fiscal crisis, even if only for a few months. [Credit: Bloomberg]

The faces of Congressional leaders are hardly etched with joy, but they did manage to avert a fiscal crisis, even if only for a few months. [Credit: Bloomberg]

October 16, 2013, 6:00 am

All is well in Washington. The government is spending and borrowing again. Continue reading

Republicans Should Join Democrats in Impeding Obamacare Implementation

Media reports indicate that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are nearing an agreement on temporarily funding the government and increasing its borrowing authority.  [Credit: Huffington Post]

Media reports indicate that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are nearing an agreement on temporarily funding the government and increasing its borrowing authority. [Credit: Huffington Post]

October 14, 2013, 7:15 am

Senate leaders are reportedly closing in on a deal that would both fund the government and restore its borrowing authority for a few months. The deal reportedly contains two changes to the health care law, one proposed by Republicans, the other by Democrats. The provision backed by Republicans is politically misguided, unworkable and would do little to impede the law’s implementation; the provision backed by Democrats, by contrast, appears to complicate implementation of a law whose launch has so far not gone smoothly. Republicans who oppose Obamacare should join Democrats in seeking changes that would damage its implementation. Continue reading

Welfare or Work: A Difficult Choice

The choice between welfare and work is not always an easy one, according to a new study by the Cato Institute.  (Credit: LA Times)

The choice between welfare and work is not always an easy one, according to a new study by the Cato Institute. (Credit: LA Times)

(NOTE: This post was updated on September 23 to incorporate the government’s newly-released poverty rate data.)

If forced to choose between a full-time job that paid $24.40 per hour and enrolling in a package of government benefits that paid a comparable amount, which would you choose? Continue reading

Republicans Getting Deficit Reduction, But President Getting His Way

The President and Speaker are headed for another budget confrontation.  [Credit: Fox News]

The President and Speaker are headed for another budget confrontation. [Credit: Fox News]

Congress is on holiday, resting up for the next round of budget wars that will resume after Labor Day. The issues they will face when they return are familiar: the federal government is about to lose authority to do what it does best (or, at least, most naturally) – borrow and spend. Continue reading